SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE GENERAL CHAPTER OF THE ORDER OF
FRIARS OF BEATA VERGINE MARIA DEL MONTE CARMELO (CARMELITANI)
Hall of the Consistory
Saturday, 21 September 2019
With joy I greet you, summoned to celebrate the General Chapter, and, through you, I greet all the members of the Carmelite Order. The theme at the center of your chapter reflection is "You are my witnesses" (Is 43,10); from one generation to another: called to be faithful to our Carmelite charism (see Const. 21).
God blessed Carmel with an original charism to enrich the Church and to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world, sharing what you received with enthusiasm and generosity: "Freely you have received, freely give" (Mt 10.8). I would like to encourage you in this by pointing out three lines of walking.
The first line is fidelity and contemplation. The Church appreciates you and, when thinking of Carmel, thinks of a school of contemplation. As a rich spiritual tradition attests, your mission is fruitful to the extent that it is rooted in the personal relationship with God. Blessed Titus Brandsma, martyr and mystic, affirmed: «It is proper to the Order of Carmel, although it is a mendicant order of active life and that lives among the people, to maintain a great esteem for solitude and detachment from the world, considering solitude and contemplation as the best part of his spiritual life ». The Constitutions of 1995, which you are reviewing in these days, emphasize this: "The great spiritual teachers of the Carmelite family always refer to this contemplative vocation" (n. 17). The Carmelite mode of living contemplation prepares you to serve the people of God through any ministry and apostolate. What is certain is that, whatever you do, you will be faithful to your past and open to the future with hope if, "living in homage to Jesus Christ" (Rule, 2), you will especially care about the spiritual journey of the people.
The second line is accompaniment and prayer. Carmel is synonymous with inner life. Carmelite mystics and writers have understood that "being in God" and "being in his things" do not always coincide. Struggling for a thousand things of God without being rooted in Him (see Lk 10: 38-42), sooner or later he presents us with the bill: we realize that we have lost Him along the way. Santa Maria Maddalena de 'Pazzi, in her famous letters of Renewal of the Church (1586), provides that "lukewarmness" can creep into consecrated life when the evangelical counsels become only a routine and the love of Jesus is no longer the center of life (see Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 264). And thus worldliness can also creep in, which is the most dangerous temptation for the Church, especially for us, men of the Church. I know very well, brothers, that this temptation has entered and has done serious damage even among you. I prayed and prayed for the Lord to help you. And this Chapter is a providential opportunity to receive from the Holy Spirit the strength to fight together against these pitfalls.
Generations of Carmelites and Carmelites have taught us by example to live more "inside" than "outside" of ourselves, and to go towards "el más profundo centro - the deepest center", as Saint John of the Cross says (Fiamma viva d'amore B, 1,11-12), because God lives there, and there he invites us to look for him. The true prophet in the Church is he and she who comes from the "desert", like Elijah, rich in the Holy Spirit, and with that authority that those who have listened to the subtle voice of God in silence (see 1 Kings 19,12).
I encourage you to accompany people to "make friends" with God. Saint Teresa said: "I never tired of talking or hearing about God". Our world is thirsty for God and you Carmelites, teachers of prayer, can help so many to come out of the noise, haste and spiritual dryness. Naturally it is not a question of teaching people to accumulate prayers, but to be men and women of faith, friends of God, who know how to walk the paths of the spirit.
From silence and prayer, renewed communities and authentic ministries will be born (see Const., 62). As good artisans of fraternity, place your trust in the Lord by overcoming the inertia of immobility and avoiding the temptation to reduce the religious community to "work groups" that would end up diluting the fundamental elements of religious life. The beauty of community life is in itself a point of reference that generates serenity, attracts the people of God and infects the joy of the Risen Christ. The true Carmelite conveys the joy of seeing in the other a brother to support and love and with whom to share life.
And finally the third line: tenderness and compassion. The contemplative has a compassionate heart. When love weakens, everything loses its flavor. Love, caring and creative, is balm for those who are tired and exhausted (see Mt 11:28), for those who suffer the abandonment, the silence of God, the emptiness of the soul, the broken love. If one day, around us, there are no more sick and hungry people, abandoned and despised - the minores of which your beggar tradition speaks - it is not because they are not there, but simply, because we do not see them. The little ones (see Mt 25: 31-46) and the discarded (see Evangelii gaudium, 53) we will always have (see Jn 12: 8), to offer us an opportunity for contemplation to be a window open to beauty, to truth and to goodness. "Whoever loves God must seek him in the poor", in the "brothers of Jesus", as Blessed Angelo Paoli said, of whom we will soon be celebrating the third centenary of his death. May you always have the goodness to look for them! The absolute trust of Blessed Angelo Paoli in divine providence made him exclaim with joy: "I have a pantry in which nothing is missing!" Your pantry overflows with compassion before any form of human suffering!
Contemplation would only be something momentary if it were reduced to raptures and ecstasies that would take us away from the joys and worries of the people. We must be wary of the contemplative who is not compassionate. Tenderness, according to the style of Jesus (cf. Lk 10: 25-37), shelters us from "pseudomistics", "weekend solidarity" and the temptation to stay away from the wounds of the body of Christ. Three dangers: the "pseudomistic", the "weekend solidarity" and the temptation to stay away from the wounds of the body of Christ. The wounds of Jesus are also visible today in the bodies of the brothers who are stripped, humiliated and enslaved. By touching these wounds, caressing them, it is possible to worship the living God in our midst. Today we need a revolution of tenderness (see Evangelii gaudium, 88; 288) that makes us more sensitive to the dark nights and the tragedies of humanity.
Dear brothers, I thank you for this meeting. May the Virgin of Carmel always accompany you and protect all those who collaborate with you and draw from your spirituality. And please also entrust me to her maternal protection. Thanks!
Full Text + Image Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation