We thank you with filial affection
Most Holy Father,
Just a few days ago, in a homily addressed to all of us, Consecrated Persons, on the day of the liturgical Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple, you exhorted us to a faith that recognizes the wisdom of weakness. You reassured us, in fact, stating that “when the hardness and weight of the cross are felt, not to doubt that the kenosis of Christ is already a paschal victory.” A few days later, the authoritative force of these words of yours has become for us the icon in which to capture the gesture of love with which you, as you leave the Papacy, intends to devote yourself wholeheartedly to a life dedicated to prayer for the good of Holy Mother Church. Yes, in your kenosis, Holy Father, we contemplate Christ’s paschal victory! Right in your face, we see the glorious light of the One who died on the cross, bathed us in glory!
In this serious moment, for you and for us, how I would like you to feel the closeness of all Consecrated Persons, which I have the honour to represent, and that, somehow, I bring before your eyes. We are close to you, our dear Holy Father! Experience the unison of our hearts as children who, with devotion, send their love and deep gratitude! Yes, we love you and we want to tell you that our filial affection will accompany you day by day in your future prayer-service for the benefit of all.
We, Consecrated Persons, precisely at this time, wish to convey to you, in words that describes the abundance of gratitude, that is, Thank you, Holy Father! Thank you for wanting to conclude your Pontificate with a prophetic and courageous gesture, which is the result of prayer, great clarity, profound humility, and your love for the Church.
Thank you for your immeasurable love for the Church and for the Gospel frankness with which you have traced the paths of purification, so as to ask forgiveness for the sin of Her members. Thank you for carefully watching against the complexity of the world, its weaknesses, its vacuous attractions of what is next to last; for watching against the seductive traps of consumerism and, even more, the danger of relativism. Indeed, your encyclicals and many speeches, so timely and enlightening, have always shown us the way to Christ with clarity and determination. They have also nourished us into that common aspiration written in the heart of each person who longs to find God. Yes, thank you for confirming us in the faith with a very rich teaching of wisdom and Gospel firmness. Thank you for the gift of your word so simple and yet so profound. Thank you, again, for the gift of the Year of Faith.
Thank you, especially, for your love for Consecrated Life, which you shown on countless occasions; for having shaken us several times, bringing us to continuously recall our “first love” with which the Lord has called us and made us his own; for having recalled the primacy of “being with the Lord”, in order to proclaim him and then work for him; for showing us the urgency of the mission of the New Evangelization, working through the manifold manifestation of our gifts, for the very identity of the Church and its primary task, that of preaching the Gospel; for bringing us back to the spirit of pilgrimage, which gives us the strength to sacrifice everything for the love of God and neighbour; for telling us that our joy must necessarily pass through the Cross of Christ. What a wealth of teaching! We will treasure your high Magisterium, through study and prayerful reflection. Yes, Holy Father, you have truly loved Consecrated Life! We have felt this love just, for we realize in us how effective you have been.
At the beginning of your Pontificate, you told us that you considered yourself a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. If humility is the measure of the greatness of a person, then the public confession you made on February 11 confirmed the truth of those words and your greatness and holiness. Thank you for teaching us from the cathedra of life that authority in the Church is service. Thank you for the beautiful gift that leaves us with the Year of Faith. Thank you, Holy Father, from all of us, Consecrated Persons.
Lastly, let me add a special word of gratitude that comes from my being Minister General and Servant of the whole fraternity of the Friars Minor. I feel a duty to thank you for your lofty Franciscan teaching, which we make part of our reflection and commitment to implement them in our lives. Your love for St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality is well known to all as well as numerous references concerning our way of life, making your catechesis on St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Anthony, St. Bonaventure, Blessed John Duns Scotus and other authors of the Franciscan School shine forth. In this way, not only have you revealed to us your deep understanding of the charism and of the cornerstones of Franciscan spirituality, but you have also given an original and more fruitful interpretation for our times. How many your teachings have been that must be combined with the complexity of today’s world. Your own pilgrimage to the land of St. Francis as well as your memorable visit to the Holy Land, “the pearl of the Franciscan missions”, together with your precious words of encouragement have been a driving demonstration of your great love for the Saint of Assisi and all his children today. And just as many years ago, the Little Poor Man of Assisi pledged to be “subject to and submissive at the feet” of Holy Mother Church and the Lord Pope, so today I renew with devotion my promise of obedience and reverence, seeing your face the beauty of the Church, the Bride of Christ.
Rome, February 13, 2013 – Ash Wednesday.
Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm
Minister General, OFM
President of USG