Vatican City, 3 September 2015 (VIS) – Contemplation, service, fraternity – three facets of priestly life that Pope Francis proposed to the participants in the general chapter of the Schoenstatt Fathers. The Apostolic Schoenstatt Movement was founded on 18 October 1914 by Fr. Jose Kentenich as a path of spiritual renewal within the Catholic Church, and his name is drawn from the Marian shrine near Koblenz, Germany, which houses the image of Our Lady, and where there are the head offices of the movement’s communities, now present in 42 countries. The Secular Institute of Schoenstatt Fathers was instituted by Fr. Jose Kentenich on 18 July 1965, in the service of the Apostolic Movement.
The Pope remarked that, after these years of progress, their concern is to “keep alive your foundational charism and the ability to communicate it to the young, so as to continue to inspire and support your lives and your mission. You are aware that a charism is not a museum piece, that remains intact in a display cabinet, to be contemplated alone. Fidelity, keeping the charism pure, does not in any way mean closing it in a sealed bottle, like distilled water, so that it is not contaminated by the outside world. … Fr. Kentenich expressed this very well when he said that it was necessary to keep an ear to God’s heart and a hand on the pulse of the time. … These are the two pillars of an authentic spiritual life”.
The Pope went on to speak about contact with God: “it is not a good approach to neglect prayer or, worse still, to abandon it with the excuse of a demanding ministry. … It would be a grave error to think that the charism stays alive focusing on external structures … or forms. God frees us from the spirit of functionalism. The vitality of the charism is rooted in the ‘first love’, renewed daily, in our willingness to listen and to respond with loving generosity. … May this healthy and necessary ‘decentralisation’ work in us, so that we set ourselves aside to allow Christ to occupy the centre of our life”.
The second pillar is formed by the expression “taking the pulse of the time”, that is, reality and people. “We must not be afraid of reality”, emphasised Francis. “Dialogue with God in prayer also leads us to listen to his voice in the people and the situations that surround us. We do not have two separate ears, one for God and one for reality. … When we meet with our brothers, especially those who in our eyes or in the eyes of the world are less agreeable, what do we see? Do we realise that God loves them, that they are of the same flesh that Christ assumed, or are we indifferent to their problems? … In prayer we learn not to pass by Christ Who suffers in His brothers. Let us learn to serve”.
“You are practically the last reality of the Movement founded by Fr. Kentenich, and this carries an important lesson, and is very good”, observed the Pope. “This fact of being the ‘last’ clearly reflects the role held by priests in relation to their brothers. The priest must never be above or in front of others, but instead must walk alongside them, loving them with the same love of Christ, Who came not to be served but rather to serve and to give His life in return for so many others. … Let us ask the Lord to give us shoulders as strong as His, to carry those who are without hope, those who seem lost, those to whom no-one offers a glance … and free us from ‘careerism’ in our priestly life”.
Finally, the Pope commented on priestly fraternity. “Please, never be alone”, he warned. “The presbyteral ministry cannot be conceived of in an individual or, worse still, individualist way. Fraternity is the great school of discipleship. … It is not we who choose our brothers, but we have the conscious and fruitful option to love them as they are, with their flaws and their virtues. … Please, may there not be any indifference in your communities. Behave as men: if disagreements or differences of opinion arise, do not worry: better the heat of the argument than the coldness of indifference, which is the real tomb of fraternal charity”.
At the end of the meeting the Pope gave three recommendations to the Schoenstatt priests. “Firstly, accompany and care for families, so that they are able to live the holy alliance of love and life, especially those who experience moments of crisis or difficulty. Secondly, and thinking of the upcoming jubilee of mercy, dedicate plenty of time to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Be great forgivers. … May you be witnesses of God’s mercy and tenderness in your communities. And thirdly, pray for me, as I need your prayers”, he concluded.