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Faithful should embrace silence, listen to God, pope says

Pope Francis highlights lessons of mission from Mother Ágreda's life, stressing Mary's role in revealing Christ

Pope Francis with members of the Pontifical Marian Academy.

Pope Francis with members of the Pontifical Marian Academy. (Photo: Vatican News)

Published: November 17, 2023 05:02 AM GMT

Updated: November 17, 2023 05:06 AM GMT

Long moments of silence and listening to God's Word are some of the many lessons contemplative women can give other Catholics, Pope Francis said.

"In this world that is always full -- of things, words, news, a whole industry of external communication -- interior communication, in silence, is so necessary," he said during an audience at the Vatican Nov. 16.

He spoke to people taking part in an international conference sponsored by the Pontifical International Marian Academy on the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda.

Mother Ágreda was a Spanish mystic, spiritual writer and 17th-century member of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, a religious order founded in Spain in 1511.

She was a cloistered nun who was believed to have had the gift of bilocation as it was said she appeared to members of the Jumano tribe in central New Mexico, Tucson and West Texas, in what was known then as "New Spain," and evangelized that region.

The audience with the pope included members of the Conceptionists and Indigenous peoples who trace their lineage to the Jumano tribe.

In his talk, the pope praised Mother Ágreda as being "an exceptional woman" whom the conference defined as "in love with Scripture," "Marian mystic" and "evangelizer of America."

"These titles made me reflect on three lessons that contemplative women can give to the church" -- silence, mysticism and mission, he said.

Silence is an "attitude of listening, to welcome the voice of the Beloved, the eternal Word of the Father, in the heart," he said. "Sometimes contemplation is done in silence, before the Lord," and this silence is needed in a noisy world.

The mystical represents "a relationship with God that is born from this attitude of listening, from this incarnate reading of the sacred Scripture," which leads to an experience of "coming out of ourselves, coming out of our comforts, out of the selfish ego that always tries to dominate us," he said.

"Contemplatives teach us, through a path of asceticism, abandonment and fidelity, the joy of living only for him," the pope said.

Finally, the Conceptionist religious sisters spread to the Americas, offering an example of "this missionary spirit in contemplative life."

"We are not usually aware of the power of intercessory prayer in our lives, as the Indians are said to have been by Mother Ágreda's intervention," he added.

Pope Francis encouraged everyone to follow the example of Mary, who "leads us to Jesus, she generates him in us. And we must imitate this beautiful attitude, pointing to the Lord in our turn."

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"When I don't understand something, I reach up and hold God's hand. And we walk together in silence" - Mahatma Gandhi

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