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Pope Francis encounter the Claretian Missionaries

Vatican News - Fri, Sep 10th 2021

Pope Francis: the audacity of the Gospel to resist the ageing of the soul

The Pope meets with the participants in the General Chapter of the Claretians and invites them not to separate prayer from missionary action: if you want to be witnesses you cannot stop being worshippers, your apostolate must always be an apostolate "of proximity".

Vatican City. 9 September 2021. This morning, Francis received at the Vatican the participants in the General Chapter of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, commonly known as Claretians, a group of about a hundred people from all over the world, representing the almost three thousand members of the Institute. Accompanying the members of the Chapter - which re-elected Father Mathew Vattamattam as Superior General - was Cardinal Aquilino Bocos Merino.

The theme of the Chapter is "Rooted and Bold". "Rooted in Jesus", the Pope told them, meaning "a life of prayer and contemplation that leads them to be able to say like Job: "I knew you only by hearsay, but now my eyes have seen you". In this sense, Francis explained that it is sad when we find consecrated men and women who do not allow themselves to be sought in prayer, in wasting time before the Lord. In fact - he said - it is important to think of a life of prayer and contemplation "that allows you to speak, as friends, face to face with the Lord and to contemplate the Mirror, which is Christ, in order to become yourselves a mirror for others".

Mission and contemplation cannot be separated.

Francis reminded them that they are missionaries and as such, if they want their mission to be truly fruitful, "you cannot separate mission from contemplation and a life of intimacy with the Lord". "If they want to be witnesses - he insists - they cannot stop being worshippers. Witnesses and worshippers are two words that nourish each other, that cannot exist one without the other".

Let yourselves be burned by the Lord to be men of hope

Among the Pope's advice is to let yourselves be burned by the love of the Lord in such a way that you can be incendiary wherever you go, with the fire of divine love. "This will allow them to be men of hope, of the hope that does not disappoint, of the hope that knows no fear, because it knows that it is in our fragility that God's strength is manifested". In fact, he assures us that if we are never aware of our fragility and we are the tarzans of the apostolate and the invincible ones, "God's strength will never be able to manifest itself".

Spiritual worldliness transforms you from the inside

"How beautiful it is when a consecrated woman or man feels fragile, because she or he feels the need to ask for help. We must not be afraid, yes, of falling into spiritual "schizophrenia" and spiritual worldliness".

Then, speaking of spiritual worldliness, the Pope assures us that it is "tremendous" because it transforms you from the inside. "Beware of spiritual worldliness that serves us to rely on strength, or to believe we are the best, to obsessively seek well-being or power."

Never use the Gospel in an instrumental way

Another of the Pope's advice is never to use the Gospel as an ideology: "Rather, use it as a vade mecum, allowing yourselves to be guided at all times by the choices of the Gospel and by the burning desire to follow Jesus and to imitate him in prayer, in toil, and in always seeking the glory of God and the salvation of souls," he told them.

Your mission cannot be "at a distance".

He also insisted that your mission must be one of closeness and proximity. "Don't forget what God's style is: proximity, compassion and tenderness. This is how God acted from the time he chose his people until today". And he also asks them not to be passive in the face of the dramas that many of our contemporaries are experiencing: "Rather, take a stand in the struggle for human dignity, take a stand for respect for the fundamental rights of the person".

Please do not lose your sense of humour.

Finally, he asked them not to lose their sense of humour and to know how to laugh in community, to know how to make jokes, and to laugh at the jokes told by others: "a sense of humour is a grace of joy and joy is a dimension of holiness", he concluded.

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