Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave Friday, during his trip to Assisi, to the Poor Clare sisters.
The Holy Father Francis arrived at the Basilica of Saint Clare shortly after 4:15 pm. After venerating the Saint’s body in the crypt of the Basilica, he paused in silent prayer before the Crucifix of San Damiano, in the Choir’s Chapel.
Present in the Choir’s Chapel were the Cardinal advisers who arrived with him to Assisi. The Pope then met with the Poor Clare cloistered nuns and addressed to them the words we translate below:
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I thought that this meeting was going to be as it was twice at Castel Gandolfo, in the Chapter Room, alone with the Sisters, but I confess to you, I don’t have the courage to send the Cardinals away. So let’s hold it like this.
Well, I thank you so much for your welcome and for your prayer for the Church. When a cloistered Sister consecrates her whole life to the Lord, a transformation occurs that one can never fully understand. Our normal thinking would be that this Sister becomes isolated, alone with the Absolute, alone with God; hers is an ascetic, penitent life. But this isn’t the way of a Catholic cloistered Sister, it is not even Christian. The way goes through Christ Jesus. Christ is always at the center of your life, of your penance, of your community life, of your prayer and also of the universality of prayer. And what happens on this way is contrary to what is thought is an ascetic cloistered Sister. When she goes on the path of contemplation of Jesus Christ, of prayer and of penance with Jesus Christ, she becomes greatly human. Cloistered Sisters are called to have great humanity, a humanity like that of Mother Church; human, understanding all things of life, being persons who are able to understand human problems, who are able to forgive, who are able to pray to the Lord for people. Your humanity comes on this way, the Incarnation of the Word, the way of Jesus Christ. And what is the sign of such a human Sister? Joy, joy, when there is joy! It makes me sad when I see Sisters who are not joyful. Perhaps they smile, but with the smile of a flight attendant. But not with the smile of joy, of that which comes from within, always with Jesus Christ. Speaking of the Crucified, I said in the Mass today that Francis contemplated him with open eyes, with open wounds, with the blood that ran down. And this is your contemplation: reality — the reality of Jesus Christ. Not abstract ideas, not abstract ideas, because they dry the head. Contemplation of the wounds of Jesus Christ! And it carried him to Heaven, it did! It is the way of the humanity of Jesus Christ: always with Jesus, the God-Man. And because of this, it’s so lovely when people go to the parlous of convents and ask for prayers, and express their problems. Perhaps the Sister doesn’t say anything extraordinary, but a word that comes to her in fact from the contemplation of Jesus Christ, because the Sister, as the Church, is on the way of being an expert in humanity. And this is your way: not too spiritual! When they are too spiritual, I think of the founder of the convents of your “competition,” Saint Teresa, for instance. When a Sister came to her, ugh, with these things … she said to the cook: “give her a beefsteak!” Always with Jesus Christ, always. The humanity of Jesus Christ! Because the Word came in the flesh, God became flesh for us, and this will give you a human sanctity, great, beautiful, mature — the holiness of a mother. And the Church wants you like this: mothers, mother, mother — to give life. When you pray, for instance, for priests, for seminarians you have a maternal relation with them; with prayer you help them to become good Pastors of the People of God. But remember Saint Teresa’s beefsteak! It’s important. And this is the first thing: always with Jesus Christ, the wounds of Jesus Christ, the wounds of the Lord, because it’s a reality that he had and bore after the Resurrection.
And the second thing I would like to say to you, briefly, is about community life. Forgive each other; support one another because community life is not easy. The devil takes advantage of everything to divide! He says: “I don’t want to speak badly, but …” and division begins. No, this is not on, because it doesn’t lead to anything,