Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 6 December 2003
2. For many years now, your Country has been experiencing a serious vocational crisis, a sort of journey through the desert that really tests the faith of the Pastors as well as of the faithful. Most of your quinquennial reports echo this. In 30 years, there has been a steady decrease in numbers that in recent years seems even to have accelerated. At the same time, many analyses have been made in an attempt to examine the causes of this phenomenon and remedy it. The French Dioceses have taken on many initiatives to give a fresh impetus to promoting vocations in order to awaken new awareness in Christian communities, to arouse youth, to remind priests of their duty regarding the call, to adapt places of formation and guarantee their effectiveness. Of course, the fruit of these multiple efforts has not matured yet and the crisis still exists. Its consequences on the vitality of the parishes and Dioceses in France are both disturbing in the short and long term. Rather than giving in to despair at this situation, I urge you to confront the challenge with firm hope in order to build the future of your Churches. In this process you may be assured of the spiritual proximity and encouragement of the Successor of Peter.
3. In France, seminaries have a long history and a rich experience. The last Apostolic Visit to all the institutes of formation in your Country showed that they were, as a whole, reliable structures well adapted to help young men who hear the Lord's call to discern his will, and to train them to become well-disposed and competent pastors. Thus, seminaries continue to be an essential and necessary tool for the formation of candidates to the priesthood at the service of the Bishops (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 60). Have at heart, therefore, with all your solicitude as Pastors, to maintain the quality of these formation houses by taking special care in choosing the formation staff. It is they who guarantee this ministry under your surveillance, taking pains to apply the Ratio institutionis voted by your Bishops' Conference and approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1998!
The Code of Canon Law provides for one seminary per Diocese for the formation of future priests (can. 237). Of course, the current pastoral conditions do not allow for this everywhere, nor is it desirable: in fact, as experience shows, the reorganization of forces is often necessary and can also give rise to real dynamism. But the legislator, in his wisdom, wished to demonstrate the deep and intrinsic bond that exists between the diocesan Church and the formation of priests. In ordaining men for the service of the Christian communities who make a gift of their whole life and will be entrusted to act in Christ's name, the diocesan Bishop guarantees the life of the Church in the truth and continuity of her mystery as the Body of Christ, "a sign and an instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen Gentium LG 1). This being so, how can the diocesan Church fail to be interested in the formation of her future pastors? This is why it is important that the seminary be a stable institution, recognizable and recognized in the Diocese, always figuring as the diocesan seminary, even if this seminary that accepts candidates from several Dioceses may be situated in another Diocese. While leaving the duty of discernment to the persons entrusted with this responsibility, the Bishop must try to take part in the life of the seminary by visiting it in person or by appointing a Delegate, and regularly meeting the formators and seminarians. I invite seminarians to root themselves progressively in the reality of their Dioceses by way of the necessary phases, especially when, for legitimate reasons related to study, the places of formation are far from the Dioceses.
In such a spirit, dialogue between the Bishops of France could be very useful in order to reflect together and with the formators in charge on the question of the distribution of the seminaries so that they are not too far from the Dioceses which send their candidates to them. Could not the new Provinces, recently created to improve your service of pastoral action, be a frame of reference permitting the Bishops to pool their available pastoral forces for a better formation of all priesthood candidates?
One should not forget that the mission of priests is expressed sacramentally and humanly in the solidarity of a single presbyterate united round the Bishop. Nor should it be forgotten that the common formation in the same seminary of priests from the same Diocese or Province undoubtedly fosters the spirit of unity, so necessary to help the Bishop to implement his pastoral decisions as well as enabling priests to fulfil their often difficult ministry in mutual and brotherly support.
4. As I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (cf. nn. 43-59), I would like to recall the essential complementarity of the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. It is these that the seminary, an "educational community in progress" (ibid., n. 60), gradually imparts during the years of formation. The specific difficulties of young people today, particularly in the context of family life and emotional maturity, if one takes into account the social environment marked by the widespread relativism of "values" broadcast by the media, the trivialization of sexuality and the scandals connected with it, demand that special attention be paid to the human, emotional and moral formation of candidates. I encourage the teams of seminary staff to continue their work of formation and discernment in this area with the cooperation of competent specialists, to enable the young men they accept always to have a clear picture of the objective demands of priestly life and to shed light on their own life by a proper regard for the value of the gift of celibacy, prepared to live it generously in chastity as a gift of love offered to the Lord and to those entrusted to their care. I am counting on you, ultimately responsible for the formation of priests in your Dioceses, to watch carefully and rigorously over this aspect. "Here is the man" (Jn 19,5), Pilate said prophetically, presenting Jesus to the crowd. In the human and affective formation of candidates to the priesthood, as in all other dimensions of their formation, it is indeed Christ, the incarnate Word, the new and perfect man, whom they must seek and contemplate; it is he they must take as their model (cf. 1Co 11,1), imitating him in all things, to become a priest in his name.
5. Your diocesan Churches are involved in a thorough work of adaptation to the new situations, such as pastoral reorganization, the sharp fall in the number of priests and the opening of pastoral responsibilities to many lay faithful. These are tangible developments that must be taken into account in training new priests in order to make their formation increasingly sound and suitable. However, to succeed in this difficult and indispensable mission of the formation of priests and to overcome the current crisis, it will certainly be necessary to put out further and further into the deep (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 1).
To do this the Church must take care to see that her institutions are stable. She must discover more and more the treasure of the different vocations of the members that form her. Above all, she must recognize the true worth of the ministry of priests. She must understand that it is indispensable to her life since it assures the lasting presence of Christ in fidelity to the proclamation and teaching of his Word, in the precious gift of the Sacraments that give her life, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and in the service of authority in the name of the Lord and according to his style. A new deepening of Christian life, the inner renewal of the life of faith of everyone, Pastors and faithful, and the missionary outreach of Christian communities will inspire in the young new vocations for the Church.
6. It is important here that the Church, which calls young people to serve Christ, appear serene and confident in their eyes and in the eyes of families: "Come and see!" (Jn 1,39). For this it is essential that those responsible for the presbyteral ministry feel that their Bishops and the Church support them. The formation team, chosen and appointed by the Bishop or, collegially, by all the Bishops responsible, needs this confidence if it is to carry out its mission among the young men in its care, as well as among the priests and lay people involved in the vocations apostolate. It is also right that young men who are thinking of becoming priests, consider their diocesan seminary as the correct place to train for the priesthood, to serve the diocesan Church in trusting obedience to the Bishop and without making special demands concerning the place of their formation. I should also like to recall that the acceptance of candidates from another Diocese must be made with discernment and must always comply with the canonical and pastoral measures in force (cann. 241-242). These are recalled in the Instruction on the Admission to the Seminary of Candidates from Other Dioceses or Religious Families. To this end, it seems desirable that the Bishops of France take part in a serene exchange of opinions in the context of the Bishops' Conferences on matters connected with the formation of priests without going back over work that is already behind them.
This will demonstrate ever more clearly to the faithful in general the unity of their views, without which their efforts risk losing their credibility. We must always remind ourselves of the insistent prayer of the Lord, who asked his Father that his disciples might "all be one... so that the world [might] believe" (Jn 17,21). We must do our utmost to live among ourselves the demands of a communion that must be constantly built, verified and rebuilt, to make more and more visible the unity of the Body of Christ.
7. To prepare the future with hope, the Church must persevere and extend her action in vocations promotion and outreach to the young. It is they who will form the Church of the future and be the priests of tomorrow. In addition to giving thanks for their enthusiasm, so expressive at large gatherings such as the World Youth Days or the meetings you organize in your own Dioceses, and also for the generosity that enables them to engage in the service of social or humanitarian causes, it is right to help them respond in greater numbers than they do today to the special calls that the Lord does not fail to address to them. If there are many difficulties that hinder today's young people from answering this call, it seems possible to discern three major causes.
The first difficulty is the fear of long-term commitment, for there is the fear of taking a risk for an uncertain future, and we live in a changing world where interests seem ephemeral and essentially linked to instant gratification. This is certainly a major obstacle to young people's availability that can only be surmounted by imbuing in them trust in a prospect that is worthy of Christian hope. The work of education, carried out first of all by the family and schools and continued in the various pastoral possibilities open to young people, is crucial for this. I am thinking in particular of the youth movements such as the scouts, chaplaincies and the various welcome centres offered to them where they can learn to trust adults, society, the Church, other young people and themselves.
The second difficulty concerns the presentation of the ministerial priesthood itself. Indeed, in several generations its forms have evolved considerably; the concept of it has sometimes been shaken by the outlook of many priests with regard to their own identity; it has often been cheapened in the eyes of public opinion. Today, the description of this ministry can still seem hazy, difficult to grasp by young people and lacking stability. It is thus important to uphold the ordained ministry. It should be given its proper place in the Church, in a spirit of communion that respects differences in true complementarity, and not one of competition that would be prejudicial to the laity.
The third, most fundamental, difficulty concerns the relationship of young people with the Lord himself. Their knowledge of Christ is often superficial and confused by the overwhelming choice of religious alternatives, whereas the desire to be a priest is essentially fostered by intimacy with the Lord in a truly personal dialogue, for it is first expressed as the desire to be with him (cf. Mk Mc 3,14).
Clearly, all that can encourage in children and young people a genuine discovery of the person of Jesus and of the living relationship with him, which is expressed in sacramental life, prayer and service to their brethren, will be beneficial in awakening vocations. Whether it is a matter of schools of prayer for children, retreats or prayer vigils for young people, or proposals of theological and spiritual formation adapted for youth, these could be said to be fertile and necessary ground in which God's call will put down roots and sprout until it bears fruit. Be watchful, therefore, to ensure that these different specialized, parallel services that work in close collaboration to nurture diocesan life, the family apostolate, catechesis and the pastoral care of young people are generously open to the prospect of vocations. This will give meaning to their action, thanks especially to the calls and proposals of the diocesan vocational services, responsible for making the diocesan Church's various members hear the Lord's call to the specific vocations of priests and deacons, but also vocations to the consecrated life.
8. At the end of these reflections that I have wanted to share with you expressing my concern and support for you in a difficult situation that is a trial for many, I would like to recall all the men and women who have dedicated themselves to this mission: the members of the [French] National Vocations Service and of the Diocesan Vocations Services, those in charge of youth ministry and especially the staff of the seminary formation teams. Although priests are fewer and fewer and the tasks incumbent on them are constantly accumulating, take care to be properly available to those whom you entrust with these pastoral responsibilities. They will then carry them out joyfully and confidently, as well as effectively. I give thanks with you for the witness to fidelity of your priests.
Please assure all of them of my spiritual closeness and encouragement in their generous commitment. The Pope prays every day that the Church will not lack the gift of priesthood and that seminarians may be fully aware of the marvellous gift that the Lord has given them by calling them to his service. As I entrust them all to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, I assure you of my pastoral concern for your diocesan Churches. I cordially impart to you all an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the priests, deacons, consecrated persons and all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.
1. Welcome, dear pilgrims of the Archdiocese of Naples! I affectionately greet you all.
I greet first of all and thank your Bishop, Cardinal Michele Giordano, who has expressed your common sentiments and your spiritual closeness on the occasion of my 25th Anniversary of Pontificate. I renew to him my fraternal best wishes for his recent 50th anniversary celebration of ordination to the priesthood, expressing cordial best wishes for a favourable pastoral ministry.
I greet the Auxiliary Bishops and the civil Authorities, priests, deacons, Religious, young people and families present at today's gathering. My thought then goes to your entire City, placed as a crossroad, as the Archbishop has well recalled, of those persons that constructed the history of the European Continent.
2. I vividly recall the Visit that the Lord allowed me to make to Naples 13 years ago in November. From the various meetings with social and religious figures, I was given the impression of a City marked by, yes, difficulties and problems, but filled with interior resources and the capacity to nobly make courageous and generous gestures.
I think especially to the meeting with the thousands of youth in the "St Paul" Stadium and the "Overseas Exhibit Hall", where I said: "It is up to you, the young witnesses of the civilization of love, to bring the proclamation of Gospel hope especially to your peers, because in you the Church of the next millennium is already alive" (Speech to Youth in Naples, 10 November 1990; L'Osservatore Romano English Edition [ORE], 19 November, p. 5).
3. I renew these words today and address them ideally to your entire Archdiocese.
To proclaim and witness the "Gospel of hope" is part of the missionary mandate of every Christian community. It is a most-evident priority in your pastoral programmes, which point out the family and young people as guidelines of diocesan apostolic action.
"Together for mission": this is the password that unites you in an effort aimed at allowing "the proclamation of Christian hope" to resound in the city of Naples.
So that your work of evangelization may be effective, you must never cease to draw vital sap from an intense prayer life. It is also necessary that the parishes, as was highlighted in one of your recent meetings, continue to become "families of families", permanent schools of faith and prayer, homes of communion and encounter, of dialogue and openness to the territory.
May the Lord guide your steps with the strength of his Spirit. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary, protect you, and may St Januarius, your august Patron, intercede for you.
While assuring you of a constant remembrance in the Lord, I cordially bless you.
Ms. Chiara Lubich
Foundress of the Focolare Movement
1. Next 7 December, Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Focolare Movement will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of its birth. On this occasion I am pleased to extend to you the expression of my heartfelt congratulations and my spiritual closeness to your large spiritual Family, already spread throughout many parts of the world.
In particular, I gratefully wish to greet you, the Foundress. Indeed, the "Work of Mary" was born with the special consecration to God that you made in Trento, exactly at the end of 1943; since then, it has continued growing, all directed to the love of God and to the service of unity in the Church and in the world.
2. In unison with the Magisterium of the Church - I think especially of the Second Vatican Council and the Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam of my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI - the members of the Focolare Movement have become apostles of dialogue, the privileged way to promote unity: dialogue within the Church, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, dialogue with non-believers.
How many rapid and disturbing social changes have marked the life of the world in these 60 years? Humanity has become ever more interdependent and, pursuing fleeting pleasures, has at times lost its own ideal values. Now, it risks finding itself almost "without a soul"; that is, without the essential unifying principle of its every project and activity.
I think, in particular, of the European Continent, which counts 2,000 years of Christian tradition. At the beginning of a new millennium, the necessity of a renewed effort on the part of believers to respond to the challenge of the new evangelization is urgently required. In this vision an important role is entrusted to Ecclesial Movements; among them, the Focolare Movement holds a prominent position. Faithful to the life-giving action of the Holy Spirit, the new Ecclesial Movements are a precious gift for the Church, who encourages and invites them to carry out their prophetic action under the guidance of the Pastors for the edification of the entire People of God.
3. And so, joining in mutual thanksgiving to God for the great things fulfilled by him in these 60 years, I entrust to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy the members of the "Work of Mary" and their numerous activities. I encourage all to follow Christ faithfully and to embrace the mystery of the Cross with him, cooperating in the salvation of the world with the gift of one's own existence.
With these sentiments, I cordially send to you, to your collaborators and to the entire Focolare Movement my affectionate Blessing.
From the Vatican, 4 December 2003
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Monday, 8 December 2003
1. Queen of Peace, pray for us!
On the feast of your Immaculate Conception
I return to venerate you, O Mary,
at the foot of this statue that from Piazza di Spagna allows
your motherly gaze to sweep across the ancient city of Rome,
so dear to me.
I have come here this evening to pay you the homage of my deep devotion. In this act countless Romans
join me on this square;
their love has followed me always, through all the years of my service to the See of Peter.
I am here with them to set out on the journey towards the 150th anniversary of the Dogma
that we celebrate today with filial joy.
2. Queen of Peace, pray for us!
To you we turn our gaze with stronger trepidation,
to you we hasten back with more insistent trust in these times scarred by a multitude of doubts and fears
for the present and future destiny of our planet.
To you, the first-fruits of humanity redeemed by Christ,
set free at last from the slavery of evil and sin,
we raise together our heartfelt, trusting plea:
listen to the cry of pain of the war victims, of the victims of the many forms of violence
that bathe the earth in blood.
Dispel the shadows of sorrow and of loneliness,
of hatred and of revenge.
Open to forgiveness the minds and hearts of all!
3. Queen of Peace, pray for us!
Mother of mercy and of hope
obtain for the men and women of the third millennium the precious gift of peace;
peace in hearts and families, in communities and among peoples;
peace above all for those Nations where people fight and die every day.
Obtain that every human being
of every race and culture
may encounter and accept Jesus,
who came down to earth in the mystery of Christmas
to give "his" peace to us.
O Mary, Queen of Peace,
give us Christ, the world's true Peace!
I receive you with great pleasure at the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Paraguay to the Holy See. Please convey to the President, H.E. Mr Nicanor Duarte Frutos, my best wishes and the assurance of my prayers for his important mission, together with my best wishes for the prosperity and spiritual good of all the sons and daughters of the beloved land of Paraguay. I renew what I said to that Nation at the end of my Pastoral Visit: "The Pope is leaving, but he carries you in his heart" (Farewell Address at Asuncion Airport, 18 May 1988, n. 5; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 4 July 1988, p. 9).
Your presence here is a favourable opportunity to reaffirm the good relations between Paraguay and the Holy See which are, moreover, founded on the deep Christian roots of the Paraguayan people that are "part of their national soul and treasure of their culture, nourished and strong in order to build a better future in freedom, justice and peace" (ibid.). From the very beginning of the evangelization of the American Continent, Christian faith took root in Paraguay and shaped its public life. It is this first patrimony of faith, together with the different expressions of popular piety down the centuries, that the Bishops, with their priests and the different religious communities present in Paraguay, wish to preserve and increase through the New Evangelization.
The Church in Paraguay consists of 14 ecclesiastical circumscriptions and a Military Ordinariate. The Pastors work in the particular Churches, continuing to scatter the seed of the Gospel in Paraguayan hearts so that Christian life may bear abundant fruits in the different contexts in which the Church carries out the mission she has received from her divine Founder. Bishops, priests and religious communities continue tirelessly to carry out their tasks of evangelization, social assistance and education for the good of society. They are motivated by their vocation of service to all, excluding no one. Thus, they contribute to the integral advancement of the whole Paraguayan people, and safeguard and spread the supreme values. Furthermore, although the Church's mission is fundamentally religious, it is nevertheless the source of "commitment, direction and vigour to establish and consolidate the community of men according to the law of God" (Gaudium et Spes GS 42).
On this occasion I would like to assure you, Mr Ambassador, of the constant desire of the Church in Paraguay to continue collaborating with the Authorities and the various public institutions at the service of the great causes of the human being, as a citizen and a child of God (cf. ibid., n. 76). It is hoped that constructive and frequent dialogue between the civil Authorities and the Pastors of the Church will develop relations between the two Institutions. In this respect I would like to recall that "the Church has something to say... about the nature, conditions, requirements and aims of authentic development, and also about the obstacles which stand in its way. In doing so the Church fulfils her mission to evangelize, for she offers her first contribution to the solution of the urgent problem of development when she proclaims the truth about Christ, about herself and about man, applying this truth to a concrete situation" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41).
Your country, Mr Ambassador, is made up of noble people, courageous in taming nature and in overcoming every kind of adversity, generous and hospitable. It also has a wealth of indigenous cultures. With this patrimony, it is called to play an ever more active part in the concert of nations, which means constantly improving and adapting the training of its citizens. In this regard, it is hoped that the constant efforts to promote a higher standard of education will succeed in bringing within the reach of all the integral formation of the person and training the new generations to assume their full responsibilities as citizens able to take charge of the nation's progress and effectively achieve the common good. Special care must be dedicated to teaching the true moral and spiritual values and to nurturing an authentic political culture that consolidates and spreads them. These fundamental values must be presented anew, in addition to honesty, austerity, responsibility for the common good, solidarity, a spirit of sacrifice and the culture of work, the capacity for dialogue and participation at every level. They will assure greater development to all the members of the national community. In short, it is a matter of continuing to promote and achieve a standard of living which enables individuals and families, as well as intermediate groups and associations, to reach fulfilment and attain their legitimate aspirations.
Mr Ambassador, I am deeply aware of many aspects of this critical period that Paraguay is experiencing. I accompany this complex process with great confidence, recalling that whether a democracy endures or collapses depends on the defence of the values it embodies and promotes, "as history demonstrates a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (Centesimus Annus CA 46).
Many challenges must be faced in order to reinforce and consolidate an atmosphere of peace and harmonious coexistence among all, in which the citizens' confidence in the various institutions and public bodies prevails. The latter must keep in mind and promote the common good all the time as their raison d'ętre and the priority aim in all their work, so that government action may be above any private or partesan interest, taking into account that the national good must prevail over personal ambitions and those of each political group.
The desire to promote proper development in all areas calls for the adoption of initiatives that truly increase the citizens' quality of life, paying special attention to the sectors of health care, housing and the conditions of labour. These projects must always be inspired by ethical principles that take into account fairness and the necessary contribution of efforts and sacrifices by all. They must aim to serve Paraguayans in their immediate, pressing concrete needs and to anticipate future needs; to fight against poverty tenaciously; to transform the potential resources of nature with hard work and responsibility; to distribute its riches more equitably, reducing inequalities that give rise to marginalization and offend the condition of brothers and sisters, children of the same Father and co-sharers in the gifts that the Creator puts in the hands of all.
Before ending this ceremony, I would like to offer you, Mr Ambassador, my best wishes for the success of your mission that begins today. I ask you kindly to convey my sentiments and hopes to the President and the other authorities of the Republic as I invoke upon you, your distinguished family and your collaborators, as well as upon all the children of the noble Paraguayan nation, an abundance of blessings from the Most High, together with the constant motherly intercession of Our Lady of Caacupé, radiant with light.
I offer you all a warm welcome. I am delighted to be able to receive the Major Seminary of the Diocese of Radom, which, in a certain sense, is reciprocating my Visit. Of course, those I met at Radom have long since left the Seminary and today serve the Church as priests with much experience. Yet a well-known characteristic of every community is the historical and spiritual continuity that constitutes its wealth.
Therefore, allow me, through you and your Bishops, to thank your Seminary for the welcome accorded to me in 1991 when I had the opportunity to bless the new premises. I thank Bishop Zygmunt Zimowski for the words he has just addressed to me. I welcome the Auxiliary Bishops and the Bishop emeritus. I am delighted that all the Bishops of Radom have accompanied the seminarians on their pilgrimage to the Apostolic threshold. I also greet the rector, the formation staff, the spiritual fathers, the teachers as well as the lay collaborators at the Seminary and the other people who have accompanied you.
I began with the thought of the historical and spiritual continuity of the Seminary. It is therefore necessary, at least briefly, to embrace in our minds the entire heritage from which your Seminary sprang and of which it is heir. You know well that your Seminary originated in the Diocese of Kraków, to which Sandomierz belonged, in 1635, when Fr Mikolaj Leopoldowicz founded the new Major Seminary. It acquired the reputation of being not only a formation house, but also a centre of knowledge.
As the decades passed, often through the initiative of the Bishops and Canons of Kraków, the chairs of scholastic theology, canon law, biblical studies and Church history were created. They were set up for the overall training of clergy for the Diocese of Kraków.
I am speaking of this connection with Kraków to point out the common roots, which also means the common heritage, which we share. It undoubtedly contains the legacy of faith and courage left by St Stanislaus, the wisdom and magnanimity of John of Kety, the zeal and compassion of Peter Skarga and of many other great priests of our Country. We must always return to this heritage of holiness and priestly dedication to Christ, to the Church and to the faithful, so that the multitudes of priests today may continue their work fruitfully.
The end of the 18th century, after the suppression of the Society of Jesus, linked your Seminary with Kielce, up to the creation of the Diocese of Sandomierz in 1818. Two years later, it was able to return to Sandomierz. Modern times brought first a partial association with Radom, and finally, the foundation of a separate seminary for this Diocese.
I express my deep gratitude to Bishop Edward Materski for his work in creating the Diocese for which he guaranteed the important institution of the Major Seminary. I am pleased that the community - new, but with a rich tradition - is being consolidated and is growing. I ardently believe it will produce good pastors, modelled on Christ.
I know that the motto "imitare quod tractabis", "imitate what you will celebrate", accompanies you in this year of formation. It is an invitation that each one of you seminarians - please God - will hear during your ordination liturgy. It is normally mentioned in connection with the mysteries contained in the Eucharist and in its celebration. Actually, the deepest content of this call seems to flow directly from Christ's words: "Do this in remembrance of me" (Lc 22,19). And the "remembrance of Christ" is his entire earthly life, but above all its Paschal conclusion.
How can we fail to see the link between this call and the humble, loving act of the washing of the feet in the Upper Room: "Do you know what I have done to you?... For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13,12). How can we fail to connect this with his powerful invitation: "Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you" - words which were to be fulfilled the following day on the tree of the Cross.
This is his total dedication of himself in the love of the Father and for humanity. Such dedication will be demanded of you by God and by men and women when the Church calls you to "imitate what you will celebrate". And then you must remember that the Resurrection and Pentecost are also intrinsic to "the remembrance of Christ".
May you always believe that the Risen One himself, who has provided you with the power of the Holy Spirit, goes with you on the highways of the world. Then your dedication to God and to men and women will not be a burden but a confident and joyful participation in the eternal priesthood of Christ. Prepare yourselves from this very day for this act of entrustment that is linked to assuming responsibility for the "remembrance of Christ".
"Imitate what you will celebrate". A priest's pastoral service consists of a variety of actions of which, as the Council says, the Eucharist is the source and summit (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5). Whatever its form, the invitation to imitate their deepest meaning is always timely and right. If a priest celebrates Baptism - the sacrament of justification - is it not also his duty to be a witness of the justifying grace in his every action? If he prepares young people for the sacrament of Confirmation, which enables them to participate in the prophetic mission of the Church, should not he himself first be a faithful Gospel messenger? Thus, whenever he teaches, blesses marriages, accompanies the sick and prepares them for death, whenever he meets families - he himself must always witness first to the content of his service.
It is not humanly easy to carry out such a task. For this very reason it is necessary to seek the help of the One who sends out labourers into his harvest (cf. Mt Mt 9,38). In your life today and above all in the priesthood, always make room for prayer. Yes, spare no effort to prepare yourselves as best you can for your priestly tasks by a sound study of doctrine - not only theological but also of other disciplines that will help you to be in touch with your contemporaries - and by learning pastoral practices; but base this training on the solid foundations of prayer. I place this in your hearts: be men of prayer and you will succeed in imitating what you celebrate.
I entrust you all to the Patroness of your Seminary, the Immaculate Mother of God. May she accompany and protect you and bring you all the graces you need to be properly prepared for the priesthood. I cordially bless you all: in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 6 December 2003