It is only a joyful witness that will allow religious “to attract men and women to Christ.”
Pope Francis met on Saturday afternoon with Communities of Religious at the “School of Love” in Kkottongnae. Approximately 5,000 male and female religious were present for the event.
In his address, the Pope spoke about the “great variety of charisms and apostolates” represented by the religious. The Holy Father reflected on the words of the Psalm: “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:26). “We all know that while joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty, ‘it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved’” (Evangelii Gaudium, 6). This conviction of being loved by God is at the center of a religious vocation. It is only a joyful witness that will allow religious “to attract men and women to Christ.”
This joy, the Pope said, “is rooted in the mystery of the Father’s mercy revealed in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.” Whether involved in contemplative or active vocations, all religious “are challenged to become ‘experts’ in divine mercy.” Moreover, this challenge is fulfilled precisely in religious community. Speaking from his own experience, Pope Francis acknowledged the difficulties of community life, but emphasized that it is in community life that religious are called to grow in “mercy, forbearance, and perfect charity.”
Pope Francis then spoke about each of the evangelical counsels—obedience, chastity, and poverty—as essential aspects of religious life. “Mature and generous obedience,” he said, “requires that you cling in prayer to Christ who, taking the form of a servant, learned obedience through what he suffered (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 14).”
Purity and chastity are inspired by an experience of God’s mercy, and expresses “your single-minded dedication to the love of God who is ‘the strength of our hearts.’”
Finally, the Pope said, “through the evangelical counsel of poverty you are able to recognize God’s mercy not only as a source of strength, but also as a treasure.” He warned against the hypocrisy of religious who take vows of poverty but live as though they were rich, causing scandal amongst the faithful.
Pope Francis concluded his address with a call to the religious men and women: “Dear brothers and sisters, with great humility, do all that you can to show that the consecrated life is a precious gift to the Church and to the world."