Vocations crisis needs prayer, not despair or lax admissions, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Respond to the crisis of vocations
with intensified prayer, not despair or a lax admissions process, Pope Francis
told women and men religious.

He said he is tempted to lose hope, too, asking God,
“What is happening? Why is the womb of consecrated life sterile?”

But he warned against fast fixes, saying some religious
“congregations experiment with ‘artificial insemination,'” in which
they accept anybody, leading to a host of problems.

The vocations process must be done “with
seriousness, and one must discern well that this is a true vocation and help it
grow,” he told members of religious orders, secular institutes and
consecrated virgins Feb. 1 in the Vatican audience hall.

The pope met with some 5,000 men and women taking part in
events in Rome to mark the close of the Year for Consecrated life, which began
Nov. 30, 2014, and was to end Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord
and the Jubilee of Consecrated Life.

Handing his written text over to Cardinal Joao Braz de
Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Institutes for
Apostolic Life, Pope Francis said he preferred to speak from his heart
“because it’s a bit boring to read” a prepared talk.

Both his prepared text and his impromptu talk highlighted
the three most important “pillars” of consecrated life: being
prophetic; being near all people; and having hope.

It is important to be obedient while being prophetic,
which is always about following God and reflecting his divine love, he told his

Obedience for a religious is not the same as
“military obedience,” he said; it’s about giving one’s heart and
seeking to discern what is being asked.

If the rules or requirements are not clear, then one must
speak with one’s superior and always obey the final word, he said. “This
is prophecy — against the seeds of anarchy, which are sown by the devil.”

Just doing whatever one feels like is “anarchy of
the will,” which is “the child of the devil, not God.”

Jesus wasn’t an anarchist, the pope said; he didn’t round
up his disciples to fight against his enemies. While he pleaded that God
“take this cup from me,” he still requested his father’s will be

Likewise, the pope said, if members of a religious
community are asked to obey something that doesn’t sit well, then — he
gestured taking a big pill and gulping it down. “Since my Italian is so
poor I have to speak sign language,” he smiled, adding that “one must
stomach that obedience.”

Being prophetic is telling and showing the world that
“there is something truer, more beautiful, greater and better that we are
all called to,” he said.

Consecrated men and women are called “not to
distance myself from the people and live in comfort,” but to be close to
Christians and non-Christians in order to understand their problems and needs,
he said.

However, when it comes to offering love and attention,
the sisters and brothers who live in one’s community get priority, he said,
especially elderly members who may be isolated in an infirmary.

“I know that you never gossip in your communities.
Never, ever!” the pope said smiling.

Backstabbing and gossip are a danger to religious life,
he said.

“Whoever gossips is a terrorist,” he said,
because they drop harmful words like bombs against others, leaving behind
destruction while the attacker walks away unscathed.

“If you feel like saying something against a brother
or sister,” he said, “bite your tongue. Hard. No terrorism in your

Resolve differences or problems face-to-face with the
person in question, he said. But when it’s time for general chapters or other
forums involving community life, then people need to be forthright in voicing
concerns openly and frankly.

He said, “In public, you have to say everything you
feel because there is the temptation to not say things during the chapter”
meetings, which then leads to resentment afterward.

“During this Year of Mercy, if each one of you were
able to never be a gossip-terrorist it would be a success for the church, a
success of great holiness. Be brave!” he said.

The pope thanked religious men and women for their work,
especially consecrated women. “What would the church be if there were no
sisters?” he asked, recalling their presence in Catholic hospitals,
schools, parishes and missions around the world.

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A video to accompany this story can be found at https://youtu.be/b8kym7OqTVs

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