Pope Francis Outlines "...the importance of turning to Jesus every day, kneeling and in his presence learning from Him who is meek and humble of heart..." to Seminarian Trainers

Clementine Room
Thursday, November 10, 2022
Dear Lord Cardinal,
dear brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood,
Good Morning!
I am pleased to greet all of you, participants in the Course for Rectors and Formators of Latin American Seminars, who have come from almost all the countries of the Continent and the Caribbean. I extend my greeting to the collaborators of the Dicastery for the Clergy, which has organized the course.
All priestly training, particularly that of future pastors, is at the heart of evangelization, because in the coming decades they, responding to a genuine specific vocation, will encourage and lead the holy People of God, so that it may be "in Christ as a sacrament, that is, a sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the entire human race. How necessary is a quality formation for those who will be the sacramental presence of the Lord in the midst of his flock, feeding and healing it with the Word and the Sacraments!
In this sense, I would like to underline that the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis “The gift of the priestly vocation” preserves the great contribution made by the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, which this year commemorates the 30th anniversary of its publication by Saint John Paul II, after the VIII Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, which dealt with “The formation of priests in current circumstances”. This explicitly offers an integral anthropological vision, which takes into account simultaneously and in a balanced way the four dimensions present in the person of the seminarian: human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral. On the other hand, the same Ratio fundamentalis reaffirms the perspective of my esteemed predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who with the Motu proprio Ministeriorum institutio has made it clear that the formation of seminarians continues, naturally, in the permanent formation of priests, constituting both one reality.
On the other hand, I would like to emphasize that one of the great contributions of the current Ratio fundamentalis is that it describes the formation process of priests, from the years of the Seminary, based on four characteristic notes of formation, which is presented as unique, integral , community and missionary.
In this regard, I wish to pause to emphasize that priestly formation «has an eminently communitarian character from its very origin. The vocation to the priesthood, in fact, is a gift of God to the Church and to the world, it is a way to sanctify oneself and to sanctify others, which is not traveled individually, but always having as a reference a concrete portion of the People of God” (RFIS, Introduction 3).
In this context, I allow myself to point out to you that one of the most relevant challenges that houses of priestly formation face today is that they be true Christian communities, which implies not only a coherent formation project, but also an adequate number of seminarians and formators that ensures a truly communal experience in all the dimensions of formation. This challenge requires on many occasions to strive to create or consolidate interdiocesan, provincial or regional seminaries. This is a task that the Bishops must assume synodically, especially at the level of regional or national Episcopal Conferences, in which you are called to collaborate with loyalty and proactivity.
For this, dear formative priests, it is necessary to leave inertia and protagonism and begin to dream together, not longing for the past, not alone, but united and open to what the Lord today desires as formation for the next generations of priests inspired by the current Church guidelines.
I am glad that, during these days, you are reflecting on different aspects of initial formation, focusing on the human dimension and how it integrates with the other dimensions, namely, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.
Indeed, within the Christian community the Lord calls some of his disciples to be priests, that is, he chooses some sheep from his flock and invites them to be shepherds of his brothers and sisters. . We must not forget that we priests have been "taken out from among men... to intervene in favor of men in all that refers to the service of God" (cf. Heb 5,1). We are “fellow-disciples” of the other Christian faithful and, therefore, we share the same human and spiritual needs, as we are also subject to the same frailties, limits and errors.
 In seminarians, as in each one of us, two aspects that must be reciprocally integrated interact and coexist: the gifts of grace and the traits of wounded nature; the service that you have to carry out is precisely to unite both realities in a journey of faith and integral maturation (cf. RFIS, 28). It is necessary to be vigilant, since their mission is not to form "super men" who claim to know and control everything and be self-sufficient, but rather the opposite, it is to form men who humbly follow the process chosen by the Son of God, which is the path of the incarnation. Yes, by virtue of the Incarnation of the Son of God we find in our Master, God and true man, not only examples of renewed humanity to imitate, but also the possibility of entering into vital communion with Him, from which our existence is healed and elevated to a new humanity. The Lord makes it possible for us to imitate him and follow in his footsteps, because he communicates to us the gift of his grace, which is capable of transforming everything we are: "soul, body and spirit" (cf. 1 Thess 5:23), according to his plan of fulfillment for each one of us.
 The human dimension of priestly formation, therefore, is not a mere school of virtues, of growth of one's own personality or of personal development, it mainly implies an integral maturation of the person empowered by the grace of God which, even supposing the biological, psychological and social conditioning of each one, is capable of transforming and elevating them, especially when the person and the communities make an effort to collaborate with them in a transparent and truthful way. In short, the authentic vocational motivations, that is, the following of the Lord and the establishment of the Kingdom of God are at the base of a process that is both human and spiritual.
 In this sense, one of the most relevant tasks in the formation process of a priest is the gradual believing reading of his own history. This providential vision of his own path is the main matter of personal and ecclesial discernment of his own vocation. Indeed, each seminarian, first, and each priest later, with different accents and nuances, must constantly update it, especially at the most significant junctures of their own priestly journey (cf. RFIS, 59 and 69). The contrast with those who accompany you in this process, both internally and externally, will allow you to overcome any temptation to subjectivist self-deception and will open the assessment to much broader and more objective perspectives. We must also be aware of the formative impact that the life and ministry of formators has on seminarians. The trainers educate with their lives, more than with their words. 
By the way, a healthy human maturation consistent with the consolidation of one's own vocation and mission, which includes the normal overcoming of difficulties and periods of crisis, allows the formative priest to constantly renew the basis on which his configuration with Christ, Servant and Good Shepherd, and, in addition, they give him the most effective tool for the exercise of his service in the Seminary, both with the candidates in relation to their discernment process, and with respect to the other formators of the formation team and the other agents of the training. Indeed, the human and spiritual harmony of the formators, particularly the Rector of the Seminary, is one of the most important mediations in the formative accompaniment. 
One of the indicators of human and spiritual maturation is the development and consolidation of the ability to listen and the art of dialogue, which are naturally anchored in a life of prayer, where the priest enters into dialogue with the Lord on a daily basis, even in moments dryness or confusion. For the service that a priest renders to his sisters and brothers, in particular for the work of a trainer, the willingness to listen and empathize with others more than an instrument of evangelization, is precisely the environment where it germinates, flourishes and bears fruit. 
In short, the life of the educator, his constant human and spiritual growth as a disciple-missionary of Christ and as a priest, supported and promoted by the grace of God, is undoubtedly the fundamental factor available to him to give effectiveness to his service to the seminarians and other priests in their configuration with Christ, Servant and Good Shepherd. In fact, his own life testifies to what his words and gestures try to convey in the dialogue and interaction with his interlocutors in the formation.
Dear priests, I am aware that the service you render to the Church is not simple and not infrequently challenges your own humanity, because the educator has a heart that is one hundred percent human and that not infrequently he can feel frustration, tiredness, anger and impotence. Hence the importance of turning to Jesus every day, kneeling and in his presence learning from Him who is meek and humble of heart, so that little by little our heart learns to beat to the rhythm of the Master's heart.
The pages of the Gospel, especially those that narrate brushstrokes of the life of Jesus with his disciples, allow us to see how Jesus knew how to make himself present and absent, he knew the moment to correct and the moment to praise, the moment to accompany and the occasion to send and let the apostles meet the missionary challenge. It is in the midst of these that we could call "formative interventions" of Christ that Peter, Andrew, James, John and the rest of those called, became true disciples and shaped their hearts, little by little, with that of the Lord.
A moment ago I highlighted the formative role of the Rector of the Seminary with respect to his brothers in the formation team and in the co-responsibility of all of them in their own priestly formation. The Rector must manifest a constant concern for each of the formators, maintaining an open and sincere dialogue regarding their life and service, without neglecting to echo those more personal aspects on which the overcoming of the problems that can often depend often depends. emerge within the training team. Keep in mind that the formators are for the Rector of the Seminary his closest brothers, towards whom the exercise of pastoral charity must be directed in a privileged way.
On the other hand, priestly formation has as a privileged means the formative and spiritual accompaniment of each and every one of the Seminary's formators with respect to each and every one of the seminarians, in order to ensure that they have a wide and varied help from of the community of formators, without exclusivism or particularism, being able to be supported by priests of different ages and different sensitivities, according to the specific competencies of each one of them, so that each future pastor can discern and consolidate not only a genuine vocation to the presbyterate, but also the personal and unrepeatable way that the Lord has outlined for him to live and exercise it.
Other people who help the seminarians in their human and spiritual growth contribute to the formative accompaniment. It is worth mentioning the agents responsible for the pastoral experiences that they develop throughout initial formation, particularly parish priests, as well as the specialists who are called to collaborate when necessary (cf. RFIS, 145-147).
Dear formators, I once again express the gratitude of the Church for dedicating your life and ministry to the future pastors, who will be your brothers in the Presbytery and who, united and under the guidance of the Bishop, will cast the nets of the Gospel as true fishers of men. . May Mary Most Holy, Mother of priests, encourage and care for you in her mission.
Good afternoon and I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me. Thank you very much.
Source: Vatican.va