May 17th Ė priestly Vigil

Introduction to the litanies

His Exc. Msgr. Csaba Ternyak

Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy

Dear Priests:

After reciting the Rosary in honor of the Holy Virgin, Mother of Christ and Mother of Priests, let us continue our spiritual preparation for the Jubilee and for the encounter with the Holy Father.

We have placed our vocation and our ministry in the hands of Mary, as the final act of preparation for tomorrow, when we will celebrate our Jubilee in the Mass of thanksgiving together with the Holy Father John Paul II, in this same square. With him, we will live the gratitude for the gift of life and for our vocation as priests, a reality we carry in clay vases, which do not belong to us. As Saint Paul said: "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lordís" (Rom 14:7-8). Our life, our priesthood, belong to the Lord. He placed this gift and this mystery into our hands.

Gift and Mystery. These two words describe the priesthood very well. The Gift of God, free and loving, unmerited. The mystery inserted into Christís work of salvation, the mystery of redemption, the mystery of faith, of love and of hope.

Gift and Mystery. The Holy Father defined his priesthood with these two words. The essence of our identity, of our ministry, lies in these two words. The priesthood is a gift because of its divine origin, and it is a mystery because of its clearly transcendental, supernatural nature. The priest is a man who carries the treasure of salvation for all men in his hands. The priest, in himself, is a mystery that makes Christ present in the world, through his weak hands that consecrate the bread and forgive sins.

Gift and Mystery. The priest is a gift to all men. He does not live for himself, he lives for others: none of us live for ourselves; just as no one dies for himself. Each priest is a gift from God to the Church and, at the same time, he is an offering of love made by the Church to God. The priest is a mystery for himself and for men, a mystery in which sin and holiness, greatness and pettiness, human fragility and divine mercy coexist.

Gift and Mystery. This is also the title of the Popeís autobiography in which he describes his spiritual trajectory, a life marked by love and by suffering, by prayer and by self-giving. A story in which the laity has an important role in the orientation of his spiritual life and in which the Popeís priesthood emerges as being linked to the community, the Church, not like a man merely involved in a duty, but like another Christ among them. The book concludes with the litanies to Jesus Christ, the Supreme and Eternal Priest, invocations the Pope recited while preparing for his ordination and which today, in the context of the eve of our Jubilee, acquire special meaning because they mark the route of our conversion towards identification with Christ, the only and eternal Priest; they summarize very well the ideal of priesthood we aspire to.

With this spirit, on this eve of prayer for the Pope and for all the priests in the world, we prepare to recite the litanies to Jesus Christ, the Supreme and Eternal Priest.