Showing posts with label Pope Benedict XVI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pope Benedict XVI. Show all posts

Sunday, April 26, 2015

An Extraordinary Holy Year - a Year for Mercy

A few weeks ago, Pope Francis formally announced an Extraordinary Holy year starting with the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8, 2015 and ending on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016 (the start coincides with the 50th anniversary of the formal closing of the Second Vatican Council). Holy years are typically held every 25 years (2000 was the last one of the ordinary year), but extraordinary years are held at the authorization of the Pope. Holy years involve spiritual activities as well as a formal opening of certain “Holy Doors” such as one of the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This extraordinary Jubilee has the theme of “A year of mercy”, and is the Pope’s invitation to all Christians to celebrate in a special way the mercy of Christ. Pope Francis, in doing so, is asking all Christians to seek the mercy of Christ and to proclaim it to those who do not know Him. In fact, Pope Francis added a title to Jesus - The Living Face of the Mercy of the Father. Jesus reveals the mercy of God to us.
The Pope is recommending that we focus on one verse from Luke 6:36 - “Be Merciful as your Heavenly Father is Merciful” - as our theme for the year. As he and Pope Benedict XVI are fond of reminding us, God never tires of forgiving us, and this is His mercy in action. He also reminds us that no one can be excluded from the mercy of God. We are to welcome all who are seeking the Face of God. It is a message that the world needs, and a message that has power to move the world. But it is a message that needs to be properly understood, too, or else instead of reflecting on the Living Face of the Father’s mercy, we would be looking at an all too human face of failure.
Mercy is helping others live with their proper dignity. It involves an element of justice, that one is righting a wrong that the other is unable to correct him or herself. Mercy always leads to the truth and a higher human dignity. Many might mistake mercy for weakness, but it is really a strength - to right the wrong, to seek amends. It is a mistake to think that mercy allows condoning or even approving of sin - but that would lack truth and human dignity, and ultimately even charity as God is just, and while He is forgiving, it is presumptuous to assume that He will forgive one’s continuing to sin with not desire of conversion. In the end, this misguided concept is false compassion. Such false compassion denies the moral teachings of the Church and affirm an “anything goes” attitude. But it is just as equally wrong to dismiss people because they are not living a completely moral life - it lacks mercy. Instead, it invites people to come to God where they are, but challenging them in gentle and compassionate ways to living in accord with truth and justice as God would desire. Mercy is following the example of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery. He forgives her, but calls her to conversion (“Go, and sin no more.”). Even Pope Francis’s often quoted sound bit - “Who am I to judge?”, needs to be seen in the context of mercy, which it is only when one reads the full statement: “[a person] who is seeking who is seeking God, who is of good will - well, who am I to judge?” takes on the element of one who is seeking a life in accord with God’s will, seeking His grace.
Such a concept is one that we need. It is for this reason that Pope Francis has invited us to this special year of Mercy - to encounter the Living Face of the Mercy of God, to hear the call to conversion and to invite others to contemplate and respond to Mercy in their lives as well.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Some Thoughts on Vocations

As I depart, I want to share some things I have learned about vocations these last years. While mostly random thoughts, I hope that these can help us continue to build a culture of vocations.
1. The New Evangelization is absolutely necessary. This New Evangelization is not a program, rather a focus on the proclamation of Jesus Christ, to re-propose to people who may have some familiarity to Him, but do not let that knowledge deepen within them. It is not about a re-invigoration of parishes or promotion of more programs. We live in a culture that is further disconnected from God and the faith. The New Evangelization sees this as a new opportunity to proclaim Christ. It is proclaiming Christ to a world that has a ‘certain forgetfulness of God’, as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us several times. When we can share the love of Christ, tell of His mercy and forgiveness, and help others begin to live a moral life, discernment inevitably follows. True, though, that the New Evangelization will lead to vibrant parishes, but only because the faith has taken flame in the hearts of parishioners!
2. Vocations are everyone’s business. It is not just the Director of Vocations, or the Bishop, or the priest personnel board, or even only the parish pastors who are responsible for promoting vocations. It belongs to everyone, ordained, vowed, and lay men and women of all ages. The flame of faith in the hearts of the faithful lead to a desire that others be on fire with the love of God. They encourage others to respond to the promptings of the Spirit to answer a vocation, and all can personally invite a young man or woman to consider a vocation.
3. Personal Invitation is vital. We can help others hear the voice of Christ by inviting them to consider a vocation. To highlight the point of personal invitation, over 75% of seminarians state that they were encouraged and invited to discern a vocation by a priest, but only about 33% of priests are inviting young men – imagine if we could get at least another third of priests to invite! Further, imagine a parish or diocese in which a majority of the members are listening to the promptings of the Spirit and invite others to follow the Lord.
4. Fear is an obstacle to the spiritual life and to the growth of vocations. Some are afraid to invite others to consider a vocation because of a fear of rejection. Some are afraid to give their lives to God, fearing it will lead to unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Jesus assures us time and again, though, “Be not afraid!” We must also remember that perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18). We need to grow in more perfect love – something we do when we pray.
5. Prayer, even the most humble, is more powerful than any vocations program. If we are not praying, how can we expect other to pray. Recognition of a vocation is born from the silence of prayer. As one grows in relation with the Holy Trinity, one also is more able to respond to the promptings of the Spirit.
6. When we pray, we must be specific. While it sounds rather bold, it is necessary and theologically sound. Like personal goals, or even a programed GPS, when we are specific in our prayers, we might also see what we need to do to help God grant those prayers or at least be moving in the right direction. Generic prayer and sacrifice for vocations are good, but to offer specific prayers (a rosary a day or an weekly hour of adoration, for example) or specific sacrifices (like fasting from meat on Fridays) are powerful. Pray for a specific number of seminarians or religious, parishioners, pray for those discerning to come from “our parish”. Families, pray for that a son or daughter may be open to discerning! Be specific.
7. We must present vocations out of a great opportunity versus crisis. In our great Diocese of New Ulm, like many throughout the world, it is easy to focus on the need we have for priests. Some, when they do speak on vocations and the need for priests, do so from a very pessimistic perspective. Giving the impression all is lost, and that the Church as we now have it is a sinking ship, leads to despair and many who may be called to walk away in despair. While we cannot be Pollyannish – ignoring the difficulty of our current situation – we must realize that God is still God, and He continues to call men to the priesthood, and men and women to the religious life. We need to encourage them instead of discouraging. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, so it is safe to remain in the “barque of Peter”, in fact – it is the safest place to be.
8. There is a vocations crisis, but one that is bigger than just priests. We see the deterioration of family life in divorce, the attempts to redefine family in which the nuptial meaning of procreation is questioned due to the rampant culture of death. In such a climate, making a lifelong, permanent choice is difficult, if not impossible for many. To confront this, a concerted focus needs to be made in highlight the sacrament of matrimony and those who have embraced this vocation. We can highlight those couples lovingly commit themselves to each other freely, and lovingly embrace children as an extension of their love. The majority of priesthood and religious vocations will continue to come from those (in fact, in the Diocese of New Ulm, all of our current seminarians hail from intact families, and a the large majority of priests have intact, biological families). If our youth cannot identify even one strong witness of a married couple in their lives, how can our young discern a loving vocation, and commit themselves to live such a vocation freely and permanently? This is not to say that those from other types of homes cannot hear a vocation, or do not have a vocation, but it certainly makes responding to one more difficult as I can personally testify.
9. Sadly, certain scandals have damaged the personal witness of the vast majority of good and holy priests, adding to the fuel of those who claim vocations are in crisis. As the Church roots out the perpetrators, brings healing to the victims, and reestablishes trust with parishioners and others, we need to be even more diligent in seeking holiness ourselves.
10. Personal witness is the best vocations promotion. St. John Paul II drew hundreds of thousands to World Youth Days. When he died, many expressed concern that World Youth Days would cease to draw youth. While his personality was more reserved and introspective, Pope Emeritus Benedict drew massive crowds as well. The youth expressed that he was authentic. Pope Francis draws crowds with his warmth and wit. But all three drew people for the same reason – they love Jesus Christ with their whole being, and were leading people to Him, not to themselves (as a pop star might). If we want to draw people to Christ, we must be authentic, not pretending to be something we are not. We must avail ourselves of the grace of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist. We must be in love with Christ, and let that love permeate all that we do and say. In the end, we must all become saints!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mass of the Lord's Supper Homily of Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict's Homily for the Mass of the Lord's Supper:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.

On the way, he sang with his disciples Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his “exodus” to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God “Abba”. The word means – as they add – “Father”. Yet it is not the usual form of the word “father”, but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a “child”, the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him.

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. “No one has ever seen God”, says Saint John. The one “who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known” (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God “Abba”, went on to say: “Everything is possible for you. You can do all things” (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives.

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he “threw himself on the ground” (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk 14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail.

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father.

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly “like God” – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this “yes” to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.

Chrism Mass Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI

A must read - His Holiness Pope Benedict's Chrism Mass Homily.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be “consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:19), as Jesus besought the Father for us in his high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives – do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? This question places the Lord before us and us before him. “Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?” After this homily, I shall be addressing that question to each of you here and to myself as well. Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfilment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another – of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: he was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided “translations” on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a “translation” of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such “translations” of Jesus’ way into historical figures. We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as “gift and mystery”. The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.

Dear friends, I would like briefly to touch on two more key phrases from the renewal of ordination promises, which should cause us to reflect at this time in the Church’s life and in our own lives. Firstly, the reminder that – as Saint Paul put it – we are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1) and we are charged with the ministry of teaching, the (munus docendi), which forms a part of this stewardship of God’s mysteries, through which he shows us his face and his heart, in order to give us himself. At the meeting of Cardinals on the occasion of the recent Consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word. The Year of Faith, commemorating the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, should provide us with an occasion to proclaim the message of faith with new enthusiasm and new joy. We find it of course first and foremost in sacred Scripture, which we can never read and ponder enough. Yet at the same time we all experience the need for help in accurately expounding it in the present day, if it is truly to touch our hearts. This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored.

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: “My teaching is not mine” (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. In this regard I am always reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: what is so much mine as myself? And what is so little mine as myself? I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with him who called us to be his ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself. The Curé of Ars was no scholar, no intellectual, we know that. But his preaching touched people’s hearts because his own heart had been touched.

The last keyword that I should like to consider is “zeal for souls”: animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word “soul” is virtually banned because – ostensibly – it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalizes the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs – we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ZENIT - Pope's Address to German Seminarians

On his recent trip to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech to seminarians. Here are some highlights:

The seminary is therefore a time for training; also, of course, a time for discernment, for learning: does he want me for this? The mission must be tested, and this includes being in community with others and also of course speaking with your spiritual directors, in order to learn how to discern what his will is. And then learning to trust: if he truly wants this, then I may entrust myself to him.

A time for discernment, a time for learning, a time for vocation ... and then, naturally, a time for being with him [Jesus Christ], a time for praying, for listening to him. Listening, truly learning to listen to him -- in the word of sacred Scripture, in the faith of the Church, in the liturgy of the Church -- and learning to understand the present time in his word.

Studying is essential: only thus can we stand firm in these times and proclaim within them the reason for our faith. And it is essential that we study critically -- because we know that tomorrow someone else will have something else to say -- while being alert, open and humble as we study, so that our studying is always with the Lord, before the Lord, and for him.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pope Benedict's Homily from Mass with Seminarians During World Youth Day

As the Pope's Custom, he offered a Mass for Seminarians at the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena - Madrid 20 August 2011
Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious,
Dear Rectors and Formators,
Dear Seminarians,
Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation. Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.

The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, “Here I am to do your will” (cf. Ps 39:8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. Heb 10:14).

The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lk 22:14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it. Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings. Through Christ we know that we are not walking towards the abyss, the silence of nothingness or death, but are rather pilgrims on the way to a promised land, on the way to him who is our end and our beginning.

Dear friends, you are preparing yourselves to become apostles with Christ and like Christ, and to accompany your fellow men and women along their journey as companions and servants.

How should you behave during these years of preparation? First of all, they should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners his friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. The holiness of the Church is above all the objective holiness of the very person of Christ, of his Gospel and his sacraments, the holiness of that power from on high which enlivens and impels it. We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify.

Meditate well upon this mystery of the Church, living the years of your formation in deep joy, humbly, clear-mindedly and with radical fidelity to the Gospel, in an affectionate relation to the time spent and the people among whom you live. No one chooses the place or the people to whom he is sent, and every time has its own challenges; but in every age God gives the right grace to face and overcome those challenges with love and realism. That is why, no matter the circumstances in which he finds and however difficult they may be, the priest must grow in all kinds of good works, keeping alive within him the words spoken on his Ordination day, by which he was exhorted to model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Phil 3:12-14).

That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10:11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.

Ask him to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the excluded and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. Ask him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor in simplicity and generosity. Face this challenge without anxiety or mediocrity, but rather as a beautiful way of living our human life in gratuitousness and service, as witnesses of God made man, messengers of the supreme dignity of the human person and therefore its unconditional defenders. Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.

Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you. Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.

With this confidence, learn from him who described himself as meek and humble of heart, leaving behind all earthly desire for his sake so that, rather than pursuing your own good, you build up your brothers and sisters by the way you live, as did the patron saint of the diocesan clergy of Spain, St John of Avila. Moved by his example, look above all to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. She will know how to mould your hearts according to the model of Christ, her divine Son, and she will teach you how to treasure for ever all that he gained on Calvary for the salvation of the world. Amen.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Great News Source - NEWS.VA

The Vatican has release a great resource for news at NEWS.VA.
From Cathlic Culture's Review of the site: "News.va is a service provided by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in cooperation with the media offices of the Holy See, including, Fides News Agency, L'Osservatore Romano, the Holy See Press Office, the Vatican Information Service, Vatican Radio, the Vatican Television Center (CTV) and the Internet Office of the Holy See. The purpose of News.va is to feature on one website the latest news selected and aggregated from the Vatican media, which continue to operate their own unique websites. News.va is an instrument of evangelization at the service of the papal ministry and is intended as a service for all."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

84,000 Novenas for the Pope's 84th Birthday!

Will you join me in giving the Pope a huge gift for his birthday? Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating his birthday on April 16th and I'm joining up with praymorenovenas.com to get 84,000 people to pray a novena for the Pope's 84th birthday.

On April 8th, we will begin praying for nine days leading up to and ending on the Papa Benedict's birthday. The Pope prays for us everyday so it is time to return the gift to him on the anniversary of his birth.

84,000 Novenas is a lot! So, I'm going to need your help. I want everyone who reads this blog to do the following to help with this birthday gift!

+ Sign up here: http://bit.ly/h0052O
+ Join the facebook event and invite your friends here: http://on.fb.me/eE2Xs7
+ If you have a website, post about it there!
+ Email your friends and family and get them praying too!

I'm sure the Pope will love that we are all praying for him! Please help us reach our goal of 84,000 novenas for the Pope!

Remember to sign up to pray here: http://bit.ly/h0052O

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prayer for Life

A beautiful prayer from Pope Benedict for Life was posted at Whispers in the Loggia. It is thought-provoking:

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you:

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of a mother's womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
make fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Gift creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children

Console married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Love,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.
Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pope and the Media

I have to admit I am continually surprised, though I know that I should not be, by certain people's malformed conscience that take certain things completely out of context or ignore nuance, twisting statements of incredible clarity into a justification of their own mistaken preconceived ideas.
Now, the Media implies that the Church's stance on condom use and sexuality has shifted, that what was once immoral is now moral.
Note that it is an interview, not official Church teaching or document and is therefore not speaking from his authority as Pope, and second, he is talking in very nuanced terms. He basically said that in certain (assuming limited) circumstances, and the example he uses is suggestive of a male homosexual prostitute, the use of a condom may be a move (also implied to be one of many necessary steps) toward morality and authentic sexuality, but the use of a condom does not make the act moral. The act surrounding its use is still immoral, whether it is sex and act of fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or contraception. As the Pope is saying, the use of a condom is just the awakenings, the beginning, (in his term, "moralization") of taking responsibility for one's actions, but does not represent a full embracing of a moral sexuality, nor taking full responsibility.
This does not, therefore, represent a change in Church teaching. The use of condoms continues to remain a disordered act whether as a means of contraception or as a means of limiting infectious transfers. That said, it needs to be noted, again, that even in the prevention of pregnancy, they are only about 90% effective, and the AIDS virus is much smaller than sperm, and the condom's effectiveness is necessarily less.
The use of a condom is not the end of personal responsibility. True taking of personal responsibility for a full embracing of the moral is celibacy or marital fidelity. Their use does not make an immoral sexual act moral, though as the Pope states it is a move in the right direction as taking responsibility for one's actions. As to the guarantee protection from AIDS, only abstinence and marital continence in a marital relationship are effective.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Verbum Domini And Vocations

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has released a postsynodal apostolic exhortation from the 12th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in 2008, titled "Verbum Domini". He includes a section on the role of Scripture in Vocations:
The word of God and vocations
In stressing faith's intrinsic summons to an ever deeper relationship with Christ, the word of God in our midst, the Synod also emphasized that this word calls each one of us personally, revealing that life itself is a vocation from God. In other words, the more we grow in our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, the more we realize that he is calling us to holiness in and through the definitive choices by which we respond to his love in our lives, taking up tasks and ministries which help to build up the Church. This is why the Synod frequently encouraged all Christians to grow in their relationship with the word of God, not only because of their Baptism, but also in accordance with their call to various states in life. Here we touch upon one of the pivotal points in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which insisted that each member of the faithful is called to holiness according to his or her proper state in life.[263] Our call to holiness is revealed in sacred Scripture: "Be holy, for I am holy" (Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7). Saint Paul then points out its Christological basis: in Christ, the Father "has chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4). Paul's greeting to his brothers and sisters in the community of Rome can be taken as addressed to each of us: "To all God's beloved, who are called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!" (Rom 1:7).
a) Ordained ministers and the word of God
I would like to speak first to the Church's ordained ministers, in order to remind them of the Synod's statement that "the word of God is indispensable in forming the heart of a good shepherd and minister of the word".[264] Bishops, priests, and deacons can hardly think that they are living out their vocation and mission apart from a decisive and renewed commitment to sanctification, one of whose pillars is contact with God's word.
To those called to the episcopate, who are the first and most authoritative heralds of the word, I would repeat the words of Pope John Paul II in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis. For the nourishment and progress of his spiritual life, the Bishop must always put "in first place, reading and meditation on the word of God. Every Bishop must commend himself and feel himself commended ‘to the Lord and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up and to give the inheritance among all those who are sanctified' (Acts 20:32). Before becoming one who hands on the word, the Bishop, together with his priests and indeed like every member of the faithful, and like the Church herself, must be a hearer of the word. He should dwell ‘within' the word and allow himself to be protected and nourished by it, as if by a mother's womb".[265] To all my brother Bishops I recommend frequent personal reading and study of sacred Scripture, in imitation of Mary, Virgo Audiens and Queen of the Apostles.
To priests too, I would recall the words of Pope John Paul II, who in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, stated that "the priest is first of all a minister of the word of God, consecrated and sent to announce the Good News of the Kingdom to all, calling every person to the obedience of faith and leading believers to an ever increasing knowledge of and communion in the mystery of God, as revealed and communicated to us in Christ. For this reason the priest himself ought first of all to develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Knowledge of its linguistic and exegetical aspects, though certainly necessary, is not enough. He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings and bring about a new outlook in him - ‘the mind of Christ' (1 Cor 2:16)".[266] Consequently, his words, his choices and his behaviour must increasingly become a reflection, proclamation and witness of the Gospel; "only if he ‘abides' in the word will the priest become a perfect disciple of the Lord. Only then then will he know the truth and be set truly free".[267]
In a word, the priestly vocation demands that one be consecrated "in the truth". Jesus states this clearly with regard to his disciples: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world" (Jn 17:17-18). The disciples in a certain sense become "drawn into intimacy with God by being immersed in the word of God. God's word is, so to speak, the purifying bath, the creative power which changes them and makes them belong to God".[268] And since Christ himself is God's Word made flesh (Jn 1:14) - "the Truth" (Jn 14:6) - Jesus' prayer to the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth", means in the deepest sense: "Make them one with me, the Christ. Bind them to me. Draw them into me. For there is only one priest of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ himself".[269] Priests need to grow constantly in their awareness of this reality.
I would also like to speak of the place of God's word in the life of those called to the diaconate, not only as the final step towards the order of priesthood, but as a permanent service. The Directory for the Permanent Diaconate states that "the deacon's theological identity clearly provides the features of his specific spirituality, which is presented essentially as a spirituality of service. The model par excellence is Christ as servant, lived totally at the service of God, for the good of humanity".[270] From this perspective, one can see how, in the various dimensions of the diaconal ministry, a "characteristic element of diaconal spirituality is the word of God, of which the deacon is called to be an authoritative preacher, believing what he preaches, teaching what he believes, and living what he teaches".[271] Hence, I recommend that deacons nourish their lives by the faith-filled reading of sacred Scripture, accompanied by study and prayer. They should be introduced to "sacred Scripture and its correct interpretation; to the relationship between Scripture and Tradition; in particular to the use of Scripture in preaching, in catechesis and in pastoral activity in general".[272]
b) The word of God and candidates for Holy Orders
The Synod attributed particular importance to the decisive role that the word of God must play in the spiritual life of candidates for the ministerial priesthood: "Candidates for the priesthood must learn to love the word of God. Scripture should thus be the soul of their theological formation, and emphasis must be given to the indispensable interplay of exegesis, theology, spirituality and mission".[273] Those aspiring to the ministerial priesthood are called to a profound personal relationship with God's word, particularly in lectio divina, so that this relationship will in turn nurture their vocation: it is in the light and strength of God's word that one's specific vocation can be discerned and appreciated, loved and followed, and one's proper mission carried out, by nourishing the heart with thoughts of God, so that faith, as our response to the word, may become a new criterion for judging and evaluating persons and things, events and issues.[274]
Such attention to the prayerful reading of Scripture must not in any way lead to a dichotomy with regard to the exegetical studies which are a part of formation. The Synod recommended that seminarians be concretely helped to see the relationship between biblical studies and scriptural prayer. The study of Scripture ought to lead to an increased awareness of the mystery of divine revelation and foster an attitude of prayerful response to the Lord who speaks. Conversely, an authentic life of prayer cannot fail to nurture in the candidate's heart a desire for greater knowledge of the God who has revealed himself in his word as infinite love. Hence, great care should be taken to ensure that seminarians always cultivate this reciprocity between study and prayer in their lives. This end will be served if candidates are introduced to the study of Scripture through methods which favour this integral approach.
c) The word of God and the consecrated life
With regard to the consecrated life, the Synod first recalled that it "is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life".[275] A life devoted to following Christ in his chastity, poverty and obedience thus becomes "a living ‘exegesis' of God's word".[276] The Holy Spirit, in whom the Bible was written, is the same Spirit who illumines "the word of God with new light for the founders and foundresses. Every charism and every rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it",[277] thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel.
Here I would mention that the great monastic tradition has always considered meditation on sacred Scripture to be an essential part of its specific spirituality, particularly in the form of lectio divina. Today too, both old and new expressions of special consecration are called to be genuine schools of the spiritual life, where the Scriptures can be read according to the Holy Spirit in the Church, for the benefit of the entire People of God. The Synod therefore recommended that communities of consecrated life always make provision for solid instruction in the faith-filled reading of the Bible.[278]
Once again I would like to echo the consideration and gratitude that the Synod expressed with regard to those forms of contemplative life whose specific charism is to devote a great part of their day to imitating the Mother of God, who diligently pondered the words and deeds of her Son (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), and Mary of Bethany, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened attentively to his words (cf. Lk 10:38). I think in particular of monks and cloistered nuns, who by virtue of their separation from the world are all the more closely united to Christ, the heart of the world. More than ever, the Church needs the witness of men and women resolved to "put nothing before the love of Christ".[279] The world today is often excessively caught up in outward activities and risks losing its bearings. Contemplative men and women, by their lives of prayer, attentive hearing and meditation on God's Word, remind us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (cf. Mt 4:4). All the faithful, then, should be clearly conscious that this form of life "shows today's world what is most important, indeed, the one thing necessary: there is an ultimate reason which makes life worth living, and that is God and his inscrutable love".[280]
d) The word of God and the lay faithful
The Synod frequently spoke of the laity and thanked them for their generous activity in spreading the Gospel in the various settings of daily life, at work and in the schools, in the family and in education.[281] This responsibility, rooted in Baptism, needs to develop through an ever more conscious Christian way of life capable of "accounting for the hope" within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus points out that "the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the Kingdom" (13:38). These words apply especially to the Christian laity, who live out their specific vocation to holiness by a life in the Spirit expressed "in a particular way by their engagement in temporal matters and by their participation in earthly activities".[282] The laity need to be trained to discern God's will through a familiarity with his word, read and studied in the Church under the guidance of her legitimate pastors. They can receive this training at the school of the great ecclesial spiritualities, all of which are grounded in sacred Scripture. Wherever possible, dioceses themselves should provide an opportunity for continuing formation to lay persons charged with particular ecclesial responsibilities.[283]
e) The word of God, marriage and the family
The Synod also felt the need to stress the relationship between the word of God, marriage and the Christian family. Indeed, "with the proclamation of the word of God, the Church reveals to Christian families their true identity, what it is and what it must be in accordance with the Lord's plan".[284] Consequently, it must never be forgotten that the word of God is at the very origin of marriage (cf. Gen 2:24) and that Jesus himself made marriage one of the institutions of his Kingdom (cf. Mt 19:4-8), elevating to the dignity of a sacrament what was inscribed in human nature from the beginning. "In the celebration of the sacrament, a man and a woman speak a prophetic word of reciprocal self-giving, that of being ‘one flesh', a sign of the mystery of the union of Christ with the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32)".[285] Fidelity to God's word leads us to point out that nowadays this institution is in many ways under attack from the current mentality. In the face of widespread confusion in the sphere of affectivity, and the rise of ways of thinking which trivialize the human body and sexual differentiation, the word of God re-affirms the original goodness of the human being, created as man and woman and called to a love which is faithful, reciprocal and fruitful.
The great mystery of marriage is the source of the essential responsibility of parents towards their children. Part of authentic parenthood is to pass on and bear witness to the meaning of life in Christ: through their fidelity and the unity of family life, spouses are the first to proclaim God's word to their children. The ecclesial community must support and assist them in fostering family prayer, attentive hearing of the word of God, and knowledge of the Bible. To this end the Synod urged that every household have its Bible, to be kept in a worthy place and used for reading and prayer. Whatever help is needed in this regard can be provided by priests, deacons and a well-prepared laity. The Synod also recommended the formation of small communities of families, where common prayer and meditation on passages of Scripture can be cultivated.[286] Spouses should also remember that "the Word of God is a precious support amid the difficulties which arise in marriage and in family life".[287]
Here I would like to highlight the recommendations of the Synod concerning the role of women in relation to the word of God. Today, more than in the past, the "feminine genius",[288] to use the words of John Paul II, has contributed greatly to the understanding of Scripture and to the whole life of the Church, and this is now also the case with biblical studies. The Synod paid special attention to the indispensable role played by women in the family, education, catechesis and the communication of values. "They have an ability to lead people to hear God's word, to enjoy a personal relationship with God, and to show the meaning of forgiveness and of evangelical sharing".[289] They are likewise messengers of love, models of mercy and peacemakers; they communicate warmth and humanity in a world which all too often judges people according to the ruthless criteria of exploitation and profit.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Letter to Seminarians

Pope Benedict XVI has released a Letter to Seminarians.

LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO SEMINARIANS



Dear Seminarians,

When in December 1944 I was drafted for military service, the company commander asked each of us what we planned to do in the future. I answered that I wanted to become a Catholic priest. The lieutenant replied: “Then you ought to look for something else. In the new Germany priests are no longer needed”. I knew that this “new Germany” was already coming to an end, and that, after the enormous devastation which that madness had brought upon the country, priests would be needed more than ever. Today the situation is completely changed. In different ways, though, many people nowadays also think that the Catholic priesthood is not a “job” for the future, but one that belongs more to the past. You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity. Where people no longer perceive God, life grows empty; nothing is ever enough. People then seek escape in euphoria and violence; these are the very things that increasingly threaten young people. God is alive. He has created every one of us and he knows us all. He is so great that he has time for the little things in our lives: “Every hair of your head is numbered”. God is alive, and he needs people to serve him and bring him to others. It does makes sense to become a priest: the world needs priests, pastors, today, tomorrow and always, until the end of time.

The seminary is a community journeying towards priestly ministry. I have said something very important here: one does not become a priest on one’s own. The “community of disciples” is essential, the fellowship of those who desire to serve the greater Church. In this letter I would like to point out – thinking back to my own time in the seminary – several elements which I consider important for these years of your journeying.

1. Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a “man of God”, to use the expression of Saint Paul (1 Tim 6:11). For us God is not some abstract hypothesis; he is not some stranger who left the scene after the “big bang”. God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. In his words we hear God himself speaking to us. It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God’s messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to “pray constantly”, he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God. Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him.

2. For us God is not simply Word. In the sacraments he gives himself to us in person, through physical realities. At the heart of our relationship with God and our way of life is the Eucharist. Celebrating it devoutly, and thus encountering Christ personally, should be the centre of all our days. In Saint Cyprian’s interpretation of the Gospel prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”, he says among other things that “our” bread – the bread which we receive as Christians in the Church – is the Eucharistic Lord himself. In this petition of the Our Father, then, we pray that he may daily give us “our” bread; and that it may always nourish our lives; that the Risen Christ, who gives himself to us in the Eucharist, may truly shape the whole of our lives by the radiance of his divine love. The proper celebration of the Eucharist involves knowing, understanding and loving the Church’s liturgy in its concrete form. In the liturgy we pray with the faithful of every age – the past, the present and the future are joined in one great chorus of prayer. As I can state from personal experience, it is inspiring to learn how it all developed, what a great experience of faith is reflected in the structure of the Mass, and how it has been shaped by the prayer of many generations.

3. The sacrament of Penance is also important. It teaches me to see myself as God sees me, and it forces me to be honest with myself. It leads me to humility. The Curé of Ars once said: “You think it makes no sense to be absolved today, because you know that tomorrow you will commit the same sins over again. Yet,” he continues, “God instantly forgets tomorrow’s sins in order to give you his grace today.” Even when we have to struggle continually with the same failings, it is important to resist the coarsening of our souls and the indifference which would simply accept that this is the way we are. It is important to keep pressing forward, without scrupulosity, in the grateful awareness that God forgives us ever anew – yet also without the indifference that might lead us to abandon altogether the struggle for holiness and self-improvement. Moreover, by letting myself be forgiven, I learn to forgive others. In recognizing my own weakness, I grow more tolerant and understanding of the failings of my neighbour.

4. I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Church’s great treasures. The faith has taken on flesh and blood. Certainly popular piety always needs to be purified and refocused, yet it is worthy of our love and it truly makes us into the “People of God”.

5. Above all, your time in the seminary is also a time of study. The Christian faith has an essentially rational and intellectual dimension. Were it to lack that dimension, it would not be itself. Paul speaks of a “standard of teaching” to which we were entrusted in Baptism (Rom 6:17). All of you know the words of Saint Peter which the medieval theologians saw as the justification for a rational and scientific theology: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an ‘accounting’ (logos) for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). Learning how to make such a defence is one of the primary responsibilities of your years in the seminary. I can only plead with you: Be committed to your studies! Take advantage of your years of study! You will not regret it. Certainly, the subjects which you are studying can often seem far removed from the practice of the Christian life and the pastoral ministry. Yet it is completely mistaken to start questioning their practical value by asking: Will this be helpful to me in the future? Will it be practically or pastorally useful? The point is not simply to learn evidently useful things, but to understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people’s questions, which on the surface change from one generation to another yet ultimately remain the same. For this reason it is important to move beyond the changing questions of the moment in order to grasp the real questions, and so to understand how the answers are real answers. It is important to have a thorough knowledge of sacred Scripture as a whole, in its unity as the Old and the New Testaments: the shaping of texts, their literary characteristics, the process by which they came to form the canon of sacred books, their dynamic inner unity, a unity which may not be immediately apparent but which in fact gives the individual texts their full meaning. It is important to be familiar with the Fathers and the great Councils in which the Church appropriated, through faith-filled reflection, the essential statements of Scripture. I could easily go on. What we call dogmatic theology is the understanding of the individual contents of the faith in their unity, indeed, in their ultimate simplicity: each single element is, in the end, only an unfolding of our faith in the one God who has revealed himself to us and continues to do so. I do not need to point out the importance of knowing the essential issues of moral theology and Catholic social teaching. The importance nowadays of ecumenical theology, and of a knowledge of the different Christian communities, is obvious; as is the need for a basic introduction to the great religions, to say nothing of philosophy: the understanding of that human process of questioning and searching to which faith seeks to respond. But you should also learn to understand and – dare I say it – to love canon law, appreciating how necessary it is and valuing its practical applications: a society without law would be a society without rights. Law is the condition of love. I will not go on with this list, but I simply say once more: love the study of theology and carry it out in the clear realization that theology is anchored in the living community of the Church, which, with her authority, is not the antithesis of theological science but its presupposition. Cut off from the believing Church, theology would cease to be itself and instead it would become a medley of different disciplines lacking inner unity.

6. Your years in the seminary should also be a time of growth towards human maturity. It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated. To the theological virtues the Christian tradition has always joined the cardinal virtues derived from human experience and philosophy, and, more generally, from the sound ethical tradition of humanity. Paul makes this point this very clearly to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8). This also involves the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a person’s growth towards human maturity. When it is not integrated within the person, sexuality becomes banal and destructive. Today we can see many examples of this in our society. Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people. Instead of guiding people to greater human maturity and setting them an example, their abusive behaviour caused great damage for which we feel profound shame and regret. As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life. Yet even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure. Thank God, all of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this state and specifically in the life of celibacy. Admittedly, what has happened should make us all the more watchful and attentive, precisely in order to examine ourselves earnestly, before God, as we make our way towards priesthood, so as to understand whether this is his will for me. It is the responsibility of your confessor and your superiors to accompany you and help you along this path of discernment. It is an essential part of your journey to practise the fundamental human virtues, with your gaze fixed on the God who has revealed himself in Christ, and to let yourselves be purified by him ever anew.

7. The origins of a priestly vocation are nowadays more varied and disparate than in the past. Today the decision to become a priest often takes shape after one has already entered upon a secular profession. Often it grows within the Communities, particularly within the Movements, which favour a communal encounter with Christ and his Church, spiritual experiences and joy in the service of the faith. It also matures in very personal encounters with the nobility and the wretchedness of human existence. As a result, candidates for the priesthood often live on very different spiritual continents. It can be difficult to recognize the common elements of one’s future mandate and its spiritual path. For this very reason, the seminary is important as a community which advances above and beyond differences of spirituality. The Movements are a magnificent thing. You know how much I esteem them and love them as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Yet they must be evaluated by their openness to what is truly Catholic, to the life of the whole Church of Christ, which for all her variety still remains one. The seminary is a time when you learn with one another and from one another. In community life, which can at times be difficult, you should learn generosity and tolerance, not only bearing with, but also enriching one another, so that each of you will be able to contribute his own gifts to the whole, even as all serve the same Church, the same Lord. This school of tolerance, indeed, of mutual acceptance and mutual understanding in the unity of Christ’s Body, is an important part of your years in the seminary.

Dear seminarians, with these few lines I have wanted to let you know how often I think of you, especially in these difficult times, and how close I am to you in prayer. Please pray for me, that I may exercise my ministry well, as long as the Lord may wish. I entrust your journey of preparation for priesthood to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, whose home was a school of goodness and of grace. May Almighty God bless you all, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

From the Vatican, 18 October 2010, the Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist.



Yours devotedly in the Lord,
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI



© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Role of Parents and Prayer in Vocations

ZENIT, as usual has posted Pope Benedict XVI's sermon, this week he addressed the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is called "Good Shepherd Sunday," the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated, which has as its theme this year "Witness Awakens Vocations," a theme that is "closely linked to the life and mission of priests and consecrated persons" ("Message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, April 25, 2010"). The first form of witness that awakens vocations is prayer (cf. ibid.), as is shown to us by the example of St. Monica, who, supplicating God with humility and persistence, obtained the grace of seeing her son Augustine become Christian. St. Augustine wrote: "Without a doubt I believe and affirm that through her prayers, God granted me the intention not to propose, not to want, not to think, not to love anything else but the attainment of truth" ("De Ordine," II 20, 52; CCL 29, 136).
Therefore, I invite parents to pray that the heart of their children open to listening to the Good Shepherd, and "each tiny seed of a vocation ... grow into a mature tree, bearing much good fruit for the Church and for all humanity" ("Message"). How can we hear the voice of the Lord and recognize it? In the preaching of the Apostles and their successors: In it there resounds the voice of Christ, who calls us to communion with God and to the fullness of life, as we read today in St. John's Gospel: "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never be lost and no one will take them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28). Only the Good Shepherd leads his flock with immense tenderness and defends them from evil, and only in him can the faithful place absolute confidence.
On this special day of prayer for vocations I especially exhort the ordained ministers, so that, inspired by the Year for Priests, they are moved to "a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests"). May they remember that the priest "continues the work of the Redemption on earth;" may they know how to "stop frequently before the tabernacle;" may they remain "completely faithful to [their] own vocation and mission through the practice of an austere asceticism;" may they be available to listen and forgive; may they form the people entrusted to them in a Christian way; may they cultivate with care "priestly fraternity" (cf. ibid.). May they take wise and zealous pastors as an example, as St. Gregory Nazianzus, who wrote to his dear friend and bishop, St. Basil: "Teach us your love for your sheep, your solicitude and your capacity for understanding, your vigilance ... the austerity in sweetness, the serenity and meekness in activity ... the combats in defense of the flock, the victories ... achieved in Christ" (Oratio IX, 5, PG 35, 825ab).
I thank everyone who is present and those who with prayer and affection support my ministry as the Successor of Peter, and upon everyone I invoke the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary, to whom we now turn in prayer.
[After the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]
This morning, in Rome and in Barcelona respectively, two priests were beatified: Angelo Paoli, a Carmelite, and José Tous y Soler, a Capuchin. I will speak about the latter shortly. In regard to Blessed Angelo Paoli, who was from Lunigiana and lived between the 17th and 18th centuries, I would like to recall that he was an apostle of charity in Rome and was called "Father of the Poor." He dedicated himself especially to the sick of the Hospital of St. John, also caring for the convalescents. His apostolate drew strength from the Eucharist and from devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and from an intense life of penance as well. In the Year for Priests I gladly propose his example to all priests, in a special way to those who belong to religious institutes of the active life.
[In English he said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present for today's Regina Caeli prayer. This Sunday the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. As we rejoice in the new life that the Risen Lord has won for us, let us ask him to inspire many young people to center their hearts on the things of Heaven (cf. Col 3:1-2) and to offer themselves joyfully in the service of Christ our Good Shepherd in the priesthood and religious life. Confidently entrusting this petition to Mary, Queen of Heaven, I invoke upon you God's abundant blessings of peace and joy!
[The Pontiff concluded in Italian:]
I direct a special greeting to the Meter Association, which, for the past 14 years, has promoted the national day for children who are victims of violence, exploitation and indifference. On this occasion I would like above all to thank and encourage those who dedicate themselves to prevention and education, especially parents, teachers, many priests, sisters, catechists and leaders who work with the young people in the parishes, schools and associations. I greet the faithful from Brescia, Cassana near Ferrara, from parishes in Umbria and Toronto, Canada; the young people of the parishes in Valposchiavo, in Switzerland, and those from Francavilla al Mare; and the group of engaged couples from Altamura. I wish everyone a good Sunday.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prayers for Pope Benedict XVI

I hesitate to say something about the recent scandals that some are using to implicate and tarnish His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. The history that they piece together (or more importantly, the pieces they leave out) is awful, and that it leaves me thinking that no honest person who has a little love for the Pope and the truth can ultimately believe much of it. But the stuff just keeps coming. That's why I will turn your attention to A Response to the New York Times given by Father Raymond J. de Souza in the National Review Online. It is a extremely well-written article, filling in the missing historical pieces.

I think part of what is happening is that those who are attacking the Pope are angry he did not do enough - if that is reason to condemn someone, then we all stand guilty! It has happened in our Church, and it is time that we say STOP - NEVER AGAIN will we allow this crime to occur, especially in our Churches and most especially by our priests. I also think it is being used to attempt to strip the Church of Her moral authority. It is used by some to promote a 'different' view of priesthood - blaming celibacy, blaming an all-male priesthood, etc. It may even be a thinly veiled attack on him as we are at his fifth anniversary as our shepherd - them trying to throw into question the outcome of the conclave, or even the presence of the Holy Spirit! As I said at the end of the Masses this weekend, the Lord promised that Gates of Hell would not conquer the Church.

Let us pray for the conversion of all abusers, and that properly punished (either through forced laicization and incarceration, or through extremely limited contact, while closely supervised, life in a care facility due to age and health issues if there has been true contrition and conversion), may repent of their sins and never commit them again. Let's pray for the conversion of those involved in promoting the scandal, but more importantly, pray for the continued strong leadership of Pope Benedict, especially as he has always been part of the strongest response to the sin of sexual abuse.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vatican to Prepare Document on Seminarians

Zenit reports that the Vatican to Prepare Document on Seminarians. Keep them in prayer as they do this - sounds like it will be timely and very much useful!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the Saints of August

On August 2, Pope Benedict spoke On the Saints of August.
"Real Models of Spirituality and Priestly Devotion"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in the courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, on Aug. 2.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I returned a few days ago from the Val d'Aosta and it is with great pleasure that I am with you once again, dear friends of Castel Gandolfo. To the Bishop, the parish priest and the parish community, to the civil Authorities and the entire population of Castel Gandolfo, along with the pilgrims as well as the holiday-makers, I renew my affectionate greeting together with a heartfelt "thank you" for your ever cordial welcome. I also thank you for the spiritual closeness that many people expressed to me in Les Combes at the time of the small accident to my right wrist.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Year for Priests that we are celebrating is a precious opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the value of the mission of priests in the Church and in the world. In this regard, useful ideas for reflection can be found in remembering the saints whom the Church holds up to us daily.

In these first days of the month of August, for example, we commemorate some who are real models of spirituality and priestly devotion. Yesterday was the liturgical Memorial of St Alphonsus Mary de' Liguori, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, a great teacher of moral theology and a model of Christian and pastoral virtues who was ever attentive to the religious needs of the people. Today we are contemplating St Francis of Assisi's ardent love for the salvation of souls which every priest must always foster. In fact today is the feast of the "Pardon of Assisi", which St Francis obtained from Pope Honorious III in the year 1216, after having a vision while he was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula.

Jesus appeared to him in his glory, with the Virgin Mary on his right and surrounded by many Angels. They asked him to express a wish and Francis implored a "full and generous pardon" for all those who would visit that church who "repented and confessed their sins". Having received papal approval, the Saint did not wait for any written document but hastened to Assisi and when he reached the Portiuncula announced the good news: "Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven!". Since then, from noon on 1 August to midnight on the second, it has been possible to obtain, on the usual conditions, a Plenary Indulgence, also for the dead, on visiting a parish church or a Franciscan one.

What can be said of St John Mary Vianney whom we shall commemorate on 4 August? It was precisely to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his death that I announced the Year for Priests. I promise to speak again of this humble parish priest who constitutes a model of priestly life not only for parish priests but for all priests at the Catechesis of the General Audience next Wednesday. Then on 7 August it will be the Memorial of St Cajetan da Thiene, who used to like to say: "it is not with sentimental love but rather with loving actions that souls are purified".

And the following day, 8 August, the Church will point out as a model St Dominic, of whom it has been written that he only "opened his mouth either to speak to God in prayer or to speak of God". Lastly, I cannot forget to mention the great figure of Pope Montini, Paul VI, the 31st anniversary of whose death, here in Castel Gandolfo, occurs on 6 August. His life, so profoundly priestly and so rich in humanity, continues to be a gift to the Church for which we thank God. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, help priests to be totally in love with Christ, after the example of these models of priestly holiness.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, including the international pilgrimage group of Sisters of St Felix of Cantalice. In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us to work for the food that remains unto life eternal. During these quiet days of summer, may all of us find spiritual nourishment in "the bread come down from heaven", offered to us daily in God's holy word and in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Upon you and your families I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord!

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, I address my cordial greetings to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, and first of all to the citizens of Castel Gandolfo to which I always return joyfully and where today the traditional Peach Festival is being held. I greet in particular the young people from the parishes of San Giovanni Battista and Santa Maria Assunta in Monterosso Almo and all the parish groups and families, including those who are watching us at this moment on the screens set up in St Peter's Square, Rome. I wish you all a good Sunday and a peaceful month of August.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

On the Curé d'Ars

In his morning address on August 5th, the Pope spoke on On the Curé d'Ars.

"Since His Earthly Youth He Sought to Conform Himself to God

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Aug. 5 at his Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, during which commented on the Holy Curé d'Ars.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's Catechesis I would like briefly to review the life of the Holy Curé of Ars. I shall stress several features that can also serve as an example for priests in our day, different of course from the time in which he lived, yet marked in many ways by the same fundamental human and spiritual challenges.

Precisely yesterday was the 150th anniversary of his birth in Heaven. Indeed it was at two o'clock in the morning on 4 August 1859 that St John Baptist Mary Vianney, having come to the end of his earthly life, went to meet the heavenly Father to inherit the Kingdom, prepared since the world's creation for those who faithfully follow his teachings (cf. Mt 25: 34).

What great festivities there must have been in Heaven at the entry of such a zealous pastor! What a welcome he must have been given by the multitude of sons and daughters reconciled with the Father through his work as parish priest and confessor!

I wanted to use this anniversary as an inspiration to inaugurate the Year for Priests, whose theme, as is well known, is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests". The credibility of witness depends on holiness and, once and for all, on the actual effectiveness of the mission of every priest.

John Mary Vianney was born into a peasant family in the small town of Dardilly on 8 May 1786. His family was poor in material possessions but rich in humanity and in faith. Baptized on the day of his birth, as was the good custom in those days, he spent so many years of his childhood and adolescence working in the fields and tending the flocks that at the age of 17 he was still illiterate.

Nonetheless he knew by heart the prayers his devout mother had taught him and was nourished by the sense of religion in the atmosphere he breathed at home. His biographers say that since his earthly youth he sought to conform himself to God's will, even in the humblest offices.

He pondered on his desire to become a priest but it was far from easy for him to achieve it.

Indeed, he arrived at priestly ordination only after many ordeals and misunderstandings, with the help of far-sighted priests who did not stop at considering his human limitations but looked beyond them and glimpsed the horizon of holiness that shone out in that truly unusual young man.

So it was that on 23 June 1815 he was ordained a deacon and on the following 13 August, he was ordained a priest. At last, at the age of 29, after numerous uncertainties, quite a few failures and many tears, he was able to walk up to the Lord's altar and make the dream of his life come true.

The Holy Curé of Ars always expressed the highest esteem for the gift he had received. He would say: "Oh! How great is the Priesthood! It can be properly understood only in Heaven... if one were to understand it on this earth one would die, not of fright but of love!" (Abbé Monnin, Esprit du Curé d'Ars, p. 113).

Moreover, as a little boy he had confided to his mother: "If I were to become a priest, I would like to win many souls" (Abbé Monnin, Procès de l'ordinaire, p. 1064). And so he did. Indeed, in his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fertile, this unknown parish priest of a forgotten village in the south of France was so successful in identifying with his ministry that he became, even in a visibly and universally recognizable manner, an alter Christus, an image of the Good Shepherd who, unlike the hired hand, lays down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10: 11).

After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life in the decades of his priestly service. His existence was a living catechesis that acquired a very special effectiveness when people saw him celebrating Mass, pausing before the tabernacle in adoration or spending hour after hour in the confessional.

Therefore the centre of his entire life was the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. Another fundamental characteristic of this extraordinary priestly figure was his diligent ministry of confession.

He recognized in the practice of the sacrament of penance the logical and natural fulfillment of the priestly apostolate, in obedience to Christ's mandate: "if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (cf. Jn 20: 23).

St John Mary Vianney thus distinguished himself as an excellent, tireless confessor and spiritual director. Passing "with a single inner impulse from the altar to the confessional", where he spent a large part of the day, he did his utmost with preaching and persuasive advice to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence (cf. Letter to Priests for the inauguration of the Year for Priests).

The pastoral methods of St John Mary Vianney might hardly appear suited to the social and cultural conditions of the present day. Indeed, how could a priest today imitate him in a world so radically changed? Although it is true that times change and many charisms are characteristic of the person, hence unrepeatable, there is nevertheless a lifestyle and a basic desire that we are all called to cultivate.

At a close look, what made the Curé of Ars holy was his humble faithfulness to the mission to which God had called him; it was his constant abandonment, full of trust, to the hands of divine Providence.
It was not by virtue of his own human gifts that he succeeded in moving peoples' hearts nor even by relying on a praiseworthy commitment of his will; he won over even the most refractory souls by communicating to them what he himself lived deeply, namely, his friendship with Christ.

He was "in love" with Christ and the true secret of his pastoral success was the fervor of his love for the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all who were seeking God. His testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for every baptized person and especially for every priest the Eucharist is not merely an event with two protagonists, a dialogue between God and me. Eucharistic Communion aspires to a total transformation of one's life and forcefully flings open the whole human "I" of man and creates a new "we" (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, La Comunione nella Chiesa, p. 80).

Thus, far from reducing the figure of St John Mary Vianney to an example albeit an admirable one of 18-century devotional spirituality, on the contrary one should understand the prophetic power that marked his human and priestly personality that is extremely timely.

In post-revolutionary France which was experiencing a sort of "dictatorship of rationalism" that aimed at obliterating from society the very existence of priests and of the Church, he lived first in the years of his youth a heroic secrecy, walking kilometers at night to attend Holy Mass. Then later as a priest Vianney distinguished himself by an unusual and fruitful pastoral creativity, geared to showing that the then prevalent rationalism was in fact far from satisfying authentic human needs, hence definitively unlivable.

Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, contemporary society is facing challenges that are just as demanding and may have become even more complex.

If in his time the "dictatorship of rationalism" existed, in the current epoch a sort of "dictatorship of relativism" is evident in many contexts. Both seem inadequate responses to the human being's justifiable request to use his reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his own identity.

Rationalism was inadequate because it failed to take into account human limitations and claims to make reason alone the criterion of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism humiliates reason because it arrives de facto at affirming that the human being can know nothing with certainty outside the positive scientific field.

Today however, as in that time, man, "a beggar for meaning and fulfillment", is constantly in quest of exhaustive answers to the basic questions that he never ceases to ask himself.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had very clearly in mind this "thirst for the truth" that burns in every human heart when they said that it is the task of priests "as instructors of the people in the faith" to see to the "formation of a genuine Christian community", that can "smooth the path to Christ for all men" and exercise "a truly motherly function" for them, "showing or smoothing the path towards Christ and his Church" for non-believers and for believers, while also "encouraging, supporting and strengthening believers for their spiritual struggles" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 6).

The teaching which in this regard the Holy Curé of Ars continues to pass on to us is that the priest must create an intimate personal union with Christ that he must cultivate and increase, day after day.

Only if he is in love with Christ will the priest be able to teach his union, this intimate friendship with the divine Teacher to all, and be able to move people's hearts and open them to the Lord's merciful love. Only in this way, consequently, will he be able to instil enthusiasm and spiritual vitality in the communities the Lord entrusts to him.

Let us pray that through the intercession of St John Mary Vianney, God will give holy priests to his Church and will increase in the faithful the desire to sustain and help them in their ministry. Let us entrust this intention to Mary, whom on this very day we invoke as Our Lady of the Snow.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially the pilgrimage groups from England, China, Korea and the United States of America. Yesterday the Church celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who is the patron saint of parish priests. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that through his intercession all priests will be renewed in love of the Lord, in the joyful pursuit of holiness and in generous commitment to the spread of the Gospel. Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

My thoughts turn lastly to the sick, the newlyweds and the young people, especially to those participating in The Fifth International Encounter "Youth Towards Assisi". Today, the liturgical Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major, the liturgy invites us to turn our gaze to Mary, Mother of Christ. Always look to her, dear young people, imitating her in doing God's will faithfully; turn to her with trust, dear sick people, to experience the effectiveness of her protection in moments of trial; entrust your family to her, dear newlyweds, so that it may always be supported by her maternal intercession.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?