“The Catholic community in Bangladesh is small. But you are like the mustard seed that God brings to fruition in His own time.”
These were the words of Pope Francis on December 2, 2017, to around 1,500 priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons, seminarians and novices in the Holy Rosary Church, the cathedral-Church of the archdiocese of Chittagong.
“I rejoice to see how this seed is growing and to witness first-hand the deep faith which God has given you,” the Holy Father continued. “I think of the dedicated and faithful missionaries who planted and tended this seed of faith for almost five hundred years.
“I will shortly visit the cemetery here and pray for these men and women who so generously served this local Church. As I look out among you, I see missionaries who continue this holy work. I also see many vocations born in this land; they are a sign of the graces with which God is blessing your land. I am particularly pleased by the presence, and the prayers, of the cloistered nuns among us.”
Pope Francis noted that it was appropriate the gathering took place in the Holy Rosary Church, that “The rosary is a beautiful meditation on the mysteries of faith that are the lifeblood of the Church and a prayer that shapes our spiritual lives and our apostolic service.”
At the end of the meeting, Francis visited the parish cemetery where many religious are buried, and paused in silent prayer before lighting a candle. Immediately afterwards the Pope entered the ancient Church of the Holy Rosary, founded by Portuguese missionaries in 1677, and now the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration.
Address of the Holy Father
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am very happy to be with you! I thank Archbishop Moses [Costa] for his warm greeting in your name. I especially thank those who offered testimonies and shared with us their love for God. I also express my gratitude to Father Mintu [Palma] for composing the prayer that we will shortly recite to Our Lady. As the Successor of Peter, it is my task to confirm you in faith. But I want you to know that, through your words and presence here today, you also confirm me in faith and bring me great joy.
The Catholic community in Bangladesh is small. But you are like the mustard seed that God brings to fruition in His own time. I rejoice to see how this seed is growing and to witness first-hand the deep faith which God has given you (cf. Mt 13:31-32). I think of the dedicated and faithful missionaries who planted and tended this seed of faith for almost five hundred years. I will shortly visit the cemetery here and pray for these men and women who so generously served this local Church. As I look out among you, I see missionaries who continue this holy work. I also see many vocations born in this land; they are a sign of the graces with which God is blessing your land. I am particularly pleased by the presence, and the prayers, of the cloistered nuns among us.
It is good that our meeting takes place in this ancient Church of the Holy Rosary. The rosary is a beautiful meditation on the mysteries of faith that are the lifeblood of the Church and a prayer that shapes our spiritual lives and our apostolic service. Whether we are priests, religious, consecrated men or women, seminarians or novices, the prayer of the rosary inspires us, in union with Mary, to give our lives completely to Christ. It invites us to share in Mary’s attentiveness to God at the Annunciation, Christ’s compassion for all humanity as He hangs upon the cross, and the Church’s rejoicing as she receives the Risen Lord’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
Mary’s attentiveness. In all of history, has there ever been anyone as attentive as Mary was at the Annunciation? God prepared her for that moment and she responded in love and trust. So too the Lord has prepared us and called each of us by name. Responding to that call is a lifelong process. Every day we have to learn to be more attentive to the Lord in prayer, meditating on His word and seeking to discern His will. I know that your pastoral work and your apostolates demand much of you and that your days are often long and leave you tired. But we cannot bear Christ’s name, or share in His mission, unless we remain first and foremost men and women rooted in love, fired by love, through a personal encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and the words of sacred Scripture. Father Abel, you reminded us of this when you spoke of the importance of fostering an intimate relationship with Jesus, for there we experience His mercy and find renewed strength for our service to others.
Attentiveness to the Lord allows us to see the world through His eyes and thus to become more sensitive to the needs of those whom we serve. We begin to understand their hopes and joys, fears and burdens, we see more clearly the many talents, charisms, and gifts they bring to the building up of the Church in faith and holiness. Brother Lawrence, when you spoke of your ashram, you helped us to see the importance of assisting people to satisfy their spiritual thirst. May all of you, in the great variety of your apostolates, be a source of spiritual refreshment and inspiration to those you serve and enable them to share their gifts ever more fully with one another in advancing the mission of the Church.
Christ’s compassion. The rosary draws us into a meditation on the passion and death of Jesus. By entering more deeply into these sorrowful mysteries, we come to know their saving power and are confirmed in our call to share it by our lives of compassion and self-giving. Priesthood and religious life are not a career. They are not a vehicle for personal advancement. They are a service, a share in Christ’s own sacrificial love for His flock. By conforming ourselves daily to that we love, we come to appreciate that our lives are not our own. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (cf. Gal 2:20).
We embody this compassion by accompanying people, especially in their moments of suffering and trial, helping them to find Jesus. Father Franco, thank you for drawing this to the fore – each of us is called to be a missionary, bringing Christ’s mercy and love to all, especially those on the peripheries of our society. I am especially grateful for the many ways in which so many of you are engaged in the areas of social outreach, health care, and education, serving the needs of your local communities and of the many migrants and refugees coming to your country. Your service to the wider community, in particular to those most in need, is a precious service to the building of a culture of encounter and solidarity.
The Church’s rejoicing. Lastly, the rosary fills us with joy in Christ’s triumph over death, His ascension to the right hand of the Father and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our world. The whole of our ministry is directed to proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. In our lives and apostolates, we are all too aware of the problems of the world and the sufferings of humanity, but we never lose confidence in the power of Christ’s love to prevail over evil and the Prince of Lies who tries to deceive us. Never be discouraged by your own failures or by the challenges of ministry. If you remain attentive to the Lord in prayer and persevere in offering Christ’s compassion to your brothers and sisters, then the Lord will surely fill your hearts with the comforting joy of His Holy Spirit.
Sister Mary Chandra, you shared with us the joy that flows from your religious vocation and the charism of your religious congregation. Marcelius, you too spoke of the love you and your fellow seminarians have for your vocation to be priests. Both of you reminded us that we are all asked daily to renew and deepen our joy in the Lord by striving to imitate Him ever more fully. In the beginning, this may seem daunting, but it fills our hearts with spiritual joy. For each day becomes an opportunity to begin again, to respond anew to the Lord. Never lose heart, for the Lord’s patience is for our salvation (cf. 2 Pet 3:15)! Rejoice in the Lord always!
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your fidelity in serving Christ and His Church through the gift of your lives. I assure all of you of my prayers, as I ask you to pray for me. Let us now turn to Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, asking that she may obtain for all of us the grace to grow in holiness and to be ever more joyful witnesses of the power of the Gospel to bring healing, reconciliation, and peace to our world.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican