At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, Shrine of Luján. Buenos Aires (September 13, 2003)
Dear brothers and sisters:
My dear deacon sons:
1. I am deeply moved and grateful to the Blessed Trinity to be celebrating Holy Mass and administering priestly ordination, here in the shrine of our Lady of Lujan, to these two deacons of Opus Dei. All the Marian shrines, homes of our Mother, are places for a special encounter with the one who, as an ancient Father of the Church so beautifully said: “gave us the bread of life, to replace Eve’s bread of exhaustion.”
Moreover, Lujan holds unforgettable memories for me personally. Here, on Wednesday, June 12, 1974, I accompanied St. Josemaría Escrivá on a pilgrimage. I remember the pealing of the bells that announced his arrival, the large crowd that accompanied him with its joyous family atmosphere, and the calm and recollected demeanor of the Father, as he knelt on the floor of the sanctuary devoutly praying the Rosary.
Today, I invite you to unite yourselves expressly to the founder of Opus Dei’s prayer during that pilgrimage. He came to Lujan to ask our Lady to protect the Church, to pray for this land of the Rio de la Plata, to leave at Mary’s feet the spiritual fruit of his catechesis here. I can assure you that, as always, he learned a lot from the Argentinians and from so many people from Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia, who joined themselves to his prayer.
It is the first time that I am administering the sacrament of Holy Orders in the Americas, which is another reason for my joy. I ask you to unite yourselves to my prayer, beseeching our Lord, through the intercession of his most holy Mother, to make them very holy, and to continue sending to the Church vocations of pious, learned and cheerful priests.
Let us pray for the shepherd of this diocese and for all the bishops, and in a special way for our Holy Father John Paul II. Let us redouble our prayer for him and for his intentions in the weeks that still remain before the celebration of his silver anniversary, on October 16, as successor to St. Peter.
2. All the Christian faithful are sons and daughters of Mary. From the Cross, as the Church invites us to consider on the feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the memorial of our Lady of Sorrows, Jesus turned to her and to the beloved disciple, who represented the disciples of all times, and said to his Mother: “Woman, behold your Son.” Then, turning to his disciple, he said: “Behold your mother.” St. John tells us that “from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn 19:26-27), that is, he placed her at the center of his life and began to honor her as his true Mother.
Let us not forget that Christ’s words have a special power: they bring about what they signify, for they are the words of the incarnate Word, and therefore endowed with divine omnipotence. Thus when Jesus says “Behold your mother” and “Behold your son,” at that very moment there came to birth in Mary’s heart a true spiritual maternity towards all believers, and in his disciples a true filial relationship to our Lady.
We are in a month rich in Marian feasts. They are a loud knock at the door of our souls, by which the Church through her liturgy reminds us of the decisive importance of devotion to our Lady in the lives of all Christians. Honoring Mary, entrusting to her our spiritual and material needs, going to her so that she bring us to her Son, is an integral part of the path that Jesus has opened to lead us to heaven. In words of St. Josemaria, I remind you that the source from which the practices of Marian piety spring are “faith in God the Father’s saving will; love for God the Son who really became man and was born of a woman; trust in God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us with his grace. It is God who has given us Mary, and we have no right to reject her. We should go to her with a son’s love and joy.”
3. John, the beloved disciple, formed part of that group of first disciples to whom our Lord, at the Last Supper, entrusted the sacrament of his Body and Blood, so that they could make it present until the end of time: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk22:19). Thus, as the Pope said, Mary’s “maternal role would take on special significance in relation to a priest apostle. And we can imagine that Jesus’ look was directed not only to John, but down through the centuries to the long series of his priests, right to the end of the world. He entrusted each of them in a special way, like the beloved disciple, to Mary’s motherhood.”
The ultimate foundation of Mary’s special maternal role with respect to priests is based on the mystery of the Incarnation. Upon becoming the Mother of Christ, our Lady was made Mother of the Eternal High Priest. At their ordination, priests receive a special configuration with Jesus Christ. The Paraclete consecrates them so that they can make Christ present among all men and women. “All of us Christians,” taught St. Josemaria, “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.”
This visible representation of Christ, the Head of the Church, reaches its summit in the preaching of God’s word and in the administration of the sacraments. Especially in the sacrament of Penance and at Mass, the priest is Christ himself. As the founder of Opus Dei so graphically expressed it: “I am, on the one hand, a member of the faithful like the others; but, above all, I am Christ at the Altar! I am renewing in an unbloody manner the divine Sacrifice of Calvary and I am consecrating, in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. I really represent Jesus Christ, for I am lending him my body, my voice, my hands and my poor heart, so often stained, which I want him to purify.”
Great are the tasks that are entrusted to each priest, who has to strive to reflect Christ’s face at every moment. To carry them out worthily, to draw souls to God and attain sanctity himself, he needs abundant grace and a generous response. The priestly character capacitates him to represent Jesus and the sacramental grace assures him of divine help. My sons, this grace will never be lacking if you strive to correspond to God’s love. You can rely on the prayers of countless persons throughout the whole world, and above all on the intercession of our Lady. Show her your filial affection, go with confidence to her help, have recourse to her in every circumstance, because, and I repeat it gladly, she is in a special way your Mother.
Let us listen once more to the Pope. “What should we ask from Mary, as mother of priests? Today, as in every epoch (and perhaps even more so now), priests should ask Mary for the grace of knowing how to receive God’s gift with a grateful love, with the gratitude she showed in the Magnificat; the grace of being generous in their personal dedication, imitating her example of a generous mother; the grace of purity and faithfulness to their commitment of celibacy, following her example as a faithful Virgin; the grace of an ardent and merciful love, contemplating her witness as Mother of Mercy.”
The biographies of holy priests always speak of their deep Marian devotion. The life of St. Josemaria teaches us how to draw close to our Lady. There come to mind so many manifestations of his piety: his slow and contemplative praying of the Rosary; his greetings directed to the images of our Lady that he met on his path; the aspirations that sprang from his heart and his lips, and that were often captured in his writings; the kisses with which he honored the images of the Mother of God and our Mother…
Let us go then to St. Josemaria, asking him to teach us to be very devoted to our Lady and thus attain a greater intimacy with Jesus. Listen to what he tells us: “Invoke the Blessed Virgin. Keep asking her to show herself a Mother to you—monstra te esse Matrem! As well as drawing down her Son’s grace, may she bring the clarity of sound doctrine to your mind, and love and purity to your heart, so that you may know the way to God and take many souls to him.” Amen.