20th Anniversary of the Sedes Sapientiae International Seminary in Rome (January 16, 2011)
My dear brothers:
We can begin this homily with words from the Liturgy: gratias tibi, Deus, gratias tibi! And also: Laudate Dominum omnes gentes!
We give you thanks, Lord, for everything, and in particular for this year in which we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this seminary, Sedes Sapientiae, brought into being to prepare you, and many other men, to become priests.
Gratias tibi, Deus! Let us never forget to raise our heart to heaven to give thanks for all the benefits we have received: you, specifically (and I and everyone), for having been called to be another Christ, Christ himself.
The day before yesterday, it was announced that the Venerable Servant of God, John Paul II, would be beatified on the upcoming 1st of May. I recalled immediately that it was he who asked my predecessor to establish this seminary to prepare seminarians from all over the world for the priesthood. You were already present in the prayer, the affection and the paternity of that Servant of God, who at the completion of his life also offered us the testimony of his illness, showing us that, in every place and circumstance, we can and should carry Christ’s Cross, which is the path that leads us to intimacy with God. There also came to mind, at that same moment, the memory of St. Josemaría, a priest who loved and still loves you tenderly. When he realized that God was calling him, he prayed, as a consequence of his vocation, for the seminarians and priests of the whole world throughout his entire life.
When he arrived in Rome he wanted to open some residences for priests such as this one in order to help, to serve, to learn, since he did nothing without following God’s will, taking advantage of all the resources of grace. St. Josemaría also prayed for you (don’t think that this is just my imagination) so that you would be faithful to your vocation to the priesthood, and so that we would prepare ourselves and live our priesthood with absolute fidelity.
As I mentioned above, John Paul II asked my predecessor to erect this seminary. His Excellency Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, now a Servant of God whose process of beatification is underway, had already contemplated in his heart and soul all the good that would be done here over time. It began, as you know, with a provisional facility, until it became possible to obtain this one, so that you could live better, and so that you could receive a better human, spiritual, apostolic and intellectual formation.
You have a great responsibility, but rather than being overwhelmed by this, it should be for you a spur to carry the Cross of our Lord with elegance and great joy. Meditate on this deeply: our Lord is relying on each one of you—on each one of us—and he constantly grants you his grace, not only so that you may sanctify yourselves but also for the sanctification of others. Recall that passage from St. John’s gospel: non est datus Spiritus ad mensuram. Our Lord is never stingy; he doesn’t haggle over what he wants to give us! He grants us abundant graces to serve him in every circumstance, and also so that other people may come to know him through our life.
The brief sketch I have given of the history of this seminary (which you already know, or should know, since it is the place where you are being formed) is a call to of each one of you to a daily fidelity, which is not limited to the moments when we are happy. We have to be faithful to our Lord also when we encounter difficulties, because he calls us to be joyful also in the face of setbacks.
You are, at this moment, protagonists in the Church’s history. With your lives you are constructing the history of the Church, the history of humanity. Upon each one of you falls the responsibility to make Christ better known, and to ensure that his influence on the contemporary and future world increases. You are preparing to receive the priesthood within a few years: ask our Lord to help you to act always as good sons of God, as future priests, and that you learn here to be good shepherds, good teachers.
Jesus Christ hasn’t left us; the Master is here with us. Therefore I suggest that you make use of an aspiration, a desire that St. Josemaría often repeated: Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi semper Iesus! Jesus, always be Jesus for me, so that I know how to correct myself; so that I know how to see myself in you as in a mirror; so that I may reflect your image, and have you always within me.
Recall, my brothers, the words we read last Monday in the liturgy: multifariam et multis modis —God has spoken in many ways through the prophets, through the servants of God. Now, let us never forget it, God is speaking through each one of us. Therefore, as we recalled in today’s liturgy, it is very important that we correspond to God’s grace to be faithful, and thus offer a clear testimony of Christian life to all our brothers and sisters. We have to live with this holy concern: to help everyone with our life.
In the opening prayer we have asked for peace for the world. My brothers, let us pray for peace throughout the whole world, also for countries now undergoing conflicts—specifically, I am thinking of the Ivory Coast. Let us pray for these countries, for the whole world, so that everywhere Christ’s peace may reign. Human peace and God’s peace. If God’s peace is present, there will also be human peace.
Let us also recall what we heard in the first reading. The prophet Isaiah addresses us, on God’s part, with these words: you are my servant, my son. How wonderful! God enables us to live his life. Think of the trust that he has in you: He is relying on you! He wants to be able to count on you! He wants you to be more faithful, to give him your whole life, because he gave his life for you. Let us respond with the resolve to tell him each day with deeds: Here I am, Lord! I stand in your presence to give you my answer, that of my complete self-giving.
We have listened today also to St. Paul, who loved Christ Jesus so greatly. My brothers, let us fall in love with Christ, in order to reach, with the Holy Spirit, the Father, and thus share in the life of the Trinity. If we, each day, strive to improve, struggling to be saints, we will not only attain this blessing for our own life, but we will tell many persons, with the witness of our life, that they too have to struggle to be saints, as St. Paul reminds us. We will tell them that everyone is called to live with God and for God.
We have also heard the Gospel passage that describes how St. John the Baptist acted. Would that we too could walk the same path of humility as the Precursor. He wanted nothing for himself, but only to announce the arrival of our Lord. He will help us to say: Here I am! Behold the Lamb of God!
Let us also strive—with our life, with our humility—to “disappear,” as St. Josemaría used to say, so that our Lord can act though everything we do, so that it is he who receives all the glory, while we are only faithful instruments who know how to “disappear.” Let us strive, with our life, to help people to get to know our Lord. I repeat that this is our responsibility. On your life—on how you conduct yourself, on how I conduct myself—many great things depend. Many people will come closer to our Lord or, on the contrary, pass by with indifference.
Love for God and the desire to get to know him must increase in those around us. We can’t remain closed up on our own interior life. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually and intellectually each day: study intensely, with diligence; strive to go deep into what you are studying, so that you are prepared—and so that people may realize it—to be a source of grace by your knowledge of God.
To whom do we need to turn in order to accomplish all this? To our Lady. We have to be very Marian, following here as well in the footsteps of St. Josemaría and John Paul II. We have to say sincerely, perhaps with different words: totus tuus! I am all yours, my Lady, our Mother, so that you may lead me to full identification with your Son, so that I may know and love him. And so that, through my life, as through yours, Holy Mary, our Mother, the others may come to know and follow our Lord, and love him more and more.
Let us once more give thanks to our Lord for the twentieth anniversary of Sedes Sapientiae, but doing so not only with our external joy, but with our life, with our prayer, with our expiation… We will give glory to God only if we are men who seek to lead a life of prayer, of expiation, of apostolate.
Also turn your thoughts now to your own country. Pray that the number of people who love God there may grow, in your own country and in the whole world. Let us pray for the whole world, so that many more people may be convinced that one has to live with Christ and for Christ. Amen.