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Rome -- September 9, 2000

At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, in the Basilica of St. Eugene

Dear brothers and sisters; most dearly beloved deacons:

l. “What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” [1]

Our thanksgiving rises to heaven for the gift of these new ministers of Christ, on whom I will soon confer priestly ordination. But let it also rise up for all the graces showered down upon the Church during this Holy Year. The Jubilee of the Incarnation has renewed among the People of God their awareness of the certainty that earthly life is a pilgrimage to the Father’s house, guided by Christ and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Strengthening the living and effective conviction of the Trinitarian meaning of all Christian life surely represents one of the biggest benefits of this Holy Year. May this central truth of our faith reach the most hidden corner of our being, shaping all our thoughts, words and deeds!

The Holy Father Pope John Paul II desired for this Jubilee year a distinctive feature that would be both Trinitarian and Eucharistic. Those features are evoked in this celebration, since “the mystery of the priesthood begins in the Trinity and, at the same time, is an offshoot of the Incarnation. Becoming man, the only-begotten and eternal Son of the Father is born of a woman, enters into creation and thus becomes priest, the only eternal priest.” [2] May these words of the Pope serve as a backdrop to our reflections today on the priesthood as both gift and mystery.

2. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” [3] Jesus Christ applied to himself these words of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth. [4] Let them serve as a key to understand aright the life and mission of the Church and of all Christians. The Holy Spirit always accompanied Christ in his earthly mission. He overshadowed the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, as the Word took on flesh in her womb. He visibly came down on Jesus in the Jordan. He stirred him to preach God’s kingdom throughout Palestine. He helped Christ to perform the miracles that confirmed his divine nature. Finally, he sustained Jesus as he offered himself as a loving holocaust on the altar of the cross for the world’s salvation, and he welcomed to the Father’s glory Christ’s exaltation into heaven. The divine Paraclete, as Christ promised to the apostles, visibly descended on the Church at Pentecost. Since then, he is continually poured out on Christians, especially at baptism and confirmation, making us sharers in Christ’s priesthood and worthy to offer ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [5]

In just a moment I will place my hands on the head of the deacons and recite in the name of the Church the prayer of consecration. Then the Spirit will come upon them in a new way: he will anoint them with his unction and impress on their souls an indelible mark. This character allows them to preach God’s Word with authority, to sanctify mankind with the sacraments—penance and the Eucharist above all—and thus lead them to life eternal.
The Paraclete’s presence and action are indispensable to these new priests to fulfill the mission the Church today entrusts to them. Therefore we invoke him with faith: Holy Spirit, subsistent Love of the Father and the Son, assist these new servants of yours with your grace, fill their hearts with your gifts and make them docile to your inspirations. You are the “fruit of the cross—as a result of our seeking only his glory and renouncing ourselves completely.” [6]Make them Christ’s ministers who gladly spend their lives in glorifying the Father and serving souls, especially those most directly entrusted to their pastoral care.

3. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ’s mystical Body is formed and articulated into many members—all necessary to carry out the mission entrusted by the Lord to his Church. Indeed, “as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ.... Having gifts that differ.” [7]

The ministerial priesthood is one of the Holy Trinity’s greatest gifts to mankind. It was entrusted in the cenacle to the Church when Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist, thereby sacramentally anticipating his redemptive death. It is truly distinct from the common priesthood of all the faithful. Yet it is ordered to it in aiming at building up Christ’s mystical body in charity. By means of the ministerial priesthood, the Jesus Christ—invisible present and operative in the Church—makes himself visible amid the Christian community. Before I confer on the deacons this ineffable gift, I invite you to turn to God in fervent prayer.

O Christ, you who surrendered yourself to us in the cenacle and on Calvary, look kindly down upon these sons of yours about to receive the ministerial priesthood. Make them resemble you by power of the Holy Spirit, so that they may be, as Blessed Josemaría desired, “priests one hundred percent,” ministers of your grace at all times and circumstances. And since you have called us friends, [8] grant them the joy of always experiencing your closeness. When they sacra-mentally renew the divine sacrifice of the cross, may they identify themselves fully with you. May their union with you transform all the day’s moments, so that men and women always see in them your most loving face. Like you, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, [9] may they dedicate themselves fully to their ministry, carrying out the pastoral program that Blessed Josemaría established for his sons. Let them “constantly study theology; give spiritual guidance to very many souls, hear many confessions, preach tirelessly and pray a great deal. Their heart must always be focused on the Tabernacle” [10] Give them, Lord, a heart like unto yours, able truly to pity human wretchedness. With your help, may their awareness of personal weaknesses not diminish trusting dedication to their ministry. Rather let it lead them to seek your support with complete faithfulness to their freely assumed commitments.

4. “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” [11] Priesthood comes to us from God the Father. He it is who has chosen these sons of his, calling them to a special participation in his fatherhood. It is the priest’s task to stir up faith by preaching, to engender the faithful in Christ by baptism, to strengthen them by confirmation, to feed their divine life with the Eucharist and to restore it in the sacrament of penance, when destroyed or hindered by sin. The priest accompanies us along our earthly journey to eternity.

The Church rejoices over priestly vocations. Is it not the joy displayed on all of our faces a sign of supernatural rejoicing? To you, parents, siblings, relatives and friends, goes out my most affectionate greeting and wishes. The priest’s mission is essential for the life of both the Church and the world. That’s why it’s a pleasant duty to pray for God’s ministers: first, for the Holy Father and his collaborators, especially for the Cardinal Vicar of Rome; for all the bishops, for all priests and religious, for the holy People of God. I trust that in your prayer you also remember me and my intentions. Let us petition the Most Blessed Trinity that there arise in the Church many vocations, especially many who answer the call to the priesthood. We ask for this, making our own the Pope’s prayer on the golden anniversary of his priesthood: “O Lord of time and history, you have placed us on the threshold of the third Christian millennium to witness to the salvation wrought by you in favor of all mankind. We, the Church pro-claiming your glory, implore you that we never be wanting in holy priests to serve the Good News; may the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus resound in every cathedral and in every corner of the world. Come, Creating Spirit! Come to raise up new generations of young men, ready to work in the Lord’s vineyard, to spread God’s kingdom to the very ends of the earth.

“And you, Mary, Christ’s Mother, who have welcomed us as favorite children to join the apostle John next to the cross, keep watch over our vocation.” [12] Amen.

[1] Alleluia (Ps 115 [116]:12-13).

[2] John Paul II, Holy Thursday Letter to Priests, in the jubilee year of his ordination as a priest, March 17, 1996, no. 1.

[3] First reading (Is 61, 1).

[4] Cf. Lk 4:16-19.

[5] 1 Cf. Pet: 2, 5.

[6] Blessed Josemaria Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, no. 137.

[7] Second Reading (Rom 12:4-6).

[8] Cf. Jn 15:15.

[9] Cf. Jn 10:11.

[10] Blessed Josemaria Escriva, Homily A Priest Forever, April 13, 1973.

[11]St 1, 17.

[12] John Paul II, Holy Thursday Letter to Priests, in the jubilee year of his ordination as a priest, March 17, 1996, no. 9.

Romana, No. 31, July-December 2000, p. 233-236.