Pope Francis stresses the importance of evangelization, saying it should be geared towards witnessing and proclaiming the Gospel in his address to members of the Order of the Mother of God, the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat and the Congregation of the Mission as they hold their General Chapters.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis received in audience on Thursday members of the Order of the Mother of God, the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat and the Congregation of the Mission – three religious congregations holding their General Chapters these days.
In the address he prepared for them, Pope Francis welcomed the superiors of the three orders and thanked them for presenting the paths and perspectives of their respective institutes. The Pope expressed the Church’s gratitude to religious congregations for the witness they give as consecrated persons, as well as for their apostolic activities.
He also expressed his eagerness to receive General Chapters because it is a way of communicating with consecrated life that is important in the Church, even if it means breaking his usual July “fast” or slowing down his activities. .
An attendance meeting
The Pope stressed that the Chapters have been “a meeting of presence” for the orders, after the period of forced distance due to the pandemic. He said it should help them not to take for granted the opportunity to meet, pray, listen to the word and share the Eucharist together.
He also extended his best wishes to the newly elected members of the institutes, noting that the Clerics of the Mother of God and the Congregation of the Mission are finishing their Chapters, while the Basilians have just started.
A time of community discernment
The Chapter “is a time of community discernment”, said the Pope, where, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the orders try to see how far they have been faithful to the charism, in what way the Spirit pushes them forward and what the Spirit asks us to change.
In this regard, the Pope said that coming together to listen to the Spirit by presenting him with concrete situations and problems is one of the most powerful “ecclesial” experiences we can have.
“This is what we read in the Acts of the Apostles about the first communities, and what we are called to live again in the Church and the world today,” he affirmed.
The Pope continued his reflection on the criterion of evangelization, reiterating to the three orders the importance of questioning the creative fidelity to their original charism and asking if their way of interpreting and implementing is “evangelizing”.
“That is to say”, explained the Pope, “if the choices we make – as to content, methods, instruments and style of life – are directed towards witnessing and announcing the Gospel”.
He added that even if by their nature the charisms are different and it is the Holy Spirit who creates and distributes them, the charisms, as Saint Paul teaches, “are all for the edification of the ‘Church”. And since the Church is not an end in itself but its end is to evangelize, it follows that any charism “can and must cooperate in evangelization” and this “must be kept in mind when discernment”.
On that note, the Pope cited the examples of Saints John Leonardi, Josaphat and Vincent de Paul, noting that they show what it means to be “evangelizers with the Spirit” – evangelizers who pray and work, not proselytes. He further urged them to spend more time in prayer and worship, warning against the danger of forgetting worship.
Recall Evangelii Gaudium (262), he said that “Spirit-filled evangelizers are evangelizers who pray and work” because “mystical notions without a solid social and missionary bearing are of no use for evangelism, nor dissertations or social or pastoral practices that lack a spirituality that can change hearts.
“As religious, you are called to evangelize not only on a personal level, like every baptized person, but also in community form, with a fraternal life,” Pope Francis said.
While acknowledging the challenges of community life, the Pope reminded them that it requires “a daily attitude of conversion, a willingness to question oneself, vigilance against rigidities as well as excessive and ‘comfortable’ tolerance.”
Above all, he added, “it requires humility and simplicity of heart, which one must never stop asking God, because they come from him”.
Pope Francis further affirmed that it is in the “crucible of relationships that our hearts are sifted and that with the commitment of each, a beautiful testimony of fraternity can take shape.” He likens it to an orchestra with several instruments where the main thing is not the skill of the soloists but the ability to listen to each one in order to create the best harmony.
“This is where joy comes from,” the Pope said, noting that it is the “joy of being in Christ and of being together, with our limitations and our sins,” – of being forgiven by God and to share this forgiveness with our brothers and sisters. “This joy cannot be hidden; it shines ! And it’s contagious.”
He added that it is the joy of Saints and Holy Women, who, if they are founders, are not by birth but by attraction. Elaborating on this, he said that Christ first draws that man or woman to Himself and then allows them to draw other people to Himself. Thus, he urged religious orders to emphasize this attraction “towards Him” – Christ, as a saint, does not draw towards himself but towards God.
“Humility and simplicity of heart and joy,” the pope said. “It is the way of an evangelizing fraternity. Impossible for men, but not for God!
The Holy Father warned against gossip, which he said is “one of the things that kills joy in community.”
He pointed out that gossip “makes people superficial” and recommended those who have something against others to go to them and say it to their face or tell someone else who can remedy it. the situation.
“Gossip not only destroys the community, it also destroys itself,” the pope said.
Prayers for the Basilians of Ukraine
Pope Francis then turned his attention to the Ukrainian Basilians, expressing his closeness to them and that of the Church “in this moment of pain and martyrdom of your homeland.”
He stressed the importance of talking about the war, lamenting that it is no longer a matter of interest and insisting that we are not getting used to it.
“You are suffering martyrdom. And I wish the Lord would have compassion on you and be close to you in another way with peace and the gift of peace,” he said.
The pope also took the opportunity to speak to the three congregations about the problem of abuse, urging them not to hide this reality or be ashamed to report cases.
He reminded them that they are religious and priests to bring people to Jesus and not “to ‘consume’ people with [our] concupiscence”
‘Please remember,’ he insisted, ‘zero tolerance of child abuse or incompetent people’ [vulnerable persons].
In conclusion, Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit might continue to bestow His gifts upon them in abundance and invoked Our Lady’s intercession to protect them and be a sure guide on their journey.