Madrid -- September 3, 2000
At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, in the Basilica of St. Michael
My dear brothers and sisters.
My dear sons who are about to receive the sacrament of the priesthood.
1. This is a day of rejoicing for the Prelature of Opus Dei, and therefore, for the Church, which is about to receive from our Lord the gift of new priests. It is an unforgettable day for these future priests, conscious of the special affection that God is showing them through this specific consecration that will destine them to the service of all souls. Vos autem dixi amicos. I have called you friends, Jesus has said to you, as he did to the first twelve, from whom you are inheriting the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing the Christian people, as collaborators with the bishops.
The priestly vocation, consecration and mission sink their roots, transcending time and history, in the intimate life of the Blessed Trinity.
The Trinitarian character of priestly ordination is shown clearly in the prayer of consecration that I will pronounce in a few minutes. The Church prays: “All powerful Father, you confer on these your servants the dignity of the priesthood. Renew in their hearts the Spirit of holiness. May they receive from you the second degree of the priesthood and may they be, by their conduct, an example for all.”
The entire initiative for man’s salvation comes from God the Father, fount and origin of the Trinity. He sent his eternal Son into the world, making him the one Mediator in the New Covenant. Now once again all of the initiative comes from God. He is the Lord of this vineyard of the Church, planted in the world by his Son and conferred to the care of the apostles and their successors under the guidance of the Paraclete. Our heavenly Father wants us to ask for workers so that his field may bear abundant fruit. How can we fail to echo the words of Jesus himself, who invites us to beg the Lord of heaven and earth that workers never be lacking for his harvest? How can we fail to insist on constant prayer for priestly vocations? God hears the petitions of his sons and daughters. He is always ready to answer fervent prayers whose only interest is the good of the Church and humanity. But our petition has to be persevering. Is that how our prayer is? Do we insist with holy stubbornness, day after day, in our prayer for the Church, for the Pope, for the bishops, for priests, for vocations?
2. In the ordination prayer, we invoke the Trinity to confer on these deacons the dignity of the priesthood, that is to say, the seal and the grace of the ministerial priesthood, so that, configured in a special way with Jesus, they can pronounce with full efficacy — nomine et in persona Christi, in the name and in the person of Christ—the words with which the Master conferred the holiest gifts on the Church: “This is my Body, which will be given up for you. This is the cup of my Blood... It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.” And also those others: “I absolve you from your sins...”
“This is the source of the priest’s incomparable dignity,” exclaimed Blessed Josemaria Escriva, filled with a deep gratitude for God’s condescension towards mankind. And he continued, “It is a greatness which is on loan: it is completely compatible with my own littleness. I pray to God our Lord to give all of us priests the grace to perform holy things in a holy way, to reflect in every aspect of our lives the wonders of the greatness of God.”
What would become of mankind if there were no priests? The Church would cease to exist. The world would be left separated from God. We know through faith that this will never happen. Jesus himself has pledged his word, “Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” And, together with the Father, he has sent the Holy Spirit to remain with us eternally. But he is waiting, I repeat, for our insistent prayer. We all have the duty and responsibility to ask for the gift of many holy priestly vocations. Therefore we make our own the burning prayer of the Pope to Christ: “Pastores dabo vobis. With these words the whole Church directs itself to you, who are the ‘Lord of the harvest,’ begging for workers for your harvest, which is immense (Cf. Mt 9:38). Good Shepherd, you yourself sent the first workers into your harvest. They were twelve. After almost two millennia, when your voice has reached the ends of the earth, we feel with greater urgency the need to pray, so that there will not be lacking those who, through the ministerial priesthood, build up the Church with the power of the word of God and the sacraments; those who, in your name, are administrators of the Eucharist, through which the Church, which is your Body, continually grows.”
3. The priestly consecration is carried out by the power of the Paraclete himself, who, in the Annunciation, descended upon Mary to form in her the most holy humanity of Jesus, the one and eternal Priest of the New Covenant between God and man, which was to be ratified on Calvary.
Now also the Holy Spirit, while leading the Church on the long path of history, enables her to dispense the new life that Jesus obtained for us. “At the cost of His ‘departure’ through the sacrifice of the Cross on Calvary... Christ remains in the Church: He remains in the power of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit who ‘gives life’ (Jn 6:63). It is the Holy Spirit who ‘gives’ this divine life: a life which revealed itself in Christ’s paschal mystery as stronger than death, a life which entered human history with Christ’s resurrection.
“The priesthood, ” explains John Paul II, “is completely at the service of this life: it bears witness to it through the service of the Word; it generates it; it regenerates it and spreads it abroad through the service of the sacraments. Before all else the priest himself lives this life, which is the deepest source of his maturity and also the guarantee of the spiritual fruitfulness of his whole service.”
Within a few minutes, after silently placing my hands on these deacons, I will ask the Spirit of holiness to descend upon them, to renew their hearts and make them partakers of the priesthood of Christ, so that they may act in persona Christi when they preach the word of God and carry out the sacramental actions, and be at every moment an example of Christian life for mankind.
My dear sisters and brothers: pray to the Lord of the harvest—as I will never tire of repeating—that there will always be many holy priests. Pray for our Holy Father John Paul II, for his august person and his intentions; pray for all my brothers in the episcopate, especially for Cardinal Rouco, the Archbishop of Madrid.
I congratulate with my whole heart all the parents and relatives of the new priests. With words of the founder of Opus Dei, I remind you, and everyone present: “Pray for them, so that they will always be faithful, devout, learned, committed and happy priests. Commend them especially to our Lady. Ask her to take special care of those who will spend their lives serving her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Priest.” Amen.