On the morning of Monday, May 29, Pope Francis received in audience the Regular Clerics of St. Paul, better known as the Barnabites. In 2011, the order consisted of approximately 403 religious. We offer below the address given to them by the Pope.
I am happy to share this moment of encounter with you, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Anthony Marie Zacharie and as you prepare for two important General Chapters. You are Fathers, Sisters and lay people, united in three “colleges”, as your Founder called them; all animated by the apostolic spirit of Saint Paul, who inspired your origins and under whose protection you continue to work in various parts of the world.
I am guided by a characteristic expression of Saint Anthony Mary. He used to tell his followers, “You have to run like crazy!” Run towards God and towards others”. Running like crazy, not being crazy running, is something else! From this typically Pauline exhortation, I would like to highlight three aspects: relationship with Christ, apostolic zeal and creative value.
In the experience of Zechariah himself, the basis of the mission is to “run towards God”, that is to say a strong relationship with the Lord Jesus, cultivated from his youth on a serious path of growth, in especially by meditating on the Word of God with the help of two good religious. This is what led him first to catechetical compromise, then to the priesthood and finally to religious foundation. This type of relationship with Christ is also fundamental for us, to tell everyone, having lived it personally, that life is not the same with or without the Lord (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 266), for continue to “run towards the goal”, as Saint Paul says, and to involve in this race those who have gone before us. Our missionary proclamation is not proselytism – I emphasize this a lot – but the sharing of a personal encounter that changed our life. Without it, we have nothing to announce, nor a destination to march towards together.
I had, in this, a bad experience, during a meeting of young people a few years ago. I came out of the sacristy and there was a lady, very elegant, you could also see that she was very rich, with a boy and a girl. And this lady, who spoke Spanish, said to me: Father, I am happy because I have converted these two: this one is from such a place and this one is from such another “. I got angry, you know, and I said to him: “You did not convert anything, you disrespected these people: you did not accompany them, you proselytized them and that is not evangelizing ». « I was proud to have converted !” Be careful to distinguish between apostolic action and proselytism: we do not proselytize. The Lord has never proselytized.
“Run towards others”: this is the second indication. This too is fundamental. Indeed, if we lose sight, in our life of faith, of the horizon of proclamation, we end up shutting ourselves up in ourselves and drying up in the moors of self-referentiality (cf. General Audience of January 11 2023). It happens to us like an athlete who continues to prepare for the great race of his life without ever starting: sooner or later he ends up depressed and begins to let go, his enthusiasm dies out. And so one becomes a sad disciple. We don’t want to become sad disciples. Here too, I ask a question: is this worm of sadness in me? Sometimes in me, religious, layman, do I let this worm enter? Someone said that a sad Christian is a sad Christian: it’s true. But in us, consecrated, sadness must not enter, and if someone feels this sadness, go immediately before the Lord and ask for light, and ask a brother to help him out.
This is why Jesus places in the very roots of the Church the commandment: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15); and Saint Paul confirms this when he says, speaking of his apostolate: “I cannot help it, and woe to me if I do not proclaim Christ (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). There was no room for sadness, I wanted to move on. Woe to us if we do not proclaim Christ! This is why I encourage you to go forward in the direction indicated by your charism: “To carry everywhere the living Spirit of Christ”. The “living” Spirit of Christ is the one who conquers the heart, the one who does not make you sit down in your armchair, but makes you go towards the brothers, with a light backpack and a gaze full of charity. Bring this Spirit everywhere, without excluding anyone and also opening yourselves to new forms of apostolate, in a changing world that needs flexible minds and open minds, shared paths of research, to identify the right ways to transmit the only Gospel of all times.
And with that, we come to the third point: “running like crazy” – which is not the same as being crazy running, it’s different -, that is, creative courage . It is not so much a question of developing sophisticated techniques of evangelization, but, as Saint Paul says, of doing “everything to everyone, to save someone at any cost” (1 Cor 9,22), not to stop in the face of difficulties and to look beyond the horizons of habit and a quiet life, of “it’s always been done that way”.
Saint Antoine-Marie had this courage, creating institutions new for his time: a congregation for the reform of the clergy at a time when so many clerics had become accustomed to a comfortable and privileged life; an uncloistered women’s religious congregation, dedicated to evangelization, at a time when, for women, the consecrated life was cloistered; a congregation of lay missionaries actively engaged in proclamation, at a time when a certain clericalism dominated. These were new realities – he was creative, but true to the gospel. These realities did not exist before: the Founder understood that they could be useful for the good of the Church and of society, and therefore he invented them and defended them before those who did not understand their meaning and meaning. utility, until coming to Rome to report on it. And in this there is an important lesson, because he did not exercise his creativity outside the Church: he did it inside, accepting corrections and reproaches, seeking to explain and to illustrate the reasons for his choices and by preserving communion in obedience.
I will conclude by recalling one last important value for your “colleges”: the importance of working together. Communion in life and in the apostolate is indeed the first witness that you are called to give, especially in a world divided by struggles and selfishness. It is written in the DNA of Christian life and the apostolate: “Let all be one” (Jn 17,21), as the Lord prayed. Moreover, the same word “college” indicates precisely this: chosen to be together, to live, work, pray, suffer and rejoice together, as a community. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters: “Run like mad, towards God and towards each other, together! “. And may Our Lady, who rushed to help Elizabeth, accompany you. I bless you with all my heart. And please don’t forget to pray for me. THANKS.
Translation of the original in English by ZENIT.
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