Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The seminary "is not a refuge for the many limitations we may have," nor a shelter for one's lack of "courage to move forward in life". It is instead a place "to go forward on" a path to become "good shepherds" rather "company officials;" otherwise, it is better to have "the courage to seek another path".
The Holy Father, who spoke at the Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni, used the meeting with seminarians studying in Italy's Lazio region to focus on the "four pillars of education" on which they can "become good shepherds in Jesus' image". In view of this, "Woe to the wicked shepherds!" he warned.
"Like other seminaries, yours aims to prepare future ordained ministers, in an atmosphere of prayer, study and fellowship," the Holy Father said. "This evangelical atmosphere, this life filled with the Holy Spirit and humanity, allows all those who are immersed in it day-to-day to assimilate the sentiments of Jesus Christ, his love for the Father and for the Church, his unreserved dedication to the People of God"
"Prayers, study, fellowship and apostolic life are the four, interacting pillars of education. Spiritual life, strong; intellectual life, serious; community life; and, ultimately, apostolic life, not in that exact order but all four very important. If one is missing, one's education falls short. As the four interact, they become the four pillars, the four dimensions, on which a seminary must live."
"You, my dear seminarians, are not training to do a job, to become officials in a company or a bureaucratic entity. We have many, many priests who walked half the walk . . . It hurts to think that they did not complete the full journey, that they have become some sort of bureaucrat, with a bureaucratic halo that bodes nothing good for the Church. Please, be careful not to fall in this yourselves! You are becoming shepherds in the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, in order to be like Him and through Him be amid his flocks to feed his sheep."
"Faced with this vocation we can respond as the Virgin Mary did with the angel, 'How is this possible?'" Becoming "good shepherds" in Jesus' image "is something too big, and we are so small". Yet, "it is not really our doing; [. . .] it is the work of the Holy Spirit, with our collaboration." Hence, "Humbly, we must offer ourselves, like clay to be molded, because God is the potter who works with water and fire, with the Word and the Spirit."
It is true "that at the beginning, there is not always a total rectitude of intention," the pope noted. Indeed, "it is unlikely that there could ever be." In fact, "All of us always have little things that fall short of the rectitude of intention, but over time this is resolved through every day conversion. Think about the apostles! Think about James and John, one who wanted to become prime minister and the other economy minister, because that was more important. . . . The apostles . . . thought about something else and, with great patience, the Lord . . . corrected their intention and in the end, their rectitude of intention was so enhanced that they gave their life to preaching and martyrdom. [Thus] Do not be afraid!"
"Talk to your spiritual father; talk to your teachers; pray, pray, pray. You will see that the rectitude of intention will move forward." Hence, "meditate on the Gospel every day in order to pass it on through life and preaching, experience God's mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation, and never leave it," [. . .] "eat the Eucharist with faith and love in order to feed the Christian people with it."
"This means that we must be men of prayer in order to become the voice of Christ who praises the Father and interceding for our brothers." If "you are unwilling to follow this route," or have "these attitudes and these experiences, it is best for you to have the courage to seek another path."
"In the Church, there are many ways to bear Christian witness, and many routes that lead to holiness. There is no room for mediocrity in Jesus' ministerial sequela, the kind of at mediocrity that always leads to using God's holy people to one's advantage. 'Woe to the wicked shepherds who pasture themselves and not their flocks!' shouted the Prophets with great force."
Augustine included these prophetic words in his De Pastoribus, the pope said. "Woe to the wicked shepherds because the seminary, let's face it, is not a refuge for the many limitations we may have, or a haven for psychological deficiencies or a shelter because I do not have the courage to move forward in life and I am looking for a place to defend me".
"No, it cannot be that. If your seminary were like that, it would mortgage the Church's future! No! The seminary exists to go forward, forward on [right] path. When we hear the prophets say 'woe', let that 'woe' make you reflect seriously about your future. Pius XI once said that it was better to lose a vocation than take risks with an unsure candidate. He liked to climb mountains, and knew these things."