(Vatican Radio) “I have very much desired this meeting with you who bear the daily burden of parish work” Pope Francis said on Saturday, greeting the priests of the Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio.
In his address, the Holy Father spoke to the assembled clerics about “the joy of being a priest.” There is nothing more beautiful for a man than to be called to the priesthood, he said… called to follow Jesus, to be with Him, to bring Jesus to others, to bring them His Word and His forgiveness. Although the work of a priest is not always easy, drawing near to Jesus in the tabernacle can renew and re-animate priestly zeal. Stopping for a moment before the tabernacle can also lead priests to examine their consciences: “In the silence of prayer Jesus make us see if we are working as good workers, or if we have become a little like ‘employees;’ if we are open, generous ‘channels,’ through which His love, His grace can flow abundantly; or if instead we place ourselves at the center, and so instead of being channels we become screens that do not help the encounter with God, with the light and the strength of the Gospel.”
Pope Francis also spoke about “the beauty of fraternity.” Priests especially do not follow the Lord just as individuals, but as members of a community, with “a great variety of gifts and personalities” which enrich the priesthood when they are lived “in communion and fraternity.” Even priests, however, “are immersed in a subjective culture that exalts the ‘I’ even to the point of idolizing it.” Pope Francis warned of “a certain pastoral individualism that unfortunately is diffused in our dioceses.” Priestly fraternity, then, is a conscious choice that must be cultivated, sought “in communion in Christ in the presbyterate gathered around the Bishop.”
Finally, the Holy Father encouraged the priests in their work “with families and for the family.” It is a difficult time, he said, both for the family as an institution and for individual families that struggle in the crises they face. Priests, he said, “are called to be witnesses and mediators” of God’s “nearness to families, and of the prophetic force” of God’s Word “for the family.”