Called to Service

Last week Pope Benedict XVI presided at Vespers at the Vatican basilica for the opening of the academic year in pontifical universities. His homily focused on priestly ministry, in the light of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations by Venerable Pius XII. The Holy Father reflected on the reading from the First Letter of Peter, which he said “invites us to meditate upon the mission of pastors in the Christian community.”

The Holy Father emphasized three essential qualities of a priest: “the aspiration to collaborate with Jesus in spreading the Kingdom of God, the gratuitousness of pastoral commitment, and an attitude of service.” A priest, he stressed, must sacrifice himself for the Church, making himself available to be “seized by Christ.”

The priests administer the sacraments, but do not control them, the Pope said. “They cannot dispose of them as they please.”

Pope Benedict also noted that “we must never forget that we enter the priesthood through the Sacrament of Ordination. This means opening ourselves to the action of God by daily choosing to give ourselves for Him and for our fellow man. . . . The Lord’s call to the ministry is not the fruit of any particular merit, it is a gift we must accept and to which we must respond by generously and disinterestedly dedicating ourselves, not to our own project but to that of God, that He may dispose of us according to His will, even though this may not correspond to our own desire for self-fulfillment. . . . As priests, we must never forget that the only legitimate ascension towards the ministry of pastor is not that of success but that of the Cross.”

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