Homily of the Holy Father
Mid-Day Prayer with Contemplative Women Religious
Shrine of the Lord of Miracles, Lima
Sunday, 21 January 2018
Dear Sisters from different monasteries of contemplative life:
How good it is to be here in this Shrine of the Lord of Miracles, visited so often by Peruvians, to ask his grace so that he will show us his closeness and mercy! He is “the light that guides, that illumines us with his divine love”. Seeing you here, I get the impression that you took advantage of this visit to get out for some fresh air! Mother Soledad, I thank you for your words of welcome, and I thank all of you, who “from the silence of the cloister walk ever by my side”.
We have listened to the words of Saint Paul and been reminded that we have received the Spirit of filial adoption that makes us children of God (cf. Rom 8:15-16). Those few words sum up the richness of every Christian vocation: the joy of knowing we are God’s children. This is the experience that nourishes our lives, that seeks always to be a pleasing response to God’s love. How important it is to renew this joy day by day!
A privileged path that you have for renewing this conviction is the life of prayer, both communal and individual. This is the heart of your contemplative life, and the means of cultivating the experience of love that sustains our faith and, indeed as Mother Soledad rightly said, a prayer that is always missionary.
Missionary prayer makes us one with our brothers and sisters in whatever situations they find themselves, and asks that love and hope will never fail them. This is what Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus said: “I understood that it is love alone which prompts the members of the Church to act and, if there is no love, neither would the Apostles proclaim the Gospel, nor would the martyrs spill their blood. I recognized clearly and I was certain that love subsumes in itself all vocations, that love is everything, encompassing all times and places, in a word, that love is eternal… in the heart of the Church, who is my Mother, I will be love”.
To be love! This means being able to stand alongside the suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters, and to say with the Psalmist: “In my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free” (Ps 117:5). In this way, your cloistered life can attain a missionary and universal outreach and play “a fundamental role in the life of the Church. You pray and intercede for our many brothers and sisters who are prisoners, migrants, refugees and victims of persecution. Your prayers of intercession embrace the many families experiencing difficulties, the unemployed, the poor, the sick, and those struggling with addiction, to mention just a few of the more urgent situations. You are like those who brought the paralytic to the Lord for healing. Through your prayer, night and day, you bring before God the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters who for various reasons cannot come to him to experience his healing mercy, even as he patiently waits for them. By your prayers, you can heal the wounds of many”.
For this very reason, we can state that cloistered life neither closes nor shrinks our hearts, but rather widens them in our relationship with the Lord, making them capable of feeling in a new way the pain, the suffering, the frustration and the misfortune of so many of our brothers and sisters who are victims of today’s “throwaway culture”. May intercession for those in need be the hallmark of your prayer. And whenever possible, help them not only by prayer, but also by concrete service.
The prayer of supplication that takes place in your monasteries is attuned to the Heart of Jesus, which pleads to the Father that we may all be one, so that the world will believe (cf. Jn 17:21). How much we need unity in the Church! Today and always! United in faith. United by hope. United by love. In the unity that wells up from our communion with Christ, who unites us to the Father in the Spirit, and, in the Eucharist, unites us with one another in that great mystery which is the Church. I ask you, please, to pray constantly for unity in this beloved Church in Peru.
Strive to grow in the fraternal life, so that every monastery can be a beacon of light in the midst of disunity and division. Help bear prophetic witness that this is possible. May all who draw near to you have a foretaste of the blessedness of the fraternal charity so essential to the consecrated life and so necessary in today’s world and in our communities.
When we live our vocation faithfully, our life becomes a proclamation of God’s love. I ask you never to stop giving that witness. In this Church of the Discalced Carmelite Nazarenes, I readily recall the words of the great spiritual teacher, Saint Teresa of Jesus: “If you lose your guide, who is the good Jesus, you will not get the journey right… For the same Lord says he is the way; the Lord also says he is the light, and that no one can come to the Father except through him”.
Dear sisters, the Church needs you. Be beacons through your lives of fidelity, and keep pointing to the One who is the way, and the truth and the life, to the one Lord who brings us fulfilment and grants us life in abundance.
Pray for the Church, for priests and bishops, for consecrated men and women, for families, for those who suffer, for those who harm others, for those who exploit their brothers and sisters. And do not forget, please, to pray for me.
 Autobiographical manuscripts: Letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (8 September 1896), Ms. B [3v.].
 Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere on women’s contemplative life (29 June 2016), 16.
 The Interior Castle, VI, ch. 7, no. 6.
 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere on women’s contemplative life (29 June 2016), 6.