At today’s General Audience dedicated to the Holy Orders, Francis warned that priests and bishops who don’t go to confession “become mediocrity” and praised faithful in St. Peter’s Square for their courage standing in the pouring rain
Iacopo Scaramuzzi of Vatican Insider
“A priest who is not in the service of his community does no good, they are wrong,” the Pope said at today’s General Audience on the Sacrament of the Holy Orders, continuing his series of teachings on the sacraments.
“Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist” together, constitute the mystery of Christian initiation, one single great event of grace that renews us in Christ. Then there are two sacraments, “the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony [that] correspond to two specific vocations and are two ways of following Christ and building up his Church.” “Holy Orders, in its three grades of bishop, priest and deacon is the sacrament of pastoral ministry. Jesus entrusted his Apostles with the care of his flock and in every age the ordained make present in the Christian community the one Shepherd who is Christ. Care for the flock of Jesus not with the power of human strength, one’s own power, but that of the Spirit, and according to his heart – the heart of Jesus – that is a heart of love. The bishop, priest and deacon must feed the Lord’s flock with love. If they do not do this with love, they are no use. It is in this sense, that the ministers, who are chosen and consecrated to this service, prolong the presence of Jesus in time. They do so with the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of God and with love.”
“Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. Yes, they are “at the head” but for Jesus this means authority in service, as he himself has shown and taught his disciples”. “A bishop who is not in the service of the community does no good. A priest, who is not at the service of his community, does no good. They are wrong.”
“Pursuant to Holy Orders, the minister devotes himself entirely to his community and loves it with all his heart, it is his family. The bishop, the priest, love the church in their community and their love for it is strong. How? Just as Christ loves the Church. St. Paul himself says of marriage: the groom loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. It is a great mystery of love, this ministry and that of marriage, the two sacraments through which people usually go, as a sacrament, to the Lord.”
Another aspect the Pope mentioned was that “when one fails to nourish the ministry, the ministry of bishop, the priestly ministry with prayer, listening to the Word of God, and with the daily celebration of the Eucharist and also with an attendance of the Sacrament of Penance, one will inevitably lose sight of the true meaning of its service and the joy that comes from a deep communion with Jesus. A bishop who does not pray, the bishop who does not feel and hear the Word of God, who does not celebrate Mass every day, who does not go to confession regularly, and the same priest who does not do these things, in the long run lose their union with Jesus and become a mediocrity that is not good for the Church. This is why we need to help the bishops, the priests to pray, to listen to the Word of God which is their daily bread, to celebrate the Eucharist every day and to go to confession regularly. And this is so important because it goes towards the sanctification of bishops and priests”.
The Pope concluded by making some off-the-cuff comments: “How does one become a priest? Where are the entrance tickets sold? It is an initiative that the Lord takes. The Lord calls: calling everyone who wants to become a priest, and perhaps there are some young people here who have felt that call in their hearts. The desire to become priests, the desire to serve others in the things that come from God. The desire to spend one’s entire life in service to catechize, baptize, forgive, celebrate the Eucharist to the sick … but, all of one’s life! If any of you have heard this in your heart, it is Jesus who put him there! Care for this invitation and pray that this will grow and bear fruit for the entire Church.”
Finally, the Pope couldn’t help but mention the rain that descended upon the mass of open umbrellas that filled St. Peter’s Square. “I see you are patient with this rain that’s trying to shed you away,” he said. “Thank you.” Amongst others, the Pope greeted army officials and soldiers as well as members of the Salerno coast guard who are preparing to embark on a peace mission in Lebanon next October. He also greeted organisers of the meeting of families which is due to be take place in Philadelphia, US, in 2015 (among them was the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Joseph Chaput and a number of patrons) and the Argentinean labour minister, Carlos Tomaia. Pilgrims from Chinese city of Xiamen and Japan were also present at today’s Audience.