Below is a translation of the message that Pope Francis sent to French seminarians, on the occasion of their gathering at the Marian Shrine of Lourdes (November 8-10, 2014), at the end of the works of the Plenary Assembly of the French Episcopal Conference:


Dear Seminarian Friends,

I greet each of your cordially, as well as your formators and your Bishops, whom you joined when they finished the works of the Plenary Assembly of the Episcopal Conference. I rejoice greatly, knowing that you are gathered around Mary, the Lord’s Mother, in that Shrine of Lourdes, so loved throughout the world.

On thinking of your gathering in that lofty Marian place, there comes to my mind and heart the Word of God said to the disciples after the Risen Lord asked them to await the Holy Spirit: “They went up to the Upper Room where they were staying (…) All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:13-14).

On contemplating this event, I would like you to keep three essential words for your life of seminarians: fraternity, prayer, and mission.

The Book of Acts tells us that the disciples were of one heart. Your gathering is a manifestation of this. The times of the seminary correspond to this founding experience that the Apostles had during the long months, when Jesus appointed them “to be with him, and to be sent out” to proclaim the Good News (Mark 3:14). The fraternity of disciples, which expresses the unity of hearts, is an integral part of the call you have received. In no case, can the presbyterial ministry be individual, even less so individualistic.

At the seminary, you live together to learn to know one another, to appreciate and support one another, and sometimes also to endure one another, in order to live the mission together and to give that witness of love, thanks to which one recognizes disciples of Jesus. It is important to make that personal and definitive choice of a true gift of yourselves to God and to others. Therefore, I invite you to accept this apprenticeship of fraternity putting in it all your ardor; you will grow in charity and you will build unity by taking the initiatives that the Holy Spirit inspires in you. Thus you will be able to devise the most adequate means to live priestly fraternity in truth when you are ordained. Fraternity is the first word.

Prayer. Together, the disciples were in prayer with Mary, while awaiting the Holy Spirit. You have been called by Jesus who wants to have you participate in His priesthood for the life of the world. At the base of your formation is the Word of God, which enters you, nourishes you and illumines you. On praying with her, all that you learn comes to life in prayer.

This is why I exhort you to spend each day in long moments of prayer, recalling how Jesus himself withdrew in silence or solitude to plunge Himself into the mystery of his Father. You also will find in prayer the Lord’s loving presence; let yourselves be transformed by Him, without having fear of the dryness that it entails, of the night that usually constitutes it. Moses also entered the darkness of the cloud to talk with God in humility, as a friend speaks to his friend.

May your prayer be an appeal to the Spirit. He it is who builds the Church, who leads the disciples and infuses pastoral charity. It is in the strength of the Spirit that you will join those to whom you will be sent, in the awareness that they will expect from you that you be witnesses of Jesus, “men of God,” so that you will lead them to the Father.

So I come to my third word: mission. By your Baptism, you are made for the proclamation of the Gospel. With presbyterial ordination you receive the charge of proclaiming the Word, under the responsibility of your Bishops. On preparing yourselves for this mission, you will recall that it was the Lord’s last commandment: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 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” (Matthew 28:19-20) All that you do during your formation has but one end: to become humble missionary-disciples to make disciples.

I encourage you to learn to know the world to which you will be sent, and to inscribe in yourselves the reflex of going out of yourselves, to the encounter with the other. Preference for the most estranged persons is a response to the invitation of the Risen One who precedes you and awaits you in the Galilee of the Nations. In going to the fringes, one also touches the center.

The mission is inseparable from prayer because prayer opens you to the Spirit and the Spirit guides you in the mission. And the mission, whose soul is charity, consists of leading those that you meet to perceive the tenderness with which the Lord envelops them, to receive Baptism, to praise God, to live of the Eucharist, to participate in their turn in the mission of the Church.

Mary accompanied Jesus in His mission. She was present at Pentecost when the disciples received the Holy Spirit. She accompanied maternally the first steps of the Church. During these days at Lourdes, entrust yourselves to her, put your call in her hands, ask her to make you pastors according to the heart of God. May she affirm you on the three essential points that I addressed: fraternity, prayer, mission.

I give you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing and I ask you to pray for me. Thank you.

From the Vatican, October 24, 2014 


[Original text: French]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Charles Borromeo and the Work of New Beginnings

Exactly 18 months ago this week, the Philadelphia Catholic family became my family, and the city became my home.  I said at the time that the challenges we face as a Church wouldn’t be easy, and they haven’t been. Many of our pastoral, legal and financial problems still remain.  So do our very serious obligations to victims of past abuse.  But it’s also true that a great deal of good has been accomplished in a short time.  We need to thank God for that, and we need to take pride in the fidelity of our clergy and our people under very trying circumstances.