Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis had prepared for his meeting today with consecrated men and women celebrating their Jubilee at the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.
The off-the-cuff address the Pope delivered can be read here.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to meet with you at the end of this Year dedicated to Consecrated Life.
In His infinite mercy, one day Jesus turned to each one of us and asked, personally: “Come! Follow Me! (Mark 10:21). If we are here, it is because we answered Him “yes.” Sometimes it was an adherence full of enthusiasm and joy, at others a reluctant one, perhaps uncertain. Nevertheless, we followed Him with generosity, letting ourselves be led on ways that we never imagined. We shared with Him moments of intimacy: “Come away […] and rest a while” (Mark 6:31); moments of service and of mission; “You give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13); even His cross: “If any man would come after me […] let him take up his cross” (Luke 9:23). He introduced us in His own relationship with the Father, He gave us His Spirit, He dilated our heart to the measure of his own, teaching us to love the poor and sinners. We followed Him together, learning from Him service, hospitality, forgiveness, fraternal charity. Our consecrated life has meaning because remaining with Him and going on the roads of the world taking Him, conforms us to Him, makes us be Church, gift for humanity.
The Year we are concluding has contributed to make shine more in the Church the beauty and holiness of consecrated life, intensifying in the consecrated gratitude for the call and the joy of the response. Every consecrated man and woman has had the possibility of having a clearer perception of his/her identity, and thus project him/herself in the future with renewed apostolic ardor to write new pages of goodness, in the wake of the charism of the Founders. We are grateful to the Lord for all that He has given us to live in this Year so rich in initiatives. And I thank the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies for Apostolic Life, which prepared and carried out the great events here at Rome and in the world.
The Year ends, but our commitment continues to remain faithful to the call received and to grow in love, in gift and in creativity. Therefore, I would like to leave three words with you. The first is prophecy. It is your specific <call>. But what prophecy does the Church and the world await from you? You are called first of all to proclaim, with your life even before your words, the reality of God: to speak of God. If sometimes He is rejected and marginalized or ignored, we must ask ourselves if perhaps we haven’t been sufficiently transparent to His Face, showing instead our own. God’s face is that of a Father, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). One must have a personal relation with Him to make Him known, and therefore one needs the capacity to adore Him, to cultivate friendship with him day after day, through heart to heart conversation in prayer, especially in silent adoration.
The second word that I consign to you is proximity. In Jesus, God make Himself close to every man and every woman: He shared the joy of the spouses at Cana of Galilee and the anguish of the widow of Nain; He entered Jairus’ house touched by death and the house of Bethany perfumed with nard; He took upon Himself the sicknesses and sufferings, giving His life in ransom for all. To follow Christ means to go where He went, to take charge, as the Good Samaritan, of the wounded we meet on the way; to go in search of the lost sheep. Like Jesus, to be close to the people, to share their joys and sorrows; to show, with our love, the paternal face of God and the maternal caress of the Church. May no one ever feel distant, detached, closed and hence sterile. Each one of you is called to serve the brothers, following one’s charism: one with prayer, one with catechesis, one with teaching, one with the care of the sick or of the poor, one proclaiming the Gospel, one carrying out the different works of mercy. What is important is not to live for oneself, as Jesus did not live for Himself, but for the Father and for us.
Thus we come to the third word: hope. Witnessing God and His merciful love, with the grace of Christ you can infuse hope in this our humanity marked by different motives of anxiety and fear and tempted sometimes to discouragement. You can make felt the renewing strength of the Beatitudes, of honesty, of compassion; the value of goodness, of a simple life, essential, full of meaning. And you can nourish hope also in the Church. I am thinking, for instance, of the ecumenical dialogue. The meeting a year ago between the consecrated of the different Christian confessions was a beautiful novelty, which merits being carried forward. The charismatic and prophetic witness of the life of the consecrated, in the variety of its forms, can help all to recognize themselves more united and foster full communion.
Dear brothers and sisters, in your daily apostolate, do not let yourselves be conditioned by ages and numbers. What counts most is the capacity to repeat the initial “yes” to Jesus’ call, which continues to be felt, in a new way, in every stage of life. May His call and our answer keep our hope alive. — prophecy, proximity, hope. Living thus, you will have joy in your heart, distinctive sign of Jesus’ followers and, for greater reason, in the consecrated. And your life will be attractive for so many women and men, to the glory of God and the beauty of Christ’s Bride, the Church.
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank the Lord for what you are and do in the Church and in the world. I bless you and entrust you to our Mother. And please, do not forget to pray for me.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]