A Culture of Encounter: Root and Fruit of Human Dignity

It happened on November 6, 2013. At the end of his weekly general audience with approximately 50,000 attendees, Pope Francis caught sight of a man in his fifties. He was sitting in a wheelchair and accompanied by his aunt Lotto who recalled: “We didn’t think we would be so close to the Pope, but the Swiss Guard kept ushering us forward until we were in a corner in the front row. When he came close to us,” she said, “I thought he would give me his hand. Instead he went straight to Vinicio and embraced him tightly. I thought he wouldn’t give him back to me he held him so tightly. . . . We said nothing but he looked at me as if he was digging deep inside, a beautiful look that I would never have expected.” Vinicio, accustomed to stares of shock and fear because of a disfiguring disease, was initially confused by the Pontiff’s lack of hesitation. “He didn’t have any fear of my illness,” he said. “He embraced me without speaking . . . I quivered. I felt great warmth.” The entire encounter lasted little over a minute, which Vinicio recalled, “left me in a state of combined shock and joy.” “He was almost not himself,” Lotto observed. “He was shaking.” Vinicio added: “I felt I was returning home ten years younger, as if a load had been lifted.”

Instantly images of this encounter in St. Peter’s Square went around the world. The non-verbal yet eloquent gesture could not even leave Church opponents or agnostics untouched. Instinctively everyone knew that this was not a publicity stunt. Rather, Pope Francis’ caress was an authentic expression of how he understands his ministry to the Church and world. Since taking over as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, the Pope has highlighted the need to reach out and to bring about a culture of encounter. Suffice it to recall a few of his tweets: “Lord, teach us to step outside ourselves.” Or: “Teach us to go out into the streets and manifest your love!” Identifying the ultimate meaning of love, he explained: “True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need.” Vinicio, Lotto, and numerous people from all walks of life—especially the poor, weak, and vulnerable—confirm that Francis is practicing what he preaches!

The Pope’s promotion of a culture of encounter sparks our attention and deserves our reflection. With the following essay, I wish to highlight aspects of a culture of encounter in light of human dignity. In so doing, we will first focus on how a culture of encounter responds to the deepest longing of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. Secondly, we shall consider the Blessed Virgin Mary as our model for cultivating authentic encounters, and in a final third step, we will identify attitudes and qualities we may wish to assimilate for our everyday encounters.

Our Dignity and Vocation as Image and Likeness of God

The Christian revelation of God is a Trinity. The three divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are pure relatedness. While they are equal and one in consciousness, they are distinct from one another when their action or mission (creation, redemption, and sanctification) is concerned. Their communion, sometimes called ‘round dance’ (perichoresis in Greek; circumincessio in Latin), is sustained through the total gift of self that each makes to the others, thereby revealing the essence of God as Love.[1] This divine mode of existing establishes the prototype for any other encounter of persons. Love by nature is diffusive! Through the act of creation, God wanted to offer human beings created in his image and likeness—and therefore capable of loving—a share in the divine culture of encounter. It is the most profound and radical gift God continuously offers to humanity. Pope Francis confirmed this in his first encyclical letter Lumen Fidei:


At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. (§54)

God’s reaching out to each and every one of us establishes the root of human dignity. By taking the initiative, God makes himself vulnerable to and dependent on our freedom. Thus, in the last analysis, human dignity is a vocation: God waits for our answer to choose and reciprocate his love or to reject it.[2]


Nearly fifty years ago, on the last day of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church presented for the first time in history a comprehensive teaching on the dignity and vocation of the human person. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes (GS) elaborates “The Dignity of the Human Person” (§§12–22) in its first part, “The Church and Man’s Calling” (§§11–45), and applies it in “The Community of Mankind” (§§23–32). GS refers 59 times to human dignity and 48 times to vocation,[3] often establishing a link between the two. Human dignity and vocation are rooted in our divine iconicity, giving us the capacity to enter into a personal relationship with God and others.[4] Embracing God’s love bestows a unique goodness upon persons, making them capable of knowing their own end and of freely moving to that end, which is God. Alluding to a certain likeness between the union among the divine Persons and the communion among the children of God in truth and charity, GS 24 teaches: “This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for himself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself (Lk 17:33).”[5]

Human dignity is a vocation: God waits for our answer to choose and reciprocate his love or to reject it.

Implicitly this statement clarifies that, next to the spiritual nature of the immortal soul, the person also bears a resemblance to God by reason of his or her social nature, which cannot be fully realized except in an encounter of pure self-giving. Acts rendered in obedience to the concrete demands of God’s law as known in conscience (cf. GS §16) characterize the person’s response as self-gift and reveal the fruit of human dignity in a twofold way. First of all, the person recognizes that he or she may offer something to God and others that is unique and therefore worth giving. In the donation of self a person thus finds his or her self and implicitly his or her own dignity. Secondly, the transcending dimension of the self-gift touches the core of the other, endorsing his or her dignity. Ideally, our countenance mediates the Invisible; depending on the receptivity of the receiver, an epiphany takes place and thus an encounter with the primordial Gift.

When the triune God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the beauty of personhood was contrasted by the wounded experience of the human being brought about through the fall. The Father’s gift of the Son reveals what it means to be God’s image and likeness, and challenges us to measure ourselves in this mirror. By becoming “one like us” Christ restored our supernatural communion with the Father and at the same time showed us the way to relate to each other (cf. GS §22). Like all human beings, Jesus Christ experienced the human condition of a specific historical, cultural, social and religious milieu. He was also conscious of the psychic-somatic capabilities and contingencies of human existence. Mindful of his dignity and mission, Jesus’ being and acting were totally oriented to the Father’s will. Being one with the Father (Jn 10:30), he reaches out to those he encounters. His glance was so authentic that it made some drop their nets and follow him (Mt 4:18–22), others change their lifestyle (cf. Jn 8:11), and several be grateful for his healing touch (Mt 8). The Son of Man’s gift of love is characterized by his “emptying of self” (kenosis, Phil 2:5), and is manifested by taking the form of a servant in the Incarnation, reaching its climax in his Passion and Death. Jesus Christ, who “fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (GS §22), teaches us that a culture of encounter does not merely promote physical affection for the sake of boosting oxytocin levels. Rather, Jesus’ being and acting exemplified the quality and the measure of the love upon which every relationship must be based. By imitating his example, we discover the bliss of belonging to him who chose and called us to build a culture of encounter.

The Blessed Virgin Mary as Model for a Culture of Encounter

The dynamics entailed in Christ’s act of revealing the person to him or herself indicate that a culture of encounter implies a process of growth and maturation. In the life of Our Lady, the Annunciation is that moment where she is first introduced to who she is before God and to how she may offer her self-gift to him. The Gospel of Luke portrays Mary as the fully integrated and free person. The angel Gabriel’s address, “you are full of grace,” indicates “a special gift which according to the New Testament has its source precisely in the Trinitarian life of God himself, God who is love (1 Jn 4:8)” (Redemptoris Mater [RM], §8). The Greek formκεχαριτωμένη (kécharitômenê)—is a perfect passive participle and describes completeness with a permanent result.[6] The angel’s greeting thus signals that Mary had been endowed with the fullness of God’s gift and hence was never prevented from encountering him (cf. 2 Pt 1:4).[7] God’s gift of love to Mary points to her singular election among all Christians and her inimitable participation in salvation history.

The narration of the Annunciation opens up a window into Mary’s soul. Encountering God’s messenger awakens fascination and trembling in the young woman. Like all Jewish people, she longed for the Messiah. Yet, in that moment the unheard of was asked of her: to accept God’s gift, his Only-Begotten Son! She was to conceive and give birth to the Savior, while God would suspend with natural law and preserve her virginity intact (cf. RM §20). Much was at stake, and the angel’s reply to her question did not lay out the details of God’s plan. What is more, the decision had to be made in the inner sanctuary of her heart; she could not ask for respite to consult with Joseph or her parents.

Trusting the angel’s word, Mary spoke her fiat “with all her human and feminine I” (RM §13). It echoes the surrender of the little ones, the anawim, of whom Mary is the smallest. Identifying with the longing of the poor for YHWH, and knowing that she cannot rely on her own strength, Mary’s answer to the angel is no self-assured voloI will do it; rather, acknowledging her nothingness before God she dares the leap of faith in the self-abandonment of her fiat—let it be done unto me. By offering herself as total and unrestricted self-gift to the Almighty she “allows” God to re-initiate the divine culture of encounter by means of the Incarnation (see Gen 3:8–24). Mary was thus the first human person permitted to encounter Christ. Of her, more than of any other human being can be said: “by his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man” (GS §22).

[caption id="attachment_1567" align="alignright" width="419"] Claudia Williams, "The Visitation" (1973); Photo: Clive Hicks; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.[/caption]

Luke’s account of the Visitation (Lk 1:39ff) sheds light on Mary’s first encounter with a human being after the Annunciation. In greeting her cousin, Elizabeth meets “the first tabernacle in history” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia [EE], §55). The effects are stunning: Elizabeth adores the Son of God, still invisible, yet “radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary” (EE §55). The child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy and Zachariah soon regains his speech. The visit in Ein Karem entails several dimensions indispensable for fostering dignity through a culture of encounter: Mary’s gift to her relatives was in the first place the fruit of her womb. She was the cause, as it were, through whom the Savior could manifest himself and visit his people. In return, Mary receives a gift from Elizabeth confirming her dignity as “Mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43). Mary’s joy of spirit is perpetuated in the sublime words of the Magnificat (Lk 1:46–55). She gives thanks for the dignity of her election and the definitive realization of her vocation: to be the handmaid of “eternal love which, as an irrevocable gift, enters into human history” (RM §36).

The Virgin Mary presents us with a human paradigm of building a culture of encounter. Her earthly pilgrimage reveals that her self-gift at the Annunciation matured in tests and trials. Not every encounter with God or people is immediately intelligible to us, not even to Our Lady. Twice we read in Luke’s gospel that Mary pondered all these things in her heart (Lk 2:19, 51). The Greek συμβάλλουσα (symballousa) emphasizes that she withdrew from inner and outer disturbances in order to discern the meaning of an event in view of her relationship to God and others. Romano Guardini describes Mary’s pondering in this way: “Not understanding, she buries the words like precious seed within her . . . The mother’s vision is unequal to that of her Son; but her heart, like chosen ground, is deep enough to sustain the highest tree.”[8] Pondering God’s will in the stillness of her heart and by entrusting herself to his loving providence, Mary bravely embraced the stages of her cooperation with her Son’s salvific work culminating in her own kenosis which St. John Paul II considered to be “perhaps the deepest self-gift of faith in human history” (RM §18). This painful farewell encounter on Golgotha not only asks of her the consent to Christ’s self-oblation to the Father but also to accept a new son (Jn 19:25–27). Thus, it is at the threshold of her Son’s Death when Mary’s total self-gift reaches a fuller consciousness of “that new dimension of motherhood which was to constitute her part beside her Son” (RM §20). This mission she exercises even now, holding us spiritually in her arms and heart while teaching us to encounter God’s Love in and around us.[9] It is in the eternal encounter of Love that her dignity and vocation reach completion.[10]

Reflections on Building a Culture of Encounter

The Blessed Virgin Mary received the gift of redemption in the fullness of time, in anticipation of Christ’s redeeming act. In the here and now, the divine self-communication continues through the work of the Holy Spirit, whose proper and specific action it is to continuously animate the divine culture of encounter among God’s children. Through Baptism, Christians are initiated in this culture, gradually growing from an I-centered receiving to a sincere self-gift. In his encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (DCE), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI compares this development to “a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God” (§7). If the self-gift of Our Lady is the paradigm for our journey, then it can teach us important attitudes and qualities we may wish to assimilate on our earthly pilgrimage. From the vastness of lessons we can learn from her, I wish to concentrate on the three pericopes discussed above.

Similar to the Annunciation event, a moment of personal encounter with Love occurs in each person’s life, revealing at once our dignity and vocation. There is something pure and noble about a heart that has been awakened by love for the first time. The state can be likened to an ecstasy towards the beloved and is fittingly described in the Song of Songs: “My lover is mine and I am his” (Sgs 2:16). A person in the glow of his or her first love rises above the ground and feels invincible. The experience casts away all interference of self-centeredness and disposes the heart for the self-gift, be it in marriage, priesthood, consecrated life, or as single person.

Through Baptism, Christians are initiated in this culture, gradually growing from an I-centered receiving to a sincere self-gift.

In the life of Jorge Bergoglio, we can easily identify an annunciation event. On the way to a picnic, the seventeen-year-old decided to go to Confession. The priest’s words directed to him on this occasion touched him to the core and radically changed the direction of his life. He recalls: “It was . . . the amazement of an encounter for which I realized I had been waiting. . . . The amazement of meeting someone who is expecting you. . . . You want to meet him, but he comes to meet you first.”[11] It was September 21, the feast of St. Matthew. Bergoglio admits that he, like the tax collector, experienced during this encounter Jesus “offering him mercy and choosing him.”[12] Like Levi, young Jorge Bergoglio left everything: his girlfriend,[13] his professional career as chemist, dancing tango, and cheering for his favorite football team, and he entered the novitiate of the Jesuits. On the vigil of his ordination day, Jorge Bergoglio composed his personal creed. About his personal annunciation hour he states: “I believe in my past, which was transfixed by God’s look of love, and on the first day of spring, September 21,[14] he led me to an encounter so as to invite me to follow him.”[15] After his ordination to the priesthood, he gratefully recalled his personal annunciation hour each year on September 21 by celebrating an Easter Mass in the church where his vocation was revealed to him. And upon becoming bishop, he chose as his motto the words from Venerable Bede “Miserando atque eligendo,” which are imprinted now in his papal coat of arms. Recalling our personal annunciation hour, we may ask ourselves whether the spark of our first love is still the motivating force of who we are and what we do. What could we do to renew this encounter regularly, thus strengthening our dignity and vocation? Is not every crisis or weakening of our first love simultaneously a crisis of our self esteem and vocation? Let us make Francis’ tweet a daily prayer: “Lord, teach us to step outside ourselves!”

Just as at the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God physically, we receive him sacramentally in Holy Communion. “As a result, there is a profound analogy between the fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord” (EE §55). Like Mary, we become Christbearers—christóphoroi[16]—and our everyday encounters should be an epiphany, like the Visitation in Ein Karem. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us: “The saints . . . constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others” (DCE §18).[17] Awareness of being a dwelling place of Christ and acting in accordance with this dignity was the charisma of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880–1906). She testifies: “God in me, I in Him. Oh, that is my life!”[18] And at another occasion she adds, “Since the Lord dwells in our souls, his prayer is ours and one should strive to remain in continuous communion with him, remaining by his side like a little jar by the fountain of life so as to be able to communicate it immediately to souls.”[19]

Let us consider the encounter in St. Peter’s Square described above. Pope Francis did not know Vinicio. It would have been easy for him to ignore him. And yet, “by having mercy and by choosing” he reaches beyond exterior unsightliness to embrace him in an encounter which heals the sick man without changing his physical condition. Vinicio and Lotto recall that not a single word was exchanged in the short encounter, yet the Pope’s “beautiful look digging deep inside” was all that was needed in order to bring about a profound transformation. Is this not the most fruitful way of evangelization? One statement of faith in Pope Francis’ personal credo indicates that he too had to break the borders of self-protection and complacency to arrive at this attitude: “I believe that others are good and that I must love them fearlessly and without ever betraying them so as to seek any security of my own.”[20] Is this not also for us personally a guideline for an effective examination of conscience concerning the interplay between love of God and love of neighbor? We may wish to ponder to what extent the visitations of my life, while not necessarily speaking of Christ, allow him in a certain sense to become experiential through me. Has my two-in-oneness with the Lord “become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings”? Do I look on “this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ”? Can I go “beyond exterior appearances” and “perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern?” Can I give them “the look of love which they crave” (DCE §18)—even if I do not like or know the person? Let Pope Francis’ tweet become our prayer: “Teach us to go out into the streets and manifest your love!”

Building a culture of encounter will inevitably have us meet Christ and others with a questioning look, a penetrating gaze, an expression perhaps of sorrow or rejection triggered by insecurity. When our love is rejected, abandoned, ridiculed, or crucified, we are tempted to think that remaining in that love will cost us our own interests and achievements. Yet, he who gave himself totally to us is not satisfied with a life half given. Like and with Mary, we are called to persevere and to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church” (Col 1:24; cf. CCC §§2006–2011).

Pope Francis challenges us to take seriously our being and acting in communion with Christ. Concretely, he encourages us to ponder “our life hidden with Jesus in God” letting “his meek silence” become our approach to others. The Pope assures us: “He will do the rest. He will do everything that is lacking. But you must do that . . . There is no other path—there’s none. It is the only way. . . . In order not to hate the neighbor, contemplate Jesus suffering. To not gossip against the neighbor, contemplate Jesus suffering. It is the only way.”[21]

[caption id="attachment_1568" align="alignleft" width="391"] Photo: Fowler Tours; CC BY-NC 2.0.[/caption]

Pope Francis’ example of stepping out of his comfort zone had a transforming effect on Vinicio and Lotto. In the person of the Pope, they encountered the love and mercy of God. It took only a few minutes and yet, perhaps for the first time in his life, Vinicio experienced someone outside his family treating him like a human person. Immediately he was rejuvenated, overwhelmed and relieved. In his own words: “My heart was leaving my body.” The moment made him forget the rejections and isolation he has endured his whole life long. How many marginalized people are waiting for us to take the first step to reach out?

According to Francis, reaching out to them is not an option but “a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness.”[22] By definition, an identity card proves that a person really is who she or he claims to be and certifies his or her membership in an organization. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether our identity card is still valid; is it in need of updating or renewal? Which steps do I have to undertake so my Christian ID becomes effective in a culture of encounter? What prevents me from overcoming the fear of getting dirty hands by helping those in need? Can I make Francis’ credo my own: “I believe in dying daily, being consumed, which I flee, but which smiles, inviting me to accept it”[23]?

He who gave himself totally to us is not satisfied with a life half given. Like and with Mary, we are called to persevere and to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church” (Col 1:24; cf. CCC §§2006–2011).

There is still another lesson to be learned. If we are honest, there are times when we avoid certain encounters. The reason why we persistently sidestep an individual or a group of people varies. Lack of time, interest or effort on our side, justified or not, will eventually isolate us. Unless we put on masks and rationalize our behavior, we need to deal with remorse. Building a culture of encounter implies that we make room for the gift the other has to offer me. It means to root out selfish, sinful temptations which beset us and to admit humbly that we are in need of forgiveness. Being ashamed is a grace; it is God’s gift to us and leads us straight into the arms of our merciful Father. A truthful Confession during which we cast aside all self-pretense and admit the actual motivation for our wrongdoing will bring about healing and a new beginning through “an encounter with the Lord who forgives us, who loves us.”[24] The embrace of the merciful Father and the miserable child is one of the most authentic expressions of human dignity. St. John Paul II explains this truth in this remarkable statement:


When a man goes down on his knees in the confessional because he has sinned, at that very moment he adds to his own dignity as a man. No matter how heavily his sins . . . have diminished his dignity, the very act of truthful confession, the act of turning again to God, is a manifestation of the special dignity of man, his spiritual grandeur.[25]

In his personal creed Pope Francis professes: “I believe in the misery of my soul, which seeks to gorge itself without giving . . . without giving.”[26] Moreover, he admits in his catechesis On the Remission of Sins that “priests and bishops too have to go to Confession: we are all sinners. Even the Pope confesses every fifteen days, because the Pope is also a sinner. And the confessor hears what I tell him, he counsels me and forgives me, because we are all in need of this forgiveness.”[27] The Pope’s appeal voiced at another occasion could be directed to you and me: “Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day!”[28]


Perhaps it is Vinicio who will lead the way. In an interview he stated that he still savors his moment with Pope Francis, but says he still has unfinished business. “I hope he calls me so we can have a face-to-face meeting. . . . I have many things to tell him,” Vinicio said. “What do you want to tell him?” he was asked. “That’s a bit private,” he replied, shaking his head apologetically. “It’s between him and me.”[29]


Let us return to our starting point. Building a culture of encounter corresponds to the dignity and vocation of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. The fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary re-initiated the culture of encounter first in her and then through her. As Christ-bearers, each one of us, like Our Lady, are called to contribute our part to that culture. We can do so by returning often to our personal annunciation hour, the moment of our first love. Similar to the encounter at the Visitation, our endeavor when meeting others should be to show them Christ. Finally, it belongs to our dignity as Christians that we are called to participate in the Lord’s Passion and Death. Pondering the incomprehensibilities of our own life and those of others “leads us to embrace the concerns of all men and women on our journey” (LF §57).

The Pope needs allies and he directs this message to you and me:

We must create a culture of encounter, a culture of friendship, a culture in which we find brothers and sisters, in which we can also speak with those who think differently, as well as those who hold other beliefs, who do not have the same faith. … We cannot become starched Christians, those over-educated Christians who speak of theological matters as they calmly sip their tea. No! We must become courageous Christians and go in search of the people who are the very flesh of Christ, those who are the flesh of Christ![30]

Featured Photo: David Backes; CC BY-NC 2.0.

[1] “Put more concretely, the first person does not generate in the sense that the act of generating a Son is added to the already complete person, but the person is the deed of generating, of giving itself, of streaming itself forth. The person is identical with this act of self-donation.” Joseph Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology” in Communio, 17 (Fall 1990), 444.

[2] The drama of history, both human and salvation, is captured in Christ’s appearing before Pilate in order to be judged. Pilate, presenting the love of self to the contempt of God, is sitting in judgment of God. Christ, revealing God’s willingness to make himself ‘impotent,’ subjects himself to man’s judgment of conscience. There is no other way for God to penetrate the human heart while respecting his freedom.

[3] See George Karakunnel, The Christian Vision of Man: A Study of the Theological Anthropology in Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II (Bangalore India, 1984), 86, footnotes 56 and 57.

[4] This understanding of dignity corresponds to that of St. Thomas, for whom “the supreme grade of dignity in man is that he is directed to the good by himself, not by another” (Super Epistolam ad Romanos, Ch. II, lect. III [Marietti, 217]).

[5] Francis’ two immediate predecessors repeatedly emphasized the importance of GS §24. John Paul II admitted: “These are words as dear to me as ever, that I wanted to set forth repeatedly at fundamental points in my magisterium. Here is found the true synthesis to which the Church must always look when in dialogue with the people of this or of any other age; she is aware of possessing a message which is the vital synthesis of the expectation of every human being and the response that God addresses to each one.” Address to the Conference Studying the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council, February 27, 2000 (L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, March 8, 2000), 11. In his first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI highlights the “centrality of love” and the necessity of personalistic, organic love which is fitting for the human person who “is a seeker and finds completion . . . with the You.” Benedict stressed that the “I-You” communion should culminate in the consciousness of being and acting as “we.”

[6] H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (Harvard University Press, 1968), 108–109, §1852:b. Kécharitômenê is best translated with ‘enduringly graced or gifted’ and constitutes the primary biblical foundation for Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

[7] RM §8. See also Ignace De La Potterie, “Kecharitomene en Luc 1:28” in Biblica, 69 (1987) 357–382: 450–508.

[8] Romano Guardini, The Lord (London, New York: Longmans, Green, 1956), 10.

[9] Danielle M. Peters, “In Mary’s School of Faith Today,” talk given at Our Faith and Mary: A Symposium to Celebrate the Year of Faith (IMRI, Dayton, Ohio, 2013).

[10] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), §5. See also LG §62.

[11] Andrea Tornielli, Francis: Pope of a New World, (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2013), 81f.

[12] This interpretation of Mt 9:9 is taken from Venerable Bede, Homily 21 (CCL 122, 149–151) on the Feast of Matthew, which reads: Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, “Sequere me,” Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, “follow me.”

[13] According to Bergoglio’s sister, he intended to propose to his girlfriend during the picnic on that day but he never appeared. See Tornielli, Francis: Pope of a New World, 82.

[14] The spring equinox (vernal equinox) in the southern hemisphere is the autumnal (fall) equinox in the northern hemisphere.

[15] Tornielli, Francis: Pope of a New World, 171.

[16] Stanisław Ryłko, “Christians, that is christóphoroi at the heart of the world,” Pontifical Consilium Pro Laicis, The Beauty of Being a Christian—Movements in the Church (Proceedings of the Second World Congress of the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities. Rocca di Papa, May 31–June 2, 2006. Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2006), 179.

[17] Also see Pope Francis, The Eucharist Inspires Forgiveness and Encounter with Others, General Audience, February 12, 2013.

[18] June 14, 1901 (letter 62).

[19] Thomas Larkin, Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity: A Carmelite Nun of Dijon, 1901-1906: An Introduction to Her Life and Spirituality (Dublin: Carmelite Centre of Spirituality, 1984), 52.

[20] Tornielli, Francis: Pope of a New World, 171.

[21] Francis, Homily on September 12, 2013. L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n. 38, September 18, 2013.

[22] Francis, Homily on May 22, 2013. L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n. 22, May 29, 2013.

[23] Tornielli, Francis: Pope of a New World, 171.

[24] Francis, Homily on October 25, 2013. L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n. 44, November 1, 2013.

[25] Karol Wojtyla, Sources of Renewal: The Implementation of the Second Vatican Council, trans. P.S. Falla. (Cambridge, Hagerstown, Philadelphia, New York, London, Mexico City, São Paulo, Sydney 1979. Originally published in Polish as U Podstaw Odnowy, Cracow 1972), 142. Cf. ST III, Q. 89, a. 3.

[26] Tornielli, Francis: Pope of a New World, 171.

[27] General Audience, November 20, 2013.

[28] General Audience, February 19, 2014.

[29] Ben Wedeman, Meet the disfigured man whose embrace with Pope Francis warmed hearts, CNN, November 27, 2013.

[30] Francis, Address on the Vigil of Pentecost to the Ecclesial Movements, Saint Peter’s Square May 18, 2013.


Danielle Peters

Danielle M. Peters is the president of the Mariological Society of America, a STEP facilitator, and director of the Schoenstatt Movement in North Texas.

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