Pope Francis says "...friendship with the Lord means living in communion with him, it is not only praying, but making life a prayer..." to Carmelites at Vatican



Sala Clementina - Saturday, 11 September 2021


Dear brothers,

I am pleased to welcome you, gathered for the General Chapter from different regions of the world, representing the approximately four thousand friars who are part of your Order. My greeting also extends to them, as well as to the Discalced Carmelite nuns and to all the members of the Carmelite family, who are following your work in these days with prayer. I thank the new Prior General for his words, and the outgoing Prior General for his service. Thanks.

You started the Chapter guided by three very significant biblical texts. First: listen to what the Spirit says (cf. Rev 2: 7); second: discern the signs of the times (cf. Mt 16 : 3); third: to become witnesses to the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1,8).

Listening  is the fundamental attitude of the disciple, of one who places himself in the school of Jesus and wants to respond to what he asks of us in this difficult but always beautiful moment, because it is God's time. Listening to the Spirit, in order to discern what is coming. of the Lord and who is against him and, in this way, respond, starting from the Gospel, respond to the signs of the times through which the Lord of history speaks to us and reveals himself. Listening and discerning, with a view to witnessing , the mission carried out with the proclamation of the Gospel, both with words and, above all, with life.

In this time, in which the pandemic has put us all in front of so many questions and which has seen the collapse of so many securities, you are called, as children of Saint Teresa, to take care of your fidelity to the perennial elements of your charism. If this crisis has something good - and it certainly does - it is precisely to bring us back to the essential, not to live distracted by false certainties. This context is also favorable for you to be able to examine the state of health of your Order and feed the fire of your origins.

Sometimes someone wonders what the future of consecrated life is; and some prophet of doom says that this future is short, that consecrated life is running out. But, dear brothers, these pessimistic visions are destined to be denied as those about the Church itself, because consecrated life is an integral part of the Church, of its eschatological nature, of its evangelical genuineness. Consecrated life is part of the Church as Jesus intended it and as the Spirit continually generates it. Therefore, the temptation to worry about surviving, rather than living fully, welcoming the grace of the present, even with the risks it entails, must be removed.

At the school of Christ, it is a question of being faithful to the present and at the same time free and open to the horizon of God, immersed in his mystery of love. Carmelite life is a contemplative life. This is the gift that the Spirit has given to the Church with Saint Teresa of Jesus and Saint John of the Cross, and then with the Carmelite saints, there are many. Faithful to this gift, Carmelite life is a response to the thirst of contemporary man, who is deeply thirsty for God, thirst for the eternal and often does not understand him, is looking for him everywhere. And it is protected from psychologisms, spiritualisms, or from false updates that hide a spirit of worldliness. You are well aware of the temptation of psychologisms, spiritualisms and worldly updates, the spirit of worldliness. And about this I ask you, please: beware of spiritual worldliness, which is the worst of evil that can happen to the Church. When I read this in the last pages of Father de Lubac's Meditation on the Church - read the last four pages - I could not believe it: but why - I was still in Buenos Aires -, why does this happen? What is this spiritual worldliness? It is very subtle, it is very subtle, it goes in and we don't notice this. The text quotes a Benedictine spiritual father, de Lubac assumes that text and says: “It is the worst of evils that can happen to the Church, indeed worse than that time of the concubinary Popes”. I also said this to the Claretians the other day… Obviously, L'Osservatore Romano was frightened by this text, which is not mine, it is from de Lubac, and he put it "worse than the concubinars"; he was afraid of the truth, I hope the Observer corrects himself well. Spiritual worldliness is terrible, it gets inside you. There is in the Gospel, Jesus said, when he speaks of "educated demons", of "educated devils", because Jesus says this: when the unclean spirit has been chased away from a person's soul, it begins to wander through deserted places and then he "gets bored", "has no job", and says: "I'll go back to see what my house was like". He comes back and sees that everything is clean, everything is in order and, Jesus says: “He goes and takes seven devils worse than him and they enter. And the end of that man is worse than the beginning ”. But how do these seven demons enter? Not like thieves, no: they ring the bell, say hello and enter little by little, they go in little by little and you don't realize that they have taken possession of your house. This is the spirit of worldliness. Enter little by little, he also enters into prayer, he enters. Beware of this. It is the worst of evils that can happen to the Church and, if you don't believe me, read the last four pages of Father de Lubac's Meditation on the Church. Beware of spiritual worldliness.

Let us remember that evangelical fidelity is not stability of place, but stability of the heart; which does not consist in rejecting change, but in making the changes necessary to meet what the Lord is asking of us, here and now. And therefore fidelity requires a firm commitment to the values ​​of the Gospel and of one's own charism and the renunciation of what prevents us from giving our best to the Lord and to others.

In this perspective, I encourage you to keep friendship with God, fraternal life in community and mission linked, as we read in the preparatory documents for your Chapter. For Saint Teresa, friendship with the Lord means living in communion with him, it is not only praying, but making life a prayer, it is walking - as your Rule says - " in obsequio Iesu Christi ", and doing it in joy. Another thing I would like to emphasize: joy. It is ugly to see consecrated men or women with a face like a wake. It's ugly, it's ugly. Joy must come from within: that joy which is peace, an expression of friendship. Another thing I put in the Exhortation on Holiness: a sense of humor. Please don't lose your sense of humor. In Gaudete et exsultateI included, in that chapter, a prayer from St. Thomas More asking for a sense of humor. Pray to it, it will do you good. Always with that joy of the humble, who welcome the normal, daily things of life to live in joy. In this perspective, I encourage you to keep friendship with God, fraternal life in community and mission linked, as I said.

Friendship with God matures in silence, in recollection, in listening to the Word of God; it is a fire that must be nurtured and guarded day by day.

The warmth of this interior fire also helps to practice fraternal life in community . It is not an accessory element, it is substantial. Your own name reminds you of it: “Barefoot Brothers”. Rooted in the relationship with God, the Trinity of Love, you are called to cultivate relationships in the Spirit, in a healthy tension between being alone and being with others, contrary to individualism and the standardization of the world. Individualism and massification. Community life. Holy Mother Teresa exhorts the “style of fraternity”, “ el estilo de hermandad". It is an art that is learned day by day: to be a family united in Christ, "barefoot brothers of Mary", having as models the Holy Family of Nazareth and the apostolic community. The Holy Family of Nazareth: thank you for mentioning Saint Joseph, do not forget him! One of you had given me at the time a small image of St. Joseph with a prayer, a humble prayer that says: "Accept me, as you accepted Jesus". Beautiful prayer, I pray every day. He asks St. Joseph to accept us and make us progress in the spiritual life, to be our spiritual father to some extent, as he was a father for Jesus and in the Holy Family.

Starting from friendship with God and the style of fraternity, you are called to rethink your mission too, with creativity and a decisive apostolic impulse, paying great attention to today's world. I would like to insist on what I have already mentioned above: this renewal of your mission is inextricably linked to fidelity to the contemplative vocation: you are looking for how to do it, but it is linked. You must not imitate the mission of other charisms, but be faithful to yours, to give to the world what the Lord has given you for the good of all, that is, the living water of contemplation. In fact, it is not an escape from reality, a closure in a protected oasis, but an opening of the heart and of life to the force that truly transforms the world, that is, the love of God. It is in the prolonged solitary prayer that Jesus received the impetus to "break" his life in the midst of the people every day. And so the saints: the generosity and courage of their apostolate are the fruit of their profound union with God.

Dear brothers, the harmony between these three elements: friendship with God, fraternal life and mission, is a fascinating goal, capable of motivating your present and future choices. May the Holy Spirit - it is he who creates harmony - enlighten and guide your steps on this path. May the Holy Virgin protect you and accompany you. I heartily bless you. Please don't forget to pray for me, I need it. Thanks!

FULL TEXT from Vatican - Unofficial Translation