Pope Francis concluded this Wednesday, January 3, his cycle of catechesis dedicated to discernment, by addressing the subject of spiritual accompaniment. Being accompanied by a trusted person on his journey of faith is a precious help, explained François, provided he respects a few rules.
Adelaide Patrignani – Vatican City
Delivering his fourteenth and last catechesis of the cycle on discernment on the eve of the funeral of Benedict XVI, Francis began with a few words in memory of his predecessor, “grand master of catechesis”.
His thought, the Holy Father underlined, “was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us towards the encounter with Jesus”. The Lord is the goal “to which Pope Benedict led us, taking us by the hand. May he help us to rediscover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living.he wished.
The treasure of fragility
As for spiritual discernment, explained the Sovereign Pontiff, it requires deepening self-knowledge, which is encouraged by spiritual accompaniment.
It is therefore first of all “to make oneself known” with the companion, like a person helping another to look in a mirror, without fear of revealing their weaknesses and frailties. “Fragility is, in reality, our true wealth, (…) which we must learn to respect and welcome, because, when it is offered to God, it makes us capable of tenderness, mercy, love. It makes us human.” underlined François, and spares us a certain harshness or even a character “dictatorial”. The fragility is “our most precious treasure”, he insisted, because even God went through her to “to make us like Him”: the crèche is an example.
When the accompaniment is docile to the Holy Spirit, “it helps to unmask ambiguities”, even serious, “in our self-esteem and in our relationship with the Lord”. “People who have a real relationship with Jesus are not afraid to open their hearts to him,” said the Pope.
Telling a third party – whether lay or priest – what we are experiencing, he continued, or what we desire, helps to bring clarity to oneself. It sheds light on the negative thoughts that inhabit us, so that we can “to feel loved and esteemed by the Lord as we are, capable of doing good things for Him”.
The Holy Father, however, warned against potential confusion: the accompanist “does not replace the Lord, does not do the work in place of the accompanied person, but walks alongside him, encourages him to read what moves in his heart, the place par excellence where the Lord speaks”. François also clarified that he preferred the term “spiritual guide” rather than “spiritual director”.
Like the Virgin Mary
Accompaniment can also only be fruitful if it is experienced in the “filiation” and the “spiritual brotherhood”. He is “essential to be inserted into a community on the way. You don’t go to the Lord alone.” insisted the Sovereign Pontiff, otherwise we do not discover each other “brothers, children of the same Father”. And without the awareness of this common condition, “accompaniment can give rise to unreal expectations, misunderstandings and forms of dependence that leave the person in an infantile state”, warned the Pope.
The Holy Father then proposed as a model and “mistress of discernment” the Virgin Mary, who “speaks little, listens a lot and keeps treasures in his heart”. More than anyone else, she was able to accomplish by actions and choices, the will that God expressed in her heart, and she invites us to do the same (cf. Lk 2:25).
A favor to ask
“Discernment is an art” which, well mastered, “allows you to live the spiritual experience in an ever more beautiful and orderly way”. He is a “gift of God”, a grace to ask for in prayer. No one can claim “expert and self-sufficient”, said Francis at the end of his catechesis, and at the conclusion of this cycle.
Citing Holy Scripture, Francis concluded with an invitation to trust: “if we trust his word, we will play the game of life well, and we can help others”.