I think your annual retreat has helped each of you a lot because I can see the joy in your faces. Fr Terry must have guided you well in the past one week, showing you how to love yourselves, to love God, and to love one another more. And for that, I wish to thank him for his guidance to you in this year’s retreat.
Like you, we clergy also have our annual retreat. And this year we were blessed to have Cardinal Tagle to be our retreat master. I was impressed by his down-to-earth approach, trying to help us discover our identity as priests based on the day-to-day happenings in our lives.
Indeed, a good retreat always connects us to the realities of life, to discover the movements of the Divine Love, to experience His presence, to understand His plan, and to look back whether we have been in line with His will. But we could only do that if we maintain a pattern of life that provides spiritual stability, that is to say, if we are already well exposed to His interventions in our lives. What is that pattern of life which can help us?
In his meeting with the clergy, religious and seminarians during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis has outlined three patterns which would be of great help.
Firstly, a constant awareness of our divine vocation: it means constantly return to the source of our calling. Often times, in the midst of our many daily responsibilities, we take our divine vocation for granted. We live our lives without realising the call. I think we need to, again and again, recall our first YES to the consecrated life. To do that, faithfulness to a life of prayer is an essential pattern in life.
Secondly, we are called to proclaim the Gospel. Our calling has a missionary dimension. The pope said, “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!” And for this, he challenges us to begin with the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, those who do not usually go to church. This is a new vision for many of us. But to do that, we need to make missionary spirituality an essential pattern in life.
And thirdly, we are called to promote a culture of encounter. One of our many temptations is to avoid meeting people, especially those whom we find difficult to handle. We prefer mixing with the good ones, those who agree with us. The pope challenges us to be servants of communion and go against the tide. To do that, we need to live a spirituality of communion.
Dear Sisters, if we are living these three patterns in our lives as proposed by the Holy Father, namely an awareness of our divine vocation, understanding our vocation to proclaim the Gospel, and promoting a culture of encounter, I believe we will experience more blessings in our lives.
I hope during the retreat you have discovered another aspect of yourselves which you may wish to improve further. I just want to add one thing, that is, in your desire to be better, always make the Virgin Mary your model. She has responded to the call to be the mother of Jesus with courage and humility. In doing so, she proclaimed the Good News through her life. And the beauty of it is that her life was constantly an encounter with people. She always welcomed and lived in solidarity with everyone, especially the marginalized.
On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, let us live our vocations like the way Mary did.
I ask for your prayers for me and for all our priests, as I remember you too in my prayers. Thank you and happy feast day to all of you.