We have to make a choice between the heroism of charity and mediocrity, between the cross and a certain well-being, Pope tells priests of Rome. He thanked them for the 'hidden good' they do.
Just one verse each day.
[Note: The Vatican’s English translation of the Pope’s homily has not been released at time of publication]
Pope Francis encouraged priests who face “disenchantment” to rely totally on the Holy Spirit by accepting their weaknesses, during the Chrism Mass he celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica this Holy Thursday morning, April 6, 2023. “In the name of God, let us welcome and forgive, always,” he also urged the 1,800 priests of Rome gathered around him.
The celebration took place just a few days after the Pope’s release on April 1 from the Gemelli hospital where he was treated for bronchitis.
In his homily, during this celebration where priests from all over the world renew their priestly promises, the Pope meditated on the Spirit of the Lord, who is “at the origin of our ministry, of the life and vitality of every pastor,” he assured, inviting us not to “park the Spirit in a zone of devotion.”
After the “first anointing, which began with a call of love,” the 86-year-old Pontiff noted, the priest is confronted with a “moment of truth” in which he experiences “disappointments, fatigue and weaknesses, the ideal seems to be diluted by the demands of reality.”
Fidelity becomes “more uncomfortable than it was before.”
This trial can lead to “a certain mediocrity,” the Successor of Peter continued, warning against “three dangerous temptations”:
that of compromise, where “we are content with what we can do”;
that of compensation, where “we seek to recharge ourselves with something other than our anointing”;
that of discouragement, where, “dissatisfied, we continue through inertia.”
Then “we withdraw into ourselves” and the heart “shrinks,” he warned.
According to the Bishop of Rome, this crisis can become “the turning point of the priesthood,” “the decisive stage of the spiritual life, when one must make the ultimate choice between Jesus and the world, between the heroism of charity and mediocrity, between the cross and a certain well-being.”
This is the moment of the “second anointing,” which “makes the truth deep, which allows the Spirit to anoint our weaknesses, our labors, our interior poverty.”
The Pope then urged the priest to “admit the truth of his own weakness,” asking whether his fulfillment depends on his “abilities,” his “role,” “compliments,” “comfort,” or on the anointing. Indeed, he explained, it is when the Holy Spirit becomes “the protagonist of our life” that we reach “priestly maturity.”
Improvising a few words, Pope Francis addressed particularly the “disoriented” priests, exhorting them to “courage.”
“The Lord is greater than your weaknesses, than your sins,” he said, adding: “The double life will not help you and neither will throwing everything out the window.”
Instead of “trying to improve ourselves by correcting something,” the Pope encouraged clergy to rely on the Holy Spirit “without holding anything back,” being ready “to serve where and how we are asked.”
He assured that “the spiritual life becomes free and joyful.”
“Our priesthood does not grow by mending it, but by going beyond!” he said. “Thank you for the hidden good that you do.”
The Pontiff also urged priests to “build harmony,” making it clear that this is not a “matter of strategy or courtesy,” but an “internal requirement of the life of the Spirit.” And he warned: “One sins against the Spirit […] when one becomes, even through levity, an instrument of division […] One makes the most of one’s own strength. […] We play into the hands of the enemy who does not show himself in broad daylight and who loves rumors and insinuations, who foments parties and pressure groups.”
The Pope expressed his wish that pastors develop kindness. “If people find, even among us, dissatisfied and discontented people, old boys who criticize and point fingers, where will they see harmony?” he asked, noting that many “are drifting away, because they do not feel welcomed or loved in the Church, but looked at with suspicion and judged.”
Finally, the 266th Pope concluded by thanking the priests of his diocese. “Thank you for your witness and for your service; thank you for the hidden good you do, for the forgiveness and consolation you offer in the name of God; […] thank you for your ministry, which is often carried out at the price of much fatigue and little recognition,” he told them.
The Argentine Pontiff also announced that he was offering the priests of Rome the book “La Seconda chiamata – Il coraggio della fragilità” (The Second Call – The Courage of Fragility, EDB editions, 2019), a collection of texts on the hazards of the religious vocation.
During the celebration, the 1,800 priests of Rome present around their bishop renewed their priestly promises. The Pope also consecrated the Holy Chrism, which will be used for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, order, as well as for the dedication of churches and altars.