Pope Francis on Saturday reminded Brazilian priests studying in Rome that they were first of all priests and pastors of the people of God before being teachers and doctors. While many Brazilians back home seem to have “lost hope in a better future because of enormous social problems and scandalous corruption,” the Pope said, the nation “needs its priests be a sign of hope.”
The Holy Father made the remarks to some 100 Brazilian student priests and staff of the Pontifical Pio Brazilian College of Rome who met him in the Vatican. Most Pontifical Colleges in Rome are hostels where priests from various nations reside while pursuing ecclesiastical studies in various pontifical universities in the city.
Four pillars of priest's life
Pope Francis advised Brazilian student priests to watch out against the dangers caused by an imbalance among their spiritual, academic, human and pastoral dimensions - the four pillars of a priest’s life. As students, he said, they should not disregard the other three dimensions.
Spiritual life, he said, must be nurtured through daily Mass, prayer, ‘lectio divina’, personal encounter with the Lord and the rosary. The pastoral dimension must be maintained, if possible through some apostolic activity. With regard to the human dimension, the Pope noted that amid a certain void created by solitude, being away from the people of God of their diocese, one could lose the ecclesial and missionary perspective of studies.
Neglecting these dimensions as student priests, can lead to “diseases” such as “academicism” and the temptation to use studies only as a means to assert oneself, both of which, the Pope said, suffocate the faith instead of safeguarding the mission. “Please don't forget that before being teachers and doctors you are and must remain priests and pastors f the people of God,” the Pope urged.
Insisting on the importance of maintaining priestly fraternity, the Holy Father said, it is derived from and based on the one priesthood of Christ that creates a true family, elevating our human, psychological and affective relations. These relations take concrete forms such as praying together, sharing the joys and challenges of academic life, helping those suffering nostalgia, taking a walk together, being brothers in a family without however leaving aside no one, even those with unpleasant attitudes.
“Brazilians,” he said, “need to see a clergy that is united, fraternal and mutually supportive, where priests face obstacles together, without giving in to the temptations of attracting attention or making a career.” With Brazil facing religious and social challenges, the Pope said, their people back home want and need to see them love one another and live like brothers.