Pope Francis on June 22 met members of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) participating in their General Chapter near Rome.
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Friday encouraged the Divine Word Missionaries to trust in Divine Providence while preaching the Gospel, especially to those who are excluded, abandoned and trampled, while remaining united as brothers in their vocation and mission.
The Pope’s exhortation came in a talk to 155 members of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), popularly known as Verbites, who are participating in their 18th General Chapter which began Nemi, near Rome, on June 17.
Noting the theme of their general chapter, “’The Love of Christ impels us’ (2 Cor 5:14): Rooted in the Word, Committed to His Mission”, the Pope said it has a “clear Pauline and missionary flavour” and urged the Verbites to return to their roots and origins as envisioned by their founder Saint Arnold Janssen. In this regard he encouraged them to trust in Divine Providence, to proclaim the Word of God and to be a community of brothers.
Trusting in Divine Providence
Pope Francis encouraged the Verbites to renew their trust in Divine Providence and to go out without fear, to witness to the joy of the Gospel, which many make happy. They must be courageous in taking risks and not be an impediment to the action of the Holy Spirit. This trust, he said, renewed every day in the encounter with Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments will help them be open to discernment, to examine their own life in trying to do God’s will in all their activities and projects.
Proclaiming the Word of God
The Pope reminded the Divine Word Missionaries that proclaiming the Word of God to all people, in every time, place and culture, using every possible means, is their charism. Besides being a legacy it is also challenge that awaits them today, especially in their mission to those who don’t know Christ as yet as envisioned by their founder.
Community of brothers in mission
Lastly, the Holy Father urged them to be a community of brothers united by the Lord, walking together and loving one another, which he said is “the greatest evangelization.” “The world, like the Church,” he said, “needs to feel this fraternal love despite its diversity and inter-culturality,” where “everyone is at the service of others and no one more than the other.”
This unity the Pope said will help them overcome difficulties and go out “meet other brothers who are outside, excluded from society, abandoned to their fate, trampled underfoot by selfish interests.” He said they are “sent to realize the spirit of the Beatitudes through works of mercy” by “listening to and responding to the cries of those who ask for bread and justice; bringing peace and integral promotion to those who seek a more dignified life; consoling and offering reasons for hope to the sadness and suffering of so many men and women of our time.”
Roots and cemeteries
At the end, the Pope set aside his prepared text and spoke off hand. He told the Verbites that going back to their origins is not an abstract spirituality but are roots that give life, for which they must be cared for and loved. Secondly, he asked the Verbites to think of the cemeteries in distant lands in Africa, Asia, the Amazon and around the world where many a Verbite missionary lay buried – young men who died gambling with thier lives.