Pope Francis to the consecrated: 'Poverty and patience to avoid spiritual euthanasia'

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Pope Francis to the consecrated: 'Poverty and patience to avoid spiritual euthanasia'

By Salvatore Cernuzio/ lastampa.it

Over an hour-long dialogue between Francis and the participants to a conference of the Congregation of Consecrated Life: “Beware not to hold on to your riches, vanity and pride”, “are vocations scarce? Patience!” Do not give scandal with internal disputes”.

“Prayer, poverty, patience. In this “fog of worldliness”, during these “painful times” for humanity” marked by “provocations” and a “spirit of war”, Pope Francis offers religious and consecrated persons these three “authentic criteria” to guide them “in discernment”. Bergoglio spoke for over an hour with the participants at the International Conference entitled “Consecratio et consecratio per evangelica consilia. Reflections, open questions, possible paths”, promoted by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which will end tomorrow, May 6 at the Antonianum.

“I thought about making a speech, a beautiful and well-crafted one...”, he begins, “but then i thought about speaking off the cuff, and say the things that suit this moment”. A time when there are “new forms of consecrated life” and new “charisms”. “This Holy Spirit is a calamity because he never gets tired of being creative!” The Pope says amid the laughter of those present. The question to ask then is: “What things does the Spirit want to remain strong in the consecrated life?”.

“I always had [in mind] the day I went to San Giovanni Rotondo: I don’t know why, but I saw there many consecrated men and women who work... and I thought about what I said there, about the “three p’s” I said there. These are the columns that will always remain, they are permanent in the consecrated life: prayer, poverty and patience”.

Prayer that means “to always return to the first call”, to “that Person who has called me” and said to me: “Come. Leave everything and come. “Everyone knows what they have left behind: to leave their mother, father, family, a career ...”, the Pontiff says. “It’s true that someone is looking for a career from “within”, but that’s not good”.

Therefore, it is good to pray because it ensures “that I work for the Lord, not for my interests or for the institution I work for, no, for the Lord”. In this sense, we need to be “radical”, a fundamental word “even if it has been overused and has lost some its power”. Nevertheless, it summarizes well that first vocational push: “I leave everything behind for You”. “It’s the smile of the first steps... Then problems, so many problems arrive, we have all experienced them, but it always comes down to returning to the Lord. And prayer, in the consecrated life, is the air that the call makes us breathe, that renews that call”, says Bergoglio. “Without this air - he warns - we could not be “good consecrated” people; yes, perhaps we could be “good people, Christians, Catholics who work in so many works of the Church”, but it is not the same thing”.

“But I’m busy, very busy, I have so many things to do...”, the Pope says staging an imaginary dialogue with a consecrated person, “but my job is too risky, I don’t have time during the day...”. Okay, but “this is more important. Go to pray. Like Mother Teresa did, who “also went to “look for trouble”, because she was like a machine looking for problems, because she put herself here and there... But her two hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, no one could take that away from her”. “Oh, the great Mother Teresa!”, Pope Francis continues, “do as she did, do the same. Seek thy Lord, the One who called thee. Pray. Not only in the morning... Everyone must seek how to do it, where to do it, when to do it. But always do it, pray. It is not possible to live the consecrated life, it is not possible to discern what is happening without speaking to the Lord”.

And one cannot live a consecrated life outside of “poverty”. “Poverty is mother, it is the wall that protects consecrated life “, Saint Ignatius would say to “his” Jesuits. “Interesting”, the Pope observes, “he does not say chastity, which is perhaps more connected to motherhood, to fatherhood, no: poverty is mother. Without poverty, there is no fruitfulness in the consecrated life”. And poverty is a “wall” because “it defends you from the spirit of worldliness. We know that the devil comes in through the pockets. We all know that. And the small temptations against poverty are wounds belonging to the body of the consecrated life”.

You cannot negotiate, “Without poverty we can never discern well what is happening in the world”, the Pope warns. Your naked soul, poor. And with this spirit of poverty the Lord defends us from so many problems and so many things that seek to destroy the consecrated life”.

The first one being “religious worldliness”. It takes little to move from religious consecration to religious worldliness. Only “three steps”, the Pope says. The first is, of course, money. Second: “vanity. Third: “pride” And from there, “all the vices” follow.

“If you vigil on your “attachment” to riches - Pope Francis assures us – The other vices won’t follow. And then the Pope asked participants to ask themselves the question, “What is my poverty like?” and to look in “the drawers, in the drawers of your souls, look in the Congregation... Look at how poverty is going”.

Once this has been fixed, it is necessary to pay attention to “patience”. “But, father, what does patience have to do with this? Patience is important, very important. The attitude of every consecration is “to enter into patience”, Bergoglio explains; an attitude that “goes from the small things of community life... the small acceptances, kind gestures instead of badmouthing..., up to the sacrifice of oneself, of sacrificing one’s life”.

Patience. “A consecrated life cannot sustain itself, without it; it would come undone”; “Without patience, for example, we come to understand the internal wars of a congregation”. “Without patience, one understands religious careerisms...”.

Patience is a “key point” for the life of a consecrated person, not only to be able to “bear one another” and “avoid these internal quarrels that are a scandal”, but also to “carry on one’s shoulder the problems, the sufferings of the world” and face “the daily problems of the consecrated life”.

The most urgent one, probably, is the “scarcity of vocations”. “We do not know what to do, because we do not have vocations... We have closed three houses...”. This is the daily complaint you have heard it, in your ears and in your heart. Vocations do not come. well, patience...”.

Sometimes it happens that when there is a “lack of patience” and “vocations do no come” that congregations say, “let’s sell and stick to the money for what may happen in the future”. It is “a signal”, Bergoglio warns, “a signal that one is close to death”, that “we follow the Lord to a certain point and at the first or second trial, well… goodbye”. One opts for this “ars bene moriendi” (the way of having a good death) and the consecrated life thus ends, with a closed heart and a spirit of survival. “Father, will I go to hell? No, maybe you won’t go. But what about your life? You left the possibility of being a father or mother, of a family, of having the joy of children, grandchildren, all this, to end up like this? This “ars bene moriendi” is a spiritual euthanasia of a consecrated heart that can no longer make it, that no longer has the courage to follow the Lord”.

We must be attentive to these “three p’s” (prayer, poverty, patience) and make “radical choices” that “are personal, are shared, of the community… bet on this”, Francis recommends. And he thanks “for the patience you have had to listen to this sermon” wishing everyone the most precious thing: “fruitfulness”.

Sat, 05/05/2018 - 14:55
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