By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis
Pope Francis received in audience members of the Congregation of the Stigmata, or the Stigmatine Fathers, on the occasion of their General Chapter. In prepared remarks, the Holy Father called on them to bring the fire of God's love to the Christian community. But after hearing the greeting of the Superior General, the Holy Father departed from his prepared text.
He said he was touched by the theme of fraternity. Fraternity, “is a grace, and without prayer, this grace is not obtained,” he said. Concrete prayer for another is what makes fraternal life a miracle. “Please safeguard fraternity. This does not mean that everyone has to be friends,” he said.
Mercy comes through the door of Christ’s wounds
The Pope then focused on the name of the Stigmatines: “The Lord’s stigmata, the Lord’s wounds—this is the door from which mercy comes.” Everyone is wounded, the Pope said. It is only when the Church, when a Congregation is aware of its wounds that “we are brought to knock at the door of mercy; the Lord’s wounds.” And those who are not aware of their own wounds caused by sin do not understand Jesus’ wounds. The Pope continued, “A ‘wounded’ sinner finds forgiveness, peace and consolation only in the wounds of the Lord, nowhere else.”
The Holy Family
The third theme Pope Francis touched on was that of the Holy Family. “I like that passage from Luke which says that Mary went ‘in haste’ to help her cousin,” he said. “It would be good to insert this in the Litanies: ‘Our Lady who went in haste, pray for us.’” Joseph was a meek man who received messages in dreams the Pope continued. Some say it is obvious that Joseph was old because he suffered from insomnia. Pope Francis joked that “it was a psychological problem: he was scared because, every time he went to sleep, his plans were changed!” Joseph’s meekness and patience, coupled with Mary’s hastiness, helped to raise the Son of God.
Prepared remarks: Fire an image of God’s love for us
In his prepared text, which was distributed to the Stigmatines following the audience, Pope Francis used the image of fire, taken from Christ’s words in the Gospel, “I have come to cast fire on the earth. How I wish it were already ignited!” (Luke 12:49). That fire, he said is God’s love for us. He then invited those participating, to “rekindle within yourselves and your communities the fire of the Word of God.”
Evangelize through the joy of your life
Pope Francis continued, “In the Bible God is compared to fire, but he is the fire of love, which conquers peoples’ hearts not with violence, but respecting each one’s freedom.” He highlighted the way in which their Founder announced the Gospel—humbly and joyfully after the example of Jesus’ own style of evangelizing. It is “through the joy of your life,” Pope Francis said, that “you can lead people to conversion, to communion with Christ.” In fact, it is precisely the “fraternal community of missionaries” that confirms their proclamation of the Gospel because it has been “tested by fire,” he said.
Thus, the Pope called them to “bring this fire into the Christian community, where the faith of so many people needs to be reawakened.” Above all, he asked them to go out to announce the Gospel “to the poor, and to those who do not feel loved by anyone”—the sad, the depressed, prisoners, the homeless, immigrants, and those fleeing from war. Lastly, he reminded them to pay “special attention to the family” after the example of St Gaspar, who transmitted to his sons “a love for the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph.” After asking them to pray for him, Pope Francis imparted his blessing on those present and on their entire Congregation, and left them with the words: “May the Lord always inflame your mission with the fire of the Holy Spirit!”
The Stigmatine Fathers were founded in Verona, Italy in 1816 by St Gaspar Bertoni. Theirs is a specifically missionary vocation at the service of the Bishops, the proclamation of the Word of God, and the formation of young people and clergy. They are present in 15 countries and number about 400 members.