At 12:15 this morning, Pope Francis received in audience the participants of the 54th National Assembly of Religious Superiors, who reflected on the theme “The Church’s Mission and Consecrated Life in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium” (Tivoli, November3-7, 2014).
Here is the translation of the Pope’s address to those present.
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I welcome you and thank you for your reception; in particular I thank the President for having introduced our meeting, which takes place at the end of your National Assembly. In light of what I have heard about your work, I would like to share with you some points of reference for the way.
First of all, religious life helps the Church primarily to realize that “attraction that makes her grow because, in face of the witness of a Brother or Sister who truly lives the religious life, people wonder “what is going on here?” “What drives this person beyond the worldly horizon?” This, I would say, is the first thing: to help the Church to grow through the way of attraction, without bothering to proselytize — attraction!
In last Wednesday’s Gospel we heard: “whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). This decision, in different forms, is required of every Christian. However, we, Religious, are called to give a testimony of prophecy. The witness of an evangelical life is what distinguishes the missionary disciple and, in particular, the one who follows the Lord in the way of consecrated life. And the prophetic testimony coincides with holiness. True prophecy is never ideological, it is not “fashionable,” but is always a sign of contradiction, according to the Gospel, as Jesus was. Jesus, for instance, was a sign of contradiction for the religious authorities of His time: the leaders of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Doctors of the Law. And He was so for other options and proposals: Essenes, Zealots, etc. – a sign of contradiction.
I thank you for the work you have done over these days, as the President said: a work that helps to go forward on the path traced by Evangelii Gaudium. He used a beautiful expression; he said: “we don’t want to fight rear-guard battles, of defense, but to spend ourselves among the people,” in the certainty of faith that God always makes His Kingdom germinate and mature. This is not easy; it is not taken for grated. It requires conversion; first of all, it requires prayer and Adoration. I recommend Adoration. And it requires sharing with the Holy People of God that lives on the fringes of history. It requires being decentred. To live and be fruitful, every charism is required to be decentred, so that Jesus Christ alone is at the center. A charism is not kept as a bottle of distilled water, it is made to fructify with courage by confronting it with the present reality, with the cultures, with the history, as the great missionaries of our Institutes teach us.
A clear sign, which consecrated life is called to give today, is fraternal life. Please, let not the terrorism of gossip exist among you! Throw it out! Let fraternity exist, and if you have something against your brother, say it to his face … Sometimes it might come to blows — this is not a problem: this is better than the terrorism of gossip. Today, the prevailing culture is individualistic, centred on subjective rights. It is a culture that corrodes society from its primary cell, which is the family. Consecrated life can help the Church and the whole of society by giving witness of fraternity, by showing that it is possible to live together as brothers in diversity: this is important! Because the community does not first choose us; we find ourselves with persons who are different in character, age, formation, sensibility… and yet we seek to live as brothers; we do not always succeed, you certainly know this. Very often we make mistakes, because we are all sinners; however, if we acknowledge we have made a mistake, we ask for forgiveness and forgiveness is offered to us. And this does the Church good: it makes the lymph of fraternity circulate in the Church. And it also does the whole society good.
However, this fraternity presupposes the paternity of God and the maternity of the Church and of the Mother, the Virgin Mary. Every day we must go back to this relationship, and we can do so with prayer, with the Eucharist, with adoration, with the Rosary. Thus every day we renew our “being” with Christ and in Christ, and in this way we are in an authentic relationship with the Father who is in Heaven and with Mother Church, our Holy Hierarchical Mother Church, and Mother Mary. If our life is always placed again in these fundamental relationships, then we are also able to live a genuine fraternity, a testimonial fraternity, which attracts.
Dear brothers, I leave you these simple signs, by which you are already journeying. I encourage you to go forward and I accompany you on this way.
May the Lord bless you and bless all your communities, especially those most tried, most suffering. And I thank you for the prayer with which you support me and my service to the Church. Thank you![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]