Pope Francis was in Assisi (in the region of Umbria) last week for the feast of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi. There, he took questions by young people and offered his responses. A number of the questions touched upon the topic of vocations--to the married life, priest, and consecrated life. As a Jesuit priest, Pope Francis can reflect on his own call to vocation to both the ordained ministry and to the consecrated life. In doing so, he also provides some insight into the celibate life, which is a very real part of these vocations, and a part which modern society struggles to understand. Here is an excerpt (translated from the Italian) on his discussion of the call to the priesthood and religious life:
...And I answer you with two essential elements about how to recognize a vocation to the priesthood or to consecrated life. Pray and walk in the Church. These two things go together, they are intertwined. At the origin of consecrated life there is always an intense experience of God, an experience that isn’t forgotten, which is remembered throughout one’s life! It’s the one Francis had. We can’t calculate or plan this. God always surprises us! It’s God who calls, but it’s important to have a daily relationship with Him, to listen to Him in silence before the Tabernacle and in the depth of our being, to speak with Him, to approach the Sacraments. To have this familiar relationship with the Lord is like having the window of our life open, so He has us hear his voice, what he wants from us. It would be lovely to hear you, to hear the priests present here, the Sisters … It would be very lovely, because each story is unique, but they all begin from an encounter that illumines in depth, which touches the heart and involves the whole person: affection, intellect, senses, everything. The relationship with God is not about a part of ourselves, but the whole of ourselves. It’s such a great love, so beautiful, so true, that it merits all, it merits all our trust. And I would like to say something forcefully, especially today: virginity for the Kingdom of God isn’t a “no,” it’s a “yes”! Of course, it entails the giving up of a conjugal bond and one’s own family, but at the base there is the “yes,” as the answer to Christ’s total “yes” to us, and this “yes” renders one fruitful.
However, here at Assisi there is no need for words! Francis is here, Clare is here, they speak! Their charism continues to speak to so many young people in the whole world: young men and young women who leave everything to follow Jesus on the way of the Gospel.A beautiful expression of the call to this form of life in the Church.
You can find the full translation of the text from the Zenit website, here: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-address-to-young-people-in-assisi