(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the parish priests of the Diocese of Rome, reflecting with them on the ‘progress of faith’ in the life of a priest.
He was welcomed to Rome’s Cathedral by his Vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and heard the confessions of around a dozen priests before delivering his address.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
Pope Francis spoke to Rome’s parish priests on Thursday about the progress of faith in the life of a priest in three main points: memory, hope, and discernment of the moment.
In remarks prepared for the event, the Holy Father said, “Memory, as the Catechism says, is rooted in the faith of the Church, in the faith of our fathers; hope is that which sustains our faith; and discernment of the moment I hold present at the moment of acting, of putting into practice that ‘faith which operates through charity’.”
Growth in faith
He said that “growing in faith” implies a “path of formation and of maturation in the faith”.
Turning to Evangelii Gaudium as a guide, he said, “Taking this seriously means that ‘it would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation.’ (EG, n.161) Growth in faith happens through encounters with the Lord during the course of our lives. These encounters act as a treasure of memory and are our living faith, in a story of personal salvation.”
To illustrate, he gave the example of a basketball player who pivots on a stable foot while remaining flexible with the rest of his body to protect the ball from his opponent. “For us that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ.”
Memory is remembering the promise of the Lord
Pope Francis said a faith nourished on memory of past graces “confers on our faith the solidity of the Incarnation”.
“Faith feeds on and is nourished by memory: The memory of the Covenant which the Lord has made with us. He is the God of our fathers and grandfathers. He is not a God of the last moment, a God without a family history, a God which – to respond to each new paradigm – should throw out precedents as if they were old and ridiculous.”
He said faith can even progress “backwards” in a “revolutionary return to the roots”.
“The more lucid the memory of the past, the more clear the future opens up, because it is possible to see the truly new path and distinguish it from the path already taken, which has never led anywhere meaningful.”
Hope is the guiding star which indicates the horizon
The Holy Father went on to speak of hope, which “opens faith to the surprises of God.”
“Faith is sustained and progresses thanks to hope. Hope is the anchor anchored in the Heavens, in the transcendent future, of which the temporal future –considered in a linear form – is only an expression. Hope is that which gives dynamism to the rearwards-looking glance of faith, which conduces one to find new things in the past – in the treasures of the memory – so that one can encounter the same God, which one hopes to see in the future.”
Discernment at every fork in the road to find next step in love
The Pope then examined discernment, which “is what makes faith concrete…, what permits us to give credible witness”.
He said, “The discernment of the opportune time (Kairos) is fundamentally rich in memory and in hope: remembering with love, I aim my gaze with clarity to that which best guides to the Promise.”
He also spoke of two moments in the act of discernment: first, a step back “to better see the panorama”; second, a step forward “when, in the present moment, we discern how to concretize love in the possible good, that is, for the good of the other. The highest good of the other is to grow in faith.”
Pope Francis then examined the figure of Saint Peter who was “sifted like grain” (Luke 22:31).
He said the paradox of Saint Peter is that “he who must confirm us in the faith is the same one whom the Lord often rebukes for his ‘lack of faith’”.
“We see that Saint Peter’s faith has a special character: it is a proven faith, and for this he has the mission to confirm and consolidate the faith of his brothers, our faith.”