Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Men religious must face the "present reality, cultures, history, as the great missionaries of our institutions taught" as well as lead a brotherly life as an alternative to the culture of individualism "that eats away at society starting with its primary cell, the family," said Pope Francis today as he received the participants to the 54th national assembly of Italian Conference of Major Superiors (CISM), which is currently underway in Rome, exploring the Mission of the Church and Consecrated Life in light of Evangelii gaudium.
"Religious life helps the Church to achieve the attraction that makes it grow," said the pontiff, "because faced with the testimony of a brother or a sister living a truly religious life, people ask: 'What is this? What drives this person to go beyond the worldly horizon?' This, I think, is the first thing: help the Church grow because it attracts. As we heard in Wednesday's Gospel, 'everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple' (Luke, 14:33).
"Under different forms, this radicality is required of every Christian, but we religious are called to bear a prophetic witness. Leading an evangelical life is what distinguishes the missionary disciple, especially those who follow the Lord on the path of the religious life. The prophetic witness coincides with holiness. True prophecy is never ideological; it is not 'fashionable'. It is always a sign of contradiction according to the Gospel, as was Jesus. For example, Jesus was a sign of contradiction for the religious authorities of his time: the leaders of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, the teachers of the law. And this was the case for other options and proposals: the Essenes, the Zealots, etc."
"I thank you," the Holy Father went on to say, "for the work you have done in recent days. This work, as the President Father (i.e. Fr Luigi Gaetani) said, keeps you going along the path laid by Evangelii gaudium. He used a beautiful turn of phrase when said, 'We do not want to fight rearguard defensive battles, but do our best among people' in the certainty of faith that God will always stir and make His Kingdom grow. This is not easy, and cannot be taken for granted. It requires conversion. It requires above all prayer and worship. It requires sharing with the holy people of God who live on the edges of history, removing ourselves from the centre. To live and be fruitful, every charism has been asked to move out of the centre so that only Jesus Christ can fill it. The charism should not be stored like a bottle of distilled water. It must be brought to fruition through courage, evaluating it in terms of present reality, cultures, history, as the great missionaries of our institutions taught."
"A clear sign religious life is called to give today is brotherly life. Nowadays, the dominant culture is individualistic, centred on individual rights. It is a culture that eats away at society, starting with its primary cell, the family. The consecrated life can help the Church and society as a whole by giving testimony of brotherhood, [showing] that it is possible to live together as brothers in diversity. This is important! Because in community we do not choose, we find ourselves with people who have different personalities, ages, [kinds of] education, feelings . . . and yet we have to try to live as brothers. We do not always succeed of course; many times, we make mistakes because we are all sinners. But we acknowledge our errors, ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness."
"This is good for the Church. It makes the lifeblood of brotherhood circulate in the body of the Church. It is also good for the whole of society. But this brotherhood presupposes the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the Church and the Virgin Mary. We must put ourselves every day in this relationship, which we can do through prayer, the Eucharist, adoration, and the Rosary. Thus, we renew our "being" with and in Christ every day, and put ourselves in a true relationship with the Father in Heaven and the Mother Church, our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church, and Mother Mary. If our life is always placed in these fundamental relationships, we can then also achieve true brotherhood, a testimonial brotherhood, which [is something that] attracts."