Lent has just begun and Pope Francis has spoken to Rome’s clergy, commenting on the ‘ages’ of priesthood.
The Holy Father did so during a closed-door meeting with the clergy of the diocese of Rome, on February 15, 2018, held in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano offered a summary of his reflections.
The Pope asked young priests to seek a style of priestly life, such as an identity card, because every priest is unique. Among other things, it’s about being conscious of one’s limitations, of finding a guide, a wise man, who can help in discernment.
Then the Pontiff addressed priests between 40 and 50 years old, time of pruning and trial. A priest of this age is like a husband who over time has lost his amorous sentiments, said the Pope. So it’s necessary to redouble prayer, but it’s also the moment when one sees his spiritual children grow, where one begins to say good-bye to learn to retire, the time of temptations of which one can be ashamed . . . but it’s the devil that instils them, stressed the Holy Father.
Turning, then, to the older priests, the Bishop of Rome said that they live the time of wisdom, during which they are called to offer their availability with a smile: the priests of a certain age can, in fact, ensure “the pastoral of the ear,” with listening and compassion. It’s also the time of unconditional forgiveness, he stressed.
Pope Francis concluded, inviting priests to discern the signs of the times, to see the hidden reality, not just what is negative. Finally, he took part in a penitential liturgy, during which he heard confessions for over an hour. After the meeting, the Pontiff lunched in the great papal Roman Seminary, with 70 seminarians.