23 December 2006 – Priestly Ordination
His Eminence Most Reverend Franc Cardinal Rodé, C.M.
for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies
of Apostolic Life
“Sing to the Lord a
for he has done marvellous deeds.
The Lord is continually working wonders for his Church.
You, dear brothers, 55 Legionary of Christ Deacons, are one
of those wonders. Soon you will receive the great gift
of Presbyteral Ordination in a spirit of heartfelt expectation, prayerful
silence and adoration which precedes the beautiful celebration of the
Incarnation of the Word.
Through you, the Lord makes
known his goodness to His people, His faithfulness to the
Church, and his irrevocable love for the congregation of the
Legionaries of Christ. And it is by God’s grace that
you are what you are, in hopes that His grace
not be vain in you. For you and with you,
I would like simply to reflect on the image of
the priest of Jesus Christ which the Church wants.
1. A PRIEST: A MAN OF DEEP FAITH.
the letter to the Hebrews, we read that Moses had
firm faith, as if he saw the invisible (Heb 11:27).
To the priest, the world of divine mystery should be
transparent, as real at least as the visible world. He
should look upon events, history and humanity from the vantage
point of eternal realities; sub specie aeternitatis. He should speak
from the vantage point of eternity. For this perspective is
ever valid. Simone Weil wrote in 1942 from London: “So
you want to be sure to be up to date?
Then speak about eternity.” The words that find true echo
in man’s heart are those that come from eternity. God’s
people recognizes its true Shepherd in those words. People do
esteem other traits in a priest. For example, he may
be a great organizer or an able administrator. But above
all they expect him to be a man of firm
and living faith.
Taken from among men (Heb 5:1).
In the second reading, we have heard that the priest
is taken from among men. We remain men, with our
own limitations and weaknesses, but our humanity is mysteriously taken
up into Christ’s humanity. And our voice carries the sounds
of His voice. Our hands carry out his saving actions.
Out heart embraces and transmits the heartbeats of the Heart
2. A PRIEST MUST BE A MAN
It is thanks to prayer that the
priest’s faith grows ever more firm. Through prayer alone will
he be in constant contact with the Lord. It is
God who has sought him and found him first (cfr.
Jn 15:16). He was the one to approach man, at
first mysteriously and later in clearer ways. It is He
who has chosen you and called you, been patient with
you, so that you might entrust yourselves completely to Him.
We have been chosen by Christ Jesus and called
to become unique and singular participants in His work. We
are called to continue his work in our own flesh,
in our lives. “Being a priest means becoming an ever
closer friend of Jesus Christ with the whole of our
existence. The world needs God - not just any god
but the God of Jesus Christ, the God who made
himself flesh and blood, who loved us to the point
of dying for us, who rose and created within himself
room for man. This God must live in us and
we in him. This is our priestly call: only in
this way can our action as priests bear fruit.” 1
You also, dear deacons, like us, your
brothers in the priesthood, will be mysteriously taken up, in
your lives, with your humanity, into the Mystery of the
Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, who
is the heart of Christianity. And you are called to
penetrate ever more deeply into this Mystery in prayer. The
Holy Father Benedict XVI said last October 6th to members
of the International Theological Commission: “Silence and contemplation have a
purpose: they serve, in the distractions of daily life, to
preserve permanent union with God.”
When people speak with
a priest, they know if he lives in union with
God or if he is distracted in his heart. This
relationship of love with the Lord is nurtured with daily
meditation on His Word, in the Liturgy of the Hours,
by adoration of His continual Presence in the Eucharist, and
through trustful prayer to Mary, His Mother. The summit and
source of the Priest’s spiritual strength should be the daily
celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. The Eucharist brings us to
make our very lives an offering to God. In Holy
Mass, we celebrate the mystery of our death to the
man of sin, which permits us to live in God.
So Holy Mass is something new each day, since each
day we can be born again in God’s heart. The
Eucharist is always the hour of love “to the very
end,” the moment of total self denial.
truly lived the Eucharistic mystery, we would be radically changed
by it: “That which makes the Eucharist a terrifying mystery
– wrote Cardinal Ratzinger – is the fact that the
priest is authorized to speak with the “I” of Christ
(in persona Christi). Becoming a priest, being a priest means
continually moving forward along the road of this identification. We
will never arrive to its end, but if we seek
out the identification we are on the right path: on
the path that leads to God and to our fellow
men, along the path of love.” 2
3. A PRIEST: A MAN OF THE WORD.
Word of God is as an ardent flame in his
heart (Geremia). The word is given to him, the Word
is entrusted to him! “Amidst all the rambling of our
times, amidst the garrulous multiplication of words, make known those
essential words, the Word that comes from God, the Word
that is God.” (Benedict XVI). May the Word be so
living and active within you that it cannot be held
back, but must come forth from your lips with irresistible
Free the Word, eliminate all that which weakens
it; excessive attachment to oneself, a heart divided, exaggerated attention
to material goods and all that which weighs us down.
God’s Word requires total interior freedom, an unconditional belonging to
the Lord and his Church. The Word of God cannot
be chained. (2 Tim 2:9).
4. A PRIEST: A MAN
OF JOY AND HOPE.
The joy of the heart
is a fruit of rebirth; it is the victory over
oneself and over the world – like faith is. Be
happy to live, because living is a gift and a
freedom. Be happy to be Christians and members of Holy
Catholic Church. Be happy because the Lord has called us
to the priesthood and has entrusted His Word of hope
and consolation to us.
Be convinced that you are
priests the world needs, because the world needs God, because
without Him life has no meaning, because God is the
only antidote to sadness and despair, because He is the
only remedy to death, as the poet Pierre Emmanuel said:
“One either lives for God or lives for death.” And
since men do not live for death, Christ sends you
to the crossroads of the earth to invite them to
life. As priests, you will draw near to the joys
and the hopes, to the sadness and anguish of the
men of today, of the poor and above all of
those who suffer; nothing of what is genuinely human can
fail to find echo in your hearts 3.
You will not be the world’s masters, but servants, to
bring the Gospel of salvation to all.
No difficulty, no weakness can ever be cause to abandon
yourselves to sadness or despair. In a priest, the certainty
of being immensely loved, with an eternal, unconditional love, must
always prevail. And if your heart condemns you, remember that
God is greater than our hearts and knows all things
(1 Jn 3:20).
5. Amidst the numerous activities that
will make up your daily life, never forget that you
are called to be holy: For this is the will
of God, your sanctification (1 Thes 4:3). So live as
is proper among saints (Eph 5:3). And holiness is made
up of faithfulness, in the humble fulfillment of daily duties,
in submission to God’s will. That is the holiness available
to everyone, knowing that this slight momentary affliction is preparing
us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure
(2 Cr 4:17-18).
To conclude, I wish to turn
with you all to the God of all consolation. Through
the intercession of Mary our most tender Mother, Mother of
Priests, we beg him:
Father 4, make these sons
a faithful reflection of Your eternal love,
to give themselves without reserve
so that your people might
in deep faith, sure hope and active charity.
them to the image of Your Son,
might they accept
be servants out of love,
open and vigilant listeners
and humble and ardent heralds
of the Word which is
prophets of the Kingdom to come,
priests of the
one and only sacrifice
shepherds that guide transparently
the way to the Fatherland of Your promise.
with Your Spirit, Father,
and make them always
the joy of those you will entrust to them, today
credibly handing on the fathomless grace
love to all.
1. Benedetto XVI, Omelia alla Santa Messa del Crisma, 13
aprile 2006, Giovedì Santo.
2. J. RATZINGER,
Un chant nouveau pour le Seigneur, p. 233.
4. cfr. FORTE B., Il mendicante del cielo,