ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PRIESTS OF THE CONVITTO SAN LUIGI DEI FRANCESI, IN ROME
Monday, June 7, 2021
I am very pleased to welcome you as the priestly community of San Luigi dei Francesi. I thank the Rector, Mons. Laurent Bréguet, for his kind words.
In a society marked by individualism, by self-affirmation, by indifference, you have the experience of living together with its daily challenges. Located in the heart of Rome, your home, with its witness of life, can communicate to the people who frequent it the evangelical values of a varied and supportive fraternity, especially when someone is going through a difficult time. In fact, your fraternal life and your various commitments are capable of making you feel the fidelity of God's love and his closeness. A sign, a signal.
In this year dedicated to Saint Joseph, I invite you to rediscover the face of this man of faith, of this tender father, model of fidelity and trusting abandonment to God's plan. "The will to God, his history, his project. Thus Joseph teaches us that having faith in God also includes believing that He can also work through our fears, our frailties, our weakness "(Apostolic Letter Patris corde, 2). Fragility must not be left aside: they are a theological place. My fragility, that of each of us is the theological place of encounter with the Lord. The "superman" priests end badly, all of them. The frail priest, who knows his weaknesses and talks about them with the Lord, this will be fine. With Joseph, we are called to return to the experience of the simple acts of welcoming, of tenderness, of the gift of self.
In community life, there is always the temptation to create small closed groups, to isolate oneself, to criticize and speak ill of others, to believe oneself superior, more intelligent. Chattering is a habit of closed groups, a habit also of priests who become spinsters: they go, talk, gossip: this doesn't help. And this undermines us all, and that's not good. We must let go of this habit and look and think about God's mercy. May you always welcome one another as a gift. In a fraternity lived in truth, in the sincerity of relationships and in a life of prayer we can form a community in which we can breathe the air of joy and tenderness.
I encourage you to live the precious moments of sharing and community prayer in an active, joyful participation. Even moments of gratuitousness, of free meeting… The priest is a man who, in the light of the Gospel, spreads the taste of God around him and transmits hope to restless hearts: this is how it must be. The studies you do in the various Roman universities prepare you for your future tasks as pastors, and allow you to better appreciate the reality in which you are called to proclaim the Gospel of joy. However, you don't go out into the field to apply the theories without taking into consideration the environment you are in, as well as the people in your care. I wish you to be "shepherds with" the smell of the sheep "" ( Homily, March 28, 2013), people capable of living, laughing and crying with your people, in a word of communicating with them. It worries me when reflections are made, thoughts on the priesthood, as if it were a laboratory thing: this priest, that other priest ... One cannot reflect on the priest outside the holy people of God. The ministerial priesthood is a consequence of the baptismal priesthood of the holy faithful people of God. This must not be forgotten. If you think of a priesthood isolated from the people of God, that is not a Catholic priesthood, no; and not even Christian. Strip yourself, your preconceived ideas, your dreams of greatness, your self-affirmation, to put God and people at the center of your daily concerns. To put the holy faithful people of God at the center one must be shepherds. “No, I would like to be an intellectual only, not a pastor”: but, ask for the reduction to the lay state, it will do you better, and be an intellectual. But if you are a priest, be a shepherd. You will be a shepherd, in many ways, but always in the midst of God's people. What Paul reminded his beloved disciple: "Remember your mother, your grandmother, from the people who taught you". The Lord says to David: "I have chosen you from behind the flock", from there. “Remember your mom, your grandmother, from the people, who taught you”. The Lord says to David: "I have chosen you from behind the flock", from there. “Remember your mom, your grandmother, from the people, who taught you”. The Lord says to David: "I have chosen you from behind the flock", from there.
Dear brother priests, I invite you to always have broad horizons, to dream, to dream of a Church entirely at the service, a world that is more fraternal and supportive. And for this, as protagonists, you have your contribution to offer. Do not be afraid to dare, to risk, to go ahead because all you can with Christ who gives you strength (cf. Phil4.13). With him you can be apostles of joy, cultivating within you the gratitude of being at the service of your brothers and sisters and the Church. And with joy goes along with a sense of humor. A priest who has no sense of humor, does not like it, something is wrong. Imitate those great priests who laugh at others, at themselves and even at their own shadow: a sense of humor is one of the characteristics of holiness, as I pointed out in the Apostolic Exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et exultate . And cultivate in yourselves the gratitude of being at the service of your brothers and of the Church. As priests, you have been "anointed with the oil of joy to anoint with the oil of joy" ( Homily, April 17, 2014). And it is only by staying rooted in Christ that you can experience a joy that moves you to win hearts. Priestly joy is the source of your acting as missionaries of your time.
Finally, I invite you to cultivate gratitude. Gratefulness to the Lord for who you are for each other. With your limitations, frailties, tribulations, there is always a look of love placed on you and which gives you confidence. Gratitude "is always" a powerful weapon "" ( Letter to priests on the 160th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney , 4 August 2019), which allows us to keep the flame of hope burning in moments of discouragement, of loneliness and test.
I entrust each of you, your family members, the staff of your home, as well as the members of the parish of San Luigi dei Francesi to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and to the protection of St. Louis. I bless you from my heart, and I ask you please do not forget to pray for me, because I am in need. This office is not easy. And in the books of spirituality there is a chapter - in some books, but let's think of Sant'Alfonso Maria de 'Liguori and many others - a chapter on a theme and then an example, and some say: " said with an example ”, and they give an example of life. Today, before you entered, Father Landousies told me that at the end of June he will leave this office here, in the Curia: he has been my French translator for a long time. But I would like to make a summary of his person. It is an example. I found in him the testimony of a happy priest, of a consistent priest, a priest who was able to live with already beatified martyrs - whom he knew one by one - and also to live with an illness of which no one knew what. were, with the same peace, with the same testimony. And I take advantage of this publicly, even in front of the Osservatore Romano, to everyone, to thank him for the testimony, which has done me good many times. The way I was was good for me. He will go away, but he goes to carry out the ministry in Marseille, and he will do so much good with this capacity that he has to welcome everyone; but it leaves here the good smell of Christ, the good smell of a priest, of a good priest. So in front of you I say thank you, thank you for everything you have done. of a consistent priest, a priest who was able to live with already beatified martyrs - whom he knew one by one - and also to live with an illness of which no one knew what he was, with the same peace, with the same testimony.
FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va