“Don’t have dirty fingernails from climbing,” Pope Francis warned on November 16, 2023, as he welcomed to the Vatican the participants at the annual convention of the Association of Hispanic priests in the United States of America. Speaking before parish priests and missionaries committed to welcoming migrants, the Pope also reminded them of the importance of prayer and adoration, without which a priest’s life is “worth little.”
The Pope began his address saying that he carefully read their “many” questions, and in considering the answer, he said, “Christ is the book I highly recommend.”
But we must seek Him, in Scripture and the Gospel, in silent adoration, because we have lost the sense of adoration a little; we must find the Lord in the silence of adoration.
The Pope said he wouldn’t ask the priests to answer one by one “so as not to make anyone blush,” but he wanted to know “how many hours you spend in worship each week.”
“That would be a good test, he said. “I will throw the question out there but everyone can answer within themselves. ‘No, because it is too much effort, because here, because there.’ If you don’t pray, if you don’t worship, your life is worth little.”
Once again, as in his many speeches to the clergy, the Argentine Pontiff urged priests never to feel “settled” in their function, for example with limited office hours. “Don’t become ‘employees’ of the sacred,” the Pope said, asking them to cultivate their “dedication to people” and “openness of heart.”
The Pope also condemned careerist priests, for whom “human promotion surpasses the gratuitousness of proclamation.”
“Don’t have dirty fingernails from climbing [the career ladder], because afterwards, when you get to the top, what people see is pretty indecent,” Francis warned. Conversely, rather than drawing up career plans, the Pope invited priests to let themselves be interrupted by people, who, as they did with the Lord, may arrive at an “inopportune” moment in relation to established programs.
Linking worship and social commitment
He invited them to “pastoral humility,” taking responsibility themselves for any failures rather than looking for culprits in their parish team.
“Surrender yourselves to the One who has called you to give yourselves, and only asks you for fidelity and constancy, with the certainty that it will be He who will complete the work and make your efforts bear good fruit,” asked Pope Francis.
Advocating a Church with “open doors,” the Pope also invited priests to “find the Lord in the silence of adoration.”
Do not leave the Lord of the Tabernacle alone
He also referred to the organization of the National Eucharistic Congress next year in the United States under the patronage of Blessed Carlo Acutis and St. Manuel González, a Spanish bishop who died in 1940 and was known for his attention to abandoned tabernacles.
Both of them “excelled – like so many saints of the Church – in the art of reading this living book, before the Tabernacle, in the silent, kneeling school.”
Do not leave those who suffer alone, do not leave the Lord of the Tabernacle alone, convince yourselves that you cannot do anything with your hands if you do not do it with your knees. Adoration, Eucharistic silence, and intercession before the Tabernacle. And then yes, service. But it is like ping-pong, one thing leads to another, one thing leads to another.