At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, Torreciudad, Spain (September 1, 2002)
1. From time immemorial, the Christian people have viewed Marian shrines as the “home of their Mother,” places where the children of God lovingly go to honor our Lady, to entrust their needs to her and to thank her for the gifts they have obtained through her intercession. These shrine are also, as Pope John Paul II said, “authentic Cenacles, where faithful from all walks of life can seek a recollected atmosphere in intense prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.”
These words of the Holy Father are fulfilled in a special way today here in the Shrine of Torreciudad, the setting for this priestly ordination of a group of deacons of the Prelature of Opus Dei. By his words “do this in memory of me,” pronounced during the Last Supper in the Cenacle at Jerusalem, Jesus Christ instituted the priesthood and ordained the apostles, who would transmit this gift, together with the Sacrament of the Eucharist, to other men, right to the end of time.
Tradition doesn’t place our Lady in the upper room of that house in Jerusalem, where Jesus was gathered with his closest disciples to celebrate the Passover. But we can well imagine that she was nearby. Both piety and historical realism authorize us to find our Lady silently and discreetly nearby, in the very moment when the priestly ministry was born. Her presence becomes evident a few hours later when our Lord, Priest and Victim, consummates his bloody sacrifice on the altar of the Cross.
Our Lady is not unrelated to the priesthood of the Church, as she is not foreign to any reality of the supernatural order. God wanted all the graces merited by Jesus to reach us through Mary. In addition, the divine maternity of our Lady and Christ’s priesthood are closely related. “By assuming human nature in the Incarnation, the eternal Son of God fulfilled the necessary condition to become, through his death and resurrection, the one Priest of all humanity...There is an intimate connection between the maternity of Mary and Christ’s priesthood. Hence a special bond also exists between the ministerial priesthood and Mary Most Holy.”
Let us keep this reality very present in our lives, especially those of you who are about to be ordained priests of Jesus Christ. Go to our Lady in all your needs. Strive to discover her maternal presence in all the different circumstances in your life, and particularly when you carry out the acts proper to the ministerial priesthood. In those moments, and most especially in the administration of the sacrament of Penance and at Holy Mass, it is not you but Christ himself who is directly and immediately acting in souls, using you as instruments. Therefore I advise you to frequently meditate on those words of that holy priest, Blessed Josemaría: “All of us Christians can and should be not just other Christs, alter Christus, but Christ himself: ipse Christus! But in the priest this happens in a direct way, by virtue of the sacrament.”
My dear ordinands, let me remind you of two circumstances that are part of the plans of divine Providence. You are receiving the priesthood in the centennial year of Blessed Josemaría’s birth and in the year of his canonization. Therefore yours is a special responsibility to follow in his footsteps. He prayed especially for you when he prayed for the holiness of his priest sons and for all the priests in the world.
2. The founder of Opus Dei said that “the primary Marian devotion ...is the Holy Mass.” Well anchored in the Church’s tradition, he wrote: “Each day, when he comes down into the priest’s hands, Christ renews his real presence among us, with his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity: the same Body and Blood that he took in the womb of the Virgin Mary. During the sacrifice of the Altar, our Lady’s participation evokes her silent reserve when accompanying her Son throughout Palestine. The Mass is an act of the Blessed Trinity. By the will of the Father, with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, the Son offers himself in a redeeming sacrifice. Within this unfathomable mystery we can make out, as though veiled, the most pure face of Mary, Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Spirit.”
This reality has importance consequences for our spiritual life. “The encounter with Jesus, in the Sacrifice of the Altar, necessarily brings with it an encounter with Mary, his Mother.” Likewise, Marian devotion necessarily leads us to Jesus, to the Mass, to the Tabernacle. “At the root of the Eucharist lies Mary’s virginal and maternal life, her overflowing experience of God, her path of faith and love,” the Pope tells us. And he adds: “If the Body that we eat and the Blood that we drink are the Lord’s inestimable gift for us wayfarers, this gift also bring with it, like fragrant Bread, the savor and perfume of the Virgin Mother.”
Let us strive then to prepare for Mass, to “live it,” and to give thanks after communion, in close union with Holy Mary. In this way, our celebration or assistance at the Holy Sacrifice will bring us an extraordinary supernatural efficacy, because we will be walking very close to our Mother, who teaches us to unite ourselves fully to the Sacrifice of her Son. John Paul II tells us that in Mary’s consent to the Incarnation of the Word, “one can see an adhesion to the substantial truth of the priesthood of Christ and the acceptance of a call to cooperate in its realization in the world.”
3. Every holy priest, down through the centuries, has sensed Mary’s special intervention in the history of his own vocation. The same can be said of lay saints. Blessed Josemaría always attributed a primary role to our Lady in the process of his call to the priesthood, a condition desired by God for the birth and development of the Work in the bosom of the Church. So clear was his awareness of the special intervention of our Mother and the Mother of God that he did not hesitate to affirm that he recalled “many tangible proofs of the help of the Mother of God. I declare this openly,” he wrote shortly before his passage to heaven, “as a notary signs a document to give testimony, so that my thankfulness will be on record, testifying to events that would not have taken place except for God’s grace, which always comes to us through the intercession of his Mother.”
Let us keep this ineffable reality very much in mind and act accordingly. And especially, let us go to our Lady as we prepare for October 6th, when the Holy Father will inscribe Blessed Josemaría in the list of the saints. Our Mother in heaven plays a central role in the daily conversion that we need to undertake in order to receive God’s grace fruitfully. Let us ask her to win this grace for each and every one who will attend the canonization in Rome, and for those who will unite themselves spiritually to this act in their homes. We ask especially for these gifts here in these shrine, where our Lady draws so many souls to Jesus by means of Penance and the Eucharist. Let us take advantage of the abundant gifts that Our Lady of Torreciudad wants to win for us.
Before ending, I would like to cordially congratulate the parents, brothers and sisters and friends of the new priests. Commend them to the protection of the Mother of God, so that the ministry that the Church today entrusts to them will bear abundant fruit. Let us pray that they be, as Blessed Josemaría desired, “pious, learned, faithful and cheerful, with a sporting spirit both in the supernatural and the human terrains.” Let us pray for the Holy Father John Paul II and for all the bishops, priests and deacons, and in a special way, here, for my beloved brother in the episcopate, the Bishop of Barbastro. Let us not fail to pray daily for many vocations of priests with a hunger for holiness. They are indispensable for administering God’s forgiveness and for satisfying the needs of all souls with the bread of God’s word and with the Eucharistic Bread.
Thus, through our personal struggle and apostolate, through teaching the Church’s doctrine and the grace of the sacraments, we will help many people to identify themselves with Jesus, despite the weaknesses and miseries intrinsic to our human condition. Our Lady will help us fulfill this mission, because “the divinization that grace confers on us is now the consequence of the fact that the Word has assumed human nature, in the most pure womb of Holy Mary.”