Dream, prophesy, don't focus just on survival, pope tells religious

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When religious orders focus on
survival rather than on sharing the joy and hope of faith in Jesus, they end up
being “professionals of the sacred, but not fathers and mothers,”
Pope Francis said.

“The temptation of survival turns what the Lord
presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous, threatening,
potentially disastrous,” the pope told consecrated men and women who
joined him Feb. 2 for Mass on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the
World Day for Consecrated Life.

Speaking as a fellow member of a religious order, Pope
Francis urged religious to keep alive the faith, hope and audacity of the men and
women who founded the orders to which they belong.

“We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had
the courage to dream,” he said during the Mass, which began with the
blessing of candles celebrating the presentation of Christ as the light of the

The feast day Gospel reading from St. Luke tells the story
of Mary and Joseph bringing the newborn Jesus to the temple in fulfillment of
the law. The elderly and pious Simeon and Anna are in the temple and rejoice
when they see Jesus, recognizing him as the Messiah.

Simeon and Anna, the pope said, testified that “life is
worth living in hope because the Lord keeps his promise.”

The pope said religious have inherited Simeon and
Anna’s hymn of hope from their founders and elders, who “had the courage
to dream.”

Hope in the Lord and the prophetic announcement of his
presence “will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated
life barren: the temptation of survival” and of preserving institutions
above all else, said the pope, a member of the Jesuit order.

“The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries,
fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own
preconceived notions,” he said. “It makes us look back to the glory
days — days that are past — and rather than rekindling the prophetic
creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to
evade the challenges knocking on our doors today.

“A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because
it leads us to ‘domesticate’ them, to make them ‘user-friendly,’ robbing them
of their original creative force,” Pope Francis continued. “It makes
us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage
new initiatives.”

The temptation of survival, he said, “turns us into
professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters
of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness.”

Like Mary and Joseph, religious are called to bring Jesus
into the midst of his people, the pope said. “Only this will make our
lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive.”

All Christians, but especially those consecrated with the
vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, are called to be the leaven of the
Gospel in the world, he said.

“Perhaps there are better brands of flour, but the Lord
has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face. Not on
the defensive or motivated by fear,” he said, “but with our hands on
the plow, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been sown
among weeds.”

“Putting Jesus in the midst of his people,” he
said, “means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and
sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world
in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.”

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