Priests Must Tend Constantly Towards Sanctity


  • Category:

VATICAN CITY, 20 JUN 2009 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. yesterday, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Pope inaugurated the year for Priests, which has been called to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney. Among those attending Vespers in the Vatican Basilica were large numbers of priests and seminarians from Rome.

Before the celebration began, the Pope prayed in front of the relics of the holy "Cure of Ars", brought to Rome by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars.

In his homily the Holy Father explained how "the Heart of Jesus expresses the essential core of Christianity: the fact that all the revolutionary novelty of the Gospel was revealed and given to us in Christ: that is, the Love that saves us and causes us, even now, to live in God's eternity".

"His Divine Heart appeals to our hearts and invites us to emerge from our own selves, to abandon our human security and entrust ourselves to Him and, following His example, to make of ourselves an unreserved gift of love.

"If it is true that Jesus' call to 'abide in His love' applies to all the baptised", Benedict XVI added, "then on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, day of the sanctification of the clergy, that call sounds out with even greater force for us as priests, and particularly this evening at the beginning of the Year for Priests".

The mission of priests is "indispensable for the Church and for the world", said the Pope. It "requires complete faithfulness to Christ and constant union with Him. In other words, it requires us to tend constantly towards sanctity, like St. John Mary Vianney".

"Allowing oneself to be completely conquered by Christ: this was the aim of St. Paul's entire life, to which we have been dedicating our attention during the Pauline Year that is now drawing to a close; this was also the goal of the entire ministry of the holy 'Cure of Ars', to whom we will particularly address ourselves during the Year for Priests. May this also be the main objective of each one of us".

In order to be ministers of the Gospel "study is certainly useful, as is careful and permanent pastoral formation, but what is even more necessary is the 'science of love' which can be learned only 'heart to heart' with Christ. It is He, in fact, Who calls us to break the bread of His love in order to remit sins and guide the flock in His name. ... Only in this way will we be able to co-operate effectively in the mysterious 'plan of the Father' which consists in 'making Christ the heart of the world'. This plan is achieved in history as, little by little, Jesus becomes the Heart of human hearts, beginning with those called to be closest to him: that is, priests".

"Even our shortcomings, our limitations and weaknesses must lead us back to the heart of Jesus", said Pope Benedict. "If it is true that sinners, by contemplating His Heart, must learn the necessary 'suffering of sins' that leads them back to the Father, this holds even truer for ministers in holy orders. In this context, how can we forget that nothing makes the Church, Body of Christ, suffer so much as this sins of her pastors, above all of those who become 'stealers of sheep', either by misleading them into a private doctrine or binding them with bonds of sin and death? Dear priests, the call to conversion and the recourse to Divine Mercy apply to us too. We too, with heartfelt humility, must ask the Heart of Jesus to preserve us from the terrible risk of harming the very people whom we are required to save".

The Holy Father invited his audience to cultivate the same feelings for "the dignity of priests" as those felt by the "Cure of Ars", in order to "accomplish our mission with generosity and dedication, and to maintain an authentic 'fear of God' in our hearts: the fear that, by our negligence or sin, we deprive the souls entrusted to us from such goodness, or that we may - God forbid! - do damage to them.

"The Church", the Pope added, concluding his homily, "needs holy priests, ministers who help the faithful experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are themselves convinced witnesses of that love".

The ceremony concluded with adoration and Eucharistic blessing.