Vatican City, 5 October 2013 (VIS) – Shortly after 4.15 p.m. the Pope reached the Basilica of St. Clare, where the cloistered nuns of the order founded by St. Clare, friend of St. Francis, reside. The pontiff descended into the crypt to venerate the body of the saint and then, in the chapel of the choir, prayed before the cross of St. Damian, which according to tradition spoke to St. Francis, telling him to repair His house. In this chapel the Pope, accompanied by the Council of Cardinals, met with the cloistered nuns and spoke with them off the cuff, beginning, “I thought that this meeting would be like the ones we have held twice at Castel Gandolfo, alone with the nuns but, I have to confess, I don't have the courage to send the cardinals away. Let us all remain together”.
“When a cloistered nun consecrates her life to the Lord, a transformation occurs that we do not usually understand. Normally we assume that this nun becomes isolated, along with the Absolute, alone with God; it is an ascetic, penitent life. But this is not the path of a Catholic or indeed Christian cloistered nun. The path always passes via Jesus Christ. Jesus is the centre of your life, of your penance, of your community life, of your prayer, and also of the universality of prayer. And therefore, what happens is contrary to what we imagine of an ascetic cloistered nun. When she follows the path of contemplation of Jesus Christ, the path of prayer and penance with Jesus Christ, she becomes greatly human. Cloistered nuns are called upon to have great humanity, a humanity like that of the Mother Church; to be human, to understand all aspects of life, to be able to understand human problems, to know how to forgive and to pray to the Lord for others”.
“Today during Mass, speaking of the Cross, I said that Francis had contemplated it with open eyes, with open wounds, with flowing blood. And this is your contemplation: reality. The contemplation of Christ's wounds! This is why it is so good when people attend the visiting room of a monastery, asking for prayers and talking about their problems. Perhaps the nun does not say anything extraordinary, but her word is inspired by her contemplation of Jesus Christ, because the nun, like the Church, is on a path to becoming an expert in humanity. And this is your path: not too spiritual! When [nuns] are too spiritual, I think of the foundress of the monasteries of your 'rivals', St. Theresa, for example, who when one of her nuns came to her to speak about, oh, about these things, said to the cook, “give her a steak!”. The humanity of Jesus Christ! Because the Word became flesh, God became flesh for us, and this gives you a great, human, beautiful and mature holiness, the holiness of a mother. And this is what the Church wants you to be: mothers. … To give life. When you pray, for example, for priests, for seminarians, you have a maternal role towards them; … you help them to become good shepherds for the People of God. But don't forget about St. Theresa's steak! It is important”.
“The second thing I wanted to say to you, briefly, relates to community life. Forgive and support each other, because community life is not easy. … Make sure that the monastery is not a purgatory, but rather a family. Look for solutions with love; do not harm anyone among you to solve a problem. … Cherish community life, because when the community is like a family, the Holy Spirit is among the community. … I beg for you the joy that is born of true contemplation and of a beautiful community life. Thank you for your welcome and pray for me, please; don't forget”.