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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pope meets with Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception

At noon today, in the Consistory Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the participants taking part in the General Chapter of the Congregation of Marian Clerics of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception).  The Chapter is taking place in Rome from 5 to 25 February 2017.

The Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception was founded in 1673 in Poland and is currently present in 26 countries around the world.

Address of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
to the Congregation of Marian Fathers
of the Immaculate Conception

Dear brothers,

I am pleased to meet with you on the occasion of your General Chapter and I cordially greet you all, beginning with your Superior General, who I thank for his words.  Through you, I also greet your entire Congregation, which is committed to serving Christ and the Church in twenty countries throughout the world.

I have learned that one of the main focuses of your General Chapter is a reflection concerning the laws of your Congregation and their functions.  This is important work.  In fact, it is important today for every Institute to return to its roots in order to renew the need for their Rules, since in them and in their Constitutions, an entire journey of discipleship can be found, in accordance with the specific charism that has been defined by the Church (Post-synodal exhortation, Vita consecrata, 37).  Therefore, I urge you to undertake this reflection in faithfulness to the charism of your Founder and to the spiritual patrimony of your Congregation and, at the same time, with hearts and minds open to new needs of the people.  It is true, we must continue with new needs, new challenges, but remember: we cannot go forward without our memory.  This is a constant tension.  If we want to go ahead but don't want to remembering the past, the history of the founders, the great contributors and also those who have contributed in little ways to the Congregation, we cannot continue.  This is a rule: memory, this deuteronomical dimension should always be part of the updating of a religious Congregation.

May the example of your Founder, Saint Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, who was canonized last year, be a light to guide your steps.  He fully understood what it means to be a disciple of Jesus when he prayed the words: Lord Jesus, if I am bound to you out of love, who will separate me from You?  If I am united to You in mercy, who will separate me from You?  My soul is drawn to You, Your mercy welcomes me.  May even the most unworthy member adhere to its head, and this little particle suffers with the entire suffering Holy Body (Christus Patiens, III, 1).

From this perspective, your service to the Word is a testimony of the Risen Christ, who you have met along your way and who, with your lifestyle, you are called to bring with you wherever the Church should send you.  Christian witness also requires commitment with and for the poor, a commitment which has characterized your Institute from its very beginnings.  I encourage you to keep this tradition alive in your service to those who are poor and humble, through your proclamation of the gospel in words that they can understand, with works of mercy and your prayers for the deceased.  This closeness to people like us, simple.  I like this passage from Saint Paul to Timothy (cf 2 Tim 1:5): keep your faith, which you received from your mother, from your grandmother ...; from the simplicity of your mother and your grandmother.  This is the foundation.  We are not princes, sons of princes or of counts, or of barons, we are simple people, of the people.  For this reason, we approach with simplicity those who are simple and especially those who are suffering: the sick, children, those who are elderly and abandoned, the poor ... everyone.  And this poverty is central to the gospel: it is the poverty of Jesus, not a sociological poverty, the poverty of Jesus.

Another significant spiritual legacy of your religious family is that which has been left by your confrere, Blessed Giorgio Matulaitis: total dedication to the Church and to mankind to boldly go to work and to struggle for the Church, especially where there is the most need (Journal, p. 45).  May his intercession help you to cultivate this attitude within you, which over the past decades has inspired your efforts to spread the charism of your Institute to other poor countries, especially in Africa and in Asia.

The great challenge of enculturation requires you to proclaim the Good News today in languages and in ways that are understandable by men of our time, involved as they are in the rapid social and cultural transformation.  Your Congregation has a long history, written by courageous witnesses for Christ and by the gospel.  In this vein, you are called today to walk with renewed zeal compelling you, with prophetic freedom and wise discernment - both at the same time! - along the apostolic path and the missionary frontier, cultivating a close collaboration with Bishops and with other elements of the ecclesial community.

The horizons of evangelization and the urgent necessity to bear witness to the gospel message for all, without distinction, constitute the vast field of your apostolate.  Many people are still waiting to know Jesus, mankind's only Redeemer, as are believers who are challenged by many situations of injustice as well as moral and material hardship.  Such an urgent mission requires personal and community conversion.  Only hearts that are fully open to the action of grace can interpret the signs of the times and welcome the calls of humanity in need of hope and peace.

Dear brothers, following the example of your Founder, be courageous in service to Christ and to his Church, responding to new challenges and new missions, even if they may seem to be humanly dangerous.  In fact, in the genetic code of your community, we find that which Saint Stanislaus affirmed by his experience: Despite many difficulties, divine goodness and hope begin and do what they please, even if this means that which is inappropriate according to human judgement.  In fact, for the Almighty one, nothing is impossible.  Very clearly, this is what has been demonstrated in me (Fundatio Domus Recollectionis, 1).  And this attitude - which comes from the smallness of our means, even from our own smallness, and from our unworthiness, for we are sinners, comes from there, but we have a great horizon - (this attitude) is precisely the act of faith in the power of the Lord: the Lord can, the Lord is capable.  And our smallness is merely the seed, the small seed, that can germinate, grow, the Lord will water it, and it will continue.  But the sense of smallness is merely our first step toward trusting in the power of God.  Go, go on along this path.

To your Mother and Patroness, Mary Immaculate, I entrust your journey of faith and growth, in constant union with Christ and with his Holy Spirit, who makes you witnesses of the power of the Resurrection.  To all of you here present, to all of your Congregation and to your lay collaborators, I impart my heartfelt Apostolic blessing.
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