(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 16.09.2022).- On Friday morning, September 16, Pope Francis received in audience –in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace–, the participants in the General Chapter of the Cistercians of Strict Observance, better known as Trappists. The Order has some 173 monasteries and convents worldwide, with some 2,100 monks and some 1,800 nuns.
Here is a translation in English of the Pope’s address with headers and phrases in bold added by ZENIT.
* * *
I thank the Abbot General for his greeting and introduction. I know you are holding the second part of your General Chapter in the Portiuncula of Saint Mary of the Angels, a place so rich in grace, which undoubtedly contributed to inspire your days.
I rejoice with you for the success of the first part of the Chapter, held in the same place, during which the new Abbot General was also elected. You, Father, went immediately to visit the twelve regions where your monasteries are located. I like to think that this “visit” took place with the holy care that the Virgin Mary shows us in the Gospel. “She arose and went with haste,” says Luke (1:39), and this expression deserves to be contemplated always, so that we can imitate Her, with the grace of the Holy Spirit. I like to pray to the Virgin who is in a “hurry”: “Lady, who are in a hurry, right?” And She understands that language.
The Father Abbot says that in this trip he has collected the dreams of the Superiors.” This way of expressing himself called my attention, and I share it fully. So much so because, as you know, I also understand “dreaming” in this positive sense, not utopic but designed; because here it’s not about the dreams of an individual, even if he is the General Superior, but of a sharing, of a “collection” of dreams that arise from the communities, and that I imagine will be the object of discernment in the second part of the Chapter.
They are summarized thus: dream of communion, dream of participation, dream of mission and dream of formation. I would like to offer some reflections on these four “ways.”
On the Method
In the first place, I would like to note, so to speak, the method. It’s a pointer that comes to me from the Ignatian focus, but which, deep down, I believe I have in common with you, men called to contemplation in the school of Saint Benedict and Saint Bernard. That is, it’s about interpreting all these “dreams” through Christ, identifying ourselves with Him through the Gospel and imagining –in an objective and contemplative sense– how Jesus dreamed these realities of communion, participation, mission and formation. In fact, these dreams build us as persons and as community in the measure that they are not ours, but His, and we assimilate His dreams in the Holy Spirit.
And here a beautiful and gratifying area opens for a spiritual quest”: the quest of “Jesus’ dreams, namely, of His greatest desires, which the Father awakened in His divine-human Heart. Here, in this key of evangelical contemplation, I would like to “resonate” with His four great dreams.
1st Dreams of Communion
John’s Gospel gives us this prayer of Jesus to the Father: “The glory which Thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and Thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou has sent me and hast loved them even as Thou hast love me” (17:22-23). This holy Word enables us to dream with Jesus in the communion of His disciples, our communion as “His” (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, 146). This communion –it’s important to make clear– doesn’t consist in our uniformity, homogeneity, compatibility – more or less spontaneous or forced, no; it consists in our common relationship with Christ, and in Him with the Father in the Spirit. Jesus was not afraid of the diversity that existed among the Twelve; hence, we shouldn’t fear diversity either, because the Holy Spirit delights in stimulating the differences and makes a harmony of them. Instead, we must fear our particularisms, our exclusivities because they cause divisions (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 131). Hence, Jesus’ dream of communion frees us from uniformity and divisions, both bad things.
2nd Dreams of Participation
Another word that we take from Matthew’s Gospel. In the controversy with the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus says to His disciples: “But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one Teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in Heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one Master, the Christ” (23:8-10). Here we can contemplate Jesus’ dream of a fraternal community, in which all participate on the basis of a common filial relationship with the Father and as disciples of Jesus. In particular, a community of consecrated life can be a sign of the Kingdom of God by witnessing a style of participatory fraternity between real and concrete persons that, with their limitations, choose to live together every day, trusting in Christ’s grace. The present instruments of communication can and must be at the service of a real –not only virtual– participation in the concrete life of the community (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 87).
3rd Dreams of Mission
The Gospel also gives us Jesus’ dream of a totally missionary Church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This mandate concerns everyone in the Church. There are not charisms that are missionary and others that are not. All charisms, in the measure that they are given to the Church, are for the evangelization of peoples, according to God’s “imagination.” A monk who prays in his monastery plays his part in taking the Gospel to that land, to teach the people that live there that we have a Father who loves us and that, in this world, we are on the way to Heaven. Hence, the question is: how can one be a strict Cistercian and be part of “a Church going forth” (Evangelii Gaudium, 20)? On the way but it is a way forth. How do you experience the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Saint Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75)? It would be good to hear it from you, contemplatives. For now, it’s enough for us to recall that “in any form of evangelization the primacy is always God’s” and that “in the whole life of the Church it must always be clear that the initiative is God’s, ‘it is He who has loved us’ (1 John 4:10)” (Evangelii Gaudium, 12).
4th Dreams of Formation
Finally, the Gospels show us Jesus taking care of his disciples, educating them with patience, explaining to them, aside, the meaning of certain parables; and enlightening them with words the witness of His way of life, of His gestures. For example, when after washing the disciples’ feet He says to them: “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15), the Master dreams of the formation of His friends according to God’s way, which is humility and service. And when, a bit later, He says: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now (John 16:12), Jesus makes it clear that the disciples have a way to go, a formation to receive; and He promises that the Formator will be the Holy Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth”(v. 13). And there are many evangelical references that attest to the dream of formation in the Heart of the Lord. I like to summarize them as a dream of holiness, renewing this invitation: “May the grace of your Baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness.” May everything be open to God and, for this [to happen], choose Him, choose God over and over. Do not get discouraged, because you have the strength of the Holy Spirit to make it possible and, in the end, holiness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)P (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, 15).
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your presence and I wish you all the best in the conclusion of your Chapter. May the Virgin accompany you. I bless you from my heart and all your fellow brothers of the world. And I ask you, please, to pray for me.