OTTAWA (CCN) — Evangelization begins with the way we look at people, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec told the Ontario Catholic Women’s League convention July 10 in Thunder Bay, Ont.
In a talk that included Pope Francis’ post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), and touched on the challenges of feminism and gender theory, Lacroix, the Primate of Canada, stressed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and learning to follow him.
“He will guide us and help us face the challenges of today’s world as authentic Christians,” he said.
Feminism that makes women think achieving equality with men comes “only when they erase, minimize, or reject their femininity and motherhood” and gender theory that replaces ontological realities such as the family, man and woman with social constructs, both have the desire for autonomy and independence at their root, the cardinal said.
“What the world is constantly repeating is that women are free and have the right to decide without anyone telling them what they have to do,” the cardinal said. “They are masters of their own lives. They need not have any other references but themselves.”
“A big mistake for women, but for all of us,” he said, urging the 250 delegates not to be “submerged by the socially distorted and ideological tsunamis that come our way.”
Using several Gospel stories as examples, Lacroix revealed how Jesus responded to people who were experiencing difficulties.
With Zacchaeus, he “addresses him with respect,” and “sees more than his sin.” With the Roman Centurion, he “welcomes the stranger,” and “gives credibility to the other’s faith.”
With the sinful woman who anointed him with oil, again, Jesus showed that he “welcomes everyone,” and “sees the love more than the sin,” and “does not judge.”
With the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Lord showed he was willing to “go where people are,” and to “walk with them.” He proclaimed the Word of God, but did not impose it; instead he proposed it.
Amoris Laetitia offers four pastoral attitudes to help meet the frailty of many couples and family situations, Lacroix said. These are: welcoming and listening; accompanying; discerning; and integrating.
“Life is not black and white,” he said. “If we want to be helpful and assist our brothers and sisters who are experiencing trials and difficulties, we need to make them feel welcomed and to take the time to listen to them attentively and with respect. We do not need to have all the answers to do that.”
Lacroix said the art of accompaniment is probably one of the weakest points in pastoral ministry. “We are so busy trying to cover all the bases, with limited human resources, that we can forget how important it is to take the time to accompany, to walk with our people.”
When it comes to discerning, “no easy recipes exist,” he said. “Every person, every situation requires and deserves a good discernment process. And that takes time.”
And finally, work needs to be done to integrate people into Christian community, he said.
“I am always saddened when I hear people share with me their personal stories and how they were wounded by pastors or fellow parishioners or members of their family because of their personal situation: a divorce, an unmarried couple living together, or a civilly remarried couple after a divorce, feeling excluded from their church, and unwanted, judged by the ‘good Catholics,’ ” he said, adding ways need to be found to offer them support and accompaniment so they can grow in faith.
“The church is not a select club of perfect people,” he said. “We are a community of sinners, that God loves so much that he sent his only Son to reveal his love to us and invite us to experience his mercy and love and enter into a profound friendship, a covenant with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
“We must not be surprised that in our church, we find prostitutes, unwed couples, same-sex couples, divorced men and women, sinners who have made bad decisions, hurting people who need the compassion, the love and the joy of the Gospel to continue their life journey and find the hope that Jesus brings.”