Seminarians of Pio XI Regional Seminary of Puglia (from the Website of the Seminary)

Pope's Prepared Address to Seminarians of Pius XI Pontifical Regional Seminary

‘One who grows in belonging to Christ and discovers in Him a look that gazes on all, how can he be in his lifestyle a man that excludes?’

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Below is Pope Francis’ prepared address to seminarians from the Pius XI Pontifical Regional Seminary of Puglia, located in the city of Molfetta, Italy. He had handed it to them in the Vatican on early Saturday before give off-the-cuff remarks:
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Seminarians,
I meet you joyfully and greet you all who are part of the “Pius XI” Pontifical Regional Seminary of Puglia, accompanied by the Bishops of the Region. I thank the Rector for his courteous words and I greet you in a special way, dear seminarians, who, thank God, are numerous.
I would like to take up briefly with you what I said during the Assembly of Italian Bishops last spring on the identity and ministry of presbyters. On that occasion I described a presbyter’s ministry through a threefold belonging: to the Lord, to the Church, to the Kingdom. Such belonging, of course, is not improvised, nor is it born after ordination if first — in fact, in the years of the Seminary –, it was not cultivated, protected, made to grow with care and a sense of responsibility. See why today I would like to take advantage of your visit to take up again that reflection, which I consider important also for the young seminarians, who are preparing to become priests.
First of all, the word “belonging” bears in itself the idea of feeling oneself part of a whole. Only if we feel part of Christ, of the Church and of the Kingdom will we walk well in the years of the seminary. To receive the whole it is necessary to raise one’s gaze, to stop thinking that I am the whole of my life. Therefore, the first obstacle to overcome is narcissism. It is the most dangerous temptation. Everything does not begin and end with me; I can and must look beyond myself, until I realize the beauty and profundity of the mystery that surrounds me, of the life that surpasses me, of faith in God who sustains everything and every person, including me. How can I be aware of Christ if I look only at myself? How will I be able to enjoy the beauty of the Church if my only preoccupation is to save myself, to come out undamaged from every circumstance? How can I be enthusiastic in the adventure of the building of the Kingdom of God, if every enthusiasm is halted by fear of losing something of myself? In this liturgical Season of Advent, which makes the Lord’s invitation to vigilance strong, we are invited to watch the real risk of being narcissistic, because without this vigilance no vocational path is really possible.
To belong, then, also means to be able to enter in relation. We must prepare ourselves first of all to be men of relation. With Christ, with the brothers with whom we share the ministry and the faith, <and> with all the persons we meet in life. And to be able to live relations well one begins in the seminary! One cannot think of walking towards the priesthood without having taken this decision in the heart: I want to be a man of relation. May this be the first care in these years, the first formative end. Can I really verify, as the years go by and ordination looms, if I am progressing in this dimension, if my relational capacity is growing, is maturing? The building of the community, which one day you will have to lead as priests, begins in everyday life in the seminary, be it among yourselves, be it with the persons you meet in your path. Do not feel different from your contemporaries, do not think you are better than the other young men, learn to be with all, do not be afraid to soil your hands. If tomorrow you will be priests who live in the midst of the holy People of God, today you begin to be young men who are able to be with all, who are able to learn something from every person you meet, with humility and intelligence. And may at the base of all relations be the relation with Christ,” as you get to know Him, listen to Him, are bound to Him in trust and love; make His love your own, put it in your relations with others, become “channels” of His love through your relational maturity. The place where the relation with Christ grows is prayer, and the most mature fruit of prayer is always charity.
Finally, belonging is confronted with its opposite, which is exclusion, rejection. One who grows in belonging to Christ and discovers in Him a look that gazes on all, how can he be in his lifestyle a man that excludes? Begin by the common life you have in the seminary: is there someone who is excluded? Who remains on the margins? Your belonging to Christ asks you to go to meet him, to bring him to the center, to help him, also, to feel part of the community. As you grow the sense of belonging to the Church and of enjoying the beauty of fraternity, be able to ask yourselves if you are able to engage in the effort of forgiveness, in small as well as in great things. If nothing in life excludes us from the Lord’s merciful gaze, why should our look ever be to exclude someone?
I know you are a large seminary, visited by the Lord’s grace with so many vocations. This abundance is also a responsibility: be attentive to the quality of the formative path, numbers are not enough. Therefore, in thanking you for your visit, I assure you of my prayer so that you walk always in a good formative quality. And you also, please, do not forget to pray for me.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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