Pope Francis Meets with Redemptorists
In October the Holy Father Francis received the participants of the Redemptorists’ 26th General Chapter in an audience at the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. Newly elected Superior General Father Rogério Gomes presented to the Holy Father some of the conclusions of the reflections and the commitment of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer for the next six years. The Holy Father then addressed St. Alphonsus’ spiritual sons with a message for the occasion.
Below is the address of the Holy Father to participants in the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer:
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!
I greet with joy all the Redemptorist missionaries present in the 85 countries in which the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer operates. I also greet all those on the path of formation, the Redemptorist religious, the whole charismatic family and the laity associated with the mission. I greet you with affection and I thank the new Superior General, Father Rogério Gomes, for the words he addressed to me.
Celebrating a General Chapter is not a canonical formality. It is living a Pentecost, which has the capacity to make all things new (cf. Rev 21,5). In the Upper Room the disciples of Jesus had doubts, insecurities, fears, they wanted to remain firm and protected; but the Spirit who blows where he wants (cf. Jn 3: 8) causes them to move, to go out, to go towards the peripheries to bring the kerygma, the beautiful News.
In these days you are addressing five important themes for your Congregation: identity, mission, consecrated life, formation and governance. These are fundamental themes, connected to each other, to rethink your charism in the light of the signs of the times. This community discernment is rooted in the capacity of each of you to seek the mystery of Christ the Redeemer, which is the reason for your consecration and your service to the men and women who live on the existential peripheries of our history today. It is rooted in the fruitfulness of the Alphonsian charism, as the lymph that nourishes the spiritual life and mission of each one and makes it flourish again. I encourage you to dare, having the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church as the only boundary. Do not be afraid to take new paths, to dialogue with the world (cf. Const. 19), in the light of your rich tradition of moral theology. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty in the service of the most needy and people who don’t count.
In your Constitutions, there is a very beautiful expression, where it is said that Redemptorists are willing to face every trial to bring Christ’s redemption to everyone (cf. n. 20). Availability. We do not take this word for granted! It means giving oneself entirely to the mission, with all one’s heart; dies impendere pro redemptis, right up to the last consequences, with the gaze fixed on Jesus who, “despite being in the condition of God […], emptied himself by assuming the condition of a servant, becoming similar to men “(Phil 2: 6-7); and he became a good Samaritan, a servant (cf Lk 10,25-37; Jn 13,1-15).
Brothers and sisters, the Church and consecrated life are experiencing a unique historical moment in which they have the possibility of renewing themselves in order to respond with creative fidelity to the mission of Christ. This renewal goes through a process of conversion of the heart and mind, of intense metanoia, and also through a change of structures. Sometimes we need to break the old amphorae (cf. Jn 4:28), inherited from our traditions, which have brought a lot of water but have now fulfilled their function. And breaking our jars, full of affection, cultural customs, stories, is not an easy task, it is painful, but it is necessary if we want to drink the new water that comes from the source of the Holy Spirit, the source of all renewal. Those who remain attached to their own certainties risk falling into sclerocardia, which prevents the action of the Spirit in the human heart. Instead, we must not put obstacles to the renewing action of the Spirit, first of all in our hearts and in our lifestyles. Only in this way can we become missionaries of hope!
Your Constitutions affirm: “The Congregation, always preserving its own charism, must adapt its structures and institutions to the requirements of the apostolic ministry and to those peculiar to each mission” (n. 96). “New wine in new wineskins” (Mk 2:22). “A renewal unable to touch and change the structures and the heart does not lead to a real and lasting change. […] It requires an openness to imagine forms of prophetic and charismatic following, lived in adequate and perhaps unprecedented patterns.” (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life)
In this process of re-imagining and renewing the Congregation, three fundamental pillars must not be forgotten: the centrality of the mystery of Christ, community life and prayer. The testimony and teachings of St. Alphonsus continually remind you to “remain in the love” of the Lord. Without him we can do nothing; remaining in him we bear fruit (cf. Jn 15: 1-9). The abandonment of community life and prayer is the door to sterility in consecrated life, the death of the charism and closure towards the brothers. Instead, docility to the Spirit of Christ pushes us to evangelize the poor, according to the announcement of the Redeemer in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4: 14-19), concretized in the congregation by St. Alphonsus Maria de ‘Liguori. This mission, carried out by your saints, martyrs, blessed and venerable, leads Redemptorists from all over the world to give their lives for the Gospel and to write stories of redemption on the pages of our time.
I wish the new General Government, the first body for the animation of the apostolic life of the Congregation, humility, unity, wisdom and discernment to guide your Institute in this beautiful and challenging moment in our history. The work is of the Lord, we are only servants who have done what we had to do (cf. Lk 17:10). Those who appropriate the leadership function for a personal interest do not serve the Lord who washed the disciples’ feet, but the idols of worldliness and selfishness.
Dear brothers, I entrust your Congregation to the protection of the Mother of Perpetual Help, so that you always accompany you as she accompanied her Son at the foot of the cross (cf. Jn 19:25). You are not alone, be loved and guarded children. I pray to the Lord that you may be faithful and persevering in your mission, never forgetting the poorest and most abandoned you serve, and to whom you announce the Good News of the Redemption. I cordially bless you, the sisters and the lay faithful who share your charism. And I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you!