At the diaconal ordination of faithful of the Prelature, St. Eugene's Basilica, Rome (November 24, 2007)

At the diaconal ordination
of 36 faithful of the Prelature,
St. Eugene’s Basilica

My dear Brothers and Sisters:
My dear sons who will soon receive the diaconate:

1. There come to mind the words with which St. Josemaría began a letter, back in 1956, to priests incardinated in Opus Dei: “You have been ordained to serve...Your priestly mission is a mission of service.” [1]

These words—to serve—are very appropriate for the event that has brought us together in the Basilica of St. Eugene. Not only because thirty-six faithful of the Prelature will be receiving the order of the diaconate, but also because in the Holy Mass, making present the salvific work fulfilled on Calvary, our Lord Jesus Christ is inviting us to participate personally in the great work of service to humanity that is the Redemption.

I would like to remind you that the desire to serve God and all souls has to be one of the essential characteristics of Christians, of all of us, both laity and priests. Our Founder, in the letter I just cited, added, while giving thanks to God for his mercy: “I know that this phrase, ‘to serve,’ sums up your desires, your whole life, and it is your pride and my consolation.” [2]

The solemnity of Christ, King of the universe, highlights in a special way this intense desire. The kingdom promised to David, to which the first reading refers, was only a foreshadowing—a shadow in respect to the reality—of the messianic kingdom that Christ would come to inaugurate. Christ’s kingdom—“a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace,” as we proclaim in the Preface—is not conquered by force, but by humility; it consists not in domination, but in service; it is identified not with political or economic power, but with the forgiveness of sins and an outpouring of God’s grace (cf. Col 1:12-20).

All of this, which has been fully accomplished by Christ on Calvary, becomes present in a sacramental way in every celebration of the Eucharist. The Holy Mass is the principal service that the Church, and, in its name, the sacred ministers, can render to humanity. As Benedict XVI stressed on the occasion of a priestly ordination: “the mystery of the Cross is at the center of Jesus’ service as a shepherd: it is the great service that he renders to all of us. He gives himself, and not only in a distant past. In the Holy Eucharist he does so every day; he gives himself through our hands, he gives himself to us.” [3]

Look at Christ’s triumphal throne: the wood of the Cross, as St. Luke tells us in today’s Gospel. I am always moved by the scene we have just read. Jesus, on the Cross, at the point of death, hears the humble prayer of the good thief. Let us pause once more at this human and divine dialogue, words that will often give us strength and confidence to return anew to our Lord. Hearing the petition of Dismas, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom,” our Lord responds: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23, 42-43). As St. Josemaría liked to say, this thief “recognized that he himself deserved that awful punishment... And with a word he stole Christ’s heart and opened up for himself the gates of heaven.” [4] Such is the great power of contrition, of sincere sorrow for our sins, with a resolution to never commit them again!

2. All of us, as Christian faithful, are called to assist Christ in applying the work of redemption. To carry out this service, we have everything necessary: prayer and the sacraments. Let us pray, then, for our relatives, friends and acquaintances. Let us invite them to frequently receive Penance, the sacrament of divine mercy, and the Eucharist, sacramentum caritatis, the pledge of eternal life.

Each of us should carry out this service with the example of our irreproachable Christian behavior, with an opportune word, with good advice…. You, my deacon sons, besides the ways that are common to all the faithful, from today on will be called to assist in the extension of Christ’s kingdom through the exercise of the diaconate, which will enable you to offer, in the name of Christ and the Church, the service of the altar, of the word and of charity. Later, when you receive the priesthood, your way of assisting will be even more efficacious, since you will be able to act in the name and in the person of Christ, especially in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

All the faithful, as members of Christ’s Mystical Body, have the right and duty to participate in the Church’s mission, and therefore in its work of fostering the unity of Christians. I remind you that, to hasten the longed-for moment when all Christians are united under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff, the principal means is constant and faith-filled prayer. Let us pray, then, for the Pope and for all those who assist him in governing the Church. Let us pray for the bishops, the priests, the seminarians of the whole world. Oremus pro unitate apotolatus: this is the first and fundamental way we can lend assistance. We should unite to our prayer the offering of our work and rest, of the joys and hardships of life.

These reflections are very timely, since, as you know, the Holy Father has this morning celebrated a public consistory for the appointment of new cardinals. Let us invoke the Holy Spirit that they be—as the ancient formula for their oath of investiture says—fideles usque ad sanguinis effusionem, faithful to the Church and the Pope until death. In the past few days, Benedict XVI has placed before the College of Cardinals the study of several topics related to ecumenism. We too should feel the urgency of this ardent desire, praying for this intention with greater intensity and constancy.

3. I don’t want to end without alluding to a significant event that we will recall in Opus Dei within a few days, on the 28th of this month: the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the personal prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei.

I have already had occasion to point out that, for the faithful of the Prelature, the priests of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, and the cooperators and all those who assist in the Work’s apostolates, this date has to be an occasion for fervent thanksgiving to the Blessed Trinity for the gift that was granted to us twenty-five years ago, and for so many others that have followed in the course of these two-and-a-half decades.

Despite our littleness, the Prelature, in full harmony with the spirit that our Lord infused into St. Josemaría’s soul on October 2, 1928, has provided so many pastoral services to the universal Church, to the local Churches and to a very great number of souls throughout the world and from every walk of life. Faced with this reality, our prayer can be summed up in a single phrase: Deo omnis gloria! Let us give all the glory to God.

As well as to God and our Lady, our gratitude is directed in a special way to the unforgettable Pope John Paul II, who erected the Prelature through his apostolic authority. We also give thanks to our Father, a priest who was completely faithful to the divine will, and to our beloved Don Álvaro del Portillo, who with God’s help brought to completion the task our Founder entrusted to him.

My dear brothers and sisters, beloved daughters and sons: Let us entrust our gratitude to Mary, our Mother, through whose intercession all of heaven’s graces reach us. I encourage you to stay very close to Mary each day. In this way, the upcoming year that will end on November 28, 2008, will truly be a Marian year for all of us.

May Jesus Christ be praised!

[1] St. Josemaría, Letter of August 8, 1956, no 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Benedict XVI, Homily at a priestly ordination, May 7, 2006.

[4] St. Josemaría, The Way of the Cross, Twelfth Station, no. 4.

Romana, No. 45, July-December 2007, p. 277-279.