Pope Benedict to Seminarians at WYD: “We Have to Be Saints”

August 21, 2011

On Saturday at World Youth Day, WYD 2011: Full text of Pope’s homily at Mass with seminariansPope Benedict XVI celebrated a Mass for seminarians at the Cathedral of la Almudena in Madrid. (We will return later with coverage of the Saturday evening vigil and Sunday closing Mass).

Below is the text of his homily at the Mass for seminarians.  The Holy Father also announced he will be soon be declaring St. John of Avila a Doctor of the Church.

Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid, Dear Brother Bishops, Dear Priests and Religious,
Dear Rectors and Formators, Dear Seminarians, Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation.

Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.

The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, “Here I am to do your will” (cf. Ps 39:8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. Heb 10:14).

The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lk 22:14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it. Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings. Through Christ we know that we are not walking towards the abyss, the silence of nothingness or death, but are rather pilgrims on the way to a promised land, on the way to him who is our end and our beginning.

Dear friends, you are preparing yourselves to become apostles with Christ and like Christ, and to accompany your fellow men and women along their journey as companions and servants.

How should you behave during these years of preparation? First of all, they should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners his friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. The holiness of the Church is above all the objective holiness of the very person of Christ, of his Gospel and his sacraments, the holiness of that power from on high which enlivens and impels it. We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify.

Meditate well upon this mystery of the Church, living the years of your formation in deep joy, humbly, clear-mindedly and with radical fidelity to the Gospel, in an affectionate relation to the time spent and the people among whom you live. No one chooses the place or the people to whom he is sent, and every time has its own challenges; but in every age God gives the right grace to face and overcome those challenges with love and realism. That is why, no matter the circumstances in which he finds and however difficult they may be, the priest must grow in all kinds of good works, keeping alive within him the words spoken on his Ordination day, by which he was exhorted to model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Phil 3:12-14).

That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10:11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.

Ask him to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the excluded and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. Ask him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor in simplicity and generosity. Face this challenge without anxiety or mediocrity, but rather as a beautiful way of living our human life in gratuitousness and service, as witnesses of God made man, messengers of the supreme dignity of the human person and therefore its unconditional defenders. Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.

Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you. Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.

With this confidence, learn from him who described himself as meek and humble of heart, leaving behind all earthly desire for his sake so that, rather than pursuing your own good, you build up your brothers and sisters by the way you live, as did the patron saint of the diocesan clergy of Spain, St John of Avila. Moved by his example, look above all to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. She will know how to mould your hearts according to the model of Christ, her divine Son, and she will teach you how to treasure for ever all that he gained on Calvary for the salvation of the world. Amen.

Announcement of the Holy Father

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great joy, here in this Cathedral Church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena, I announce to the People of God that, having acceded to the desire expressed by Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, together with the members of the Spanish episcopate and other Archbishops and Bishops from throughout the world, as well as many of the lay faithful, I will shortly declare Saint John of Avila a Doctor of the universal Church.

In making this announcement here, I would hope that the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination.

I invite everyone to look to St John of Avila and I commend to his intercession the Bishops of Spain and those of the whole world, as well as all priests and seminarians. As they persevere in the same faith which he taught, may they model their hearts on that of Jesus Christ the good Shepherd, to whom be glory and honour for ever. Amen.


World Youth Day in Madrid: Pope Benedict’s Opening Comments

August 20, 2011

The headline of a blog at the UK newspaper, The Guardian, says it appropriately, “The pope draws 1.5 million young people to Madrid – but that’s not news?

The media focus on the anti-pope protests, but ignore World Youth Day, perhaps because its attendees aren’t cool.

If I were a Catholic, I would be feeling rather pissed off with the BBC. The news bulletin in this morning’s Today programme carried an report of the pope’s visit to Madrid that concentrated entirely on the “thousands” of protestors against the visit. It did not once mention World Youth Day, the extraordinary global Catholic gathering that the pope is also visiting. That has brought something like 1.5 million young people from around the world to the Spanish capital to greet him. Whether or not you approve of this, it is important and – above all – newsworthy simply because it is unexpected and goes against the grain of what the media tell us. So why is it not reported?

Bringing this back home for a moment, Boston Catholics and the Archdiocese of Boston should be “rather pissed off” with the Boston Globe as well.

Today the Globe has an article about Peter Borre and the Council of Parishes. There is no timeliness to the article running today–no announcement, no event, no news. Nothing.  In fact, the archdiocese thought the article was going to run two weeks ago, but it only came out today.

Yet, 1.5 million young people from around the world are in Spain to celebrate their Catholic faith, including about 500 from Boston, and nothing is in the local mainstream media.  Go figure.

BCI admittedly is a day or two behind on World Youth Day news, and we are pleased to take a break from our normal fare to dedicate the next few posts to cover World Youth Day happenings. This post covers the arrival and opening comments from the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. His comments really do apply to both youth and adults. Our next post will cover highlights from the experience for the Boston contingent, including the Thursday catechesis from Cardinal O’Malley. In subsequent posts after that, we will then cover the Mass for seminarians at Almudena Cathedral in Madrid and other events.

The Holy Father arrived on Thursday to Madrid.  Here is a video clip with excerpts from his arrival comments.

Thursday upon arrival: Pope Benedict XVI says, “Do not be embarrassed by the Lord”

After landing in Madrid, Benedict XVI asked the young people “not to be embarrassed by the Lord” and “that they act courageously and lovingly towards man, without hiding their Christian identity, in a climate of respectful coexistence with other, legitimate, choices and at the same time requesting that they be shown due respect”. These were his first words on Spanish soil during this visit to participate in World Youth Day Madrid, which began on 16 August.

Thursday evening: Pope Benedict XVI’s Welcome to the Youth

Thursday evening, in the Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid, Pope Benedict XVI was officially welcomed to World Youth Day in Madrid and he delivered the following remarks to the young people present:

Dear Young Friends,

It is a great joy for me to meet you here in the heart of this lovely city of Madrid, whose keys the Lord Mayor has kindly presented me. Today Madrid is also the capital of the world’s young people, and the gaze of the whole Church is fixed here. The Lord has brought us together here so that during these days we can experience the beauty of World Youth Day. Through your presence and your participation in these celebrations, the name of Christ will echo throughout this great City. Let us pray that his message of hope and love will also resound in the hearts of those who are not believers or who have grown distant from the Church. Many thanks for the splendid welcome which you gave me as I entered the City, as a sign of your love and closeness to the Successor of Peter.

I greet Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and his staff in that Council, with gratitude for all the work which they have done. I also thank Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, the Archbishop of Madrid, for his kind words and for the efforts made by his Archdiocese, along with the other Dioceses of Spain, in preparing this World Youth Day; my thanks also go to all those in so many other Particular Churches throughout the world who have generously contributed to its preparation. I express appreciation to the national, the autonomous regional and the local authorities for their presence and for their generous help in ensuring the good organization of this great event.

My thanks go also to my brother Bishops, the priests and seminarians, the consecrated men and women and all the faithful present here today, who have helped to prepare the young people to experience these intense days of pilgrimage towards an encounter with Christ. I offer all of you a heartfelt greeting in the Lord and I repeat that it is a great blessing for me to be here with you. May the flame of Christ’s love burn always bright in your hearts.

English

I extend an affectionate greeting to the many English-speaking young people who have come to Madrid. May these
days of prayer, friendship and celebration bring us closer to each other and to the Lord Jesus. Make trust in Christ’s word the foundation of your lives! Planted and built up in him, firm in the faith and open to the power of the Spirit, you will find your place in God’s plan and enrich the Church with your gifts. Let us pray for one another, so that we may be joyful witnesses to Christ, today and always. God bless you all!

Also, following the reading of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered a short homily.

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the kind words addressed to me by the young people representing the five continents. And I salute with affection all of you gathered here, young people from Oceania, Africa, America, Asia and Europe; and also those unable to be here. I always keep you very much in my heart and pray for you. God has given me the grace to see and hear you for myself and, as we gather together, to listen to his word.

In the reading which has just been proclaimed, we heard a passage from the Gospel which talks of welcoming the words of Jesus and putting them into practice. There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to him and, as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among the many others around us which are so familiar. Furthermore, the Master who speaks teaches, not something learned from others, but that which he himself is, the only one who truly knows the path of man towards God, because he is the one who opened it up for us, he made it so that we might have authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy. The Gospel continues, explaining these things with the evocative image of someone who builds on solid rock, resistant to the onslaught of adversity, and in contrast to someone who builds on sand – we would say today in what appears a paradise – but which collapses with the first gust of wind and falls into ruins.

Dear young people, listen closely to the words of the Lord, that they may be for you “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), roots which nourish your being, a rule of life which likens us – poor in spirit, thirsting for justice, merciful, pure in heart, lovers of peace – to the person of Christ. Listen regularly every day as if he were the one friend who does not deceive, the one with whom we wish to share the path of life. Of course, you know that when we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake.

Use these days to know Christ better and to make sure that, rooted in him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God himself, always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you. Let that life grow with divine grace, generously and without half-measures, as you remain steadfast in your aim for holiness. And, in the face of our weaknesses which sometimes overwhelm us, we can rely on the mercy of the Lord who is always ready to help us again and who offers us pardon in the sacrament of Penance.

If you build on solid rock, not only your life will be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all those who have fallen short, because the essentials in their lives were inconsistent; to all those who are content to follow fashionable ideas, they take shelter in the here and now, forgetting true justice, or they take refuge in their own opinions instead of seeking the simple truth.

Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God. We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation. God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?

Dear friends: be prudent and wise, build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.

He died for us all, rising that we might have life, and now, from the throne of the Father, he accompanies all men and women, watching continually over each one of us.

I commend the fruits of this World Youth Day to the most holy Virgin Mary, who said “Yes” to the will of God, and teaches us a unique example of fidelity to her divine son, whom she followed to his death upon the Cross. Let us meditate upon this more deeply in the Stations of the Cross. And let us pray that, like her, our “Yes” to Christ today may also be an unconditional “Yes” to his friendship, both at the end of this Day and throughout our entire lives. Thank you very much.


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