Pope Francis Address to Seminarians and Novices
(July 09, 2013. Pope Francis’ addressed the seminarians, novices and young people who took part in the Year of Faith pilgrimage entitled “I Trust in You”).
I asked Archbishop Fisichella if you understood Italian and he told me that you all have the translation. I am somewhat calmed.
I thank Archbishop Fisichella for his words and I also thank him for his work: he has worked so much not only to do this but for all that he has done and will do in the Year of Faith. Thank you so much!
However, Archbishop Fisichella said a word, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I take it up: he said that all of you wished to give your life forever to Christ! Now you applaud, celebrate, because it is the time of nuptials … However, when the honeymoon is over, what happens? I heard a seminarian, a good seminarian who said he wanted to serve Christ, but for ten years, and then he would think of starting another life … This is dangerous! However provisional, but this is dangerous because one does not gamble one’s life once and for all. I marry as long as love lasts; I will be a nun but for a “short time,” for “some time,” and then I’ll see; I will be a seminarian to become a priest, but I don’t know how the story will end. This is not right with Jesus! I will not reproach you, I reproach this culture of the provisional, which beats us all, because it doesn’t do us good: because a definitive choice today is very difficult. In my time it was easier, because the culture favored a definitive choice be it for matrimonial life, or the consecrated or priestly life. However, in this age a definitive choice isn’t easy. We are victims of this culture of the provisional. I would like you to think about learning to close the door of our interior cell from inside. Once a priest, a good priest, who didn’t feel he was a good priest because he was humble, felt himself a sinner and prayed much to Our Lady and said this to Our Lady – I will say it in Spanish because it’s a lovely poem: “This afternoon, Lady, the promise is sincere. Just in case, don’t forget to leave the key outside”. But this is said thinking always of love for the Virgin; it is said to Our Lady. However, when one always leaves the key outside, because of what might happen … This is not right. We must learn to close the door from inside! And if I’m not sure, I must think, must take time, and when I feel secure in Jesus, I understand, because no one is secure without Jesus! – when I feel secure, I close the door. Have you understood this? What is the culture of the provisional?
When I came in, I saw what I had written. I would like to say a word to you, and that word is joy. Wherever there are consecrated persons, seminarians, women and men religious, young people, there is joy, there is always joy. It’s the joy of freshness; it’s the joy of following Jesus; the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us, not the world’s joy. There is joy. But where is joy born? It is born … However, on Saturday evening I will go home and will dance with my old companions. Is joy born from this, the joy of a seminarian, for instance, yes or no?
Some will say: joy is born from the things one has, and so, the search for the latest model of the smartphone, the fastest scooter, the car that attracts attention … But I tell you, really, I feel badly when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car: but this can’t be! You are thinking this: but, Father, must we now go on bicycles? The bicycle is good! Monsignor Alfred goes on bicycle, he goes with his bicycle. I think a car is necessary, because so much work must be done here and there, but choose a more modest bicycle! And if you like a lovely one, think of how many children die of hunger, think of this alone! Joy is not born, does not come from the things one has! Others say it comes from the most extreme experiences: to feel the thrill of the strongest sensations; youth likes to live on the knife’s edge, it really likes this! Others think it comes from dressing more fashionably, from entertainment in the most fashionable places – but in saying this I’m not saying that nuns go to such places, I say it of young people in general. Others, yet, from success with girls or boys, go perhaps from one to the other. It’s this insecurity of love, which isn’t secure; it’s a “test” of love.” And we could continue … You also are in contact with this reality which you can’t ignore.
We know that all this can extinguish a desire, can create emotions, but in the end it’s a joy that remains superficial, it doesn’t go deep down, it’s not a profound joy: it’s the inebriation of a moment that does not render us truly happy. Joy is not the inebriation of a moment, it’s something else!
True joy doesn’t come from things, from having, no! It’s born from the encounter, from the relation with others. It’s born from feeling accepted, understood, loved and from this acceptance, this understanding and this love, and not because it’s of interest for the moment, but because the other, the other is a person. Joy is born from the gratuitousness of an encounter! And from hearing it said: “You are important to me,” not necessarily in words. This is beautiful … And it is this, in fact, that God makes us understand. In calling us God says to us: “You are important to me, I love you, I count on you.” Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from here, the joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. To understand and to feel this is the secret of our joy. To feel loved by God, to feel that for Him we are not numbers, but persons; and to feel that it is He who calls us. To become priests, Religious is not primarily our choice. I don’t trust tet seminarian, the novice who says: “I have chosen this path.” I don’t like this. It’s not right! But it is the response to a call and to a call of love. I hear something within me, which makes me restless, and I answer yes. The Lord makes us feel this love in prayer, but also through so many signs that we can read in our life, so many persons that He puts on our path. And the joy of the encounter with Him and of His call leads not to closing ourselves but to opening ourselves; it leads to service in the Church. Saint Thomas said “bonus est diffusivum sui” – it’s not too difficult Latin! – Good diffuses itself. And joy also diffuses itself. Don’t be afraid to show the joy of having answered the Lord’s call, of the choice to love and witness His Gospel in the service of the Church. And joy, real joy, is contagious; it infects … it makes us go forward. Instead, when one comes across a seminarian who is too serious, too sad, or a similar novice, one thinks: but something is wrong! The joy of the Lord is lacking, the joy that leads one to service, the joy of the encounter with Jesus, which leads one to the encounter with others to proclaim Jesus. This is lacking! There’s no holiness in sadness, there isn’t! Saint Teresa – there are so many Spaniards who know her well – said: “A sad Saint is a sorry Saint!” It’s not much … When one comes across a seminarian, a priest, a nun, a novice, with a long, sad face, who seems as though a very wet covering has been thrown over his/her life, a heavy covering that pulls them down … something is wrong! But please, let us never have nuns, never have priests with the face of a “pepper in vinegar,” never! But with the joy that comes from Jesus. Think of this: when joy is lacking in a priest – I say a priest, but a seminarian also — when joy is lacking in a nun, when she is sad, you can think: “But it’s a psychiatric problem.” No, it’s true that it could be, it could be, certainly. It happens that some little ones get sick. It can happen, but in general it isn’t a psychiatric problem. Is it a problem of dissatisfaction? Well, yes. But what’s at the bottom of that lack of joy? It’s a problem of celibacy. I shall explain. You, seminarians, nuns, consecrated your love to Jesus, a great love. Your heart is for Jesus, and this leads us to make the vow of chastity, the vow of celibacy. However, the vow of chastity and the vow of celibacy do not end at the moment of the vow; they go on. It’s a journey that matures, which matures towards pastoral paternity, towards pastoral maternity, and when a priest is not the father of his community, when a nun is not the mother of all those with whom she works, they become sad. This is the problem. Given this, I say to you: the root of sadness in pastoral life lies, in fact, in the lack of paternity and maternity that comes from living this consecration badly, which instead should lead us to fruitfulness. We can’t think of priests or nuns who aren’t fruitful: this isn’t Catholic! This isn’t Catholic! This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy …
However, I don’t want to embarrass this holy nun [he turns to an elderly nun in the front row] who was behind the barrier, poor thing, she was in fact suffocated, but she had a happy face. It did me good to look at your face, Sister! Perhaps you have many years of consecrated life, but you have beautiful eyes, you smiled, you didn’t complain about the pressure. When you find examples such as this, many, so many nuns, so many priests who are joyful, it’s because they are fruitful, they give life, life, life. They give this life because they find it in Jesus! In the joy of Jesus! Joy, not sadness, pastoral fruitfulness.
To be joyful witnesses of the Gospel we must be genuine, coherent. And this is another word I wish to say to you: authenticity. Jesus so castigated hypocrites: hypocrites, those who think low;
Those who have – to say it clearly, a double face. It doesn’t cost to speak to young people of authenticity, because young people – all of them – have the desire to be authentic, to be coherent. And it makes all of you ill, when you see in us priests who aren’t authentic and nuns who aren’t authentic!
This is, first of all, a responsibility of adults, of formators. It is up to you, formators here present to give an example of coherence to the younger ones. Do we want coherent young people? Let’s us be coherent! Otherwise, the Lord will say to us what he said of the Pharisees to the people of God: “Do what they say, but not what they do!” Coherence and authenticity!
However, you also, in turn, must seek to follow this way. I always say what Saint Francis of Assisi affirmed: Christ has invited us to proclaim the Gospel also with the word. The phrase goes like this: “Proclaim the Gospel always, and, if necessary, with words.” What does this mean? It means to proclaim the Gospel with the authenticity of life, with the coherence of life. However, in this world in which riches do so much evil, it’s necessary that we priests, that we nuns, that all of us be coherent with our poverty! However, when you find that the first concern of an educational , or parochial or anyinstitution is money, this doesn’t do good. It doesn’t do good! It’s incoherent! We must be coherent, authentic. On this path, we do what Saint Francis said: we preach the Gospel with our example, then with words! But first of all is our life in which others must be able to read the Gospel! Here, too, without fear, with our defects which we try to correct, with our limitations which the Lord knows, but also with our generosity in allowing Him to act in us. With our defects, our limitations and – I add something more – with our sins … I would like to know something: is there someone here in this Room who isn’t a sinner, who has no sins? Let him raise his hand! Let him raise his hand! Nobody. Nobody. From here right down to the end … all! But how do I carry my sin, my sins? I want give you this counsel: be transparent with your confessor, always. Tell him everything; don’t be afraid. “Father, I have sinned!” Think of the Samaritan woman, who to prove, to tell her fellow citizens that she had found the Messiah, said: “He told me everything I’ve done,” and everyone knew this woman’s life. Always tell the truth to your confessor. This transparency will do you good, because it makes one humble, all of us. “But Father, I have continued in this, I’ve done this, I’ve hated” — no matter what it is. Tell the truth, without concealing, without half words, because you are talking to Jesus in the person of the confessor. And Jesus knows the truth. He alone always forgives you! However, the Lord only wants you to tell him what He already knows. Transparency! It’s sad when one finds a seminarian, a nun who today confesses with this priest to clean the stain; tomorrow goes to another, to another, to another: a pilgrimage to confessors to conceal her truth. Transparency! It’s Jesus who is listening to you. Always have this transparency before Jesus in the confessor! However, this is a grace. Father, I have sinned, I’ve done this, this, this … with all the words. And the Lord embraces you, kisses you! Go, and sin no more! And if you fall once again? I say this from experience. I have found so many consecrated persons who fall into this hypocritical trap of lack of transparency. “I’ve done this,” humbly, as that publican who was at the back of the Temple: “I’ve done this, I’ve done this…” And the Lord covers your mouth: He it is who covers it.” But don’t you do so! Have you understood? From sin itself grace abounds! Open the door to grace, with this transparency!
The saints and the masters of the spiritual life tell us that the daily practice of the examination of conscience is very useful, even indispensable, to help us grow in authenticity in our life. What is happening in my soul? Thus, we must be open with the Lord and then with our confessor, with our spiritual Father. This is so important!
Until what time, Archbishop Fisichella, have we time?
[Archbishop Fisichella: If you speak like this, we will be here until tomorrow, absolutely].
You say until tomorrow. Let’s bring a sandwich and a Coca Cola for each one if it’s until tomorrow, at least ….
For our witness to be credible, coherence is essential. But it’s not enough. We also need cultural preparation, I stress cultural preparation, to give the reason for our faith and our hope. The context in which we live calls constantly for this “giving reason,” and it’s something good, because it helps us to take nothing for granted. Today we can take nothing for granted! This civilization, this culture … we can’t. However, it’s also certainly timely; it requires good, balanced formation that unites all the dimensions of life, the human, the spiritual, the intellectual dimension with the pastoral. There are four fundamental pillars in your formation: spiritual formation, that is, the spiritual life; the intellectual life, studying to “give reason”; the apostolic life, to begin to go out to proclaim the Gospel; and fourth, community life. Four. And for the latter it’s necessary that the formation be in community in the novitiate, in the priory, in the seminaries … I always think this: the worst seminary is better than no seminary! Why? Because community life is necessary. Remember the four pillars: spiritual life, intellectual life, apostolic life, and communal life. These four, you should build your vocation on these four.
And here I would like to stress the importance, in community life, of the relations of friendship and fraternity that are an integral part of this formation. Here we arrive at another problem. Why do I talk about relations of friendship and fraternity? So many times I’ve found communities, seminarians, Religious or diocesan communities where the most common short prayer is gossip! It’s terrible! They “skin” one another … And this is our clerical, religious world …Excuse me, but it’s common: jealousy, envy, to speak badly of another. Not just speaking badly of superiors, this is classic! But I tell you that this is so common, so common. I have also fallen into this. I’ve done it so many times, so many times! And I’m ashamed! I’m ashamed of this! It’s not right to do so: to go and gossip. “Have you heard … Have you heard …” But such a community is a hell! This does no good. And because of this, the relation of friendship and of fraternity is important. Friends are few. The Bible says this: friends, one, two … But fraternity among all. If I have something against a sister or a brother, I say it to her/his face, or I say it to her or him who can help, but I don’t say it to others to “soil” him/her. And gossip is terrible! Behind gossip, under gossip, there are envies, jealousies, ambitions. Think of this. Once after spiritual exercises I heard a person – a consecrated person, a nun … This is good! This nun had promised the Lord that she would never speak badly again of another. This is a beautiful, a beautiful path to holiness! Not to speak badly of others. “But, Father, there are problems …”: tell them to the superior, to the bishop, who can remedy it. But do not tell it to him who can’t help. Fraternity: this is important! But tell me, would you speak badly of your mother, of your father, of your siblings? Never. And why do you do so in consecrated life, in the seminary, in the presbyterial life? This alone: think of it, think of it … Fraternity! This fraternal love.
However, there are two extremes in this aspect of friendship and fraternity, two extremes: both isolation as well as dissipation. A friendship and a fraternity that will help me not to fall into isolation or dissipation. Cultivate friendships, they are a precious good: however, they must educate you not to shut yourselves in but to go out of yourselves. A priest, a man religious, a woman religious can never be an island, but must always be a person ready for encounter. Friendships the are also enriched by the different charisms of your Religious Families. It’s a great richness. We think of the beautiful friendships of so many Saints.
I think I must make some cuts, because your patience is great!
I would like to say to you: go out of yourselves to proclaim the Gospel, but to do this you must go out of yourselves to encounter Jesus. There are two ways out: one towards the encounter with Jesus, towards transcendence; the other towards others to proclaim Jesus. These two go together. If you just do one, it’s no good. I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. This nun was good … She wasn’t afraid of anything, she went out on the streets … But this woman was also not afraid to kneel down, for two hours, before the Lord. Don’t be afraid to go out of yourselves in prayer and in pastoral action. Be courageous in praying and in going to proclaim the Gospel.
I would like a more missionary Church, one that is not so tranquil. A beautiful Church that goes forward. Over these days so many men and women missionaries have come to the morning Mass, here at Saint Martha’s, and when they greeted me, they’ve said: “But I’m an elderly nun, I’ve been in the Ciad for forty years, I’ve been here and there …” How beautiful! But have you understood that this nun passed these years like this, because she never ceased to encounter Jesus in prayer. It is necessary to go out of oneself, towards transcendence to Jesus in prayer, towards the transcendence of others in the apostolate, in work. Make your contribution to a Church such as this: faithful to the way that Jesus desires. Don’t learn from us, from us who are no longer very young; don’t learn from us that sport that we, the elderly, often engage in: the sport of lament! Don’t learn from us the cult of the complaining goddess.” She is a goddess that is always lamenting. But be positive, cultivate the spiritual life and at the same time, go out, be able to meet people, especially those most scorned and disadvantaged. Don’t be afraid to go against the current. Be contemplatives and missionaries. Have Our Lady always with you, pray the Rosary, please … Don’t abandon it! Always have Our Lady with you in your home, as the Apostle John had her. May she always accompany you and protect you. And pray also for me, because I am also in need of prayer, because I’m a poor sinner, but we go forward.
Thank you so much and we will see one another tomorrow. And go forward with joy, with coherence, always with the courage to tell the truth, the courage to go out of oneself to meet Jesus in prayer and to go out of oneself to meet others and give them the Gospel, with pastoral fruitfulness! Please don’t be “spinsters” and “bachelors.” Go forward!
Now Archbishop Fisichella said that yesterday you recited the Creed, each one in his/her own language. However, we are all brothers, we have the same Father. Now, each one in his/her language, recite the Our Father. Let us recite the Our Father.
Indebted to Zenit.Org