This past week, Pope Francis had a book-length interview published. A French sociologist, Dominique Wolton, did the interview and it seems to give a great insight into the person of our Holy Father.
In the interview, Pope Francis speaks about the time when he was a younger priest, a superior in his religious community of the Jesuits, and sought the assistance of a psychoanalyst.
This should not be a cause for scandal or be considered a great revolution in the Church, but an example of the fact that science and religion can work hand in hand and psychology can be a tremendous asset to people of faith.
In the “Ratio Fundamentalis,” or “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” published by the Vatican’s Congregation of Clergy (Dec. 8, 2016), the four pillars of priestly formation are presented: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. And unless the human, who can be helped and healed with the help, if needed, of psychologists, is the solid basis, no real formation can take place. Grace builds upon nature. Only a happy and healthy man can grow and be formed into a holy, intelligent, pastoral priest.
All U.S. seminaries employ either full-time or part-time a “house counselor,” a fully-trained priest, religious Sister, or layperson who is there to aid both the external formators (seminary rector, academic dean, etc.) and the internal formators (spiritual directors) in the holistic formation of the seminarians.
Pope Francis, a man taken from among men, demonstrates, once again, the example of a someone who is striving to be whole, to become more fully integrated intellectually, spiritually, psychologically so that he can be more fully the pastoral presence of the Lord to his people.
It behooves us all to get the help that we need at any particular time – be it physical, psychological or spiritual. The stain of Original Sin assures us that we all need help. Our growth in the Lord cannot take place unless we are constantly taking the necessary steps to heal ourselves.
In another era, a Pope visiting a psychoanalyst might have been scandalous. Pope Francis teaches us again by his actions that we are all are human and we all are in need of the
healing presence of each other. This is the way that Grace works, by being Jesus to one another.