Prayer necessary for consecrated life, Pope Francis notes

Pope Francis participants in a conference organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life May 4 2018 Credit Vatican Media CNA Pope Francis addresses consecrated men and women at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, May 4, 2018. | Vatican Media.

Prayer, poverty, and patience are essential to living religious life, Pope Francis said Friday to a gathering of consecrated men and women.

The pope set aside his prepared remarks and spoke extemporaneously May 4 at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall to some 700 participants in a conference organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

He was reflecting on discernment and how to avoid losing oneself among worldliness and provocations.

The pope jokingly said the Holy Spirit "is a calamity, because he never tires of being creative."

"Now, with the new forms of consecrated life, he is so creative, with the charisms … He is the author of diversity, but at the same time is Creator of unity. This is the Holy Spirit. And with the diversity of charisms and many things, he makes a unity of the Body of Christ, and also the unity of consecrated life. And this too is a challenge."

Francis posited that the Holy Spirit wants prayer, poverty, and patience to stay strong in consecrated life.

For the consecrated person, prayer is "turning always to the first call … to that Person who has called me," he said.

Consecrated life is a call to renounce all things for the sake of the gospel, and for the consecrated person "every prayer has to turn back to this … prayer is that which makes me work for the Lord, not for my interests or for the institution in which I work, no, for the Lord."

Pope Francis reiterated that for the consecrated person prayer is a return to the meeting with the Lord in which they were called by him.

"And prayer, in the consecrated life, is the air which makes us breathe that call, renew that call. Without this air we could not be good consecrated persons. We would be perhaps good persons, Christians, Catholics who do many works in the Church, but consecration you must continually renew, in prayer, in an encounter with the Lord," he said.

CNA contacted the Holy See Press Office about these unclear remarks concerning prayer and those living in the world, but did not receive a response by deadline.

The Pope went on to say that there are no excuses for not devoting time to prayer, including busyness, pointing to St. Teresa of Calcutta as an example. Someone might say: "But I'm busy, I'm busy, I have so many things to do," he pointed out, stating "[prayer] is more important: Go pray."

St. Teresa of Calcutta had concerns, he acknowledged, yet "the two hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, nobody took them away from her… Do as she did, do the same."

Another reason prayer is so important for men and women in consecrated life, he said, is that it helps to direct action to the correct purpose, keeping the focus on God, instead of just serving an institution or one's own interests.

"Search for your Lord, the one who called you… Not just in the morning," he said. "Everyone must look for how to do it, where to do it, when to do it. But always do it, pray. One cannot live the consecrated life, one cannot discern what is happening without speaking with the Lord."

Pope Francis then turned to poverty, which he noted St. Ignatius of Loyola called the mother of consecrated life.

"Without poverty there is no fecundity in consecrated life," he said. The spirit of poverty is necessary for discernment, and is a defense against all that would destroy consecrated life.

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Even in religious life there can be a worldliness, the Pope said, which comes from a lack of poverty; vanity; and pride.

Francis finally spoke about the quality of patience in consecrated life, which, he said, is not just about bearing patiently with those with whom we live and work – it is also about bearing patiently with the suffering of the world, "carrying [it] on the shoulders."

"Enter into patience," he said, because without patience "you cannot be magnanimous, you cannot follow the Lord."

Internal struggles in a congregation and careerism at general chapters are attributable to impatience, the Pope said.

There must even be patience in the face of a lack of vocations, he added. Choosing to stop accepting members and to sell off the community's property is a sign that the congregation "is close to death" and has become attached to money, rather than having the patience to pray for new vocations.

This "art of dying well" – a congregation choosing not to pursue prospective vocations – is a "spiritual euthanasia" which "doesn't have the courage to follow the Lord … We follow [Jesus] to a certain point and by the first or second trial, goodbye."

The pope concluded by telling the consecrated men and women that they will surely be fruitful if they are prayerful, poor, and patient.

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