IN THE FACE OF THE SEEDS OF SCHISM AND DISUNITY THAT GERMANY’S CARDINALS AND BISHOPS AND LAITY ARE SOWING, MUCH WORSE THAN WHAT CARDINAL BURKE HAS DONE, POPE FRANCIS IS REASSERTING MAGISTERIAL INFALLIBLE TEACHINGS ON THE PRIESTHOOD…
My astute comments embedded in RED:
(From Vatican News) Pope: Priests lead people to Christ when conformed to Him
Pope Francis encourages seminarians in France to accompany people with “the smell of the sheep” in their pastoral ministry, while nurturing their own relationship with Christ.
By Devin Watkins
As over 700 seminarians from across France take part in a pilgrimage to Paris, Pope Francis has renewed his call for the Church’s ordained ministers to adopt radical self-giving and pastoral closeness.
In a message sent Friday and signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Pope assured seminarians of his prayers for their formation and ministry.
He noted that our secularized Western societies greatly need the “generosity and boldness of faith” that they represent.
The Church of France, said the Holy Father, needs priests who are conformed to Christ so that they can bring Christ to the people of God and “teach them with authority, guide them with certainty, and effectively transmit grace to them through the celebration of the sacraments.”
Pope Francis urged the French seminarians to take their celibacy seriously as a fundamental aspect of their priestly identity.
“The priest is celibate—and wants to be—simply because Jesus was,” he said. “The requirement of celibacy is not primarily theological but mystical.”
He noted that the priestly ministry is sometimes relativized or distorted, but affirmed that “no one has the power to change the nature of the priesthood”.
“No one will ever change it, even if the modalities of its exercise must necessarily take into account the developments of current society and the condition of the serious vocational crisis we are experiencing,” said the Pope.
(The pope makes a good comment on priestly celibacy which is configured to the celibacy of Christ and thus is mystical, not necessarily practical. I have always taught that celibacy isn’t meant to make the priest available to the laity 24/7 but more available to God in prayer, contemplation and also pastoral works. His focus in on his priesthood and the sacramental ministry that flows from it, not primarily on a wife and his own children. Thus celibacy is a “sacramental” of Christ’s sexuality which is chaste. But Jesus is masculine, manly and shows forth the chaste spousal relationship (Husband/Groom) that He is to His bride the Church, the souls of the Church.)
Closeness to Christ and people of God
Pope Francis went on to reflect on the new evangelization of societies in which the Church and the priest have lost all prestige or natural authority.
He said priests must allow Christ to draw people to have a personal encounter with Him through the priest’s presence.
The only way to achieve this, added the Pope, is to “adopt a pastoral style of proximity, compassion, humility, gratuitousness, patience, gentleness, radical self-giving to others, simplicity, and poverty.” (Nothing wrong with that and the only way to go, of course.)
The priest must “have the smell of the sheep” and walk with them at their own pace, seeking to gain their trust and lead them to encounter Christ. (I don’t particularly like the Biblical metaphor of the laity as smelly sheep and that priests have to smell like smelly sheep. I tend to take things literally, so it isn’t pleasant to my olfactory senses even imagining it. Why not just say that the priest is configured to the people of God having come from them in order to serve them through Sacrament and Word, faith and good works in the image of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man.)
“This is not new, of course,” he said. “Countless saintly priests have adopted this style in the past, but it has now become a necessity, under penalty of not being credible or heard.”
Love of Jesus enough for any priest
In conclusion, the Pope urged French seminarians to nourish a strong, authentic, and personal relationship with Jesus, in order to live the demands of priestly perfection.
“Love Jesus more than anything,” he said. “Let His love be enough for you, and you will emerge victorious from all crises, from all difficulties.”