Pope Francis says "...every consecrated person, every religious, every priest is called, like Joseph, to have a "father's heart"...that goes out of his way to love and care for his children..." FULL TEXT
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE 56TH GENERAL CHAPTER
OF THE ORDER OF AUGUSTINIAN RECOLLETS
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Good Morning! I am pleased to receive you in the framework of the celebration of your General Chapter, a time of grace that extends to the entire Augustinian Recollect Family.
I thank the Prior General for his words, which give an account of the process of renewal, charismatic revitalization that they have been carrying out for several years.
The motto that guided them in preparing for the Chapter and that accompanies them in a special way during these days is: We walk together “I have come that they may have life” ( Jn 10:10).
Certainly, it is time to walk together , always forward, with our eyes and hearts focused on Jesus. On this path that you are traveling now, a path of synodality, in communion with the entire Church, I propose that you once again contemplate the figure of Saint Joseph, whose solemnity we will celebrate next Saturday, and whom you venerate as Protector of the Order. And, of this very endearing saint, I would like to underline two aspects that can also serve us.
In the first place, I would like us to bear in mind that every consecrated person, every religious, every priest is called, like Joseph, to have a "father's heart", that is, a restless heart that goes out of his way to love and care for his children and daughters who have been entrusted to him, especially the most fragile, those who suffer, those who have not had the experience of paternal love; and leads them not to rest until these brothers and sisters of ours are in the encounter with the Lord, and thus everyone can have an abundant life, as the text that illuminates your Chapter says.
But, attention, let us not forget that we cannot be true parents without experiencing being children , children of the heavenly Father, He knows what we need and He calls us. Let us not stop turning to Him every day with confidence. He listens to us, listens to the desires and needs of our hearts, and shows us the path to follow.
Secondly, another characteristic of Saint Joseph that I would like to highlight is "creative courage". These are not easy times, we know. They were not for Joseph either. He trusted God, trusted fully, and offered all of his abilities, his talent, his ability to serve him. And God trusted Joseph, and gave him his grace to be able to carry out the mission that he entrusted to him. So for us today, as on the day of our consecration, it will do us good to bring to the altar all that we are, and let the Lord transform it into a "living, holy and pleasing offering" ( Rom 12:1). And, after this oblation, to go out on the mission with confidence, with courage, with creativity. He is with us, walks by our side and helps us make decisions.
There is something that the Prior General said that happens everywhere, in all dioceses, in all religious congregations, but because it is so general, we cannot let it go by as if it did not happen to us, we have to take responsibility for what it happens to us He said that from eight provinces there are now four. He wants to say that, in terms of numbers, we are going downhill. And this is a reality that we cannot ignore. There are thousands of explanations: that young people today do not see things clearly, that there are fewer young people than before —obviously, the birth rate...— that Europe and America do not give what they gave before in terms of vocations, that we will have to look for other cultures and look elsewhere, and so on as much as you want. But there is a question that we have to ask ourselves: look to the future, project the age that you are now, and say: Will there be two provinces out of four, nothing more? Don't be afraid to ask yourself the question. The day that there are no more Augustinian Recollects, the day that there are not enough priestly vocations for everyone, the day that, the day that, the day that day comes, have we prepared the laity, have we prepared people to continue with pastoral care in the Church? And you, have you prepared people to continue with your spirituality, which is a gift from God, so that you can carry it forward? I do not dare to be a prophet and say what will happen. It worries me, it worries me. I trust in the Lord, but I also have to say these things: let us prepare ourselves for what is going to happen, and let us give our charism, our gift to those who can carry it forward. Please do not mend the things that cannot be mended because a culture is imposed on us. If we keep the charism firm, Let's keep firm that consecration of life that we have, yes, but let's not have illusions. And let us continue with prayer, that the Lord send vocations, but that he also prepares us to give our gift when we are less, to whom he can collaborate with us. The Lord is good, he is going to give us the necessary consolation to make those decisions. Ask for the grace to know how to take them on time and as the Lord wants, not as any sociologist or psychologist can tell us, no: what the Lord wants.
I encourage you to move forward, trusting in the promise of the Lord, and to carry out this mission that God has entrusted to us.
And may God bless you, may he bless all the members of the Augustinian Recollect Family, and may the Holy Virgin and Saint Joseph take care of you and accompany you. And please don't forget to pray for me. Thanks.