Pope Francis on Friday told seminarians and priests studying in Rome to care for their ongoing human and spiritual formation while being always open to the Holy Spirit. The seminarians and student priests who come from around the world for ecclesiastical studies, reside in the pontifical colleges and ecclesiastical boarding schools of the city.
The relaxed question and answer session in which the Pope responded to 5 questions from the audience, was punctuated with jokes, laughter and cheer.
On the move together with others
Responding to a French seminarian who wanted to know about how a priest could be a humble disciple and missionary at the same time, the Pope said that a priest must be a man who is on the move, who listens and who is never alone. He must be humble enough to be accompanied.
Importance of discernment
To a question from a Sudanese seminarian about how to keep discerning one’s vocation even after ordination, the Pope underscored the importance of discernment saying it helps us to go ahead by making us understand what is right and what not.
For an effective discernment, the Holy Father said one needs to do it before God in prayer, and secondly one needs a spiritual guide who will offer him guidelines. Without discernment, the Pope said, a priest’s life stalls, becoming rigid and legalistic. One closes oneself to the Holy Spirit, who actually should be our companion on our journey. It’s no use being good and live as if the Holy Spirit did not exist.
To a question from a Latin American on how to maintain a healthy balance, the Pope underscored the importance of human formation. One needs to be a normal human person, capable of enjoying others’ company, laughing and listening to a sick person or consoling him with a caress. A priest has to be a father and be fruitful, giving life to others. A priest, he warned is not an official of the sacred or an employee of God.
The diocesan priest
A US deacon asked the Pope about the spiritual traits of a diocesan priest and how they are practiced in daily pastoral work. In answer, the Pope used the expression “dioceseness”, which he explained as caring to maintain relationship with the bishop, even if he were a difficult person, and also maintaining one’s relationship with brother priests and parishioners. Maintaining these three fronts, he said, will make you saints.
Regarding a Filipino priest’s query on a priest’s permanent formation, the Pope recommended priests to form themselves along human, pastoral, spiritual, communitarian lines. The need for permanent formation, the Holy Father pointed out, is born of the awareness of one’s weakness and limitations. Immersed in the contemporary culture, one needs to ask oneself how to live in virtual communication, how to use the mobile phone and how to face temptations against chastity that follow. One has to watch out against pride and the attraction of money, power and comfort, the Pope added.