At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, Pamplona, Spain (August 29, 2002)
1. "Do this in my memory." With these words, Jesus ordained the apostles to perpetuate the Eucharistic Sacrifice and conferred on them the fullness of the priestly power, so that they and their successors, the bishops, would be able to transmit this gift to others—“so that they might be appointed in the order of the priesthood and be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ.”
Today in Pamplona, and within a few days in the Shrine of Our Lady of Torreciudad, this great marvel will be repeated. Let us not become used to this manifestation of God’s mercy, who calls some men to the path of the priesthood and makes possible their generous response. We ask him to grant this gift to many men, because, as the Pope says in one of his catechetical addresses to the faithful, priestly vocations “are fundamental for the Church, for the faith, for the future of the faith in this world.”
The priesthood certainly is a divine gift for the one who receives it and for the whole Church; but it is a gift that requires the full correspondence of those who are chosen. In addition to the person’s own struggle to be faithful, the insistent prayer of all Catholics is also very important. Let all of us here present consider what we personally have done, through our prayer and sacrifice, to win from the Lord of the harvest a new flourishing of holy and faithful priestly vocations in the Church.
2. We have listened to the announcement of the prophet Isaíah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” These words refer to Jesus Christ, but Christians can make them their own, because all of us are, by Baptism and Confirmation, “other Christs;” or, as Blessed Josemaría used to say, ipse Christus, “Christ himself.” Today, however, the liturgy applies them in a specific way to these brothers of ours who are going to receive the sacrament of Orders. “The priestly ministry, before being a function, is a mystery of grace. It is the mystery of a special call, by which a member of the People of God is invited to dedicate his whole life to the cause of the Kingdom, being marked by the sacrament of Orders with a special character identifying him with Christ the Priest.”
My dear ordinands: our Lord has destined you for something truly extraordinary. You are to “bring good tidings to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor . . . to comfort all who mourn.” You must bring God to souls and souls to God. “The sacrament of Orders,” says Blessed Josemaría, “equips the priest to lend our Lord his voice, his hands, his whole being. . . . This is the source of the priest’s incomparable dignity. It is a greatness which is on loan: it is completely compatible with my own littleness. I pray to God our Lord,” he continued, “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.”
This task far surpasses our human strength. Therefore we all have to feel the responsibility of praying for priests every day, beginning with the Holy Father and the bishops, upon whom falls the sweet but heavy burden of the Church’s pastoral care. I beg you to pray for my intentions and, of course, for those of my beloved brother in the episcopate, Archbishop Fernando Sebastián of Pamplona.
3. We are celebrating the centennial year of the founder of Opus Dei’s birth, and today only 38 days remain until the solemn ceremony of his canonization. These new priests are sons of his priestly heart. During these months, recalling various aspects of Blessed Josemaría’s life, perhaps we have stopped to consider his incessant effort to bring the good news to all sectors of the world. God gave him great qualities: intelligence, likeableness, a capacity to attract others, eloquence in words. He had a splendid training in a variety of human disciplines, in law and literature, in theology and history. But he always assured us that his only concern, as a priest, was “to speak about God, and only about God.” And how well he did so! During his fruitful life, he spread far and wide coins of gold, of God’s love, to great crowds, to small groups, to individuals, in a tireless catechesis moved by his zeal to satisfy the spiritual hunger of hearts. How many souls, prisoners of sin, were freed through his dedication to administering the sacrament of Penance, especially in the early years of his ministry! How many tears he dried and how many hearts he consoled with his fatherly words! How many lights he enkindled in the souls of countless people, leading them to discover the specific consequences of their dignity as God’s children!
For you, new priests, configured today with Christ the Shepherd and Head of the Church, I pray that you may be fully available to sacrifice yourselves joyfully for all souls. First of all for the other faithful of Opus Dei and for the people who come to the Prelature’s means of formation.
Also here the founder of Opus Dei’s heroic life offers us very useful lessons. Our model, of course, is always Jesus. But if in the course of your years of priesthood, you make an effort to meditate on how Blessed Josemaría exercised his mission as Good Shepherd, and try to apply his example to your care for your priestly ministry, you can be sure that you will end up identifying yourself with Jesus Christ in your daily activity. You will discover so many examples of his untiring dedication to souls and his complete self-forgetfulness; you will see the total priority he gave to pastoral concerns over his own tastes and preferences, and the mortifications and sacrifices he offered to assist the path of purification of those who came to his confessional. Go also to the intercession of his successor, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, and you will find your faithfulness as men of God strengthened.
Meditate on the life of Blessed Josemaría and draw from it practical lessons for your priestly ministry. And may all of us allow ourselves to be touched by God’s grace, which reaches us through the sacraments. May all of us, with faith and humility, have recourse to Confession and to the Eucharist; may we all receive periodic spiritual direction. You will be surprised at the good these means can do for your souls.
I also thank you, parents and brothers and sisters of those about to be ordained, for your prayers and the good example you have given them, which has done so much to help prepare their souls, perhaps without your even realizing it, to receive the divine gift of the priesthood.
Let us finish, as always, by invoking our Lady. Let us ask Holy Mary that these new priests may be priests to the measure of the heart of Christ, worthy sons of the priestly spirit of Blessed Josemaría. Amen.