On the occasion of the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, in the Basilica of St. Eugene, Rome (March 28, 2000)
Dear brothers and sisters.
Beloved candidates to the priesthood.
Our joy overflows today at the priestly ordination of this group of deacons of the Prelature of Opus Dei, a day that marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ordination of Blessed Josemaria. Let us give thanks to God, asking the Holy Trinity, through the intercession of this holy priest, to send many faithful vocations to the seminaries and to make all priests very holy.
Those of us that are here present have perhaps read how God sowed in the heart of Blessed Josemaria a divine restlessness, inspirations of the Paraclete that moved his soul deeply, and how he responded with an ever-growing generosity. Until finally, when he was sixteen, he decided to tell his parents, and with their consent, he began studying for the priesthood. He didn’t know what God was asking of him, but he understood that the priesthood was the path that would allow him to be totally available for what some day would be clear to him, as he said with all simplicity in 1973: “Why did I become a priest? Because I thought that it would be easier to fulfill God’s will, which I wasn’t sure of yet. For eight years I had sensed that he was asking something of me, but I didn’t know what it was, until 1928 when I learned what it was. That is why I became a priest.”
All men, and in a special way Christians, have before our eyes a path that leads to heaven, a personal path that God has lovingly prepared from all eternity for each one of us. As St. Paul says, God the Father, in Christ Jesus, chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him, in charity. This divine call to holiness, universal and specific at the same time, unfolds for the greater part of men and women within the framework of the normal circumstances of their ordinary life. Are we conscious of this truth? Are we open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, who impels us and guides us to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ? Do we show ourselves disposed with deeds, not only with words, to identify our will and our aspirations with the divine Will and with the plans that our heavenly Father has drawn up for us, in order to make us happy?
The Most Holy Trinity, sacramentally configuring Blessed Josemaria with Christ the Priest, planted in his soul a very fruitful seed, that would bear its fruit in the world a few years later with the foundation of Opus Dei. It was then, on October 2, 1928, that he saw clearly his personal vocation and understood that God had been preparing him through his prayer and penance to become the patriarch of this portion of the People of God that would spread from pole to pole, until the end of time, with the mission within the Church of reminding people of the call to holiness. This call is addressed to all men and women, in their professional work and in the fulfillment of their ordinary duties as Christians, and as citizens.
How can we fail to raise fervent acts of thanksgiving to God for the gift of our Father’s priesthood, which has been and will always be so fruitful? Join me in giving thanks. And let us beseech our Lord that there not be lacking in the Church the necessary priests, and that they may be humble, generous: holy!
I now direct myself especially to those who are about to receive the ministerial priesthood, also because you are heirs to the treasure of Blessed Josemaria’s sanctity. Like the other faithful of the Prelature, you are sons of Blessed Josemaria’s priestly heart. But from now on you will also be his sons thanks to a new title. Let us all meditate on those words that our holy Founder wrote so many years ago, referring to the first ordination of priests in Opus Dei: “I prayed with great confidence and fervor, over many years, for your brothers who would be ordained and for those who would later follow their path. I prayed so much that I can affirm that all the priests in Opus Dei are sons of my prayer.”
May you never forget it: you are sons in a special way of the prayer and sacrifice of our Father. He taught us many things about the priesthood. I will limit myself now to comment briefly on some characteristics of the priestly vocation, making use of notes that our Father took on small pieces of paper that he always carried with him and that he later meditated on with calm in his prayer.
The first of these notes goes directly to the core of what I want to remind you of: “The priestly vocation,” writes Blessed Josemaria, “brings with it the demand of holiness. This holiness is not just any kind of holiness, a common holiness, nor even just an eminent holiness. It requires heroic holiness.” You have to strive to be truly saints. Holiness is the goal that all Christians are called to, but the priest has a special duty to be an example. You will achieve it—I repeat, echoing our Father’s message—if you act at all times as men in love. Never allow routine to enter into the horizon of your life. Fulfil with love all the duties, the joyful duties, of your new condition: act with all the love that your heart is capable of. It will be easy to do so if you strive for a new conversion every day, as any Christian who wants to be consistent with his faith ought to do.
A priest cannot keep for himself the holiness he is called to attain. He must communicate it to those around him. Jesus Christ, when he instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood at the Last Supper, said to the Apostles: “for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” Blessed Josemaria makes use of these words of our Lord when he writes: “The priest is called to sanctify himself and to sanctify.” And also: “Your work, priest, is not only to save souls, but to sanctify them.”
You have in front of you an immense panorama. There are no borders to the field where the divine Sower sends you out to sow, cultivate and gather in the harvest of souls that our Father God expects. God’s grace is especially abundant during the Holy Year. And you, priests of the year 2000, have to collaborate with all your strength, in union with the lay faithful, in a new flourishing of Christian life in the third millennium. In this context, I invite you to meditate on some considerations of John Paul II in one of his Letters to priests: “In our ministry, especially our liturgical ministry, we must always be aware that we are on a pilgrimage to the Father, guided by the Son in the Holy Spirit. It is precisely to this awareness that we are called by the words with which we conclude every prayer: ‘Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.’”
Authority to announce the Word of God; power to forgive sins and infuse grace through the administration of the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist: these are the fundamental means that the Church confers on you today for the fulfillment of your mission. But in order to obtain lasting fruits, there is no other way than to identify yourselves more and more closely with Christ. The sacrament that you are about to receive—and that will configure you with Christ the Head of the Church—will be exercised especially each time that you pronounce the words of the sacramental absolution in Confession, each time that, in the Mass, you renew the Sacrifice of Calvary. “How could these wondrous words not be at the very heart of every priestly life? Let us repeat them every time as if it were the first! Let us take care that they are never said out of habit. They express the fullest realization of our priesthood.”
Strive to do so each day, sustained by your trust in God’s grace. Thus there will become a reality in each of you that other affirmation of Blessed Josemaria: “A priest ought to continuously be a crucifix.” May all men and women, on seeing your life, on observing how you carry out your sacred ministry, be drawn, by the force of your example, to Christ our Lord. The goal placed before you is high, but not inaccessible. The whole Church is praying for you and for all the priests of the world.
I invite you all to continue praying for the Pope and for the apostolic fruits of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land; for all the Bishops of the Church, and in a special way for the Vicar Cardinal of Rome; for all the priests in the world. I extend to your parents and brothers and sisters my congratulations for this gift God is bestowing on your families, and I ask them to pray for you and for all priests.
We entrust these intentions, and those that each one holds in his heart, to Blessed Josemaria, asking him to present them to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Mother of God and Mother of mankind, Mother of all Christians and especially of priests. Holy Mary will intercede before her Son Jesus, who holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Amen.