Vatican City, 11 April 2015 (VIS) – “To live in Christ according to the form of life of the Gospel” is the title of an international conference for formators of consecrated persons, held in Rome from 7 to 11 April. This morning around 1,400 participants were received in audience by the Pope, who exclaimed, “Seeing so many of you, you would not believe that there is a crisis of vocations!”, and went on to highlight the beauty and importance of consecrated life for the world and for the Church.
However, he noted that the decreasing number of new vocations is an undeniable fact, and “this make the task of formation even more urgent”. He expressed his conviction that “there is not a vocational crisis where there are consecrated persons able to transmit, by their own witness, the beauty of consecration. And it is a fruitful witness. If there is not witness, there is no coherence, and if there is no coherence, there will be no vocations”. He added, they are “not only teachers, but above all witnesses of following Christ in their own charism”, as the mission and task of formators is to “truly mould the heart of Jesus in the heart of the young, so that they have the same sentiments”.
“In these days of the Resurrection, the word that frequently resounded to me in prayers was 'Galilee', where it all began, as Peter tells us in his first discourse. Events occurred in Jerusalem, but they began in Galilee. Our life, too, began in a 'Galilee': each one of us has had the experience … of encountering the Lord, that encounter that cannot be forgotten, but that many times ends up obscured by things, by work, by worries, and also by sins and worldliness. To offer witness it is often necessary to make a pilgrimage to one's own Galilee, to revive the memory of that encounter, that wonder, and to start again from there. But if you do not follow the road of memory there is the risk of remaining stuck where you are, and also the danger of not knowing why you are there”.
“Consecrated life is beautiful: it is one of the most valuable treasures of the Church, rooted in the baptismal vocation. Therefore, it is beautiful to be its formators, as it is a privilege to participate in the work of the Father, which forms the heart of the Son in those to whom the Spirit calls. At times, this service may be felt as a weight, as if it draws us away from something more important”, the Pontiff observed. “But this is a deception, a temptation. The mission is important, but it is equally important to educate in the mission, in the passion of proclamation, of going everywhere, to every periphery, to say to all that the love of Jesus Christ, especially for those who are most distant, to tell this to the small and the poor, and also to allow oneself to be evangelised by them. All this requires a solid foundation, a Christian structure of personality that families themselves are rarely able to give. And this increases your responsibility”.
“It is not true that today's young people are mediocre or not generous; but they need to experience that 'It is more blessed to give than to receive', that there is great freedom in a life of obedience, great fruitfulness in a virgin heart, great wealth in possessing nothing. From this there arises the need to be lovingly attentive to the path of each person and evangelically demanding in every phase of the formative journey, beginning with vocational discernment, so that the eventual crisis in terms of quantity does not lead to a far more serious crisis of quality. And this is the danger. Vocational discernment is important: all those who understand the human personality – be they psychologists, spiritual fathers, spiritual mothers – tell us that young people who at a subconscious level feel they … have some problem of balance or deviation subconsciously seek out strong structures to protect them, and to protect them against themselves. And here lies discernment: knowing how to say no. Without driving them away – this, no. “I will accompany you, go, go … and just as you accompany them as they enter, accompany them to the exit, so that they may find their path in life, with the necessary help”.
He continued, “Initial formation, this discernment, is only the first step in a process destined to last a lifetime, and the young people must develop with the humble and intelligent freedom of allowing himself to be educated by God the Father every day of his life, at every age, in the mission as in fraternity, in action as in contemplation”.
“In this mission, neither time nor energy must be spared. And we must not be discouraged when results do not fulfil our expectations. It is painful, when a boy or a girl says after three or four years: 'I cannot continue; I have found another love that is not against God, but I cannot continue, I am leaving'. This is hard. But it is also your martyrdom. Even missteps, these missteps from the formator's point of view, can contribute to your journey of continual formation. And if at times you may have the feeling that your work is not sufficiently appreciated, know that Jesus is following you with love, and the entire Church is grateful to you”.