By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis on Saturday invited a delegation from the Association of the Priests of Prado to follow in the footsteps of their founder, Blessed Antoine Chevrier.
The Pope said he had been “struck by the poverty of the most deprived people of his time”. This led him “to be close to them so that they could come to know and love Jesus Christ.”
Pope Francis said Blessed Antoine’s spiritual children are imbued with his same love for Jesus and the same zeal for evangelization.
Bring consolation of the Gospel
“Our age also knows its poverty – both old and new, material and spiritual – and there are many around us who experience suffering, injuries, miseries, and anxieties of all kinds.”
He said the poor are often “distant from the Church and the consolations of the Gospel”. The Church, he said, relies on the Priests of Prado to reach them in their need.
The Holy Father expressed his approval and encouragement for the pastoral action carried out by the Association, calling it “a charism that touches me personally and that is at the heart of the missionary renewal to which the whole Church is called”.
Pope St. John Paul II’s guidelines for the Association
Pope Francis then recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II at the beatification of Antoine Chevrier, renewing several of the guidelines he set out.
“Speak of Jesus Christ with the same intensity of faith as Father Chevrier. […] The poor have the right to hear about Jesus Christ. They have the right to the Gospel and to the totality of the Gospel” (Discourse to the Association of the Prado, 7 October 1986).
Pope Francis said most poor people “have a particular openness to faith; they need God”. So, he said, the refusal to give them spiritual attention is “the worst type of discrimination”.
Finally, the Holy Father invited the priests of Prado to return to the inspiration of their founder, “meditating on his life and asking for his intercession”.
“The spiritual experience he lived intensely – an immense compassion for the poor, an understanding and sharing of their sufferings and, at the same time, contemplation of the humility of Christ who became one of them – was the source of his apostolic zeal.”
This, said Pope Francis, will give the priest of Prado a truly “missionary dynamism”.