Exchanging emails recently with a young man about a vocation to the priesthood, I asked why he felt someone should be drawn to the priesthood, his reply was, "to forgive sins". Personally I thought that was pretty good, but maybe not what most bishops would regard as the normal answer, some might even find it an unacceptable answer.
Co-incidently, I then read Fr Z on Pope Francis' little homily from yesterday morning. It really is brilliant, I think I am going to put it on the back of next Sunday's newsletter. Fr Z is the expert "fisker" so read it there, rather than the Vatican Radio form below.
Interesting, JPII generation of priests wanted to teach or preach the faith, Benedict XVI generation of priests wanted to celebrate the liturgy reverently. I wonder will the Pope Francis generation want to be priests because they want to forgive sins. How exciting if they do".
In many ways what Francis says explains his motto: Miserando atque Eligendo my loose translation "I was given mercy and as a consequence I chose". A priest must be someone who is aware of God's mercy and his need for it. He should be ashamed of falling short of God's love, and be uncomfortable with it and want to seek God's mercy through the Sacrament of Mercy, often.
Pope Francis doesn't seem to be against daily confession, "And if tomorrow I do the same? Go again, and go and go and go .... He always waits for us". Obviously there are dangers of a priest pandering to a neurosis or a penitent failing to make a firm enough purpose of amendmentment but with a wise confessor can deal with that but God's mercy helps us to stop sinning. A priest never wastes time hearing Confessions or going to Confession himself. Amongst clergy we need to create culture of frequent Confession. Perhaps Pope Francis will do that, that will certainly be a huge step to "humbler, poorer Church", a Church that identifies with sinners.
I have met plenty of "good" priests and bishops, the less impressive ar those who are naturally good, the more impressive are those in whom one can actually see the workings of Grace. Not necessarilly the most good but certainly the most Holy, was a Bishop who lived with two elderly priests, who used to speak about them as "my confessors". I think he used to go to confession daily, either to one of these priest, or to a priest who he was visting, or to a priest who confessed to him.
"Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: 'If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us'. Look to your sins, to our sins, we are all sinners, all of us ... This is the starting point. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful, He is so just He forgives us our sins, cleansing us from all unrighteousness…The Lord who is so good, so faithful, so just that He forgives. "
"When the Lord forgives us, He does justice" - continued the Pope - first to himself, "because He came to save and forgive", welcoming us with the tenderness of a Father for his children: "The Lord is tender towards those who fear, to those who come to Him "and with tenderness," He always understand us”. He wants to gift us the peace that only He gives. " "This is what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation" even though "many times we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaner" to clean the dirt from our clothes:
"But Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner: it is an encounter with Jesus, but with this Jesus who waits for us, who waits for us just as we are. “But, Lord, look ... this is how I am”, we are often ashamed to tell the truth: 'I did this, I thought this'. But shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human ... the ability to be ashamed: I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country to those who are never ashamed are called “sin vergüenza’: this means ‘the unashamed ', because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble. "
Pope Francis continued: “ we must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father, "Jesus Christ the righteous." And He "supports us before the Father" and defends us in front of our weaknesses. But you need to stand in front of the Lord "with our truth of sinners", "with confidence, even with joy, without masquerading... We must never masquerade before God." And shame is a virtue: "blessed shame." "This is the virtue that Jesus asks of us: humility and meekness".
"Humility and meekness are like the frame of a Christian life. A Christian must always be so, humble and meek. And Jesus waits for us to forgive us. We can ask Him a question: Is going to confession like to a torture session? No! It is going to praise God, because I, a sinner , have been saved by Him. And is He waiting for me to beat me? No, with tenderness to forgive me. And if tomorrow I do the same? Go again, and go and go and go .... He always waits for us. This tenderness of the Lord, this humility, this meekness .... "
This confidence, concluded Pope Francis "gives us room to breathe." "The Lord give us this grace, the courage to always go to Him with the truth, because the truth is light and not the darkness of half-truths or lies before God. It give us this grace! So be it. "