At the dedication of the church of the Sedes Sapientiæ international priests’ residence, Rome (May 27, 2000)
O Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise.
My dear teachers and seminarians:
Today there springs from our heart a song of thanksgiving to the Blessed Trinity for the final completion of the Sedes Sapientiae International Seminary’s new home. In dedicating this chapel we see the coronation of years of intense work that began when my beloved predecessor, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, initiated this project. We can truly consider today’s solemn ceremony as the laying of “the final stone” of the new building that houses you and that is destined for the formation of future diocesan priests from all over the world.
The Preface of the Holy Mass reminds us of the reasons for our praise: “We thank you now for this house of prayer in which you bless your family as we come to you on pilgrimage. Here you reveal your presence by sacramental signs, and make us one with you through the unseen bond of grace.” As we dedicate this church, we contemplate the merciful face of God our Father, who has loved us so much that he has established his dwelling place among us and given us his only begotten Son. While we reflect on how He whom heaven and earth cannot contain begins to inhabit in a special way this house built by men’s hands, there arises spontaneously to our lips the prayer with which Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem: Hear, O Lord, our prayers and pardon our sins! Today we want to renew our resolution to dedicate our whole being to your service, so that you yourself will make us a living temple in the Spirit, until that day when we rejoice in you forever in the heavenly Jerusalem. We ask you, O Lord, not to allow our hearts to be hardened, and to make us attentive to your word, the living and efficacious word that penetrates to the joints of the spirit and the soul, the only word that can bring about in us the deep and lasting conversion to which the Great Jubilee exhorts us.
To be converted means, in a certain sense, to be renewed, leaving behind everything that prevents us from faithfully reflecting Christ’s face. This conversion is unobtainable by human strength alone. It is, first of all, a grace, a gift of God. Attentive meditation on the word of Christ along with assiduous and fervent reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist are the chief means to make this grace flow from the depths of our being, as Jesus revealed to the Samaritan woman: Si scires donum Dei! “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who is saying to you, ‘give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” This gift of God is the Holy Spirit who dwells in our soul through grace. He is the only one capable of renewing all things, as the book of Revelation reminds us. So let us go to the divine Paraclete and ask him to renew our heart and help us discover the tenderness of Christ’s love, this God-with-us, who has deigned to come to live in our house and to remain there.
I noted earlier that the birth of this international seminary is closely linked to the priestly heart of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo. My predecessor wished, in this way, to satisfy a profound aspiration of Blessed Josemaria Escriva: to foster in the souls of all the Christian faithful, both laity and priests, a profound veneration for and sincere union with the person and teachings of the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ and the visible foundation of the Church’s unity. Blessed Josemaria condensed all of this into the expression “to become Roman.” Obviously, since he had such a great love for the variety and richness of the Church’s different rites, he did not mean this in a liturgical or ritual sense, but in a much deeper sense, which goes back to the very roots of the Church founded by Christ. “To be Roman,” he explained, “does not entail any manifestation of provincialism, but rather of authentic ecumenism. It presupposes the desire to enlarge our heart, to open it to all men and women with the redemptive zeal of Christ, who seeks out and welcomes everyone, for he has loved everyone first.”
A great, truly Catholic heart, open to everyone, grows only in a climate of prayer, nourished by untiring contemplation of the goodness of Jesus, who wants to live in our midst. It is in prayer that we learn to “worship God in spirit and in truth.” Prayer is the essential means to attain sanctity. Although the Divine Teacher asks all Christians to pray, this is absolutely indispensable for the priest. As the Holy Father writes: “Constantly in contact with the holiness of God, the priest must himself become holy. His very ministry commits him to a way of life inspired by the radicalism of the Gospel.... From here stems the particular need for prayer in his life. Prayer finds it source in God’s holiness and is at the same time our response to this holiness. I once wrote: ‘Prayer makes the priest and through prayer the priest becomes himself.’ Before all else the priest must indeed be a man of prayer, convinced that time devoted to personal encounter with God is always spent in the best way possible. This not only benefits him; it also benefits his apostolic work.”
To worship God in spirit and in truth also means to learn to love the Cross. “This truth about God,” said the Pope in his Way of the Cross on this past Good Friday, “has been revealed through the cross. Could he not have revealed it in some other way? Perhaps so. Nevertheless, God chose the cross. The Father chose the cross for his Son, and his Son took it upon his shoulders and carried it to the mount of Calvary, and on it offered his life.... The cross is the symbol of love without limits.”
Prayer and love for the cross are, together with fraternal charity, essential elements in any priestly spirituality. All of these elements flow from the Eucharist. I ask our Lord, through the intercession of Blessed Josemaria, to help all of us, living stones of the Church, to become every more deeply “Eucharistic souls,” men who love the Blessed Sacrament and find there the meaning of their own lives.
Before ending, I would like to remind you that our act of thanksgiving to God for this new facility should be joined to thanksgiving to those who daily make possible, through their prayer and generous material help, the success of this International Seminary. Let us pray to God for all of our benefactors, living and dead, asking that he repay their generosity with eternal life.
Try also to be grateful and loyal to the rector of this seminary, to those in charge of your formation and to your colleagues. Let me insist: collaborate with those who are directing this seminary, because they are at your service and know that to govern is to serve, even when this service requires the courage to correct or set higher goals, if need be. I assure you that all are praying every day that you be faithful to our Lord.
My dear seminarians and professors, you know that in the construction of this church old materials were also used which, reworked and transformed, now look completely new. We too, moved by the breath of the Spirit who renews all things, should constantly renew our intellect and heart to make them a worthy habitation for the Most Blessed Trinity. Let us ask our Mother Holy Mary, Sedes Sapientiae, to teach us to understand the wisdom of the Cross, so that we may become, here in Rome and later throughout the world, worshipers in spirit and in truth, such as the Father is always seeking. Amen.