February 1st, 2014.
There were 82 of us gathered in Don Bosco Centre, Milford. There were others who would have been with us had the weather been a little more clement.
Fr Peter Rodgers, OFM Cap., Director General of CORI, was the speaker. He expressed “great appreciation for the enthusiasm with which the group gathered.” He made us aware that the members of the Executive are more than willing to help in any need which we express to them.
Basing his talk on the words of Pope Francis spoken to the Poor Clare community of Assisi and to the Leaders of religious congregations, Fr Peter constantly referred to the reflections given in the Prayer Leaflet sent by CORI.
Pope Francis has called us to be prophets, “acquainted with reality”. He has pointed out to us that religious life lived “in a wholesome way“ is very rich in human and Gospel values. We can become fully mature human beings.
There have been major changes in the way religious life is lived and expressed in our world. Our religious congregations were founded as a response to a need, but based on the Gospel. The call today is to make religious life speak meaningfully in Ireland in the 21st century – to be religious in a modern world in a Church in the modern world. We do not know what form religious life will take, but we do know that it will be different.
Pope Francis calls us to be prophets by, “demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth”. We can be great nurses, teachers, social workers, etc, but Jesus Christ must be at the centre of all we do. This will not happen unless we are people of prayer. In Romans, Paul tells us that the “love of God was made visible”. Jesus came to reveal the compassion of the heart of God. Jesus did it and he challenges us to do likewise so that nobody is excluded from the embrace of God. We can only do this if we are “in real contact with the poor”. We need “to know reality by experience”.
This asks the question, “ what is the mark of authentic human, Christian and religious living?”. The Holy Father answers, “Joy.” Much of the joy has been squeezed out of our lives by the scandals and the hurt of young people at the hands of our members. But we need to rediscover joy in our lives. The Pope calls on us to “smile, genuinely smile”. He warns us to avoid the “smile of the Flight Attendant,” – a smile that is not genuine, that is not from within.
We discover joy when we live justly, when we promote justice in our dealings with everyone. Justice is expressed in a culture of openness with ourselves and with others. How much remains unsaid at our community meetings.! Community life is for the “upbuilding of each one”. Living the Gospel in community is a sermon in itself.
We need to learn to be a humbler, simpler people in a humbler, simpler Church. We need to look to the future with hope and confidence. This is a time of blessing and new life for religious life, not because we are obsessed with our own survival – that is not a Christian value, – but because we “follow the Lord in a special and prophetic way”.
Where do we see shoots of hope among us today?
Pope Francis calls us to be “men and women who are able to wake the world up,” – to be witnesses of a different way of doing things.