Priestly ministry speaks with deeds rather than words, pope says

Pope Francis addresses visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis Feb. 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Life as a parish priest is a "Eucharistic adventure" that involves serving God's people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis told transitional deacons.

It is about living "This is my body, given for you" each day, he wrote, and it requires "a constant attitude, made up of acceptance, compassion, tenderness, a style that speaks with deeds rather than with words, expressing the language of proximity."

The pope's remarks were part of a speech he had prepared for deacons preparing to be ordained priests of the Diocese of Rome for an audience at the Vatican Feb. 24. Even though the meeting was canceled because the pope was experiencing "flu-like symptoms," according to the Vatican, the speech was published online and given to those invited to the audience.

Priestly ministry has three essential elements: being faithful co-workers with others; being in the service of the people of God; and being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the pope wrote.

"The Holy Mother Church first of all does not ask you to be leaders, but co-workers," that is, those who work with others and are a witness to the "mystery of communion" of the church, he wrote. This implies "fraternity, fidelity and docility."

Priests are part of a choir, "not soloists," he wrote. They are "brothers in the presbyterate and priests for all, not for their own group; ministers always in perpetual formation, never thinking of being autonomous and self-sufficient."

The pope wrote that "the diaconate does not disappear with priesthood: on the contrary, it is the foundation on which it is based," and they must remain "in the service of the people of God."

"To serve means to be available, to renounce living according to one's own agenda, to be ready for God's surprises that manifest themselves through people, the unexpected, changes of plan, situations that do not fit into our schemes and the 'rightness' of what one has studied," he wrote.

Pastoral life is "a daily offering; it is not a desk job, but rather a 'Eucharistic adventure,'" he wrote.

"It is not about caring for people for ulterior motives, even the best ones, but about recognizing in them the unique and wonderful gifts that the Lord has given to serve them, with joy, with humility," he wrote. "It is the joy of accompanying their steps, taking them by the hand, with patience and discernment."

With God's grace, the pope wrote, one can overcome the danger of harboring any "bitterness and dissatisfaction with things that do not go as we would like, when people do not meet our expectations and do not conform to our aspirations."

Finally, he wrote, "It is important to give primacy to the Spirit, who will descend on you. If this happens, your life, as it was for the Apostles, will be oriented toward the Lord and by the Lord, and you will truly be 'men of God.'"


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