At the diaconal ordination of 32 faithful of the Prelature, Basilica of St. Eugene, Rome (November 7, 2009)

At the Diaconal Ordination
of 32 Faithful of the Prelature,
Basilica of St. Eugene

Dear brothers and sisters. Dear
sons of mine who will be ordained

1. Once again, the Basilica of St. Eugene is the setting for a solemn liturgical ceremony, in this case a diaconal ordination. Within a few minutes, by means of the imposition of hands and the liturgical prayer, thirty-two of the faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei will be transformed into God’s ministers in the order of the diaconate. Then, six months from now, they will be consecrated as priests. The fact that we are in the Year for Priests, proclaimed by Benedict XVI on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the dies natalis of the Holy Cure of Ars, adds further solemnity to today’s event.

Let us thank our Lord for this great gift to the Church, which is an eloquent proof that the Church is and will always be very much alive. The Mystical Body of Christ constantly grows through the incorporation of new faithful in Baptism and the adscription of new sacred ministers in the sacrament of Orders. Thanks to God, some countries are experiencing an increase in vocations to the priesthood. In other countries this has not yet happened, but in any event the workers who commit themselves as dispensers of the mysteries of God (cf. 1 Cor 4:1) will always be few in the Church. After twenty centuries, Jesus’ words continue to resound with force and timeliness: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Mt 9:37-38).

Let us pray, therefore, for priestly vocations. Let us do so with more insistence this year, given that it is a specific time of grace in which we are all called to play an active part. “The Church needs holy priests; ministers capable of helping the faithful to experience the Lord’s merciful love, and convinced witnesses of that love. [1]

Let us pray in a special way for these brothers of ours, so that they be faithful servants of the mystery of Redemption, which they are now being called to serve with a new title and a new responsibility. We have to strive to pray in such a way that our prayer includes all of the ministers of the church, from the Roman Pontiff to the most recently ordained deacon, and all of the bishops and priests of the world.

2. The Opening Prayer of the Mass puts our petition into words. We asked God the Father to teach the new ministers, in the school of his Son who has become man for our salvation, not to be served but to serve the brethren. [2]

This is the essence of the diaconal ministry, just as it is also the fundamental characteristic of Christian existence. The only difference is the mode of putting it into practice.

All the faithful have been incorporated into Christ in Baptism and have received the call to be servants of the others, like Jesus Christ himself. In the laity, this task is concretized in the countless situations which arise within their ordinary existence in the middle of the world. Especially in their family life, in their professional and social activity, in the fulfillment of their public rights and duties, and in all of their personal affairs, Christians have to be distinguished by their willingness to help others in an active way no matter the circumstances. In this way they also help them to grow closer to God both by their example and their words.

It is a good time to think about how we usually behave. If we are committed to living as true Christians, as one hundred per cent Christians, not only on the weekend but each day and all day, then there will come about something which St. Josemaría pointed out when commenting on a phrase from St. Paul: “Alter alterius onera portate, et sic adimplebitis legem Christ (Gal 6:2). Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. But bear them joyfully. Give yourselves, with love for God and with love for your brothers, in a service which passes unnoticed. And you will see how, if you live in this way, others will begin to do the same, and you will be like a huge bonfire that ignites everything.” [3]

3. For you who will be ordained, I would now like to outline for you the new way in which you will fulfill your mission in the Church. This can be summarized with the words of the Opening Prayer, in which we asked the heavenly Father: Give to these who have been chosen for the diaconate the grace of being untiring in the gift of themselves, vigilant in prayer, cheerful and welcoming in their service of the community. [4]

In the first place we asked that they be untiring in the gift of themselves, in the fulfillment of the duties proper to their ministry. While you prepare yourselves in these coming months to receive the priesthood, you will have many opportunities to make these aspirations a reality. You will be able to collaborate with priests in administering Communion to the sick, in presenting the Holy Eucharist to be adored by the faithful, in preaching the Word of God. In the fulfillment of these tasks, try to avoid ever saying, “that’s enough.” Follow in the footsteps of so many holy ministers that the Church has had over the course of the centuries.

During this Year for Priests, it is only natural to mention St. John Marie Vianney. Although your duties may be distinct from his, the Holy Curé of Ars is always a model of sanctification in the exercise of one’s ministry. Benedict XVI mentions how “he regularly visited the sick and families, organized popular missions and patronal feasts, collected and managed funds for charitable and missionary works, embellished and furnished his parish church … .” [5]

You have another model who is very accessible and close to you: St. Josemaría Escrivá, who incarnated in a marvelous way the figure of the sacred minister. Meditate once again—let us all try to do so—on his teachings and on many details of his life. In this way we will come to be more faithful disciples of the Divine Teacher.

Be vigilant in prayer. This is the second point made in the Opening Prayer. To lend your voice to the Church, in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, will be one of your most important duties from now on. Follow the example of our Father, who indirectly described the nature of his liturgical prayer when he wrote: “A priest who was saying the Divine Office prepared himself for prayer in this way: ‘I will follow the rule of saying, when I start, I want to pray as the saints pray, and then I will invite my Guardian Angel to sing the Lord’s praises with me.’” [6] Then, directing himself to all without distinction, he adds: “Try this in your own vocal prayer, and also as a way of increasing your presence of God in your work.” [7]

Finally, the Opening Prayer asks God that you may be cheerful and welcoming in the service of others. This also is valid for everyone. “Our service,” St. Josemaría insisted, “is in laetitia, forgetting ourselves….If you want to be happy, forget yourselves and dedicate yourselves to the service of the others, for God.” [8]

Let us also direct our attention to the faithful departed, as the Church advises us to do in this month, so that they may help us understand the joy of purification.

In concluding we turn to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, our Mother, so that we can learn to be— like her—humble and joyful servants of God and of our brothers in all the various duties of our existence. Amen.

[1] Benedict XVI, Homily for the Opening of the Year for Priests, June 19, 2009.

[2] Opening Prayer, Mass for the Ordination to the Diaconate.

[3] St. Josemaría, Notes taken from a meditation, March 29, 1956.

[4] Opening Prayer, Mass for the Ordination to the Diaconate.

[5] Benedict XVI, Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests, June 16, 2009.

[6] St. Josemaría, The Forge, no. 747.

[7] Ibid.

[8] St. Josemaría, Notes taken at a family gathering, December 3, 1961.

Romana, No. 49, July-December 2009, p. 273-276.