Speaking to Priests, gathered from every corner of the world, for a retreat in Rome entitled ‘Called to Holiness for a New Evangelisation’, the Holy Father reminded them of something very simple –

‘Be tender, as God is tender’.

With these words, he asked them to recall that God is kindness and compassion, ‘slow to anger, abounding in love’. And so it should be with Priests who, he said, are called to a ministry of tenderness “which is a divine grace”.

It is all too easy to criticise Priests – and sometimes criticism is required, although it should always be done charitably. But it is perhaps harder to remember that the life of a Priest is not an easy one – if it were, maybe we would have many more of them. Pope Francis seems very well aware of this and he speaks to them with great kindness, like any good father, encouraging them when things are difficult and reminding them of the grace of their vocation.

The Holy Father also reminded the Priests of the need to spend time before the Tabernacle, even when prayer does not come easily. But there, he noted, they “will find Love”.

We all have a part to play in the life of Priests, just as they have a part to play in our lives. If nothing else, the least we can do is pray for Priests, asking the good God to grant them whatever graces they require, and commending them all to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin, whom the Church calls the Queen of Priests.