Write stories of redemption on the pages of our time

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The following is a translation of the address prepared by the Holy Father to participants in the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). The speech was intended for those present at the audience with the Pope on Saturday, October 1 in the Clementine Hall.

Dear brothers and sisters,
Hello and welcome !

I greet with joy all the Redemptorist Missionaries present in the 85 countries where the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer is active. I also greet those who are on the path of formation, the Redemptorist nuns, the entire charismatic family and the laity associated with the mission. I greet you with affection and I thank the new Superior General, Father Rogério Gomes, for the words he addressed to me.

Holding a General Chapter is not a canonical formality. It is to live a Pentecost, which has the capacity to make all things new (cf. Rev 21:5). In the Cenacle, the disciples of Jesus had doubts, insecurities, fears, they wanted to remain immobile and protected; but the Spirit who blows where he wills (cf. Jn 3:8) makes them move, go out, go to the outskirts to bring the kerygmathe good news.

In these days, you are addressing five important themes for your Congregation: identity, mission, consecrated life, formation and governance. These are fundamental themes, crossed, to rethink your charism in the light of the signs of the times. This communal discernment is rooted in the capacity of each of you to seek the mystery of Christ the Redeemer, the reason for your consecration and your service to the men and women who live today on the existential peripheries of our history. It is rooted in the fecundity of the Alphonsian charism, like the lymph which nourishes the spiritual life and the mission of each one and makes it bloom again. I encourage you to dare, having the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church as the only frontier. Do not be afraid to take new paths, to dialogue with the world (cf. const.. 19), in the light of your rich tradition of moral theology. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty in the service of the less fortunate and the people who do not count.

In your Constitutions, there is a very beautiful expression, where it is said that the Redemptorists are ready to face any trial to bring to all the redemption of Christ (cf. no. 20). Availablity. Don’t take this word for granted! It is to give oneself entirely to the mission, with all one’s heart, dies impendered pro redeemedto the last consequences, with a gaze fixed on Jesus, who, “although he was in the form of God […] emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Ph 2, 6-7), and became a good Samaritan, a servant (cf. Lk 10, 25-37; Jn 13, 1-15).

Brothers and sisters, the Church and consecrated life are living a unique historical moment in which they have the possibility of renewing themselves to respond with creative fidelity to the mission of Christ. This renewal goes through a process of conversion of heart and mind, of intense metanoia, but also by a change in structures. Sometimes we have to break the old jar (cf. Jn 4:28), inherited from our traditions, which carried a lot of water but which have now fulfilled their function. And breaking our jars, full of affections, cultural customs, stories, is not an easy task; it is painful, but it is necessary if we want to drink the new water that comes from the source of the Holy Spirit, the source of all renewal. Those who remain attached to their own certainties risk falling into the trap of sclerocardia, which hinders the action of the Spirit in the human heart. Instead, we must not put obstacles in the way of the renewing action of the Spirit, first and foremost in our hearts and in our ways of life. Only in this way can we become missionaries of hope!

Your Constitutions say: “The Congregation must adapt its own structure and its institutions to its apostolic needs, and adjust them correctly to the different character of each particular mission, always in fidelity to the charism of the Congregation” (no. 96). “New wine is for fresh skin” (Mk 2, 22). “A process of renewal that cannot affect and change structures, besides hearts, will not produce real and lasting change…It requires openness to imagine prophetic and charismatic ways of living the sequel of Christ through appropriate, and probably unprecedented, frameworks”.[1]

In this process of reinventing and renewing the Congregation, three fundamental pillars must not be forgotten: the centrality of the mystery of Christ, community lifeand pray. The testimony and teachings of Saint Alphonsus continually remind you to “abide in the love” of the Lord. Without him we can do nothing: by remaining in him we bear fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-9). The abandonment of community life and prayer is the door to sterility in the consecrated life, the death of the charism and closure towards the brothers. On the contrary, docility to the Spirit of Christ leads you to evangelize the poor, following the proclamation of the Redeemer in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4, 14-19), made tangible in the congregation by Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori. This mission, carried by your saints, martyrs, blessed and venerable, leads Redemptorists throughout the world to give their lives for the Gospel and to write stories of redemption in the pages of our time.

I wish the new General Government, the first body to inspire apostolic life of the Congregation, humility, unity, wisdom and discernment to guide your Institute in this beautiful and difficult moment in our history. The work is of the Lord, we are only servants who have done what we had to do (cf. Lk 17:10). Those who appropriate the office of leadership for self-interest do not serve the Lord who washed the feet of the disciples but the idols of worldliness and selfishness.

Dear brothers, I entrust your Congregation to the protection of the Mother of Perpetual Help, so that she may always accompany you as she accompanied her Son at the foot of the cross (cf. Jn 19:25). You are not alone, beloved and cherished children. I pray to the Lord that you will be faithful and persevering in your mission, never forgetting the poorest and most abandoned whom you serve and to whom you announce the Good News of Redemption. With all my heart, I bless you, the sisters and the lay faithful who share your charism. And I ask you to please pray for me. Thanks!

[1] Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, New wine in new wineskins. Consecrated life and its ongoing challenges since Vatican II (January 6, 2017), no. 3.

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