“Pope Francis on Friday said a good priest “creates serenity,” and a priest “that is often sad, nervous, or has a hard character” is not good for himself or his people.
The Holy Father was addressing a Conference sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy marking the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the Vatican II decrees Presbyterorum ordinis [Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests] and Optatam Totius [Decree on Priestly Training].
Pope Francis focused on three brief phrases found in a passage of Presbyterorum ordinis, stating that priests are “taken from among men,” “ordained for men,” and “live in the midst of other men.”
“Even priests have a biography, and are not ‘mushrooms’ which sprout up suddenly at the Cathedral on their day of ordination,” said the Holy Father. “It is important for formators and the priests themselves to remember this, and know how to take this personal history into account along the formation path.”
The Pope added the “fundamental place” of the human formation of the priesthood is the family, which Is the “centre of pastoral work” and can do much to foster vocations
“A good priest is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history – with its treasures and wounds – and has learned to make peace with it, gaining a profound serenity, characteristic of a disciple of the Lord,” he said. “Human formation is therefore needed for priests, so they may learn not to be dominated by their limits, but rather to put their talents to use.”
The Pope said a priest is “a man of peace” who surrounds himself with serenity, even during hardships.
“It is not normal for a priest to be often sad, nervous, or of a hard character; it is not good, and does no good, neither for the priest nor for his people,” he said.
Pope Francis said “our humanity is the ‘clay pot’ in which we guard the treasure of God,” and so care must be taken to protect it.
Moving to the second point, the Holy Father reminded priests they are called “to serve our brothers and sisters.”
“We are not priests for our own sake, and our sanctification is closely linked to that of our people, our anointing to their anointing,” he said, adding priests should be “authoritative, not authoritarian; firm, but not hard; joyful, but not superficial…in short, shepherds, not functionaries.”
Finally, turning to the third point, Pope Francis said priests must remain with their people, and not treat the priesthood “like a job one does, and afterwards lives a life apart.”
“The good that priests can do comes primarily from their proximity to – and a tender love for – their people,” he said. “They are not philanthropists or functionaries, but fathers and brothers.”