Vatican City, 11 September 2015 (VIS) – “Called to evangelise: witnesses and messengers of the joy of the Gospel”, was the theme of the General Chapter of the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretians) whom Pope Francis received this morning in audience in the Consistory Hall. The following are extensive extracts from the written discourse the Pope handed to the attendees of the Chapter, to whom he also addressed some unscripted remarks.
“'Witnesses' because joy cannot be communicated if it is not present and deeply rooted both in one's own life and in that of the community”, writes the Holy Father. “'Messengers' because good must be shared and, in sharing, joy is purified and multiplied, becoming truly 'evangelical'”.
“How did the Congregation meet in this Chapter analysis? In this exercise of discernment, how did the voice of the Spirit challenge you?”, asks Francis, adding that a sure path for discerning His call is found in “listening in the different peripheries of the world. In them, His voice resonates with greater clarity. This is even more important for a missionary Congregation like yours”.
He goes on to recall that to mark the occasion of the current Year of Consecrated Life he had sent a letter to all consecrated persons inviting them to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope, and he explains to the Claretians how to respond to this invitation.
“'Looking to the past with gratitude' means thanking God for the witness of many of your brethren who, supported by their faith, live their vocation with profound joy – in some cases unto martyrdom. It also means recognising the mysterious hand of the Lord who, despite our weakness and our inconstancy, continues to work miracles through His Church. 'Living the present with passion' is basing your missionary programme on the spirit of St. Antonio Maria Claret whose motto, on his episcopal coat of arms, is 'Caritas Christi urget nos'. Loving as Jesus loved must infuse all of our choices in life and in pastoral ministry. 'Embracing the future with hope' means not allowing ourselves to be held back by disillusionment. Do not be afraid. It is the Lord who sends you. Always keep your eyes on those who await the announcement, those who need His witness to feel the merciful presence of God in their lives”.
Francis thanks the members of the Congregation for their missionary life and work, also asking them to greet all their brethren on his behalf, “especially those who, due to illness or advanced age, collaborate through prayer and witness to the mission of the congregation”.
“St. Antonio Maria Claret, your founder, gave your congregation a beautiful name: Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, concludes the Pope. “Let all the dimensions of your lives be profoundly marked by this 'intimacy', that inspired in Mary the beautiful hymn of the Magnificat; and express the maternity of the Church, merciful mother, who never ceases to hope, to accompany and to forgive”.