Have you noticed how Pope Francis talks so much about a culture of encounter? I first picked up on it in his speeches at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. But now I notice it all the time. It seems to summarize his own worldview as well as his desire that all Christians, young & old, live from this mindset. Pope Francis encourages every group he encounters to reach out to others, especially those who may at first seem different from ourselves. He gives special attention to people who live on the margins of society or are neglected for any reason. He often juxtaposes the culture of encounter with the culture of exclusion. For an example of what Pope Francis is calling us to, I recommend this article called Garage Sale Friendship.
Our foundress St. Angela Merici said it a different way, but with the same intent. Angela told her daughters to “build community wherever you go.” There are as many ways to do that as there are daughters of Angela. But any way you look at it, it involves an encounter—with God and with others. One small thing we do here in our Chicago Ursuline community is that as we walk to daily Mass at our parish church, we make a point of looking each person we pass in the eye and saying “Good morning.” What we’re really saying is: You’re not invisible. You are a loved and cherished sister or brother. You matter to us.
As you go about your day, or reflect on it in the evening, give some thought to how you help to build a culture of encounter. Ask St. Angela to help you reach out to others.