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Full Text of Pope’s Conversation With Seminarians from Lombardy

‘Starting from Jesus, what can we say? What is, in fact, the kernel of Jesus’ message, of Jesus’ attitude in face of that secularized world? What did Jesus do? Closeness…’

Here is a ZENIT working translation of the transcription of the Holy Father’s Dialogue with Lombardian seminarians, who were received in audience last Saturday, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

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Pope Francis:

I have the questions, because they were sent to me, but you ask them. I’ll note the things that come to me, because I want to be spontaneous in the answer.

Daniele:

Holy Father, I’m Daniele, of the diocese of Mantova, and I am in the introductory year.  At the beginning of our seminarian journey, joy is the predominant emotion in us. Sometimes, however, behind this enthusiasm the germ of doubt and effort is hidden, to follow Jesus as a priest in contemporary society.  From your experience, in what way can we seminarians, who are on the way, be able to face the cross of doubt?

Pope Francis:

The cross of doubt is a cross, but fecund. I have no confidence in persons who never doubt. Doubt puts us in crisis. Doubt makes us ask ourselves, “but is this all right or not all right? Doubt is richness. I’m speaking of normal doubt, not those of doubting persons who become scrupulous.  No, this isn’t all right. But the normal doubt of the personality is richness, because it puts me in crisis and makes me ask: does this thought come from God or does it not come from God? Is this a positive or not a positive thing?

You said “the cross of doubt,” and I’m answering you in regard to interior doubt, the doubt you have in your spiritual orientation. Perhaps you are also speaking of cultural doubt. However, today there is not so much cultural doubt; perhaps there are more contrary cultural affirmations, each one has his own and I believe that humanity is lacking somewhat the capacity to doubt well. The big questions . . . think of doubt about war, about migrations. They are doubts to be taken seriously because otherwise, in these ambits the problems isn’t resolved with an interior search, but according to the interest of each nation, of each society, of each people. Then the lack of these doubts is awful, because it makes one always feel secure, without posing the problem to oneself . . . Doubt is a cross, but it’s a cross that brings you close to Jesus and puts you in crisis. And as you said — it’s written here –: “what concrete actions can we put into practice every day so that our everyday nourishes this journey of entrustment?” The specific action is dialogue with the person that accompanies you, dialogue with the Superior, dialogue with companions, but open dialogue, sincere dialogue, concrete things and, especially, dialogue with the Lord. “Lord, what do you wish to say to me with this, which you make me feel, with this desolation, with this doubt?  Take the doubt as an invitation to seek the truth, to seek an encounter with Jesus Christ: this is a true doubt, all right?

Andrea:

Holiness, I’m Andrea, of the diocese of Brescia, and I am in the first <year> of Theology. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Holiness, meditating on your words with which you invite the Church to be outgoing, called, therefore, to carry out a new evangelizing mission, we question ourselves about some difficulties to put <your words> into practice. In face of a world that is ever more secularized, in which Jesus is forgotten and it’s an effort to transmit Him and, therefore, to understand the truth; in face of the weakness of communion and of the sense of belonging and of identity in the Christian communities, and in face of little active participation in the liturgy, we ask you with what concrete means is it possible to realize this going out to which you call us and, especially, how can one educate love for the Church and for the Church herself?

Pope Francis:

Thank you.

An outgoing Church, as Jesus willed: “Go, preach the Gospel, go . . . “ Not a “Church going for a walk!” Perhaps sometimes we are confused on some pastoral area, about what it means to go out to meet persons, and what it is to have a lovely walk and then stay where I am. This is important: the going out isn’t an adventure; it’s a mandate of the Lord, it’s a vocation; it’s a commitment.  You speak of “this ever more secularized world.” But I say to you: which world was more secularized, our <world> or that of Jesus? Which world was more corrupt, our <world> or that of Jesus? Both <are> the same. Yes <ours> is more secularized with new, modern means, but <His> was secularized with the means of that time. However, the corruption was the same. Think of the corruption of the inhabitants of Athens, when Paul began to speak that discourse so well done, which also quoted their poets and in the end, when he came to a rather difficult point [that of Christ’s Resurrection], the Athenians said: “Yes, yes, go on . . . , we will hear you <again> tomorrow: It happens also today. If you go to talk of Jesus, in many places, in many cities they don’t listen to you; they don’t hear you. That time was also secularized. Think that at that time there were also human sacrifices  . . . and also today! <They are done> in another way <today>, with white gloves, but they are carried out. The secularization is the same, more or less, that of Jesus’ <time> and that of our time. Instead, what should we do, <what> concrete things <should we do> in this secularized world? The same concrete things that Jesus did, that the Apostles did. How is the Church built? Take the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and the same thing is there. There is no other different fundamental method. Yes, there are shades, changes of time, but the essential is the same that Jesus did.

And, starting from Jesus, what can we say? What is, in fact, the kernel of Jesus’ message, of Jesus’ attitude in face of that secularized world? What did Jesus do? Closeness, closeness <and> encounter. Jesus encountered the Father in prayer and Jesus encountered the people. He also encountered enemies, who sometimes listened to him; He explained <things> to them; at other times He said things to them that seem like bad language. For instance, read Matthew 23: they are not lovely things that Jesus says there. Because He was close He could say things clearly and some weren’t pleased. And then He had to pay the price for this on the cross. Do the same as Jesus: closeness, closeness to God, closeness to the people of God, closeness to the people of God.

Therefore, I like to say that you must be priests of the people of God, namely, Pastors of the peoples, Pastors of the people and not “clerics of the State, ” because Jesus thrashed strongly the clericalism of his time: the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Doctors of the Law . . . . <He thrashed them> very strongly. And I say to you that clericalism is a perversion of the Church. When a young priest is seen altogether focused on himself, who thinks of having a career, this is <to be> more on the part of the Pharisees and Sadducees than on the part of Jesus. This is the truth. When you see a priest who prays, who is with children, teaches catechesis, celebrates Mass with his community, who knows the people’s names because he approaches them, at the end of Mass he goes and greets them one by one: “How are you? And <how is> the family?  . . . This is the closeness that Jesus had. Once I heard someone from here, one who worked in the Vatican, because there are saints in here, there are saints! Who said to me that he had been a parish priest at one time and knew everyone’s name, even the names of the dogs! This is <what should be> the closeness of a priest, a holy priest, but with the ordinary holiness to which we are all called — closeness to the people and closeness to God in prayer. A priest who is too eager in the organization of things and loses somewhat this closeness, distances himself from Jesus’ priestly ideal.

But why is closeness <necessary>? I would like to stress a theological aspect of closeness — I’ve said this at other times, perhaps you’ve heard it. In Deuteronomy God says to His people: “Think, what people have their gods so close to them as I am close to you?” Closeness to the people is a choice of God. And He led His people as a Pastor, and He led them well. However, one sees that He wasn’t satisfied with this, and He came also to make Himself one of us — so close! It’s God’s condescendence who comes down, what is called synkatabasi. It’s God’s essential attitude, who makes Himself man for us, He makes Himself close. That <should be> the attitude of the priest. I was given  . . . Father Rupnik gave me an icon of Our Lady made by himself. Our Lady is at the center but, looking carefully, it’s not an icon of Our Lady: Our Lady is at the center, large, and She has little Jesus here [in the womb but standing], a Jesus who is four or five years old, Our Lady’s hands are like this, as a stepladder, and Jesus comes down, He comes down to us . . . In the right hand He has the fullness of the Law [a scroll], and with the left hand He clings to Our Lady, not to fall. God is a man who comes down. She is Our Lady of condescendence: Jesus is the center. Our Lady is the stairs for this mystery of closeness. Therefore, devotion to Our Lady helps one to be close to Jesus. There is a prayer that we were taught, a short prayer that does one so much good: “Mother, put me with your Son, make me be close to your Son.” This help is so, because one who is close to Jesus is close to the people and does what Jesus did.  

So, <we have> a secularized world as at Jesus’ time, this is clear. Jesus’ most concrete attitude was closeness, pastoral closeness. And also among yourselves, <there must be> presbyterial closeness . . . If there is time — I don’t remember if there is a question about this — about the presbyteral college . . . If there isn’t, remind me of it.  

Giovanni:

Holy Father, I’m Giovanni, I come from the diocese of Bergamo and I’m in the fourth year of Theology. Holiness, some among us seminarians, who are preparing to receive the ministry of Readers and to address the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, were stirred in particular by number 82: “The Synod recommended that seminarians be helped concretely to see the relationship between biblical study and praying with Scripture. To study the Scriptures should make one more aware of the mystery of divine revelation and nourish an attitude of prayerful response to the Lord who speaks. On the other hand, an authentic life of prayer can also make the desire grow in the candidate’s soul to know God ever more, who revealed Himself in his Word as infinite love.” We would like to ask you about your personal experience, in the years of formation, of the relationship between study and prayer, and between study and pastoral activity. Finally, we would like to know what passage of Scripture, discovered and relished largely thanks to the studies, which accompanied you in prayer during the years of formation and still accompany you.

Pope Francis:

Thank you.

I begin with a quotation of Pope Benedict XVI. He touches a very important point: the relationship between prayer and Scripture. Something that we must learn to do and to do continually is lectio divina, that is, the encounter with the Lord through his Word: lectio divina. Go always to Scripture. The Word of God that teaches us to dialogue with Scripture: this is lectio divina; to be before the Lord, in His presence, with the Bible, and to listen. This can be done also with short passages. I recommend to people to carry the Bible in their pocket — a pocket Gospel — or in their bag [and to read it] when they have time — two or three things.

Familiarity with the Word of God — there are so many spiritual authors that teach us to go forward in the spiritual life, and they should be read, isn’t that so? However, the Word of God; it’s to know the Word of God, this lectio divina, this familiarity with the Word of God — which isn’t a familiarity of quotations, in this or that verse. No, not that. It’s a familiarity of the heart; it’s to know the Word of God from within.

Then the question: “We would like to ask you about your personal experience in the years of formation, about the relationship between study and prayer, between study and pastoral activity,” and a fourth element is missing: there are four columns, the pillars of formation: study, prayer, pastoral activity and communal life and, for this, the Seminary is important. Once, a wise Bishop said: “The worst Seminary is better than no Seminary,” because communal life helps us: it is an introduction to the presbyteral college. The relationship between study, prayer, pastoral activity and communal life are the four pillars that interact, and you must pray with the things you study or with what you see in pastoral life at the weekend, or with what happens in the community. Prayer must address everything. The four aspects are interactive, they aren’t separate pieces: it’s a unity of the four pillars of formation. And when you go to your spiritual Father, to your accompanier or your Rector or the Superior of the community, you must speak of all four, as they interact, and look for the relationship that exists. I don’t know if this is clear . . . Is it clear? There are four, but it’s necessary to speak of the relationship, of the relationship between the four.

Then, this is somewhat of a curiosity — but poor Eve, what happened to her because of her curiosity! “In fine, we want to know which passage of Scripture, discovered and relished largely thanks to the studies, accompanied you in prayer during the years of formation and still accompany you.” The dimension of the memory strikes me a lot — the “Deuteronomic” dimension and, because of this, a passage of the Bible which has accompanied me — and I always go back to it — is Deuteronomy 26: “Remember, do not forget, when you arrive in that land, which you have not conquered, when you have a full stomach of things you have not sown, when you dwell in a house that you did not build, remember, remember that you were a slave in Egypt (Cf. vv. 1-7). The memory, always look back. To where I come from, from where the Lord has saved me. The Deuteronomic dimension does me good.  “Ah, I’m a great priest, see, they have appointed me Rector of that Shrine, I do this and that . . . “ Remember from where you were taken. “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son . . .but the Lord took me from following the flock . . . (Cf. Amos 7:14-15). This strikes me a lot: to turn back, to remember, don’t be swollen with vanity, pride, self-sufficiency — everything was given to you. This is a passage with which I pray a lot today; it does me good.

 

Then, another passage, which I consider as the story of my life, is Ezekiel 16. Of the New Testament, I pause — it must be because I like celebrations — I pause on the Wedding of Cana, as Our Lady acts at that moment, discreetly, as she realizes, as she does . . . and that order of Our Lady — it’s the only order that Our Lady gives us” “Do whatever He tells you” (Cf. John 2:5). I like it; it touches me. These are the three passages that, I would like to say, touch me a lot. However, I recommend the first: take this Deuteronomic dimension of life, which will help you a lot, with the memory, and don’t believe yourselves <to be> more than you are.

Piergiorgio:

Holy Father, good morning, I’m Piergiorgio from the diocese of Crema. I’m an acolyte and next Saturday I will be ordained Deacon. Some among us seminarians will receive, in the coming months, the ministry of acolyte, which will make them extraordinary ministers of Eucharistic Communion. Therefore, the deepening of the most holy mystery of the Eucharist accompanies and will accompany our whole journey. In this connection, and also on the occasion of the Synod on Young People, we would like to ask you a question that stems from our pastoral experiences. Seeing so many young people who don’t recognize the Eucharist, much less so as something important, how can we make them perceive, on the contrary, the culminating centrality that, in fact, springs for the life of every man and every woman? In this connection, would you like to share with us the memory of your youth regarding the relationship with Jesus-Eucharist?

Pope Francis:

Yesterday, at the Altar of the Chair [in St. Peter’s Basilica], at 5:45 in the afternoon, there were almost a thousand young people, and I gave a meditation, and then they did an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. The young people don’t reject it, but <only> when they come to understand <it>, to feel the need . . . It’s true, if you take one and say to him: “Come, let’s go do Adoration,” he falls asleep. However, it’s also good to fall asleep before the Lord! Saint Therese of the Child Jesus did it often, and I do too, it’s true! However, a catechesis is necessary on what the Eucharist is, a catechesis of life. I’ll you an anecdote.  In one of the parishes of Buenos Aires, the parish priest carried out the service of giving the homeless dinner. It was all well organized. Every day of the week there was a different group. Young people of good will, in the majority Catholics, and also some who didn’t believe in anything but wanted to do this service, and it worked well. There were those that cooked. In total, — I think — some 20 young people every day: 150 young people more or less with whom the cooking was done. At a certain point, the parish priest said: “They are doing this service well. I must do more.” What did he suggest before going out? Listen to the word of the Gospel. So, all <went to> the church, <for> not more than five minutes: <and listened> to a word of the Gospel. And they said: “This is good, but it’s little . . . “ And the parish priest said: Jesus is here with us. You go to give needy Jesus something to eat but Jesus is also here, hidden in the bread. We can look at Him a while before leaving . . . See, yes, not to make it long, he began to do that reading of the Bible before the Lord, not longer than a quarter of an hour. And these young people learned what the Eucharist is, but little by little. The catechesis on the Eucharist must be done little by little, because it is the great mystery of the Lord’s presence with us. You can’t go with a book and say: “The Eucharist is this; it’s the sacrifice of the Ancient Law, which then etc., etc. A youth won’t understand this. Make him feel the need. . In this case, the priest was clever. He said: They go to needy Jesus. I will make them see the Jesus that gives them strength with the Word — <for> 15 minutes, not more.” Then, on the other hand, he began to do Adoration, and many of them went to Adoration.

In this connection, I would like to go further on the liturgical celebrations. The liturgical celebration is an act of Adoration, an act of participation in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We all know it. It’s an act of praise to God, of spiritual joy.  However, it often seems like a wake! And here we must help the priests. And you who will be priests, please, don’t bore the people. There was a custom — I don’t know if it’s still done here — , when the preaching began, many went out to smoke a cigarette — boring preaching. The preaching is the homily: it must touch the heart. <If>, on the contrary, it’s boring, it’s not understood. As priests, you must read what is written in Evangelii Gaudium on the homily. It’s long but I wanted to do it so — to touch. A priest who taught us homiletics, said to us: “<It should be> an idea, an image, a sentiment.” And this can be done in five minutes. Think that psychologically the people can’t pay attention for more than eight minutes <so give> an eight-minute, well prepared homily: with a clear idea, a clear sentiment or a clear image.

Love of the Eucharist must be done with a catechesis, but in this way, through the Mass: so that they see how the Mass is celebrated; so that they understand this. Adoration is easier than the Holy Mass, because of the catechesis <given> to young people, because you can explain: there will be 20 minutes of Adoration and, every six to seven minutes the priest says a word, and this helps. Introduce Adoration. But the Eucharistic celebration is important: it’s important to do it well, that it be worship of adoration, of joy, of communion among us, of communion with Christ. In this, we are in crisis; we haven’t resolved the problem of the Eucharistic celebration. I speak in general. There are many valid examples, but in general we must take it up again. And this is a global problem. Some believe that we don’t do the rubrics well, that it’s not right. We must celebrate and make noise: it’s not right. Good rubrics are needed, celebration is needed, music is needed, prayer is needed, silence is needed. However, it’s not easy to celebrate the Eucharist.  And this is a task for you as future priests. Then often the Eucharist — and this is awful, but I must say it — the Eucharist is celebrated too “socially” [as a social custom], not communally. Is there a Mass for that deceased father? Take advantage of the social custom to evangelize, to say a good word, to celebrate with beauty. A Bishop here in Italy said that some of his priests, when they are asked to say a Mass for an anniversary in the villages, if he doesn’t arrive before the offering, <the people> don’t go. I didn’t invent this. That Bishop recounted it to me. <This is> to instrumentalize the Eucharist. I stress this because <the Eucharist> is the center of our life. However, today the Eucharistic celebration is in crisis. Some good steps have been taken, but we must take care of it always. You can’t go to celebrate the Eucharist in a hurry – “toccata and fugue,” no. Your heart must be there, in the Eucharist. And this is passed on. How often people say: “How well this priest celebrates!” And they refer to the [spiritual] unction, the true unction. Think about this. I remember the Eucharist as a boy, as a child, and the Sister who prepared me was good. She made us sing, she taught us the Mass with a song that perhaps is sung: “O holy altar, protected by Angels.” She taught us the song and then she explained one thing after another . . . and we were curious. And so she taught me the Mass, preparing me for my First Communion.

I don’t know, I’ve lengthened <the time> on this, but it worries me; the Eucharistic celebration must be fitting, pious, involving also the people’s affection, also in the homily. Then, as a youth, after my conversion, at 17-18 years of age, I went once or twice a month in the evening to attend perpetual Adoration at the Church of the Sacramentini. It was the time when there wasn’t an evening Mass and in Buenos Aires the Sacramentini have an elegant  church in the center <of the city>. I remember — it was 5:30 am, there was Mass, after Adoration, and people came directly from parties to the Mass, to <then> sleep the whole of Sunday. I remember I didn’t like this, because I said: “But they come to Mass only to fulfil the precept.” And I didn’t like very much the luxury of the women there. However, those evenings of Adoration . . . it was one hour, then 40 minutes of rest, then <again> one hour. It did me good at that time to prepare myself for the definitive decision. Yes . . . I don’t know if I’ve answered the question on the Eucharist.

Marco:

Holy Father, I’m Marco, of the diocese of Milan, seminarian in the fifth year of Theology. Holiness the fifth year of Theology is a decisive year in order of the path of vocational discernment, in view of Holy Orders. We ask you: how did you live the part of spiritual discernment in your life? How did you understand the call to the religious life and to the priesthood, with particular attention to the emotional life? How were the different figures of spiritual accompaniment in the years of formation true and proper subjects of your discernment?

Pope Francis:

<I did> as every one of you, engaged in discernment in your life to decide to enter  the Seminary. Discernment is a path to see what the Lord wants from me, accompanied by another who helps me. How is it seen? What do I feel, what leaves me in peace, what makes me anxious, what takes peace away from me . . . I had a great man who helped me so much on this. He was the Dean of Philosophy, but he was a man who had studied the spiritual life a lot and especially discernment from the time of the monks until now. And he helped me a lot. He gave real, concrete advice to help <me> go forward. For instance, I remember once that there was talk in a school of anthropology of maturity. “And does one know — a companion of mine said– how does one know, if one is or is not mature? And he said: “But you have brothers and sisters: are they married? “ “Yes, two are.” “And do they have children?” “Yes. Are you capable of playing with your nephews?” “Well, I don’t know . . . “”Try to see if you are capable. All right, if you’re not capable, you are lacking something.” The concrete things of life lead you to discernment. A sign of maturity is to be able to play with children.  A man that doesn’t know how to play with children, is lacking something. To play with children of the family; to spend time, as fathers and mothers . . . Mothers do it more often because they are with the child, but when the father returns tired from work, he must make an effort to play with the child. This is an example of discernment. Christian life is to discern. Why must I make an examination of conscience today? Not only to count the sins i’ve committed or the virtues of today, but to see what happened in my heart. A boy looks at a girl and he likes her. What is it? Then he likes another. He looks at another and doesn’t like her. And he works on this and in the end he speaks to her; they get engaged and go forward. See what is happening in my heart: this is discernment. What is happening within me? What thoughts give me joy? What thoughts make me sad? What things leave me sad, and I feel they are things that aren’t useful to me? It’s one of the most difficult things in Christian life and in which discernment is needed so much. It’s like living with sin. We are all sinners — all, and not only in theory, <but> in practice. And when I fall, how do I live with this fall? How do I resolve this failure?  Seek in prayer, in advice how to go on with sin and resolve it. I remember once — I was in Buenos Aires — in the Bishop’s residence, I had appointments and the Secretary came and gave me an envelope and said: “Father so and so is here; he asks only that you read this, between one appointment and another. .” I took it and said: “Father, I have sinned. I need your help. I’m calm, I’ll wait downstairs. When you have some time, call me.” And he didn’t leave the Bishop’s residence until the moment in which I called him. It’s an extreme example, but that man was in crisis, because he didn’t know how to resolve a slip he’d made. This is to discern. I’m in darkness because of an error., a sin that I committed. I go immediately to the Father, or I go to that companion who will help me. But always look for someone who can help me with my bad things, with my mistakes. Also with the good things, but I want to stress living with sin., because it seems that we don’t know how to resolve the concrete problem of being sinners. We resolve it in theory, but not in the concrete. And discernment is needed for this.

I would like to greet you one by one, but let’s hear another question . . .

Don Davide:

Holy Father, I am Don Davide, since two weeks Deacon of the diocese of Milan. Holiness, we want to ask you a question, beginning from the Pauline phrase  “Be joyful in hope. “ That <bit about> hope, in fact, is a necessary and essential feature of the witness the Church must give of Christ, and it’s only true hope that springs from Jesus’ Easter that enables us seminarians to surrender our life to God  and to His Bride, <he Church>. Many, however, are enemies of this hope: in the last few months we have witnessed two grave events that have shaken Peter’s bark within and have profoundly desolated us. We ask you: how can one be authentically before the scandals that afflict us and even involve the consecrated?  How can one help the faithful not to lose hope despite the poverty of <the Church’s> ministers? In sum, what steps of conversion <must> we priests and future priests take in this connection?

Pope Francis:

“It’s necessary that there be scandals,” Jesus says. Scandal has existed since the beginning of the Church: think of Ananias and Sapphira, those two who wanted to cheat the community: a scandal. Peter resolved the scandal clearly in that case. He “cut the head” of both. Jesus says, if it’s necessary that there are scandals, see where your heart is, but He also admonishes: “Woe, woe to you if you scandalize one of these .” To scandalize the people of God is most awful; it’s most awful. And I’m not speaking of the scandal of the weak, but of the people of God. In my land, for example, the people of God aren’t very scandalized, but they act. For example, they are able to forgive a poor priest who has a double life with a woman and who doesn’t know how to resolve <the situation>. “Ah, poor man, let’s help him, but they don’t condemn him immediately. They are able to forgive another priest who is a bit alone and takes a drink too often. ”Well, poor thing. A bit of wine does him good; he is alone . . .” The people have great wisdom. But the priest doesn’t forgive you for mistreating the people. He doesn’t forgive you this because it scandalizes. And the priest doesn’t forgive you if you are attached to money: he doesn’t forgive you. To scandalize the people is an awful thing, and to scandalize the priest is also an awful thing, and to scandalize the presbytery is also an awful thing. If you go to a meeting of the Presbytery, and the Bishop speaks, or someone else speaks and then goes out with one or two friends to gossip against the Bishop or against the other one who said that thing — against the other one . . . it’s a scandal that wounds the body — scandal wounds. We must be clear: we must not yield on this point. No to scandals, especially when the scandals wound littlest ones. The people are simpler. Condemn scandal always. Don’t yield. “But what can I do?” Go, speak to them; speak to them as a brother: “Listen, you are scandalizing the people with this.” Or go to the Bishop and tell the Bishop. Speak to them as a father.” But when you see that a priest scandalizes, please, go directly to him or to his friend or parish priest, or the Bishop, so that he is helped.  In Argentina there is the custom of inviting the priests to the celebration of a wedding, when they officiate at the wedding, then they invite you to the celebration. With us, marriages are done in the late evening. Then there is a celebration, and so many priests go there and they make a bad figure because they go in the midst of a worldly celebration and then drink too much. . . . <it’s> a scandal. “No, I go to engage in the apostolate.” But please! [they laugh] It’s true that the spouses ask them “yes, come, come!” but the smart priests say this: “No, look. I’ll see, but when you return from your honeymoon. I’ll see you in your home, I’ll bless the house, and dine with both of you.” This doesn’t scandalize. But, please, the art of being in one’s place. Never scandalize. Behind your question is the scandal of the abuses. You know the statistics: priests commit 2% of the abuses. “Ah, that’s few, Father.” No, because if it’s only one priest, it’s monstrous. Let us not justify ourselves because we are only 2%. 70% happens in families and in the neighbourhood, then in gyms — the trainers, in schools . . . It’s a scandal, but it’s a global scandal, which makes me think of the human sacrifices of children, as the pagans did. On this point, <we must> speak clearly: go immediately to the Bishop, to help that abuser brother. <Go> immediately to the Bishop. However, there are other scandals of which it’s not fashionable to speak. A great scandal is the worldly priest, the one who lives in spiritual worldliness.<he is> a polite man, socially well accepted, but worldly. You never sees him pray before the Tabernacle; you never see him go to a hospital and stop to take the hands of the sick — never. He never <engages> in works of mercy, those that are difficult to do. He is the worldly priest: this is a scandal. And worldliness . . . It struck me so much when I read for the first time “Meditation on the Church” by Cardinal de Lubac: the last chapter, the last two pages. He quotes a Benedictine who says that the worst sin of the Church is spiritual worldliness. It’s to convert religion into anthropology. Read these two pages; it will do you good. It will do you good.

Don Marco:

Good morning, I’m Marco of the Seminary of Cremona. At Florence, you gave the Italian Church the <Apostolic Exhortation> Evangelii Gaudium, and we imagined not only what it meant to say “delivered to the dioceses and the parishes,” but “delivered to the community of the Seminary”: What are the processes of renewal that every community, also with its own Bishops, with its own educators, is committed to do. The second thing we would like to ask you as educators is, first of all, that  to be in the Seminary with these young men is something great for us, but it’s also something that calls us to conversion every day; it’s what the priest just said: what does it mean, as priests, to be genuine? Perhaps it’s not for us to teach them great philosophies: we must make them understand that to spend life is one thing . . . but for us it becomes very challenging. And the third thing we’d like to ask you is:  when the Bishop asks us in the Ordination: “Are you certain that you are worthy?” Then there comes to mind all the reflections: the future that opens before them, with the grace of God, with the Church . . . See if you can help us to say — you referred to it earlier — what does it mean to live as presbyters, communally, the “we” not only the “I.” Earlier you referred to clericalism: can you say to us again a word on this? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

Here, also in the written question was: “A question on the fear of being outgoing  and living the condition of Church as a field hospital.” To live this it’s necessary to reconnect the vocation-conversion bond. It strikes us how you often invite the Church to accept how the Spirit leads us outside of our securities: how can we avoid the risk wisely? What does it mean for us that we must also take care of an ancient tradition of seminary formation? What can we suggest to help our young men to savour the risk of the Gospel and not be seduced by the form of defense and of clericalism? I wanted to read it because there were three and I wanted . . .

First of all, put them on the way. A serious formation is to put them on the way; they must not stand still. Put them on the way because a priest who’s not on the way thinks of stupidities, says stupidities and does stupidities.  <He must> always be on the way, so that at least he won’t do stupidities. “However, it’s risky . . .”Yes, he will have slips, but I’ll tell you something: I have often prayed to the Lord for a priest — as example for many, but we think of one — to throw him a banana peel and he has a real slip that humiliates him and thus he be able to go forward. Put them on the way, without so many securities.  It’s true that there is a risk — to form people is a risk, but take the risk. Once, a wise old priest said: “When the Bishop asked my Rector: Do you know if this one is worthy? In that moment, my Rector had fallen asleep and I don’t know what he answered . . .” It’s a risk.

Day before yesterday — listen to this — I had to suspend from Rome a priestly Ordination in another continent. But what did that Bishop have in his head? And those formators who presented such a person to the Bishop? The news that had arrived was terrible! There are such cases, but the majority isn’t like that.  You have the experience of fraternity; you are older brothers, and with dialogue . . . One risks. If you don’t risk in life you don’t go forward. But risk with prudence, risk with prudence. And from where do I get prudence? <I get it> from my experience of accompaniment of this youth, and from prayer. There is no precise “how.” In the meetings to examine the suitability, there are pros and cons, but you must make a prudent decision and make it known to the Bishop, and it will be up to the Bishop to decide. However, you are co-responsible with the Bishop.

“To help our young men to like the risk of the Gospel “is to put them on the way, so that they feel the many things that one feels who is on the way: acceptance, rejection, insult, praises, vanity . . . And they must learn this: to distinguish things. And above all — I will use a somewhat strange word — educate them to patience. There is a book of Guardini, I don’t know how it’s translated in Italian — “Glaubenserkenntnis”, “knowledge of the faith,” chapters on different topics: the first is on Adoration, the second chapter on God’s patience. Educate them to patience, because God is also patient.  That chapter is a gem: look for it and make it known. God is patient with us.

The problem of stiffening oneself: defense, clericalism . . . When this is a criterion in a youth that I’m sure of — if you see  a young seminarian who is stiff, who falls into rigidity, make him wait. If he is rigid, he isn’t suitable for Ordination. Today rigidity is an impediment to Ordination. If you see another who takes everything seriously and has no sense of humour, send him to work in a circus for a while! Then, when he returns, after two years, we’ll see how thing are going — a sense of humour, not rigidity: rigidity is an impediment; behind all rigidity, there are terrible problems.

I could continue, but . . . the last <question>

Don Ivan:

Good morning, Holiness, I’m Ivan, Rector of the Seminary of Como. I ask you a question on behalf of the formators and docents. It’s a question on the criterion “time is superior to space.” Today it always seems to us more decisive that the ministry be conceived and especially lived in a communal way, and thus seek to decipher the Council’s profound message. This is important either because of the way in which we live in the Presbytery or because of the way in which we propose to seminarians the way to live and be formed with us, among themselves and with those they meet. To live the process makes us appreciate the possible good, oriented to the Gospel, and you insist constantly on this aspect. Holiness, can you help us to decipher educationally the scope of this criterion “time is superior to space’? And then, in the ambit of this question: what do you ask of the docents of the Seminaries of the Lombardian dioceses? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

<We must> live the process and not be afraid. Life happens always in a process: children aren’t born adults; it’s a whole process to become — it’s a whole process of maturation or of corruption, but it’s a process, and, also, how to help seminarians and priests in this. It’s Jesus’ method with the Apostles! We can take the way Jesus taught the Apostles; how He made them begin the work of evangelization . . . Think that all [the seminarians] are in a process. Those that have done the first step badly, if this isn’t corrected, they will walk badly their whole life. Think of the “climber” for example: if you don’t correct a seminarian who gives signs of being a climber, we’ll do harm to the Church. I once heard an experienced Bishop say: “The climber wants the most, but if you offer him the smallest diocese, he will take it because he takes a step forward: now he is Bishop, but instead of leading <his> diocese, he will look at the other, that of the neighbour and — that Bishop said —  this is episcopal adultery: to look at another’s wife, until he arrives where he wants <to be>. The climber is always in the process. I was very much touched by Saint John Paul II’s word when he was Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. He went to say to them” Give me a criterion for the choice of Bishops.” And, with that voice that John Paul II had [he lowers the tone of his voice]: “First criterion: volentes nolumus.”  With this he wished to say: there is no place for climbers. Service. A Saint is also in process: of going . . . one never arrives at sanctity if one lives a life of holiness in process. And one seeks to go with Jesus’ method: Jesus bet on time, on the disciples’ development: He was able to tolerate the mistakes: He tolerated Peter when he denied Him; He tolerated the others who ran away, because Jesus followed the processes.

I’ve given these two examples, the climber and the Saint, both in process. I go back: the rigid person isn’t in process. With this, you see things well: the rigid person protects himself, because he is afraid or has some sickness within, an imbalance, to cover something . . . but he is always incapable of entering the process. Instead, the good and the bad are always in process.

I don’t know . . . it’s somewhat the synthesis of what I wanted to say. And I thank you for <your> confidence in asking the questions.  Wisdom in Christian life, rather than giving answers, is knowing how to ask questions. We will go with this on the path of time, of processes. If a young man doesn’t know how to ask questions, he must learn: this is your job as formators.  And, if he doesn’t learn, he is not suited for the priesthood.

Thank you so much for your testimony!

“Hail Mary . . . “

[Blessing]

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s working translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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