Kaunas – Pope Francis met with priests, men and women religious and seminarians in Kaunas Cathedral.
In his address, he said that priests and consecrated people must be close to the Lord, worship before the tabernacle and in prayer, and be close to the people, so that they are not full of “sadness” nor become “bureaucrats” or “clerics of the state”. He urged nuns to avoid chatting but be instead like “icons of Mother Church and Mother Mary”.
He urged all to have “hearts of mercy”, in Lithuania of all places because it is a “land where Jesus revealed himself as a merciful Jesus”, where St Faustina Kowalska, initiator of the devotion to the merciful Jesus, lived for a long time.
The pontiff read almost all of his prepared speech, stressing the importance of “groaning” and the “daily dialogue with the Lord through prayer and adoration” along with the “groaning” that can “come from our contemplation of the world around us”.
“Perhaps,” he noted, “our ‘prosperous society’ keeps us sated, surrounded by services and material objects; we end up ‘stuffed’ with everything and filled by nothing. Perhaps it keeps us distracted and entertained, but not fulfilled. As men and women of special consecration, we can never afford to lose that inward groaning, that restlessness of heart that finds its rest in the Lord alone.”
The pope urged older priests, who have experienced persecution, and young priests, seemingly weaker, to communicate with each other to become more mature in “constancy”.
“And you, the young, when you meet with little frustrations that can discourage you and make you want to turn in on yourselves, seeking activities and pastimes at odds with your consecration, go back to your roots and consider the path taken by your elders.”
Then, speaking without notes through simultaneous translation, he said: “I see there are young people here”. After repeating the previous sentence, he added: “I repeat [and he said the previous sentence again] . . . It is better that you take another path than live in mediocrity. This is for young people. You still have time and the door is open.”
Still speaking impromptu, Francis spoke of “sad priests and consecrated persons”, suffering from an “illness” because “they are not in love with the Lord”.
“When you find yourself sad, stop and look for a wise priest or a wise nun. Not wise because they graduated from a university. Wise because they were able to move forward in love. Go and ask for their advice. When this sadness begins, we can foretell that, if it has not healed in time, it will turn you into hardened bachelors and spinsters, men and women who are not fruitful. The devil sows this sadness.”
The pope urged those present not to live like “bureaucrats” or “businessmen”. “Following Jesus is not the life of a bureaucrat: it is the life of the Lord’s love and of the apostolic zeal of people. Here’s a caricature for you. What does a bureaucratic priest do? He has a schedule, opens the office, does the job, closes the office, and people are on the outside, staying away.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, if you do not want to be bureaucrats, I will tell you a word [to heed]: closeness, proximity, closeness to the tabernacle, to your lord, and proximity to the people. But Father, people are not coming! Go out and meet them! But kids do not come nowadays! So, come up with something to help them. The Lord wants you as shepherds of the people and not as clerics of the state.”
Francis asked the priests to be a sign of the merciful Jesus, especially in the confessional.
Turning to the nuns, he said: “Many times we see good nuns, chatting, chatting. But ask that last one [one of the consecrated victims of communist persecution] if she had time to chat in prison. Please be mothers because you are icons of the Church and of Our Lady. Every person who sees you, sees Mother Church and Mother Mary. And Mother Church is not a spinster. Mother Church does not chat: she loves, serves, grows.”
Almost to sum up what he said, the Holy Father ended stressing “Closeness to the tabernacle and to prayer and with others. [Do your] Priestly service and consecrated life, not as bureaucrats, but as fathers and mothers of mercy. If you do so, when you will be old, you will have a beautiful smile and bright eyes, because you will have the soul of mercy, tenderness, love, fatherhood and motherhood. And pray for this poor bishop.”- AsiaNews/Vatican News