.- This morning Pope Benedict XVI received, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, members of the National Italian Confederation of the "Misericordias." The Holy Father thanked those gathered for their concrete expressions of love but warned them not to let their volunteer activities become mere activism.
“With your presence and your action, you contribute to the spreading of God’s Gospel of love for all mankind,” the Pontiff said at the beginning of his discourse.
“The Misericordias,” he continued, “are the oldest type of volunteer organization to have arisen in the world.” The group, according to its founder was formed, “to give honor to God with works of mercy towards neighbors, with the utmost anonymity and totally without cost,” the Holy Father pointed out.
The Pope reminded the group how, in man’s final encounter with the Lord, “He will ask us if, in the length of our earthy existence, we provided food for the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty; if we welcomed the stranger and opened the doors of our hearts to the needy. In a word, at the final judgment God will ask us if we loved, not in an abstract way, but concretely, with our works.”
Citing St. John of the Cross, he recalled that, “at the end of our lives we will be judged by love,” and continued by affirming that, “love is a language which goes directly to the heart and opens it to faith.”
“I exhort you,” the Holy Father said, “to always be ready to respond when you are asked for the reason for the hope which is with in you.”
The Pope also reflected on the important work the group does in preserving the “Christian roots” of Italy and Europe. The Holy Father affirmed that, “the Misericordias are not an ecclesial aggregation, but that its historical roots are unmistakably Christian.”
To maintain its roots, the Pope emphasized the need for carrying out “periodical moments of qualification and training, to study evermore the human and Christian motives of our activities.”
“The risk,” he added, “is that volunteering can be reduced to a simple activism. If instead the spiritual weight remains vital, you can share with others much more than just the material goods they need, you can offer to your neighbor facing difficulties, the gaze of love which he needs.”
He also referred to the “educational function,” by which the Misericoridas, give life to the noble virtues of fraternity and, “the disinterested assistance of those in the midst of difficulties.”
“In particular,” the Holy Father concluded, “young people can draw the benefit of the volunteer experience, because if correctly approached, it becomes for them a ‘school of life,’ which helps them to give to their own existence a sense and a purpose which is higher and more profound.”