Women who are consecrated to God live “the prophecy of joy," and this authentic joy is their most credible witness, Pope Francis told leaders of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master on Monday.
“The world today is in need of this: that joy that arises from the encounter with Christ in a life of personal and community prayer, in daily listening to the Word, in the encounter with brothers and sisters, in a happy fraternal life in the community, including fragility, and in the embrace of the flesh of Christ in the poor. Prophets of a joy that is born of feeling loved and therefore forgiven," he said May 22.
“Joy is a beautiful reality in the life of many consecrated persons, but it is also a great challenge for all of us," he said, adding “authentic joy, not self-referential or complacent, is the most credible witness of a full life."
The Pope addressed an audience of sisters gathered in Rome in recent weeks for the 9th General Chapter of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. The general chapter has elected its new superior general and other leaders.
He emphasized his point about joy, saying “this joy that fills your hearts and manifests itself on your faces will lead you to go out to the peripheries, participating in the joy of the Church, that is evangelization."
“But to do this there must be a true joy, not counterfeit joy. Do not falsify joy. Evangelization, when you are convinced that Jesus is the Good News, is joy and gladness for all. This joy drives away the cancer of resignation, fruit of the lethargy that withers the soul," he added.
He voiced hope that the sisters’ lives shall bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the master of diversity and unity. He encouraged them “to tirelessly weave unity in legitimate differences, taking account also of the fact that you are present in different countries and cultures."
Pope Francis advocated a cultivation of care and reciprocal acceptance; practicing fraternal correction and respect for weaker sisters, and “banishing from the community all divisions, envy, gossip; saying this with frankness and charity."
The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master were founded in Italy 1924 by Blessed Fr. Giacomo Alberione and Mother Scholastica.
The Pope noted the sisters’ mission of “bringing to the men and women of our time the Gospel," particularly through liturgical service and caring for priests.
He encouraged them to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms and “to combat any form of self-centeredness."
“It is ugly when a consecrated man or woman is self-centered, always looking at him or herself in the mirror. It is ugly," he said.
He also encouraged them to show the fruits of communion with “the men and women of our time."
“Our God is the God of history and our faith is a faith that works in history. In the questions and expectations of the men and women of today, we find important indications for our discipleship of Christ," the Pope said.
He encouraged the general chapter to listen to the sisters of the congregation and to contemporary men and women.
“Never tire of exercising continually the art of listening and sharing," he said. “In this time of great challenges, which demand of consecrated people creative fidelity, impassioned research, listening and sharing are more important than ever before, if we want our life to be fully meaningful for ourselves and for the people we meet."
Pope Francis said this practice requires “a climate of discernment, to recognize what belongs to the Spirit and what is contrary to Him."
“Before us there opens up a world of possibilities," he said. “The culture in which we are immersed presents all of them as valid, all of them as good, but if we do not want to fall victim to the culture of ‘zapping’ and, at times, a culture of death, we must increase our habit of discernment."
He encouraged the sisters to ask two questions at both the personal and community level: “Lord, what do you want me to do? What do you want us to do?"
The Pope warned against the dangers of a spirit of resignation, suggesting that the devil might tempt them by citing their small numbers or their few vocations and otherwise do what he can to make them have long faces.
“I encourage you also to be prophets of hope, with eyes turned to the future, where the Spirit pushes you, to continue to do great things with you," he said. “The hope that does not disappoint is not based on numbers or works, but on Him, for Whom nothing is impossible"
“With this trust and this strength I repeat to you: do not join the prophets of misfortune, who do great damage to the Church and to consecrated life; do not give in to the temptation of torpor – like the Apostles in Gethsemane – and desperation," he said.
“Awaken the world, illuminate the future! Always with a smile, with joy, with hope," the Pope concluded. “May Mary our Mother protect you with her gaze, and the Lord bless you, show you His Face, and grant you peace and mercy."