AT THE DIOCESE OF PIAZZA ARMERINA AND DI PALERMO
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 25th ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH
OF BLESSED PINO PUGLISI
MEETING WITH THE CLERGY, THE RELIGIOUS AND THE SEMINARIANS
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
Saturday, September 15th 2018
This morning we celebrated together the memory of Blessed Pino Puglisi; now I would like to share with you three basic aspects of his priesthood, which can help our priesthood and also help the consecrated and consecrated non-priests, our total "yes" to God and to our brothers. They are three simple verbs, therefore faithful to the figure of Don Pino, who was simply a priest, a true priest. And as a priest, a consecrated to God, because even the sisters can participate in this.
The first verb is to celebrate. Even today, as at the center of every Mass, we have pronounced the words of the Institution: "Take and eat all of you: this is my body offered as a sacrifice for you". These words should not remain on the altar, they must be lowered into life: they are our daily life program. We must not only tell her in person Christi, we must live them in the first person. Take and eat, this is my body offered: we tell the brothers, together with Jesus. The words of the Institution then outline our priestly identity: they remind us that the priest is a man of the gift, of the gift of himself, every day, without holidays and without a break. Because ours, dear priests, is not a profession but a gift; not a job, which can also serve to make a career, but a mission. And so also the consecrated life. Every day we can do the examination of conscience even on these words - take and eat: this is my body offered for you - and ask: "Today I gave my life for the love of the Lord, I" let myself eat "by the brothers ? "Don Pino lived like this: the epilogue of his life was the logical consequence of the Mass he celebrated every day.
There is a second fundamental sacramental formula in the priest's life: "I absolve you from your sins". Here is the joy of giving God's forgiveness. But here the priest, a man of the gift, also discovers a man of forgiveness. Even all Christians, we must be men and women of forgiveness. Priests in a special way in the sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, the words of Reconciliation do not only say what happens when we act in person Christi, but also show us how to act according to Christ. I absolve you: the priest, a man of forgiveness, is called to incarnate these words. He is the man of forgiveness. And similarly, women religious are women of forgiveness. How many times in religious communities there is no forgiveness, there is chatter, there are jealousies ... No. Man of forgiveness, the priest, in Confession, but all the consecrated men and women of forgiveness. The priest does not bear grudges, does not weigh what he has not received, does not hurt badly. The priest is the bearer of the peace of Jesus: benevolent, merciful, able to forgive others as God forgives them through him (cf. Eph 4,32). Door of unity where there is division, harmony where there is quarrel, serenity where there is animosity. But if the priest is a talker, instead of bringing concord he will bring division, he will bring war, he will bring things that will cause the presbytery to end divided within it and with the bishop. The priest is a full-time minister of reconciliation: he administers "forgiveness and peace" not only in the confessional, but everywhere. We ask God to be healthy bearers of the Gospel, able to forgive from the heart, to love our enemies. We think of many priests and many communities, where they hate each other as enemies, for competition, jealousy, climbers ... it's not Christian! A bishop once told me: "I will have some religious communities and some priests baptize them once again to make them Christians". Because they behave like pagans. And the Lord asks us to be men and women of forgiveness, able to forgive of heart, to love our enemies and to pray for those who hurt us (cf. Mt 18.35, 5.44). This to pray for those who hurt us seems like a museum thing ... No, today we have to do it today! The strength of you priests, of your priesthood, the strength of you religious, of your consecrated life, is here: to pray for those who do evil, like Jesus.
The gym where you train to be men of forgiveness is the first seminar and then the presbytery. For the consecrated is the community. We all know that it is not easy to forgive us among ourselves: "Did you do it? You will pay for it! ". But not only in the mafia, even in our communities and in our priests, that's how it is. In the presbytery and in the community the desire to unite, according to God, is to be nourished; not to divide according to the devil. Let's put this good in the head. When there is division there is the devil, he is the great accuser, the one who accuses to divide, divides everything! There, in the presbytery and in the community, brothers and sisters should be accepted, there the Lord calls every day to work to overcome differences. And this is a constituent part of being priests and consecrated. It is not an accident, it belongs to the substance. Putting tares, provoking divisions, gossiping, chatting are not "sins that everyone does", no: it is denying our identity as priests, men of forgiveness, and consecrated men of communion. Always the error must be distinguished from the one who commits it, always they must be loved and expected the brother and the sister. We think of Don Pino, who was available to everyone and everyone was waiting with an open heart, even the criminals.
Priest man of the gift and of forgiveness, here is how to conjugate the verb celebrate in life. You can celebrate Mass every day and then be a man of division, of chatter, of jealousy, even a "criminal" because he kills his brother with his tongue. And these are not my words, this is what the apostle James says. Read the letter of James. Even religious communities can listen to Mass every day, go to communicate, but with hatred in their hearts to their brother and sister. The priest is a man of God 24 hours a day, not a man of the sacred when he wears vestments. The liturgy is life for you, not a ritual. This is why it is fundamental to pray to the One we talk about, to nourish ourselves with the Word we preach, to adore the Bread we consecrate, and to do it every day. Prayer, Word, Bread; Father Pino Puglisi, called "3P", help us to remember these three "P" essential for each priest every day, essential for all the consecrated and consecrated every day: prayer, Word, Bread.
Man of forgiveness, priest who gives forgiveness, that is, a man of mercy and this especially in the confessional, in the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is so bad when in the Confession the priest begins to dig, to dig into the soul of the other: "And how it was, and how you do ...". This is a man who is sick! You are there to forgive in the name of the only Father who forgives, not to measure up to where I can, to where I can not ... I think that on this point of Confession we have to convert so much: receive the penitents with mercy, without digging the soul , without making Confession a psychiatric visit, without making Confession a detective investigation to investigate. Forgiveness, big heart, mercy. The other day a very strict Cardinal, I would say even conservative - because today we say: this is conservative, this is open - a Cardinal said to me: "If one comes to the Father, because I am there in the name of Jesus and the Father Eternal, and says: Forgive me, forgive me, I have done this, this, this ...; and I feel that according to the rules I should not forgive, but which father does not forgive his son who asks him with tears and despair? ". Then, once forgiven, he will be advised: "You will have to do this ..."; or: "I have to do this, and I will do it for you". When the prodigal son arrived with the speech prepared before his father and began to say: "Father, I have sinned! ...", the father embraced him, did not let him speak, he immediately gave him forgiveness. And when the other child did not want to go in, the father went out to give him this trust of forgiveness, of filiation. This is very important for me to heal our very wounded Church that looks like a field hospital.
Finally, always on celebrating, I would like to say something about popular piety, very common in these lands. A Bishop told me that in his diocese I do not know how many confraternities there are and he told me: "I always go to them, I do not leave them alone, I accompany them". It is a treasure that must be appreciated and guarded, because it has an evangelizing force (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 122-126), but the protagonist must always be the Holy Spirit. I therefore ask you to watch carefully, so that popular religiosity is not exploited by the mafia presence, because then, instead of being a means of affectionate adoration, it becomes a vehicle of corrupt ostentation. We have seen this in the newspapers when the Madonna stops and bowed in front of the mafia boss's house; no, this is not right, absolutely not! On popular piety, take care, help, be present. An Italian bishop told me this: "Popular piety is the immune system of the Church", is the Church's immune system. When the Church begins to become too ideological, too gnostic or too Pelagian, popular piety corrects it, defends it.
I propose a second verb: accompany. Accompanying is the keystone of being pastors today. We need ministers who embody the proximity of the Good Shepherd, of priests who are living icons of proximity. This word must be emphasized: "proximity", because it is what God has done. He did it first with his people. On this he also reproaches them, in Deuteronomy - think well - he says to them: "Tell me, have you ever seen a people who have gods so close to you as you have your God near you?". This closeness, this proximity of God in the Old Testament, became flesh, became one of us in Jesus Christ. God made himself close by annihilating himself, emptying himself, so Paul says. Proximity, we must resume this word. Poor goods and proclamations, rich in relationship and understanding. We still think of Don Puglisi who, more than talking about young people, spoke with young people. Being with them, following them, making the most real questions and the most beautiful answers come out with them. It is a mission that arises from patience, from welcoming listening, from having a father's heart, a mother's heart, to the religious, and never a master's heart. The Archbishop told us about the "ear" apostolate, the patience to listen. The pastoral care must be done this way, with patience and dedication, for Christ and full time.
Don Pino ripped from the discomfort by simply doing the priest with a shepherd's heart. We learn from him to reject any disembodied spirituality and get our hands dirty with people's problems. It gives me a bad smell that spirituality that leads you to stand upside down, closed or open, and you're always there ... This is not Catholic! We go to meet people with the simplicity of those who want to love them with Jesus in the heart, without pharaonic projects, without riding the fashions of the moment. At our age, we have seen so many Pharaonic pastoral projects ... What have they done? Anything! Pastoral projects, pastoral plans are necessary, but as a means, a means to help the proximity, the preaching of the Gospel, but in themselves they are not useful. The way of the encounter, of listening, of sharing is the way of the Church. Growing together in the parish, following the paths of young people at school, accompanying vocations, families and the sick; create meeting places where to pray, reflect, play, spend time in a healthy way and learn how to be good Christians and honest citizens. This is a pastoral that generates, and which regenerates the priest himself, the religious herself.
One thing I especially want to say to the Religious: your mission is great, because the Church is a mother and her way of accompanying always must always have a maternal trait. You religious, think that you are an icon of the Church, because the Church is a woman, bride of Christ, you are an icon of the Church. Think that you are an icon of the Madonna, who is the mother of the Church. Your motherhood is so good, so good. Once - I have told this many times, I say it briefly - there were, where my father worked, so many immigrants after the Spanish war, communists, socialists ... all eaten. One of them got sick, he was treated 30 days at home, because the nun came to treat him with a very bad disease, very difficult to treat. In the early days he told her all the bad words he knew, and the nun silently treated him. Once the story is over, that man has reconciled himself. And once, out of the work together with others, two nuns were passing and those others said swear words, and he punched one of those and threw him to the ground and said: "With God and with the priests take it, but the Madonna and the nuns do not touch them! ". You are the door, because you are mothers, and the Church is a mother. The tenderness of a mother, the patience of a mother ... Please do not devalue your charism of women and the charism of consecrated persons. It is important that you be involved in pastoral care to reveal the face of the mother Church. It is important that the bishops call you in the councils, in the various pastoral councils, because the voice of the woman is always important, the voice of the consecrated person is important. And I would like to thank the contemplatives who, with prayer and the total gift of life, are the heart of the Mother Church and the love that connects everything pulsates in the Body of Christ.
Celebrate, accompany, and now the last verb, which is actually the first thing to do: to testify. This concerns us all and in particular applies to religious life, which is in itself testimony and prophecy of the Lord in the world. In the apartment where Padre Pino lived stands a genuine simplicity. It is the eloquent sign of a life consecrated to the Lord, who does not seek consolations and glory from the world. People look for this in the priest and consecrated, look for the testimony. People are not shocked when they see that the priest "slips", is a sinner, repents and goes on ... The scandal of people is when he sees worldly priests, with the spirit of the world. The people's scandal is when he finds an official in the priest, not a pastor. And this puts it right in your head and in your heart: shepherds yes, officials no! Life speaks more than words. The testimony is infectious. In front of Don Pino we ask for the grace to live the Gospel like him: in the light of the sun, immersed in his people, rich only in the love of God. We can make many discussions about the relationship between Church and world and Gospel history, but we do not need if the Gospel does not pass from one's life first. And the Gospel asks us, today more than ever, this: to serve in simplicity, in witness. This means to be ministers: not to perform functions, but to serve happy, without depending on the things that pass and without binding to the powers of the world. Thus, free to testify, it manifests that the Church is a sacrament of salvation, that is, a sign that indicates and an instrument that offers salvation to the world.
The Church is not above the world - this is clericalism - the Church is inside the world, to make it ferment, like leaven in the dough. For this reason, dear brothers and sisters, every form of clericalism must be banned. It is one of the most difficult perversions to remove today, clericalism: they do not have citizenship in you haughty, arrogant or overbearing attitudes. To be credible witnesses it must be remembered that before being priests we are always deacons; before being sacred ministers we are brothers of all, servants. What would you say to a bishop who tells me that some of his priests do not want to go to a village near to say a Mass of the dead if the offer does not arrive first? What would you say to that bishop? And there are! Brothers and sisters, there are! We pray for these brothers, officials. Even careerism and familism are enemies to be ousted, because their logic is that of power, and the priest is not a man of power, but of service. The nun is not a woman of power, but of service. Witnessing, then, means fleeing every duplicity, that hypocrisy, which is so closely linked to clericalism; to escape every duplicity of life, in the seminary, in religious life, in the priesthood. One can not live a double moral: one for the people of God and another in their own home. No, the testimony is only one. The witness of Jesus always belongs to him. And for his sake he undertakes a daily battle against his vices and against all alienating mundanity.
Finally, witness is the one who without many turns of words, but with a smile and with confident serenity knows how to cheer and console, because he naturally reveals the presence of the risen and living Jesus. I wish you priests, consecrated and consecrated, seminarians, to be witnesses of hope, as Fr Pino once said well: "To those who are disoriented, the witness of hope indicates not what hope is, but who is hope. Hope is Christ, and is logically indicated through his own life oriented towards Christ "(Address to the Conference of the Movement" Presence of the Gospel ", 1991). Not with words.
I thank you and I bless you, and excuse me if I was a bit 'strong, but I like to talk like that! I wish you the joy of celebrating, accompanying and witnessing the great gift that God has placed in your hearts. Thank you, and pray for me!