Pope Francis this evening offered a reflection on two pillars of consecrated life as he led vespers with clergy and religious in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
With this his first stop in New York, the Holy Father is on the second full day of his time in the United States, the sixth day of his long US-Cuba journey.
“This evening, my brothers and sisters, I have come to join you in prayer that our vocations will continue to build up the great edifice of God’s Kingdom in this country,” the Pope said.
He referred to the sexual abuse crisis, saying that “as a presbyterate,” his listeners have had “to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members.”
“I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty, and I thank God for your faithful service to his people,” he said.
The Bishop of Rome went on to propose “two brief reflections.”
“The first concerns the spirit of gratitude,” he said. Priests and religious have to love and be grateful for their vocation, he suggested, and will thus be joyful.
Reiterating an invitation he has made in other countries in addressing consecrated persons, the Pope encouraged “the grace of remembrance.”
“Remembrance of when we were first called, remembrance of the road travelled, remembrance of graces received… and, above all, remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way,” he recommended.
This remembrance of the Lord’s work will bring gratitude, Francis explained.
The second reflection pertained to a “spirit of hard work.”
“A grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the Lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work. Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love,” he said.
The Pope warned against two dangers that can dampen this “spirit of generous self-sacrifice.”
One is judging by the standards of the business world: efficiency, success, etc..
“Not that these things are unimportant,” he clarified. “We have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and God’s people rightly expect accountability from us. But the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in God’s eyes.”
When efforts and work don’t seem to be giving fruit, he said, remember “we are followers of Jesus… and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.”
Another danger is being “jealous of our free time, when we think that surrounding ourselves with worldly comforts will help us serve better.”
With this, the spirit of sacrifice diminishes, the Pope said, and people who suffer material poverty might feel alienated.
“Rest is needed, as are moments of leisure and self-enrichment, but we need to learn how to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve with generosity,” he said. “Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s other poor, will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous.”
The Pope concluded his address with words of gratitude for women religious.
“What would the Church be without you?,” he said. “Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say ‘thank you,’ a big thank you… and to tell you that I love you very much.
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