Open hearts with the Gospel message
Pope Francis on Saturday (February 18, 2017) received the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception who are in Rome for their General Chapter, telling them to open hearts with the Gospel message.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report
The Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception was founded, in 1673, in Poland and works in 26 countries around the world.In prepared remarks to the participants of the Congregation’s General Chapter on Saturday, Pope Francis told them that the example of their founder, St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, who was canonized last year, was both the light and guide of their walk and fully understood the meaning of being a disciple of Christ.In this perspective, the Pope said, “your service of the Word is the witness of the Risen Christ, that you have encountered on your path…” adding, that they were called to spread the Gospel message wherever they are sent.
The Pope also underlined that Christian witness requires engagement with and for the poor, noting it was a commitment that has characterized the Congregation.
The Holy Father encouraged the Marian Fathers to keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and the humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel, along with the works of mercy and prayers for the souls of the faithfully departed.
He continued by saying that “the great challenge of inculturation asks you today to announce the Good News in languages and ways understandable to the men and women of our time, involved in rapid social and cultural transformation processes.
The horizons of evangelization and the urgent need to bear witness to the Gospel message, without distinction, the Pope said “constitute the vast field of your apostolate.” Many people, the Holy Father observed, “are still waiting to know Jesus, the one Redeemer of man.”
Such an urgent mission, Pope Francis underlined, “requires personal and community conversion. Only fully open hearts to the action of Grace”, he said, “are able to interpret the signs of the times and to seize the appeals of humanity in need of hope and peace.”
Update from CNA/EWTN News :
Want to reach humanity? Be open to God’s grace, Pope says
– The Christian mission today means facing new challenges with simplicity, holiness, and openness to God, Pope Francis told an audience with the Marian Fathers on Saturday.
“Many still await knowledge of Jesus, the sole Redeemer of man, and many situations of injustice and moral and material hardship challenge believers,” the Pope said Feb. 18. “Such an urgent mission requires conversion at personal and community levels. Only hearts that are fully open to the action of grace are able to interpret the signs of the times and to hear the calls of humanity in need of hope and peace.”
The Pope told the Marian Fathers that their apostolate is a “vast field” constituted by “the urgent need” to bear witness to the gospel before everyone without distinctions.
The Pope received members of the Congregation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday morning in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall. The congregation, present in 20 countries, is holding its general chapter in Rome from Feb. 5-25.
The Pope encouraged their reflections to be done in fidelity with their founder’s charism and their spiritual heritage while also having “a heart and mind open to the new needs of the people.”
“It is true, we must go ahead towards the new needs, the new challenges, but remember: we cannot go ahead without memory,” Pope Francis said. “It is a continual tension. If I want to go ahead without memory of the past, of the history of the founders, the great figures and also the sins of the congregation, I cannot do so.”
The Marian Fathers was founded by St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary in Poland in 1673. He was canonized in 2016.
Pope Francis told the congregation’s members that their service to God’s word is “witness to the Risen Christ, whom you have met on your journey and whom, with your style of life, you are called to take wherever the Church sends you.”
“Christian witness also requires commitment to and with the poor, a commitment that has characterized your Institute since the beginning,” the Pope continued. “I encourage you to keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel with language understandable to them, with works of mercy and prayer for the souls of the departed.”
The Pope stressed the importance of simplicity as a spiritual foundation.
“We are not princes, sons of princes or counts or barons: we are simple people, of the people. And for this reason we draw close with this simplicity to the simple people and those who suffer the most: the sick, children, the abandoned elderly, the poor … all of them,” he said. “And this poverty is at the heart of the Gospel: it is the poverty of Jesus, not sociological poverty, but that of Jesus.”
Pope Francis invoked the example of Blessed George Matulaitis, a member (Renovator) of the congregation who became Bishop of Vilnius in Lithuania. He was beatified in 1987.
The Pope praised his writings for showing “the total dedication to the Church and to man.” He praised the congregation’s initiatives to spread its charism to poor countries, especially those in Africa and Asia.
“The great challenge of inculturation requires that today you proclaim the Good News using languages and methods comprehensible to the men of our time, involved in processes of rapid social and cultural change,” the Pope said.
The pontiff asked the Marian Fathers to show courage in their service to Jesus Christ and the Church. He said that God can draw great things out of smallness and unworthiness.
“Our smallness is in fact the seed, that then germinates, grows; the Lord waters it, and in this way it goes ahead,” the Pope said. “But the sense of smallness is that first impulse towards trust in the power of God. Go, go ahead on this road.”
Pope Francis prayed for the congregation’s journey of faith and growth.