Pope Francis met with seminarians, novices of religious orders and young people looking into the religious life as they continue to observe the Year of Faith announced by the Vatican. In an environment replete with profound testimonies and music, the Pope was received with enthusiastic applause. “Now you applaud, and you celebrate, as this is the time of your 'honeymoon'”, said Francis, “but when the honeymoon ends, what happens next?"
Warming to the theme of service, the Pope provided an illustration while speaking at the July 6 gathering. "I heard a seminarian, a good seminarian, who said he wanted to serve Christ, but for just ten years, after which he would think about starting a new life... This is dangerous! Listen carefully: all of us, even the oldest among us, we too find ourselves under pressure from this culture of the provisional; and this is dangerous, because we no longer commit our lives once and for all. I'll be married for as long as I'm in love, I'll become a nun for a little while, and then we'll see; I'll become a seminarian to become a priest but I'm not sure how it will turn out. This is not what Jesus wants! … Nowadays, making a definitive choice is very difficult. It was easier in my day, because culturally a definitive choice was preferred, be it for matrimonial life, or consecrated life, or the priestly life. But in the present day a definitive choice is not easy. We are all victims of this culture of the provisional”.
“I would like you to think about this”, Pope Francis continued. “How can be we free of this culture of the provisional? We need to learn how to close the door of our innermost being, from the inside. … but when we always leave a key outside, just in case – that is not enough. We need to learn to close the door from the inside! And if I am not sure, I think, I will take my time, and when I feel sure – in Jesus, you understand, because without Jesus no-one is sure! - when I feel sure, I'll close the door. Do you understand this? What is the culture of the provisional?”
The Holy Father commented that wherever there are consecrated persons, seminarians, religious and young people, there is joy. “But where does this joy come from? … And on Saturday night, shall I return to going out dancing with my old friends?... Does joy come from the things I own .. from having the most extreme experiences?”.
The Pope advised against ostentation when purchasing things such as automobiles and telephones, while advocating for humbler options in the knowledge that many children around the world are going hungry. “True joy is not found in material things”, he continued. “It is born of the encounter and relations with others, from feeling accepted, understood and loved; from accepting, understanding and loving; and not for the sake of a fleeting interest. … Joy is born of the gratification of encountering others, of hearing oneself say 'You are important to me', and not necessarily in words. This is beautiful, and this is what God helps us to understand”.
“True joy is contagious, and sustains us. However, when you find a seminarian or a novice who is too serious, too sad, something isn't right! They do not share in the joy of the Lord. … Sadness is not holiness! St. Teresa said, “A sad nun is a bad nun” … Please, no more sour-faced nuns or priests!” .
Pope Francis repeated that “the root of sadness in pastoral life lies precisely in that lack of paternal or maternal feeling that comes from a poor experience of consecration, which should instead lead to fruitfulness. It is impossible to conceive of a priest or nun who is not fruitful: this is not Catholic! This joy is the beauty of consecration”.
“To be joyful witnesses to the Gospel you need to be authentic and coherent”, he went on. “And this is another word I wish to emphasize to you -authenticity. Jesus fought against hypocrites, against those who, to put it clearly, are two-faced. … This is a responsibility for all adults, all formators. And to those formators present here today, I urge you to give an example of coherence to the young. Do we want coherent young people? Then we must be coherent ourselves! On the contrary, the Lord recounts what the Pharisees said to the people of God: 'Do what they say, but not what they do!' Coherence and authenticity!”
Francis called for frankness in the confessional that, he says, makes us humble. “Tell the truth without hiding anything,without unclear words, as you are speaking to Jesus through your confessor, and Jesus knows the truth. Only He always forgives!”
The Pope emphasized that a religious vocation is based on four pillars: spiritual life, intellectual life, apostolic life and community life”. He warned against gossip, a problem found in community life. “Gossip conceals envy, jealousy, ambition.” He commented that “not speaking ill of others is a good route to holiness!” and reiterated the importance of cultivating friendships to avoid both isolation or profligacy in relationships, as “a priest or other consecrated person can never be an island, but rather must always be willing to encounter others”.
Pope Francis concluded by emphasizing the need for a missionary Church, not a passive Church, and urged the young people present not to fall prey to the temptation to participate in the “sport of complaining”. Instead, he encouraged them to “be positive, cultivate a spiritual life and, at the same time, go forth, be capable of meeting people, especially the most scorned and disadvantaged. Do not be afraid of swimming against the current. Be contemplative and missionary. Keep the Virgin Mary with you always, and please, pray the Rosary, do not forget! Keep Our Lady with you in your homes, just as the Apostle John did. May she accompany and protect you always. And pray for me too, because I too need your prayers; I too am a poor sinner, although we continue to press forward”.