Monday, June 7, 2021
I am very happy to receive you as the priestly community of Saint Louis of the French. I thank the rector, Monsignor Laurent Bréguet, for his kind words.
In a society marked by individualism, self-assertion and indifference, you carry out the experience of living together with its daily challenges. Located in the heart of Rome, your home, with its life testimony, can communicate to the people who frequent it the evangelical values of a diverse and supportive fraternity, especially when someone is going through a difficult time. Indeed, your fraternal life and your various commitments are capable of making you feel the fidelity of God’s love and his closeness. A sign, a sign.
In this year dedicated to Saint Joseph, I invite you to rediscover the face of this man of faith, of this tender father, a model of fidelity and trusting abandonment to God’s project. «Also through Joseph’s anguish the will of God passes, his story, his project. Thus, Joseph teaches us that having faith in God also includes believing that He can act even through our fears, our frailties, our weakness ”(Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, 2). We must not ignore fragility: it is a theological place. My fragility, that of each one of us, is a theological place of encounter with the Lord. The “supermen” priests end badly, all of them. The frail priest, who knows his weaknesses and talks about them with the Lord, that will go well. With José, we are called to return to the experience of simple acts of welcoming, of tenderness, of the gift of oneself.
In community life, there is always the temptation to create small closed groups, to isolate ourselves, to criticize and speak badly of others, to believe ourselves superior, more intelligent. Gossip is a custom of closed groups, also a custom of priests who become bachelors: they go, talk, gossip: this does not help. And this threatens us all and is not good. You have to stop this custom and look and think about the mercy of God. May you always welcome each other as a gift. In a fraternity lived in truth, in the sincerity of relationships and in a life of prayer we can form a community in which the air of joy and tenderness can be breathed.
I encourage you to live the precious moments of community exchange and prayer with an active and joyful participation. Also the moments of gratuity, of the free meeting. The priest is a man who, in the light of the Gospel, spreads the flavor of God around him and transmits hope to restless hearts: that’s how he has to be. The studies that you carry out in the different Roman universities prepare you for your future tasks as pastors, and allow you to better appreciate the reality in which you are called to proclaim the Gospel of joy. However, you do not enter the field to apply theories without taking into account the environment in which you find yourself, or the people who are entrusted to you. I wish you to be “shepherds with the” smell of sheep “” (Homily, March 28, 2013), people capable of living, laughing and crying with your people, in a word, of communicating with them. It worries me when reflections and thoughts are made about the priesthood, as if it were something that is done in a laboratory: this priest, that other … You cannot reflect on the priest outside of the holy people of God. The ministerial priesthood is a consequence of the baptismal priesthood of God’s holy faithful people. This should not be forgotten. If you think of a priesthood isolated from the people of God, that is not a Catholic priesthood, no; not even Christian. Let go of yourself, your preconceptions, your dreams of greatness, your self-assertion, to put God and people at the center of your daily concerns. To put God’s holy and faithful people at the center, one must be a pastor. “No, I would like to be only an intellectual, not a pastor”: ask for the reduction to the lay state, it will suit you better, and be an intellectual. But if you are a priest, be a pastor. You will be a shepherd, in many ways, but always in the midst of God’s people. What Paul reminded his beloved disciple: “Remember your mother, your grandmother, the town, those who taught you.” The Lord says to David: “I have chosen you from the flock”, hence.
Dear brother priests, I invite you to always have great horizons, to dream, to dream of a Church totally at service, with a more fraternal and supportive world. And for this, as protagonists, you have a contribution to offer. Do not be afraid to dare, to take risks, to go ahead, because you can do everything with Christ, who comforts you (cf. Phil 4,13). With him, you can be apostles of joy, cultivating in yourself the gratitude of being at the service of your brothers and of the Church. And joy is accompanied by a sense of humor. A priest who does not have a sense of humor does not like it, something is wrong. Imitate those great priests who laugh at others, at themselves and also at their own shadow: a sense of humor is one of the characteristics of holiness, as I pointed out in the Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness, Gaudete et exsultate. And cultivate in yourself the gratitude of being at the service of your brothers and of the Church. As priests, you have been “anointed with the oil of joy to anoint with the oil of joy” (Homily, April 17, 2014). And only by remaining rooted in Christ can you experience a joy that pushes you to conquer hearts. Priestly joy is the source of your action as missionaries of your time.
Finally, I invite you to cultivate gratitude. Gratitude to the Lord for what you are to each other. With your limitations, your frailties, your tribulations, there is always a loving gaze that rests on you and gives you confidence. Gratitude “is always“ a powerful weapon ”” (Letter to Priests on the 160th anniversary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney, August 4, 2019), which allows us to keep the flame of hope alight in moments of discouragement, loneliness and trial.
I entrust each one of you, your family members, the staff of your house, as well as the members of the parish of San Luis de los Franceses, to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and to the protection of San Luis. I bless you from the heart, and I ask you please not to forget to pray for me because I need it. This job is not easy. And in the books on spirituality there is a chapter – in some books, but let’s think of San Alfonso María de ‘Liguori and in many others – a chapter on a topic and then an example, and some say: “Where what is said is proved with a example “, and they put an example of life. Today, before you entered, Father Landousies told me that at the end of June he will leave this position here in the Curia: he has been my French translator for a long time. But I would like to summarize the person of him. It’s an example. I have found in him the testimony of a happy priest, a coherent priest, a priest who has been able to live with martyrs who have already been beatified – who knew them one by one – and also to live with a disease of which it was not known what it was, with the same peace, with the same testimony. And I take the opportunity publicly, also before L’Osservatore Romano, in front of everyone, to thank him for his testimony, that he has done me good many times. His way of being has done me good. He will go away, but he will go to exercise his ministry in Marseille, and he will do so much good with this capacity that he has to embrace everyone; but he leaves here the good aroma of Christ, the good aroma of a priest, of a good priest. So before you I say thank you, thank you for everything you have done.
Bulletin of the Press Office of the Holy See, June 7, 2021.