Pope Francis has a special affection for consecrated women and men
As the first Pontiff from a religious order in almost 200 years, Pope Francis has a special affection for consecrated women and men within the Church.
“Every consecrated person is a gift to the people of God on pilgrimage,” he said earlier this month, reciting the Angelus with visitors in St Peter’s Square. The Pope had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which the Church marks as the World Day for Consecrated Life.
“There is such a great need for their presence, which reinforces and renews the commitment to spreading the Gospel, Christian education, charity for the neediest, contemplative prayer, the human and spiritual formation of the young and families, and the commitment to justice and peace in the human family,” the Pope said.
Straying from his prepared text, Pope Francis told people gathered in the square: “Think what would happen if there weren’t any sisters, if there weren’t any sisters in the hospitals, no sisters in the missions, no sisters in the schools. Think what the Church would be like without sisters – no, that’s unthinkable.”
Consecrated life is a gift that moves the Church forward, he said.
In his homily, he urged religious to allow the joy of the Holy Spirit to guide both their observance of their communities' rules and their willingness to be prophetic.
Religious must “never be rigid or closed, but always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens and who leads and invites us to go out toward the horizon,” he said.
Within religious communities, the Pope said, the elderly should communicate their wisdom to the young and the young should accept “this patrimony of experience and wisdom and carry it forward, not to preserve it in a museum – no, no, no – but to continue it and bring it to bear on the challenges that life poses.”
Since his election almost a year ago, the Argentine Pontiff has spoken passionately about his vision for a renewal of religious life.
During a three-hour meeting with the Union of Superiors General in November, the Pope took questions from the gathering of 120 leaders of men’s religious orders.
He called on consecrated women and men to “wake up the world” and went into detail on subjects pertinent to religious orders including their relationships with bishops, formation and corruption.
“Religious life ought to promote growth in the Church by way of attraction. The Church must be attractive. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world,” he said.
Pope Francis went on to discuss formation and how best to engage with young people.
“Those who work with youth cannot be content with simply saying things that are too tidy and structured, as in a tract; these things go in one ear and out the other of young people. We need a new language, a new way of saying things. Today God asks this of us: to leave the nest which encloses us in order to be sent,” he said.
“It is important to recall that the language of young people in formation today is different from that in the past: we are living through an epochal change. Formation is a work of art, not a police action. We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mould the People of God. This really gives me goose bumps.”
Pope Francis has also announced that 2015 will be a special year dedicated to consecrated life within the Church. The Irish Catholic looks forward to continuing to work with and highlight the vital ministry of the heroic women and men religious who spend and share their lives in the service of God and some of the most vulnerable people both at home and abroad.