Speeches 1979 - Knock
Sunday, 30 September 1979
My dear Brothers,
1. Once again I want you to know how profoundly grateful I am to you for your invitation to come to Ireland. For me this visit is the fulfilment of a deep desire of my heart : to come as a servant of the Gospel and as a pilgrim to the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock, on the occasion of its centenary.
I come also as your Brother Bishop from Rome, and I have greatly looked forward to this day: so that we may celebrate together the unity of the Episcopate of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may give public expression to a dimension of our Episcopal Collegiality, and so that we may reflect together on the role of pastoral leadership in the Church, particularly in regard to our own common responsibility for the wellbeing of the People of God in Ireland.
We are deeply conscious of the special charge that has been laid upon us as Bishops. For "by virtue of sacramental consecration and by hierarchical communion" (Lumen Gentium LG 22) we are constituted members of the College charged with the pastoral mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Episcopal collegiality in which we share is manifested in different ways. Today it is expressed in a very important way : the Successor of Peter is present with you, in order personally to confirm you in your faith and apostolic ministry, and, together with you, to exercise the pastoral care of the faithful in Ireland. Thus, my pilgrimage as Pastor of the universal Church is seen in its deep dimension of ecclesial and hierarchical communion. And through the action of the Holy Spirit the teaching on collegiality finds expression and actuation here and now.
In my first discourse to the College of Cardinals and to the world after my election to the See of Peter, I urged "a deeper reflection on the implications of the collegial bond" (17 October 1978). I am also convinced that my meeting with the Episcopal Conference today leads to a better understanding of the nature of the Church, viewed as the People of God, "which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly and not an earthly nature" (Lumen Gentium LG 13).
3. In our present meeting, we are living the experience of the People of God in Ireland, first in the "vertical" dimension, climbing up, as it were, through all the generations to the very beginnings of Christianity here. At the same time we are mindful of the "horizontal" dimension, realizing how the People of God in Ireland are joined in the unity and the universality of the Church with all peoples on the earth, how they share in the mystery of the universal Church and in her great mission of salvation. The Bishops of Ireland have, moreover, their own sharing in this dimension of the life of the whole Church because they share in the tasks of the College of Bishops: cum Petro et sub Petro. Hence this meeting of the Pope and the Bishops of Ireland is highly important and marvellously eloquent, for Ireland and for the universal Church.
4. The basis of our personal identity, of our common bond and of our ministry is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and High Priest of the New Testament. For this reason, Brethren, my first exhortation as I come among you today is this : "Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" (He 12,2). Since we are pastors of this flock, we must indeed look to him who is the chief Shepherd—Princeps Pastorum (1P 5,4) to enlighten us, to sustain us, and to give us joy as we serve the flock, leading it "in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Ps 23,3).
But the effectiveness of our service to Ireland and to the whole Church is linked with our personal relationship to him whom Saint Peter also called "the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1P 2,25). The secure basis for our pastoral leadership is then a deep personal relationship of faith and love with Jesus Christ our Lord. Like the Twelve, we too were appointed to be with him, to be his companions (cf. Mk Mc 3,14). We can present ourselves as religious leaders of our people in the situations that deeply affect their daily lives only after we have been in prayerful communion with the Teacher, only after we have discovered in faith that God has made Christ to be "our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1Co 1,30). In our own lives we are called to hear and guard and do the word of God. In the Sacred Scriptures, and especially in the Gospels, we meet Christ constantly; and through the power of the Holy Spirit his words become light and strength for us and for our people. His words themselves contain a power for conversion, and we learn by his example.
Through prayerful contact with the Jesus of the Gospels, we, his servants and apostles, increasingly absorb his serenity and we assume his attitudes. Above all we take on that fundamental attitude of love for his Father, so much so that each one of us finds deep joy and fulfilment in the truth of our filial relationship : Diligo Patrem (Jn 14,31)—Pater diligit Filiom (Jn 3,35). Our relationship with Christ and in Christ finds its supreme and unique expression in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which we act to the full : in persona Christi.
Our personal relationship with Jesus is then a guarantee of confidence for us and for our ministry. In our faith we find the victory that overcomes the world. Because we are united with Jesus and sustained by him, there is no challenge we cannot meet, no difficulty we cannot sustain, no obstacle we cannot overcome for the Gospel. Indeed, Christ himself guarantees that "he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do ..." (Jn 14,12). Yes, Brethren, the answer to so many problems is found only in faith—a faith manifested and sustained in prayer.
5. Our relationship with Jesus will be the fruitful basis of our relationship with our priests, as we strive to be their brother, father, friend and guide. In the charity of Christ we are called to listen to and to understand them ; to exchange views regarding evangelization and the pastoral mission they share with us as co-workers with the Order of Bishops. For the entire Church—but especially for the priests—we must be a human sign of the love of Christ and the fidelity of the Church. Thus we sustain our priests with the Gospel message, supporting them by the certainty of the Magisterium, and fortifying them against the pressures that they must resist. By word and example we must constantly invite our priests to prayer.
We are called to show generously to our priests that human concern, personal interest and sincere esteem whereby they will readily perceive our love. Despite the multiplicity of our commitments, our priests must recognize in us the faithful reflection of the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls (cf. 1P 2,25).
Our priests have made many sacrifices, including the renunciation of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven ; and they must be firmly encouraged to persevere. Fidelity to Christ and the demands of human dignity and freedom require them to maintain constancy in their commitment.
The pastoral solicitude we have for priests must also be shown to our seminarians. Let us exercise personally also our responsibility for their training in the Word of God, and for all the formation the? receive in Ireland, and abroad, including Rome. In my letter to the Bishops of the Church on Holy Thursday, I wrote: "The full reconstitution of the life of the seminaries throughout the Church will be the best proof of the achievement of the renewal to which the Council directed the Church".
6. Like Christ, the Bishop comes among the laity as one who serves. The laity are the vast majority of the flock of Jesus Christ. Through Baptism and Confirmation, Christ himself gives them a sharing in his own mission of salvation. Together with the clergy and the religious, the laity make up the one communion of the Church : "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" (1P 2,9).
The greatest expression of the Bishop's service to the laity is his personal proclamation of the word of God, which reaches its summit in the Eucharist (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5). As a faithful steward of the Gospel message, each Bishop is called to expound to his people "the whole mystery of Christ" (Christus Dominus CD 12).
As the Bishop proclaims the dignity of the laity, it is also his role to do everything possible to promote their contribution to evangelization, urging them to assume every responsibility that is theirs in temporal realities. In the words of Paul VI, "Their own field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of mass media" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 70). And there are other spheres of activities in which they can effectively work for the transformation of society.
In accordance with the will of God, the Christian family is an evangelizing agent of immense importance. In all the moral issues of authentic Christian living, the laity look to the Bishops as their leaders, their pastors and their fathers. The Bishops must constantly reply to the great cry of humanity, usually not articulated in words, but very real: "We wish to see Jesus" (Jn 12,21). And in this the Bishops have a role of great importance: to show Jesus to the world ; to present him authentically and convincingly : Jesus Christ, true God and true man—Jesus Christ, the way and the truth and the life—Jesus Christ the man of prayer.
7. Bishops are called to be true fathers of all their people, excelling in the spirit of love and solicitude for all (cf. Christus Dominus CD 16). They should have a special care for those who live on the margin of society. Among those most needing pastoral care from Bishops are prisoners. My dear Brothers, do not neglect to provide for their spiritual needs and to concern yourselves also about their material conditions and their families.
Try to bring the prisoners such spiritual care and guidance as may help to turn them from the ways of violence and crime, and make their detention instead be an occasion of true conversion to Christ and personal experience of love. Have a special care for young offenders. So often their wayward lives are due to society's neglect more than to their own sinfulness. Detention should be especially for them a school of rehabilitation.
8. In the light of our commitment to Jesus, and to his Gospel, in the light also of our collegial responsibility, our meeting here today assumes a special importance because of the present difficult time for Ireland, on account of the whole situation relating to Northern Ireland. These circumstances impelled some people to advise me against making a pilgrimage to Ireland. These very difficulties, however, made it all the more important to be here, to share closely with all of you these uncommon trials, and to seek in union with you the aid of God and good human counsel. These reasons for coming here gain in eloquence if they are placed in the framework of my visit to the United Nations, where it will be my privilege and duty to seek out ways of living in peace and reconciliation throughout the world.
I am sure that the pastors of the Church in Ireland have a better understanding and deeper feeling for the painful problems of the present moment. Their duty, as I pointed out already, is to guide and sustain the flock, the People of God, but they can perform this duty in no other way than by suffering with those who suffer, and by weeping with those who weep (cf. Rom Rm 12,15).
On this point, I draw my conviction both from the Gospel and from the personal and historical experience that I had in the Church and nation from which I come. During the last two centuries, the Church in Poland has struck root in a special way in the soul of the nation. Part of the reason for this is that its pastors—its Bishops and priests—did not hesitate to share in the trials and sufferings of their fellow countrymen. They were found among those deported to Siberia in the time of the Czars. They were found in the concentration camps at the time of the unleashing of Nazi terrorism during the last war. This self-sacrifice and dedication confirmed more fully the truth about the priest, that he is "chosen from among men ... to act on behalf of men" (He 5,1).
9. Because of this faithfulness to their brothers and sisters, to their fellow countrymen, the sons and daughters of the same homeland, pastors, and especially Bishops, must reflect beforehand on how to prevent bloodshed, hatred and terror, on how to strengthen peace, and on how to spare the people from these terrible sufferings. This was the message that Paul VI repeated over thirty times, in appealing for peace and justice in relation to Northern Ireland. He never ceased to condemn violence and to appeal for justice. "We earnestly beg," he wrote to Cardinal Conway on the solemnity of Pentecost 1974, "that all violence should cease, from whatever side it may come, for it is contrary to the law of God and to the Christian and civilized way of life; that, in response to the common Christian conscience and the voice of reason, a climate of mutual trust and dialogue be reestablished in justice and charity ; that the real deep-seated causes of social unrest—which are not to be reduced to differences of a religious nature—be identified and eliminated".
These efforts, venerable and dear Brothers, must be continued. Faith and social ethics demand from us respect for the established State authorities. But this respect also finds its expression in individual acts of mediation, in persuasion, in moral influence, and indeed in firm requests. For while it is true, as Saint Paul says, that he who is in authority bears the sword (cf. Rom Rm 13,4), which we renounce in accordance with the clear recommendation of Christ to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Mt Mt 26,52), nevertheless, precisely because we are defenceless, we have a special right and duty to influence those who wield the sword of authority. For it is well known that, in the field of political action, as elsewhere, not everything can be obtained by means of the sword. There are deeper reasons and stronger laws to which men, nations and peoples are subject. It is for us to discern these reasons and in their light to become, before those in authority, spokesmen for the moral order. This order is superior to force and violence. In this superiority of the moral order is expressed all the dignity of men and nations.
10. I recall with deep satisfaction a significant feature in the series of events connected with my journey to Ireland. It is highly significant that the invitation from the Episcopate, through its four Archbishops, was followed by invitations from other Churches, especially from Irish Anglicans. I take the opportunity to stress this once again and to express my renewed thanks and appreciation to them. I see in this circumstance a very promising sign of hope. In view of the reasons with which you are all familiar, I have been unable to accept this truly ecumenical invitation by visiting Armagh in Northern Ireland, and have been able to go no further than Drogheda. Nonetheless, the eloquence of this ecumenical readiness fully corresponds to what was expressed in my first Encyclical : "In the present historical situation of Christianity and the world, the only possibility we see of fulfilling the Church's universal mission, with regard to ecumenical questions, is that of seeking sincerely, perseveringly, humbly and also courageously the ways of drawing closer and of union ... We must seek unity without being discouraged at the difficulties that can appear or accumulate along that road; otherwise we would be unfaithful to the word of Christ, we would fail to accomplish his testament. Have we the right to run this risk?" (Redemptor Hominis RH 6).
The witness to faith in Christ which we share with our brethren must continue to find expression not only in prayer for full unity but also in prayer and sustained effort for reconciliation and peace in this beloved land. This union of endeavour must lead us to take into consideration the whole mechanism of strife, cruelty, and growing hatred, in order to "overcome evil with good" (Rm 12,12).
What are we to do? I earnestly hope that, in a continued effort, you and our brothers in the faith will become spokesmen for the just reasons of peace and reconciliation before those who wield the sword and those who perish by the sword. How sad it is to think of all the lives that have been lost, especially the lives of young people. What a terrible loss for their country, for the Church, for the whole of humanity!
11. Venerable Pastors of the Church in Ireland : this service to justice and social love that is yours to perform in this present moment is difficult. It is difficult, but it is your duty ! Do not fear: Christ is with you ! He will give you his Holy Spirit : the Spirit of counsel and fortitude. And although this Spirit of God is frequently resisted, in the heart of man and in the history of humanity, by "the spirit of this world" and by "the spirit of darkness", nevertheless the final victory can only be that of love and truth. Continue steadfast in the difficult service that is yours, doing everything "in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col 3,17). Be assured that in your ministry you have my support and that of the universal Church. And all men and women of good will stand by you in the quest for peace, justice and human dignity.
Dear Brothers: In the name of Jesus Christ and his Church I thank you—and through you, all Ireland. I thank you for your fidelity to the Gospel, for your everlasting contribution to the spread of the Catholic faith, for your authentic and irreplaceable service to the world.
As far as the future goes, Brethren, courage and trust !
Walk in the illumination of the Paschal Mystery—in that light which must never be extinguished in your land! Go forward in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the merits of Jesus Christ!
And rejoice with a great joy in the unfailing intercession and protection of Mary, Great Mary, Mother of God, Queen of the Apostles, Queen of Ireland, Queen of Peace !
Brethren, let us go forward together, for the good of Ireland and for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. And therefore "Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith".
Monday, 1st October 1979
Dear brothers and sons in our Lord Jesus Christ,
You have a very special place in my heart and in the heart of the Church. During my visit to Maynooth I wanted to be alone with you, even though it could be for only a few moments.
I have many things that I would tell you—things that I have been saying about the life of seminarians and about seminaries all during the first year of my pontificate.
In particular I would like to speak again about the word of God: about how you are called to hear and guard and do the word of God. And about how you are to base your entire lives and ministry upon the word of God, just as it is transmitted by the Church, just as it is expounded by the Magisterium, just as it has been understood throughout. the history of the Church by the faithful guided by the Holy Spirit : semper et ubique et ab omnibus. The word of God is the great treasure of your lives. Through the word of God you will come to a deep knowledge of the mystery of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary ; Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the New Testament and the Saviour of the world.
The word of God is worthy of all your efforts. To embrace it in its purity and integrity, and to spread it by word and example is a great mission. And this is your mission, today and tomorrow and for the rest of your lives.
As you pursue your vocation—a vocation so intimately related to the word of God—I wish to recall to you one simple but important lesson taken from the life of Saint Patrick ; and it is this : In the history of evangelization, the destiny of an entire people—your people—was radically affected for time and eternity because of the fidelity with which Saint Patrick embraced and proclaimed the word of God, and by reason of the fidelity with which Saint Patrick pursued his call to the end.
What I really want you to realize is this : that God counts on you that he makes his plans, in a way, depend on your free collaboration, on the oblation of your lives, and on the generosity with which you follow the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in the depths of your hearts.
The Catholic faith of Ireland today was linked, in God's plan, to the fidelity of Saint Patrick. And tomorrow? Yes, tomorrow some part of God's plan will be linked to your fidelity—to the fervour with which you say yes to God's word in your lives.
Today Jesus Christ is making this appeal to you through me: the appeal for fidelity. In prayer you will see more and more every day what I mean and what the implications of this call are. By God's grace you will understand more and more every day how God requires and accepts your fidelity as a condition for the supernatural effectiveness of all your activity. The supreme expression of fidelity will come with your irrevocable and total self-giving in union with Jesus Christ to his Father. And may our Blessed Mother Mary help you to make this gift acceptable.
Remember Saint Patrick. Remember what the fidelity of just one man has meant for Ireland and the world. Yes, dear sons and brothers, fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his word makes all the difference in the world. Let us therefore look up to Jesus, who is for all time the Faithful Witness of the Father.
Monday, 1st October 1979
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1. The name of Maynooth is respected all over the Catholic world. It recalls what is noblest in the Catholic priesthood in Ireland. Here come seminarists from every Irish diocese, sons of Catholic homes which were themselves true "seminaries", true seed-beds of priestly or religious vocations. From here have gone out priests to every Irish diocese and to the dioceses of the far-flung Irish diaspora. Maynooth has, in this century, given birth to two new Missionary Societies, one initially directed towards China, the other towards Africa; and it has sent out hundreds of alumni as volunteers to the mission fields. Maynooth is a school of priestly holiness, an academy of theological learning, a university of Catholic inspiration. Saint Patrick's College is a place of rich achievement, which promises a future just as great.
Therefore Maynooth is a fitting place in which to meet and talk with priests, diocesan and religious, with religious brothers, religious sisters, missionaries and seminarians. Having, as a priest-student in Paris, lived for a time in the atmosphere of an Irish Seminary—the Collège Irlandais in Paris, now loaned by the Irish Bishops to the Hierarchy of Poland—I have profound joy in meeting with you all here in Ireland's National Seminary.
2. My first words go to the priests, diocesan and religious. I say to you what Saint Paul said to Timothy. I ask you "to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when (the Bishop) laid (his) hands on you" (2Tm 1,6). Jesus Christ himself, the one High Priest said: "I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already !" (Lc 12,49). You share in his priesthood; you carry on his work in the world. His work cannot be done by lukewarm or half-hearted priests. His fire of love for the Father and for men must burn in you. His longing to save mankind must consume you.
You are called by Christ as the apostles were. You are appointed like them, to be with Christ. You are sent, as they were, to go out in his name, and by his authority, to "make disciples of all the nations" (cf. Mt Mt 10,1 Mt 28,19 Mc 3,13-16).
Your first duty is to be with Christ. You are each called to be "a witness to his Resurrection" (Ac 1,22). A constant danger with priests, even zealous priests, is that they become so immersed in the work of the Lord that they neglect the Lord of the work.
We must find time, we must make time, to be with the Lord in prayer. Following the example of the Lord Jesus himself, we must "always go off to some place where (we can) be alone and pray" (cf. Lk Lc 5,16) . It is only if we spend time with the Lord that our sending out to others will be also a bringing of him to others.
3. To be with the Lord is always also to be sent by him to do his work. A priest is called by Christ; a priest is with Christ; a priest is sent by Christ. A priest is sent in the power of the same Holy Spirit which drove Jesus untiringly along the roads of life, the roads of history. Whatever the difficulties, the disappointments, the set-backs, we priests find in Christ and in the power of his Spirit the strength to "struggle wearily on, helped only by his power driving (us) irresistibly" (cf. Col Col 1,29).
As priests, you are privileged to be pastors of a faithful people, who continue to respond generously to your ministry, and who are a strong support to your own priestly vocation through their faith and their prayer. If you keep striving to be the kind of priest your people expect and wish you to be, then you will be holy priests. The degree of religious practice in Ireland is high. For this we must be constantly thanking God. But will this high level of religious practice continue? Will the next generation of young Irishmen and Irish women still be as faithful as their fathers were? After my two days in Ireland, after my meeting with Ireland's youth in Galway, I am confident that they will. But this will require both unremitting work and untiring prayer on your part. You must work for the Lord with a sense of urgency. You must work with the conviction that this generation, this decade of the 1980's which we are about to enter, could be crucial and decisive for the future of the faith in Ireland. Let there be no complacency. As Saint Paul said : "Be awake to all the dangers; stay firm in the faith; be brave and be strong" (1Co 16,13). Work with confidence; work with joy. You are witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ.
4. What the people expect from you, more than anything else, is faithfulness to the priesthood. This is what speaks to them of the faithfulness of God. This is what strengthens them to be faithful to Christ through all the difficulties of their lives, of their marriages. In a world so marked by instability as our world today, we need more signs and witnesses to God's fidelity to us, and to the fidelity we owe to him. This is what causes such great sadness to the Church, such great but often silent anguish among the people of God, when priests fail in their fidelity to their priestly commitment. That counter-sign, that counter-witness, has been one of the setbacks to the great hopes for renewal aroused throughout the Church by the Second Vatican Council. Yet this has also driven priests, and the whole Church, to more intense and fervent prayer; for it has taught us all that without Christ we can do nothing (cf. Jn Jn 15,5). And the fidelity of the immense majority of priests has shone with even greater clarity and is all the more manifest and glorious a witness to the faithful God, and to Christ, the Faithful Witness (cf. Rev Ap 1,5).
5. In a centre of theological learning, which is also a seminary, like Maynooth, this witness of fidelity has the added importance and the special value of impressing on candidates for the priesthood the strength and the grandeur of priestly fidelity. Here in Maynooth, theological learning, being part of formation for the priesthood, is preserved from ever being an academic pursuit of the intellect only. Here theological scholarship is linked with liturgy, with prayer, with the building of a community of faith and love, and thus with the building up, the "edifying", of the priesthood of Ireland, and the edifying of the Church. My call today is a call to prayer. Only in prayer will we meet the challenges of our ministry and fulfil the hopes of tomorrow. All our appeals for peace and reconciliation can be effective only through prayer.
This theological learning, here as everywhere throughout the Church, is a reflection on faith, a reflection in faith. A theology which did not deepen faith and lead to prayer might be a discourse on words about God ; it could not be a discourse about God, the Living God, the God who is and whose being is Love. It follows that theology can only be authentic in the Church, the community of faith. Only when the teaching of theologians is in conformity with the teaching of the College of Bishops, united with the Pope, can the people of God know with certitude that that teaching is "the faith which has been once and for all entrusted to the Saints" (Jud 3). This is not a limitation for theologians, but a liberation ; for it preserves them from subservience to changing fashions and binds them securely to the unchanging truth of Christ, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn Jn 8,32).
6. In Maynooth, in Ireland, to speak of priesthood is to speak of mission. Ireland has never forgotten that "the pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature; for it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she takes her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father" (Ad Gentes AGD 2). In the ninth and tenth centuries, Irish monks rekindled the light of faith in regions where it had burnt low or been extinguished by the collapse of the Roman Empire, and evangelized new nations not yet evangelized, including areas of my own native Poland. How can I forget that there was an Irish monastery as far east as Kiev, even up to the thirteenth century; and that there was even an Irish college for a short time in my own city of Cracow, during the persecution of Cromwell. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Irish priests followed their exiles all over the English-speaking world. In the twentieth century, new missionary institutes of men and women sprang up in Ireland, which, together with the Irish branches of international missionary institutes and with existing Irish religious congregations, gave a new missionary impetus to the Church.
May that missionary spirit never decline in the hearts of Irish priests, whether members of missionary institutes or of the diocesan clergy or of religious congregations devoted to other apostolates. May this spirit be actively fostered by all of you among the laity, already so devoted in their prayer, so generous in their support for the missions. May a spirit of partnership grow between the home dioceses and the home religious congregations in the total mission of the Church, until each local diocesan church and each religious congregation and community is fully seen to be "missionary of its very nature", entering into the eager missionary movement of the universal Church.
I have learned with much pleasure that the Irish Missionary Union plans to establish a National Missionary Centre, which will both serve as a focus for missionary renewal by missionaries themselves and foster the missionary awareness of the clergy, religious and faithful of the Irish Church. May its work be blessed by God. May it contribute to a great new upsurge of missionary fervour and a new wave of missionary vocations from this great motherland of faith which is Ireland.
7. I wish to speak a special word to religious Brothers. The past decade has brought great changes, and with them problems and trials unprecedented in all your previous experience. I ask you not to be discouraged. Be men of great truth, of great and unbounded hope. "May the God of hope bring you such joy and peace in your faith that the power of the Holy Spirit will remove all bounds to hope" (Rm 15,13). The past decade has also brought a great renewal in your understanding of your holy vocation, a great deepening of your liturgical lives and your prayer, a great extension of the field of your apostolic influence. I ask God to bless you with renewed fidelity iii vocation among your members, and with increased vocations to your Institutes. The Church in Ireland and on the missions owes much to all the Institutes of Brothers. Your call to holiness is a precious adornment of the Church. Believe in your vocation. Be faithful to it. "God has called you and he will not fail you" (1Th 5,23).
8. The Sisters too have known years of searching, sometimes perhaps of uncertainty or of unrest. These have also been years of purification. I pray that we are now entering a period of consolidation and of construction. Many of you are engaged in the apostolate of education and the pastoral care of youth. Do not doubt the continuing relevance of that apostolate, particularly in modern Ireland, where youth are such a large and important part of the population. The Church has repeatedly, in many solemn recent documents, reminded religious of the primary importance of education, and has invited congregations of men and women with the tradition and the charism of education to persevere in that vocation and to redouble their commitment to it. The same is true of the traditional apostolates of care of the sick, nursing, care of the aged, the handicapped, the poor. These must not be neglected while new apostolates are being undertaken. In the words of the Gospel, you must "bring out from (your) storeroom things both new and old" (cf. Mt Mt 13,52). You must be courageous in your apostolic undertakings, not letting difficulties, shortage of personnel, insecurity for the future, deter or depress you.
But remember always that your first field of apostolate is your own personal lives. Here is where the message of the Gospel has first to be preached and lived. Your first apostolic duty is your own sanctification. No change in religious life has any importance unless it be also conversion of yourselves to Christ. No movement in religious life has any value unless it be also movement inwards to the "still centre" of your existence, where Christ is. It is not what you do that matters most; but what you are, as women consecrated to God. For you, Christ has consecrated himself, so that you too "may be consecrated in truth" (cf. Jn Jn 17,19).
9. To you and to priests, diocesan and religious, I say: Rejoice to be witnesses to Christ in the modern world. Do not hesitate to be recognizable, identifiable, in the streets as men and women who have consecrated their lives to God and who have given up everything worldly to follow Christ. Believe in the value for contemporary men and women of the visible signs of your consecrated lives. People need signs and reminders of God in the modern secular city, which has few reminders of God left. Do not help the trend towards "taking God off the streets" by adopting secular modes of dress and behaviour yourselves !
10. My special blessing and greeting goes to the cloistered Sisters and contemplatives, men as well as women. I express to you my gratitude for what you have done for me by your lives of prayer and sacrifice since my papal ministry began. I express the Pope's need for you, the Church's need for you. You are foremost in that "great, intense and growing prayer" for which I called in Redemptor Hominis. Never was the contemplative vocation more precious or more relevant than in our modern restless world. May there be many Irish boys and girls called to the contemplative life, at this time when the future of the Church and the future of humanity depends on prayer.
Gladly do I repeat to all contemplatives, on this feast of Saint Theresa of Lisieux, the words I used in addressing the Sisters of Rome : "I commend to you the Church; I commend mankind and the world to you. To you, to your prayers, to your 'holocaust' I commend also myself, Bishop of Rome. Be with me, close to me, you who are in the heart of the Church ! May there be fulfilled in each of you that which was the programme of life for Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus : 'in corde Ecclesiae amor ero'—'I will be love in the heart of the Church' !". Much of what I have been saying has been intended also for the seminarians. You are preparing for the total giving of yourselves to Christ and to the service of his Kingdom. You bring to Christ the gift of your youthful enthusiasm and vitality. In you Christ is eternally youthful ; and through you he gives youth to the Church. Do not disappoint him. Do not disappoint the people who are waiting for you to bring Christ to them. Do not fail your generation of young Irish men and women. Bring Christ to the young people of your generation as the only answer to their longings. Christ looks on you and loves you. Do not, like the young man in the Gospel, go away sad, "because he had great possessions" (cf. Mt Mt 19,22). Instead, bring all your possessions of mind and hand and heart to Christ, that he may use them to draw all men to himself (cf. Jn Jn 12,32).
To all of you I say: this is a wonderful time in the history of the Church. This is a wonderful time to be a priest, to be a religious, to be a missionary for Christ. Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice in your vocation. I repeat to you the words of Saint Paul : "I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus" (Ph 4,4-7).
Mary, Mother of Christ, the Eternal Priest, Mother of priests and of religious, will keep you from all anxiety, as you "wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ". Entrust yourselves to her, as I commend you to her, to Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of his Church.
Speeches 1979 - Knock