CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 18 (ZENIT.org).- The Eucharist is the secret to holiness, particularly for priests, says Benedict XVI.
In his Angelus address today to crowds gathered at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father dedicated his words to the topic of the Eucharist, and its importance in the spiritual lives of priests.
The theme of the address is related to the imminent closing of the Year of the Eucharist, and to a theme close to the heart of Pope John Paul II: “The relationship between holiness, the path and destination of the Church of every Christian, and the Eucharist.”
Benedict XIV directed his address in particular to priests “in order to underline that in the Eucharist is precisely the secret to their sanctification.”
“In virtue of holy orders,” he continued, “the priest receives the gift and the commitment to repeat sacramentally the gestures and words with which Jesus, in the Last Supper, instituted the memorial of his Pasch.”
“In his hands this great miracle of love is renewed, from which he is called to convert himself into witness and herald, every day more faithful,” the Holy Father said. “For this reason, the priest must be, before all else, one who adores and contemplates the Eucharist, from the moment he celebrates the sacrament.”
“We know well that the validity of the sacrament does not depend on the holiness of the celebrant,” the Pope continued, “but the effectiveness of the sacrament for him and for others would be greater in the measure that he lives with a profound faith, an ardent love and a fervent spirit of prayer.”
Benedict XVI gave three examples of clerics who, through daily contact with the Eucharist, attained a high level of sanctity.
St. John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople at the end of the fourth century, was said to have a “golden mouth,” said the Holy Father, “due to his extraordinary eloquence.”
The saint was also called a “‘Eucharistic doctor’ for the magnitude and profundity of his doctrine on the blessed sacrament,” the Pope observed.
“The Divine Liturgy, which is more celebrated in Eastern Churches [and] carries his name and his motto — ‘A man full of zeal is enough to transform an entire people’ — demonstrates the effectiveness of the action of Christ through his sacraments,” said Benedict XIV.
The Holy Father also cited St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
“Celebrating the holy Mass, he relived with such fervor the mystery of Calvary and the faith and devotion of all,” the Pope said. “Even the stigmata that God gave to him were expressions of his intimate conformity with Jesus crucified.”
Benedict XVI also cited the example St. John Mary Vianney, a “humble parish priest” at the time of the French Revolution who transformed “the small town of Ars into a model Christian community animated by the Word of God and the sacraments.”
The Pope prayed to Mary for “all priests of the world so that they take from this Year of the Eucharist the fruit of renewed love for the sacrament that they celebrate.”