Pope Francis has told a group of young French priests that weakness is a chance for encounter with God, and not something they should try to overcome by their own strength.
“My fragility, the fragility of each one of us, is a theological place of encounter with the Lord,” he told a group of around 20 priests at a June 7 meeting at the Vatican.
“The ‘superman’ priests end up badly, all of them,” Francis said. “The fragile priest, who knows his weaknesses and talks about them with the Lord, he will be fine.”
Pope Francis encouraged the priests, who are in Rome for studies, to be pastors always acting in service of the Catholics under their care.
“Strip yourself of your preconceived ideas, your dreams of greatness, your self-affirmation, to put God and people at the center of your daily concerns,” he urged.
The pope also warned the French priests against placing the identity of being an “intellectual” above that of being a “pastor.”
“You will be a pastor in many ways, but always in the midst of God’s people,” he underlined. “The studies you do in the various Roman universities prepare you for your future tasks as pastors, and allow you to better appreciate the reality in which you are called to proclaim the Gospel of joy.”
The student priests who met with Pope Francis live together at the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.
Reflecting on community life, the pope noted the temptation to gossip or to create closed-off groups which can be damaging to fraternity.
“May you always welcome one another as a gift,” he said. “In a fraternity lived in truth, in the sincerity of relationships and in a life of prayer, we can form a community in which you can breathe the air of joy and tenderness.”
“The priest is a man who, in the light of the Gospel, spreads the taste of God around him and transmits hope to restless hearts: this is how it must be,” he continued.
Francis encouraged the young priests to not be afraid to dream of a Church entirely at the service of its members and the world, stating that each of them has a contribution to make.
“Do not be afraid to dare, to take risks, to go forward because you can do everything with Christ who gives you strength,” he said. “With him you can be apostles of joy, cultivating in you the gratitude of being at the service of your brothers and of the Church.”