Pope Francis admitted today that the lack of vocations in some parts of the Church can cause him to feel tempted to lack hope, but he says that it is a call to pray more fervently, as Anna prayed for the gift of a son, and was given Samuel.
The Pope spoke of this today — and also of the sin of gossip — when he received in audience consecrated men and women celebrating their jubilee at the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.
Tomorrow, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Consecrated Life, marks the end of the special jubilee year.
The Pope left aside his prepared text and instead spoke to the consecrated off-the-cuff.
He first spoke about obedience, saying some consecrated persons give a witness of obedience that is prophetic.
“There are men and women among you who live intense obedience, an obedience, which is not military, no, not this; that is discipline, something else – an obedience of donation of the heart. And this is prophecy,” he said.
This obedience works against the “seed of anarchy, which the devil sows,” the Pope stated.
He warned that the “anarchy of the will is the daughter of the devil, not the daughter of God. The Son of God was not anarchic; He did not call His own to be a force of resistance against his enemies. He Himself said so to Pilate. […] But He obeyed His Father.”
Obedience can be hard, as Jesus’ was, but it prophetically shows people that “there is a way of happiness, of grandeur, a way that fills one with joy, which is precisely the way of Jesus. It is the way of being close to Jesus,” Francis assured.
Charity at home
Pope Francis also spoke to the consecrated persons about living charity, first with those in their communities, and also by being close to those whom they serve.
Consecrated life should lead “to closeness with people: physical, spiritual closeness, to know the people,” he stated.
And this applies at home: “Who is the first neighbor of a consecrated man or woman? The brother or the sister of the community. He is your first neighbor.”
A threat to this closeness is what the Pope referred to —using an expression he has used on other occasions — as bombs of gossip.
“Listen well: no gossip, no terrorism of gossip, because one who gossips is a terrorist. He is a terrorist in his community, because he throws a word like a bomb against this, against that, and then goes away tranquil. He destroys! One who does this destroys, as a bomb, and he moves away.”
Controlling one’s tongue, as St. James says, is perhaps the “most difficult virtue,” the Pope acknowledged. “If you feel like saying something against a brother or a sister, to throw a bomb of gossip, bite your tongue! Intensely! No terrorism in the communities!”
Pointing to the example of St. Therese, who bore with patience the difficulties given her by sisters in her community, the Pope remarked that “if, in this Year of Mercy, each one of you succeeds in never being a gossip terrorist, it would be a success for the Church, a success of great sanctity! Be courageous!”
Finally, the Holy Father turned to the theme of hope.
“I confess to you,” he said, “that it costs me much when I see the drop in vocations, when I receive bishops and ask them: ‘How many seminarians do you have?’ ‘Four, five …’ When in your Religious Communities – masculine and feminine – you have a novice, two … and the Community is growing old, growing old …”
“And this awakens in me a temptation against hope: ‘But, Lord, what’s happening? Why has the womb of consecrated life become so sterile?’”
“Some Congregations are doing the experiment of ‘artificial insemination,’” the Pope said, noting how religious superiors sometimes are leaving aside the proper discernment about those who approach with a possible vocation. “What do they do? They receive: ‘But yes, come, come, come …’ And then the problems <begin> that exist inside there … No. One must receive with seriousness! One must discern well if it’s a true vocation and help it to grow.”
Instead, the Pontiff said, “against this temptation of losing hope, caused by this sterility, we must pray more. And we must pray without getting tired.”
He continued: “It does me much good to read that passage of Scripture, in which Anna – Samuel’s mother – prayed and asked for a son. She prayed and moved her lips, and prayed … And the old priest, who was somewhat blind and couldn’t see well, thought she was drunk. But the heart of that woman [said to God]: ‘I want a son!’
“I ask you: in face of this drop in vocations does your heart pray with this intensity? ‘Our Congregation is in need of sons, our Congregation is in need of daughters …’ The Lord who is so generous, will not fail in His promise, but we must ask for it. We must knock on the door of His heart.”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of off-the-cuff address: http://zenit.org/articles/popes-off-the-cuff-address-to-consecrated/
Full text of prepared address: http://zenit.org/articles/text-of-francis-prepared-address-for-consecrated/