In an unscripted address to the participants in the Year of Consecrated Life, Francis condemns "terrorism of gossip", says obedience is not a "discipline", but "gift of the heart", like that of Jesus, that true hope is not found in money but only in the Lord, and appeals for prayer for the gift of new vocations, so that as communities get older, they avoid "artificial insemination", that is, welcoming candidates without ‘serious’ consideration.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Prophecy, proximity and hope are the three ingredients consecrated people need to courageously renew every day their 'yes' to Jesus personal call to each of them. They were also the focus of the speech that Francis addressed to five consecrated men and women whom he received in the Paul VI on the occasion of their Jubilee, the 20th day dedicated to them and closing of the Year of Life consecrated.
Francis left aside his prepared text and spoke entirely off the cuff, "I have prepared a speech for the occasion on the issues of religious life and on the three pillars; there are others, but three important ones of consecrated life. The first is prophecy, the next is proximity and the third is the hope. Prophecy, proximity, hope. I handed the Cardinal Prefect the text, it is a little boring to read it and I'd rather talk to you from the heart. Do you agree?". His words were welcomed by a very warm applause.
The Pope went on to specify the three "words", condemn the "terrorism of gossip", as "a bomb", describe obedience not as a "military" command, not a "discipline" but is "gifting of the heart", like that of Jesus. He also recommended the consecrated not to think about money, to place true hope "only" in the Lord, and to pray for the gift of new vocations, so that the communities as they get older - many monasteries are "carried forward by 4-5 nuns, old ladies" - avoid the "artificial insemination", of welcoming candidates without "seriousness".
"Men and women religious - he said - that is, men and women consecrated to the service of the Lord, who exercise in the Church a strong poverty, a chaste love that leads them to a spiritual fatherhood and motherhood for the whole Church, in obedience ... But in this obedience there is always something missing, because perfect obedience is that of the Son of God, who humbled himself, became man by obedience unto death on the Cross. But there are some of you men and women who live strong obedience, obedience ... - not military obedience, no, no; that is discipline, that is another thing - an obedience of hear. And this is prophecy. 'But did you not want to do something else? ...' - 'Yes, but according to the rules I have to do this, this and this. And in accordance with this, this and this. And if I see something clear, I talk to the boss, with the superior, and, after this talk, obey '. This is prophecy, against the seed of anarchy, which the devil sows. 'What are you doing?' - 'I will do what I like'. Anarchy of will is the daughter of the devil, it is not a child of God. The Son of God was not an anarchist, he did not call for resistance against his enemies. "
"Prophecy is to tell people that there is a road of happiness, a great road, a road that fills you with joy, that is the way of Jesus. It is the way to be close to Jesus. A gift, a charism is the prophecy and you must ask the Holy Spirit: to know the right word to say in the right moment; to do the right thing at the right time; that my life, all of it, is a prophecy. Men and women prophets. And this is very important. 'Well, we will do like everyone else ...'. No. The prophecy is to say that there is something more real, more beautiful, bigger, better to which all are called".
"Then the other word is proximity. Consecrated men and women, but not to distance yourselves from people and enjoy all comforts, no, to approach and understand the lives of Christians and non-Christians, the sufferings, the problems, the many things you only understand if a consecrated man and a consecrated women become close to others. 'But, Father, I am a cloistered nun, what should I do?'. Think of St. Therese of Lisieux, patroness of the missions, who with her fiery heart was close to others, and the letters she received from the missionaries brought her closer to the people. Proximity. Becoming a consecrated person does not mean moving up one, two, three steps in society. True, many times we hear parents: 'You know Father, I have a daughter, sister, I have a son, brother!'. And they say it with pride. And it is true! It is a satisfaction for parents to have their children consecrated, this is true. But for the consecrated life is not a status that makes us look the other way [detachment]. Consecrated life must lead me to be close to people: physical, spiritual closeness, to know people".
"Proximity! Who is the first neighbor of a consecrated person? Your brother or sister of the community. This is your first neighbor. And this closeness, proximity, should be a kind, good, loving closeness. I know that you never gossip in your communities never, never ... Gossip distances people. Listen up: do not gossip, gossip is terrorism. Those who gossip are terrorists. Like a terrorist in the midst of the community, firing words like bombs against this person or that person, and then quietly walking away. This destroys! Those who do so destroy, like a bomb attack, and then walk away. This, the apostle James said it was perhaps the most difficult virtue, the hardest human and spiritual virtue to obtain, that is to master ones tongue. If you are to say something against a brother or sister, fire off words like a bomb, bite your tongue! Hard! Terrorism in the community, no! 'But Father if there is something, a flaw, something that needs to be fixed?'. You say to the person: you have this attitude that bothers me, or that is not good. Whether or not it is convenient - because sometimes it's not safe - you say it to the person who can fix it, who can solve the problem and to no other. Got it? There is no need for rumors. 'But in the chapter?'. There yes! In public, say everything you want to say; because there is a temptation not to say things in chapter, but then say them outside: 'Did you see the prioress? Have you seen the abbess? Did you see the boss? ... '. But why did you not bring the matter up there? ... Is that clear? They are virtues of proximity. And the Saints had this, the consecrated Saints had this. Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus never, ever complained about work, the nuisance of having to carry the nun to the refectory, every night, from the choir to the refectory. Never! Why this poor nun was very old, almost paralytic, she walked badly, and was in pain - I understand! – She was also a bit 'neurotic ... she never, never went to another sister to say:' What a bother this is! '. What did she do? She helped her to sit down, brought her napkin, broke bread and made her smile. This is called proximity. Be close! If you fire a gossip bomb into the midst of your community, this is not proximity: this is going to war! This causes distances, anarchy in the community. And if, in this Year of Mercy, each of never gossip or spread rumors, it would be a success for the Church, a great success of holiness! Take heart! Be close".
"And then hope. And I confess that it pains me greatly to see the decline in vocations, when I receive bishops and ask them: 'How many seminarians do you have?' - '4, 5 ...'. When you, in your religious communities - male or female - have one novice, two ... and the community is aging, aging .... When there are monasteries, great monasteries, and Cardinal Amigo Vallejo [the Pope turns to him] can tell us, in Spain, how many there are, that are kept going by four or five little old nuns, until the end ... Here I see a temptation that goes against hope: 'But, Lord, what is happening? Why has the womb of the consecrated life becomes so barren? '. Some congregations experiment with 'artificial insemination'. What do they do? They accept everyone...: 'Yes, come, come, come ...'. And then there are problems... No. You have to accept with seriousness! You must discern whether this is a true vocation and help it grow. And I think it is the temptation to lose hope produces this sterility, we must pray more. And pray tirelessly. To me it does so much good to read that passage of Scripture, in which Anne - the mother of Samuel - prayed and asked for a son. She prayed and moved her lips, and prayed ... And the old priest, who was a bit 'blind and could not see well, thought she was drunk. But this woman’s heart [said to God]: 'I want a baby!'. I ask you, your heart, in front of this decline in vocations, to pray with this intensity. Our congregation needs children, our Congregation needs to daughters ...'. The Lord has been generous enough never to refuse His promise. But we have to ask. We have to knock on the door of His heart. Because there is a danger - and this is bad, but I have to say it - when a religious congregation sees that it has no children and grandchildren and is beginning to grow smaller, it clings to money. And you know that money is the dung of devil. When they cannot have the grace to have vocations and children they think money will save lives; and they think of their old age and worry that nothing should be lacking ... And so there is no hope! The only hope is in the Lord! Money can never give you this. On the contrary: it will only drag you down! Got it?".
"I wanted to tell you all of this, instead of reading the pages that the Cardinal Prefect will give you after... And thank you so much for what you do. Consecrated persons - each with its own charisma. And I want to emphasize the religious, the nuns. What would the Church be if there were no nuns? That's why I said it once: when you go to the hospital, colleges, parishes, neighborhoods, missions, men and women who gave their lives ... In the last trip to Africa - that's why I told you, I think , in an audience - I met a nun of 83 years, Italian. She told me: ‘I have been here a nurse in this hospital - I do not remember if she said since she was 23 or 26. Just think the 26 to 83! 'And I wrote to my family in Italy that I will never come back’. When you go to a cemetery and see that there are many religious missionaries who died and many sisters died at age 40 because they contracted a disease, these fevers of those countries, they burned with life ... You say these are saints! These are seeds! We must tell the Lord to come down a bit 'on these cemeteries and see what happened to our ancestors and give us more vocations, because we need it. "
"Thank you so much for this visit, I thank the Cardinal Prefect, Monsignor Secretary, the Undersecretaries for what you have done in this Year of the Consecrated Life. But, please, do not forget the prophecy of obedience, proximity, the next most important, your closest neighbor is your brother and sister in the of the community, and then hope. May the Lord make birth to sons and daughters in your congregations. And pray for me. Thank you!".