S. John Paul II Homil. 888
Feast of Our Lady of Trust
Sunday, 14 June 1998
889 1. Last February on the annual feast day of Our Lady of Trust, patroness of the Roman Major Seminary, I was unable to come and visit your community as I had hoped. I am therefore particularly pleased to welcome you today to this Eucharistic celebration in the unique setting of the Lourdes Grotto of the Vatican Gardens, which reminds us of the Immaculate Virgin’s spiritual presence.
I greet the Cardinal Vicar, who also wanted to be present, the rector, Mons. Pierino Fragnelli, the superiors and all of you, dear seminarians.
We are celebrating the Eucharist together on this 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the Church’s life and of our personal journey of sanctification (cf. Lumen gentium LG 11). Last Thursday, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we gathered in front of the Basilica of St John Lateran to celebrate the Eucharist, and together we accompanied the Blessed Sacrament in the traditional procession to St Mary Major. Today we are celebrating this same mystery beneath the loving gaze of the Mother of priests.
2. The Blessed Virgin, dear friends, wants to lead all men to Christ; she knows that to do this she needs generous service from the holy ministers of the Eucharist. This is why Mary shows you the altar, which, from the day of a priest’s ordination, is where his daily meeting with the Lord culminates. In fact, it is primarily at Holy Mass that the priest makes progress in his conformity to Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2,20). Paul’s words to the Galatians which we heard a few moments ago in the second reading are a synthesis of the existential fruit of Eucharistic communion: the indwelling of Christ in the soul, brought about by the Holy Spirit. Who, more than the priest, is called to make these words his own and to offer them as a plan of life? Who, more than he, lives wholly on the Bread of eternal life, given by Christ for the world’s salvation?
3. Mass is truly the centre of the priest’s life, the centre of all his days. This centrality is thus the primary objective of the seminary’s formation programme, which requires the conscious and total co-operation of each candidate for the priesthood. First of all, the seminarian should passionately love the Eucharist: he should recognize that his vocation directs him towards a fervent and ever deeper participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass, a participation which at a certain point acquires the meaning of a most personal call. The words “do this in memory of me” speak to his heart with profound eloquence. He recognizes the Eucharist as the living sacrament of Christ’s grace and so feels he has nothing to offer in exchange but himself.
When this response of faith and love matures in a young man, the Church’s heart rejoices; the heart of Mary rejoices, as her motherly concern anticipates and accompanies the flowering of every individual vocation. Invoked by the title Our Lady of Trust, she watches in particular over each of you, dear students of the Roman Major Seminary. At this Mass I pray for you, that you may become holy priests. I pray for your superiors and teachers, that they may guide you on this path. I also pray for your relatives who are anxiously following your steps with the discreet attention Mary had for her Son Jesus.
4. Through Mary Immaculate may you always nourish a strong sense of God, of his gratuitous and prevenient love, of his initiative of grace which deserves a generous response like that of the woman sinner mentioned in today’s Gospel, who was not ashamed to express her grateful love for Jesus, her Saviour. Thus you will always be convinced witnesses to God’s merciful love, a never-ending source of conversion and forgiveness, and once you become priests, zealous ministers of the sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Holy Spirit accomplishes all this, working in the depths of your hearts. Just as he moulded the priestly heart of Christ from Mary’s womb to the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross and to the fullness of life of the Resurrection, may he form your hearts for the salvation of souls and the glory of God with the full maturity of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Cathedral of Saints Rupert and Virgilius, Salzburg
890 Friday, 19 June 1998
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps 23 :1).
1. Today we can address to the incarnate Word of God, our Shepherd, the words the psalmist uses to refer to the God of the Old Covenant: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”. We contemplate with gratitude the many fruits of faith which developed in this region like a mighty tree and made history: “Rejoice, Juvavum, because on the banks of your waters the Lord has planted trees which will never stop bearing fruit” (First Antiphon of the Office of Readings for the Feast of Sts Rupert and Virgilius).
Here the light of faith began to shine for the first time when the famous missionary, Severinus, reached this region. It was the end of the fifth century, when the ancient Roman provinces were already in decline. More than two centuries had to pass before another good shepherd, from the city of Worms on the Rhine, found the way leading to the small city on the Salzach River, most of which was in ruins: that itinerant Bishop was called Rupert. He built churches and spiritual centres. His first church was dedicated to the Apostle Peter.
In 739, St Boniface, as Papal Legate for Germany, created four Dioceses: Regensburg, Passau, Freising and Salzburg. The Pastors of these very ancient Churches are with us here today. I therefore extend a special greeting to Archbishop Georg Eder, who is our host, to Cardinal Friedrich Wetter of Munich and Freising, to Bishop Manfred Müller of Regensburg and to Bishop Franz Xaver Eder of Passau.
This Church of Salzburg is ancient and illustrious! As you know, after the holy Bishop Virgilius, who came from Ireland, had consecrated the first cathedral, it was elevated 1,200 years ago by Pope Leo III to a Metropolitan See.
The highlights of the past justly allow us today, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to sing the Te Deum, praising the Lord our Good Shepherd, who carried Salzburg on his shoulders down the centuries: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
2. Today, the day when the Successor of Peter is able to visit the “German Rome” for the second time, is not only dedicated to recalling a great past. It is intended to awaken in each person the commitment to sincere renewal in faith and a generous concentration of his own energies with those of other believers to promote the new evangelization.
As I say this, my gaze extends over the whole territory of the Salzburg region. I greet Mr Thomas Klestil, President of the Republic of Austria. I also extend a cordial welcome to the many Brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood gathered here from Austria and neighbouring countries, as well as to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, and to the President of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, Bishop Johann Weber of Graz-Seckau.
In the light of our predecessors’ missionary work, let us have a fresh awareness of the fact that the faith cannot be confined to our churches. We must take it into our community and into the larger world around us. Missionary commitment has a long tradition in this Episcopal see. As good Pastors, the Bishops of Salzburg went abroad to the East, bringing the Gospel message to Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary, and sent their co-workers as missionaries as far as Maribor on the Drava, to Bressanone, Leck and the Danube.
Today, from a geographical standpoint, the Mother Diocese has been somewhat reduced. But what Salzburg was in the past and must continue to be in the future remains engraved on the stones of this venerable cathedral and the ancient fortress: a missionary centre which radiates its influence beyond the boundaries of the Archdiocese and the country.
891 O Salzburg, city built on a mountain, be true to the salt in your name: may your inhabitants faithfully accept the salt of the Gospel and confirm it by their witness. Remember the legacy history has bequeathed to you: to spread the salt of the saving message through- out the surrounding region.
You, the site of the “Primas Germaniae”, have received a sort of missionary leadership from history: may your faithful always be aware of the responsibility such a privilege entails.
You have a mission to fulfil towards the men and women who seek the way that can lead them “to still waters”. May they meet, through the witness of your faithful, the One who can lead them on the right path “to lie down in green pastures” which can strengthen them (cf. Ps Ps 23 :2-3): “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
3. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil” (Ps 23 :4). We are aware of the dangers that lurk in deep and dark valleys. The geographical image concretely mirrors certain spiritual situations. Even the soul is exposed to treacherous chasms. We know the dark shadows of disappointment, disaster, doubts about the faith. Those who put their trust in God find protection and safety in the Good Shepherd's care: “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps 23 :4).
Do not these words of Scripture allude to the teaching office that Christ entrusted to the Pastors of his Church? This office is not a human invention to exercise domination over souls. Christ himself has entrusted this task to us so that his divine word may be spoken by human lips and become a “rod and staff”, guidance and support.
Dear brothers and sisters, moved by your awareness of the tasks connected to the office of the Successor of Peter, I came to you in Austria to bring you my word of advice and encouragement. I thank you for your presence, which testifies that you wish to belong to Christ. Like the Shepherd of the Gospel parable who carries the straying sheep on his shoulders, in the past months I have carried you in my heart with special affection.
The heart of the Shepherd of Rome beats for you all!
Do not abandon the flock of Christ, the Good Shepherd!
Do not leave the Church, but enter her — for the Good News that can illuminate even the darkness of our life: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
4. I want very much to express my esteem to everyone who works tirelessly to enliven the parish communities. Indeed they are “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters” (Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici CL 26). It is gratifying to know that after the Second Vatican Council a multitude of services arose to which many lay persons have generously dedicated themselves, giving their time with great commitment to the co-responsibility which is theirs through Baptism and Confirmation.
The diversity of tasks sometimes makes it difficult to find the right way for dialogue and co-operation. Equal dignity does not mean equality of office and activity in the Good Shepherd’s flock. The individual tasks of the Episcopal and priestly ministries cannot be simply handed over to lay persons. Conversely, Pastors are bound to respect the specific role of lay persons. Therefore it must not happen that the laity delegate their tasks to priests, deacons or professional assistants. Only if each assumes the specific role which belongs to him will the common path of shepherd and flock be successful.
892 I am anxious to express my deep esteem for you, dear brothers and sisters in the lay state. Your commitment cannot be repaid in money. Without you, parish communities would not only be poorer, but they would lack the essentials. I therefore beg you generously to continue your apostolate as lectors or Eucharistic ministers, as choir members or in prayer groups, as catechists who prepare children and young people for their First Communion and Confirmation. I would explicitly like to encourage lay people to co-operate closely with their priests.
I would also like to underscore the importance of parish councils, where pastoral problems are studied and resolved “by general discussion” (cf. Apostolicam actuositatem AA 10). Dare to dialogue in your committees!
I cannot fail to mention the many men and especially the many women who sacrifice themselves without saying many words, but with a great spirit of dedication in the area of charity. They care for the elderly, the sick and the lonely. In this way they ensure that those who are experiencing the dark side of life can understand the precise meaning of: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
5. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps 23 :5). Even when there are no violent persecutions, the task of witnessing as Christians is never easy. They often en- counter mass indifference, which is no less difficult than hostility. Thus it happens that the priest and his co-workers prepare the table of the Word and of the Eucharist, but then have the disappointment of seeing that the number of guests who accept the invitation is smaller and smaller. The table of prosperity and consumerism seems to be more appealing. That is why there are many today who live as if God did not exist. Widespread forms of popular religious expression remain, which nevertheless lack the foundation of conscious conviction. They are therefore threatened with being drained in the face of increasing secularization. Indifference to the Christian heritage is as dangerous as open hatred.
Only a new evangelization will ensure that deepening of a pure and solid faith which can transform the traditions handed down into a liberating force.
Do we still have sufficient resources at our disposal to be able to live off them? Where are the sources from which we can draw? You, Christians of Austria, know where these sources are!
The old Europe, which wants to become a family of nations, seems decrepit. The continent is at the point of forgetting the message it received from the earliest centuries of the new era. In many Central and Eastern European countries it was forbidden to preach the Gospel for over 50 years. Under atheistic and dictatorial regimes the light in the tabernacles was extinguished. Churches became monuments of by-gone times.
Today, however, we can observe that those regimes have come to an end, while the ancient sources are still flowing freshly and abundantly: Sacred Scripture as the vein of truth; the sacraments of the Church flowing with the power of Christ's presence; prayer, through which the soul can breath the fresh oxygen of God’s grace.
6. These sources are open to everyone. They are available in particular to you, young people, who can draw from them. Know that the Pope counts on you. Even if at times you feel like a small flock, do not lose heart: you are the Good Shepherd’s capital.
In the beginning 12 men went into the whole world. The Pope trusts in you, young people, to give a new Christian face to the old Europe. Commit yourselves by your personal witness. You are “a letter from Christ” (2Co 3,3), his visiting-card! Those who meet you must be sure they have found the right address.
In carrying out my pastoral ministry in the different regions of the world, I have experienced more and more the truth of what I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio: “People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories” (n. 42). When they meet you, your peers must be able to sense that there is something in you they cannot explain, something you know well, something the Psalm expresses very clearly: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
893 7. The saints drew from the inexhaustible sources of grace. This is why they are true missionaries (cf. Redemptoris missio RMi 2). Therefore the history of your country is also the history of your saints: it is a history which endures to our times.
Several months ago in Rome the priests Otto Neururer and Jakob Gapp were beatified. This Sunday in Vienna I will raise to the honour of the altars Sr Restituta Kafka, together with two other servants of God. What constitutes the summit of every shepherd's life is manifested in them: “The Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10,11). In recalling the dark chapters of history, the Church does not want to open old wounds, but wants to heal our memory. The perpetrators of violence have left the stage. The heroes of love have made their entrance. They have testified that the parable of the Good Shepherd came true during the tragic years of our century when even your land was violently shaken by evil. In their lives and in their deaths hope shines through: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
8. Dear brothers and sisters, your Chief Shepherd, Archbishop Eder, asked me to crown the statue of Our Lady of Fátima and to entrust the now 12-centuries-old Archdiocese of Salzburg to the protection of the Mother of God. I have gladly fulfilled this request. Your ancient and illustrious Church has always had a deep and sincere devotion to Our Lady. I am sure that the Mother of God will not reject your wish to have her as patroness and guide on your way.
I entrust your Archdiocese and each of you to her. May Mary shelter you beneath her mantle: “We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our necessities...”.
Under the protection of your mantle, O Mary, our anxieties and fears are overcome, and we rediscover trust and courage. Looking to you, we learn how to entrust ourselves to God with a confident and total, renewed abandonment: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”. Amen!
Before the final blessing of the Mass the Holy Father briefly greeted the representatives of other Christian denominations who were attending:
At the end of this solemn liturgical service dedicated to the theme of “mission”, I would like to recall that Christians, despite what still separates them, are united in one Baptism and in acceptance of the Apostles' Creed. I extend a cordial greeting to the Executive Board of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria, that is, to the President, Metropolitan Michael of Austria, to the Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Austria, Magister Herwig Sturm, and to the local representatives of ecumenical activity.
I thank them for taking part in this celebration. My appreciation also goes to those who devoted themselves in an exemplary way to the success of the Second European Ecumenical Assembly in Graz.
I hope that every effort will be made to continue the arduous process of reconciliation, so that the witness of Christians will give strength to all people of goodwill.
Saturday, 20 June 1998
894 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me” (Lc 4,18).
1. All of Jesus' life is under the influence of the Holy Spirit. In the beginning it is he who overshadows the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Incarnation. At the Jordan, it is again the Spirit who descends on Jesus, while the Father bears witness to his beloved Son. Then it is the Spirit who leads Jesus into the wilderness. In the synagogue of Nazareth Jesus himself says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Lc 4,18).
Christ promises this Spirit to his Apostles as a perpetual guarantee of his presence among them. On the Cross the Son gives the Spirit back to the Father (cf. Jn Jn 19,30). In this way he puts the seal on the New Covenant that results from the Easter event. Finally, on the day of Pentecost, Christ pours out the Holy Spirit on the first community to strengthen it in faith and to send out the Apostles as living and courageous witnesses on the roads of the world.
2. From that time until today the Mystical Body of Christ, his Church, has been spurred by the breath of the same Spirit on her journey through time. The Church illumines history with the burning fire of the Word of God and purifies human hearts with the water that springs from it (cf. Ez Ez 36,25). Thus she becomes “the people united through the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Cyprian, De Dom. Orat., 23).
In this communion with the Triune God each baptized person has the possibility of living under “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rm 8,2). Led by the Spirit, the Christian enters the “spiritual space” in which the dialogue with God takes place. The questions man asks himself are really the questions that God himself raises in his soul: Where do I come from? Who am I? Where should I go?
Dear brothers and sisters, you are in conversation with God! Since you belong to Christ in Baptism, God has adopted you in Christ as his sons and daughters. Be conscious of your high dignity! Do not waste this great privilege!
God has a specific plan for each one of you. His eyes rest affectionately on each of you. He always listens to everyone. Like an anxious and sensitive father, he is always near you. He gives you what you need for the new life: his Holy Spirit.
3. With your incorporation into the Church you have not only assumed the name of “Christian”, that is, “anointed”, but you have also received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Thus you must not only call yourselves Christians, but you must really be so. The Spirit of God is upon you, because he has anointed you (cf. Lk Lc 4,18).
In the new life that springs from Baptism and develops through the word and the sacraments, the charisms, the ministries and the various forms of consecrated life find their source. In writing to the community of Corinth, the Apostle Paul said: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1Co 12,4).
Today too, new calls are being given by the Holy Spirit. We must create an environment that is favourable to God's call. In this regard the parish communities have great importance. When an attitude of true loyalty to the Lord is lived in them, in an atmosphere of intense piety and a sincere willingness to bear witness, it is easier for those who are called to respond positively. The vitality of the parish community is not measured only by the number of its activities, but by the depth of its prayer life. Listening to the word of God, on the one hand, and the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist on the other, are the two essential pillars that support and reinforce the parish community.
There is no use in complaining about the lack of priestly and religious vocations. Vocations cannot be humanly “made”. Vocations are obtained from God through prayer. I invite you to ask the Lord of the harvest fervently and constantly for new vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.
895 4. When Jesus on the Cross gave back his spirit to the Father, he made all his disciples “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19,6). He established them in “a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” (1P 2,5). This is the common priesthood, for the service of which he called the Twelve “to be with him” (Mc 3,14), later to be sent out to work in his name and in his place.
Through the ministerial priesthood Christ continues his saving mission down to our time. For this reason, he appointed Bishops and priests, who “in the Church and on behalf of the Church ... are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd, authoritatively proclaiming his Word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation” (Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis PDV 15). They are sent to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed (cf. Lc 4,18). Therefore, ministry in the Church is not a human achievement, but a divine institution.
With all respect and esteem for the valuable services of the laity in parish communities, it should never be forgotten: in the sacramental realm a lay person cannot replace what is distinctive of the priest. Only a priest can replace another priest.
5. I would now like to greet Bishop Kurt Krenn, who together with his Auxiliary, Bishop Heinrich Fasching, not only prepared today’s celebration of faith with such care, but is doing all he can so that in the future priests will be sent to the faithful of the numerous parishes in the Diocese of Sankt Pölten entrusted to him. I do not wish to forget the previous Bishop, Franz Žak, who laid such good foundations for his successor. I greet all my Brothers in the Episcopate, especially the Metropolitan, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, and the President of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, Bishop Johann Weber.
I also have the pleasure of greeting the Federal President, Mr Thomas Klestil, who is taking part in this celebration. With him I greet the representatives of political and public life who are honouring us with their presence.
In addressing the priests and deacons, I would like to express to them my appreciation and gratitude. These are sentiments that I extend to all the sacred ministers working in the various Dioceses of this country. As in Sankt Pölten, there are many in the other parts of Austria too who labour with tireless zeal in the care of souls and who do not give up even in the face of illness. I am also thinking with admiration of those priests who, in addition to the parish entrusted to them, are also willing to take care of neighbouring communities so that the faithful do not lack the means of salvation. Many religious are to be praised for their involvement in pastoral care. Nor do I wish to forget the priests who come from other countries — some even from my home- land — and make a valuable contribution to pastoral ministry.
Dear priests, young people are looking at you. May they observe that, even though burdened with work, you are joyous servants of the Gospel and that you find fulfilment and satisfaction in your choice of life! May young people see in your witness that the priesthood is not an outmoded way of life, but a vocation with a future! The priesthood is a vocation with a future!
6. We should also remember with gratitude to the Holy Spirit the numerous communities of consecrated life, which precisely in the history of this Diocese have had such an important role in the care of souls. Brothers and sisters, I cordially greet you! You live according to the evangelical counsels and try to show by your conduct the way to the kingdom of heaven. The consecrated life belongs in the heart of the Church as an essential element for the fulfilment of her mission. It expresses the nature of the Christian vocation and the eagerness with which the entire Church as Bride yearns to be united with her only Bridegroom.
7. I cannot fail to mention Christian married couples.Your way of life is also a form of vocation! I praise you and encourage you in all your efforts to live the grace of the sacrament of marriage. May your families be “domestic churches” where children learn to live and celebrate the faith.
You fathers and mothers are the first school for your children. In your homes strive for harmony, a spirit of faith, hope and love, regular participation in Church life, serenity and strength amid daily problems. Ask the Lord that your children may one day know how to choose their path according to God's plan for them! Give them freedom, if they feel the Lord's call, to set out on the radical path of following Jesus Christ. Your children are not your property. They are en- trusted to you by God for a certain period of time. Your mission is to make them grow in the freedom they need to be able to make their own commitments responsibly.
8. The future of the Church and of society is decided in families. In addition to the many pastoral initiatives and aids, I would particularly like to mention the International Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family which was sown as a seed in Gaming and is also supported by the Austrian Bishops. God grant that it may grow until it becomes a strong tree, able to bear much fruit to the benefit of marriage and the family.
896 9. Dear Brothers and Sisters! “Let us love one another, for love is of God” (1Jn 4,7). Many of our contemporaries have lost God as Father. Thus, they do not know the mother tongue of faith. Let us try to teach them the alphabet of faith. Dedication, service and charity form part of the fundamental vocabulary that everyone understands. On this a “grammar of life” can be built that will help man to spell out in the Holy Spirit the plan that God has for him.
Live in deeds what you teach with words. Show that joy is also a fruit of the Spirit. On the threshold of the third millennium, it is necessary to revive this awareness: Just as God has a plan for each individual, he also has a mission for each one. You are not only administrators of a past legacy; you are also forerunners of the future towards which the Holy Spirit is leading the Church!
May your patron St Leopold be your model and advocate. He was not only the father of a family, but also a father of the homeland. His tombstone, which I blessed during my last Pastoral Visit to Austria, is located today in this new government quarter. May it be an inspiration and encouragement to you all.
Let us look to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose life was a journey in the Holy Spirit.
Mary, Magna Mater Austriae, to you we entrust the care of priestly and religious vocations.
Mary, Mother of God, intercede with your Son for the Church in Austria. Obtain for her numerous young people ready to commit themselves to following Christ and to offer themselves for the kingdom of God.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! Amen.
Sunday, 21 June 1998
1. "Who do the people say I am?" (Lc 9,18).
Jesus asked his disciples this question one day as they were walking together. He also puts this question to Christians on the paths of our time: "Who do the people say I am?".
As it was 2,000 years ago in an obscure part of the then known world, so today, human opinions about Jesus are divided. Some attribute to him the gift of prophetic speech. Others consider him an extraordinary personality, an idol that attracts people. Others, again, believe he is even capable of ushering in a new era.
897 "But who do you say that I am?" (Lc 9,20). The question cannot be given a "neutral" answer. It requires a taking of sides and involves everyone. Today, as well, Christ is asking: you Catholics of Austria, you Christians of this country, you citizens, "who do you say that I am?".
It is a question that comes from Jesus' heart. He who opens his own heart wants the person before him not to answer with his mind alone. The question that comes from Jesus' heart must move ours: Who am I for you? What do I mean to you? Do you really know me? Are you my witnesses? Do you love me?
2. Then Peter, the disciples' spokesman, answered: "We consider you the Christ of God" (Lc 9,20). The Evangelist Matthew reports Peter's profession in greater detail: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" (Mt 16,16). Today the Pope, as Successor of the Apostle Peter by the grace of God, professes on your behalf and with you: "You are the Messiah of God. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".
3. Down the centuries, there has been a continual struggle for the correct profession of faith. Thanks be to Peter, whose words have become the norm!
They should be used to measure the Church's efforts in seeking to express in time what Christ means to her. In fact, it is not enough to profess with one's lips alone. Knowledge of Scripture and Tradition is important, the study of the Catechism is valuable; but what good is all this if faith lacks deeds?
Professing Christ calls for following Christ. The correct profession of faith must be accompanied by a correct conduct of life. Orthodoxy requires orthopraxis. From the start, Jesus never concealed this demanding truth from his disciples. Actually, Peter had barely made an extraordinary profession of faith when he and the other disciples immediately heard Christ clarify what the Master was expecting of them: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lc 9,23).
As it was in the beginning, so it is today: Jesus does not only look for people to acclaim him. He looks for people to follow him.
4. Dear brothers and sisters, whoever reflects on the history of the Church with eyes of love will discover that despite the many faults and shadows, there were and still are men and women everywhere whose lives highlight the credibility of the Gospel.
Today I am given the joy to enrol three Christians from your land among the blesseds. Each of them individually confirmed his or her profession of faith in the Messiah through personal witness of life. All three blesseds show us that "Messiah" is not only a title for Christ but also means a willingness to co-operate in the messianic work: the great become small and the weak take the lead.
It is not the heroes of the world who are speaking today in Heroes' Square, but the heroes of the Church.Sixty years ago from the balcony overlooking this square, a man proclaimed himself salvation. The new blesseds have another message. They tell us: Salvation [Heil] is not found in a man, but rather: Hail [Heil] to Christ, the King and Redeemer!
5. Jakob Kern came from a humble Viennese family of workers. The First World War tore him abruptly from his studies at the minor seminary in Hollabrunn. A serious war injury made his brief earthly life in the major seminary and the Premonstratensian monastery of Geras - as he said himself - a "Holy Week". For love of Christ he did not cling to life but consciously offered it to others. At first he wanted to become a diocesan priest. But one event made him change direction. When a Premonstratensian left the monastery to follow the Czech National Church formed after the separation from Rome which had just occurred, Jakob Kern discovered his vocation in this sad event. He wanted to atone for this religious. Jakob Kern joined the monastery of Geras in his place, and the Lord accepted his offering a "substitute".
898 Bl. Jakob Kern stands before us as a witness of fidelity to the priesthood. At the beginning, it was a childhood desire that he expressed in imitating the priest at the altar. Later this desire matured. The purification of pain revealed the profound meaning of his priestly vocation: to unite his own life with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and to offer it vicariously for the salvation of others.
May Bl. Jakob Kern, who was a vivacious and enthusiastic student, encourage many young men generously to accept Christ's call to the priesthood. The words he spoke then are addressed to us: "Today more than ever there is a need for authentic and holy priests. All the prayers, all the sacrifices, all the efforts and all the suffering united with a right intention become the divine seed which sooner or later will bear its fruit".
6. In Vienna 100 years ago, Fr Anton Maria Schwartz was concerned with the lot of workers. He first dedicated himself to the young apprentices in the period of their professional training. Ever mindful of his own humble origins, he felt especially close to poor workers. To help them, he founded the Congregation of Christian Workers according to the rule of St Joseph Calasanz, and it is still flourishing. He deeply longed to convert society to Christ and to renew it in him. He was sensitive to the needs of apprentices and workers, who frequently lacked support and guidance. Fr Schwartz dedicated himself to them with love and creativity, finding the ways and means to build "the first workers' church in Vienna". This humble house of God hidden among the modest dwellings, resembles the work of its founder, who filled it with life for 40 years.
Opinions on the "worker apostle" of Vienna varied. Many found his dedication exaggerated. Others felt he deserved the highest esteem. Fr Schwartz stayed faithful to himself and also took some courageous steps. His petitions for training positions for the young and a day of rest on Sunday even reached Parliament.
He leaves us a message: Do all you can to protect Sunday! Show that it cannot be a work day because it is celebrated as the Lord's day! Above all, support young people who are unemployed! Those who give today's young people an opportunity to earn their living help make it possible for tomorrow's adults to pass the meaning of life on to their children. I know that there are no easy solutions. This is why I repeat the words which guided Bl. Fr Schwarz in his many efforts: "We must pray more!".
7. Sr Restituta Kafka was not yet an adult when she expressed her intention to enter the convent. Her parents were against it, but the young girl remained faithful to her goal of becoming a sister "for the love of God and men". She wanted to serve the Lord especially in the poor and the sick. She was accepted by the Franciscan Sisters of Charity to fulfil her vocation in everyday hospital life, which was often hard and monotonous. A true nurse, she soon became an institution in Mödling. Her nursing ability, determination and warmth caused many to call her Sr Resoluta instead of Sr Restituta.
Because of her courage and fearlessness, she did not wish to be silent even in the face of the National Socialist regime. Challenging the political authority's prohibitions, Sr Restituta had crucifixes hung in all the hospital rooms. On Ash Wednesday 1942 she was taken away by the Gestapo. In prison her "Lent" began, which was to last more than a year and to end in execution. Her last words passed on to us were: "I have lived for Christ; I want to die for Christ".
Looking at Bl. Sr Restituta, we can see to what heights of inner maturity a person can be led by the divine hand. She risked her life for her witness to the Cross. And she kept the Cross in her heart, bearing witness to it once again before being led to execution, when she asked the prison chaplain to "make the Sign of the Cross on my forehead".
Many things can be taken from us Christians. But we will not let the Cross as a sign of salvation be taken from us. We will not let it be removed from public life! We will listen to the voice of our conscience, which says: "We must obey God rather than men" (Ac 5,29).
8. Dear brothers and sisters, today's celebration has a particularly European tone. In addition to the distinguished President of the Republic of Austria, Mr Thomas Klestil, the Presidents of Lithuania and Romania, political leaders from home and abroad, have honoured us with their presence. I offer them my cordial greetings and through them I also greet the people they represent.
With joy for the gift of three new blesseds which we are offered today, I turn to all my brothers and sisters in the People of God who are gathered here or have joined us through radio or television. In particular, I greet the Pastor of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, and the President of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, Bishop Johann Weber, as well as my Brothers in the Episcopate who have come to Heroes' Square from near and far. Then I cannot forget the many priests and deacons, religious and pastoral assistants in the parishes and communities.
899 Dear young people! I extend a special greeting to you today. Your presence in such large numbers is a great joy for me. Many of you have come a long way, and not only in a geographical sense.... But now you are here: the gift of youth which life is waiting for! May the three heroes of the Church who have just been enrolled among the blesseds sustain you on your way: young Jakob Kern, who precisely through his illness won the trust of young people; Fr Anton Maria Schwartz, who knew how to touch the hearts of apprentices; Sr Restituta Kafka, who gave courageous witness to her convictions.
They were not "photocopied Christians", but each was authentic, unrepeatable and unique. They began like you: as young people, full of ideals, seeking to give meaning to their life.
Another thing makes the three blesseds so attractive: their biographies show us that their personalities matured gradually. Thus your life too has yet to become a ripe fruit. It is therefore important that you cultivate life in such a way that it can bloom and mature. Nourish it with the vital fluid of the Gospel! Offer it to Christ, the sun of salvation! Plant the Cross of Christ in your life! The Cross is the true tree of life.
9. Dear brothers and sisters! "But who do you say that I am?".
In a short time we will profess our faith. To this profession, which puts us in the community of the Apostles and of the Church's Tradition, as well as in the ranks of the saints and blesseds, we must also add our personal response. The persuasive power of the message also depends on the credibility of its messengers. Indeed, the new evangelization starts with us, with our life-style.
The Church today does not need part-time Catholics but full-blooded Christians. This is what the three new blesseds were! We can learn from them!
Thank you, Bl. Jakob Kern, for your priestly fidelity!
Thank you, Bl. Anton Maria Schwartz, for your commitment to workers!
Thank you, Sr Restituta Kafka, for swimming against the tide of the times!
All of you saints and blesseds of God, pray for us. Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 888