Pope Francis Emphasizes Mary's Motherly Example to Religious Sisters Saying "..God's closeness is always compassionate and tender."



General Curia of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
Friday, 22 October 2021


I wish you, Mother, good work, together with the new Council. And we thank the Superior and the outgoing Councilors. I hope that Mother will return to Africa… And if there is no place in Africa, in Patagonia!

In these days of work you have followed the theme " Communities that generate life in the heart of contemporaneity ", illuminating it with the words of Mary at the wedding at Cana "Do whatever he tells you" ( Jn2.5). It is the most beautiful gesture of the Madonna: the Madonna never takes for herself, never, always points to Jesus. Think about this: imitate the Madonna and do the same [makes the gesture of pointing]. On the one hand, therefore, keep in mind the multicultural social context, marked by tensions and challenges that are sometimes even dramatic, such as those caused by the pandemic; at the same time, to listen to the word of the Lord, his will, precisely in this time so fragile and uncertain, with the forms of poverty that the current crisis has produced and multiplied. You know, this is terrible. Poverty multiplied, even hidden poverties. Many wealthy families, or at least in the middle class, do not have what they need to live. The pandemic has caused so many massacres.

To awaken the original freshness of the vocational fruitfulness of the Institute : this is the goal that you have set for yourself. It is a key perspective for responding to the needs of today's world, which needs to discover in consecrated life "the proclamation of what the Father, through the Son in the Spirit, accomplishes with his love, his goodness, his beauty "(CIVCSVA, For new wine new wineskins , 6). This does not mean denying the frailties and hardships present in the communities, but believing that this situation can help them transform today into a kairós, a favorable time to go to the charismatic roots, to work on the essential, rediscovering, you first, the beauty of consecrated life. This challenge invites you to renew your "yes" to God at this time, as women and communities who allow themselves to be challenged by the Lord and by reality. And thus become a prophecy of the Gospel, a testimony of Christ and his style of life.

The Second Vatican has indicated to the Church in this way, which is the way of God: the incarnation in history, the immersion in the human condition. But this presupposes a firm rootedness in Christ, in order not to be at the mercy of worldliness in its various forms and disguises. Do not forget that the worst evil that can happen in the Church is spiritual worldliness. I can almost say that it seems worse than a sin, because spiritual worldliness is that subtle spirit that occupies the place of proclamation, that occupies the place of faith, that occupies the place of the Holy Spirit. Father De Lubac, in the book Méditation sur l'Eglise, in the last pages he talks about this. Go find them. The last four pages. He says this is very strong: spiritual worldliness is the worst evil that can happen to the Church, worse than the scandal at the time of the concubinary Popes. Is strong. The devil enters religious houses on this street. It helps me to understand how the devil enters between us. And it's not a shame, it's not one nun killing another - a scandal! - or who insults another, no, this is an ugly sin, they are all scandalized, they ask for forgiveness ... No. Jesus teaches us how the devil enters here, and says thus: “When the unclean spirit has been chased away from a person, goes away, wanders through deserts, gets bored, then says: 'I'll go back to my house to see how he is'. A house that was all clean, all beautiful, all prepared. And it goes, he finds seven worse than him and enters that house. But he doesn't enter by forcing, no, he enters politely: he rings the bell, he says hello. They are polite devils. We do not notice that they are entering. So they slowly enter and we: "Ah, how beautiful, how beautiful, come, come ...". And in the end, that man's condition is worse than at the beginning. So it happens with spiritual worldliness. People who have given up everything, they have renounced marriage, they have renounced their children, their family ... and end up - excuse the word - "spinster", that is, worldly, worried about those things ... And the horizon closes, because they say: "This she didn't even look at me, that one insulted me, that one… ". Internal conflicts that close. Please escape from spiritual worldliness. And also from says good morning. And also from status: "I am religious, I am religious ...". Examine this. This is the worst that can happen. It's like a […] that slowly takes away your strength. And instead of being women consecrated to God, they thus become "polite ladies". […] Where there is missionary service, where there is service, where there is mortification, to tolerate tolerating one another. And St. John Berchmans said: "My greatest penance is community life". And it takes! It takes a lot of penance to tolerate one another. […] But beware of spiritual worldliness. Not that in order to live I need to change my cell phone, that I need this one, that other one, to take a vacation on the beach… I'm talking about real things. But worldliness is that spirit that leads you to be not at peace or with a not beautiful peace, a sophisticated peace.

For you consecrate this requires creative fidelity to the charism, and that is why you always return to the charism. Is the charisma a relic? No, it is a living reality, not an embalmed relic. It is life that creates and goes on, not a piece of museum. So the great responsibility is to collaborate with the creativity of the Holy Spirit, to revisit the charism and ensure that it expresses its vitality today. From this comes true "youth", because the Spirit makes all things new . And we find older men and women religious who seem younger - like good wine - that the power of the Spirit helps to find new expressions of the same gift which is the charism. A charisma that is the same for all, but different for all. It is the same, but with nuances of his own person; and this means that that person is full of that charism, is also creative in the charism. It does not go out of the charisma, no. It is the same charisma. It is creativity that gives fidelity to the charism. This is the way of the Church that the Holy Popes of the Council and after the Council showed us: John XXIII , Paul VI , John Paul I  - the next Blessed - and John Paul II , whose memory we are celebrating today.

Another aspect that I see in the theme of the Chapter is the need to grow communities interwoven with intergenerational, intercultural relationships, fraternal relationships, cordial relationships. For this you can draw from your family spirit, which characterized the first community in Mornese, and which helps you to grasp in diversity an opportunity to welcome and listen, valuing differences as riches. In this perspective, I also encourage you to carry on the commitment to work in relationship with other congregations, seeking to live relationships of reciprocity and co-responsibility. But this can be done well if you have a good relationship within your congregation like this, do not flee to other congregations because you are unable to tolerate yours. This for you is a concrete way of living synodality; And, I would like to focus on this: on intergenerationality. I remember once a religious congregation - not you - in Argentina, which had some problems, many years ago, forty years ago more or less. The Mother General was a good nun at organizing, and she said: “No no: here we need youth”, because at that time there were so many vocations. The old women were all in a home for the elderly and the young ones apart. But this is a sin, a sin against the family! The elderly must live, as far as possible, in the living community. And a duty of young people is to look after the elderly, to learn from them, to dialogue with the old. If there is no such exchange in a congregation, it is the way to death. [Show an image that has been distributed, depicting a young monk carrying an old monk on his shoulders] This one I carried ... This young monk carrying an old one. This is the young person's "job". Being able to have grandmothers, grandparents at home. I remember that in that congregation, of which I spoke earlier, the elderly were dying of heartbreak. "She's dead ... She's sick ...". The heartbreak came from the sadness of not being able to enjoy the new generations. Examine your conscience: how do I welcome the elderly? It is true that old people sometimes get a little capricious - we are like that - and defects in old age are better seen; but it is also true that the old have that wisdom, that great wisdom of life: the wisdom of faithfulness to grow old in the vocation. And thank you for everything you will do. Never isolate the elderly! Yes, there will be homes for the elderly who cannot lead a normal life, they are in bed… But going there continuously, visiting the elderly, visiting them… They are the treasure of history! That experience of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus helps me a lot, when she accompanied an old nun who could barely walk. But she was a little bit neurotic nun, sometimes it happens. And Teresina did everything… And Teresina never extinguished her smile. He brought her and then sat her down, and then cut her bread. The poor old woman, who was a little neurotic, complained about everything, but she looked at her with love. And it happens once, in the passage from the choir to the refectory, you could hear a noise from the outside, you could hear the music of a dance, there was a party nearby. And Teresina said: “I will never change this for that”. He understood the greatness of the vocation. Respect for the elderly. Please bring the elderly!

The same openness to the Spirit allows you to persevere in the commitment to be generative communities in the service of the young and the poorest. Outgoing missionary communities stretched out to proclaim the Gospel to the peripheries, with the passion of the first Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. But that passion is impressive, that of the first Salesians! But it was true, it amazed young people and girls. In a book that I brought you - I will leave one to the Mother General -, a book that speaks of a Salesian priest from Lodi who was a missionary in Argentina, Fr Enrico Pozzoli, in the introduction of the book - it is interesting - shows the quantity of Salesians that Don Bosco sent to Argentina. Many! And when they arrived in Buenos Aires - this is the beauty of the first Salesians - they didn't go to the middle-class neighborhoods, no, they went to look for borders… What attracts a vocation? Holiness, zeal. Seek, see this missionary spirit… With regard to young people, I want to encourage you, because it is not easy to accompany adolescent boys and girls. Parents know it well, and you know it too. This is also why I wanted the Synod for young people and with young people, from which the Exhortation emerged Christus vivit . I know you use it; I encourage you to continue to do so: I am sure that there you can find various ideas in harmony with your charism and your educational service.

Dear Sisters, I know that you are preparing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute. This too is an opportunity for vocational and missionary renewal and revitalization. Do not forget the grace of the origins, the humility and the littleness of the beginnings that made God's action transparent in the life and message of those who, filled with amazement, began this journey. Mary Help of Christians will help you: you are her daughters! His words at the Cana wedding were and are a beacon of light for your discernment: "Do whatever He tells you". Mary is the attentive woman, fully embodied in the present and solicitous, a caring woman. So you, may you be attentive to reality, grasp situations of need, when the "wine" is missing, that is the joy of love, and bring Christ, not in words but in service, in closeness, with compassion and tenderness. I stop on this. For me, a very bad thing is an angry nun, a nun who seems to have breakfast not with milk but with vinegar. Be mothers. Tenderness. God's style is always closeness. He said it at the beginning, in Deuteronomy: "Think: what people have their gods as close as you have me?". Nearness. And God's closeness is always compassionate and tender. Closeness is compassion and tenderness. Every day, in the examination of conscience, ask yourself: “Was I close today? Was I compassionate? Was I tender? ". Go ahead with this. Use the word tenderness a lot. It is important for the way of being. Bring hope that does not disappoint. The real one. To be like Mary women of hope. You do it starting from the Salesian identity, with it with compassion and tenderness.Salesian style : especially listening, active presence, love for young people . The creativity of the moment, as Don Bosco said.

That " there was the Mother of Jesus " ( Jn 2,1) of the Gospel of the wedding at Cana, becomes in your Constitutions " Mary is actively present in our life and in the history of the Institute " (cf. Const. FMA, 44) . Accompanied by her, go forward with enthusiasm on the path that the Spirit suggests to you. With a heart open to accepting the thrusts of God's grace, with an attentive gaze to recognize the needs and urgencies of a world in constant change. Look at the change, but with the heart always in love with the Lord. Heart of mother, heart close, with compassion and tenderness.

And thanks for this meeting! Thank you for what you are and what you do. I am close to you with prayer and I bless you and all your sisters in the world. And I ask you to pray for me: it is not easy to be Pope!