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Pope to Barnabites: Run like mad toward God and toward others

Taking a phrase from their founder, St Anthony Maria Zeccariah, Pope Francis encourages members of the Barnabite religious family to “run” like madmen “towards God and towards others.”

By Christopher Wells

Pope Francis on Monday received members of Barnabite priests, consecrated women, and laity in audience at the Vatican, as the religious family prepares for two important General Chapters.

In his address, the Holy Father recalled an expression of their founder, St Anthony Maria Zaccaria, who used to tell his followers, “You must run like mad! Run towards God and towards others!” Expanding on this exhortation, the Pope reflected on three main points: relationship with Christ; apostolic zeal, and creative courage.

Relationship with Christ

Pope Francis insisted that a strong relationship with Christ is fundamental for mission, while warning against proselytism. “Our missionary proclamation is not proselytism… but sharing a personal encounter.”

He explained that by sharing our life-changing encounter with Jesus – our personal relationship with Him – we can begin to walk with others together towards the same goal of everlasting life with Him.

Running towards others

Like a relationship with Christ, Pope Francis said the aspect of “running towards others” is also fundamental. Here he warned against being closed in on oneself, and of the risks of becoming “sad disciples.”

Recalling Jesus’ command to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel to all, the Pope emphasized that there is no place for sadness in this mission. He encouraged the Barnabites to go forward “in the direction indicated by your charism, ‘To carry the living Spirit of Christ everywhere.’”

Running like mad

Finally, the Pope reflected on what it means to “run like mad.” This is not the same as running madly; instead, it involves “creative courage.” St Anthony Mary displayed this courage, he said, in founding institutions that were new for their time. “These were all new realities,” the Pope said, adding that their founder was “creative, but with fidelity to the Gospel.”

On this point, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of exercising creativity within the Church, as St Anthony Mary did, accepting corrections and explaining his actions, all the while “preserving communion in obedience.”

Acting together

Finally, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of “acting together” as a community, sharing their lives, work, prayers, sufferings, and regoicings. And so, he repeated, “Run like mad, towards God and towards others, but together!”

29 May 2023, 11:05