Pope Francis, With the Smell of the Sheep. The Pope speaks to Priests, Bishops, and Other Shepherds.

pope francisPope Francis, With the Smell of the Sheep. The Pope speaks to Priests, Bishops, and Other Shepherds. Foreword by Bishop Robert Barron
Editors: Giuseppe Merola
ISBN: 978-1-62698-224-6
Price: £14.99
the Pastoral Review Book shop 10% off price: £13.50 (+P&P)
Year: 2017
Publisher: Orbis Books

This book is a collection of all the talks of Pope Francis with seminarians, consecrated men and women, priests, and bishops on different occasions in many countries. It covers a variety of themes, touches on painful issues, and offers thought-provoking reflections. The Pope speaks about the ideal of a priest, about his spiritual formation, relationship with the lay and the bishops, and life in the Church.

One of the main themes of all the talks is pastoral proximity and availability to the people. Pope Francis writes about a priestly anointing which through Christ reaches the edges of reality. Priests should make people feel the nearness of God, his comforting hand; he should be familiar with the wounds of the people. Without 'going out' of oneself a priest cannot be close to the people, and experience the power of his anointing. Pope Francis emphasizes a twofold transcendence of a priest, to God and to one's neighbour.

Another motif is an imperishable, missionary joy. It means seeing that the Lord is always faithful to the people and witnessing to the mercy that transforms. It springs from gratitude for all the blessings of God.
Pope Francis also points to the importance of spiritual detachment, which consists in leaving everything behind and living like a 'light brigade' of Christ. Priests should have inner freedom, have a spirit of poverty, and be detached from wealth which makes one lose the focus on the spiritual. Inner freedom frees from ambitions. It does not make one empty but open to God's superabundant gifts. There must be no place for personal ambition, money or worldly importance. Two sins of pastors, money and vanity, make people distant from them.

He also mentions some aspects of the role of a priest in the community life: listening to the word of God, walking together with people, and proclaiming to the outskirts. He defines a priest as a 'man of mercy and compassion, close to his people and a servant of all'. He writes about the beauty of priestly fraternity, priests following Christ together in a variety of gifts and personalities, and warns against gossip which is a form of terrorism.

Pope Francis dedicates much attention to the sacrament of reconciliation. A true merciful priest takes care of a person, listens to him/her, and accompanies him/her on a journey of reconciliation. He allows a person to repent and amend.

Another theme is evangelizing. A great challenge for the Church is to become mother, it should bear children through evangelizing. It grows through tenderness and attraction, which is human empathy guided by the Holy Spirit, and not proselytism. The Pope finely expresses it, 'People expect to find in us the gaze of Jesus...a happiness that seeps into the heart'. He also stresses the need for prayer. Church without prayer becomes an Non Governmental Office. Priests should live praying and pray living, because it allows one to open oneself to the Lord and to others.

This book is highly recommendable to lay people and especially to the clergy, due to the deep insights into the spiritual life of priests, a fresh look at their everyday ministry, and a live response to the everyday concerns of an ordinary priest.

Yulia Rozumna, University of Nottingham

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