While prayer is the bedrock of cloistered contemplative life, the wealth of God’s gifts, the strength of a consistent witness of life and hope are the values that sustain those who choose to live a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, Pope Francis said.
Celebrating a morning Mass with a group of Poor Clare nuns in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae on 25th August, the pope also prayed for the victims of the earthquake that struck central Italy the previous morning.
The prayer was personal for many of the nuns who lived in a portable building after their cloistered convent of Santa Maria di Vallegloria in Spello was damaged during the earthquake that rocked the regions of Umbria and Marche in 1997.
According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the nuns provided music for the Mass, including the accompaniment of a violin, a keyboard and a flute.
In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s reading from First Corinthians in which St Paul praises God for enriching the Christian community so that it would not be “lacking in any spiritual gift.”
The reading, the pope explained, contained three words that contemplatives must make present in their religious life: wealth, witness and hope.
The vow of poverty obviously does not apply to the riches of God’s spiritual gifts, Pope Francis said. Problems come only “when we look for another type of wealth, far from the gifts of the Lord.”
“One of the signs – and this is mathematical and continually seen – that a religious community, a religious congregation is decaying is that it begins to become attached to money,” he warned.
In doing so, religious men and women can lose “the wealth of the Lord’s gifts in order to have that wealth that can be ‘touched.'”
Accepting the Lord’s gifts, he continued, leads to an authentic witness including for the Poor Clares, despite the fact that as cloistered nuns “no-one sees you.”
“You sow, with your lives and with your prayers, the life of Christ in others,” he said. “You did not flee from the world out of fear; you were called and that calling should be brought forward according to the rule, according to that which the Church asks of you. This is your witness.”
Lastly, Pope Francis said the nuns are called to sow hope and, like the 10 virgins in Jesus’ parable, are called to await the coming of the bridegroom, Christ.
The pope said that like the virgins there are those who fall asleep, including himself when praying. However, he also noted that the bridegroom does not correct the virgins who fell asleep but rather the ones who ran out of oil for their lamps.
“What is important is to have the oil for hope, for the certainty that he will come,” the pope said.
From this hope, he added, springs forth the joy of consecrated life that must be reflected in faces that radiate the happiness.