Be joyous and loving while resisting fly-by-night commitments, catty gossip and fast cars, Pope Francis told future priests, brothers and nuns.
The Pope was speaking on Saturday to more than 6,000 seminarians and men and women from 66 nations who are considering religious life. They were in Rome for four-day pilgrimage as part of The Year of Faith celebrations.
The informal audience with Pope Francis was held on Saturday with a papal Mass the following morning. During the audience which lasted about 45 minutes, Pope Francis told a packed hall that vocations don’t come from catchy campaigns or pursuing personal goals. The consecrated life is the result of prayer and answering an “unsettling” yet loving invitation from God, he explained.
Some of the greatest dangers standing in the way of a happy religious life are materialism and a culture that believes nothing is forever, he said. The Pontiff went on to say that religious men and women have to avoid the temptation of thinking “the latest smartphone, the fastest moped and a car that turns heads” will make them happy.
Pope Francis revealed that it pains him when he sees a nun or priest driving an expensive car, and he praised the beauty of the bicycle, noting his 54-year-old personal secretary, Msgr Alfred Xuereb, gets around on a bike.
However, he admitted that with work to be done and distances to be covered, cars are a necessity. Just “get a humbler one,” he said, before adding that if the flashier model still looks tempting, “think about how many children are dying of hunger”.
True joy doesn’t come from “living on the edge” and having wild, fleeting experiences, he continued.
“It springs from an encounter, a relation with others, it comes from feeling accepted, understood and loved, and from accepting, understanding and loving others. Don’t be afraid of showing the joy of having answered the Lord’s call and of giving witness to his Gospel in service to the church.”
The Pope also highlighted the importance of living as a community and avoiding petty gossip and rivalries. He said he was guilty and ashamed of being caught up in gossip and complaining. He added that he preferred speaking directly to the people he has a problem with or with someone who can resolve the issue, never talking behind people’s backs “to smear them.”
During Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis used his homily to offer additional encouragement and wisdom for a happy vocation.
“The paschal mystery” of death and resurrection help shelter religious men and women “from a worldly and triumphalistic view” of their mission and “from the discouragement that can result from trials and failures,” he said.
The Pope implored the congregation to never see one’s vocation as a job. It’s a relationship with God that requires constant cultivation, being united with Christ, especially “amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties,” he explained.
“What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life.”