VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The decrease in vocations to religious life, including in the Society of Jesus, is a lesson in humility and a reminder that a call to religious life depends on God, said Pope Francis to the Jesuits in Greece.

“The Lord sends vocations,” the Pope told his Jesuit colleagues on December 4 during a meeting at the apostolic nunciature in Athens.

“If they don’t come, it’s not up to us. I believe that the Lord gives us a teaching for religious life. For us, that makes sense in the sense of humiliation, ”he said.

As is customary when the Pope meets Jesuits on a trip abroad, a transcript of his words was published a few weeks later by the Jesuit newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica.

According to the text published on December 16, Pope Francis had an hour-long conversation with seven members of the Jesuit community.

Jesuit Father Sébastien Freris told the Pope about a Jesuit newspaper which ceased to appear due to the lack of members in the community.

The Pope said that when he began his novitiate there were 33,000 Jesuits in the world. However, now there are “more or less half of them, and we will continue to decrease in numbers.”

Reflecting on Ignatian spirituality, the Pope told the Jesuit community that the humiliation that comes from declining vocations is a way to achieve the “third degree of humility”.

In his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola describes the third degree of humility as the desire for “poverty, dishonor and even (to) be a fool of God, since Christ was”.

“The third degree of humility is the goal of the exercises,” said Pope Francis. “What does the Lord mean by that?” Humble yourself, humiliate yourself! I don’t know if I explained myself. You have to get used to humiliation.

Another priest, Belgian Jesuit Father Tonny Cornoedus, spoke to the Pope about his work with refugees and recounted how he was mistakenly arrested for human trafficking.

“A beautiful humiliation! replied the Pope.

Praising the priest’s tireless work with refugees, Pope Francis said the end of Jesuit life should be “full of work, maybe tired, full of contradictions, but with a smile, with the joy of having does its job ”.

“This seed of joy, the ‘tip’, the smile, is the grace of a full, full life. A life with sins, yes, but full of the joy of serving God. Go ahead and thank you for your testimony! said the Pope to the priest.