At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, Shrine of Torreciudad, Spain (September 5, 2010)
My dear sisters and brothers,
1. We have sung Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam!—we give thanks to God for being who he is. It is good that this cry rise up frequently from our soul, since God wants to converse with each and every one of us. His infinite perfection draws near to the poor creatures that all of us are. Today, with this ceremony, he tells us that he also speaks through his ministers, and specifically through these two new priests who will be dispensers of his grace, as are the other sacred ministers, through the sacraments and the preaching of the Word of God.
A little more than two months ago we concluded the Year for Priests convoked by Benedict XVI. He asked all of us to feel our responsibility to pray each day for the sanctity of priests and for the number of priestly vocations to increase throughout the whole world, so that many men determined to be faithful ministers of God may enter the seminaries. We also have to take advantage of this ceremony, and of our whole life, to ask God that all Catholics, both men and women, may truly be aware of the priestly soul that the Lord has granted to us, since the Blessed Trinity has entrusted his Church to each and every one of us.
“To be the Church” (which is what we are), we need to realize that we have been called to continue in time the mission that God the Father entrusted to Jesus Christ: the mission to win for us salvation, freedom from our sins. The sacred writer, in the Letter to the Hebrews, places some words from a Psalm on the lips of Christ, the second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, who took our flesh with the limitations proper to human nature except for sin: corpus autem aptasti mihi . . . ut faciam, Deus, voluntatem tuam. “You have fitted a body to me, that I might do your will, O God.” These words can be applied to everyone. How can we not feel the joy and responsibility of God’s trust in each and every one of us to continue in time Christ’s mission? So there are no excuses. We can’t say: the problem is, I’m weak, I don’t have the right conditions, I don’t have a knack for doing apostolate… No, God expects a loyal and coherent life from us that will lead us to identify ourselves with this Christ whom St. Josemaría trustingly called “our Christ,” “my Jesus.” By identifying ourselves with him we will be able, through our life, to help many other people come to know and draw close to him. Our Lord asks all of us Catholics to be loyal. He asks all of us not to leave him alone.
Here we see the intersection between divine logic, which knows only God’s infinite love and mercy, and our human response. We heard it in the readings, when St. Paul speaks to the ministers, but also to the rest of the faithful, because we are all called to continue Christ’s mission. He invites us to sow all over the world the seed of peace and joy, of reconciliation with God, brought into the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.
St. Paul tells us, with the strength of a person in love with Christ, as all of us should be, that Christ’s charity is urging us on. The love of Christ, his yearning for our salvation, has to be for us a daily restlessness that leads us to pray and to launch out to help those around us to get know our Savior better.
Today, and every day, we should foster the conviction that we are able to carry out our tasks, all of our tasks, with a priestly soul, which as St. Josemaría so often said, is shown in an eagerness to draw ever closer to Jesus, to love all souls ever more truly, with a faithfulness and loyalty to the faith that nothing can deter. This is a program that all of us can carry out.
2. We find ourselves in the Shrine of Torreciudad, dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels, to the Mother of God and our Mother—the Eucharistic woman, the great co-redemptrix. And we go to Mary asking her to teach us to live that paradox—although being of such little worth, we nevertheless can and should be other Christs, Christ himself. Therefore I ask you and I ask myself, with that incisive question of St. Josemaría: Is Christian life spreading around you? Where? In your work, in your friendships, and of course, also in your home. We have to be bonds of unity with our Lord and bonds of unity among ourselves, through our priestly soul.
Some words in the Gospel show us the continuous self-giving that Jesus lived and that he asks of all those who have been called to the Catholic faith. Our Lord, speaking with his disciples, whom he loved madly, just as he loves us, addressed his Father God: pro eis sancifico meipsum. I am sanctifying myself for all of them.… This calls to mind the Founder of Opus Dei’s exhortation that those who pass by our side have to sense the “impact” of God in their soul, the love of God. Would that those who draw close us for any circumstance could say: I have met someone, or I have spoken with someone who is aware of his or her responsibility, because of the gift they have received, to transmit by their life, by their behavior, the faith that our Lord has placed in their soul.
You, new ministers of God, look perseveringly to the Master so as to always act as he would have done. I want to mention some words of St. Josemaría that I heard a few months ago on a magnetic tape. He was speaking about his priestly work and the help that he wanted to provide to everyone through his words, through his charity, through his human and supernatural affection. On one occasion he had to help a person who had experienced the loneliness of indifference, and who was very sad. Our Father went to him, with the solicitude of the good shepherd, and led him to open up his soul. St. Josemaría said later (and this is what drew my attention, although he always acted in this way) that on realizing the difficult situation that person was in, he tried to treat him “as Christ would have done.”
My children, the new priests and all of you. Let us truly try to treat people with the clear realization that our Lord is making use of us so that they might encounter the joy of faith, the joy of a God who never abandons us. While we men and women may leave people isolated, God is always with us, he is always our God, our Love, our point of reference.
My dear sons, new priests, never forget that, in receiving the Holy Spirit through the imposition of the bishop’s hands, the Blessed Trinity conforms you sacramentally to Christ. This is for you, for all priests, a great joy and a great responsibility. All of us—also the faithful, both the women and men with their priestly souls, as St. Josemaria said—have to fight daily to not disappoint God, to not disappoint the Church, to not disappoint souls, to not disappoint so many people who, whether realizing it or not, are seeking the truth that is lacking in their lives.
May you put great care each day into the exercise of your ministry, above all in three moments: the Holy Mass, the administration of the sacrament of forgiveness, and in preaching. Let us all consider, especially us priests, that in the Holy Mass we are united to the whole Church and that Mass should be for all of us the center and root of our life. Celebrate Mass with piety. While we always have to conduct ourselves as ministers of God, I dare to say that at Mass we are more “of God.” And the lay faithful also, when participating in the Holy Sacrifice, are more “of God.” Let us live those moments with due recollection, both exterior and interior. I recall the words that St. Josemaria took from a holy bishop addressed to priests: “Treat him well for me, treat him well for me!” Our Father used those words for his preaching, and above all to give example to them by his life. Therefore I ask you, in God’s name, with the strength of that holy priest, St. Josemaria, to treat our God as well as possible. May you hear deep in your soul that cry: “Treat him well for me, treat him well for me!”
3. You priests will also be dispensers of God’s forgiveness. Through the administration of the Sacrament of Penance, proclaim to everyone that our Lord wants to forgive us always; he is not startled by our miseries, but receives us like the father of the prodigal son, to embrace us and, as our Father used to say, translating the Gospel somewhat freely, “to devour us with kisses.” We want to live permanently in his friendship. In the confessional Christ awaits you, in the confessional souls await you. May all of us, priests as well, receive this sacrament that puts us on good terms with God, and that St. Josemaría, precisely because of the friendship that the forgiveness of sins brings to our soul, called the “sacrament of joy.”
Let us close by praying once more for priests. I would like to read to you some words of Benedict XVI, because we should pray for all priests throughout the whole world. The Pope currently reigning, whom we have to pray for with our whole hearts as children, said: “The priest does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation—words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood—words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him.” Then the Pope continued: “This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings—who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead—this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word priesthood.”
My priest sons, realize the trust that God has in you, that he wants to be able to count on us. And also all you women and men should realize that God is relying on you to make use of your lives so that people come closer to Him.
I now address especially the families of the two men being ordained. How many things St. Josemaría would tell you if he were physically among us! He is telling you them from heaven. He would thank you for having assisted in their formation and creating an environment where the priestly vocation of your children or of your brothers was able to take form. But he would also ask you to pray for all families with someone being called by God but who see that person’s vocation as an obstacle. Pray for those families so that they welcome this sign of God’s trust and have the great happiness—as you yourselves do, parents and brothers and sisters of the new priests—that God has deigned to choose one of your family who, as his minister, will bring the peace of God to the whole world.
Once again we go to Our Lady of the Angels of Torreciudad. Here in this nave, St. Josemaria sat contemplating her statue lost in love. Let us unite ourselves to his prayer then and that of his whole life, asking the Mother of the Church to watch over the Pope, the bishops and the priests, to watch over all the faithful and all humanity, so that we all want to be men and women loyal to God. Amen