Not Just For Novices and Seminarians

The other day, Pope Francis spoke to a group of future priests, nuns and consecrated laypeople from around the globe. His remarks were described as an “off-the-cuff lecture. Prepared or not, the advice he gave that day is advice that is useful for all Christian disciples.

First, he pointed out that “there is no sadness in holiness.” Something is not right, he suggested, in a group of seminarians and novices that are too serious. “If you find a seminarian, priest, nun, with a long sad face, if it seems as if in their life someone threw a wet blanket over them,” they are not living their calling.

I think some people think seriousness (and even dourness) are a sign of holiness or piety. I’ve seen this in some lay people as well as seminarians. But it is hard to evangelize if one looks miserable. Not just seminarians, novices and nuns, but all of us need to convey “the joy of the Lord.” And we can’t convey that if we don’t allow ourselves to experience it.

Second, in contrasting the superficial joy of the world with the joy of Christ, he warned against the temptation to seek out the latest smartphone or the fastest car. “It hurts my heart when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model of car…[C]ars are necessary. But take a more humble one. Think of how many children die of hunger and dedicate the savings to them”.

I cringed a little when I read this, having finally moved to a smartphone two weeks ago – and yes, it was an Apple 5. But the reminder to look at how we are living is an important one. Are we living as simply as we could? Are there ways we could consume less and give more? I suspect for many of us, the answer is yes.