By EMILY SHAPIRO
Sep 24, 2015,
PHOTO: Pope Francis presides over evening prayers at St. Patricks Cathedral in New York, Sept. 24, 2015. Reuters
The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross. Pope Francis’ first stop in New York was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, where, at an evening prayer, he touched on the spirit of gratitude and hard work.
“Once we realize how much God has given us, we learn that a life of sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way, a privileged way of responding to his great love,” he said.
Here is the full translated text:
I would like to express two sentiments for my Muslim brothers and sisters: Firstly, my greetings as they celebrate the feast of sacrifice. I would have wished my greeting to be warmer. My sentiments of closeness, my sentiments of closeness in the face of tragedy. The tragedy that they suffered in Mecca.
In this moment, I give assurances of my prayers. I unite myself with you all. A prayer to almighty god, all merciful.
This beautiful cathedral of St. Patrick’s, built over many years through the sacrifices of many men and women is a symbol of the work of generations of American priests and religious and faithful who helped build up the church in the United States.
Many priests and religious in this country that have not only in education but in other areas have had a central role assisting parents in handing down to their children the food that nourishes them for life. Many did so at the cost of extraordinary sacrifice and with heroic charity.
I think, for example, of saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded the first free catholic school for girls in the United States or in saint John Neumann, the founder of the first system of catholic education in this country.
This evening, my brothers and sisters, I have come to join you in prayer that our vocations as priests will continue to build up the great edifice of God’s kingdom in this country.
I know that, as a the presbyterate in the midst of god’s people, you recently have suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers, brothers who have harmed and scandalized the church in the most vulnerable of her members.
In the words of the book of revelation, I know well that you have come forth from the great tribulation and I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty. And I thank god for your faithful service onto his people, doing so in helping you to preserve on the path of fidelity to Jesus Christ.
And I would like to offer two brief reflections. The first concern is of the spirit of gratitude. The joy of men and women who love god attracts others to him. Priests and religious are called to find and radiate lasting satisfaction in their vocation. Joy springs from a grateful heart.
Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings. And in this, we rejoice. It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance.
Remembrance of when we were first called, remembrance of the road traveled, remembrance of graces received. And, above all, remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way.
Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ has awakened in our hearts.
Sisters, brothers, priests and religious to seek the grace of remembrance so as to grow in the spirit of gratitude. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: are we capable of counting our blessings? Or have I forgotten them?
A second area is the spirit of hard work. The grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work. Once we realize how much god has given us, we learn that a life of sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way, a privileged way of responding to his great love.
Yet, if we are honest, we must recognize how easily this spirit of generous self-sacrifice can be dampened. There are a couple of ways that this can happen. And both are examples of the spiritual worldliness which weakens our commitment to serve as dedicated men and women.
And it diminishes the wonder of our first encounter with Christ. We can get caught up in measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success, which govern the business world.
Not that these things are unimportant, of course. But we have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and this is why god’s people rightly expect accountability from us but the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in god’s eyes, to see and evaluate things from god’s perspective, calls for constant conversion in the first days and years of our vocation and, need I say, it demands great humility.
The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.
Another danger — another danger emerges when we become jealous of our free time, when we think that surrounding ourselves with worldly comforts help us to serve better. The problem with this way of reasoning is that it can blunt the power of god’s daily call to conversion, to encounter with him.
Slowly but surely, it diminishes our spirit of sacrifice, our spirit of renunciation and our spirit of hard work. It also alienates people who suffer material poverty and who are forced to make greater sacrifices than those that we make ourselves.
Rest is needed, as are moments of leisure and self-enrichment, but we need to learn to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve with generosity. Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all god’s other poor, will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous.
Gratitude and hard work, these are two pillars of the spiritual life which I have wanted to share with you this evening. With you, the priest and religious men and women this afternoon.
I thank you for your prayers and your work and for the daily sacrifices that you make in the various areas of your apostolate. Many of these are known only to god, but they bear rich fruit for the life of the church.
I would especially like to thank and express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States.
What indeed — what would the church be without you? Women’s strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you on the front lines in the proclamation of the gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say thank you.
A big thank you and to tell you that I love you very much. I know that many of you are on the front lines in meeting the challenges of adapting to an evolving pastoral landscape, like Saint Peter, I ask you, that regardless of the difficulties and trials that you face, be at peace and respond to them as Christ did. He gave thanks to the father, took up his cross and looked forward.
Dear brothers and sisters, in a few moments, we will sing the Magnificat. Let us commend to our lady the work we have been entrusted to do. Let us join her in thanking god for the great things he has done. And for the great things he will continue to do in us and in those whom we have the privilege to serve.