By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis is urging Brazil’s consecrated men and women to fight worldly tendencies is "to give priority to prayer" beccause the "person who keeps his or her eyes fixed on Jesus learns that to live to serve."
He makes this exhortation in a message to them as they observe the first Week of Consecrated Religious Life, August 16 to 22. In the message addressed to Sister Maria Inês Vieira Ribeiro, the national president of the Conference of the Religious of Brazil (CRB), the Pope expresses his joy at the initiative which “aims to promote and renew the mission” of each consecrated religious in the Land of the Holy Cross, as the first explorers of the unknown territory called it.
Joy in the gift of self
The Holy Father, himself a Jesuit, reminds them that the vocation of a religious has its origin in the experience of knowing that one is loved by God. Life itself, he explains, is the fruit of the loving call of God, who accompanies us along our journey, and is aware of our anxious longing for love and happiness, He calls us to joy. This joy, the Pope stresses, is found only in the gift of self to others.
Prayer helps fix gaze on Jesus
In today’s society, which is undergoing epochal changes, the Pope urges the religious to “be vigilant in order to avoid the temptation to have a worldly outlook, which prevents us from seeing God's grace as the protagonist of life and leads us to go out in search of a substitute”.
And the best antidote against such a temptation, the Pope says, is to give priority to prayer in the midst of all our activities. A person who keeps his gaze fixed on Jesus, learns to live and serve, recalling that he or she is loved.
Our first love
Pope Francis thus invites Brazil’s religious men and women to ask themselves: “Is Jesus truly the first and only love, as we proposed when we professed our vows?” Only this way, the Holy Father says, “will we be able to truly and mercifully love each person we meet on our journey”. By learning from Jesus what love is will we know how to love, the Pope says.
Consecrated religious present in Rome participated in the recitation of the Angelus with Pope Francis in St Peter's Square on Sunday. He singled them out, saying:
"In particular, I greet the Brazilian men and women religious present here in Rome – with so many flags – these religious are following spiritually the First National Week of Consecrated Life being celebrated in Brazil. Happy week of consecrated life. Ever onward!"