IN LITHUANIA, LATVIA AND ESTONIA
[22-25 SEPTEMBER 2018]
MEETING WITH PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS AND RELIGIOUS,
CONSECRATED AND CONSECRATED, SEMINARIANS
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
Cathedral of the Saints Peter and Paul in Kaunas (Lithuania)
Sunday, 23 September 2018
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
First of all, I would like to say a feeling that I feel. Looking at you, I see many martyrs behind you. Anonymous martyrs, in the sense that we do not even know where they were buried. Some of you too: I greeted one who knew what the prison was. I am reminded of a word to start: do not forget, remember. You are children of martyrs, this is your strength. And the spirit of the world does not come to tell you anything else other than what your ancestors lived. Remember your martyrs and take an example from them: they were not afraid. Speaking with the Bishops, your Bishops today said: "How can we do to introduce the cause of beatification for so many of which we have no documents, but do we know that they are martyrs?". It is a consolation, it is nice to hear this: the concern for those who have given witness to us. They are saints.
The Bishop [Linas Vodopjanovas, O.F.M. responsible for Consecrated Life] spoke without shades - the Franciscans speak well - "Today often, in various ways, is put to the test our faith," he said. He did not think about the persecution of dictators, no. "After responding to the call to vocation we often feel no more joy in prayer or in community life".
The spirit of secularization, of boredom for all that touches the community is the temptation of the second generation. Our fathers fought, suffered, were convicts and perhaps we do not have the strength to go forward. Keep this in mind!
The Letter to the Hebrews makes an exhortation: "Do not forget the first days. Do not forget your ancestors "(cf. 10,32-39). This is the exhortation that I initially address to you.
The whole visit to your country has been framed in this expression: "Christ Jesus, our hope". Almost at the end of this day, we find a text of the apostle Paul who invites us to hope constantly. And this invitation does so after having announced to us the dream of God for every human being, more, for all of creation: that is, "everything contributes to the good of those who love God" (Rom 8:28); "Straighten" all things, it would be the literal translation.
Today I would like to share with you some characteristic features of this hope; traits that we - priests, seminarians, consecrated and consecrated - are called to live.
First of all, before inviting us to hope, Paul repeated the word "moan" three times: groaning creation, men groan, groaning the Spirit within us (cf. Rom 8: 22-23.26). We are moaning for the slavery of corruption, for the yearning for fullness. And today it will do us good to ask ourselves if that moan is present in us, or if nothing more cries in our flesh, nothing is anxious to the living God. As your Bishop said: "We no longer experience joy in prayer, in community life". The bawling of the deer thirsty before the lack of water should be ours in the search for the depth, the truth, the beauty of God. Dear, we are not "officials of God"! Perhaps the welfare society has made us too full, full of services and goods, and we find ourselves burdened with everything and full of nothing; maybe it made us stunned or dissipated, but not full. Worse: sometimes we no longer feel hungry. It is we, men and women of special consecration, those who can never afford to lose that groan, that restlessness of the heart that only in the Lord finds rest (cf. St. Augustine, Confessions, I, 1,1). The restlessness of the heart. No immediate information, no instant virtual communication can deprive us of real time, extended, to win - this is, in a constant effort - to win a daily dialogue with the Lord through prayer and worship. It is a matter of cultivating our desire for God, as Saint John of the Cross wrote. He thus said: "Be assiduous to prayer without leaving it even in the midst of external occupations. Whether you eat or drink, talk or talk with the seculars or do anything else, you always want God to keep the love of the heart in him "(Tips for achieving perfection, 9).
This groan is also derived from the contemplation of the human world, is a call to the fullness of the face of the unmet needs of our poorest brothers and sisters, before the lack of meaning in the lives of young people, the loneliness of the elderly, the abuses against the environment. It is a moan that tries to organize itself to influence the events of a nation, of a city; not as pressure or exercise of power, but as a service. The cry of our people must strike us, like Moses, to whom God revealed the suffering of his people in the encounter at the burning bush (cf. Exodus 3: 9). Listening to the voice of God in prayer makes us see, makes us hear, know the pain of others in order to free them. But we must also be struck when our people stopped moaning, and stopped looking for water that quenches thirst. It is also a moment to discern what is anesthetizing the voice of our people.
The cry that makes us seek God in prayer and adoration is the same that makes us listen to the lament of our brothers. They "hope" in us and we need, starting from a careful discernment, to organize ourselves, plan and be bold and creative in our apostolate. May our presence not be left to improvisation, but respond to the needs of the People of God and be thus a leaven in the mass (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 33).
But the Apostle also speaks of constancy, constancy in suffering, constancy in persevering in goodness. This means being centered in God, remaining firmly rooted in Him, being faithful to his love.
You, the older aged - how not to mention Mons. Sigitas Tamkevicius? - you can bear witness to this constancy in suffering, this "to hope against all hope" (cf. Rom 4:18). The violence used on you for defending civil and religious freedom, the violence of defamation, imprisonment and deportation could not win your faith in Jesus Christ, Lord of history. For this, you have much to tell us and teach us, and also a lot to propose, without having to judge the apparent weakness of the younger ones. And you, younger, when faced with the small frustrations that discourage you tend to close yourselves in yourselves, to resort to behaviors and evasions that are not consistent with your consecration, look for your roots and look at the path traveled by the elderly. I see there are young people here. I repeat, because there are young people. And you, younger, when faced with the small frustrations that discourage you tend to close yourselves in yourselves, to resort to behaviors and evasions that are not consistent with your consecration, look for your roots and look at the path traveled by the elderly. It is better that you take another path than live in mediocrity. This for young people. You are still in time, and the door is open. It is precisely the tribulations that define the distinctive features of Christian hope, because when it is only a human hope we can frustrate and crush ourselves in failure; but the same does not happen with Christian hope: it comes out more limpid, more experienced by the melting pot of tribulations.
It is true that these are other times and we live in other structures, but it is also true that these tips are better assimilated when those who have lived those hard experiences do not close, but share them taking advantage of the common moments. Their stories are not filled with nostalgia for past times presented as best, nor with covert accusations against those who have more fragile emotional structures. The provision of constancy of a community of disciples is effective when it is able to integrate - like that scribe of the Gospel - the new and the old (cf. Mt 13:52), when he is aware that the lived history is root for the tree to flourish.
Finally, looking at Christ Jesus as our hope means identifying ourselves with him, participating in community in his destiny. For the apostle Paul, the hopedness of salvation is not limited to a negative aspect - liberation from an internal or external, temporal or eschatological tribulation - but the accent is placed on something highly positive: participation in the glorious life of Christ (cf. 1 Thes 5: 9-10), the participation in his glorious Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 4:18), the redemption of the body (cf. Rom 8: 23-24). Therefore, it is a matter of glimpsing the mystery of the unique and unrepeatable project that God has for everyone, for each of us. Because there is no one who knows us and has known us so deeply as God, therefore He has destined us to something that seems impossible: he bets without possibility of error that we reproduce the image of his Son. He has placed his expectations in us, and we hope in him.
We: a "we" that integrates, but also exceeds and exceeds the "I"; the Lord calls us, justifies and glorifies us together, so as to include all creation. Many times we have placed so much emphasis on personal responsibility that the community dimension has become a background, just an ornament. But the Holy Spirit brings us together, reconciles our differences and generates new dynamisms to give impulse to the mission of the Church (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 131, 235).
This temple in which we gathered, is named after Saints Peter and Paul. Both the Apostles were aware of the treasure that had been given to them, both of them, in different moments and ways, were invited to "take off" (cf. Lk 5: 4). We are all on the boat of the Church, always trying to cry out to God, to be constant in the midst of tribulations and to have Christ Jesus as the object of our hope. And this boat recognizes at the center of its mission the proclamation of that hoped glory, which is the presence of God in the midst of his people, in the Risen Christ, and which one day, anxiously awaited by all creation, will manifest itself in the children of God. This is the challenge that drives us: the mandate to evangelize. It is the reason for our hope and our joy.
How many times we find priests, consecrated and consecrated, sad. Spiritual sadness is a disease. Sad because they do not know ... Sad because they do not find love, because they are not in love: in love with the Lord. They left behind a life of marriage, of family, and they wanted to follow the Lord. But now it seems that they are tired ... And sadness comes down. Please, when you find yourself sad, stop. And look for a wise priest, a wise nun. Not wise because they are university graduates, no, not for that. Wise or wise because he has been able or has been able to move forward in love. Go and ask for advice. When that sadness begins, we can prophesy that if it has not healed in time it will make you "zitelloni" and "zitellone", men and women who are not fertile. And be afraid of this sadness! The devil sows.
And today that sea in which to "take off" will be the scenarios and the ever-new challenges of this outgoing Church. We must ask ourselves again: what does the Lord ask of us? What are the suburbs that most need our presence to bring them the light of the Gospel? (see Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 20).
Otherwise, if you do not have the joy of a vocation, who will believe that Jesus Christ is our hope? Only our example of life will give reason for our hope in Him.
There is another thing that connects with sadness: confusing the vocation with a company, with a company of work. "I work in this, I work in this, I get excited with this ... and I'm happy because I have this". But tomorrow, comes a bishop, another or the same, or comes another superior, superior, and tells you: "No, cut this and go that way". It is the moment of defeat. Because? Because, at that moment, you will find that you have gone on an equivocal road. You will realize that the Lord, who has called you to love, is disappointed by you, because you have preferred to be a business owner. At the beginning I told you that the life of those who follow Jesus is not the life of an official or an official: it is the life of the love of the Lord and of the apostolic zeal for the people. I'll do a caricature: what does an official priest do? He has his time, his office, opens the office at that time, does his job, closes the office ... And people are out. He does not approach people. Dear brothers and sisters, if you do not want to be an official, I will tell you one word: closeness! Proximity, proximity. Proximity to the Tabernacle, face to face with the Lord. And closeness to people. "But, father, people do not come ...". Go visit her! "But, kids do not come today ...". Invent something: the oratory, to follow them, to help them. Proximity to people. And closeness with the Lord in the Tabernacle. The Lord wants you shepherds of the people, and not clerics of state! Then I'll say something to the nuns, but then ...
Proximity means mercy. In this land where Jesus revealed himself as the merciful Jesus, a priest can not but be merciful. Above all in the confessional. Think about how Jesus would welcome this person [who comes to confession]. Already enough has beaten his life, that poor guy! Let him feel the embrace of the forgiving Father. If you can not give him absolution, for example, give him the consolation of his brother, his father. Encourage him to move on. Convince him that God forgives everything. But this with the warmth of a father. Never chase someone from the confessional! Never drive away. "Look, you can not ... Now I can not, but God loves you, you pray, come back and we'll talk ...". So. Proximity. This is being a father. Does not it matter to you that sinner, who throws him away like that? I'm not talking about you, because I do not know you. I speak of other realities. And mercy. The confessional is not the study of a psychiatrist. The confessional is not for delving into people's hearts.
And for this, dear priests, closeness to you also means to have a bowel of mercy. And the bowels of mercy, do you know where they are taken? There, at the Tabernacle.
And you, dear nuns ... So many times we see nuns who are good - all the nuns are good - but who talk, chat, chat ... Ask the one who is in the first place on the other side - the penultimate - if in the prison time to chat while sewing gloves. Ask her. Please be mothers! Be mothers, because you are an icon of the Church and of the Madonna. And every person who sees you can see Mother Church and Mother Mary. Do not forget this. And Mother Church is not "zitellona". Mother Church does not chat: love, serve, grow. Your closeness is to be a mother: an icon of the Church and an icon of the Madonna.
Proximity to the Tabernacle and to prayer. That thirst of the soul of which I spoke, and with others. Priestly service and consecrated life not by officials, but by fathers and mothers of mercy. And if you do that, you'll have a beautiful smile and bright eyes! Because you will have the soul full of tenderness, of meekness, of mercy, of love, of fatherhood and motherhood.
And pray for this poor bishop. Thank you!