by Elise Harris
On Sunday Pope Francis ordained 10 men to the priesthood, telling them to imitate Jesus in every aspect of their ministry, so as to avoid hypocrisy and draw near to their people, always serving with the joy that comes from being united to Christ.
“Aware of having been chosen from among men and formed in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in joy and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ,” the Pope said May 7.
He told the priests to “be joyful, never sad. Joyful, with the joy of the service of Christ, even in the midst of suffering, incomprehension, of your own sin.”
“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who didn’t come to be served, but to serve,” he said, asking them to “please, don’t be ‘lords,’ don’t be clerics of state, but shepherds, shepherds of the People of God.”
Pope Francis ordained 10 men from different seminaries of the diocese of Rome Sunday, coinciding with the 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. They hail from different countries around the world, including Italy, Peru, Mexico and Azerbaijan.
Concelebrants for the Mass included Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of Rome, as well as several of Rome’s auxiliary bishops.
As in the past, for his homily Pope Francis used the “ritual homily” from the Italian edition of the “Pontificale Romano,” the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing rites performed by bishops, for the ordination of priests, adding a few of his own person contributions to the text.
Speaking to the congregation, the Pope encouraged them to reflect on the service the new priests will undertake in the Church.
While Jesus was the only High Priest in the New Testament, he wanted to choose certain men from among his disciples, “so that exercising publicly in the Church and in his name the office of the priest in favor of all men, they would continue his personal mission as teacher, priest and shepherd.”
Francis stressed that the men chosen by Jesus were elected “not to make a career, but to do this service.”
A priest is above all called to serve the people of God, he said, explaining that it is precisely this service that will configure them to Christ and unite them the priesthood of their bishop.
“They will be preachers of the Gospel, shepherds of the people of God and will preside over the actions of worship, particularly the celebration of the sacrifice of the Lord,” he said.
Speaking directly to the new priests, Francis stressed that by exercising their ministry, “you will be participants in the mission of Christ, the only master.”
“Give that word to all, which you yourselves have received with joy, since you were children,” he said, telling them to “read and meditate assiduously on the Word of God in order to believe what you have read, teaching what you have learned in the faith, living that which you have taught.”
He told the priests to nourish the people of God with a doctrine that is “simple,” explaining that this is how the Lord himself spoke, and it “arrived to the heart.”
“Don’t give homilies that are too intellectual, elaborate. Speak simply, speak to the heart. And this preaching will be a nourishment,” he said, adding that it will also be a “joy and support” for the faithful.
Christ must be the “scent of your life,” the Pope said, stressing that “the word without the example of life isn’t useful; it’s better to turn around, (because) the double life is an bad sickness in the life of the Church.”
Pope Francis told the priests to recognize and be aware of what they are doing, primarily in administering the sacraments.
He also said to “imitate what you celebrate, so that participating in the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord, you bring the death of Christ into your limbs and walk with him in the newness of life.”
“A priest who has perhaps studied a lot of theology, and has received, 1,2,3,4 degrees, but who hasn’t learned to carry the Cross of Christ, isn’t useful,” he said, adding that “he will be a great academic, a great professor, but not priest.”
Turning to the Sacraments of Initiation – baptism, confession and the Eucharist – he placed particular attention on confession, during which a priest forgives sins “in the name of Christ and of the Church.”
Stressing the importance of mercy, he told the priests “please, I ask you, in the name of Christ and the Church, to be merciful, always.”
“Don’t load on the back of the faithful, weight that they can’t carry, not even you,” he said. “Jesus rebuked these doctors, and he called them hypocrites.”
Francis also urged them to spend time with the sick and elderly, explaining that perhaps one of the most “boring” or even “painful” tasks they have is visit the sick.
While it’s okay to have deacons or lay members of their parishes go and give communion to them, Pope Francis told the priest to do it themselves. Otherwise, “you don’t let yourselves touch the suffering flesh of Christ in the sick. This sanctifies you. You will draw closer to Christ.”
He closed his homily telling them to always have before their eyes “the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve,” and to seek salvation for the lost.