In an audience with the Italian National Assembly of Religious Superiors today, Pope Francis stressed the importance of calling people to the faith not by proselytism but by attraction.
The 54th National Assembly met to discuss the theme: “The Mission of the Church and consecrated life in the light of Evangelii Gaudium.”
The Pope began his address explaining that religious life gives witness to people through attraction. The life of a religious brother or sister, he said, causes people to ask themselves “‘what is going on here?’ ‘What drives someone beyond the worldly horizon?’”
“I would say that this is the first thing: to help the Church grow through the path of attraction. Without bothering to proselytize: attraction.”
Those in religious life are called to give a witness of prophecy. This witness, he said, is never ideological but rather institutional in its own right.
“True prophecy is not ideological, it is not ‘fashionable’, but it is always a sign of contradiction according to the Gospel, as Jesus was,” he said.
“Jesus, for example, was a sign of contradiction for the religious authorities of his time: the heads of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the doctors of the Law. Also for other options and proposals: Essenes, zealots, etc. A sign of contradiction.”
Thanking the religious superiors for their work, the Pope said that while not easy, their work required conversion “and above all, prayer and adoration.” He also said that it requires them to share in the struggles of the people of God, especially those who are marginalized and far away.
“The charism should not be stored like a bottle of distilled water,” he said. “It bears fruit with courage, placing it head on with the present reality, with the culture, with history, as taught to us by the great missionaries of our institutions.”
The Pope also stressed the importance of fraternal life and communion among themselves. “Let fraternity exist, and if you have something against your brother, say it to his face … Sometimes it might end with fists — this is not a problem: this is better than the terrorism of gossip.,” he said.
This fraternal life, he went on to say, “implies the paternity of God and the maternity of the Church and of the Virgin Mary.”
This relationship, he said, can only be nourished through prayer, the Eucharist, adoration and the Rosary.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis encouraged the religious superiors, saying that he is also accompanying them on this path.
“I thank you for the prayers with which you accompany me and my service to the Church,” he said.