Full Text of Pope Francis’ Improvised Comments to Priests, Religious in Bangladesh
Pope Francis improvised his penultimate discourse of his trip to Bangladesh this morning, given to priests, religious and seminarians at the 16th century Holy Rosary Church in the Chittagong archdiocese near Dhaka.
Here below is a transcript of the speech, made by CNA’s Elise Harris, and taken from a simultaneous translation by Msgr. Mark Miles, who has been the Pope’s interpreter for the trip. It followed five testimonies from a priest, religious sister, a missionary and a seminarian.
The speech followed a visit the Pope made to the Tejgaon Mother Teresa House close by that, since 1976, has been aiding the poorest of the poor in the archdiocese.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Thank you Archbishop Costa for your introductio, and thank you for your interventions.
Here, I prepared a 8-page speech (laughs) But we come to listen to the Pope, and not to get bored! But to not be bored, I am going to give you this speech, and what I am going to say is what comes to the heart. I don't know if it will be worse or better, but I can assure you it will be less boring.
When I was coming in and listing to you, an image came to my mind from the prophet Isaiah, the first reading that will happen next Tuesday. In those days, there will rise up from the family of Israel, a plant will grow and through the spirit of God, the spirit of wisdom, piety. Isaiah saw there the small and the great of the life of faith, a life of service of God. A live faith and service to God, which applies to you as people living a life consecrated to God.
Let's start with the plant. It starts in the earth, and that is the seed. The seed does not belong to you or to me, God sows the seed. And God is the one who provides for its growth. Each one of us is a plant, but not by your own effort (it's from God). What do I have to do? Water it, so that it can grow. And that greatness of the spirit, that's what you have to provide as a witness. How do you water this seed? By looking after it, looking after the seed and looking after it's first growth. Look after the vocation that we have received. As you look after a child, someone who is sick, or an elderly person.
Vocation is looked after with human tenderness in our communities, where we live as priests, parishes. If there's no such tenderness, then the plant is very small, it doesn't grow and it can dry out. Look after it with tenderness, because every brother in the presbyterate, in the episcopal conference, every religious in community, every brother seminarian, is a seed of God. And God looks at them with the tenderness of a father. It's true that at night the enemy comes and plants other seeds. And there is the risk that the seed can be threatened and not grow. How awful it is to see the weeds in the presbyteries where you live, to see the weeds in the episcopal conferences, how sad! To look after that growth from the good seed, you have to see how it grows and it's distinguished from the evil seed and the evil weed. One of you spoke about discerning every day how my vocation grows. To look after means to discern, to realize that the plant that grows, goes on one side and I water it and it grows well...(but) if it grows on the other side, I can tell when it grows badly, when there are friends, etc. who threaten it's growth. So discern this growth...to look after also means to pray, and to ask the one who planted the seed how to water that same seed. If I'm having a crisis and falling asleep, we have to ask him to look after us. To pray means to ask the Lord to look after us. That he give us the tenderness that we have to then pass onto others. That's the first idea: to look after the seed so that it grows into the wisdom of God. To look after it with care, prayer, discernment and tenderness.
The second idea is that in this garden of God, there isn't just one little plan growing, there are thousands, all of us, and community life is not easy. Human defects, our limitations, they threaten community life and they threaten peace. The community of consecrated life, of the seminary, of the presbyterate, of episcopal conferences, needs to know how to defend itself from every kind of division. Yesterday we thanked God for the example Bangladesh offers in the area of interreligious dialogue, and we quoted, when we spoke, we repeated a phrase from Cardinal Tauran: Bangladesh is one of the greatest examples of interreligious harmony and dialogue. (applause). Yesterday, we spoke about this interreligious dialogue. We have to do the same within out communities of faith, in our real community life.
Bangladesh has to be an example of harmony. There are many enemies to harmony, many. I would like to mention one, which serves as an example. You might want to criticize the Holy Father for being repetitive, but it's fundamental The enemy of harmony in religious life is the spirit of gossip. This is not my idea, but 2,000 years ago a certain St. James said that in his letter. The tongue, brothers and sisters, can destroy a community by speaking badly about another person. To underline the defects of others, but say it to their faces. Behind their backs, [it] thus creating distrust and an environment where there is jealousy, where there is no peace but division.
I like to express it with a concrete image: it's terrorism (laughs) because when you speak badly of others, you don't say it publicly, and a terrorist doesn't say publicly “I'm a terrorist.” A terrorist says it in a private, crude way, then throws the bomb and it explodes. But they leave the bomb behind and the other person throws it. Brothers and sisters, when you ant to speak baldy of others, hold your tongue. Maybe you'll hurt you tongue if you bite it, but you won't hurt the other person.
How many times St Paul expresses the pain in his heart when he sees the division in the Church. You might say: “Holy Father, if I see a defect in a brother or sister and I want to correct them but can't place a bomb, what can I do?” First, if it's possible, tell the person to their face. Jesus gives us that counsel. It's true that a person might say, “You can't do it, they are a complicated person.” It's true, you might not be able to say it then. But if you can't say it, tell someone who can solve the problem. Say it to the person's face, and say it to another person who can do something, but with charity. How many communities have been destroyed through the spirit of gossip. Please, hold your tongue, bite your tongue.
The third point I want to mention, it's not so boring, is to try to have the spirit of joy. Without joy, you cannot serve God. So I ask each one of you, but answer this question in your hearts, how is your joy going? I can assure you it's very painful when you meet priests, consecrated, bishops, who are really unhappy, with a sad face. You want to ask them: “What did you have for breakfast today, vinegar?” A vinegar face, a soured face. That anxiousness and bitterness of heart, when the evil seed comes, saying: “You see that one, he's been made a bishop, and I've been put to one side.” There's no joy in that way of thinking. St. Teresa, the great St. Teresa, said it's almost like a curse -- a phrase almost like a curse, when she tells her nuns this: Woe to the nun who says “I've been treated unjustly!” For example, when a nun is moaning that she hasn't been promoted or named prioress, woe to than nun. She will go down.
Joy. Even in the difficult moments, joy. And if it can't be done, and you can't laugh, at least offer peace and serenity. I remember now, the small St. Therese of the Child Jesus. She had to accompany every night to the refectory, and elderly nun, and she was really unbearable. She used to get very angry, she was very ill, she moaned about everything, and that's how she had to accompany that nun to the refectory. And one night as she was accompanying the nun to the cloister, she heard from a neighboring home, the music of a party, people who were having fun, good people, and like her sisters had been, and she thought about the people who were dancing, and she said my great joy is this: not over there, but here and now with this nun.
In those difficult moments in community, to have to tolerate a superior who is a little strange, in these moments (have peace). Have joy of heart. I have great tenderness in my heart when I meet priests, bishops, nuns, elderly, and they've lived a full life. Their eyes are indescribable, full of joy and peace. Those who didn't live that way, God is good, he still looks after them, but there is that lack of sparkle in their eyes. They haven't had that joy. And you have it more in women. Look at nuns, who have spent their eyes serving, they have impish eyes, but sparkling eyes, full of life. They are sharp eyes, because they are full. The small plant has become the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
So when you listen to that reading next Tuesday, ask yourselves: do I look after the small plant, do I water it? Do I water it in others? Am I afraid of being a terrorist, and therefore never speak of others? And do I have the gift of joy? To all of you, I wish you a plant that grows and grows so your eyes will always sparkle with that joy of the Holy Spirit. Please pray for me as I pray for you.