International assembly of the Lay Camillian Family: Presentation Fr. Leo Pessini – Superior General of the Camillians

Greetings of Fr. Leocir Pessini


Rome-Villa Primavera, 15-19 October 2018

Subject of the paper

Called to holiness in my personal history: the apostolic exhortation ‘Gaudete et Exsultate’ of Pope Francis


Fr. Leo Pessini – Superior General of the Camillians


The purpose of the apostolic exhortation

     ‘My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4)’

The holiness of small daily acts: ‘performing ordinary actions in an extraordinary way’ (St. Teresa of the Child Jesus)

‘I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant’ (n. 7).

‘We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves’ (n. 14).

‘Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel’ (n. 19).

Holiness and blessedness (chap. III)

      The Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23) ‘are like a Christian’s identity card. So if anyone asks: “What must one do to be a good Christian?”, the answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives’ (n. 63).

‘Happy’, ‘blessed’, are synonymous with ‘holy’!

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’

‘The Gospel invites us to peer into the depths of our heart, to see where we find our security in life’. ‘Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who have a poor heart, for there the Lord can enter with his perennial newness’.

Luke does not speak of poverty “of spirit” but simply of those who are “poor” (cf. Lk 6:20). In this way, he too invites us to live a plain and austere life.

‘Blessed are the meek for the will inherit the earth’

‘Christ says: “Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29). If we are constantly upset and impatient with others, we will end up drained and weary… Saint Thérèse of Lisieux tells us that “perfect charity consists in putting up with others’ mistakes, and not being scandalized by their faults”’.

Indeed, in the Bible the same word – anawim – usually refers both to the poor and to the meek (cf. Gal 5:23). Even when we defend our faith and convictions, we are to do so “with meekness” (cf. 1 Pet 3:16) (n. 73): ‘Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’

‘A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths and finding authentic happiness’ (n. 76). Since patristic times, the Church has appreciated the gift of tears. St Paul to the Romans: ‘Weep with those who weep’ (Rom 12:15).

An African proverb says that ‘tears do harm when they return to eyes’, when, that is to say, they do not express sincere pain for other people but express only subjective frustration. They then are of no use and fall in a sterile way on those who weep, in vain. Tears are good and do good, when they fall to the ground and bathe it because from them is born a new and beautiful reality. These become fruitful tears (cf. Cencini A., Abbracciare il futuro con speranza. Il domani della vita consacrata, Paoline, Milan, 2018, p. 92).

During his pastoral visit to the Philippines Pope Francis met young people (18 January 2015). It was Glyzelle Palomar and Jun Chura, aged 12 and 14 respectively, who inspired what Pope Francis said. These young girls spoke about their lives on the street during the meeting of the Supreme Pontiff with the young people of the University of St. Thomas in Manila. Bergoglio was very struck by their stories. “Why does God allow such things?” Glyzelle and Jun provided a moving testimony about the life of abandoned children, the victims of abuse, exploited for child prostitution and induced to use drugs and pharmaceuticals “Let us learn to weep”. The Pope caressed them, hugged them to comfort them, and put the speech that he had prepared to one side, saying: “There are no words to answer this question. The first thing that I wanted to say is: let’s learn to weep. As today your testimony has taught us, the great answer that we can give to the great question today is to learn to weep. Certain truths are only seen by eyes with tears”. “Today’s world lacks the ability to weep. The marginalized weep, the despised weep, but we do not understand much about these people if we do not weep. Certain truths of life are seen only by eyes with tears”. “I therefore invite you to ask yourselves”, Pope Francis went on, “have I learnt to weep when I see a homeless child? Who is crying? Who is abandoned? Who is abused? Used by society like a slave?”

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled’

Hunger and thirst are intense experiences, since they involve basic needs and our instinct for survival’ (n. 77).

‘the word “justice” can be a synonym for faithfulness to God’s will in every aspect of our life…it is shown especially in justice towards those who are most vulnerable: “Seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Is 1:17)’ (n. 79).

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy’

‘Mercy has two aspects. It involves giving, helping and serving others, but it also includes forgiveness and understanding. Matthew sums it up in one golden rule: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (7:12)’ (n. 80).  In the Gospel of Luke we do not hear the words, “Be perfect” (Mt 5:48), but rather, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (6:36-38)’ (n. 81). Pope Francis says that mercy is the ‘beating heart of the Gospel’ (cf. Bull Misericordiae Vultus, 11 April 2015, 12: AAs 207 (2015), p. 407).

Our holy father Camillus was transformed radically by mercy. In our Constitution we read: ‘St. Camillus, himself a recipient of mercy and tempered by the experience of suffering, following the example and teaching of the merciful Christ’ (Const. n. 8). At ManfredoniaWorks of material mercy (Antonio di Nicastro, builder of the friary of the Capuchins). At San Giovanni RotondoWorks of spiritual mercy – Friar Angelo as an adviser.  In the middle of his journey, in the Valle dell’Infernothe extraordinary conversion (2 February 1575).

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God’

‘The Bible uses the heart to describe our real intentions, the things we truly seek and desire, apart from all appearances. “Man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1Sam 16:7). God wants to speak to our hearts (cf. Hos 2:16); there he desires to write his law (cf. Jer 31:33). In a word, he wants to give us a new heart (cf. Ezek 36:26’ (n. 83).

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for the will be called the children of God’

This Beatitude makes us think of the many endless situations of war in our world. The peaceful are sources of peace; they build peace and social friendship.

‘We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill’ (n. 89).

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

‘Whatever weariness and pain we may experience in living the commandment of love and following the way of justice, the cross remains the source of our growth and sanctification’ (n. 92).

In the New Testament when one is dealing with the suffering that has to be borne for the Gospel, reference is made precisely to persecutions. ‘Persecutions are not a reality of the past, for today too we experience them, whether by the shedding of blood, as is the case with so many contemporary martyrs, or by more subtle means, by slander and lies’ (n. 94).

To end

‘The powerful witness of the saints is revealed in their lives, shaped by the Beatitudes and the criterion of the final judgement. Jesus’ words are few and straightforward, yet practical and valid for everyone, for Christianity is meant above all to be put into practice. It can also be an object of study and reflection, but only to help us better live the Gospel in our daily lives. I recommend rereading these great biblical texts frequently, referring back to them, praying with them, trying to embody them. They will benefit us; they will make us genuinely happy’ (n. 109).

The quality of this witness (some spiritual characteristics or expressions that are indispensable in understanding the style of life to which the Lord calls us: endurance, patience and meekness (nn. 112-121); joy and a sense of humour (nn. 122-128), audacity and fervour– parresia (nn. 129-139).

Some questions to reflect together in the work groups

What is the concept of holiness that we have inherited in the history of our lives and which perhaps is still at work in our hearts?

What is the newness that the beatitudes bring to us in a real understanding of the holiness that God wants?

Why do we need holy men and women? Are they really indispensable?