Christ-like obedience, the “terrorism of gossip”, and hope for future vocations were some of the themes Pope Francis addressed during a Monday audience marking the end of the Year for Consecrated Life.
Some 5,000 religious men and women attended the audience to mark the end of the year dedicated to the consecrated vocation, which ends Tuesday.
Setting aside the prepared text, Pope Francis delivered an off-the-cuff address Feb. 1 in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, which centered on what he said were three of the core pillars of the religious life: prophecy, nearness to others, and hope.
Pope Francis began by reflecting on obedience of the consecrated person, which is essentially “prophecy.”
Religious men and women, he said, are carried by a “strong poverty” and “chaste love” toward a “spiritual paternity and maternity for the Church, an obedience.”
The obedience of a consecrated person — to the rule and to their superior — is a “gift of the heart,” he added.
The Pope contrasted such obedience with what he described as the “seeds of anarchy” which are sewn by the devil. “The anarchy of the will is the child of the devil, not a child of God,” the Roman Pontiff said.
Pope Francis drew attention to the example of Christ, who was not an “anarchist” who used force against his enemies, but rather was obedient to his Father.
The second pillar which Pope Francis focused on was that of proximity to others.
Consecrated men and women are called to be near to the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike — and this is true even for those in the cloister, he said.
Moreover, the consecrated life is not a “status” which separates us: rather, it drives us toward a physical and spiritual closeness to others.
Pope Francis especially stressed the importance of maintaining this nearness with the brothers and sisters of their respective communities.
In this context, the Pope warned against what he referred to as the “terrorism of gossip” within the community. A gossip, he said, is like a terrorist who unleashes a bomb within the community.
If consecrated men and women were to avoid gossip during the current Jubilee Year of Mercy, it would be a “success for the Church.”
Finally, in addressing hope, the third pillar of consecrated life, Pope Francis spoke on the decline in vocations seen in some communities.
In view of dwindling and aging communities, the temptation to lose hope “gives us sterility,” the Pope said. Rather, we must pray for more vocations, he said, citing the Old Testament figure of the then-childless Hannah who prayed tirelessly to God for a son.
Pope Francis warned that dwindling vocations can cause communities to turn to money. The Pope reminded those present to place their hope in God instead.
The Roman Pontiff concluded his address by thanking the consecrated men and women for all they do, each with their own respective charism.
“May the Lord give birth to sons and daughters in your congregations,” he said. “And pray for me.”
The Year for Consecrated Life began Nov. 30, 2015, and will conclude Feb. 2.