The Italian Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica has published the transcription of Pope Francis’ conversation with 28 Polish Jesuits in Krakow, Vatican Insider reports. He emphasized the importance of discernment for future priests amidst the complexities of life:
Some priestly formation programs run the risk of educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore acting within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, disregarding concrete situations: ‘you must do this, you must not do this’. Then, when the seminarians become priests, they find themselves in difficulty when they have to offer guidance to so many young people and adults.
The pope emphasized attention to concrete life, with all its shades of gray:
We need to form future priests not by teaching them general and abstract ideas, which are clear and distinct, but about this keen discernment of spirits so that they can help people in their concrete life. We need to truly understand this: in life not all is black on white or white on black. No! The shades of gray prevail in life. We must teach them to discern in this grey area.
Francis noted that spiritual direction is a lay charism as well as a priestly charism, but stressed its importance for priests:
Spiritual direction is not solely a priestly charism, but also lay, it is true. I repeat,however, that this needs to be taught above all to priests, helping them in the light of the Exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment, which respects the law but knows how to look beyond.
Reader Vatican Insider’s story here.