By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis received some 60 Pauline delegates from across the globe as their 11th General Chapter draws to a close in the town of Ariccia, in the Alban hills south of Rome.
The theme of the Chapter, that began on 5 September and concludes on 5 October, and that included the election of a new Superior General, is “Arise, Go on your Journey Trusting in the Promise.”
The Pope reflected on the chosen theme noting that “in these delicate and hard times, as Pope John Paul II said in his Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, faith is more necessary than ever”.
Many, he said, believe that consecrated life is going through a winter.
“It may be so, because vocations are scarce, the average age is advancing and fidelity to the commitments made by profession is not always what it should be,” he said.
In this situation, the Pope continued, the “great challenge is to survive the winter in order to flourish and bear fruit”.
Winter is not a time of sterility and death
He said “the chill of society is to be found sometimes even within the Church and in consecrated life.” But just as in nature, the Pope continued, winter in the Church and in consecrated life is not a time of sterility and death, it is a favourable time that allows us to go back to our roots and to focus on the essential.
For you, he said to the Pauline religious, it is a time “to rediscover the elements of Pauline prophecy”, to rediscover the mission that takes the Daughters of St Paul to go forth and live their vocations in “the peripheries of thought and on the peripheries of existence”.
Pope Francis noted that the charism of the Pauline Order is to proclaim the Word.
“You carry a missionary boldness in your DNA,” he said, and urged them never to let this boldness diminish in the knowledge that the protagonist of their mission is the Holy Spirit.
“I hope that the Chapter that you are experiencing may be a good time to ask yourselves which is the best way to express the Pauline prophecy in response to the calls that we receive in our time,” he said.
‘Let yourselves be disturbed by reality of our time ’
He encouraged those present to set out, “on the streets of the world, with a contemplative gaze full of empathy for the men and women of our time who are hungry for the Good News of the Gospel.”
He told them to be part of an “outgoing Institute” and to put all their strength at the service of evangelization.
“Let ourselves be challenged by the reality in which we live, let ourselves be disturbed by reality,” he said.
And he told them to constantly seek ways of proximity, and keep in their hearts the ability to feel compassion.
Proclaiming the Gospel through communications
In particular, to the Pauline religious, whose charism is to evangelize through communication, the Pope said “be missionaries by bearing witness to a life centered in Christ, through editorial, digital and multimedia production, and by promoting critical formation in the use of the media and biblical animation.
Noting that the road travelled so far by the sisters is a long and fruitful one, he said “there is still a long way to go” and he encouraged them to revive the gift of faith by always letting themselves be enlightened by the Word.
The Word, Pope Francis said, “is the center of your personal and community life, in the liturgy and in lectio divina. It is the Word that keeps the apostolic spirit alive in your Institute”.
“Set out, with the boldness that comes from the Spirit and the creativity that characterized your Founder,” he concluded, and he bestowed his apostolic blessing on the sisters present whom, he noted, came from 52 different nations: “the whole world!”