Pope Addresses General Chapter of Claretians

Theme of Chapter is ‘Rooted and Audacious’

Pope General Chapter
© Vatican Media

Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address to the participants in the General Chapter of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians) that he received in audience this morning in the Apostolic Palace.

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The Holy Father’s Address

 Dear Brothers:

It’s a great joy for me to host your General Chapter, and it’s true, it is a joy. Missionary Brothers from all over the world are taking part, in representation of the almost three thousand Claretians that make up the Institute. Thank you for coming to this meeting. Thank you to Cardinal Aquilino Bocos Merino for his presence, and thank you to Sister Yolanda Kafka for her help. This woman can help a lot. I once said to her: “I was told that you speak many languages,” and she said to me” “but I don’t know if I speak God’s language.” She paints the full body.

I congratulate Father Matthew Vattamattam, to whom the Chapter Members renewed their confidence, re-electing him as Superior General. With him, I greet the Brothers that have been elected to form part of the Institute’s new government. Who are they? Hope it’s not too burdensome. May the Spirit of the Lord be upon you all at all times, so that, in as much as missionaries, you can proclaim the Good News to the poor (cf. Luke 4:19) and to all those who are hungry for the Word that saves (Cf. Isaiah 55:10-11).

The theme of the Chapter is “Rooted and Audacious.” Rooted in Jesus. This implies a life of prayer and contemplation that leads you to be able to say, like Job: “I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee” (Job 42:5). And it’s sad when we meet consecrated women, consecrated men who know only by hearing, and many times I found myself outside in the examination of conscience, when I realized that I didn’t let myself be sought in prayer, in wasting time before the Lord, I did not let my eyes see Him. This can help us: a life of prayer and contemplation that enables us to talk, as friends, face to face with the Lord (Cf. Exodus 3:11); a life of prayer and contemplation that makes it possible to contemplate the Mirror, which is Christ, so that you yourselves become a mirror for others. And this is yes or yes. “I have a lot to do, a lot of work.” Look, the first thing you have to do is to look at Him who sent you to work and to let yourself be looked at by Him. “That I am bored, all the time.” Well, solve the problems of boredom in prayer with Whom it corresponds, but without prayer, the thing doesn’t work. It’s that simple; let’s say it.

You are missionaries: if you want your mission to be truly fruitful, you cannot separate the mission from contemplation and from a life of intimacy with the Lord. If you want to be witnesses, you must be adorers. Witnesses and adorers are two words that are found at the core of the Gospel: ”And He appointed twelve, to be with Him, and to be sent out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Two dimensions that nourish themselves mutually, one cannot exist without the other.

“A son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a person burning with charity and wherever he goes, he burns,” state your General Constitutions, quoting Father Claret (n. 9). Let yourselves be burned by the Lord, by His love, in such a way that you can be incendiaries wherever you go, with the fire of Divine Love. May He be your sole security. And this will enable you to be men of hope, of hope that doesn’t disappoint (Cf. Romans 5:5), of hope that knows not fears, because it knows that it is in our weakness where God’s power is manifested (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). If we are never conscious of weakness and we are the Tarzans of the apostolate and the invincible ones, God’s power will never be able to be manifested, the Lord will say to us: well, you fix it, and so it will be for us. Quoting your Constitutions once again, I say to you: “Don’t let yourselves be intimidated by anything.” Jesus said that don’t be afraid; don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses; how nice it is when a consecrated woman, a consecrated man feels weak because they feel the need to ask for help. Don’t be afraid of them; do be afraid of falling into spiritual “schizophrenia”, into spiritual worldliness, which would lead you to rely only on your “chariots” and “horses,” to rely on your strengths, to believe you are the best, to seek wellbeing obsessively sometimes; to seek power (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 93). It is very difficult not to conform to mundane logic, because the world invades us, no? And spiritual worldliness is tremendous because it transforms you within. I was very struck when I read Father de Lubac’s “Meditation on the Church.” In the last four pages, he addresses the tragedy of spiritual worldliness, and he says this more or less — you look for it and you will have exactly what he says — it’s the worst of the evils that can happen to the Church, even worse than the evils of the concubine Popes. Not so bad? Be careful of spiritual worldliness, which leads us to rely on our strengths, to believe we are the best, to seek obsessively wellbeing or power. Do not conform yourselves to this mundane logic that will make the Gospel –Jesus –, cease to be the guiding criterion of your lives and your missionary options. You cannot coexist with the spirit of the world and hope to serve the Lord. Orient your existence on the basis of the Gospel’s values. But never use the Gospel in an instrumental way, as ideology, but rather as vademecum, allowing yourselves to be guided at all times by the Gospel’s options and by the ardent desire “to follow Jesus and imitate Him in prayer, in fatigue and in seeking always the glory of God and the salvation of souls.” So said Father Claret. Found your lives on Christ, and Saint Paul, who had founded his on Christ, could say: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

This orientation will make you daring in the mission, that daring in the mission as Father Claret’s mission was daring, and that of the first missionaries that joined him. Consecrated life calls for audacity and needs from the old to resist the aging of life and from the young to resist the aging of the soul. Said somewhat in daily jargon, don’t install yourselves. This conviction will lead you to go out, to set out and to go where no one wants to go; to go wherever the light of the Gospel is necessary and to work, side by side, with the people. Your mission cannot be “from a distance” but close, in proximity. Don’t forget what God’s style is: proximity, compassion, and tenderness. This is how God acted from the moment He chose His people until today: proximity, compassion, tenderness. You cannot content yourselves in the mission to look from a distance, observing with curiosity from a distance. We can look from a distance at the reality or commit ourselves to change it. You have to opt. Following Father Claret’s example, you cannot be simple spectators of the reality. Take part in it, to transform the sinful realities you come across on the way — and proximity, compassion, and tenderness. Don’t be passive in face of the dramas that many of our contemporaries are living, rather play the guy in the fight for human dignity and respect for the fundamental rights of the person. How to achieve this? Let yourselves be touched by the Word of God and the signs of the times and, in the light of the Word and the sign of the times, reread your history, it’s important, reread your charism, remembering that consecrated life is like water if it doesn’t run it rots. Making a Deuteronomic memory of the past, re-appropriate yourselves of the lymph of your charism. It will make of your lives a life with prophecy, which will also make it possible to awaken and illumine people.

May the Word and the signs of the times shake us from so much drowsiness and so many fears that, if we’re not careful, hinder us from being up to the measure of the times and the circumstances, which call for an audacious and courageous consecrated life, a free religious life, free and at the same time in fact liberating from our own precariousness. Someone might say: “Father, this is too stoic, it’s too austere,” no? It seems, somewhat, like the formulation of Father Rodriguez’s treatise on the virtues, but it’s not that, and for that, so that you don’t fall into that dry austerity, please, don’t lose your sense of humor. Be able to laugh in community, be able to tell jokes and laugh at the other’s jokes; don’t lose your sense of humor, a sense of humor is a grace of joy and joy is a dimension of holiness.

Dear Brothers, I hope that this Chapter you are about to conclude, and to which you condemned the General for the second time, may help you to focus on the essential: Jesus; to put your security in Him and only in Him, who is all good, the highest good, true security. I believe this could be one of the best fruits of this pandemic, which has questioned so many of our false securities. I also hope that the Chapter has led you to concentrate on the essential elements that define consecrated life today: consecration, which values the relationship with God; fraternal life in community, which gives priority to a genuine relationship with Brothers; and the mission that leads you to go out, to decentre ourselves, to go to encounter others, particularly the poor, to lead them to Jesus.

I don’t want to end without tanking you for all the apostolic work and all the reflection on consecrated life that you have carried out over these years. Continue, and may the Spirit guide you in this noble task.

And I impart to all of you, to all the Brothers and members of the Claretian Family my heartfelt Blessing. And, please, and I ask you this seriously, don’t forget to pray for me, because if I don’t beg for prayers I’m a goner. Thank you

[Original text: Spanish]  [Exaudi’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]