At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, Shrine of Torreciudad, Spain (Sept. 5, 2004)
My dear ordinands:
My dear priests taking part in this
Dear relatives and friends of
Sisters and brothers:
When the first three priests of Opus Dei were ordained, St. Josemaría felt an immense joy and unbounded gratitude to our Lord, combined with a somewhat bittersweet sensation. He saw the marvelous reality of the life of the lay faithful of the Work in the middle of the world, with their invaluable task of bringing Christ into the midst of temporal occupations. Precisely for this reason, he saw from the beginning how much priests were needed. With a great zeal for souls he said: “There is a hunger, a thirst, an absolute necessity for priests!” He raised his heart to God, realizing that the ordination of those sons of his, who were leaving behind their professional work, their way of being a leaven among their fellow men, was something very pleasing to God, that is, something very much desired by the Blessed Trinity.
In a few moments, my sons, you are going to receive priestly ordination, and our holy Founder, from heaven, immersed in the enjoyment of God and freed from the sufferings of this world, will rejoice on seeing that two faithful of Opus Dei are today increasing the number of priests in the Church who are struggling to faithfully serve our Lord and his souls.
In the gospel that we just read, St. John speaks to us of the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd par excellence, who cares for his flock and gathers his sheep into one great sheepfold. With infinite and self-sacrificing love, he seeks his lost sheep. Through his passion and cross, he gave his life for the salvation of all souls, for the sanctity of each man and woman.
John Paul II, in one of his letters to priests, says: “Let them remember that their priestly ministry is—in a special way—‘ordered’ to the great solicitude of the Good Shepherd—solicitude for the salvation of every human being. . . . The solicitude of every good shepherd is that all people ‘may have life and have it to the full,’ so that none of them may be lost, but should have eternal life. Let us endeavor to make this solicitude penetrate deeply into our souls; let us strive to live it.”
My children, today I set forth these considerations so that all of us may engrave them in our hearts and make them a reality in our lives. Following the example of the Good Shepherd, we have to cultivate each day this solicitude for all our brethren, so that none may be lost, and so that we reach the point of giving our lives for the flock entrusted to us. Sacrifice yourself, pray and work always for souls, in the service of the Church. Remember very often those words that St. Josemaría addressed to the priests of the Work: “the dominant passion of priests of Opus Dei is to give doctrine, to direct souls: to preach and to hear confessions. You have to pour yourselves out in this effort, without fear of exhausting yourselves, without being concerned about the difficulties.”
These ideals, which were lived heroically by this holy priest, are a new call to us priests to forget about ourselves and give ourselves generously to others.
It is clear that, in these moments of history, the Church needs not only holy priests but also many others souls who, without abandoning their place in life, dedicate themselves completely to God, working to Christianize society from within, cooperating with Christ to build up his kingdom on earth. Therefore I ask you, in the exercise of your ministerial task, to foster this Christian concern. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
Let us all beseech our Lord—and especially you, my sons who are about to be ordained—that many people, both men and women, may decide to dedicate themselves personally to the task of evangelization, and lead a life consistent with Christ’s faith.
In his recent message for the World Youth Day that will be celebrated next year in Cologne, the Pope says: “The Church needs saints. We are all called to holiness, and only saints can renew humanity.” In union with the Roman Pontiff, let us proclaim with our words, and especially with our lives, that all are invited by our Lord to lead a holy life and to help those around us be holy.
Perhaps you might think that the task facing you is too great to undertake. And truly, it is. But the greatness of the gift that you are about to receive today will shape your conduct in a special way. We have just read those words of the prophet: “Ah, Lord God! Behold I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth. And the Lord responded to Jeremiah, To all whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you.” And we have also heard the exhortation of St. Paul: To each of us grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Within a few minutes, through priestly ordination you will receive the faculty to have Christ himself, Head of the Church, act through you. When you celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist, or when you impart the sacrament of Penance, you will be Christ, and share in the power of the Good Shepherd to pasture his sheep. “Think about this divinization of even our body,” stressed St. Josemaría: “this tongue that brings God to people; these hands that touch him, the power to work miracles, to administer grace. All of the marvelous realities of this world are worth nothing, in comparison with what God has entrusted to the priest.”
You are going to receive the great gift of the ministerial priesthood, which obliges you to always hold in great esteem the treasure you will be administering.
We all know that Pope John Paul II has announced the beginning of a year dedicated to the Eucharist, lasting from October 17 of this year, when the World Eucharistic Congress in Mexico starts, to October of the following year, when the Synod of Bishops will be held on this holy Sacrament. Let us begin striving right now to give a greater Eucharistic tone to our own life.
In his last encyclical, the Successor of Peter pointed out that the Holy Eucharist is the gift par excellence that God has granted to his Church. And he specified: “If the Eucharist is the center and summit of the Church’s life, it is likewise the center and summit of priestly ministry. For this reason, with a heart filled with gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ, I repeat that the Eucharist ‘is the principal and central raison d’etre of the sacrament of priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist.’” My dear sons who are about to be ordained, this is the fundamental reason for your ordination: the sacramental renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary.
Our Founder often repeated to us: “Love the Holy Mass!” And he encouraged us unceasingly to consider the great responsibility involved in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice. He reminded us of what St. John of Avila said upon hearing of the death of a priest who had just celebrated his first Mass: “What an accounting he will have to give to God!” Try never to get accustomed to the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Altar. Let us ask God that all Christians may deeply savor the value of each Mass. Celebrate Mass every day with the profound faith that you are bringing Jesus to the earth in the Sacred Host and in the Chalice of his Blood. And I ask that this be manifested also externally in your piety, in your adoration, in each of your genuflections, in the human and supernatural refinement of love that you show by your ardent and dignified liturgical manner.
As good sons of the Church, let us put into practice the recommendations of our beloved Pope John Paul II, when he urges us to “[give] the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands.” And he insists, “There can be no danger of excess in our care for this mystery, for ‘in this sacrament is recapitulated the whole mystery of our salvation.’”
Similarly, St. Josemaría advised all priests: “No other activity should, normally, take precedence over this task of teaching people to love and venerate the Holy Eucharist.” Many of you will recall that story about the life of the Founder of Opus Dei, how when for the first time he took our Lord into his hands he trembled physically out of devotion and respect. On recalling it, he experienced the same trembling again, and he asked that he never “get used to” being in contact with our Lord and touching him. Let us invoke his intercession so that all the faithful, and especially priests, may grow in veneration for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and attain more deeply the sense of adoration that consumed St. Josemaría's entire life.
I would like to express my warmest congratulations to the parents, relatives and friends of the two new priests, and to ask that you all continue praying for them through the intercession of Our Lady of Torreciudad.
I ask that you also pray for the Holy Father John Paul II, for his person, for his health and for all his intentions. In a special way, we unite ourselves today to his constant supplication for peace in the world and harmony among peoples, as we accompany him on his visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Loreto. I also urge that you never fail to pray every day for the bishops of Spain and of the world.
This year we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the intervention of our Lady in the cure of St. Josemaría Escrivá, when as a child of two he was gravely ill and his mother, with her faith-filled prayer, obtained from her the grace of his cure. Let us present our prayers to our Lord through the hands of our Lady, our Mother, so that the Queen of Heaven and of the angels and of mankind may continue to cure the material and spiritual sicknesses of her daughters and sons, and so that we may always learn from her dedication to the will of God, which brought our Lord to us through the Incarnation.