Speaking with Benedictine Oblates, Pope Francis says the Benedictine spirit is characterized by “a heart expanded by the unspeakable sweetness of love.”
By Christopher Wells
The charism of Benedictine Oblates can be summed up in a “beautiful expression of Saint Benedict, who invited his followers to have ‘a heart expanded by the unspeakable sweetness of love’,” Pope Francis said on Friday, in an address to Benedictine Oblates taking part in their Fifth World Congress.
An “expanded heart,” he said, “has been a charismatic herald of grace,” throughout the centuries, because “its roots are so firm that the tree grows well, weathering the ravages of time and bearing the savoury fruits of the Gospel.”
The Holy Father took the occasion to reflect on three aspects of this “expansion of heart”: the search for God, enthusiasm for the Gospel, and hospitality.
The search for God
“The Benedictine life is marked first of all by a continual search for God, for His will and for the wonders He works,” the Pope said. While this begins “principally” with the Word of God, especially contemplated in lectio divina, it is also undertaken through the contemplation of creation, the challenges of daily life, the experience of work as prayer, and especially through other people.
Enthusiasm for the Gospel
The life and charism of the Benedictine oblate is also characterized by “enthusiasm for the Gospel”, following the example of Benedictine monks. “Like the monks,” he said, “who make the places where they live fruitful and mark their days with industriousness, you also are called in this way to transform your everyday settings, wherever you live, by acting as a leaven in the dough, with skill and responsibility, and at the same time with gentleness and compassion.”
The same zeal that marked the transition from the classical world to medieval society should also mark Benedictines today. He emphasized that in the modern world, there is no need for “Christians who point fingers, but for enthusiastic witnesses who radiate the Gospel.”
Finally, Pope Francis reflected on the characteristic of “hospitality,” noting that in the Benedictine Rule, the Holy Founder calls on monks to receive guests at the monastery – especially pilgrims and the poor – as they would receive Jesus Himself.
As Oblates, he continued, “your wider monastery is the world, the city and the workplace, for it is there that you are called to be models of welcome with regard to whoever knocks at your door, and models in preferential love for the poor.” At the same time, he warned them against being closed in on themselves, and especially denounced the temptation to speak ill of others.
Seeking, bearing witness to, and welcoming love
Finally, Pope Francis invited Benedictine Oblates “to continue to expand your heart and entrust it every day to God’s love, never ceasing to seek it, to bear witness to it with enthusiasm and to welcome it in the poorest whom life leads you to encounter.”
Pope Francis – Audience for Participants in the Fifth World Congress of Benedictine Oblates