By Vatican News staff writer
On Saturday Pope Francis met with members of the Order of Clerics Regular, Theatines, gathered for their General Chapter. Saint Cajetan, Giampietro Caraffa (later Pope Paul IV), Bonifacio De Colle, and Paolo Consiglieri founded the order in 1524, with the aim of forming a group of clerics that faithfully live the Gospel, adhering to the Holy Canons, and living fraternal life in common under the three religious vows.
Welcoming the group on the occasion of their 164th General Chapter, the Pope remarked how they have contributed so much with God’s providence over this long history. Commenting on the theme of their General Chapter, the Pope appreciated the emphasis they have placed on “mission” and “going out” into the world to evangelize in a way that involves every Christian and community, strongly rooted in the spiritual life and concretely expressed through acts of charity.
Saints as a "living Gospel"
Praising the witness of Saint Cajetan, his striving for personal holiness, and contributing to Church reform, the Pope said he offers us a guide, a “living Gospel,” that helps us move forward in our personal and community journey. This witness points to Jesus Christ, the One we are all called to imitate, while we can learn from and emulate the Saints who have found different ways with spiritual dynamism to live out their own Christian vocation. The Pope said the challenge is how to translate this witness in our modern-day world, and he praised the Theatines for focusing on ways to live out their charism in response to today’s challenges while remaining rooted in their identity.
Focus on identity
Recalling the focus on identity, the Pope mentioned one aspect Saint Cajetan emphasized: that reform must begin with oneself. He recalled the Saint’s early experiences, noting that when he saw the widespread spiritual and moral degradation of the times, he cultivated his own prayer and spiritual formation, and then went to minister to the sick in hospital. The Pope said these are the “true reformers” of the Church: those who look at their own lives and ask how to live the Gospel more deeply and coherently, while also reaching out to others and helping them in their faith journey.
Living in communion
The second goal the Theatines are discussing is communion, the Pope noted. Recalling the witness of Saint Cajetan, the Pope said he did not go it alone, but instead created a community of regular clerics with the same mission to live the Gospel, imitating the first Apostles. And while there are heroic examples of living out this community life, the Pope said often Christian community life is made up of many daily, small gestures of care, support, and solidarity for one another, gestures that support them in their ministries outside. He encouraged them to speak openly with one another and always avoid the harm of gossip, which can hurt a community.
Mission in today's world
Finally, the Pope recalled their focus on mission in order to discern the signs of the times in order to better proclaim and live the Kingdom of God among all people. He encouraged the Theatines to continue in this way and path, serving one another and the Church, that today, like yesterday, need this passion and service. He also encouraged them to be flexible and to avoid any rigidity, while being firmly rooted in the essentials of prayer, adoration, common life, fraternal charity, poverty, and service to the poor.
In conclusion, the Pope recalled that Saint Cajetan evangelized his native Buenos Aires, and his feast on August 7 marks a great event for the city, the people venerate him as the "patron saint of bread and work." The Pope prayed for his intercession and that of the Blessed Virgin Mary to accompany the Theatines in their journey and commitment to communion and mission.