Thursday, 9 May 2013

Pope Francis on the Evangelical Counsels

It even made the BBC Radio 4 Today programme at about 7.45 am this morning, in the form of an interview with the superior of the Company of Jesus! I have to say I was impressed by the positive way in which Sister presented Pope Francis' words yesterday.

In an address at the end of a meeting of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome, The Holy Father spoke about each of the counsels in turn. What caught the attention of the Today programme was the following phrase:
The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not 'spinsters'!
But I thought he spoke very beautifully about each of the three counsels, presenting them as a positive way of life and not just as a juridical provision (though they do have that aspect to them, the juridical provision in Canon Law and the statutes of institutes being an expression of a living meaning).

An English text of his words can be found at Vatican Radio's report: Pope meets with heads of women's religious communities. An Italian text is at the Vatican website: Discorso del Santo Padre Francesco ai participant all'Assemblea Plenaria dell'Unione Internatzionale delle Superiore Generali.
Obedience as listening to God's will, in the interior motion of the Holy Spirit authenticated by the Church, accepting that obedience also passes through human mediations. … Poverty, which teaches solidarity, sharing, and charity and which is also expressed in a soberness and joy of the essential, to put us on guard against the material idols that obscure the true meaning of life. Poverty, which is learned with the humble, the poor, the sick, and all those who are at the existential margins of life. Theoretical poverty doesn't do anything. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick, and in children.  
And then chastity, as a precious charism, that enlarges the freedom of your gift to God and others with Christ's tenderness, mercy, and closeness. Chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven shows how affection has its place in mature freedom and becomes a sign of the future world, to make God's primacy shine forever. But, please, [make it] a 'fertile' chastity, which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not 'spinsters'! Forgive me if I talk like this but this maternity of consecrated life, this fruitfulness is important! May this joy of spiritual fruitfulness animate your existence. Be mothers, like the images of the Mother Mary and the Mother Church. You cannot understand Mary without her motherhood; you cannot understand the Church without her motherhood, and you are icons of Mary and of the Church.”
And a passage that has attracted less attention but has a significance for the situation of religious life in the Church today:
“Your vocation is a fundamental charism for the Church's journey and it isn't possible that a consecrated woman or man might 'feel' themselves not to be with the Church. A 'feeling' with the Church that has generated us in Baptism; a 'feeling' with the Church that finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, a visible sign of that unity,” the pontiff added, citing Paul VI: “It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church. Feel the responsibility that you have of caring for the formation of your Institutes in sound Church doctrine, in love of the Church, and in an ecclesial spirit.” 
“The centrality of Christ and his Gospel, authority as a service of love, and 'feeling' in and with the Mother Church: [these are] three suggestions that I wish to leave you, to which I again add my gratitude for your work, which is not always easy. What would the Church be without you? She would be missing maternity, affection, tenderness! A Mother's intuition.”

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