VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Despite declining numbers and sometimes a lack of appreciation from clergy, women religious are called to be courageous like the women disciples who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb and rushed off to share the news of his resurrection, Pope Francis said.
“Always go with courage, seek the Lord and what he is saying to us today — not what he said to us yesterday, that’s left to the sisters of yesterday, but today,” the pope told women participating in the general assembly of the Union of Major Superiors of Italy.
Meeting the women April 13, still during the Octave of Easter, Pope Francis told them they must be inspired by the style of their founding charisms, but must keep asking, “Lord, what should I do today? What should we do?”
“Women are good at that,” the pope said; “they know how to create new paths, they know how to give — they are courageous.”
One thing that will stop the communities in their tracks, though, he said, is bitterness, which is “the devil’s elixir.”
“The devil cooks with it,” he said.
Instead of always looking at difficulties or insisting everything was better in the past — “cultivating vinegar instead of sugar,” he said — people who have met the risen Lord move forward with hope.
Pope Francis said he appreciated the women’s decision to focus their gathering on the theme: “On the synodal path, women witnesses of the Risen One.”
“The presence of Jesus does not close us in on ourselves, it pushes us toward encountering others and deciding to walk with others,” he said. The women who discovered the empty tomb and met the risen Jesus “chose neither to keep the joy of the encounter to themselves nor to make the journey alone: they chose to walk with others.”
In the church, that means walking “with the pastors, even when many times you feel they do not value you and sometimes don’t understand you,” the pope told them. Be “available to listen, to meet, to dialogue, to make plans together. Open, with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Pope Francis told the sisters that “sometimes I get a little frightened” when people start talking about synodality and immediately come up with lists: “Now they have to change this, this, this.”
Instead, synodality involves “listening, praying and walking,” he said. “Then, the Lord will tell us the things we need to do.”
“The synodal journey is not getting answers and making decisions. The synodal journey is walking, listening — listening! — hearing and moving forward,” he said. “The synodal journey involves listening to life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who is the protagonist of the synod.”