Pope to seminarians: Don't let self-interest get in the way of ministry

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On Saturday Pope Francis spoke to seminarians about the three-fold ministry of the priest: welcoming and including all, forming good relationships with God and others, and avoiding the pitfall of narcissism.

"Not everything begins and ends with me," he counseled Dec. 10. "I can and I have to look beyond myself, to realize the beauty and depth of the mystery that surrounds me, the life that surpasses me, the faith in God who sustains all things and all people, even me."

Meeting with seminarians studying at Pius XI Seminary in Puglia, a southern region of Italy, he explained that the seminary is the perfect time for formation in this area, so it is good to think about these things now, in order to have time to cultivate them.

"In this liturgical season of Advent which sounds again the strong invitation of the Lord to keep watch, we are invited to keep watch over the real risk of being narcissistic, because without this watch no vocational journey is really possible," he said.

The first obstacle to overcome is the propensity for narcissism, "the most dangerous temptation," he emphasized.

"How can I realize Christ, if I only look at myself? How will I succeed in enjoying the beauty of the Church, if my only concern is to protect myself, save myself, come out unscathed by any circumstance?" the Pope asked.

"How will I get excited in the adventure of building the Kingdom of God, if any enthusiasm is curbed by the fear of losing something of myself?"

The priestly ministry, Francis explained, has a "threefold belonging: to the Lord, to the Church, to the Kingdom."

This belonging, however, requires having relationships, he said, "with Christ, with the brothers with whom we share the ministry and faith, with all the people we meet in life."

You cannot even think of becoming a priest if you haven't made this decision to be a man of relationships. This should be the first goal, "progressing in this dimension."

But, he warned, "do not feel different from your peers," do not feel that you are better than other people – "learn to be with everyone, do not be afraid to get your hands dirty."

"If tomorrow you will be priests who live in the midst of the holy people of God, begin today to be young people who know how to be with everyone, who can learn something from every person you meet, with humility and intelligence."

Underlying all other relationships, though, must be a solid, growing relationship with Christ, he said. For this, prayer is essential. "And the most mature fruit of prayer is always charity," he stated.

Finally, the Pope reminded the seminarians to be careful of excluding anyone. Because they belong to Christ, he said, they are called to meet people and welcome them into the community.

"As you grow in the sense of belonging to the Church and enjoy the beauty of fraternity" make an effort to extend forgiveness to those around you, Pope Francis said.

"If nothing in life excludes us from the merciful gaze of the Lord, why should our gaze then ever exclude anyone?"

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