Sunday, 11 March 2018

Pope speaks to priests

As is customary on the day after Ash Wednesday, Francis spent the morning with the pastors in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Rome cathedral. The session began with a penitential liturgy and with the pope spending almost an hour hearing confessions, and also answered some questions.
The questions were submitted by groups of priests according to how long they had been ordained. The younger priests asked how they could fully live their vocation. Francis has three recommendations: first, learn to balance commitments; second, “find your own style”; and finally, spend time in private prayer and find a good spiritual director with whom to talk over what arises in prayer.
To priests who are 40 to 50 years old and have been ordained a bit longer, Francis said theirs is a time when ideals tend to become weaker and when the weight of ministry and administrative duties start to be felt. He told them “The approach of middle age is a time of many temptations, but also the time of a second calling from the Lord, a call to greater realism about ministry and greater maturity. One cannot continue without this necessary transformation because if you keep going like this, without maturing, making a way for crisis, it will end badly. You’ll end up living a double life or leaving everything.”
The older group of priests, those ordained more than 35 years ago, asked the pope about handling change, saying “we cannot always draw on our experience to respond to new questions” raised by society. They also asked the pope how he handled that mature phase of his ministry.
While the pope said he understood their unease with the fast-changing culture, he insisted that what people need most today are things they are more than able to provide: a smile, a listening ear and offering pardon without condition in the sacrament of reconciliation. “Elderly priests,” he said, “know the trials of life and the difficulties and pain that people experience. They don’t have to talk much, but they should listen a lot.” In his own life, when he faced big changes in his ministry, he told the priests, what helped most was to spend more time in prayer and adoration before the tabernacle.

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