By the Publisher,
Love One Another! 7/2006 → Catholic Church
Benedict XVI in Poland
“I have very much wanted to make this visit to the native land and people of my beloved Predecessor, Servant of God John Paul II” said the Holy Father Benedict XVI during his welcoming address at Warsaw’s Frederic Chopin Airport on May 25, 2006.
He came to this country to walk in the footsteps of John Paul II
and strengthen its people in their faith. Hence the motto of this
first official visit of Pope Benedict XVI: “Stand firm in
the faith!” From the airport the Holy Father went directly
by popemobile to Warsaw’s archdiocesan Basilica of St John
the Baptist for a meeting with the clergy. There he spoke of the
great and priceless gift that the sacrament of the priesthood represents
not only to the Polish nation but to the world at large. Jesus places
this great gift in weak and sinful human hearts; that is why not
only the faithful but also priests themselves must learn to
rediscover this gift, to delight in it anew, believe in its power,
and accord it the care and solicitude it deserves.
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”(Lk
“Believe in the power of your priesthood!” Benedict XVI exhorted. “By virtue of the sacrament, you have received all that you are. When you utter the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ (‘I absolve you … This is my body …’), you do it not in your name, but in the name of Christ, in persona Christi, who wants to use your lips and your hands, your spirit of sacrifice and your talent.
“At the moment of your ordination, through the liturgical sign of the imposition of the hands, Christ took you under his special protection; you are concealed under his hands and in his Heart. Immerse yourselves in his love, and give him your love! When your hands were anointed with oil, the sign of the Holy Spirit, they were destined to serve the Lord as his own hands in today’s world. They can no longer serve selfish purposes, but must continue in the world the witness of his love.
The greatness of Christ’s priesthood can make us tremble.
We can be tempted to cry out with Pete, ‘Lord, depart from
me, for I am a sinful man’ (Luke
5:8), because we find it hard to believe that Christ called us specifically.
Could he not have chosen someone else, more capable, more holy?
But Jesus has looked lovingly upon each one of us, and in this gaze
of his we may have confidence.
Persevere in prayer and adoration
“Let us not be consumed with haste, as if time devoted to
Christ in silent prayer were time wasted. On the contrary, it is
precisely then that the most wonderful fruits of pastoral service
come to birth. There is no need to be discouraged on account of
the fact that prayer requires effort, or because of the impression
that Jesus remains silent. He is indeed silent, but he is at work….In
a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there
is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be
assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful.
It is a source of comfort and light particularly to those who
Priests are to be specialists in promoting man’s encounter with God
“The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they
be specialists in promoting man’s encounter with
God. The priest is not expected to be an expert in economics, construction,
or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life….When
a young priest takes his first steps, he needs to be able to refer
to an experienced teacher who will help him not to lose his way
among the many ideas put forward by the culture of the moment. In
the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there
is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing
currents of thought; what the faithful expect from him is that he
be a witness to the eternal wisdom contained in the revealed word.
Solicitude for the quality of personal prayer and for good theological
formation bear fruit in life….We grow in emotional maturity
when our hearts cling to God. Christ needs priests who are mature,
manly, and capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual fatherhood.
For this to happen, priests need to be honest with themselves, open
with their spiritual director, and trusting in divine mercy.
The Church is holy, but there are sinners among her members
“On the occasion of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II
frequently exhorted the faithful to do penance for infidelities
of the past. We believe that the Church is holy, but that there
are sinners among her members. We need to reject the desire to identify
only with those who are sinless. How could the Church have excluded
sinners from her ranks? It is for their salvation that Jesus took
flesh, died and rose again. We must therefore learn to live Christian
penance with sincerity. By practicing it, we confess individual
sins in union with others, before them and before God. Yet we must
guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge
earlier generations, who lived in different times and different
circumstances, Humble sincerity is needed so as not to deny the
sins of the past and, at the same time, not to indulge in facile
accusations in the absence of real evidence or without regard for
the different preconceptions of the time. Moreover, the confessio
peccati, to use an expression of Saint Augustine, must always be
accompanied by the confessio laudis – the confession of praise.
As we ask pardon for the wrong that was done in the past, we must
also remember the good accomplished with the help of divine grace
which, even if contained in earthenware vessels, has borne fruit
that is often excellent.
Care for the faithful who have left the country
“Today the Church in Poland faces an enormous pastoral challenge: how to care for the faithful who have left the country. The scourge of unemployment obliges many people to go abroad. It is a widespread and large-scale phenomenon. When families are divided in this way, when social links are broken, the Church cannot remain indifferent. Those who leave must be cared for by priests who, in partnership with the local Churches, take on a pastoral ministry among the emigrants…
“The gift of many vocations, with which God has blessed your
Church, must be received in a truly Catholic perspective. Polish
priests, do not be afraid to leave your secure and familiar
world, to go and serve in places where priests are lacking and where
your generosity can bear abundant fruit!
Be authentic in your life and ministry
“Gazing upon Christ, live a modest life, in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent. Serve everyone; be accessible in the parishes and in the confessionals, accompany the new young people, remember the poor and the abandoned. If you live by faith, the Holy Spirit will suggest to you what you must say and how you must serve. You will always be able to count on the help of her who goes before the Church in faith.”
In addition to reminding priests of the great responsibility of their vocation,
the Holy Father calls on the lay faithful to assume joint responsibility
for the gift of the priesthood – by helping priests in
the exercise of their duties, supporting them with prayer, and,
where they see weakness and sin, by resorting to fraternal admonition
in the spirit of Mat