Pope to priests: Exhaustion is part of ministry; find renewal in Christ

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Priestly ministry is hard, sometimes lonely or dangerous work serving the neediest with an open, vulnerable heart, Pope Francis told the world’s priests.

But priests need to learn how to draw strength from their flock and their love for God, and not look for rest or retreat in "worldly pursuits," hiding in their office or riding in cars "with tinted windows," he said April 2 during the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Priests can find renewal when they do not try to be "supermen," but instead put their trust in God to embrace them and carry them through, he said.

Presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, Pope Francis blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

As Holy Thursday was the day Jesus shared his priesthood with the apostles, Pope Francis led the more than 1,500 priests, bishops and cardinals in a renewal of their priestly vows and dedicated his lengthy homily to the priesthood, focusing on "the tiredness of priests."

"Do you know how often I think about this weariness all of you experience" I think about it a lot and I pray about it often, especially when I am tired myself," he told those assembled.

The reading from the Book of Isaiah, he said, outlines the challenging work of priestly ministry: bringing glad tidings to the lowly, healing the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to those held captive, releasing the imprisoned and comforting those who mourn.

If a priest is doing his job right — if his heart is open and he experiences with compassion all the troubles, fears and joys of his people, then "so many emotions, so much affection exhaust the heart of a pastor," he said.

For a priest, knowing what one’s flock is going through is not a detached reading of "a news report," but comes from "suffering with them."

Sharing in people’s suffering makes the heart feel "broken into a thousand little pieces" and given away so much it almost seems "eaten up by the people," he said, drawing a parallel with what is said at the Last Supper: take this all of you, eat this, drink this.

The 78-year-old pope, who works at an often demanding pace and is known to not take vacation, said, "How difficult it is to learn how to rest. What comes into play here is our trust and our remembering that we too are sheep and we need the Lord to help us."

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