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Pope Francis offers advice to seminarians

Catholic World News - May 13, 2014

Pope Francis met with seminarians from around the world who are studying in Rome and offered advice in response to their questions.

The May 12 audience took place in the Paul VI Audience Hall.

Assuring seminarians from the Middle East and Ukraine of his prayers, Pope Francis responded to an American seminarian’s question by stating that spiritual formation, academic life, community life, and apostolic formation are the four pillars of the seminary. Academic study without the other three components, he said, leads to the danger of “slipping into ideology.”

In response to a Chinese seminarian’s question about the difficulties of community life, Pope Francis warned against gossip and recalled that when he was in the early stages of formation, he told his spiritual director that he was angry with someone. The priest asked, “Tell me: have you prayed for him?” and the future Pope, ashamed, said, “No.” Pope Francis urged the seminarians to pray for those with whom they have problems.

In response to a question from a Mexican seminarian about discipline, Pope Francis referred to the Eastern Fathers, advised vigilance over the heart, and repeatedly emphasized devotion to Mary. The Pontiff also exhorted the seminarians to examine the inclinations of their hearts each night before retiring.

Pope Francis emphasized to a Philippine seminarian that priests must be humble servants of the people, avoiding love of money and vanity. He advised reading St. Augustine’s De Pastoribus.

Responding to a question from a seminarian from Cameroon, Pope Francis discussed his daily schedule-- a schedule that includes prayer, lectio divina, Mass, the Rosary, adoration, and the Liturgy of the Hours. “The ideal is to end the day tired,” said Pope Francis. “No need to take pills: finish tired.”

In response to a question from a Mexican seminarian about homilies and the new evangelization, the Pope advised closeness to the people and short, strong homilies of no more than eight to ten minutes. He recommended A Theology of Proclamation by Hugo Rahner-- “not Karl, Hugo … Karl is difficult to read”-- as well as a similar work by Domenico Grasso.

“One of the most beautiful jewels of the priestly life,” Pope Francis said in response to the last question, from a Polish seminarian, is “priestly friendship.”

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