By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis met with seminarians from the Sicilian Archdiocese of Agrigento on Saturday in the Hall of the Consistory in the Vatican. In his prepared remarks which were given to the seminarians, Pope Francis said that just as it did for the Synod of Bishops on Young People the icon of Jesus walking with the disciples to Emmaus is also an icon of the seminary experience. He then explained the key points of this icon: journey, listening, discernment and mission.
We meet the Risen Lord “on the road”, the Pope said. At the same time, Jesus “is the way, that is, the reality through which each one of us is called to live”, he said. Therefore, Jesus walks with us, listens to us, and “welcomes our human condition”. He spurs the disciples to reveal what was going on inside – “their hopes and their delusions”. This, the Pope said, is what the seminary experience is: “first there is a dialogue with the Lord made up of mutual listening: He listens to me and I listen to Him”. Later, this dynamic will be of great service in pastoral ministry when priests are called to do what Jesus and the Church do: “listen to the cry of humanity, which is often a silent groan, repressed and suffocated at times”.
Accompaniment is necessary for the discernment process the seminary offers. Pope Francis said that “many problems that become apparent in the life of a priest are due to the lack of discernment during the seminary years”. The same is true of marriage, he said. This discernment must be carried out as Jesus did with the two on their way to Emmaus. “Jesus did not pretend”, nor was he evasive with them; he did not tip-toe around the problem. Rather, he called them “ ‘foolish and ‘slow of heart’ because they did not believe the prophets”. Jesus then opened their minds, and then their eyes. The Holy Spirit is the master artist of discernment, Pope Francis said.
The two disciples then “return to Jerusalem together”. There they “unite themselves to the apostolic community who, by the power of the Spirit, becomes thoroughly missionary”. The emphasis on the community is important, Pope Francis emphasized. He ended by encouraging the seminarians to embrace this vision so that the Church be a witness of collegiality and communion.