ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE COMMUNITY OF THE PONTIFICAL SEMINARY
REGIONAL MARCHIGIANO PIUS XI OF ANCONA
Thursday, 10 June 2021
Dear Brothers ,
I am pleased to welcome your community of the Pontifical Regional Seminary of the Marche "Pius XI".
I thank the Rector for his words of greeting: enthusiastic, this Rector! Our meeting takes place in the year dedicated to St. Joseph and this leads me to share some thoughts on vocation inspired by "this extraordinary figure, so close to the human condition of each of us" (Apostolic Letter Patris Corde , 8 December 2020) and also close to the call that God wanted to address to us.
I like to imagine the Seminary as the family of Nazareth, in which Jesus was welcomed, guarded and formed in view of the mission entrusted to him by the Father. The Son of God accepted to let himself be loved and guided by human parents, Mary and Joseph, teaching each of us that without docility no one can grow and mature. I would like to emphasize this, because there is not much talk of docility . Being docile is a gift we must ask for; docility is a virtue not only to be acquired, but to be received. It is important that each of you always ask yourself: “Am I docile? Am I rebellious, or I don't care, do I do what I care? ". No: docile is a constructive attitude of one's vocation and also of one's personality. Without docility, no one can grow and mature. In fact, theRatio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis affirms that the priest is a disciple continually walking in the footsteps of the Master and, therefore, his formation is an evolving process, started in the family, continued in the parish, consolidated in the seminary and which lasts for a lifetime. The figure of Saint Joseph is the most beautiful model by which your formators are called to be inspired in guarding and caring for your vocation. To them, therefore, I intend first of all to address.
Dear brothers of the Marches Episcopal Conference, primarily responsible for the formation of these young people; dear rector, spiritual director and all formators, be for your seminarians what Joseph was for Jesus! May they learn more from your life than from your words, as happened in the house of Nazareth, where Jesus was formed at the school of Joseph's "creative courage". May they learn docility from your obedience; the industriousness from your dedication; generosity towards the poor from the testimony of your sobriety and availability; fatherhood thanks to your lively and chaste affection. «Alongside the appellation of father, tradition has also placed that of“ very chaste ”to Joseph. It is not a merely affective indication, but the synthesis of an attitude that expresses the opposite of possession. Chastity is freedom from possession in all areas of life. Only when a love is chaste is it truly love. The love that he wants to possess in the end always becomes dangerous, imprisons, suffocates, makes us unhappy "(Lett. Ap.Patris corde ).
And now, dear seminarians, I wish to turn to you, to whom the Church asks to follow the example of Jesus who allows himself to be docilely educated by Joseph. Since he was a boy, he had to experience the fatigue that every path of growth entails, asking himself the big questions of life, starting to take on his responsibilities and make his own decisions. But He was God, He didn't need, no: He learned, but he really learned, he didn't pretend to learn: no, he learned. He was God, yes, but he was real man: he went through all the stages of a man's growth. Perhaps we have not reflected enough on the young Jesus, committed to discerning his own vocation, to listen and confide in Mary and Joseph, to dialogue with the Father in order to understand his mission.
For you too, may the Seminary be like the house in Nazareth, in which the Son of God learned humanity and closeness from his parents. Don't be satisfied with being skilled in the use of social media and mediato communicate. Only transformed by the Word of God will you be able to communicate words of life. The world is thirsty for priests who are able to communicate the goodness of the Lord to those who have experienced sin and failure, for priests who are experts in humanity, for pastors willing to share the joys and labors of their brothers, for men who allow themselves to be marked by cry of those who suffer. Draw the humanity of Jesus from the Gospel and the Tabernacle, search for it in the lives of the saints and so many heroes of charity, think of the genuine example of those who passed on the faith to you, to your grandparents, to your parents. Paul already said it to his beloved disciple Timothy: “Remember your mother and your grandmother, your roots”. And also read those writers who have been able to look inside the human soul; I think for example of Dostoevsky, who in the miserable events of earthly pain has been able to reveal the beauty of love that saves. But some of you may say: what does Dostoevsky have to do here? These are for the literati! No, no: it is to grow in humanity. Read the great humanists. A priest can be very disciplined, he can be able to explain theology well, even philosophy and many things. But if it's not human, it's useless. Go outside and be a professor. But if he is not human he cannot be a priest: he is missing something. Does he miss the language? No, he can speak. He misses his heart; experts in humanity! he may be able to explain theology well, even philosophy and many things. But if it's not human, it's useless. Go outside and be a professor. But if he is not human he cannot be a priest: he is missing something. Does he miss the language? No, he can speak. He misses his heart; experts in humanity! he may be able to explain theology well, even philosophy and many things. But if it's not human, it's useless. Go outside and be a professor. But if he is not human he cannot be a priest: he is missing something. Does he miss the language? No, he can speak. He misses his heart; experts in humanity!
The seminary, therefore, must not distance you from reality, from dangers and much less from others but, on the contrary, make you become closer to God and to your brothers. Within the walls of the Seminary dilate the boundaries of the heart - the dilated heart -, extend them to the whole world, be passionate about what "approaches", be passionate about what approaches, which "opens", which "brings together". Be wary of experiences that lead to sterile intimisms, of “fulfilling spiritualisms”, which seem to give consolation and instead lead to closures and rigidity. And here I stop for a while. Rigidity is a bit of fashion today; and rigidity is one of the manifestations of clericalism. Clericalism is a perversion of the priesthood: it is a perversion. And stiffness is one of the manifestations. When I find a seminarian or a stiff young priest, I say “something bad happens to this inside”. Behind all rigidity there is a serious problem, because rigidity lacks humanity.
Finally, I would like to suggest some ideas relating to the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. And these four dimensions go together, and one act on the other: human dimension, spiritual dimension, intellectual and pastoral dimension. First of all, do not distance yourself from your humanity, do not leave the complexity of your inner world, your feelings and affectivity outside the door of the Seminary: do not leave them outside; do not close in on yourselves when you live a moment of crisis or weakness: it is humanity's own to speak about it. Open yourselves in all sincerity to your formators, fighting against all forms of interior falsehood. Those who have the face of Blessed Imelda and inside are a disaster: no, this is inner falsehood. Don't be an angel, no. Cultivate relationships that are clean, joyful, human liberating, full, capable of friendship, capable of feelings, capable of fruitfulness.
Spiritual dimension, Spirituality: prayer is not ritualism - the rigid end up in ritualism, always; May prayer be an occasion for personal encounter with God. And if you get angry with God, do it: because getting angry with your father is a way of communicating love. Do not be afraid: he understands that language, he is a father - personal encounter with God, of dialogue and trust with him. Watch out that the liturgy and community prayer do not become a celebration of ourselves. Once I went to buy shirts - when I still could not go out now - in an ecclesiastical clothing store. There was a young man, seminarian or priest, who was looking for clothes. I looked at him: he looked at himself in the mirror. And this sentence came to me: this is celebrating itself, and it will do the same before the altar. Please, that every liturgical celebration is not a celebration of ourselves. Enrich the prayer with faces, already feel yourselves intercessors for the world.
Study - the third dimension - helps you to enter the complexity of contemporary culture and thought with awareness and competence, not to be afraid of it, not to be hostile to it. Do not be afraid. "But, father, we are living in a time marked by an atheistic thought" - But, you must understand it, you must dialogue and you must proclaim your faith and proclaim Jesus Christ to this world, to this thought. It is there that the wisdom of the Gospel is incarnated. And the challenge of the mission that awaits you requires, today more than ever, competence and preparation. Today more than ever: it takes study, competence, preparation to speak with this world.
And pastoral formation , the fourth dimension, spurs you to go enthusiastically to meet the people. One is a priest to serve the People of God, to take care of the wounds of all, especially the poor. Availability to others: this is the sure proof of the yes to God. And no clericalism, I have already said it. Being disciples of Jesus means getting rid of oneself and conforming to his own sentiments, to him who came "not to be served but to serve" (cf. Mk 10:45).
The true shepherd does not detach himself from the people of God: he is in the people of God, or in front - to show the way - or in the middle, to understand him better, or behind, to help those who are a little too far behind, and also to let the people, the flock, with their nose, show us where the new pastures are. The true shepherd must continuously move in these three places: front, middle and back. Sometimes, I see books or conferences on the priesthood that touch on this, this aspect, that other, that other, that other, that other. It is true, all this must be studied, but if all these aspects do not have their roots in your belonging to the holy faithful people of God, they are only academic reflections that are useless. You are a priest of the holy faithful people of God,
Finally, I would like to thank your Pastors - you and your colleagues: thank you - and your diocesan communities for the witness of ecclesial communion, given by the choice to enhance the interdiocesan and regional institution of the Seminary: I like this very much. And also out of necessity, because a diocese that has four seminarians cannot have a seminary with four or five or six seminarians: it takes the community. In a historical era in which we are witnessing - outside as well as within the Church - closures of a "parochial" style, the experience of communion you are living is a good example also for other dioceses which, through sharing of a common formative project, they will be helped to find formators and teachers suitable for the great challenge of vocational accompaniment.
And one last thing. In these four dimensions - intellectual, pastoral, community and spiritual - you will have professors, formators, spiritual directors and you must speak with them. But look for - in your dioceses - the old priests, those who have the wisdom of good wine, those who with their testimony will teach you how to solve pastoral problems, those who, as parish priests, knew the names of all, of each of their faithful. , even the names of the dogs: one of them told me this. But how did she - I said - get to know having four parishes? “No, yes, you can,” he said humbly. But had she managed to get to know everyone? "Yes, I knew everyone's name, even the names of the dogs." Is good. A priest so close, and also so close to the tabernacle: he looked at everyone with faith and patience in Jesus. Old priests who have carried many people's problems on their shoulders and have helped to live more or less well, and have helped everyone to die well. Talk to these priests, who are the treasure of the Church. Many of them are sometimes forgotten or in a retirement home: go and visit them. I am a treasure.
St. Joseph accompany you and the Madonna guard you. I bless you and you, please, pray for me, because this work is not easy at all! Thank you.