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Pope calls monks to be a gift ‘to God’ and ‘of God’

Pope Francis meets with the Abbot, monks and collaborators of the Abbey of Montevergine on the occasion of the nine hundredth anniversary of the Abbey’s foundation. He encourages the community to make themselves a gift to God and to be a gift of God to others.

By Sr. Francine-Marie Cooper, ISSM

Representatives of the Abbey of Montevergine met on Monday morning with Pope Francis on the occasion of the nine hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Abbey.

The Abbey, located at a height of 4,170 feet above sea level, among the Appenine mountains of Campania, in southern Italy, was founded in 1124 by the hermit Saint William of Vercelli.

Pope Francis welcomed those gathered for the occasion and reminded them of the origin of their monastery, in which there were “no miracles or extraordinary events, but the care of a shepherd, the Bishop of Avellino, who wanted to build a church in that elevated place and gather a small number of people in the service of God, to make it a center of prayer, evangelization, and charity,” he said.

Picking up on the two important dimensions of the monks’ lives, prayer and service, Pope Francis urged the monks to “make yourselves a gift to God, to be a gift of God”.

A gift to God

The monastic vocation places prayer at the root of every action, the Holy Father said. He went on to describe the monastery and the Shrine of Our Lady of Montevergine.

He pointed out that “the faithful often come there, sometimes on foot, to find consolation and hope, to receive new strength during the pilgrimage.”

Like the beautiful icon of the Mother of God, that welcomes the pilgrims on their arrival, so too should the monks pray and have “those big and kind eyes, and show to everyone” they meet, like Mary, the Lord, present in their hearts, the Pope said.

Another image that holds a message for the lives of the monks is the Holy Shroud, which was secretly brought to the Shrine during the Second World War to be safeguarded and venerated, safe from the risk of bombings.

The Holy Father spoke of this “beautiful image of your primary vocation: to guard the image of Christ within you, so that you can show it to your brothers.”

A gift of God

“To be a gift of God” is “to give oneself generously to those who come to the Sanctuary,” Pope Francis said. And he encouraged the monks to make the pilgrims feel welcome and to lead them to the Mother of God.

He reminded them that in their lives as monks, in physical distance form the world yet spiritually close to it, they can be a “living and eloquent sign of God’s presence.”

The Pope recommended them therefore “not to succumb to the temptation to conform to the mentality and styles of the world, but to allow yourselves to be constantly transformed by God, renewing your heart and growing in Him (cf. Rom 12,2), so that those who come to you seeking light may not be disappointed.”

The Pope concluded his address by reminding the monks of the gift they have in living in the “House of Mary”.

“Treasure this gift and cultivate it within you so that you can share it with everyone,” he said. “I bless you from the heart. And I ask you please to pray for me.”

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