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Friday, May 4, 2018

Reflections, open questions and possible paths

At 10:30am today (4:30am EDT), in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience all those who are participating in an International Conference entitled Consecratio et consecratio per evangelica consilia.  Reflections, open questions, possible paths, which was organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  The Conference is taking place in Rome, at the Antonianum from 3 to 6 May.


Unscripted speech of His Holiness, Pope Francis
concerning prayer, poverty and patience

Good morning to all of you!

I thought that I would give a speech, a well-written speech, a good one ... But then I thought about speaking off the cuff, about saying the things that are apropos for this moment.

The key to what I will say is the question that the Cardinal asked (the Prefect of the Congregation): authentic criteria for discerning what is happening.  Because truly, today so many things are happening that, in order not to get lost in the world, in the fog of worldliness, in temptations, in the spirit of war, many things, we need authentic criteria to guide us.  May they guide is in our discernment.

And there is something else: may this Holy Spirit be a calamity (laughs, laughing), because the Spirit never grows tired of being creative!  Now, with the new forms of Consecrated Life, these are truly creative, with various charisms ... It is interesting: the Spirit is the author of this diversity, but at the same time, the Spirit is the Creator of unity.  This is the essence of the Holy Spirit.  And with this diversity of charisms, there are so many things, the Spirit creates unity in the Body of Christ, and the Spirit also creates unity in Consecrated Life.  This too is a challenge.

I have asked myself: what are the things that the Spirit wants to keep strong in Consecrated Life?  And my thoughts flew, they went, they turned round and round ... and an image kept coming to my mind: the day when I went to San Giovanni Rotondo: I don't know why, but I saw many Consecrated men and women there who are at work ... and I thought about something I said there, about the three p's that I spoke about there.  And I said to myself: these are pillars that remain, that are a permanent part of Consecrated Life.  Prayer, poverty and patience.  And I chose to speak with you today about these three things: what do I think about prayer in Consecrated Life, and then what do I think about poverty and about patience.

Prayer is a constant act of returning to the first call.  Any prayer, even a prayer in need, is always a return to the Person who has called me.  The prayer of a consecrated person is an act of returning to the Lord who has invited me to be close to Him.  A return to Him who looked me in the eye and said to me: Come.  Leave everything behind and come - But I want to leave only some things ... (I will say more about this when I speak about poverty) - No, come.  Leave everything.  Come.  This is the joy of that moment when we leave everything or even nothing that we have once had.  Every one of us knows what we have left behind: we have left our mothers, our fathers, our families, our careers ... It is true that some of us seek inner careers, and this is not good.  At that moment, we find the Lord who has called each of us to follow Him closely.  Every prayer is an act of returning to this.  And prayer is the reason why I am working for the Lord and not for my own interests or for an institution, no, I work for the Lord.

There is a word that we use often, it was used too often and has since lost a bit of its strength, but it pointed out a certain radicality.  I don't like to use that word because it was used too often, but it is this: I leave everything for You.  It is the smile of the first steps ... Then problems arose, many problems that we have all had, but it has always been a matter of returning to the meeting with the Lord.  In consecrated life, prayer is the air that helps us to breathe in the call, to renew our call.  Without this air, we can never be good consecrated men and women.  Perhaps we can be good people, Christians, Catholics who work very dedicatedly in the Church, but consecration must constantly be renewed, in prayer, in the repeated encounter with the Lord.  But I'm busy, I'm busy, I have so many things to do ... More important than this.  Go and pray.  And then there is the prayer that continues throughout the day in the presence of the Lord.  Anyway, this too is prayer.  But I have a job that is too risky and it keeps me occupied all day long ... Let us think of a consecrated woman of our times: Mother Teresa.  Mother Teresa would even go in search of problems, because she was like a machine seeking out problems, she was here, there, there, here ... But she spent two hours a day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and no one could take those from her.  Ah, the great Mother Teresa!  Do what she did, do the same thing.  Seek your Lord, the One who called you.  Prayer.  Not only in the morning ... Every one of us should seek out the best way to do it, when to pray.  But always do it, pray always.  We cannot live a consecrated life, we cannot discern the things that are happening without speaking with the Lord.

I don't want to speak any more about this, but you understand, I think.  Prayer.  And the Church needs men and women who pray, at this time when there is such great suffering among humans.

The second p is poverty.  In the Constitutions, Saint Ignatius wrote the following to us Jesuits - but I don't think it was his idea, originally, perhaps he took it from the Desert Fathers -: Poverty is the mother, the wall of containment for consecrated life.  It is a mother.  It's interesting: he does not say chastity, which may be more connected to maternity, to paternity, no: poverty is the mother.  Without poverty there can never be fruitfulness in consecrated life.  And it is a wall, it defends you.  It defends you from the spirit of worldliness, certainly.  We know that the devil enters through the pockets.  We all know that.  The little temptations against poverty are wounds to our belonging to the body of consecrated life.  According to the rule, poverty is not the same in every congregation.  The rule says: Our poverty goes in this direction, ours goes in that direction, but there is always a spirit of poverty.  And this cannot be negotiated.  Without poverty, we can never discern well the things that are happening in the world.  Without a spirit of poverty.  Leave everything, give it to the poor, the Lord said to that young man.  And that young man is all of us.  But not me, father, I don't have a fortune (I'm not rich) ... Yes, but you have something, you have some attachment!  The Lord asks you this: this will be the Isaac that you must sacrifice.  Naked in your soul, poor.  And with this spirit of poverty, the Lord defends us - he defends us! - from the many problems and many other things that seek to destroy consecrated life.

There are three small steps involved in moving from religious consecration to religious worldliness.  Yes, even religious: there isa worldly religiosity; many religious and consecrated persons are worldly.  Three small steps.  First: money, which is to say the absence of poverty.  Second: vanity which covers everything from the extreme of being a peacock to the little things about vanity.  And third: superiority, pride.  And from there, all the other vices.  But the first small step is attachment to riches, attachment to money.  If we watch out for this one, the others won't come along.  And regarding riches, I say: not only money.  Attachment to riches.  In order to discern what is happening, we need this spirit of poverty.  Some homework: how is my poverty?  Look in the drawers, in the drawers of your souls, look into your personality, look into your Congregation ... Look at how poverty is being lived.  It is the first small step: and we must be careful about this, the others will come along.  Poverty is the wall that defends us from the others, the mother that makes us more religious, that allows us to put all our wealth in the Lord.  Poverty is the wall that defends us from worldly developments that can be so damaging to every consecration.  Poverty.

And third, patience.  But Father, what does patience have to do with it?  Patience is important.  We normally don't speak about it, but it is very important.  Looking to Jesus, patience was a trait that Jesus possessed; he had to have patience until he reached the end of his life.  When, after the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Olives, we can say that at that moment, in a special way, Jesus entered into patience.  To enter into patience: is an attitude that belongs to every consecration; it applies to small things in community life and it applies to the entirety of consecrated life, which we all have, in the variety that is created by the Holy Spirit ... Beginning with little things, little tolerances, little gestures of smiles when we really want to say bad words ..., to the point of sacrificing ourselves, of living.  Patience.  The image Saint Paul uses of carrying on the shoulders (hypomon√©): Saint Paul spoke about carrying on the shoulders, as a Christian virtue.  Patience.  Without patience, which is to say without the capacity to suffer, without entering into patience, a consecrated life cannot continue, it will always be half hearted.  Without patience, for example, we understand the internal wars that happen within a community, we understand.  Because there was no patience to support one another, and the stronger part wins, not always the best part: and even the one who wins is not the best because he or she is impatient.  Without patience, we understand these charisms in the General Chapters, making agreements beforehand ... to give two examples.  You do not know how many problems, internal wars, fights Monsignor Carballo witnesses (the Secretary of the Congregation).  But he is from Galatia, he is capable of enduring all this!  Patience.  Support one another.

But not only patience in community life: patience in the face of the world's sufferings.  Take upon your shoulders the problems, the sufferings of the world.  Enter into patience, just as Jesus entered into patience in order to provide us with redemption.  This is a key point, not only to avoid the internal quarrels that are already a scandal, but in order to be consecrated, to be able to discern.  Patience.

And also patience when we face common problems in consecrated life: we can think about the scarcity of vocations: We don't know what to do, because we don't have any vocations ... We have closed three houses ... This is a daily lament, you have heard it, you have heard it in your own ears and felt it in your own hearts.  Vocations are not being produced.  And when we are not patient ... What I am speaking about now has happened, is happening: I know of at least two cases, in a country that is too secularized, that concerns two congregations and two respective provinces.  The province has begun a journey which is also a worldly journey, in the ars bene moriendi, the attitude of dying well.  And what does that mean for that province, in those two provinces of two different congregations?  Close off any admissions to the noviciate, and we who are here will continue growing older until we die.  And then the congregation in that place will be finished.  And these are not fables.  I am speaking about two congregations of men who have made this choice;  provinces within two religious congregations.  A lack of patience and we end up with the ars bene moriendi.  A lack of patience and there are no more vocations?  We sell everything and remain attached to money for whatever may happen in the future.  This is a signal, a sign that we are close to death: when a congregation begins to attach itself to money.  It has no patience and it falls into the second p, into a lack of poverty.

I can ask myself: what happened to those two provinces who decided for the ars bene moriendi, is it happening in my heart?  Is my patience finished and am I going on merely surviving?  Without patience, we cannot do magnanimous things, we cannot follow the Lord: we grow tired.  We follow the Lord to a certain point and when we meet the first, or maybe the second test, that's it.  I choose the ars bene moriendi, my consecrated life arrives here, and here I close my heart and merely survive.  The congregation is in a state of grace, yes, certainly.  Father, will I not go to hell?  No, probably not.  But your life?  Did you give up the possibility of being a father or a mother to a family, of knowing the joy of having children, grandchildren, all that, in order to finish like this?  This ars bene moriendi is the spiritual euthanasia of a consecrated heart that cannot endure any longer, one that no longer has the courage to follow the Lord.  And it does not call out for help ...

I took as my point of departure for addressing this scarcity of vocations: this embitters the soul.  I have no offspring, was the lament of our father Abraham: Lord, my riches will be inherited by a stranger.  The Lord said to him: Be patient.  You will have a son - But at 90 years of age?, and his wife behind the window, what was she thinking - excuse me - like all women: spying out the window - but this is one of women's qualities, it's fine, not bad -; she smiled, because she was thinking: But me, at 90 years old?  And my husband at almost 100, we will have a son? Be patient, the Lord told him.  Hope.  Keep going, going, going.

Be attentive to these three p's: prayer, poverty and patience.  Be attentive.  And I believe that the Lord will like choices - allow me to use a word that normally I do not like - radical choices in this sense.  Be they personal choices or communal choices.  But you can bet on this.

I thank you for the patience you have shown in listening to this sermon (laughter, applause).  I thank you.  And I wish you fruitfulness.  You never know what path your fruitfulness will take, but if you pray, if you are poor, if you are patient, be sure that you will be fruitful.  How?  The Lord will show you the other side, that this is exactly the way to be fruitful.  You will be a father, you will be a mother: fruitfulness.  This is what I wish for religious life, that it be fruitful.

Thank you!  Keep studying, working, making good plans, but always do so with a look at what Jesus would want.  And when you think about the first p, think of me and pray for me.  Thank you!

Now, let us pray the Hail Mary: Hail Mary ...

(Blessing)

Have a good day!
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