Pope Francis: “Be Fearless, Humble and Joyful Witnesses to the Gospel” – Part 1
The following is the first of two installments on Pope Francis’ meeting in Vatican City with young men and women in formation to diocesan and religious life, as well as those thinking about a possible religious vocation.
On the afternoon of Saturday, July 6, the Pope met with seminarians, novices and young people discerning their vocations in celebration of the Year of Faith. In a lively environment with profound testimonies and music, the young people awaited the arrival of the Holy Father, who was received with enthusiastic applause. “Now you applaud, and you celebrate, as this is the time of your ‘honeymoon,” said the Pope, “but when the honeymoon ends, what happens next? I heard a seminarian, a good seminarian, who said he wanted to serve Christ, but for just ten years, after which he would think about starting a new life.
This is dangerous! Listen carefully: all of us, even the oldest among us, we too find ourselves under pressure from this culture of the provisional; and this is dangerous, because we no longer commit our lives once and for all. I’ll be married for as long as I’m in love, I’ll become a nun for a little while, and then we’ll see; I’ll become a seminarian to become a priest but I’m not sure how it will turn out. This is not what Jesus wants! Nowadays, making a definitive choice is very difficult. It was easier in my day, because culturally a definitive choice was preferred, be it for matrimonial life, or consecrated life, or the priestly life. But in the present day a definitive choice is not easy. We are all victims of this culture of the provisional.”
“I would like you to think about this,” the Holy Father continued, “How can be we free of this culture of the provisional? We need to learn how to close the door of our innermost being, from the inside. But when we always leave a key outside, just in case — that is not enough. We need to learn to close the door from the inside! And if I am not sure, I think, I will take my time. And when I feel sure — in Jesus, you understand, because without Jesus no one is sure! — when I feel sure, I’ll close the door. Do you understand this? What is the culture of the provisional?”
The Holy Father commented that wherever there are consecrated persons, seminarians, religious and young people, there is joy. “But where does this joy come from? And on Saturday night, shall I return to going out dancing with my old friends? Does joy come from the things I own, or from having the most extreme experiences?” The Pope advised that if is necessary to buy something — a telephone, a scooter or a car, for instance — one should shun ostentatiousness in favor of humbler options, and consider how many children still die of hunger.
“True joy is not found in material things,” he continued. “It is born of the encounter and relations with others, from feeling accepted, understood and loved; from accepting, understanding and loving; and not for the sake of a fleeting interest. Joy is born of the gratification of encountering others, of hearing oneself say ‘You are important to me,’ and not necessarily in words. This is beautiful, and this is what God helps us to understand.”
“True joy is contagious, and sustains us. However, when you find a seminarian or a novice who is too serious, too sad, something isn’t right! They do not share in the joy of the Lord. Sadness is not holiness! St. Teresa said, ‘A sad nun is a bad nun.’ Please, no more sour-faced nuns or priests!”
Pope Francis repeated that “the root of sadness in pastoral life lies precisely in that lack of paternal or maternal feeling that comes from a poor experience of consecration, which should instead lead to fruitfulness. It is impossible to conceive of a priest or nun who is not fruitful: this is not Catholic! This joy is the beauty of consecration.”
This article is taken from VIS, the Vatican Information Service, July 9, 2013.
For Part 2 of this article, click here.