Rome, Italy, Mar 21, 2015 / 11:30 am
In a wide-ranging, off-the-cuff speech to priests and religious in Naples, Pope Francis addressed various challenges of consecrated life, emphasizing above all the importance of poverty and resisting gossip.
“For me there is a sign that there is no fraternity in the presbyterate or in religious communities. The sign is gossip…the terrorism of gossip,” the Pope told priests, religious and seminarians of Naples during his March 21 daytrip.
“The person who gossips is a terrorist who drops a bomb, destroys, and they are outside – at (the) least they did a kamikaze…they destroy others.”
Although living in community “is not easy,” rather that gossiping about someone you don’t like or get along with, tell the person “face to face” if there is a problem, go to the bishop or whichever authority can mediate in the situation, the Pope said.
Pope Francis’ harsh condemnation against gossip came in comments made regarding the dangers to fraternal life among priests and religious communities, which he noted is a key aspect of consecrated life.
His meeting with Naples’ priests, religious and seminarians took place in the city’s cathedral following a meeting with persons from various social backgrounds, including immigrants and workers, and a Mass during which he condemned mafia activity in the area and urged the criminals to convert.
In addition to challenges regarding fraternal living, Francis also spoke to the priests and religious of the need to practice the works of mercy.
“We have forgotten the works of mercy,” he said, and asked those present how many of them have forgotten to put both corporal and spiritual works of mercy into practice.
The works of mercy aren’t just the deeds that “the old ladies in the neighborhoods do,” the Pope continued, and gave the example of someone who knows of a sick person in their area and wants to help them, but it’s time for the soap opera, and “between the soap opera and the work of mercy I choose the soap opera.”
Francis said that this example reminded him of some sisters he knew in first diocese he was assigned to who were good and worked hard, but lived in a house that was old and needed to be repaired.
However, when the sisters redid their house they didn’t just do it well, but “they did it too well, even luxurious, because they put a television in every room.”
And when the time for the soap opera came, “you couldn’t find a single sister in the convent!” he said, explaining that “these are the things which bring the spirit of worldliness.”
To live with a worldly spirit is not what Jesus wanted, Francis said, and recalled how in his prayer to God the Father before his arrest, Jesus said “I don’t ask you to take me out of the world, but to defend me from the spirit of the world.”
When a consecrated person lives in the “spirit of prayer,” they give a witness that people can see, the Pope said, explaining that even with a lack of vocations this witness is enough to make a person say “I want to be like that priest, or I want to be like this sister.”
Pope Francis also spoke of the importance of consecrated persons to live the “spirit of poverty,” even for those who haven’t made a vow to do it.
When the Church isn’t living this spirit and when the desire for profit creeps into the hearts of priests and religious, “it’s ugly,” he said, and called to mind the story of another religious woman he knew who was a good person and was “thrifty” in her work, but was too attached to money.
Even though this sister was unaware of this and did her work well, “her heart was so attached to money and (she selected people) based off of the money they had.”
This woman’s “final humiliation” came when she was around 70 years-old and suddenly lost consciousness and collapsed in a living room full of professors while on a coffee break between classes at her school, the Pope said.
Francis recalled that while people were slapping her face trying to revive her, one professor came and said “but put a bill for 100 pesos in front of her and let’s see if she responds then.”
“The poor thing was already dead, but this was the last word that was spoken when they still didn’t know whether she was dead or not. It’s a terrible witness,” he said.
“Consecrated men or women religious who are businessmen, no! The spirit of poverty is not the spirit of misery!” Francis said, explaining that those priests who haven’t made a vow of poverty can still have their savings, but in an “honest and reasonable way.”
Poverty is the first beatitude, he said, and asked each person present to do an examination of conscience, asking themselves “how is my life of poverty?”
Francis also touched on the importance of praying to and confiding in Mary as our mother, who brings Jesus to us, as well as the joy that consecrated life should emit.
He concluded by underlining the importance of not only praying to the Lord, but adoring him, of loving Jesus’ spouse, the Church and of having the apostolic zeal to go out of oneself and bear witness to the Gospel and revelation of Jesus.