· Pope Francis meets with the Urbanist Poor Clares of Santa Maria di Vallegloria ·
Pope Francis prayed for the victims and for all those who are suffering in the wake of the earthquake that devastated central Italy: his remembrance was formulated in the prayer intentions during the Mass he celebrated on Thursday morning in the Chapel of Santa Marta. To give a voice to this particular closeness in prayer was one of the Poor Clares of Santa Maria Vallegloria, present at the celebration: a community that was severely affected by an earthquake in 1997, which forced them to reside in container housing for 14 years.
Prayer is, after all, the cornerstone of the cloistered contemplative life. The Pope, in his homily, he relaunched the value, offering three words to the nuns: the meaning of true wealth, the strength of a coherent testimony of life, and hope. The spiritual mandate also included the consignment of the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei quaerere, which occurred at the end of the mass. The celebration was particularly characterized by the voices of the singing religious, accompanied by the gentle sound of a violin, keyboard and flute.
Taking a cue from the passage of the First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (1:1-9), the Pope reiterated the relevance of the Apostle’s indications: “I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge – even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is from this passage that the Pope drew “the three words that will be useful to your life, as well as to the lives of everyone”, and that “they need to be a reality in our lives”.
The first word, Pope Francis said, is “wealth”. He affirmed that “we are rich”, even if, perhaps, “some of you might say: but we have made a vow of poverty!”. In reality, the Pope explained, “we are rich, as Paul says, with all of the Lord’s gifts”. The problem, he noted, arises “when we seek another wealth, aside from that of the Lord’s gifts”. In other words, the problem arises when one loses sight that the “true wealth of consecrated people are the gifts of the Lord”, a richness that, in other words, “comes from the generosity of the Father who gives us everything” through his Son.
When “you search for richness outside of these gifts, you take the wrong path”, Pope Francis warned. Perhaps we are fascinated by science or vanity, pride and other negative attitudes, or by money. To the extent that, the Pope said, “one of the signs, and this is certain and you see it continuously, that a religious community, a religious congregation, is in decline and that it begins to cling to money”. You lose the wealth of the Lord’s gifts, in order to point to that wealth that you can “manage”. By contrast, “the wealth of the gifts is free and come when he wants”.
This reflection “brings us to the testimony”, the second word suggested by Pope Francis. “You are cloistered nuns and no one sees you”, he said, but people recognize this testimony: “You sow, with your life and with your prayer, the life of Christ in others”. The witness is to say: “I chose this, I do not need other things”. And this is “the testimony that Christ is in you all”. Moreover, the Pope added, “you have not escaped the world because of fear, you have been called and that call must be carried forth according to the rule, according to what the Church asks of you: this is your testimony”. In this way, he continued, “people know that there are consecrated women who pray, who support the Church with prayers, and this is a testimony”. For this reason there should not be people who are “partially consecrated”, and the rule should not be “half yes and half no”, giving way to “things that are not what the founder or foundress wanted: this is not testimony”.
The third word, continued Francis, is hope: "You are women of hope, and you sow hope because you expect the bridegroom as the ten virgins" of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel.“Wait always”, the Pope said, “and watch for him to come”. It is true, he acknowledged, “sometimes we fall asleep, we get tired”; but “in the Gospel the Lord does not reproach the ten virgins who fall asleep, he only reproaches the five foolish virgins who do not have oil”. Falling asleep, in fact, can happen to everyone, the Pope said, and “I come sometimes I fall asleep when I come to pray”. However, “the important thing is to have the oil for hope, the certainty that he will come”. In this way, he explained, we recognize our defects, our problems, in order to bear them “with humility and to ask for forgiveness from the Lord”; always making sure that we “don’t lack the oil”, the hope of “finding the Lord, that wonderful face”.
“Wealth, testimony, hope”, therefore, with the awareness that “contrary things are not good”, such as trusting “in the riches that are not of the Lord”. In the same way, the Pope insisted, “bearing witness in halves is not good, like wine that is too watered down”. It is true, “we all have sins: ask for forgiveness, confess, and it is testimony also to recognize our own sins, not those of the Sister or the Prioress”. It always takes a “witness of the coherence of life and not of judging the other nuns, but praying for them”.
“From this hope comes the joy of consecrated life”, the Pope affirmed, adding: “It is so nice to see a joyful nun, with a joyful face, not with a sour face” like “vinegar”. In fact, “the Lord has called you to happiness”, and the result of this is a “bright and great face”. These three words – the wealth of the gifts, the witness of life, and the hope of meeting the Lord – in the letter of St Paul, “are seen within in a frame”, which is gratitude to the Lord. And it is also important to remember the call to communion. Therefore, the Pope said, “the spirit of always thanking the Lord and the spirit of safeguarding communion with eachother: this is the frame where we receive that wealth, that testimony and that hope”, always with gratitude and praise to God .
“Let us ask the Lord”, Pope Francis said, “that in our lives he will give us this attitude of praise and safekeeping of the community, in order to be people who are wealthy with gifts, who offer testimony and are always open to hope, with a joyous face”.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 21, 2019
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