Speaking to vowed religious, Pope Francis said Christianity must be festive. He praised the special nourishing power of a nun’s smile. “The feast is a theological category of life. And you cannot live the consecrated life without this festive dimension. It's a party. But partying is not the same as making noise,” he said May 16. This festive dimension to life is “one of the things that we Christians forget,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. For Pope Francis, the way to have a party is described in Deuteronomy Chapter 26. The believer brings his “first fruits” in sacrifice to God, thanking him for his kindness. He then goes home and celebrates by sharing his wealth with those who have no family, with neighbors and with slaves. The Pope noted this Bible chapter has a prayer about “the joy of remembering all that God has done for us.” The Pope's remarks were for an audience of vowed religious men and women of the Diocese of Rome on Saturday in Paul VI Hall in Vatican City. “One of the things that you must never, ever miss is a time to hear people! Even in the hours of contemplation, of silence,” he told the audience. He noted that some monasteries have voice mail and people call to ask prayers. “This link is important to the world,” he said. While monastic religious should leave behind “media chatterers,” they should never leave behind knowledge of the world like “news of wars, diseases, of how much people suffer.” The Pope said there are “many graces form the Lord” in the “tension” between the cloistered life of prayer and considering the situation of others. He noted that some monasteries dedicate time each day to give food to those who ask for it. This does not contradict the monastic’s “hiddenness in God,” he said. Rather, this is “a service” and a “smile.” “The smile of the nuns open their hearts! The smile of the nuns feeds more than the bread that came.” He told the vowed religious their vocation is not a “refuge.” Rather, their vocation is “to go into the field of battle and fight and knock at the heart of the Lord for that city. Consecration has a spousal dimension both for men and women. He stressed the “motherhood” of consecrated women and the qualities of “perseverance, loyalty, unity, heart.” Religious sisters are “the icon of the Church of Our Lady,” he said. “Do not forget that the Church is feminine,” he continued, adding that the Church is the “bride of Jesus.” The love and fidelity of consecrated women must “reflect the loyalty, the love, the tenderness of the Mother Church and mother Mary.” Pope Francis said that the Church must help explain the “feminine genius,” noting his previous calls for women to be department heads in the Church. “When we treat a problem among men we arrive at a conclusion, but if we treat the same problem among women, the conclusion will be different: it will go on the same road, but it will be richer, stronger, more intuitive.” He encouraged consecrated religious to look to the concrete action Jesus Christ described in the Beatitudes and in Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew. He said “the whole program is there.” The Pope reflected on the virtue of fruitful obedience, connecting this to the “mystery of Christ” in which Jesus became incarnate “through obedience, up to the cross and death.” While he warned against the temptation to take a “disciplinary attitude” towards obedience, he said that obedience is “the icon of the road of Jesus.” Pope Francis also warned that monastic life can give rise to vices like jealousy, envy, and criticism of superiors. He cautioned against a wrongly competitive spirit between the diocese and congregations or between monastic congregations. He stressed the need for collaboration and unity, despite self-interest and sin. “The bishop should not use the religious as a stopgap, but the religious ought not use the bishop as if he owned a company that gives you a job,” the Pope explained. Pope Francis announced plans to update the 1978 document “Mutuae Relationes,” which addresses relations between vowed religious and the local bishop. The bishops’ synod of 1994 had asked for a reform, but this request was never fulfilled.
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