At the Priestly Ordination of Deacons of the Prelature, St. Eugene's Basilica, Rome (May 9, 2015)
My dear new priests;
Dear brothers and sisters:
1. In the collect prayer, we have asked God for the grace to live “with heartfelt devotion these days of joy, which we keep in honor of the risen Lord.” The priestly ordination of these deacons gives special emphasis to the Easter joy that fills the Church. I am sure that this joy—as Pope Francis said some time ago—“has penetrated deep within our hearts; it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally.” This reality can be said of every Christian, since we have all been anointed in Baptism and in Confirmation by the Holy Spirit, who has configured us to Christ and made us sharers in his unique priesthood. Today, in a different way, these brothers of ours will receive a new anointing by the Paraclete that will configure them to Christ the Head of the Church and bestow on them the power to carry out the priestly ministry, in the name and with the authority of Christ himself.
For you, my sons, it is a day of special joy. And with you, the Church also rejoices. “Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God.”
2. The vocation to the priesthood is a free call that God addresses to some men for the service of the Church, without taking into account preceding merits or other considerations. This is God’s way of acting, as we see in the first reading of the Mass. Confronting the narrow hearts of some people who opposed the baptism of the first Gentiles, St. Peter insisted: “God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”
Another proof of how great God’s love is—and we can never grasp it in all its infinity—is seeing that the new priests come from four continents and fifteen different countries. Let us give thanks to God for his goodness and pray for them and for all the priests in the world. I also suggest that you pray for all the families in the world, since it is in the heart of Christian homes that God usually cultivates, as in a nursery, the various forms of the vocation to holiness.
The priesthood, I was saying, is a free call, but it has an irreplaceable importance in the Church. St. Josemaría wrote that “many great things depend on the priest: we have God, we bring God, we give God. . . . Consider the divinization of even our body: the tongue that brings God to others, the hands that touch him, the power of working miracles, in administering grace. All the riches of this world are worth nothing in comparison with what God has entrusted to the priest.”
3. And you, my dear ordinands, consider that from now on you will be ministers and dispensers of God’s mysteries. You will explain the Word of God to all men and women; you will dispense grace in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and in Penance; you will guide the Christian people to the pastures of eternal life, also with your prayer and good example; and you will help souls to come to know ever more fully the marvels of Christian life.
In a recent ordination of priests, Pope Francis said: “Remembering that you have been chosen from among men and constituted on their behalf to attend to the things of God, exercise the priestly ministry of Christ with joy and genuine love, with the sole intention of pleasing God and not yourselves.”
Therefore, as our founder said, “a priest should be exclusively a man of God. He should reject any desire to shine in areas where other Christians do not need him. A priest is not a psychologist or a sociologist or an anthropologist. He is another Christ, Christ himself, who has to look after the souls of his brothers and sisters.”
As far as the forgiveness of sins in Penance is concerned, try to always impart absolution; and if someone is not well disposed, help them with patience, with charity, with a spirit of sacrifice. Our Lord had mercy on sinners and called them to conversion. And St. Josemaría, who tried to act with a heart at the measure of Jesus’ merciful heart, did not hesitate to write: “In attending to souls in the holy sacrament of Penance, remember that passage from the Gospel, when our Lord replies to the question about how many times we should forgive: "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven" (Mt 18:22). Always: we need to always forgive, also in the sacrament of Penance.” And referring to when he began his priestly work, he added: “I had no objection to forgiving the same person, multiple times on the same day, many faults in the same area, because ‘non est opus valentibus medicus, sed male habentibus’ (Mt 9:12); it is not those who are healthy, but the sick, who need the doctor. And at the same time, you have to do what is necessary to ensure that souls do not abuse divine grace.”
The Eucharist! Words fall short in trying to adequately express the marvel of the Eucharistic sacrament. Strive each day to celebrate the Holy Mass as well as possible. In the Sacrifice of the Altar we all—priests and laity—find the grace we need for our personal sanctification and for the sanctification of the faithful. And—I tell you with St. Josemaría—don’t be in a hurry!
I congratulate once again your parents, your relatives and friends, all whose who are taking part in this ceremony and those who were not able to be present here. I ask all of you to pray for the new priests; they really count on your prayers to be worthy ministers of the One who has loved them with predilection and called them his friends.
Also remember me in your prayers. And let us raise up our petitions each day for the Pope, for bishops, for priests, for all mankind.
Let us entrust these intentions to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, in the month of May that we have begun, dedicated especially to our Lady.
Praised be Jesus Christ.