By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis on Monday met with the religious sisters of the Poor Clares’ Convent of St. Clare of Paganica, outside the Italian city of L’Aquila.
In his greetings to the nuns, the Holy Father thanked them for the support they give him through their prayers, and also expressed gratitude for the gift of the Easter Candle that they decorated for the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta.
He highlighted that the nuns are spiritually present at the celebrations taking place at the chapel through their gift of “the symbol of Christ, the light of the world.”
God’s loving care and solidarity amid tragedy
Pope Francis recalled the April 2009 earthquake that rocked the Poor Clares’ community in Paganica, injuring several nuns and causing destruction to the monastery.
He also remembered that among the quake's victims was Abbess Mother Gemma Antonucci, who died under the rubble.
In spite of that, the Pope noted, “God made you emerge from that tragedy strengthened and, like the grain of wheat that must die in order to bear fruit, so it was also for your monastic community.”
“You experienced great pain, but also the loving care of your heavenly Father and the solidarity of many people,” he said.
He pointed out that on that night of the incident, the nuns lost everything “except God and fraternity”. From these points, they set out again with courage, establishing themselves first in a temporary structure, before reconstructing the monastery ten years after.
A fresh start
Now, he said, “your community is flourishing, composed of twelve nuns, all young.” Pope Francis added that, in the face of tragedy, the message the nuns have given is to “start afresh from God and from fraternal solidarity.”
The Holy Father went on to encourage the Poor Clares never to tire of being a prayerful and consoling presence in support of the people who have been sorely tried by the terrible experience and are still in need of comfort and encouragement.
"May the example of Blessed Antonia help you always to be poor and joyful women for love of the poor Christ," the Pope prayed, urging them at the same time, to respond with generosity to the desire that God has placed in their hearts as consecrated women in adherence with the Gospel, in fidelity to the charism received from St. Clare and St. Francis.
The Holy Father concluded the audience by imparting his Apostolic Blessing and invoking the light and strength of the Holy Spirit upon the nuns. He also enjoined them to pray for him and for the whole Church.