Pastors


Pastors - Pope Francis  


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/profession-of-faith/23.05.13.jpg

The biblical Readings we have heard make us think. They have made me think deeply. I have conceived of a sort of meditation for us bishops, first for me, a bishop like you, and I share it with you.

It is important — and I am particularly glad — that our first meeting should take place here, on the site that guards not only Peter’s tomb but also the living memory of his witness of faith, his service to the Truth, and his gift of himself to the point of martyrdom for the Gospel and for the Church.

This evening this Altar of the Confessio thus becomes for us the Sea of Tiberias, on whose shores we listen once again to the marvellous conversation between Jesus and Peter with the question addressed to the Apostle, but which must also resonate in our own hearts, as Bishops.

“Do you love me?”. “Are you my friend?” (cf. Jn 21, 15ff.).

The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declarations, let himself be gripped by fear and so had denied.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”.

The question is addressed to me and to each one of us, to all of us: if we take care not to respond too hastily and superficially it impels us to look within ourselves, to re-enter ourselves.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”.

The One who scrutinizes hearts (cf. Rom 8:27), makes himself a beggar of love and questions us on the one truly essential issue, a premiss and condition for feeding his sheep, his lambs, his Church. May every ministry be based on this intimacy with the Lord; living from him is the measure of our ecclesial service which is expressed in the readiness to obey, to humble ourselves, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, and for the total gift of self (cf. 2:6-11).

Moreover, the consequence of loving the Lord is giving everything — truly everything, even our life — for him. This is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry; it is the litmus test that tells us how deeply we have embraced the gift received in responding to Jesus’ call, and how closely bound we are to the individuals and communities that have been entrusted to our care. We are not the expression of a structure or of an organizational need: even with the service of our authority we are called to be a sign of the presence and action of the Risen Lord; thus to build up the community in brotherly love.

Not that this should be taken for granted: even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not constantly nourished, weakens and fades away. Not for nothing did the Apostle Paul recommend: “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own Son's blood” (cf. Acts 20:28).

A lack of vigilance — as we know — makes the Pastor tepid; it makes him absentminded, forgetful and even impatient. It tantalizes him with the prospect of a career, the enticement of money and with compromises with a mundane spirit; it makes him lazy, turning him into an official, a state functionary concerned with himself, with organization and structures, rather than with the true good of the People of God. Then one runs the risk of denying the Lord as did the Apostle Peter, even if he formally presents him and speaks in his name; one obscures the holiness of the hierarchical Mother Church making her less fruitful.

Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our trials? We have so many; each one of us has his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on in order to surmount them?

Just as it did Peter, Jesus' insistent and heartfelt question can leave us pained and more aware of the weakness of our freedom, threatened as it is by thousands of interior and exterior forms of conditioning that all too often give rise to bewilderment, frustration, and even disbelief.

These are not of course the sentiments and attitudes that the Lord wants to inspire; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, complaint and despair.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate or abandon people to remorse. Through him the tenderness of the Father, who consoles and revitalizes, speaks; it is he who brings us from the disintegration of shame — because shame truly breaks us up — to the fabric of trust; he restores courage, re-entrusts responsibility, and sends us out on mission.

Peter, purified in the crucible of forgiveness could say humbly, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). I am sure that we can all say this with heartfelt feeling. And Peter, purified, urges us in his First Letter to tend “the flock of God... not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3).

Yes, being Pastors means believing every day in the grace and strength that come to us from the Lord despite our weakness, and wholly assuming the responsibility for walking before the flock, relieved of the burdens that obstruct healthy apostolic promptness, hesitant leadership, so as to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith and to those who “are not [yet] of this fold” (Jn 10:16). We are called to make our own the dream of God, whose house knows no exclusion of people or peoples, as Isaiah prophetically foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 2:2-5).

For this reason being Pastors also means being prepared to walk among and behind the flock; being capable of listening to the silent tale of those who are suffering and of sustaining the steps of those who fear they may not make it; attentive to raising, to reassuring and to instilling hope. Our faith emerges strengthened from sharing with the lowly. Let us therefore set aside every form of arrogance, to bend down to all whom the Lord has entrusted to our care. Among them let us keep a special, very special, place for our priests. Especially for them may our heart, our hand and our door stay open in every circumstance. They are the first faithful that we bishops have: our priests. Let us love them! Let us love them with all our heart! They are our sons and our brothers!

Dear brothers, the profession of faith we are now renewing together is not a formal act. Rather, it means renewing our response to the “Follow me” with which John’s Gospel ends (21:19). It leads to living our life in accordance with God’s plan, committing our whole self to the Lord Jesus. The discernment that knows and takes on the thoughts, expectations and needs of the people of our time stems from this.

In this spirit, I warmly thank each one of you for your service, for your love for the Church.

And the Mother is here! I place you, and myself, under the mantle of Mary, Our Lady.

Mother of silence, who watches over the mystery of God,
Save us from the idolatry of the present time, to which those who forget are condemned.
Purify the eyes of Pastors with the eye-wash of memory:
Take us back to the freshness of the origins, for a prayerful, penitent Church.

Mother of the beauty that blossoms from faithfulness to daily work,
Lift us from the torpor of laziness, pettiness, and defeatism.
Clothe Pastors in the compassion that unifies, that makes whole; let us discover the joy of a humble, brotherly, serving Church.

Mother of tenderness who envelops us in patience and mercy,
Help us burn away the sadness, impatience and rigidity of those who do not know what it means to belong.
Intercede with your Son to obtain that our hands, our feet, our hearts be agile: let us build the Church with the Truth of love.
Mother, we shall be the People of God, pilgrims bound for the Kingdom. Amen.



Pope Francis   11.05.14 Regina Caeli, St Peter's Square      4th Sunday of Easter Year A      John 10: 1-10


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Evangelist John presents us, on this Fourth Sunday of the Easter Season, with the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd. In contemplating this page of the Gospel, we can understand the kind of relationship that Jesus had with his disciples: a relationship based on tenderness, love, mutual knowledge and the promise of an immeasurable gift: “I came”, Jesus said, “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). This relationship is the model for relations between Christians and for human relationships.

Today, too, as in the time of Jesus, many put themselves forward as “shepherds” of our lives; but only the Risen One is the true Shepherd, who gives us life in abundance. I invite everyone to place their trust in the Lord who guides us. But he not only guides us: he accompanies us, he walks with us. Let us listen to his Word with minds and hearts opened, to nourish our faith, enlighten our conscience and follow the teaching of the Gospel.

On this Sunday let us pray for the Shepherds of the Church, for all Bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, for all priests, for everyone! We pray especially for the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, whom I ordained a short while ago in St Peter’s Basilica. A greeting to these 13 priests! May the Lord help us pastors always to be faithful to the Master and wise and enlightened guides of the People of God, entrusted to us. I also ask you to please help us: help us to be good shepherds. Once I read something very beautiful on how the People of God help the bishops and priests to be good shepherds. It is a writing of St Caesarius of Arles, a Father of the first centuries of the Church. He explained how the People of God must help the pastor, and he gave this example: when a calf is hungry it goes to the cow, its mother, to get milk. The cow, however, does not give it right away: it seems that she withholds it. And what does the calf do? It knocks with its nose at the cow’s udder, so that the milk will come. It is a beautiful image! “So also you must be with your pastors”, this saint said: always knock at their door, at their hearts, that they may give you the milk of doctrine, the milk of grace and the milk of guidance.

And I ask you, please, bother the pastors, disturb the pastors, all of us pastors, so that we might give you the milk of grace, doctrine and guidance. Bother them! Think of that beautiful image of the little calf, how it bothers its mother so that she might give it something to eat.

In imitation of Jesus, every pastor “will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 31). May all pastors be so! But you must bother your pastors so that they may provide the guidance of doctrine and grace.

This Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In this year’s Message I recalled that “every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel” (n. 2). Therefore, the call to follow Jesus is both exciting and challenging. In order that it may be realized, it is always necessary to enter into deep friendship with the Lord in order to live from Him and for Him.

Let us pray that also, in these times, many young people may hear the voice of the Lord, which is always in danger of being suffocated by the clamour of other voices. Let us pray for young people: perhaps there is someone here in the Square who hears the voice of the Lord calling him to the priesthood; let us pray for him, if he is here, and for all young people who are being called.



Pope Francis  24.04.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae) Friday of the Second Week of Easter   John 6:1-15


Pope Francis talks about Pastors 24.04.20

Let us pray today for teachers who have to work hard to do lessons via the internet and other media routes, and we also pray for students who have to take exams in a way they are not used to. Let us accompany them with prayer.


This sentence of this passage makes us think: "He said this to test him. He himself knew what he was going to do." That's what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Where can we buy bread for them to eat?" But he said it to test him. He knew. Here we see Jesus' attitude with the disciples. He continually tested them to teach them, and when they had deviated from the role they had to do, he would stop them and teach them.

The Gospel is full of these actions of Jesus to allow his disciples to grow, to provoke growth, to become pastors of the people of God, in this case bishops, pastors of the people of God. And one of the things Jesus loved most was being with the crowd because this too is a symbol of the universality of redemption. And one of the things the apostles didn't like the most was the crowd because they liked to be close to the Lord, to hear the Lord, to hear everything the Lord said. Today they went there to take a day off - the other versions in the other Gospels say this, because all four talk about it ... sometimes there were two multiplications of the loaves - and they came from a mission, and the Lord said, "Let's go and get some rest." And they went there and the people noticed where they were going to by the sea, they circled around and waited for them there. And the disciples were not happy because the people had ruined their "holiday", they could not have this feast with the Lord. Despite this, Jesus began to teach, they listened, then they talked to each other and the hours go by, the hours, Jesus spoke and the people were happy. And they said, "Our party is ruined, our rest is ruined."

But the Lord sought closeness to the people and sought to form the hearts of the shepherds in closeness with God's people to serve them. And they, you understand this, they were chosen and felt a bit like a privileged circle, a privileged class, "an aristocracy", we might say, close to the Lord, and many times the Lord took steps to correct them. For example, let's think about children. They protected the Lord: "No, no, no, do not let the children approach who annoy, disturb... No, children with their parents." And what does Jesus say? "Let the children come." And they didn't understand. Then they figured it out. Then I think of the road to Jericho, the one who shouted: "Jesus son of David, have mercy on me." And the disciples said: "Stay quiet this is the Lord passing, do not disturb him." And Jesus says, "But who is that? Let him come." Again, the Lord. And so he taught them that closeness to God's people.

It is true that the people of God tire the shepherd: when there is a good shepherd, things multiply, because people always go to the good shepherd for one reason or for another. Once, a great pastor of a simple, humble neighbourhood, of the diocese ... had the rectory like a normal house and people would knock on the door or knock on the window, at every hour ... and he once said to me, "But I would like to wall the door and the window up so that they will let me rest." But he knew he was a pastor and he had to be with people. And Jesus forms, and teaches the disciples, the apostles this pastoral attitude that is closeness to the people of God.

It is true that God's people tire the shepherd, because they always ask us concrete things, always ask you something concrete, maybe they are mistaken in what they ask, but they ask you for concrete things. And the pastor has to take care of these things. The version in the other Gospels when they show Jesus that the hours have passed and people had to leave because it was starting to get dark, and they say: "But send the people away so that they can buy something to eat", just at the moment of darkness, when darkness was beginning. But what were they thinking? At least to celebrate among themselves, that selfishness is not so bad, but it is understood, to be with the shepherd, to be with Jesus who is the great shepherd, and Jesus responds, to test them: "Give him food". And this is what Jesus says to all the shepherds today: "Give them food." "Are they distressed? Give them consolation? Are they lost? Show them a way forward. Are they making mistakes? Give them a way to solve their problems... Give them yourselves...". And the poor apostles feel that they need to give, and give, and give, but from whom do they receive? Jesus teaches us, from the same one that Jesus received. After this, he dismisses the apostles and goes to pray, to the Father. From prayer. 

This double nearness of the pastor is what Jesus seeks to help the apostles understand to become great shepherds. But so many times the crowd is wrong and here they are wrong. "Then people, seeing the sign that he had given, said, "This really is the prophet, the one who is to come into the world!" But Jesus, knowing that they came to take him to make him king, withdrew again." Perhaps - the Gospel does not say it - some of the apostles would have said to him: "But Lord, let us take advantage of this and take power." Another temptation. And Jesus makes them see that that is not the way.

The power of the pastor is service, he has no other power and when he errs taking other powers he ruins his vocation and becomes, I do not know, a manager of pastoral enterprises but not a pastor. The structure does not do pastoral work: the heart of the pastor does pastoral work. And the pastor's heart is what Jesus teaches us now. 

Today let us pray to the Lord for the pastors of the Church so that the Lord may always speaks to them, because he loves them so much: always speak to us, tell us how things are, explain and above all teach us not to be afraid of God's people, not to be afraid to be close.




Pope Francis  03.05.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Martha)    1 Peter 2: 20b-25,     Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b, 4-6,      John 10: 1-10
Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year A

Pope Francis Jesus the Good Shepherd 03.05.20

Three weeks after the Lord's Resurrection, the Church today on the fourth Sunday of Easter celebrates the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Good Shepherd. This makes me think of so many shepherds in the world who give their lives for the faithful, even in this pandemic, many, more than 100 here in Italy have died. I also think of other shepherds who care for the good of the people, the doctors. We are talking about doctors, about what they do, but we must realize that, in Italy alone, 154 doctors have died, in an act of service. May the example of these pastors, priests and medical pastors help us take care of the holy faithful people of God.

The First Letter of the Apostle Peter, which we have heard, is a passage of serenity. It's about Jesus. He says: "He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness; By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls." (1 Peter 2: 24-25) Jesus is the shepherd - as Peter sees him - who comes to save, to save the wandering sheep: it was us. And in Psalm 23 that we read after this reading, we repeated, "The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want." The presence of the Lord as a shepherd, as a shepherd of the flock. 

And Jesus, in chapter 10 of John, which we have read, presents himself as the shepherd. Indeed, not only the shepherd, but the "door" through which the flock enters. All those who came and did not enter through that door were thieves or robbers or wanted to take advantage of the flock: the false shepherds. And in the history of the Church there have been many of them who exploited the flock. They weren't interested in the flock, it was just a career or politics or money. But the flock knows them, they always know them and they go in search of God by their own paths.

But when there is a good shepherd, there is a flock that goes on, that carries on. The good shepherd listens to the flock, leads the flock, heals the flock. And the flock knows how to distinguish between shepherds, it is not wrong: the flock trusts the good shepherd, trusts Jesus. Only the shepherd who resembles Jesus gives confidence to the flock, because he is the door. The style of Jesus must be the style of the shepherd, there is no other. 

But even Jesus, the good shepherd, as Peter says in the first reading: "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you would follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult, when he suffered, he did not threaten", (1 Peter 2: 21-23) he was meek. One of the signs of a good shepherd is meekness, it is meekness. A good shepherd is meek. A shepherd who is not meek is not a good shepherd. He has something hidden, because meekness shows him as he is, without defending himself. And furthermore, the shepherd is tender, has that tenderness of closeness, knows the sheep one by one by name and takes care of each one as if it were the only one, to the point that when he comes home after a day's work, tired, he realizes that he is missing one, goes out to work again to look for it and he brings it back with him, he carries it on his shoulders. 

This is the good shepherd, this is Jesus, this is the one who accompanies us on the journey of life, for everyone. And this idea of the shepherd, and this idea of the flock and the sheep, is an Easter idea. The Church in the first week of Easter sings that beautiful song for the newly baptized: "These are the new lambs", the hymn we heard at the beginning of Mass. It is an idea of community, of tenderness, of kindness, of meekness. It is the Church that loves Jesus and he guards this Church.

This Sunday is a beautiful Sunday, it is a Sunday of peace, it is a Sunday of tenderness, of meekness, because our pastor takes care of us. "The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want."




Pope Francis  18.05.20  Altar of St John Paul II , Vatican Basilica    Holy Mass in Memory of the Centenary of the Birth of St John Paul II   Psalm 149: 1-6a, 9b

Pope Francis Centenary of the Birth of St John Paul II 18.05.20

"The Lord loves his people" (Psalm 149: 4 ) we sang this refrain in the chorus and also a truth that the people of Israel repeated, they liked to repeat: "The Lord loves his people" and in difficult times, "the Lord loves" you have to wait to see how this love will manifest itself. When the Lord sent out of this love a prophet, or a man of God, the reaction of the people was: "The Lord has visited his people"(Luke 7: 16 cf 1.68 Ex 4.31), because he loves them, he has visited them. And so did the crowd that followed Jesus, seeing the things Jesus did: "The Lord has visited his people." And today we can say here: a hundred years ago the Lord visited his people, sent a man, prepared him to be a bishop and lead the Church. By remembering St. John Paul II we repeat this: "The Lord loves his people," the Lord visited his people, sent a pastor. 

And what are, let's say, "the traits" of a good shepherd that we can find in St. John Paul II? Many! But let's just talk about three. As they say that the Jesuits always say things in three, we say three: prayer, closeness to the people, and love for justice. St. John Paul II was a man of God because he prayed and prayed so much. But how is it that a man who has so much work to do, so much work to lead the Church... how can he have a lot of prayer time? He knew well that the first task of a bishop is to pray and this was not said by Vatican II, St Peter said it, when he made the Deacons with the Twelve, they said: "And to us bishops, prayer and the proclamation of the Word" (Acts 6: 4). A bishop's first task is to pray. And he knew it, and he did it. A model bishop praying, the first task. And he taught us that when a bishop examines his conscience in the evening, he has to ask himself: how many hours today have I prayed? A man of prayer.

The second trait, a man of closeness. He was not a man detached from the people, indeed he went to visit the people and travelled the whole world, finding his people, searching for his people, making himself close. And closeness is one of God's traits with his people. Let us remember that the Lord said to the people of Israel, "Look, what other people have their gods as close as I am with you?" (cf. Dt 4: 7). A closeness of God with the people who then get close to Jesus, is made strong in Jesus. A shepherd is close to the people, on the contrary, if he is not, he is not a shepherd, he is a manager, he is an administrator, perhaps good but he is not a shepherd. Closeness to the people. And St. John Paul II gave us the example of this closeness: close to the great and the small, the neighbours and the distant, always close, he was close.

The third trait, a love for justice. But complete justice! A man who wanted justice, social justice, the justice for the people, justice to drive out war. But complete justice! For this reason St. John Paul II was a man of mercy because justice and mercy go together, they cannot be distinguished, they are together: justice is justice, mercy is mercy, but one without the other is not found. And speaking of a man of justice and mercy, let us think about what St. John Paul II did for people to understand God's mercy. Let us think about how he promoted the devotion to Saint Faustina whose liturgical memory from today will be for the whole Church. He had felt that God's justice had this face of mercy, this attitude of mercy. And this is a gift that he has left us: justice in mercy and merciful justice.

Let us pray to him today, that he will grant to all of us, especially the pastors of the Church but to all, the grace of prayer, the grace of closeness and the grace of justice in mercy, merciful justice.