At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, at the Shrine of Torreciudad, Spain (August 31, 2003)
Dear brothers and sisters.
My dear deacon sons:
1. Once more we find ourselves in this Marian shrine to carry out Jesus’ command at the Last Supper: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19). Today not only are we sacramentally renewing the sacrifice of Calvary, as in every Mass, but we will also confer the sacrament of Holy Orders upon a group of deacons. Once they become priests of the New Testament, they will visibly represent Christ, the Head of the Church, before the rest of the faithful. Then, as living instruments of the Supreme Priest, they will lend him their intellects and wills, their hands, their souls and their bodies, in order to act in persona Christi in preaching the Word of God and in administering the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist.
There are no greater actions in this world than forgiving sins and making Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar. St. John Chrysostom, with his usual eloquence, writes: “If anyone considers carefully what it means to be a man still clothed in flesh and blood, and nevertheless able to draw so close to the blessed and most pure Nature, then he will come to understand how great is the honor bestowed on priests by the grace of the Spirit …. For to those who dwell upon earth, whose conversation is still within the ambit of this world, it has been granted to administer the treasures of Heaven, receiving a power that God never granted to the angels or archangels.”As St. Josemaría exclaims in one of his homilies: “Our mother Mary, the holiest of creatures—only God is holier—brought Jesus Christ into the world just once; priests bring him on earth, to our soul and body, every day.”
The Holy Father, in his recent encyclical on the Eucharist, writes that “this thought leads us to deep amazement and gratitude.” Amazement and gratitude that has to be manifested in a very specific way: valuing each day more the divine forgiveness we receive in Confession, preparing with great care to attend Mass and to receive Holy Communion. In addition, let us ask God that we never lack the holy priests required to provide for the needs of the Church all over the world, priests who are well-formed, cheerful and filled with apostolic zeal. Jesus himself tells us to pray for this gift: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Mt 9:37-38).
Let us pray for the Pope, for the bishops (especially the bishop of this diocese), for priests and deacons, and for priestly vocations. Let us pray that there be many truly Christian families, where vocations for the Church are forged, families who see the call of one of their sons to the priesthood as a great blessing from God. I warmly congratulate the parents and brothers and sisters of the new priests. God will repay you for what you have done, by your prayers and example, to help these sons and brothers of yours become Christ’s ministers.
2. I now direct myself to you, my dear ordinands. In St. Josemaría you have a wonderful model to guide you every day in exercising your priesthood. Meditate often on his life; consider once and again his words, and go confidently to his intercession to confront the questions that will arise in your work.
Don’t forget that, like all the priests of the Prelature, you are especially sons of our Father’s prayer. Recalling the history of how the first priests came to Opus Dei, he wrote: “I prayed trustingly and eagerly for so many years for your brothers who were to be ordained and for those who would later follow their path. I prayed so much that I can say that all the priests of Opus Dei are sons of my prayer.”
St. Josemaría prayed a lot for you, my sons, even without knowing you, and he did so insistently. Now, from heaven, he will help you in the exercise of your ministry and closely follow your steps, with the paternal and maternal affection that he always showed towards his sons and daughters.
And what lessons can we draw from his priestly life? There are so many that it’s impossible to list them all here. But we need only open our eyes to immediately see some lessons of capital importance, which show us his burning love for the Holy Eucharist.
For we find ourselves in a place where every corner is a song of love to our Lord and his Blessed Mother. Who but a person truly in love with Jesus and Mary would have the mad idea of constructing a shrine in such an isolated and rugged place? Certainly, he was moved by a debt of gratitude towards our Lady of Torreciudad; but above all he was moved by his ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore he wanted, and happily it has become a reality, that Torreciudad should have many confessionals, so that souls could be reconciled with God and worthily receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Thus he wanted the Shrine’s esplanade to be big enough to provide room for thousands of people. And he wanted the reredos to be a catechesis for the faithful, pointing to and emphasizing the real presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.
I recall perfectly that day in May 1975, just a month before his leaving us for heaven, when St. Josemaría visited this shrine, then practically finished. He sat down on one of the benches, raised his eyes towards the reredos, with the tabernacle in the center, and contemplated the various scenes. “It’s a marvelous reredos,” he remarked, filled with a joy that showed clearly on his face. Then he went up to the sanctuary to look closely at the altar, the crucifix, the candlesticks, and exclaimed: “How well people will be able to pray here!”
Making use of these brief recollections, my sons, I want to highlight for you some of the priestly aspirations that filled St. Josemaría’s heart. Always be eager to administer God’s pardon in the sacrament of Penance. Celebrate Holy Mass with real piety, making the prayers of the Church your personal prayer. Be generous in everything that has to do with Eucharistic worship. Show by your behavior, in spite of the inevitable defects that we all have, that you are men who believe and who love.
3. I return to the recent encyclical of Pope John Paul II, which I invite everyone to read and to meditate on slowly, because you will obtain, we will all obtain, light and encouragement to draw close to our Lord in the Eucharist. The Holy Father wrote that he wanted to enkindle in all the faithful the Eucharistic “amazement” I mentioned above, following closely on what he wrote in his apostolic letters on the mission of the Church in the new millennium and on the Rosary. And he added: “To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his Body and his Blood.”
My dear brothers and sisters: I invite you to formulate the resolution of making a more determined effort to draw close to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us strive to take part at Holy Mass with greater devotion, to prepare ourselves better to receive Holy Communion, to visit our Lord frequently in the tabernacle. Let us often speak to others of the marvel of a God who is hidden in the Sacred Host, where one finds open all the treasures of grace and mercy. Thus we will be able to accompany the Holy Father closely during the weeks that remain before the celebration of his silver anniversary as Roman Pontiff, on the coming 16th of October. If we go to our Lady, whom the Pope in his encyclical calls “the woman of the Eucharist,” we will learn to act with great refinement towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us tell her, making use of words of St. Josemaría: “Mother, don’t leave me! Help me to seek your Son; help me to find your Son; help me to love your Son—with my whole being!” Amen.