On the Church as Merciful Mother
Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 1995 hits
Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience today at St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I return again to the image of the Church as Mother. I like this image very much, because it seems to me it tells us not only how the Church is, but also what face the Church should always have, this our Church.
I would like to stress three things, always looking at our mothers, to all that they do, that they live, that they suffer for their children, continuing with what I said last Wednesday. What does a mother do?
She teaches how to walk in life, she teaches how to do well in life, she knows how to direct her children, she seeks always to indicate the right way in life to grow and become adults. And she does so with tenderness, with affection, with love, always, even when she tries to correct our way because we skid a bit in life or take paths that lead to a ravine. A mother knows what’s important for a child to walk well in life, and she didn’t learn it from books, but learned it from her heart.
The Church does the same thing: she orientates our life; she gives us teachings to walk well. We think of the Ten Commandments: they indicate a path to take to mature, to have firm points in our way of behaving. And they are the fruit of the tenderness, of the love itself of God, which He has given her. You can say to me: but they are commands! They are a whole “no”! I would like to invite you to read them – perhaps you have forgotten them somewhat – and then to think of them positively. You’ll see that they have to do with our way of behaving toward God, towards ourselves and towards others, in fact <they are> what a mother teaches us to live well. They invite us not to make material idols for ourselves, which then render us slaves; to remember God; to have respect for our parents; to be honest; to respect the other … Try to see them this way and to consider them as if they were the words, the teachings that a mother gives to walk well in life. A mother never teaches what is evil; she wishes only the good of her children, and the Church does the same.
2. I would like to say a second thing to you: when a child grows, becomes an adult, takes up his way, assumes his responsibilities, walks with his own legs, does what he wishes and, sometimes, also happens to stray from the path, some incident happens. A mother always, in every situation, has the patience to continue to support her children. What drives her is the force of love. A mother knows how to follow the path of her children with discretion, with tenderness and also when they are mistaken she always finds the way to understand, to be close, to help. We say that a mother knows how to “dar la cara” [stick up for] “metterci la faccia” [stand up for] for her children, that is, she is driven to defend them always. I think of mothers who suffer for their children in prison or in difficult situations: they don’t ask if they are guilty or not; they continue to love them and often endure humiliations, but they’re not afraid, they don’t stop giving themselves.
The Church is like this, she is a merciful Mother that understands, that always tries to help, to encourage even in face of her children who have been mistaken and are mistaken; she never closes the door of the home; she doesn’t judge, but offers God’s forgiveness; she offers her love which invites to take up the way again even to those children who have fallen into a profound abyss; she is not afraid to enter into their night to give hope.
One last thought. A mother also knows how to ask, to knock on every door for her children, without calculation, with love. And I think of how mothers know how to knock also and above all on the door of God’s heart! Mothers pray so much for their children, especially for those who are weakest, for those who have greater need, for those who in life have taken dangerous and mistaken paths. A short time ago I celebrated <Mass>in the church of Saint Augustine, here in Rome, where the relics of his mother, Saint Monica, are kept. How many prayers that holy mother raised to God for her son, and how many tears she shed! I think of you, dear mothers: how much you pray for your children, without getting tired. Continue to pray, to entrust your children to God; He has a great heart!
But the Church also does the same: with prayer, she places in the Lord’s hands all the situations of her children. Let us have confidence in the strength of the prayer of Mother Church: the Lord doesn’t remain insensible. He always knows how to astonish us was when we least expect it. Mother Church knows this!
There, these were the thoughts that I wanted to tell you today: we see in the Church a good Mother that points out to us the way to go in life, who knows always how to be patient, merciful, understanding and who knows how to place us in God’s hands
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Dear Brothers and Sisters: today I wish to return to the image of the Church as our Mother, by reflecting on all that our earthly mothers do, live and suffer for their children. First, our mothers show us, through their tenderness and love, the correct path to follow in life, so that we may grow into adulthood. So too the Church orients us on the path of life, indicating the way that leads to maturity. Second, our mothers know how and when to accompany us with understanding through life and to help lead us back when we wander off the right path. The Church also accompanies us in mercy, in understanding, never judging us or closing the door, but offering forgiveness to help us return to the right course. Third, as our mothers never grow tired of interceding for us, no matter our failings, so too the Church stays with us always and, through prayer, puts into the hands of the Lord all our situations, difficulties and needs. And so we see in the Church a good Mother who indicates the path to walk in life, who always accompanies us in patience, mercy and understanding, and who places us in God’s hands.
Pope Francis (In Italian):
I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. In a particular way, I welcome the Inter-Ministerial Delegation of the Vietnamese Government for Religious Affairs. I welcome also all those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, India, Canada and the United States. May Jesus Christ confirm you in faith and make you witnesses of his love and mercy to all people. May God bless you!
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I address a cordial welcome to Italian-speaking pilgrims, to the numerous parishes, associations and various groups, in particular I greet the faithful of the dioceses of Prato, accompanied by their Bishop, Monsignor Franco Agostinelli, those of the diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza, Vigevano, Messina and Oppido-Palmi. May this pilgrimage of yours to the tombs of the Apostles awake in each of you the desire to witness Christian values with joy, to build a more just and solidaristic society.
I address an affectionate thought to the men and women religious here present, in particular to the members of the Carmelite Order and to the Missionary Sisters of the Incarnation, who are holding their respective General Chapters, exhorting to a renewed impulse in the work of evangelization, especially in the existing outskirts.
Finally I greet young people, the sick and newlyweds: dearest, may friendship with Jesus be for you all a source of hope and inspiring motive of every choice of yours.
Appeal for Peace
Every year, on September 21, the United Nations celebrates the “International Day of Peace,” and the Ecumenical Council of Churches appeals to its members so that on that day they pray for peace. I invite Catholics worldwide to join other Christians to continue to implore from God the gift of peace in the most tormented places of our planet. May peace, gift of Jesus, be able to dwell always in our hearts and sustain the resolutions and actions of the leaders of nations and of all men of good will. Let us all commit ourselves to encourage the efforts for a diplomatic and political solution of hotbeds of war that again are worrying. My thought goes especially to the dear Syrian population, whose human tragedy can only be resolved with dialogue and negotiation, in respect of justice and of the dignity of every person, especially the weakest and defenseless.
[Translation by ZENIT]