Despite his not feeling well (he acknowledged that he has been suffering from a cold), Pope Francis addressed the staff of his Curia on Monday, December 21, 2015.
Giving his reflections while seated (he apologized for not standing), Pope Francis recalled his address last year when he listed some illnesses or temptations that Curia staff must face. On that occasion he developed an examination of conscience, urging his audience to be careful not to give in to such things as being too busy, becoming hard-hearted, failing to coordinate with other members, spreading gossip, failing to smile.
This year he offered what he termed “curial antibiotics” which could help treat some of the diseases he listed last year, diseases which became evident during the past year and which, he said, caused “no small pain to the entire body, harming many souls, even by scandal.”
Reiterating the dictum “Ecclesia semeper reformanda” (the Church is always in need of reform), Pope Francis assured his staff that “the reform will move forward with determination, clarity, and firm resolve.”
Despite these diseases and even scandals, the Holy Father quickly added his heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement “to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism.”
He then listed for them a number of virtues which he urged them to embrace and put into practice.
He presented this year’s list following an acrostic for the Latin term misericordia (mercy) which does not easily transfer into English. But using each letter of misericordia, Pope Francis recalled virtues, attitudes, and actions which he urged his staff to put into practice.
He began with “M” –and related that letter to “missionary” spirit, reminding the gathering that all who are baptized are called to be missionaries endowed with pastoral sensitivity.
His address further urged the staff to be wise and creative, fulfilling their jobs with intelligence, insight, and appropriateness. Pope Francis recalled the need for a spirituality which keeps a person human and not robotic. He asked them to set a good example, to avoid emotional excesses, to have a spirit of determination but capable of restraint from impulsive, hasty actions.
He encouraged them to practice charity, to be truthful , humble, diligent, alert, and accountable.
Pope Francis put all these virtues in the context of the Year of Mercy, noting that mercy is the virtue of those who choose to put on the heart of Christ.
“And so,” he concluded, “may mercy guide our steps, inspire our reforms and enlighten our decisions. May it be the basis of all our efforts. May it teach us when to move forward and when to step back. May it also enable us to understand the littleness of all that we do in God’s greater plan of salvation, in his majestic and mysterious works.”
Pope Francis is a man of many talents, a multi-faceted leader who knows when to push and when to ease the pressure. He is resolute but patient. He sees reality but does not give in to discouragement. We have a man of deep, practical faith in the role of St Peter, and we who listen to him, admire him, support him must not neglect to respond to his constant request, “Pray for me.”