“Discord destroys communities, no to the terrorism of bad-mouthing”

The Pope embraces two Bengali nuns

“Discord destroys communities, no to the terrorism of bad-mouthing”

By Andrea Torielli from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Francis meets priests, nuns and seminarians and leaves aside his written speech, “When you want to bad-mouth somebody, bite your tongue. What a nice thing to see the elderly nuns with eyes shining with joy and peace after a life spent serving”,

Pope Francis wanted to visit the smallest of the houses run by the nuns of Mother Teresa of Calcutta here in Dhaka. Built in 1976, it was the favourite residence of the small Albanian nun proclaimed saint by Bergoglio in 2016. It is located in the Tejagon district, in the parish complex of the Holy Rosary Church and offers care and assistance to thousands of orphans and people with mental and physical disabilities. The Pope greeted many sick people: among them, a woman in a wheelchair had also been present at John Paul’s visit II in 1986. Outside the building, Francis was welcomed by some dancers in traditional clothes and by a group of children. The Pope thanked the sisters for their charitable activity and as a gift he left a painting depicting Mother Teresa.

From here Bergoglio moved to the church, which is also the cathedral of the diocese of Chittagong, one of the dioceses bordering Dhaka. Here he met with religious priests, nuns, seminarians and novices. The meeting opened with the some religious speaking about their experiences. Then Francis took the floor and began talking, leaving aside his written speech: “it is eight pages long.... But, you will say: we have come here to listen to the Pope, not to bore ourselves! For this reason, I’ll deliver the speech to the cardinal and he will have it translated. I'll say what comes to my mind now. I don't know whether it will be better or worse than the speech, but I assure you that it will be less boring!"

The Pope then said that as he entered the House, he thought of the Reading of Isaiah, which will be proclaimed in the mass next Tuesday. "Isaiah describes the greatness and littleness of life at the service of God, and this concerns you, because you are men and women of faith who serve God."

“What is inside the earth sprouts. And this is the seed - Bergoglio added - that is neither mine nor yours: God sows it. And it is God who makes it grow. I am the bud, each of us can say: yes, but it is not thanks to you, but thanks to the seed that was grown. And I must water it so that it grows and reaches fullness. This is what You must bear witness to".

“But how can you water this seed? By fostering the bud that is beginning to grow. You must safeguard your vocation as if it were a child, a sick person, an elderly person. Vocation is to be fostered with human tenderness. If this dimension of human tenderness is lacking in our communities and our presbyteries, the small bud can’t grow and might dry out. Foster with tenderness because each brother of the presbytery and each brother of the Episcopal Conference, each brother or sister of each religious community, each seminarian, is a seed of God. And God looks upon her with the tenderness of a Father.

It is true - Francis said again - that at night the enemy comes and sows another seed. We run the risk that the good seed is suffocated by the bad seed. It is the discord in the presbytery: so ugly! How ugly is the discord in the Episcopal Conference, how ugly is the discord in the religious communities and in the seminary. Foster the bud, the good seed, see how it grows, and see how it stands out from the bad seed and the weeds.

“To foster is to discern - he added - and to realize that if the growing plant goes on one side and I take care of it everyday, it grows well; but if it goes on the other side and don’t care, it grows bad. I need to understand, to realise when it is growing bad and whether there are companies, people or situations that threaten its growth. And we are able to understand this only when we have a heart that prays. To foster is to pray! Ask the One who planted the seed to help me water it and if I fall asleep, let Him water it. To pray is to ask the Lord to foster us and give us the tenderness that we must give to others.

The second idea that comes to me - continued the Pontiff - is that in this garden of God’s Kingdom there is not only one bud, but thousands. All of us are buds and it is not easy to build communities. Human passions, flaws and limitations always threaten community life, threaten peace. The communities of consecrated life and of the seminary, of the presbytery and of the Episcopal Conference must be able to defend themselves from all types of divisions".

“Yesterday we thanked God for the example given by Bangladesh in interreligious dialogue," Francis said, citing among the applause the phrase uttered by Cardinal Jean-Luis Tauran, who in 2010 had defined this country as the best example of harmony in interreligious dialogue. Are we doing the opposite in the dialogue internal to our faith, to our Catholic confession, to our communities? Here too, Bangladesh must be an example of harmony! Harmony has many enemies, many! I like to mention one that is a self-explanatory example: someone may criticize me because I am being repetitive, but for me it is fundamental: the enemy of harmony in a religious community is the spirit of discord!

And this - said Bergoglio - is not new to me, two thousand years ago a certain Saint James said it in a letter to the Church. The tongue brothers and sisters! What destroys one community is to talk badly about others, highlight the flaws of the other, and not telling them to him, but telling them to another, and thus creating an environment without peace but with division. I like to define this spirit of bad-mouthing as terrorism. Because who bad-mouths someone doesn’t do it publicly. Because a terrorist does not say in public: I am a terrorist! They go bad-mouthing another, throw the bomb and then leave. And the bomb destroys, but they quietly go and throw another bomb. When you want to talk badly about another person, bite your tongue... So you will not do harm to your brothers and sisters."

"If you see a flaw in your brothers and sisters, what do you do? The Pope asked himself - You can do two things. First: if possible, tell the person, face to face. Jesus gives us this advice. It's true that some of you can say: no, you can't, it's a complicated person.... Complicated like you! Okay, if it is not prudent, then tell those who can remedy it. And no one else. Either you speak directly to the person, or you tell those who can remedy it. But in private, with mercy. So many communities - and I have seen it - were destroyed by the spirit of gossip. Bite your tongue in time!"

Finally, the Pope indicated a third idea. Ask to have the spirit of joy. Without joy one cannot serve God. I ask each one of you: how is your joy going? I assure you that it does a great deal of pain to meet priests, religious, seminarians and bishops, who are bitter and with a sad face. One would like to ask: What did you eat for breakfast? Vinegar? Vinegar face! With this bitterness of heart, when the bad seed comes and says: ah, you see, they made that one superior, that one bishop, and they left me aside! There is no joy there."

Francis explained that joy is there even in difficult times, and gives peace. He told of how Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus had to care for an old, sick and grumbling nun, who always complained for everything. One evening, while accompanying her in the cloister, she heard music coming from the window of a nearby palace, where there were good people who enjoyed themselves. She imagined the people who danced and said, "This is my great joy, and I won’t change it for that! In times of trial and difficulty - sometimes we have to tolerate a slightly strange superior - be happy and tell the Lord: I am happy!"

I assure you - concluded the Pope - that it gives me great tenderness when I meet priests, bishops or elderly nuns who have lived their lives with fullness: their eyes are indescribable, full of joy and peace. Those who have not experienced life in this way lack this brilliance in their eyes. Above all, we see this brilliance in women: look for those old nuns who have spent their whole lives serving with joy and peace. They have brilliant eyes, because they have the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The small bud in these old persons became full of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. I hope that your eyes will shine with the light of the Holy Spirit.

The meeting concluded with the reading of a Marian prayer composed by Father Mintu Palma, especially for the Pope, "We ask you to guard our Holy Father, Pope Francis, with loving care, so that, in good health, he can guide the people of God on the paths of salvation, continuing to promote peace and harmony in the world".

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 12:00
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