Pope Francis Tells Priests "... the one we all must imitate in reality is Jesus Christ..." FULL TEXT
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE GENERAL CHAPTER
OF THE ORDER OF THEATINE REGULAR CLERICS
Sala Clementina - Saturday, January 15, 2022
Dear brothers, welcome!
I welcome you on the occasion of your General Chapter: the 164th. How much progress there is behind this 164, how much road traveled with God's providence! And how great then must gratitude be!
I thank the Superior General for his words and I wish him a good continuation of the service, in which he was confirmed.
In the theme that guides your work these days, the word that stands out is mission : “Theatines for the mission…”. I appreciate this choice, in tune with the fundamental orientation of the Church, on which the Risen Lord impressed the dynamism of "going out" for evangelization, which involves every Christian and every community (cf. Evangelii gaudium , 20 ). The mission also inspired the drafting of the new document for the Roman Curia. For you, in particular, this dynamism is combined with the charism of St. Cajetan Thiene and the co-founders, which we can summarize as an apostolic priestly fraternity , strongly rooted in spiritual life and in concrete charity with the needy.
In the life of Saint Cajetan - as in that of many other saints - it strikes us to see how at a certain point a "qualitative leap" occurs, which, in biblical terms, we would rather call a "vocation within a vocation", or a "Second conversion". It is a question of the passage from an already good and esteemed life to a holy life, full of that "more" that comes from the Holy Spirit. This qualitative leap is what makes not only the personal life of that man or woman grow, but also the life of the Church. This is what, in a certain sense, "reforms" it, purifying it and bringing out its evangelical beauty.
We can and must always refer to this testimony, to this "living Gospel" in order to go forward on our personal and community journey, knowing full well that "it is not possible for a Christian to think of his mission on earth without conceiving it as a journey of holiness" (Exhort . ap. Gaudete et exsultate , 19 ). San Gaetano Thiene also shows us that " every saint is a mission ". Every saint and saint is "a plan of the Father to reflect and incarnate, at a specific moment in history, an aspect of the Gospel" ( ibid .).
And what is asked of us is not so much to imitate in the literal sense - the one we all must imitate in reality is Jesus Christ -, but to assume from that saint or that saint the "method", so to speak, the spiritual dynamism with who lived the Gospel, to try to translate it into our current context. This is also what you proposed with the general objective of your Chapter. I quote: “To update the Theatine charism, to respond to the current challenges starting from our identity”.
And the first specific objective points to identity . Of course, I don't have to teach you anything about this. I would just like to underline an essential aspect of the testimony of Saint Cajetan: the reform must begin with oneself. When he came to Rome to work in the papal curia, he noticed the unfortunately widespread spiritual and moral degradation. It is worldliness, the root is always there, the worldliness that causes spiritual and moral degradation. And while he carried on his office work, he frequented the oratory of Divine Love, cultivating prayer and spiritual formation; and then he went to a hospital to assist the sick. This is the way: to begin with oneself to live the Gospel more deeply and coherently. All the saints show us this way. They are the true reformers of the Church. Or rather: it is the Holy Spirit who forms and reforms the Church, and does so through the Word of God and through the saints, who put the Word into practice in their lives. Always start with yourself.
Your second specific goal is communion . Here too, looking at San Caetano, we see that the Spirit did not push him to go it alone, to walk an individual path. No. He called him to form a community of regular clerics, to live the Gospel according to the way of life of the Apostles. In the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate - which I recommend reading another time, it will always do good! It is good for me to read it, because one forgets what he wrote for others - I recalled some "holy communities" who "lived the Gospel heroically" (n. 141). And to them we could certainly add that of your co-founders. But usually in families and religious communities the Christian life is made up of many daily gestures. "The community that preserves the small details of love, where the members take care of one another and constitute an open and evangelizing space, is the place of the presence of the Risen One who sanctifies it according to the Father's plan" ( ibid. , 145 ). There is a sentence there that I want to emphasize: Members take care of each other. Brothers, the greatest plague in a religious congregation, in a religious community, is when the brothers do not take care of each other, indeed when the chatter begins. Please dismiss all forms of chatter. Be consecrated men, men of the Gospel, but men. If you have something against the other, have the "pants" to tell him this to his face, tell him things to his face or keep quiet. Or that other criterion, tell it to those who can remedy it, that is, the superiors. But do not make small groups, because this is the spirituality of the "woodworm", which makes the strength of a religious community fall. No chatter please.
And, finally, the third objective that you set for yourselves is precisely the mission : "To discern the signs of the times in order to announce and live the Kingdom of God among men". According to the founding charism, your mission is not ad gentes. Saint Cajetan evangelized Rome, Venice, Naples, and he did so above all through the witness of life and the works of mercy, practicing the great "protocol" that Jesus left us with the parable of the final judgment, Matthew 25 (vv. 31 -46). He and his companions have served and nurtured that Church which is a "field hospital" which is needed even today. I encourage you to go on in their footsteps, with docility to the Spirit, without rigid schemes - beware of rigidity, because rigidity is a perversion that comes precisely from clericalism, it is another bad thing, and under any rigidity there is rot. , always -, but firmly in essential things: prayer, adoration, common life, fraternal charity, poverty and service to the poor. All this with an apostolic heart, with good anxiety,
Dear brothers, as you know, among the cities evangelized by San Gaetano there is also Buenos Aires! The feast of San Cayetano, on 7 August, has a great popular participation there. People venerate and pray to him as the "patron of bread and work". To her intercession and to that of Our Lady I entrust your journey. I cordially bless you, all your confreres and your commitment to communion and mission. And please don't forget to pray for me. Thank you!
I have asked to bring here a short study done recently by an Apostolic Nuncio on gossip. It occurred to me after this speech. I think it will be good for everyone to take a copy home, free of charge!