(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday met with the rectors and students of the Pontifical
Universities and Colleges in Rome. In his opening remarks, the Holy Father noted
the many students from the Middle East and from Ukraine. "I want to tell you that
I am very close to you in this time of suffering: indeed, very close; and in prayer,”
he said. The encounter continued in an informal manner, with Pope Francis responding
“off-the-cuff” to questions from the assembled students, covering a number of topics,
including balancing the academic life with the spiritual life, the style of leadership
necessary for a priest, and the New Evangelization.
First of all, he warned the students against academism, saying it was “dangerous” when student returns from studying in Rome not as “a father”, but as “doctor.”
“I would not understand a priest a priest who is getting a degree here, in Rome, but does not have a community life: This is wrong,” said Pope Francis. “Or does not take care of his spiritual life – daily Mass, daily prayer, lectio divina, personal prayer with the Lord – or the apostolic life.”
He said that academic “purism” is bad, and that if you see only the academic side of things, “there is a danger of slipping into ideology.”
Pope Francis also spoke of the importance of community life.
“If one prepares for the priesthood alone, without a community, it is painful,” he said. Community life “is very important because there is a sharing between brothers…walking towards the priesthood.”
Pope Francis said community life includes problems and struggles, but also friendships and the exchange of ideas. However, he warned against what he calls a “clerical language”, which tends to be diplomatic to a person’s face, but less so at other times. He also spoke of the importance of praying for each other, especially those most in need.
“I assure you that if you do these two things, the community will go on: You can live well, speak well, argue well, pray well together…but two small things – do not speak ill of others and pray for those with whom you have problems,” Pope Francis said.
In answer to a question about leadership, Pope Francis said there is “only one way”, which is “service.”
He also urged the seminarians to seek the help of the Virgin Mary if they feel spiritually troubled.
“First of all go [to the Mantle of Mary] and wait until there is a bit of calm,” Pope Francis said. “Some of you will tell me…in this time of so many modern goods – psychiatry, psychology - in this time of turbulence, I think it would be better to see a psychiatrist to get help. But - do not dismiss this - but first go to your Mother, because a priest who forgets [the Virgin Mary], especially in times of turbulence, is missing something. He is an orphan priest, the one who forgets his Mother.”