Monday, April 14, 2014

Pope Francis and the Priesthood

The Pope said something today that made me really happy.  He's not the first to have said things like this.  In fact, Pope Benedict XVI often spoke similarly.  But, Pope Francis speaks in a bit more earthy a manner.  This is a good reminder to everyone about who the priest is.  There is a real temptation to professionalize the priesthood and attempt to transform it into something more mundane.  This advice to seminarians, given by the Pope, attempts to counteract this tendency.  Priesthood is messy.  If you live close to the people, it gets messy.  The priesthood created by committee attempts to avoid all messiness.  It turns the priest into somebody who keeps a safe distance from the lives of people, somebody who is detached from their experience, somebody remote and clinical.  It's a priesthood that fills out reports about people whom the priest really does not know.

Tonight, as I was sitting in Eucharistic Adoration with about thirty college students, I was thinking about how blessed I am to be close to them.  I don't mean that they are blessed that I am close to them.  I mean that I am blessed to be close to them.  I am still growing in my in my priesthood, in my discipleship, and in my manhood.  I presume that the way to grow in my life is to be close to the people whom Jesus has called me to shepherd.  This closeness not only (I hope) benefits them, but it benefits me.  This closeness is such a profoundly joyful experience in my life.  If I did not have this closeness with them, I feel as though I would only love them in some abstract and theoretical way.  The way in which I am called to draw closer to Christ is through my love for the people to whom he sends me.  If I were remote from them, I would be far from Christ.  

These words of the Pope really struck me and renewed in me a gratitude for my vocation and a gratitude for the people whom he places at my side, people who teach me every day what it means to be a shepherd.

“Dear seminarians, what you are preparing for is not a profession, you are not training to work in a business or a bureaucratic organization. We have so many priests who have gone half way … it’s sad that they did not manage to go the whole way; they have something of the employee in them, something of the bureaucrat in them and this is not good for the Church. Please be careful you don’t fall into this! You are becoming pastors in the image of Jesus, the good pastor. Your aim is to resemble him and act on behalf of him amidst his flock, letting his sheep graze."--Pope Francis

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