By Kathryn Jean Lopez
Another young man, loved but painfully depressed, kills himself.
There’s debt, death, pain, blindness, filth.
It’s in our politics, culture, family life.
So much of it can tempt us to despair.
And yet over the last eight months, many — of varied and no creeds — keep taking note of Pope Francis with a hopeful curiosity. They’re inspired. They’re consoled. They’re surprised.
People see him embracing the sick, living humbly and engaging people from all walks of the Church and life. People see a man of joy. And they want something of it, they want to follow. They see an evangelizer.
In his first solo major document, “The Gospel of Joy,” released last week, Francis wrote primarily about joy. He was writing specifically — although clearly not exclusively, given everyone seems to be watching him — to Catholics doing the work of evangelization. It’s a transparently pastoral document where he calls out “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness.”
He exposes what he refers to as a “tomb psychology” that develops among the faithful that “develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum.”
While Christians are “[c]alled to radiate light and communicate life,” we can wind up “caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the work of the Gospel.” In one of many themes that Pope Francis keeps repeating, he pleads: “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!”