“I would say to young people seek happiness. I found it in Jesus. But don’t seek a passing happiness. Seek a happiness that lasts forever,” Fr. Salvatore Marco Mantone said.
Before the Eucharist, I understood Jesus’ dream for me…” In an interview with Exaudi and COPE in St. Peter’s Square, Salvatore Marco Montone expressed this, the day before he would be ordained a priest by Pope Francis today, Good Shepherd Sunday, along with eight others.
He explained joyfully how his story is one of love, beginning with his birth on Good Friday, the day the Lord showed his great love to the entire world.
The 32-year-old Italian priest born in Calabria not only shares his emotion for his imminent ordination, but also how he discovered his vocation, whether he has ever had second doubts, and what advice he would give to young people.
“I would say to young people seek happiness. I found it in Jesus. But don’t seek a passing happiness. Seek a happiness that lasts forever,” he said. “When the Lord receives our desire for happiness, He does something greater than what we could think.”
Following is the text of the interview:
How would you describe your emotion as tomorrow you will be ordained a priest?
It’s certainly a great emotion, also because to find oneself here at the center of the universal Church with Pope Francis and say ‘Yes” to the Lord forever fills the heart with joy. So I’d say the first emotion is certainly joy. Then, at this moment, the heart is also filled by much trepidation, in face of such a great call. One is never altogether ready. Woe to us if we feel ready. In reality the Lord works on us every day, so we are never ready. But in the Lord’s work on us, it’s Jesus who prepares us. Another lovely thing of which Francis always reminds us is that it is the People of God — he calls it the holy People of God — that works on us. We are called to listen to this People of God who asks us to become saints. Notice though that the most beautiful thing is that, through Baptism, all Christians are called to become saints, and the Lord arouses in each one the desire to follow a particular way. Here, in my case, the Lord aroused the desire of the priesthood. My story is one that speaks of love.
The Lord has looked on me with love from the beginning. I was born on Good Friday of 1989, hence a particular day, the day in which Jesus gave His life out of love for us. And when I was baptized, as the white garments were finished, the priest clothed me with the priestly stole. Today, thinking back on that moment, I see the work God did on me.
There is a word that the Pope says during the Ordination: “The Lord who began His work in you as a child…” It’s beautiful, because the Lord begins a work in us when we are children. It’s a project of love to which we with our smallness can say yes and collaborate with it.
Have you ever had difficult moments or given a second thought about the path of the priesthood?
There were difficult moments but note, I never thought that this was not the right way. I made my heart available to understand if what I should do was God’s Will. The secret — as my spiritual director taught me — is not to ask oneself why certain things happen, but to ask oneself how the Lord wants to enter powerfully in the things that happen to us. Jesus doesn’t want our harm but, if He permits it, it’s because He wishes to enter that hurt with power. Therefore in all vocations God’s work must be sought, asking how God wants to act in our life. And when you recognize this you are happy and then doubt vanishes and the certainty opens to your eyes that Jesus is walking with you and leads you. If you abandon yourself in Jesus even difficult moments — I’m not saying moments of crisis, but difficult moments — can be overcome. And then love the Church as a Mother, also when we don’t understand her: a mother can even be mistaken sometimes, but one must love her more in fact because of this. Pope Francis teaches this.
How did you discover your vocation?
I discovered it before the Eucharist. I was in university and in that time, during a nocturnal Eucharistic Adoration, I felt a great desire to pray. I knew that I could find Jesus alive and true in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I began to listen and, during the night, Jesus manifested His light. During that Adoration, I understood that Jesus was calling me. Then I exploded in a cry of joy because I was happy, I had understood Jesus’ dream for me.
And what would you say today to young people seeking their way?
I would say to young people: seek happiness. I found it in Jesus. But don’t seek a passing happiness. Seek a happiness that lasts forever. When the Lord receives our desire for happiness, He does something greater than what we could think. I did not think that I would be here, speaking with you now. In leaving everything I have found much more. It’s beautiful to think that one who follows the Lord is happy and is happy forever. I am so! And therefore, dear young people, seek happiness and don’t be afraid to find it in Jesus!