This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Evangelii Gaudium

Well, the Pope's new apostolic exhortation, at 48,000 words (roughly twice as long as St Matthew's Gospel), is a little difficult to digest instantly, and so we have decided to let technology come to our aid. By seeing what words and phrases appear - or do not appear - we can determine what is considered important.

Tom Baker and Lalla Ward

Our trained staff undertake a detailed computer analysis.

As a control experiment, let's start with St Matthew's Gospel, which most readers probably know something about. Some of the key phrases that occur are: "I say unto you", "The Kingdom of Heaven" and "The Son of Man" (all more than 30 times), with "the chief priests" coming up behind on about 20. I think we can conclude that the book is about Someone who is keen to put forward a religious message, possibly One with an interest in Heaven. Perhaps at some stage He tangled with some priests. I hope that helps.

Pope Francis

Should I have said more about custard?

Turning our computer's attention to Evangelii Gaudium, we see that one phrase that comes up over 20 times is "post synodal apostolic exhortation", but that's mostly in the bibliography, so doesn't really count. "The Church" and "the Gospel" score highly, over 100 times each, so the author clearly thinks these are important (this is a good sign). There is also a fair amount about the Holy Spirit, and over a dozen mentions of "Latin American". Watson, we have here an educated person, possibly of Argentine extraction, who is trying to give some religious guidance.

Kenneth More and William Russell

Father Brown meets the Rev Chesterton.

Let's try one further experiment, with The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton, which is a little longer than Evangelii Gaudium. Although at first sight this appears to be the biography of a Catholic priest, perhaps something like the Confessions of St Augustine, the computer never lies, and it reveals that some of the most popular phrases occurring are "said Father Brown", "said the doctor" and "the front door". These do not indicate that we have a religious text before us, more a collection of anecdotes. Also, the last phrase is a bit of a mystery to us - perhaps it is something to do with the gates of Heaven?


Thus, on a scale of spiritual nourishment, I think it fair to say that Evangelii Gaudium (EG) scores a little lower than St Matthew's Gospel (MG), but a little higher than The Innocence of Father Brown (FB). Let us look for points in common, and points of difference.

Points in common.

All three works show a high respect for the office of priest, and both (MG) and (FB) contain examples of priests who are, well, unsaved. All three discuss salvation in a religious context. None of them seems to accept the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, and all three seem to show a rather traditional attitude to sin.

Points of difference

Although all three have a main protagonist who is some sort of religious figure, the hero of (EG) isn't primarily engaged in performing miracles, nor at solving mysteries (although he does refer to a "sense of mystery"). Again, in (MG) we encounter a wide range of characters, from the impressive Peter through to the villainous Judas; likewise, in (FB) we meet a range of heroes and villains, some of whom steal fish knives, and some of whom drop hammers off church towers. There is less action in (EG), although the author does speak of crime in cities, and of fish swimming in polluted rivers: by and large, he disapproves.

Evangelii Gaudium

Thanks, Eccles!


  1. Dis is far 2 senisble to be de writnig of Eccles.

    Impostor !!!

    1. Never underestimate Eccles: "Speak not any thing rashly, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter a word before God." (Eccles5:2)

  2. All we need for evangelising is joy, joy, joy (in the words of a NO jingle). The male priesthood is safe for another term but we must be taught by the poor and the excluded. There is no room for tradition since we no longer need to do it as before. The VCII has saved us once again. Mass can be creative, joyful & uh..joyful. No more seriousness.

  3. Hmmm…48,000 words for a Mission Statement…?

    And Pope Francis advocates short homilies…?

    Something doesn’t add up. The Vatican abacus must be in for repair.