Pope Francis has highlighted three aspects of Ignatian style.
The Jesuit Pontiff had done so when greeting members of the Community of the Pontifical Campano Seminary of Posillipo the morning of Saturday, May 6, 2017, in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
In his remarks, he reminds educators that their “mission is to form the spirituality proper of the diocesan presbyter according to the pedagogy of Saint Ignatius’ Exercises,” which he described as “an arduous challenge, but at the same time exciting, which has the responsibility of pointing out the direction for the future priestly ministry.” Francis then underscored three aspects that he deems to be important.
Here is a Zenit translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.
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Dear Brothers Bishops and Priests, Dear Seminarians,
I meet you with joy, and I am happy to meet the seminarians, and I greet all of you who form part of the Pontifical Campano Inter-Regional Seminary, accompanied by some Bishops of the Region. I thank the Rector for his words and, in a special way, I greet you, dear seminarians, who, thank God, are numerous.
Your Seminary represents a singular case in the present Italian ecclesial scene. Founded in 1912 by the will of Saint Pius X, as happened with several formative institutions at that time, it was entrusted immediately to the direction of the Jesuit Fathers, who led it through notable transformations that happened in more than one hundred years, remaining at present the only Seminary in Italy directed by the Society of Jesus. In the last decades, collaboration and interaction has grown increasingly with the diocesan Churches that, in addition to sending young candidates to the priesthood, are concerned to identify among them ideal presbyter figures for formation. I encourage this significant and fecund endeavor of ecclesial communion, on which the individual dioceses, with their Pastors, are investing notable resources. An inter-diocesan formative community represents an undoubted opportunity of enrichment, in virtue of the different sensibilities and experiences of which each one is bearer and is able to educate future presbyters to feel part of the one Church of Christ, ever extending the breadth of their vocational dream, with a genuine missionary spirit (Cf. Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, 91), which does not weaken <but> rather consolidates and motivates the sense of belonging to the particular Church. At this time, in which we all feel little, perhaps impotent in face of the educational challenge, to walk together, in a genuine “supportive” spirit, is a winning choice, which helps us to feel supported, encouraged and enriched by one another. This exercise of communion is then ultimately enriched by the encounter with the rich Ignatian spiritual and pedagogic tradition, which has in the Spiritual Exercises a sure point of reference, which has inspired you for your formative plan, thus mediating with “creative fidelity” the indications that come from the Magisterium of the Church.
Dear educators, your mission is to form the spirituality proper of the diocesan presbyter according to the pedagogy of Saint Ignatius’ Exercises: an arduous challenge, but at the same time exciting, which has the responsibility of pointing out the direction for the future priestly ministry. I would like to underscore three aspects that seem to me to be important.
To educate according to the Ignatian style means, first of all, to foster in the person a harmonious integration from the centrality of the relationship of personal friendship with the Lord Jesus. It is, in fact, the primacy given to the relationship with the Lord, who calls us “friends,” (Cf. John 15:15), which enables one to live a solid, profound but not disincarnated spirituality. Therefore, it is important to know, accept and reform one’s humanity continually. Not tire of going forward, reform: always on the move. In this direction, intellectual formation also does not tend to be the simple learning of notions to become erudite – you are not a dictionary! – but it is necessary to foster the acquisition of ever more refined instruments for a critical reading of the reality, beginning from oneself. “You are the Christ” – “You are Peter” (Cf. Matthew 16:16.18): as for Simon Peter and the first disciples, the whole vocational journey hinges on a dialogue of love, of friendship in which, while we recognize in Jesus the Messiah, the Lord of our life, he gives us the “new” name, which encloses our vocation, indicates our mission, which the Father has always known and protected. The discovery of our new name, the word that best describes us, the most authentic, passes through our capacity to give little by little a name to the different experiences that animate our humanity. To call things by their name is the first step towards knowledge of oneself and, hence, to know the will of God for our life. Dear seminarians, do not be afraid to call things by name, to face the truth of your life and to open yourselves in transparency and truth to others, especially your formators, fleeing from the temptations of formalism and clericalism, which are always at the root of a double life.
The second aspect I would like to stress is, precisely, discernment. Education to discernment is not exclusive to the Ignatian proposal, but is certainly its point of strength. The time of the seminary is the time of discernment par excellence, in which, thanks to the accompaniment of those that, like Eli with Samuel (Cf. 1 Samuel 3), help young people to recognize the voice of the Lord among the many voices that resound and at times thunder in the ears and the heart. However, in this time the exercise of discernment must become a true and proper educational art, so that the priest is a true “man of discernment” (Cf. Ratio Fundamentalis, 43). Today more than ever – the Rector said it – the priest is called to guide the Christian people in discerning the signs of the times, in being able to recognize the voice of God in the crowd of often confused voices that overlap, with contrasting messages among them, in our world characterized by a plurality of cultural and religious sensibilities. To be experts in the art of discernment it is necessary to have first of all good familiarity with listening of the Word of God, but also a growing knowledge of oneself, of one’s interior world, of one’s affections and fears. To become men of discernment, it is necessary to be courageous, to tell the truth to oneself. Discernment is a choice of courage, contrary to the more comfortable and reductive ways of rigorism and of laxness, as I have repeated many times. To educate to discernment means, in fact, to flee from the temptation to seek refuge behind a rigid norm or behind the image of an idealized freedom; to educate to discernment means to “expose” oneself, to go out of the world of one’s convictions and prejudices to open oneself to understand how God is speaking to us, today, in this world, in this time, in this moment, and how He speaks to me, now.
Finally, to be formed to the priesthood according to the Ignatian style means to open oneself always to the dimension of the Kingdom of God, cultivating the desire of the “magis,” of that “more” in the generosity of giving oneself to the Lord and to brothers, who <are> always before us. For this your formative year you chose as theme “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice” (Matthew 6:36): this will help you to widen the breadth of your formation and not be content to reach a role, to put on a garment; it will help you not to be in a hurry to conclude your course, but to render your human and spiritual structure ever more solid. To seek the Kingdom helps us not to ensconce ourselves in what we have accomplished, not to sit on our successes, but to cultivate that holy restlessness of one who desires first of all to serve the Lord in brothers. Restlessness broadens the soul and makes it more capable of receiving the love of God. To seek the Kingdom means to shrink from the logic of mediocrity and of the “indispensable minimum,” and to open oneself to discover God’s great dreams for us. To seek the Kingdom means to seek God’s justice and to work so that our relations, communities, our cities are transformed by the merciful and just love of God, who hears the cry of the poor (Cf. Psalm 34:7). The quest for true justice should stimulate in the one called a growing interior freedom towards the goods, the recognitions of this world, towards the affections and towards the vocation itself. Interior freedom towards the goods: I want to stress this. It is the first bad step! Do not forget: the devil always enters through the pockets; then vanity follows, and then pride, arrogance and so it ends. In fact, young men who have chosen to follow the Lord in the path of the priesthood are called to cultivate friendship with Jesus, who manifests Himself in a privileged way in love for the poor, so as to be “witnesses of poverty, through the simplicity and austerity of life, to become sincere and credible promoters of true social justice” (Ratio Fundamentalis, 111).
Through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, of Bishop Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori and of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, teacher of discernment, may the Lord grant you to continue with joy and fidelity on your path, following the luminous tradition of which you are part. I thank you and ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me.
Thank you![Original text: Italian] [Translation by Zenit, Virginia M. Forrester]