(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told priests, religious, and seminarians on Wednesday that gratitude and service were the most important aspects of their vocation.
The Holy Father held his prepared speech in the air, and announced to cheers that he “didn’t feel like reading.”
He then began an off-the-cuff speech to those gathered at Ecuador’s national shrine, which is dedicated to the Virgin of Quinche .
“Please do not forget – do not cover – the grace of gratitude,” Pope Francis said. “It is a gift from Jesus, the most beautiful of our lives as priests and religious.”
The Pope told them to “not lose the memory” of who they were and the places they came from; to not feel like they have been “given a promotion.”
“Do not feel superior to the Faith you received from your mother and father,” he said.
Pope Francis spoke of those who enter the seminary and no longer wish to speak their local language – of which Ecuador has many.
“The desire to increase is human, but it is to service that we are called,” he said. “Gratitude is a grace, and when a priest enters into a career, he stops this spiritual path.”
"Service mixed with gratitude," Pope Francis continued. "What you have received freely, give freely. Please do not charge for this grace. Please! May our ministry be gratuitous; it is so ugly when one begins to lose this sense of gratitude."
The Pope also asked them to pray for him because he himself “too often” forgets this gratitude.
“The shepherds not only walk in front, but also in the middle and behind their flock,” he said.
The Holy Father also called on them to live their vocations with a sense of joy, sustained by “two pillars” made up of gratitude and a “sense of memory” which reminds them of what the Lord has accomplished in their lives.
Their vocation, he stressed, is a gift from Christ that will help sustain those "two pillars of our priestly and religious life."
"May the Lord give you this grace,” Pope Francis concluded. "May he continue to bless the people of Ecuador to whom you are called to serve.”
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