Pope Francis receives Bridgettine and Comboni religious sisters in Rome for their General Chapters Pope Francis receives Bridgettine and Comboni religious sisters in Rome for their General Chapters  (Vatican Media) #SistersProject

Pope urges religious sisters to put relationship with Christ first

Pope Francis encourages Bridgettine and Comboni religious sisters to put Jesus first, to turn to Him constantly in Eucharistic Adoration, and to learn from the beautiful personal prayer of Pope St. John Paul II.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis reminded religious sisters that Jesus is always their starting point for interior and community renewal, and that their constant relationship with Christ is indispensable.

The Pope's words came in his address at the Vatican on Saturday morning to members participating in the General Chapters of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget and of the Comboni missionary sisters.

Recalling that 22 October marks the Feast Day of St. Pope John Paul II, the date on which he began his Petrine Ministry, the Pope praised his predecessor as a man of God, and told the sisters that we can all learn from the Polish Pope's intense spirituality and prayer life.

Pope Francis first addressed the Bridgettines, whose order was founded in the year 1370 by St. Bridget of Sweden and is present in 19 countries globally. He encouraged them in their ministry and to give praise and honor to God in all they do. 

The Holy Father also expressed the Church's gratitude to the sisters for their witness and their apostolic work around the world. The Pope stressed that we cannot be renewed without the Lord, for "we start from Him and return to Him." 

“In the first place for us is always the spiritual life, the personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. If the spiritual life is missing, you are finished, there is no exit.”

Bridgettine Family

Faithful to the particular monastic vocation that distinguishes the Bridgettine family, he said, "you are called to confirm the primacy of God in the existence of each one of you and of your communities." 

“It is beautiful to worship in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, to be in the consoling presence of Jesus and there to draw the apostolic impetus to be instruments of goodness, tenderness and welcome in the community, in the Church and in the world.”

Welcoming others, added the Pope,  will help the nuns become more fruitful since "contemplative prayer will make you come out of yourself and focus your life on Christ, letting Him act in you."

He expressed that doing so will empower their service, and that charity must be lived out, first of all in the daily activities of community life, as in a family, through small gestures.

Pope Francis with a Bridgettine Sister
Pope Francis with a Bridgettine Sister

Serving victims of modern-day slavery, and the most fragile

Pope Francis then addressed the Comboni Missionary Sisters, who have been focusing on the theme "Transformed by our charism, missionary disciples to the existential peripheries," and praised their work to serve the most fragile.

“In this missionary donation, I encourage you to imitate the apostolic ardour of Saint Daniele Comboni, who 150 years ago, animated by the love of God and a passion for the Gospel, felt the call to give life to your Institute thinking of the poorest and most abandoned of Sudan, victims of slavery.”

By imitating the compassion and tenderness of their founder, he said, they will know how to best serve the victims of modern-day slavery. 

The Pope lamented those people who are enslaved in prostitution, human trafficking, forced labour, organ sales, drug use, shamefully exploited child labour, migrants, victims of hidden interests.

"We cannot overcome the problem of these slaveries without eliminating their deeper causes," he noted, "among which are poverty, inequality, and discrimination."

In the midst of these realities, the Pope said, "you wish to show a Christian response, which does not lie in resigned observation, but in charity that, animated by trust in Providence, knows how to love its time and, with humility, bears witness to the Gospel."

Pope St. John Paul II - 'A man of God'

The Pope again recalled Pope St. John Paul II as a man of God who prayed often, even amid the burdens of his ministry.

“He thus bore concrete witness that the first task of a Christian, of a consecrated person, of a priest and of a bishop is to pray, and that personal prayer must not be neglected for any reason.”

Another aspect of the life and witness of "this holy Pontiff," the Pope said, "was his closeness to God's people, which he expressed by seeking contact with the people and travelling to all continents to make himself close to all, to the great and the small, the healthy and the sick, the near and the far."

"Inspired by him, it will do you good to look at reality with the eyes of the Lord Jesus; and it will help you to walk in joy, docile to the Spirit, and to make of your charisms an incarnate prophecy," he said.

Virgin Mary's protection

The Pope prayed that the Holy Spirit will give the religious sisters "strength to face the challenges, present and future, and constancy in your ecclesial service, and that the Virgin Mary protect, help and guide them on the path of your Religious Institutes, to bring every good project to fruition."

Pope Francis with Bridgettine and Comboni Missionary religious sisters
Pope Francis with Bridgettine and Comboni Missionary religious sisters

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22 October 2022, 12:25