Pope: Monasteries, source of strength for mission

At the general audience, Francis spoke of the profound bond between cloistered life and the proclamation of the Gospel. "The heart of the nuns and monks is like an antenna that picks up what is happening in the world and thus prays interceding". He recalls the Armenian people "who, clinging to the cross of Christ, have suffered so much throughout history".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Nuns and monks "are the true strength that carries forward the people of God, they are a bit like a reserve that we have in the Church". Pope Francis said this today addressing the faithful during the Wednesday general audience in St Peter's Square.

Continuing the cycle of catechesis on the witnesses of apostolic zeal, after reflections on the examples offered by St Paul and the martyrs, Francis invited us to look at the witness of nuns and monks, "sisters and brothers who renounce self and the world to imitate Jesus on the path of poverty, chastity, obedience and to intercede on behalf of all".

"We might ask ourselves," he noted, "how can people living in monasteries help the proclamation of the Gospel? Wouldn't they do better to employ their energies in the mission, going out and preaching outside the monastery? In reality," the Pontiff replied, "the cloistered religious are the beating heart of the proclamation: their prayer is oxygen for all the members of the Body of Christ, it is the invisible force that sustains the mission". 

The pontiff quoted the figure of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, not by chance proclaimed patroness of the missions. Describing her vocation, she wrote: 'I understood that only love impels the members of the Church to action and that, when this love was extinguished, the apostles would no longer proclaim the Gospel, the martyrs would no longer shed their blood. I understood and knew that love embraces in itself all vocations. Then with great joy and ecstasy of soul I cried out: in the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love.

This love embraces the world, translating itself into intercessory prayer. In this regard, he recalled the 'universal solidarity' of which St Gregory of Narek, an Armenian monk who lived around the year 1000 and was a doctor of the Church, spoke. "He left us a book of prayers," Francis recalled, "in which the faith of the Armenian people, the first to embrace Christianity, is poured out; a people that, clasped to the cross of Christ, has suffered so much throughout history.

"In the communities of nuns and monks,' the pontiff continued, 'there is this universal solidarity: whatever happens in the world finds a place in their hearts and they pray. The heart of the monks is like an antenna that picks up what is happening in the world and so they pray interceding for it. This is how they live in union with the Lord and with everyone".

"I have voluntarily taken upon myself all sins, from those of the first father down to that of the last of his descendants," wrote Gregory of Narek.  'These are the great evangelisers,' the pope commented. 'By word and example, by intercession and daily work they are a bridge for all people and sins'.

"Monks,' the pope added, 'also weep with tears, for their sins and for the sins of the world. They pray and intercede with their hands and heart on high. Hence the habit of people when they meet a consecrated man or woman to say: pray for me. Because they know well that there is a prayer of intercession there. It will do us good,' Francis concluded, 'to visit some monasteries, because there their hands are always busy with work and prayer. May the Lord always give us new monasteries, monks and nuns who carry the Church forward with their intercession'.

Finally, as he does every week, during his greetings to the faithful, the Pontiff invited "not to forget to pray for the tormented Ukraine".