Pope Francis pointed out to priests and seminarians two conditions for correct discernment.
On Friday morning, March 16,the Holy Father received, in Paul VI Hall, priests and seminarians from some 150 Pontifical Colleges and Ecclesiastical Boarding Schools of Rome, accompanied by Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who addressed a few words to the Pontiff, reported the Holy See.
The Holy Father then answered five questions on priestly formation and spirituality, posed by representatives of four Continents (Europe, Africa, South America, North America and Asia), stemming from the document Ratio fundmentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, the “Gift of the Presbyterial Vocation,” published by the Roman Dicastery on December 8, 2016. Vatican News offered a synthesis of the questions and the Pope’s answers, pronounced from the fullness of the heart.
Before the Pontiff’s arrival, the meeting was the occasion for priests and seminarians to pray together and sing songs, one song being dedicated to Blessed Argentine parish priest Brochero, sung by the Argentine Priestly College, reported L’Osservatore Romano.
For the European Continent, a French seminarian asked the Pope how to reconcile the presbyterial ministry with the fact of feeling themselves “disciples and missionaries.”
For the Pope, “the priest must be a man always on the way, a man who listens and is never alone. He must have the humility to be accompanied.”
A second question on discernment was posed by a seminarian of Sudan, for the African Continent.
The Two Conditions of Discernment
The Holy Father highlighted “two conditions” for “a true discernment”: “to do so in prayer before God,” and to consult someone else, a guide capable of listening and of giving guidelines.”
“When there isn’t discernment in priestly life” there is “rigidity and casuistry” and one is “incapable of advancing”, everything “becomes closed” and “the Holy Spirit doesn’t work.” The Pope recommended that priests “take the Holy Spirit as companion on the way,” while remarking that often “one is afraid of the Holy Spirit,” one wants to “put Him in a cage.”
Not Functionaries of the Sacred
A Mexican priest asked the Pope for America, how to safeguard the priest’s balance in the course of life. And the Pope stressed the importance of the priest’s “human formation”: “It’s necessary to be normal human persons capable of laughing, of listening to a sick person in silence, of consoling with a caress. There must be a form of paternity and fruitfulness, which enables one to give life to others. They must be “father priests, and not functionaries of the sacred, or employees of God.”
The Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest
For North America, a United States deacon asked about the traits of the spirituality of the diocesan priest. The Pope answered pointing out the three components of “diocesanite”: to cultivate one’s relation with one’s Bishop, with one’s brother priests, and with the people of the parish, who are his children. “If you work on these three fronts, you will become saints,” said the Pontiff.
An Examination of Conscience
A priest of the Philippines posed for Asia, the question on permanent formation. The Pope recommended to take care of the “human, pastoral, spiritual and communal formation” of the priest. He specified a “permanent formation born from the awareness of his weakness” and that it’s “important to know one’s limitations.” The Holy Father also invited each one to examine how he lives “virtual communication,” how he “uses his mobile phone,” how he addresses temptations against chastity, which will come inevitably,” and how to be “able to keep oneself from pride, from the attraction of money, of power and of comfort.”