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Pope Francis during his encounter with Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Consecrated Men and Women Pope Francis during his encounter with Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Consecrated Men and Women  (Vatican Media)

Pope to Priests and Religious: Persevere, be merciful and hope

Pope Francis, during an encounter with Priests and Religious in Kaunas Cathedral, tells them they are children of Martyrs. He also urges them to be merciful and to hold fast to Jesus amid tribulation.

By Lydia O’Kane

Tribulation and Christian hope

The Pope, seated in front of the Priests, Religious, Consecrated Men and Women, and Seminarians in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Kaunas on Sunday, chose at the beginning, to go off script to tell them that they were children of Martyrs. He was referring to Lithuania’s past which saw the older generation endure violence and suffering for the defence of their civil and religious freedom. To the older priests and religious present, he said, “you have much to tell us and teach us”. It is tribulation, Pope Francis explained, “that brings out what is distinctive about Christian hope. Never forget the past, he stressed, “it is your strength.”

Hearts are fulfilled by God alone

Returning to his prepared address, Pope Francis drew inspiration from the theme of this visit to Lithuania which is “Jesus Christ, our hope”. The Pope also looked to a key figure in the Church, that of St Paul, telling those gathered that he “invites us to hope with perseverance”. This Saint, the Pontiff remarked, “repeats three times the word “groan”, which “comes from an enslavement of corruption, from a yearning for fulfilment.” The Pontiff commented, “we would do well to ask if we ourselves groan inwardly, or whether our hearts are still, no longer yearning for the living God.” He went on to say, “that perhaps our “prosperous society” keeps us sated, surrounded by services and material objects; we end up “stuffed” with everything and filled by nothing.” “As men and women of special consecration, he added, “we can never afford to lose that inward groaning, that restlessness of heart that finds its rest in the Lord alone.”

The Pope noted that this “groaning” can come also “from our contemplation of the world around us, as a protest against the unsatisfied needs of our poorest brothers and sisters, before the absence of meaning in the lives of our young, the loneliness experienced by the elderly, the misuse of creation.” Yet, he underlined, “we should also be concerned when our people stop groaning, when they stop seeking water to quench their thirst. At those times, we need to discern what is silencing the voice of our people.”

Be merciful and close to your flock

Concluding his discourse, Pope Francis again speaking off the cuff, told those present they were not officials; their calling was to be close to their flock and to be merciful to them, especially in the confessional. The Pope remarked on the tendency for religious and priests to be sad at times and continually tired. This sadness, the Holy Father said, was due to the fact that they were not in love with God. He then advised those present, if that was the case, to find and speak to a wise priest or nun who had that love for the Father.
All of us, are on the boat of the Church, Pope Francis said, “We too want constantly to cry out to God, to persevere amid tribulation and to hold fast to Jesus Christ as the object of our hope.” The “challenge that impels us”, he continued, is the “mandate to evangelize.” “This is the basis of our hope and our joy.”

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23 September 2018, 16:09