The Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrating its General Chapter in Rome from February 5 to 25, 2017. In the morning of Feb. 18, 2017, the Pope granted an audience to the Capitulars in the Consistory Hall, and in his address to them he recalled that one of the main aims of this Chapter is to reflect on the laws and regulations of the Congregation.
Pope Francis urged the Marians to proclaim the Good News using language and methods understandable to the people of our time. He also encouraged them to bravely take on new challenges, even though these challenges may seem precarious in human terms. The Holy Father granted a special audience to the participants in the General Chapter of the Congregation of Marian Fathers, presently taking place in Rome.
Referring to the Chapter’s work on revising the Marian Fathers’ religious rules and Constitutions, Pope Francis indicated the need to remain faithful to the charism of the Founder and the Congregation’s spiritual heritage while responding to new challenges. “May the example of your Founder, St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczyński, canonized last year, illuminate your way,” said the Pope.
“Your service to the Word is a witness to the Risen Christ, whom you have met on your road and whom you are called to bring, by example of your life, wherever the Church sends you,” he continued. “Christian witness also requires service to the poor and on behalf of the poor, which has been characteristic of your Congregation from the very beginning. I urge you to keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and simple folk by proclaiming the Gospel in a manner that they can understand, as well as through works of mercy and prayers for the dead.”
Pope Francis reminded the Marian Fathers of the need to be close to people and keeping simplicity in religious life. “This is essential. We are not princes, counts, or barons. We are simple men taken from the people, and therefore, we have to go in simplicity to those who suffer most: the sick, children, the neglected elderly, and the poor. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel. And this is the poverty of Jesus, not a sociological poverty,” the Pope emphasized extemporaneously.
Pope Francis also referred to the Congregation’s Renovator, Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz, and his huge dedication to the development of the Church, especially in the areas of greatest need. In this context, he recalled the recent initiatives undertaken by the Marians in poor countries in Africa and Asia.
“The great challenge of inculturation today demands that you proclaim the Good News in language and using methods understandable to the people of our time, who experience rapid social and cultural changes,” the Holy Father continued. “Your Congregation has a long history, written by courageous witnesses of Christ and of the Gospel. You are called, in their wake, to walk with renewed zeal so as to set out, with prophetic freedom and wise discernment – both of them together! – along apostolic roads and missionary frontiers, cultivating close collaboration with the bishops and other members of the ecclesial community.”
Francis reminded the members of the Marian Fathers, the oldest men’s religious congregation to have been founded on Polish soil, that there are still many people who do not yet know Jesus, and that cases of injustice and moral and material poverty present a challenge for the faithful. He also stressed that this is an urgent mission, requiring personal and communal conversion.
The Holy Father also urged the Marians to courageously respond to new challenges and new missions, even if humanly they may seem risky. ““Dear brothers, following the example of your Founder, be courageous in your service to Christ and to the Church, responding to new challenges and new missions, even though at a human level they may seem risky. Indeed, the ‘genetic code’ of your community includes what St. Stanislaus himself affirmed from his own experience: ‘Despite the countless difficulties, divine goodness and wisdom initiate and conclude what they will, even when the means, by human judgment, are inadequate. Indeed, for the Almighty, nothing is impossible. This has been clearly demonstrated in me’. And this attitude – which comes from the smallness of means, even from our own smallness, even from our unworthiness, inasmuch as we are sinners, it comes from there, but has a broad horizon. [This attitude] is the act of faith in the power of the Lord: the Lord can, the Lord is capable. And our smallness is in fact the seed, that then germinates, grows; the Lord waters it, and in this way it goes ahead. But the sense of smallness is that first impulse towards trust in the power of God. Go, go ahead on this road”.