Priesthood is not a career
The priesthood is not a career, but rather a service, the Holy Father reminded the nine priests ordained in the Vatican Basilica on Sunday, 25 April, the fourth Sunday of Easter and World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The following is a translation of the Pontiff's largely off-the-cuff homily which was given given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our sons have been called to the order of priests. It will do us all good to consider carefully the position to which they are to be promoted in the Church. It is true that the Lord Jesus is the High Priest of the New Testament and God has also made his entire people a royal priesthood in Christ. But Jesus Christ also chose some of his followers to carry out publicly in the Church a priestly ministry in his name on behalf of mankind, continuing his personal mission as Teacher, as Priest, as Shepherd.
After mature reflection, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.
My beloved brothers and sons, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher.
You will be like him shepherds. That is what he wants of you. Pastors. Shepherds of the holy faithful people of God. Shepherds who go with the people of God: sometimes in front of the flock, sometimes in the middle or behind, but always there with God’s people.
In the past — in the language of the past — one spoke of an “ecclesiastic career” which did not have the same meaning as it does today. This is not a “career”; it is a service, a service like the one God did to his people. And this service of God to his people has “traces”, it has a style, a style that you have to follow. A style of closeness, a style of compassion and a style of tenderness. This is God’s style. Closeness, compassion, tenderness.
Closeness. The four [ways of] “closeness” of priests. There are four of them. Closeness to God in prayer, in the Sacraments, at Mass. Speaking with the Lord, being close to the Lord. He made himself close to us in his Son. In the entire story of his Son. He was also close to you, to each of you, in your journey of life, until this moment. Even in bad moments of sin, he was there. Closeness. Be close to the holy faithful people of God. But first of all, everyone close to God in prayer. A priest who does not pray, slowly puts out the fire of the Holy Spirit within. Closeness to God.
Second: closeness to the Bishop, and in this case to the “Vice-Bishop”. Being close, because you will have unity in the Bishop. You are, I don’t want to say servants — you are God’s servants — but collaborators of the Bishop. Closeness. I remember once, a long time ago, a priest who had the misfortune, let’s put it this way, of making a slip-up…. The first thought that came to my mind was to call the Bishop. Even in bad times, call the Bishop to be close to him. Closeness to God in prayer, closeness to the Bishop. “But I do not like this Bishop”. But he is your father. “But this Bishop treats me badly”. Be humble, go to the Bishop.
Third: closeness among yourselves. And I suggest an objective to you on this day: never speak ill of a brother priest. If you have something against another, be men, you wear trousers: go there and tell it to their face. “But this is a very bad thing… I don’t know how he will take it”. Go to the Bishop who will help you. But never, never speak ill. Don’t be loud-mouthed. Do not fall into gossip. Unity among you: in the presbyteral Council, in the commissions, at work. Closeness among yourselves and with the Bishop.
And fourth: for me after God, the most important closeness is to the holy faithful people of God. None of you studied to become a priest. You studied ecclesiastic science as the Church says must be done. But you were elected, taken from the people of God. The Lord said to David: “I took you from following the sheep”. Do not forget where you came from: your family, your people. Do not lose the intuition of the people of God. Paul said to Timothy: “Remember your mother, your grandmother…” Yes, where you came from. And the people of God…. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: “Remember those who introduced you to the faith. Priests of the People, not clerics of State!
The four types of closeness of priests: closeness to God, closeness to the Bishop, closeness among yourselves, closeness to the people of God. The style of closeness is God’s style. However, God’s style is also a style of compassion and tenderness. Do not close your heart to problems. And you will encounter many! When people come to tell you their problems and to be accompanied ….Spend time listening and comforting. Compassion that leads to forgiveness, to mercy. Please: be merciful, be forgivers. Because God forgives everything. He never tires of forgiving. It is we who grow tired of asking for forgiveness. Closeness and compassion. But tender compassion, with that tenderness of family, of brothers, of fathers … with that tenderness that makes you feel that you are in the House of God.
I wish for you this style, this style that is God's style.
And, I was mentioning something in the Sacristy but I would like to mention it here before the people of God. Please distance yourselves from vanity, from the pride of money. The devil enters “through the pockets”. Think about this. Be poor, as the holy people of God are poor. Poor people who love the poor. Do not be “climbers”. The “ecclesiastic career”.... You then become an official and when a priest begins to act as a businessman, whether of the parish or college … wherever it may be, he loses that closeness to the people, he loses that poverty which makes him similar to Christ, poor and crucified, and becomes a businessman, the businessman priest not the servant. I heard a story that moved me. A very intelligent, very practical, very capable priest who was in charge of several administrations, but had his heart attached to that office, one day, because he had seen that one of his employees, an elderly man, had made a mistake, reprimanded him and kicked him out. And that elderly man died because of this. That man had been ordained a priest and ended up being a ruthless businessman. Always keep this image, always keep this image.
Shepherds close to God, to the Bishop, among yourselves, and to the people of God: servants as shepherds, not businessmen. And distance yourselves from money.
And then remember that this path of the four kinds of closeness is beautiful, this path of being shepherds because Jesus comforts shepherds because he is the Good Shepherd. And find comfort in Jesus, seek comfort in Our Lady — do not forget the Mother — always seek comfort there: finding comfort there.
And carry the crosses — there will be many of them in our lives — in the hands of Jesus and Our Lady. And do not be afraid, do not be afraid. If you are close to the Lord, to the Bishop, among yourselves and to the people of God, if you will have the style of God — closeness, compassion and tenderness — do not fear because everything will go well.