That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.

[…] True joy does not come from things or from possessing, no! It is born from the encounter, from the relationship with others, it is born from feeling accepted, understood and loved, and from accepting, from understanding and from loving; and this is not because of a passing fancy but because the other is a person. Joy is born from the gratuitousness of an encounter! It is hearing someone say, but not necessarily with words: “You are important to me”. This is beautiful…. And it is these very words that God makes us understand. In calling you God says to you: “You are important to me, I love you, I am counting on you”. Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from that! The joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. Understanding and hearing this is the secret of our joy. Feeling loved by God, feeling that for him we are not numbers but people; and hearing him calling us. Becoming a priest or a man or woman religious is not primarily our own decision. I do not trust that seminarian or that woman novice who says: “I have chosen this path”. I do not like this! It won’t do! Rather it is the response to a call and to a call of love. I hear something within me which moves me and I answer “yes”. It is in prayer that the Lord makes us understand this love, but it is also through so many signs that we can read in our life, in the many people he sets on our path. And the joy of the encounter with him and with his call does not lead to shutting oneself in but to opening oneself; it leads to service in the Church. St Thomas said: “bonum est diffusivum sui” — the Latin is not very difficult! — Good spreads. And joy also spreads. Do not be afraid to show the joy of having answered the Lord’s call, of having responded to his choice of love and of bearing witness to his Gospel in service to the Church. And joy, true joy, is contagious; it is infectious… it impels one forward. Instead when you meet a seminarian who is excessively serious, too sad, or a novice like this, you think: but something has gone wrong here! The joy of the Lord is lacking, the joy that prompts you to serve, the joy of the encounter with Jesus which brings you to encounter others to proclaim Jesus. This is missing! There is no holiness in sadness, there isn’t any! St Teresa — there are many Spaniards here and they know it well — said: “a saint who is sad is a sad saint”. It is not worth much…. When you see a seminarian, a priest, a sister or a novice with a a long face, gloomy, who seems to have thrown a soaking wet blanket over their life, one of those heavy blankets… which pulls one down…. Something has gone wrong! But please: never any sisters, never any priests with faces like “chilis pickled in vinegar” — never! The joy that comes from Jesus. Think about this: when a priest — I say a priest, but also a seminarian — when a priest or a sister lacks joy he or she is sad; you might think: “but this is a psychological problem”. No. It is true: that may be, that may be so, yes, it might. It might happen, some, poor things, fall sick…. It might be so. However in general it is not a psychological problem. Is it a problem of dissatisfaction? Well, yes! But what is at the heart of this lack of joy? It is a matter of celibacy. I will explain to you. You, seminarians, sisters, consecrate your love to Jesus, a great love. Your heart is for Jesus and this leads us to make the vow of chastity, the vow of celibacy. However the vow of chastity and the vow of celibacy do not end at the moment the vow is taken, they endure…. A journey that matures, that develops towards pastoral fatherhood, towards pastoral motherhood, and when a priest is not a father to his community, when a sister is not a mother to all those with whom she works, he or she becomes sad. This is the problem. For this reason I say to you: the root of sadness in pastoral life is precisely in the absence of fatherhood or motherhood that comes from living this consecration unsatisfactorily which on the contrary must lead us to fertility. It is impossible to imagine a priest or a sister who are not fertile: this is not Catholic! This is not Catholic! This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy.

However I do not want to embarrass this good sister [addressing an elderly nun in the front row] who was in front of the crowd barrier, poor thing, she was really squashed, but she had a happy face. It did me good to look at your face, sister! You may have had many years of consecrated life, but you have beautiful eyes, you were smiling, you did not complain of being squashed…. When you find examples like this, many sisters, many priests who are joyful, it is because they are fertile, they give life, life, life…. They give this life because they find it in Jesus! In the joy of Jesus! Joy, no sadness, pastoral fecundity.

To be joyful witnesses of the Gospel it is necessary to be authentic and consistent. And this is another word that I want to say to you: “authenticity”. Jesus severely reprimanded the hypocrites: hypocrites, those who think within themselves something other than what they say: those who — to say it clearly — are two-faced. To speak of authenticity to young people costs nothing because the young — all of them — have this wish to be authentic, to be consistent. And you are all disgusted when you find in us priests who we are not authentic, or sisters who are not authentic!

This is a primary responsibility of all adults, of formators. And it is your responsibility, you formators who are here: to set an example of consistency to the youngest. Do we want consistent young people? Are we consistent? On the contrary, the Lord will say to us what he said to the People of God about the Pharisees: “Do what they say but not what they do!”. Consistence and authenticity!

However, you too, in turn, seek to follow this road. I always say what St Francis of Assisi stated: Christ has sent us to proclaim the Gospel with words too. The sentence goes like this: “Always proclaim the Gospel. And if necessary, with words”. What does this mean? Proclaiming the Gospel with an authentic life, with a consistent life. But in this world to which wealth does so much damage it is necessary that we priests, that we sisters, that all of us be consistent with our poverty! But when you find that money is the principal concern of an educational, parochial or indeed any other institution, this is not good. It is not good! It is an inconsistency! We must be consistent and authentic. On this route, let us do what St Francis says: preach the Gospel with our example and then with words! However, it is in our life that others must first be able to read the Gospel! Here too, without fear, with our shortcomings which we try to correct, with our limitations which the Lord knows, but also with our generosity in letting him act through us. […]

6 July 2013

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Sisters and priests free from idolatry

Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel from St Mark (10:17-27), in which the evangelist recounts Jesus’ calling of the rich young man. “It is a story we have heard many times”, Pope Francis said. The man ran up to Jesus “and knelt before him”. And he does so “before a great crowd” because “he greatly desired to hear Jesus’ words” and “something in his heart was prompting him”. Thus, “kneeling before him”, he asks him what he must do in order to inherit eternal life. “It was the Holy Spirit” who was moving the heart of this man, the Pope said. Indeed, he was “a good man, for he observed the commandments from his youth”. However, “for him, being good did not suffice: he wanted more! The Holy Spirit was urging him on”.
“Jesus fixed his gaze upon him, happy to hear these things”, the Pope said. So much so that “the Gospel tells us that he loved him”. Therefore, “Jesus also sensed his enthusiasm. And this is what he proposed: sell what you have and come with me to preach the Gospel!”. However, the evangelist tells us that “at that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful”.
This good man “had come with hope and with joy to see Jesus; he asked his question; he listened to Jesus’ words; and he made his decision: to go away”. Thus “the joy that moved him, the joy of the Holy Spirit, was turned into sadness”. Indeed, Mark says that “he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions”.
The problem was that “his restless heart”, which the Holy Spirit was prompting “to draw near to Jesus and to follow him, was a heart that was full”. Yet “he did not have the courage to empty it” and instead, “he chose money!”. He had “a heart filled with money”, the Pope said. He was not a thief or a criminal. He was a good man. He never stole or cheated. His was “honest money” but “his heart was imprisoned by it, he was attached to money and he didn’t have the freedom to choose”. Therefore, in the end, “money chose for him”.
The Pope then reflected on the question of vocation. And his thoughts turned to young people who “in their hearts feel this call to draw near to Jesus; who are enthusiastic, who are not afraid to go to Jesus, who are not embarrassed to kneel before him”. Those who like the rich young man, “give a sign of public witness to their faith in Jesus Christ”.
Pope Francis said that there are many young people today who feel this call. But “when their hearts are filled with something else, and because they are not courageous enough to empty them, they turn back”. And thus “their joy is turned to sadness”. How many young people there are, he said, who possess that joy of which St Peter speaks in his first Letter (1:3-9): “Rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy, as you obtain the goal of your faith”. Truly, he said, these young people are “many, but there is something standing in their way stopping them”.
“When we ask the Lord to send vocations to proclaim the Gospel, he sends them”. And yet some say: “Father, things in the world are going so badly: there are no vocations to be a sister, there are no priestly vocations, we are going to end in ruin!”.
“There are many vocations”, the Pope said. Yet, he asked, if they are so numerous “why do we need to ask the Lord to send them?”. He replied: “We need to pray that the hearts of these young people might be emptied: emptied of other interests, emptied of other loves, that their hearts might become free”. This, he said, is the true “prayer for vocations: Lord, send us sisters, send us priests; defend them from the idolatry of vanity, from the idolatry of pride, from the idolatry of power, from the idolatry of money”. And, he explained, “our prayer helps to prepare their hearts to closely follow the Lord”.
The Pope noted how many young people there are today like the rich young man. And he asked: “what do we do for them?”. The first thing to be done, he said, is to pray: “Lord, help these young people to be free and not to be slaves” so that “they might have a heart only for you”. In this way, he said, “the call of the Lord can come and bear fruit”.
Pope Francis concluded his homily by inviting those who were present to recite often “this prayer for vocations”, with the awareness that “there are vocations”. It falls to us, he said, to pray that “they might grow, that the Lord might enter into their hearts and give them this ‘unutterable and exalted joy’ which every person has who closely follows the Lord”.

3 March 2014

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