What are disasters for priests? To start, worldliness…..rigidity…
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this to faithful during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, drawing from today’s readings, and reflecting on the renewal that the Lord brings.
The Pope drew his inspiration from today’s readings, which reflected on the need for priests to serve as authentic mediators of God’s love.
Moreover, he warned against priests acting as intermediaries, calling them “go-betweens” or “middle-men,” who are concerned only with advancing their own interests.
“The mediator gives himself (lit. perde se stesso) to unite the parties, he gives his life. That is the price: his life – he pays with his life, his fatigue, his work, so many things, but – in this case the pastor – to unite the flock, to unite people, to bring them to Jesus. The logic of Jesus as mediator is the logic of annihilating oneself.”
St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians, the Jesuit Pontiff stated, is clear on this: ‘He annihilated himself, emptied himself, and to achieve this union, [he did so] even unto death, death on a cross. That is the logic: to empty oneself, to annihilate oneself.”
He Who Doesn’t….
“The priest who abandons the task of being a mediator and instead prefers to be an intermediary,” he explained, “is unhappy, and soon becomes sad – and he will seek happiness in vaunting himself and making his ‘authority’ felt.”
When a rigid, worldly priest becomes a functionary, Francis warned, he ends up making himself ridiculous. He also warned that being too rigid destroys one’s interior life and mental state.
To illustrate, the Pontiff shared the following anecdote.
“About rigidity and worldliness,” he reflected, “it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus – and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store] and saw a young fellow – he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest – before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear], he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and worldly one.
“And that priest – he is wise, that monsignor, very wise – was able to overcome the pain,” he continued, “with a line of healthy humor and added: ‘And it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’. Thus, does the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always.”
The Pope then called for priests to consider this when examining their consciences: “Today, was I a functionary or a mediator? Did I look after myself, did I look to my own comfort, my own comfort, or did I spend the day in the service of others?”
“Once,” the Holy Father went on to say, “a person told me how he knew what kind of priest a man was by the attitude they had with children: if they knew how to caress a child, to smile at a child, to play with a child … It is interesting, that, because it means that they know this means lowering oneself, getting close to the little things.”
Rather, Pope Francis explained, “the go-between is sad, always with that sad face or the too serious, dark face. The intermediary has the dark eyes, very dark! The mediator is open: the smile, the warmth, the understanding, the caresses.”
In the final part of the homily, the Pope pointed out three who are models for being mediator-priests: St. Polycarp, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Paul.
“Three icons,” Pope Francis concluded, “that can help us. Look there: how I want to end my life as a priest? As a functionary, as an intermediary, or as a mediator, that is, on the cross?”