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Monday, May 2, 2016

Speaking with the Mercedarians

At noon today (Rome time), in the Consistory Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience all those who are participating in the General Chapter of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercede (otherwise known as the Mercedarians) who are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the foundation of their Order.


Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
to members of the General Chapter
of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercede

Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you and I thank Father Pablo Bernardo Ordoñe for his words.  I entrust to the Lord the work of this Chapter assembly and the good projects that are planned for this administration, and I entrust to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Mercede the new leadership team that will emerge from your deliberations.

This Chapter, which has as its theme: The Mercred: memory and prophecy on the peripheries of freedom, is being held in preparation for the celebration of the eighth centenary of your Order.  Yours is a memory that evokes the great deeds accomplished over these past eight centuries: the work of the redemption of captives, the bold mission in the new world, marked by so many illustrious members known for their holiness and wisdom which have marked your history.  Certainly, there is much to remember and it is good for us to remember.

But this memory should not be limited to the past; rather, it should be a serene and conscious act that permits us to evaluate our achievements without forgetting our limits and above all, meeting the challenges posed by humanity.  This Chapter may be a privileged occasion for a sincere and fruitful dialogue that will not remain in a glorious past, without examining the difficulties, hesitations and errors that have been encountered along the way.  The real life of the Order can be sought in the ongoing efforts to adapt and renew itself, in order to be able to respond generously to the real needs of the world and the Church, while remaining faithful to the perennial heritage that has been entrusted to you.

In this spirit, we can truly speak about prophecy; we cannot do otherwise, for to be a prophet is to give human voice to eternal words, to forget our own needs so that God can demonstrate his omnipotence in our weakness.  The prophet is a messenger, an anointed one who has received a gift from the Spirit for service to the holy people of God.  You have also received a gift and have been consecrated for a mission that is a work of mercy: to follow Christ, bearing the good news of the gospel to the poor and freedom to captives (cf Lk 4:18).  Dear brothers, our religious profession is a gift and a great responsibility which we carry in earthen vessels.  We do not do this by our own strength, but rather by entrusting ourselves to divine mercy.  Vigilance and perseverance in prayer - in the interior life - are the pillars that sustain us.  If God is present in your lives, the joy of proclaiming the gospel will be your strength and your joy.  God has also called us to serve within the Church and within the community.  Support one another in this common journey; may fraternal communion and concord in good deeds be your witness, even before any words are spoken, to the message of Jesus and his love for the Church.

Prophets know how to go to the peripheries, something that we must do with as little baggage as possible.  The Spirit is a gentle breeze that drives us forward.  Remember how your Fathers were moved and what it was that enticed, directed them and the reasons why they were committed to following in his footsteps.  They were able to allow themselves to be seduced by the poor, the marginalized, those who were excluded by society in order to find consolation in suffering with Him, completing in their own flesh that which was lacking in the passion of Christ (Col 1:24).  And day by day, this is done in perseverance, in the silence of a life given freely and generously.  To follow this path is to assume that, in all freedom, we seek to become small, to join with captives, certain that this will not only fulfill our redeeming purpose, but we too will find true freedom because in the poor and the captives, we recognize the face of our Redeemer.

In the eighth centenary of your Order; never stop proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord to all those to whom you are sent: to those who are persecuted because of their faith and to those deprived of liberty, to victims of trafficking and to young people in schools, to those you serve through works of mercy and to the faithful in parishes and missions entrusted to you by the Church.  To each of them, and to the entire Mercederian family, I extend my blessing and my plea that you not forget to pray for me.
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