Pope Francis : “charisms are not to be conserved like bottles of distilled water, but to be put to the service of history”


Vatican City, 7 November 2014 (VIS) – The participants in the national assembly of the Italian Confederation of Major Superiors (CISM) – around a hundred people – were received in audience by the Pope  in the Clementine Hall. The Pontiff wished to share with them a few points of reference for their path, emphasising that religious life helps the Church to achieve the “attraction” that enables her to grow. Faced with the witness of a brother or a sister who truly lives a religious life, people ask themselves, “what is there here?”, “what is it that leads this person beyond a worldly horizon?”. This is the first issue: helping the Church to grow by attraction. Without proselytising: attraction”.

 The second point was that radicality, in different forms, is required of every Christian, but in the case of religious persons it assumes the form of prophetic witness. “The testimony of an evangelical life is what distinguishes the missionary disciple and in particular those who follow the Lord in consecrated life. And prophetic witness coincides with sanctity. True prophecy is never ideological, it does not oppose the institution: it is institution. Prophecy is institutional, it does not follow fashion, but is always a sign of contradiction according to the Gospel, like Jesus was. Jesus, for example, was a sign of contradiction to the religious authorities of His time: to the heads of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the doctors of the Law, but also to the others, such as the Essenes, Zealots, etc”.

 To explain the third point, the Pope quoted the president of the Major Superiors: “We do not want to fight rearguard battles in defence, but rather to spend ourselves among the people”, certain of the faith that God has always made germinate and grow in His Kingdom. This is not easy, it is not to be taken for granted; it requires conversion; it requires, first and foremost, prayer and worship; and it means sharing with the holy people of God who live in the peripheries of history. Removing oneself from the centre. Every charism, to live and to be fruitful, is required to decentralise, because at the centre there is only Jesus Christ. The charism is not to be conserved like a bottle of distilled water, but must instead be made to bear fruit, with courage, placed at the service of current reality, of cultures, of history, as the great missionaries of our institutes teach us”.

 Fraternity is another of the signs that religious life must offer in our time, the Pope affirmed; a time in which the dominant culture is individualistic and focused on subjective rights. “Consecrated life can help the Church and society as a whole, offering witness of fraternity, that it is possible to live together as brothers in diversity, because in the community one does not put oneself first, but rather one finds oneself with people who are different in terms of character, age, formation, sensibility … and yet we seek to live as brothers. Of course we do not always succeed, but one recognises one’s mistakes, asks for forgiveness and forgives others. This is good for the Church: it causes the lymph of fraternity to circulate. And this is also good for all of society.

 But this fraternity “presupposes God’s paternity and the maternity of the Church and of the Mother, the Virgin Mary”: a relationship cultivated day by day “with prayer, with the Eucharist, with worship, with the Rosary. In this way we renew each day our ‘being’ with Christ and in Christ, and in this way we place ourselves in an authentic relationship with the Father in heaven and the Mother Church, our hierarchical Holy Mother Church, and the Mother Mary. If our life is always located in terms of this fundamental relations, always renewed, then we are able also to achieve an authentic fraternity, a brotherhood of witness, that attracts”.

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