Pope to Women Religious: What would the Church be Without You?

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Our Church needs vocations. 

It needs men and women who will commit their lives to Jesus in the absolute and total way that taking vows implies. We need priests to bring us the sacraments. We also need sisters to go out in the world and bring the love of Christ to suffering people.

However, before anything else, these vowed ones of God must be true to Christ and to His Church. I want a priest who will show me the way to heaven. I know that there is only One Way and that Way is Jesus Christ. I want a priest who will teach me and lead me in the narrow way of salvation that Jesus shows us. That means I want a priest who is faithful to the Church.

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I also see the crying need for sisters to bring Jesus to sin-sick people, the world over. These are just my personal thoughts — definitely not Church teaching — but I honestly think that the loving hand of one person, lifting up another in the name of Our Lord, is a very real and personal sacrament of grace. It is not the sacraments that flow through the apostolic succession and into us when we go to confession or partake of the Eucharist. It is, rather, a personal gift of love and care that is empowered by and grows from those sacraments; a grace that is transmitted by and through the sacraments and becomes itself a kind of sacramental gift. 

When the devil comes at us, he most often walks in on two feet. When the Lord Jesus shelters and care for us, he most often reaches out to us through human hands. 

 

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Sisters offer gifts that are unique to them as women. Their fidelity down through the centuries is a testament to the way that Christ works in this world through women. Sisters have built hospitals, schools and other forces of civilization all over the world. They have taught and nurtured and cared for countless people who would have been closed off the witness to Christ of a man.

“What would the Church be without you?” Pope Francis asked 800 superiors of women’s orders from around the world today. 

I can answer that question, at least partially. It would not be the universal Church that speaks for all humanity. Without women, the Church is a body, cut down the middle, half of itself cast aside. It cannot function, cannot live, like that. 

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Pope Francis told the religious superiors that they need to ensure that the women in their orders “are educated in the doctrine of the Church, in love for the Church and in an ecclesial spirit. 

“It is an absurd dichotomy to think one can live with Jesus, but without the Church, to follow Jesus outside the Church, to love Jesus and not the Church,” he said. 

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Here, from CNA, are quotes from the Holy Father’s speech:

In his talk to the women, Pope Francis said their vow of chastity expands their ability to give themselves to God and to others “with the tenderness, mercy and closeness of Christ.” 

However, “please, let it be a fruitful chastity, a chastity that generates sons and daughters in the church. The consecrated woman is a mother, must be a mother and not a spinster,” he said. While the sisters were laughing at his use of a very colloquial Italian word for “spinster” or “old maid,” he added: “Forgive me for speaking this way, but the motherhood of consecrated life, its fertility, is important.”

Pope Francis said that just as Mary could not be understood without recognizing her role as being Jesus’ mother, the church cannot be understood without recognizing its role as being the mother of all believers. “And you are an icon of Mary and the church,” he said.


“We must never forget that true power, at any level, is service, which reached its highest point on the Cross. Think of how much damage to the people of God has been caused by men and women of the church who are careerists, climbers, who use the people, the church, their brothers and sisters — those they should be serving — as trampolines for their personal interests and ambitions,” he said. “This does great harm to the church.”



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