(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with participants in a Conference organized by the national Office for Pastoral Care for Vocations of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
The theme of the conference is “Arise, go forth, and fear not. Vocations and sanctity: I am on a mission.”
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
During the encounter, Pope Francis set aside his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff to the 800 seminarians and religious men and women present.
Recalling the conference’s theme, the Holy Father asked himself aloud, “How many young people, boys and girls, today hear in their heart that ‘Arise’, and how many – priests, consecrated men and women – close the door? And they wind up frustrated.”
To remedy this situation, the Pope offered several thoughts on ways to increase vocations to religious life and the priesthood.
“The doors are opened through prayer, though good will, through risk,” he said. “Jesus told us that the first way to have vocations is prayer, but not all are convinced of this.”
Rather, he went on, “Pray with the heart, with your life, with everything.”
Speaking about the role of bishops in vocations, the Holy Father said their “first task is prayer; the second is to proclaim the Gospel”.
The third recommendation he offered was to “Open the doors so that [young people] may enter our churches.”
“To receive vocations, hospitality is key”, the Pope continued, it is necessary to be particularly devoted to listening, to be able to “waste time” in order to hear and understand the questions and desires of young people and to practice the “apostolate of the ear”.
The fourth and final recommendation Pope Francis made regarded the witness of the messenger. “May they see you live what you preach, that which brought you to become priests, sisters, and lay people who work with strength in the House of the Lord.”