The final stop of Pope Francis' tour of Latin America was at the Marian National Shrine of "El Quinche.”
Ecuadorians filled the streets during the Pope's final hours in their country, and they greeted him with enthusiasm. This is how the Popemobile arrived at the gates of the shrine.
Pope Francis entered the sanctuary carrying a bouquet of flowers. He left it at the feet of the patron saint of the country. He also placed a rosary and caressed the shrine. He then spoke before hundreds of monks, nuns, priests, and seminarians. He began by telling the Ecuadorian people he had been surprised by them.
"In these two days, 48 hours I was in touch with you noticed something was unusual, sorry, something unusual in the Ecuadorian people. All places where I always go the reception is cheerful, happy, friendly, religious, and devotional. Everywhere!”
Pope Francis confessed to them that there was only one possible explanation: That he had arrived while praying.
"I think that I must say it is a message from Jesus. All this wealth you have, spiritual wealth and piety, comes from having the courage you have. Because there were difficult moments, and there was the courage to consecrate the nation to the heart of Christ.”
From that point forward, the Pope decided to change plans and improvise. It ended up being one of his most powerful speeches in Ecuador. He focused on the two key aspects of religious life. The first is gratitude.
"You did not pay admission to enter the seminary, to enter religious life. You did not deserve it. If a religious, priest or seminarian or a nun in here believes that they deserved it, raise your hand. All free. And the life of a religious, a religious priest and a seminarian who is going down that road and well, also bishops, we say, has to go the way of gratitude. Come back to this every day: Lord, today I did this. This worked out. I had this difficulty, but it all comes from you.”
The second key aspect of religious life, according to the Pope, was to avoid a sickness that he called "spiritual Alzheimer's.”
"Do not fall into the spiritual Alzheimer's. Do not lose the memory. Especially the memory of where you came from. FLASH. And it's very sad when you see a priest, a devoted, a consecrated, who at home speaks a dialect or another language, speaks one of these languages of ancient noble people. Ecuador has how many? And it's very sad when they forget the language. It's very sad when they do not want to talk. That means that they forgot where they came from.”
He concluded by reminding them to give freely what is freely received, because their mission is to serve.
"Not that I have my time. I have my things. I have this, no. Now, I close the office. I would have gone to bless houses but I'm tired today, so I watch a nice soap opera on television for the nuns. Service. Serve, serve, and don't do anything else.”
And that's how Pope Francis concluded his final meeting in Ecuador. From the Sanctuary, he departed for the airport. From there, the Pope would head to his next stop: Bolivia.