Pope Francis Address to Seminarians and Novices (Part 1)

Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address to the participants of the meeting on Saturday with seminarians, novices and young people on their vocation path who took part in the Year of Faith pilgrimage entitled “I Trust in You”.

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Part 2 will be published tomorrow, July 10th.

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Good evening!

I asked Archbishop Fisichella if you understood Italian and he told me that you all have the translation. I am somewhat calmed.

I thank Archbishop Fisichella for his words and I also thank him for his work: he has worked so much not only to do this but for all that he has done and will do in the Year of Faith. Thank you so much! However, Archbishop Fisichella said a word, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I take it up: he said that all of you wished to give your life forever to Christ! Now you applaud, celebrate, because it is the time of nuptials … However, when the honeymoon is over, what happens? I heard a seminarian, a good seminarian who said he wanted to serve Christ, but for ten years, and then he would think of starting another life … This is dangerous! However provisional, but this is dangerous because one does not gamble one’s life once and for all. I marry as long as love lasts; I will be a nun but for a “short time,” for “some time,” and then I’ll see; I will be a seminarian to become a priest, but I don’t know how the story will end. This is not right with Jesus! I will not reproach you, I reproach this culture of the provisional, which beats us all, because it doesn’t do us good: because a definitive choice today is very difficult. In my time it was easier, because the culture favored a definitive choice be it for matrimonial life, or the consecrated or priestly life. However, in this age a definitive choice isn’t easy. We are victims of this culture of the provisional. I would like you to think about learning to close the door of our interior cell from inside. Once a priest, a good priest, who didn’t feel he was a good priest because he was humble, felt himself a sinner and prayed much to Our Lady and said this to Our Lady – I will say it in Spanish because it’s a lovely poem: “This afternoon, Lady, the promise is sincere. Just in case, don’t forget to leave the key outside”. But this is said thinking always of love for the Virgin; it is said to Our Lady. However, when one always  leaves the key  outside, because of what might happen … This is not right. We must learn to close the door from inside! And if I’m not sure, I must think, must take time, and when I feel secure in Jesus, I understand, because no one is secure without Jesus! – when I feel secure, I close the door. Have you understood this? What is the culture of the provisional?

When I came in, I saw what I had written. I would like to say a word to you, and that word is joy. Wherever there are consecrated persons, seminarians, women and men religious, young people, there is joy, there is always joy. It’s the joy of freshness; it’s the joy of following Jesus; the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us, not the world’s joy. There is joy. But where is joy born?  It is born … However, on Saturday evening I will go home and will dance with my old companions. Is joy born from this, the joy of a seminarian, for instance, yes or no?

Some will say: joy is born from the things one has, and so, the search for the latest model of the smartphone, the fastest scooter, the car that attracts attention … But I tell you, really, I feel badly when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car: but this can’t be! You are thinking this: but, Father, must we now go on bicycles? The bicycle is good! Monsignor Alfred goes on bicycle, he goes with his bicycle. I think a car is necessary, because so much work must be done here and there, but choose a more modest bicycle! And if you like a lovely one, think of how many children die of hunger, think of this alone! Joy is not born, does not come from the things one has! Others say it comes from the most extreme experiences:  to feel the thrill of the strongest sensations; youth likes to live on the knife’s edge, it really likes this! Others think it comes from dressing more fashionably, from entertainment in the most fashionable places – but in saying this I’m not saying that nuns go to such places, I say it of young people in general. Others, yet, from success with girls or boys, go perhaps from one to the other. It’s this insecurity of love, which isn’t secure; it’s a “test” of love.” And we could continue … You also are in contact with this reality which you can’t ignore.

We know that all this can extinguish a desire, can create emotions, but in the end it’s a joy that remains superficial, it doesn’t go deep down, it’s not a profound joy: it’s the inebriation of a moment that does not render us truly happy. Joy is not the inebriation of a moment, it’s something else!

True joy doesn’t come from things, from having, no! It’s born from the encounter, from the relation with others. It’s born from feeling accepted, understood, loved and from this acceptance, this understanding and this love, and not because it’s of interest for the moment, but because the other, the other is a person. Joy is born from the gratuitousness of an encounter! And from hearing it said: “You are important to me,” not necessarily in words. This is beautiful … And it is this, in fact, that God makes us understand. In calling us God says to us: “You are important to me, I love you, I count on you.” Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from here, the joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. To understand and to feel this is the secret of our joy. To feel loved by God, to feel that for Him we are not numbers, but persons; and to feel that it is He who calls us. To become priests, Religious is not primarily our choice. I don’t trust tet seminarian, the novice who says: “I have chosen this path.” I don’t like this. It’s not right! But it is the response to a call and to a call of love. I hear something within me, which makes me restless, and I answer yes. The Lord makes us feel this love in prayer, but also through so many signs that we can read in our life, so many persons that He puts on our path. And the joy of the encounter with Him and of His call leads not to closing ourselves but to opening ourselves; it leads to service in the Church. Saint Thomas said “bonus est diffusivum sui” – it’s not too difficult Latin! – Good diffuses itself. And joy also diffuses itself. Don’t be afraid to show the joy of having answered the Lord’s call, of the choice to love and witness His Gospel in the service of the Church. And joy, real joy, is contagious; it infects … it makes us go forward. Instead, when one comes across a seminarian who is too serious, too sad, or a similar novice, one thinks: but something is wrong! The joy of the Lord is lacking, the joy that leads one to service, the joy of the encounter with Jesus, which leads one to the encounter with others to proclaim Jesus. This is lacking! There’s no holiness in sadness, there isn’t! Saint Teresa – there are so many Spaniards who know her well – said: “A sad Saint is a sorry Saint!” It’s not much … When one comes across a seminarian, a priest, a nun, a novice, with a long, sad face, who seems as though a very wet covering has been thrown over his/her life, a heavy covering that pulls them down … something is wrong! But please, let us never have nuns, never have priests with the face of a “pepper in vinegar,” never! But with the joy that comes from Jesus. Think of this: when joy is lacking in a priest – I say a priest, but a seminarian also — when joy is lacking in a nun, when she is sad, you can think: “But it’s a psychiatric problem.” No, it’s true that it could be, it could be, certainly. It happens that some little ones get sick. It can happen, but in general it isn’t a psychiatric problem. Is it a problem of dissatisfaction? Well, yes. But what’s at the bottom of that lack of joy? It’s a problem of celibacy. I shall explain. You, seminarians, nuns, consecrated 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 celib
acy. However, the vow of chastity and the vow of celibacy do not end at the moment of the vow; they go on. It’s a journey that matures, which matures towards pastoral paternity, towards pastoral maternity, and when a priest is not the father of his community, when a nun is not the mother of all those with whom she works, they become sad. This is the problem. Given this, I say to you: the root of sadness in pastoral life lies, in fact, in the lack of paternity and maternity that comes from living this consecration badly, which instead should lead us to fruitfulness. We can’t think of priests or nuns who aren’t fruitful: this isn’t Catholic! This isn’t Catholic! This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy …

[Translation by ZENIT]
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