Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
Life “is too short to be selfish,” Pope Francis said at the Vatican on November 23, 2023, to the members of the Romena Fraternity, a group based in a parish in central Italy that offers a place of spiritual refuge to all those in need. In his speech, the Pontiff encouraged this delegation to reflect on three experiences that help the “light of the Gospel to filter through and illuminate the darkness”: welcome, care and fraternity.
Founded in 1991 by Father Luigi Verde, the Fraternity organizes several spiritual retreats and moments of prayer in the Romena Parish, a roman-style church nestled in the hills of the Tuscan countryside. Calling this picturesque place one of “encounter and fraternity, in which those who are weary and oppressed can regenerate themselves” and can “breathe the perfume of the Gospel,” Pope Francis gave the Fraternity words of encouragement that can apply to all lives.
Welcome: God’s infinite love
The Pontiff reminded the audience that in order to not lose their “style of openness and welcome” and to be an “oasis of freedom,” they must keep highlighting “God’s infinite and gratuitous love for every creature.”
“The heart of the Good News is exactly this: God’s freely-given love, which does not set conditions and does not place burdens on the shoulders, but simply welcomes and loves us freely: thus is God,” the Pope explained.
Care: how the Gospel shines to others
Francis then explained that “the light of the Gospel” and the Holy Spirit filter through our care for others. “The care of wounds: this is at the heart of Jesus’ action,” the Pope said, highlighting Christ’s compassion and empathy that embodies the “tenderness of the Father.”
In fact, the Pope highlighted how the Romena Fraternity has a sub-group called Naìn, of which some members were present at the audience, that focuses on supporting parents who have lost their children. “This is an immense pain, inconsolable, that must never be trivialized by empty words and superficial answers,” he said. “Instead, it is a question of knowing how to […] bring together the cry of one’s grief to Jesus who, in the small city of Nain, felt compassion for a widowed mother who had lost her son.”
“Being Christians means taking care of those who are wounded and those who are in pain, so as to kindle small lights where all seems to be lost,” he added, thanking them for their work.
Fraternity: avoid gossip and sow friendship
Fraternity is “the beauty of being together – and discovering in the face of each person a brother to love,” the Pope explained. He highlighted this as the “heart” of the Romena Fraternity’s lifestyle and their spiritual work. He encouraged them to keep “alive the dream of a fraternal, solidarity-based world” and to be “sowers of peace and social friendship.”
“One of the worst things that contrasts this social friendship is gossip. It is an infectious illness, which does a great deal of harm: gossip destroys,” he also warned. “I know of a very good medicine for gossip, which gives good results: Bite your tongue. Because when you feel like chattering, and bite your tongue, the tongue swells and you can no longer gossip.”
In a world “marked by violence and conflicts,” he told the Fraternity to continue being a place “where people can rest their head and where each person can feel loved by God and part of a universal fraternity.”
“Indeed, life is too short, it is too short, and I am not the one saying this, your founder says so: It is too short to be selfish,” he concluded.