VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Why is it that mostly women are the ones who hand down the faith generation after generation, Pope Francis asked.

“Quite simply because it was a woman who brought us Jesus. It’s the path Jesus chose. He wanted to have a mother” and chose to come to the world through Mary, the pope said Jan. 26 during Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope’s homily focused on the day’s reading from St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (1:1-8) in which the apostle highlights Timothy’s “sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.”

“It’s one thing to hand down the faith and another thing to teach things about the faith. Faith is a gift. Faith cannot be studied,” he said. “Yes, you study the contents of the faith to understand it better, but you never come to faith by studying.”

“Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, it is a present that goes beyond any kind of training,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

Handing on the faith is “the beautiful work of mothers and grandmothers,” or sometimes it comes from an aunt or a domestic helper, the pope said. “We need to reflect on whether women today are aware of this obligation to transmit the faith.”

Once a person receives the faith, he said, they also must recognize the need to safeguard it, protect it from becoming weak and “empty pagan chitchat” or “meaningless worldly small talk.”

If people are not vigilant in living out their faith concretely every day, “the faith weakens, it gets watered down, it ends up being a culture: ‘Yes, well, yes, yes, I am a Christian, yes’ — it’s just a culture,” he said.

Or else it becomes just another collection of facts or information, he said. “‘Yes, I know everything about the faith very well, I know the catechism very well,'” he said, imitating what someone who sees faith only as knowledge might say.

What matters is “how do you live your faith? That is why it is important to revive this gift every day, to make it come alive,” the pope said.

People should not be ashamed of their faith, hiding it, letting it become “wishy-washy” or not “living it with total commitment,” he said. Cowardice hurts the faith because it doesn’t let the faith “grow, go forward, become great.”

Echoing St. Paul, the pope said God did not give believers cowardice or embarrassment, but “a spirit of power, love and prudence” or self-control.

Prudence is “knowing that we cannot do everything we want,” he said; it means seeking ways to share the faith with care.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to have a sincere faith, a faith that does not compromise according to whatever opportunities crop up. A faith that I seek to rekindle every day or at least that I ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle it and that way offer great fruit.”