A new challenge – Fr. Florián Rodero, L.C.
Fr. Florián Rodero, L.C., has been for almost 30 years spiritual director of so many young seminarians at the Mater Ecclesiae College. Welcoming the opportunity of this change in mission, we asked him to write, albeit briefly, a testimony of what these past years have been like for him in the beautiful work of training future priests for the people of God.
The essential mission of the priest is the salvation of souls, because it was the mission of Christ the priest, as the “creed” constantly and clearly reminds us: “for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven”, and to fully realize this divine design was incarnated, died on the cross and rose again. This consideration springs up spontaneously in me at this moment when I have had to change the way I carry out my priestly ministry: from exercising it as a formator of those who are preparing to be faithful priests and saints, to dedicating my ministry to the pastoral care of the faithful of a parish, in unison with other activities related to my priestly life.
I thank the Lord, from the depths of my priestly heart, for having entrusted me with the priceless, valuable and irreplaceable mission of preparing candidates who would be shepherds of the people of God in the future. For almost thirty years (three-quarters of my life of priestly ministry) I have accompanied as spiritual director some eight hundred and fifty seminarians and I have tried, with the light and love of the Holy Spirit, to lead them to the steps of the altar of Christ the priest. Thanks to all those who placed their lives in my fragile hands and spiritual destitution and trusted my word, word (advice, exhortation or admonition) that I wanted to be none other than that of a faithful transmitter of what the Spirit wanted for them.
Thanks to the many formators, in tune with whom, we have tried to teach the candidates for the diocesan priesthood the path that will lead them to be priests for God and for their brothers. My personal experience has allowed me to conclude that the best way to form and assimilate the formation that is to be instilled in the life of a seminarian is, in addition to the specific knowledge and preparation that a formator should be adorned with, the testimony and example of life priestly: verba movent exempla trahunt.
To the above I add what I have always pretended to be: a father and a friend to all seminarians and I ask the Lord that all formators who dedicate and will dedicate their ministry to the arduous but beautiful and primordial task of forming future priests be parents and friends for each of his students. And all this with simple, spontaneous and natural joy.
Together with what I have already expressed, I have tried to persuade seminarians not to tire of following Christ and particularly through the imitation of his human and divine heart. Being meek and humble like the Heart of Christ will assure them the fidelity, the holiness of life and the fruitfulness of their future and immediate ministry to which they aspire, in which they believe and in which they hope to fulfill it fully by and with the grace of God. I have also tried, actively and passively, to instill in them that in their ministry they are the servants of divine mercy. This is how St. Polycarp recommended it to priests: “that priests have bowels of mercy and show compassion towards all…” (Letter to the Philippians, 6, 1-6).I have realized and am fully convinced that prayer is essential in the life of a seminarian and a priest. That is why I have insisted, like St. Paul, opportunely and untimely, to all my spiritual children that they never neglect prayer.
Many times I remember what a lawyer from Lyon answered when he was asked back from Ars: what have you seen in Ars? And he would reply: “I have seen God in a man.” This is the miracle of conversion that prayer does in a praying priest. St. Gregory the Great wanted the shepherd of souls to make a dialogue with God out of his life without forgetting men and to dialogue with men without forgetting God.
In many ways, I have tried to instill in your hearts as seminarians to the priesthood a loving and maternal devotion to Mary. The presence of Mary in the life of the seminarian, potentially a priest, is indispensable. I hope that, in the present and in the future, every day, when they climb the steps of the altar to offer God the sacrifice of his divine Son, they will never lack his maternal company. I have also insisted that they pray frequently and confidently the Lauretan invocation: “Ianua Coeli”, recalling the words of the liturgy at the Mass of Mary Mediatrix of all graces: tell him nice things about me.
I end as Pope Francis usually does after praying the Angelus on Sundays in St. Peter’s Square: “And don’t forget to pray for me.”
Fr. Florián Rodero, L.C.