Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy continues with a series of postings that link Pope Francis’ Gaudate Et Exsultat with his special prayer intention of the month.
This month we once again try to link the thoughts in Pope Francis’ Gaudate Et Exsultat with his intention for the month. That intention has special significance for us as religious. It states, “That consecrated religious men and women may bestir themselves, and be present among the poor, the marginalized, and those who have no voice.”
There are a couple of concepts that stand out in this intention. First, the word bestir. The verb implies that we need to be moved, to be stirred out of complacency. We are confronted by our Pope with his perception that we may be collectively in the wrong place at this juncture of history. That may mean that we are physically living and ministering in areas where we are not present among the poor or it may mean that we are not mentally and/or physically sharing with the lot of those who are marginalized or who have no voice. There are many needs in the Church and all of God’s children need the presence and witness of religious. However, Pope Francis is giving a preference to the poor. If we are not in a position to pack up and bestir ourselves to a poor place, to a home with the marginalized or to become a voice for the voiceless, then we can still bestir our hearts to pray powerfully for these little ones in need. We must bestir ourselves to make the effort to be informed about the plight and poverties of those on the edges of society.
In Gaudate Et Exsultat Pope Francis writes, “Although Jesus’ words (in the Beatitudes) may strike us as poetic, they clearly run counter to the way things are usually done in our world. Even if we find Jesus’ message attractive, the world pushes us towards another way of living. We can only practice the Beatitudes if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our complacency and our pride.” These challenging, yet disturbing words don’t allow us to simply think about the plight of those mired in poverty. We are to practice holiness by changing our way of living.
Along those same lines we note in this month’s intention that Pope Francis asks us to be present among the poor. He doesn’t simply ask us to remember the poor, to consider the poor, or even to fight for the poor or to stand up for the poor. He distinctly asks us to be present among them. This even differs from being present to the poor. We must be among them and we must be fully present there. For many of us this seems impossible.
How are we present among the persons of the Trinity? Do we not enter their Presence through prayer and contemplation, through study and exploration? We can be present to many distant realities through the power of our mind and spirit, if not by the strength of our limbs or the validity of our passport. When we see one who is poorly dressed or unattractive in some way at a doctor’s office or in a store, do we shy away, ignore or show disapproval? A kind word or even a smile can make us present to such a one in a holy way. When we have a choice to read a novel or an informative article on some aspect of the existence of the voiceless, what do we choose? When we have an excess of possessions, do we just throw them away or take the trouble to find a way to share? Do we share things that are not worthy of the dignity of the poor?
As we consider ways we can live out this challenge of Pope Francis, we may benefit from repeating his words from Gaudate Et Exsultat, “Being poor of heart: that is holiness.”