At the priestly ordination of faithful of the Prelature, Shrine of Torreciudad, Spain (September 2, 2012)
My dear brothers and sisters. My dear ordinands:
A few days ago I reread some words of St. Josemaria. He was speaking about the mission of the Work of God in the world and told us: “We are on a divine path, where we have to follow Christ’s footsteps, carrying our own cross, the Holy Cross! And God our Lord expects our generous effort; he wants us to feel very happy to be able to cooperate with our sacrifice to carry out the Work.” These considerations are very appropriate for those who in a few minutes are going to receive the sacrament of the priesthood. And I think the same is true for all Catholics with respect to our common service of the Holy Church. As the Founder of Opus Dei said, the Prelature is a small “portion” of the Church, and if it is not going to serve it—he would add forcefully—let it be destroyed!
On this Sunday, the Lord’s day, knowing that we are each members of Christ’s Mystical Body, let us give thanks to God for the priestly ordination of these three brothers of ours, and at the same time pray fervently to the Blessed Trinity that he awaken in each and every one of us who are present here, in this Shrine of our Lady, a deep and effective realization that we all possess a priestly soul, infused into each of us by the sacrament of Baptism.
Let us ponder on the reality that we are bearers of Christ; and that this holy responsibility, because God has wanted to count on us, should spur us to draw closer to Jesus, to get to know him more intimately and make him known to others. Nothing is further from the confidence that Heaven has shown us than a passive or disinterested attitude. We must strive each day to allow more space for God in our souls (I would even say that this space should be total), so as to be able to transmit to the world, and more specifically to our relatives, to our colleagues at work, to our friends, the incomparable joy of our condition as children of God. And also so that through him—through Christ—with him and in him (as we pray in the final doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer) we may transform into a divine work our daily tasks and endeavors.
Jesus asked the twelve Apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel. This exhortation is also addressed to us; no one is excluded. It is a mission that we can carry out (it isn’t difficult, but it demands struggle) by acting in a way that is consistent with the grace God is continually pouring into us. Let us be assured that, if we act in this way, if we give witness to our faith, without fearing what others might think, many people will ask us about our reason for doing so or will begin questioning their own way of acting; and we will find so many opportunities to give a reason for our hope, to transmit the treasure of the faith. As you already know, Pope Benedict XVI convoked the Year of Faith, through the Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, not only for our personal benefit, but so that we might make known to others or remind them of the joyful reality that we are all children of God, and that he calls all of us to share in his friendship. As he said in that document, using words spoken in the inaugural homily for his Pontificate: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”
The text from St. John’s gospel that we have just proclaimed is a very appropriate one for us. Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd and that he has given his life for his sheep. St. Josemaria often commented on these words of our Lord about the Good Shepherd. He directed them to the faithful of Opus Dei, but without excluding other Catholics, fellow citizens of the members of the Prelature. He pointed out that all of us in the Church are both sheep and shepherd, by which he wanted to stress that, since the baptized are the continuity in time of Christ’s mission, it is up to all of us—in accord with the ministerial priesthood or the common priesthood of the faithful—to serve the others, to give example with our conduct and our doctrinal formation. For if we read the Gospels regularly and with piety, if we make them life of our life, we will be able to generously provide spiritual help, and also the material help at our disposal, to those around us; while also being aware that, through the Communion of Saints, from wherever we are, we can send “arterial blood,” spiritual assistance stemming from Christ’s life-giving Blood, to all humanity.
What I have just said should not be seen as an unrealistic hope—a bright light that shines for a moment and then disappears without leaving a trace. Pope Benedict XVI has repeated tirelessly that God wants to make use of the saints to spread the saving power that Christ, sent by his Father, has brought for the men and women of all times, the Good News that will always be timely and efficacious. Thus if each and every one of us strives to walk loyally with the Master, we will be good shepherds and we will go forth, with a continuous and full availability, in search of souls, convinced of the transcendent importance of our Christian life. For as St. Josemaría never tired of saying, “When it is holiness that is being sown, it is never lost.”
I would like now to address the three of you, my dear sons, chosen by Jesus to continue in time his one Priesthood. You have freely responded to that call and, in order to discover every day the urgency of this commitment, you need to be very humble, asking for this virtue also for all the priests and seminarians in the world. You also need to keep very much in mind that the High Priest, Jesus Christ, came into this world of ours to serve and not to be served. Recall his clear and forthright invitation: learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart. I suggest that every day you look frequently and with devotion at the crucifix—the book in which you will find all knowledge, St. Thomas Aquinas said—because we have to travel the same path of total self-emptying that Christ followed. When you are given the host on the paten and the chalice, you will hear the words: Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross. Let us not fail to live up to this goal.
Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in his letter convoking a Year for Priests, wrote to us: “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus, the saintly Curé of Ars would often say. This touching expression makes us reflect, first of all, with heartfelt gratitude on the immense gift which priests represent, not only for the Church, but also for humanity itself. I think of all those priests who quietly present Christ’s words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, and their sentiments.” And further on the Pope said: “We priests should feel that the following words, which he [Saint John Mary Vianney] put on the lips of Christ, are meant for each of us personally: ‘I will charge my ministers to proclaim to sinners that I am ever ready to welcome them, that my mercy is infinite.’ ” I ask you to meditate on these ideas, and to read that letter again, which will do so much good to your soul and help you to properly exercise your ministry, when serving all who approach your confessional in the sacrament of Penance.
When the imposing of hands takes place to transmit to you the gift of Christ’s priesthood, the choir and people will intone the hymn Veni Creator. Go to the Paraclete with deep piety, asking him to engrave on your soul the realization that by this sacrament you are going to be, in a special way, another Christ, and as St. Josemaria added: Christ himself. This affirmation does not imply a rash audacity, because as we read in the Gospels, in a number of places and in different ways, the Master assured us: “he who hears you, hears me,” “do this in memory of me,” “go in my name.” I would like to add that, at Holy Mass, you are going to be Christ himself, and you will be ministers distributing to the people of God the Body and Blood of the Only Begotten Son, in addition to the fact that in the sacrament of Penance our Lord will make use of you, since it is he himself who forgives, to wash souls clean of their sins.
I would also like to ask you to keep very much in mind that “there is no Church without the Eucharist, and there is no Eucharist without the Church.” You, from this day on, will become in a primordial way faithful guardians of this ineffable gift, in which Jesus Christ himself makes sacramentally present the Sacrifice of the Cross, and remains hidden in the Tabernacles of the world, certainly hoping that all of us will accompany him and especially his priests. Zealously care for the liturgy, without ever getting used to celebrating the actions at the altar, and in a special way Holy Mass. Celebrate it with piety and recollection. It is not a question of putting on a show, but let us not forget that the people see and learn from the worship that we who are God’s ministers offer to our Lord. Ask our Father for this expressly, who right up to the end of his life strove to grow in piety from the beginning of the Holy Sacrifice to the ite, Missa est. Ponder often on that cry of a holy bishop, whom our Father echoed in The Way: “Treat him well for me!”
Don’t forget, my dear sons, that you are receiving priestly ordination in order to serve the Church, all souls, and more directly the men and women of the Prelature, in which the priests and laity make up an organic unity that can never be broken, because that would be to destroy the path of personal sanctity that God is asking of us, and also the apostolic effectiveness of Opus Dei all around the world, in the service of the Holy Church.
Always be very loyal to the Roman Pontiff, whoever he is; love all the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, and your own Ordinary, the bishop and prelate of Opus Dei. Love the priests of each diocese; and ask our Lord constantly to send many laborers to the Work and to all of his wheatfield ripe for the harvest: many seminarians determined to seek holiness and also many vocations to the consecrated life.
Knowing how St. Josemaria loved—and now from heaven loves—the parents and brothers and sisters of his daughters and sons, I congratulate from the bottom of my heart those who are part of the family of each of our three new priests. Give thanks to the Blessed Trinity, and go to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, our Lady of the Angels, asking that she watch over these sons in their new stage of service to the Church and to souls.
Everything in this house of worship speaks to us of the love of God and of his Mother for each and every one of us: the Tabernacle with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament whom we contemplate in the “oculus” of the reredos, the scenes from the life of our Lord and of Holy Mary, the statue of Our Lady of Torreciudad, the large and majestic sanctuary with the statue of the Founder of Opus Dei adoring our Lord, and even the very walls of brick. Each element is an invitation to us to consider that we are all temples of God and, recalling St. Josemaria’s words in The Way, just as great edifices—this shrine as well—were built up brick by brick, so too should we realize that each small element of our life can and should be a continuous act of worship of God our Lord.
I cannot conclude without asking that there may rise up each day from our heart a fervent prayer, accompanied by generous sacrifice, for the Pope and his intentions, for the bishops—for my brother bishop of Barbastro—for priests, and for this humanity of which we form part.
Praised be Jesus Christ.