May 4, 2015

VATICAN CITY – Despite fewer vocations to consecrated life, those responsible for formation in religious institutes must know how to say no to unsuitable candidates, said Pope Francis.

Turning away unsuitable candidates will help religious congregations avoid a "graver crisis of quality" down the road, the pope said.

He made his comments during an audience with about 1,300 novice directors and other formation ministers at the Vatican April 11.

"But in reality, there is an indubitable decrease in quantity, and this makes the work of formation – one that might truly form the heart of Jesus in the hearts of our young people – all the more urgent," he said.

The pope described consecrated life as "beautiful" and "one of the most precious treasures of the Church."

He called it "a privilege" to be in formation work.

Novice directors and others responsible for formation must have "a great heart for the young, so as to form in them great hearts, able to welcome everyone, rich in mercy, full of tenderness," he said.

The pope rejected the idea that young people today are "mediocre and not generous."

They need to experience that it is "more blessed to give than to receive, that there is great liberty in an obedient life, great fruitfulness in a pure heart, and great richness in possessing nothing," he said.

He emphasized the need for formation staff members to be "lovingly attentive" to each candidate and "evangelically demanding" in every phase of formation.

Underlining the importance of vocational discernment, the pope noted psychologists and spiritual directors have said "young people, who unconsciously feel they have something of an imbalance . . . or a deviation, unconsciously seek solid structures that protect them, to protect themselves."

"And here is the discernment: knowing how to say no," the pope said.