Pope Gives Advice to Roman Seminarians

Visits Major Seminary on Feast of Patroness

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ROME, FEB. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI encouraged seminarians to always be attentive to the Word of God and to be humble in acknowledging sin in the Church and in their lives.



The Pope said this on Saturday when visiting the students of the Roman Major Seminary. The occasion was the feast of the seminary's patroness, Our Lady of Confidence.

Responding to the questions posed by six students, the Holy Father underlined how important it is to live the Eucharist, and to regard suffering as a teacher. He urged them not to put faith in those who promise a happy and comfortable life.

The conversation between the Bishop of Rome and the seminarians touched upon questions connected with discernment and coherence with their "yes" to God.

A second-year theology student asked how one should address shortcomings within the Church in the most serene and responsible way.

"Not an easy question," the Holy Father said with a smile. "But the Lord knows, he knew from the beginning that there is sin in the Church.

"And for our humility it is important to acknowledge this and to see the sin not only in others, in the structures, in the high hierarchical offices, but also in ourselves, thus being more humble with ourselves and learning that, before the Lord, one's position does not count, but what counts is to be in his love and to make his love shine."

Pain

Asked about how to behave in the face of pain, Benedict XVI underlined the need to make it understood above all that suffering is an essential part of human maturation.

Jesus himself, the Holy Father continued, said that he had to suffer for the salvation of the world and that whoever wishes to follow him must take up his own cross.

"We are always like Peter who says to the Lord: 'No, Lord!'" the Pontiff observed. "'This cannot be the case, you must not suffer, we do not want to carry the cross, we want to create a more human, more beautiful kingdom on earth.'

"This is totally mistaken: Whoever promises a life that is only happy and comfortable, lies, because this is not the truth of man and then one flees to false paradises and precisely in this way one does not arrive at joy but at self-destruction."

Benedict XVI explained that Christianity proclaims joy to us, a joy that grows in the way of love, a path that is, however, linked to the cross.

Yet, there is an obligation in the face of suffering, he said: "We must do everything possible, to overcome humanity's suffering and to help suffering people -- there are so many in the world -- to find a good life and to be freed from evils caused by ourselves: famine, epidemics, etc."

Discernment

For those preparing for and discerning about the priesthood, Benedict XVI suggested that they draw constantly from the Word of God, read in the communion of the Church but also personally.

A student asked how they should relate to human weakness, when one is aware of being very far from true coherence with one's yes to God.

"It is good to acknowledge one's own weakness because in this way we know that we have need of the Lord's grace," the Pope answered. "The Lord consoles us. In the college of the apostles there was not only Judas but also the good apostles.

"Peter fell, and so many times the Lord reproached his slowness, the apostles' closed hearts, the little faith they had. Therefore, it shows us that no one of us is up to the loftiness of this great yes."

And in this awareness, added the Holy Father, there is also an attitude of continuous conversion: "To acknowledge that we are in need of a permanent conversion, and that we have never simply arrived; to accept our frailty but to stay on the path, not to give in but to go forward and through the sacrament of reconciliation to be converted ever again by a new beginning and thus grow, mature through the Lord, in our communion with the Lord."

Memories

Benedict XVI counseled those close to priestly ordination not to neglect the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, and he urged them to cultivate friendship with other priests and with the laity.

On his memories of the seminary, the Holy Father recounted that among the subjects of study, he preferred philosophy and exegesis.

"I was fascinated from the beginning especially by the figure of St. Augustine and then also the school of St. Augustine in medieval times, St. Bonaventure, the great Franciscans, the figure of St. Francis," the Pope said.

"Especially fascinating for me was St. Augustine's great humanity," he added. "He had to struggle spiritually to find access to the Word of God little by little, access to life with God, to the great yes to his Church."