By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Sharing the Gospel message requires closeness and tenderness, especially toward people most in need, Pope Francis said in separate meetings with a religious order of women and an order of men holding their general chapters in Rome.
Tenderness and closeness are “so precious in a society like ours where, despite the abundance of means, instead of good works multiplying, hearts seem to harden and close,” Pope Francis told members of the Little Sisters of Jesus Oct. 2.
The pope prayed that the sisters’ “gentle proximity” would be “a mild challenge to indifference — today we are in a culture of indifference — a witness to fraternity, a gentle cry reminding the world” that each person is a child of God.
Quoting St. Charles de Foucauld, who inspired the founding of the Little Sisters of Jesus, Pope Francis said that the key to witnessing to the Gospel is “to be charitable, meek, humble with all men: this is what we have learned from Jesus. Be militant with no one.”
Pope Francis asked the sisters to dedicate a lot of time to adoring Jesus in the Eucharist, just as St. Charles de Foucauld did.
In eucharistic adoration, he said, “hearts are opened to the ways of God, who does not do violence to people, but inspires creative thoughts and feelings of adherence, helpfulness and service.”
Even though the sisters are facing declining vocations and the aging of their members, the pope said, they are still “God’s precious instruments for sowing in the world little pearls of evangelical tenderness, which is your specialty.”
That will continue, he said, as long as “you remain simple and generous, in love with Christ and the poor. That will bear fruit in time, have no doubt.”
As he does with every group, Pope Francis asked the sisters to pray for him. But he added a reason: “This job is not easy; in fact, it’s a bit bothersome.”
Meeting later with members of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the pope urged them to study the heart of Jesus through their reading of Scriptures and to share his love with all they meet.
“The poor, migrants and the many miseries and injustices that continue in the world question us with urgency,” the pope said. “Before them, do not fear to let yourselves be overcome by the compassion of the heart of Christ.”
“Let him love through you and show his mercy through your goodness,” the pope told them. “And do it with courage like he did,” allowing “the irresistible tenderness of the Sacred Heart to shape, modify and even upset, if necessary, your plans and projects.”