Pope Francis says "It is good to retrace the steps of God in our life, every time the Lord has crossed our path, to correct, encourage, resume, revive, forgive." FULL TEXT




Sala Clementina
Monday, March 22, 2021

Dear priests, religious and lay faithful,

who form the community of the Pontifical Filipino College " de Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje ", I am happy to meet you on the 500th anniversary of the first proclamation of the Christian faith in the Philippines and the celebration of the first Holy Mass, which was 31 March 1561, Easter day. And another anniversary that concerns you, closer in time, also deserves to be remembered: that of the foundation of your College on 29 June 61.  St. John XXIII personally inaugurated it on 7 October of that year. Let us thank the Lord together for these sixty years of priestly formation, which have given many seminarians and priests the opportunity to grow as priests according to the heart of Christ for the service of the People of God in the Philippines.

Starting from these anniversaries and anniversaries, I would like to share with you some reflections on time , of which our life is made and which is a gift that God has given us and has entrusted to our responsibility, so that we know how to take the opportunity to say our “graces”, for doing good works and looking forward with hope. And I would like to thank the Rector for the words he said to us. But, excuse me, I thought he was a Catholic Action guy! You never get old! And I'm glad Cardinal [Tagle] is with you. And this is a beautiful thing. Let's go back to time .

First, let's think about the past, to the story that every person and every reality bring with them. Going back in time, even centuries, as we do for the birth of the Church in the Philippines, is walking in memory, walking back in the footsteps of those who preceded us, to return to the origins of your faith with feelings of gratitude and of amazement at what has been given to you. Each anniversary gives the opportunity to leaf through the "family album" and to remember where we come from, what faith we lived and what evangelical testimonies have allowed us to be what we are now. The memory. That deuteronomic memory; that memory that is always the basis of daily life. The memory of the journey gone ... “Remember, remember”, said Moses in Deuteronomy. "Remember the times, the graces of God, do not forget". Remember the root. Paul said to Timothy: “Remember your mother, your grandmother”. The roots, the memory. And also the author of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Rememberpristinos dies , those first days, and remember those who announced the Gospel to you ”. A Christianity without memory is an encyclopedia, but it is not life.

And this - memory - is valid for an entire people, but also for every single person. Each of us must go back and remember the many good and bad, good and bad steps, but always see that God's Providence is there. Looking back reminds us of those who first made us fall in love with Jesus - a pastor, a nun, our grandparents, or parents - to whom we owe the greatest of gifts. And for priests, the memory of the discovery of a vocation, of the moment in which the first one was said, convinced "yes" to God's call, as well as of the day of ordination, is particularly dear to them.

When you happen to feel tired and disheartened - this happens to everyone - of feeling dejected due to some trial or failure, look back at your story , not to escape into an "ideal" past, but to regain the momentum and emotion of " first love ”, that of Jeremiah (cf. Jer 2 : 2). Return to first love. It is good to retrace the steps of God in our life, every time the Lord has crossed our path, to correct, encourage, resume, revive, forgive. Thus we see clearly that the Lord has never abandoned us, he has always been beside us in a way that is now more discreet, now more evident, even in the moments that seemed to us the darkest and most arid.

If the past offers the opportunity to be aware of the solidity of our faith and our vocation, the future broadens horizons and is a school of hope. Christian life is by its nature projected towards the future, the near one but also the more distant one, at the end of time, when we will be able to meet the Risen One who has gone to prepare a place for us in the Father's House (cf. Jn 14: 2 ).

Just as the past must not be an intimate retreat, so we must fight the temptation to flee forward when we do not live our present in peace. We are in the seminary and everything weighs on us, because we imagine what life will be like after ordination. We are entrusted with a pastoral assignment and, at the first difficulties, we already think about the place where we could really give the best of ourselves. And so on, a sinful procession on the future, immature, to escape from the present. The true future is anchored in the present and the past. And so many people, for years or for a whole life, do not come to conversion. It is a bit like the spirit of complaints: “and this, this, this…”. But look forward, look back. You have the promise. You have the lesson. Make it now an alliance that takes you back, but don't go around in that labyrinth of your complaints, your dissatisfactions, your sorrows. This is the beginning of a bad disease,

Dear priests - but it can also apply to consecrated and lay people, dear all - do not be men of the eternal tomorrow , who always move forward, in a hypothetical ideal condition - the bad utopia - who move the opportune and decisive moment. to do something good; and do not live in a perennial condition of "apnea", limiting yourself to enduring the present and waiting for it to pass. "Yes, Lord, tomorrow, tomorrow ...". That sick tomorrow.

Future in a positive sense, on the other hand, means a prophetic gaze , the ability of the disciple who, faithful to the Master, starting from what he has in front of him, knows how to see what does not yet exist and works according to his own vocation to make it happen, as a docile instrument. in the hands of God.

And after having "traveled" in the past and in the future, we return to the present , the only time that is now in our hands, which we are called to profit from for a journey of conversion and sanctification. The present is the moment in which God calls, not yesterday, not tomorrow: today; we are called to live today, including its contradictions, sufferings and miseries - even our sins - which are not to be shunned or avoided, but taken on and loved as opportunities that the Lord offers us to be more intimately united with him and also on the cross.

And today, dear friends, is the time for concreteness . Today is concreteness. You priests are in Rome for study and ongoing formation in the community of this College. You are not asked to regret the parishes from which you come, nor to imagine the "prestigious" tasks that the Bishop will certainly want to entrust to you on your return ... No, not that! This is fantasy. Instead, it is a question of loving this concrete community, of serving the brothers whom God has placed beside you - and not gossiping about them! -, to take advantage of the opportunities for pastoral training that are given to you. Given the reason you're here, it's about being serious and diligent in the study. As Saint John Paul II said to your predecessors, "Through your commitment to study you will be ready to carry out the ministry of the Word, proclaiming the mystery of salvation clearly and unambiguously, distinguishing it from mere human opinions" ( June 2, 2001 ).

Knowing the past, projected into the future, to better live the present, an opportune time for formation and for sanctification, welcoming the opportunities that the Lord gives you to follow him and to configure your life to him, even while being far from your beloved Philippines .

I conclude with the words of St. John XXIII , those he addressed sixty years ago to the first community of the Philippine College, so that all priests may find here «faith and culture in abundant source and fraternal atmosphere, and thus equipped they will return to their homeland, as chosen heralds of the truth ”( Radio Message , 7 October 1961). Thank you!

 Source: Vatican.va