VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the last of five questions from the June 11 question-and-answer session Benedict XVI held with priests at the prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. The session was part of the International Meeting of Priests that marked the end of the Year for Priests.
Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the session appeared Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. This is the final part.
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Q: Holy Father, I am Atsushi Yamashita and I come from Asia, specifically from Japan. The priestly model Your Holiness proposed in this year, the Curé of Ars, sees at the center of existence and of the mystery of the Eucharist, a sacramental and personal penance and a love of worship worthily celebrated. I have before my eyes the signs of the austere poverty of St. John Vianney, together with his passion for the precious things of worship. How can we live these fundamental dimensions of our priestly existence, without falling into clericalism or into becoming extraneousness to reality, which the world today does not allow us?
R: Thank you. Hence, the question is how to live the centrality of the Eucharist without being lost in a purely devotional life, foreign to the everyday life of other persons. We know that clericalism has been a temptation of priests in all centuries, also today; hence, it is all the more important to find the true way of living the Eucharist, which is not a closing to the world, but in fact an opening to the needs of the world. We must have present the fact that in the Eucharist is realized this great drama of God who comes out of himself, he leaves — as the Letter to the Philippians says — his own glory, he comes out and comes down to be one of us and comes down to death on the Cross (cf. Philippians 2). The adventure of the love of God, who leaves, abandons himself to be with us — this becomes present in the Eucharist; the great act, the great adventure of the love of God is the humility of God who gives himself to us.
In this sense, the Eucharist is to be considered as entering into this way of God. St. Augustine says, in De Civitate Dei, book X: “Hoc est sacrificium Christianorum: multi unum corpus in Christo,” that is, the sacrifice of Christians is to be united by the love of Christ in the unity of the one body of Christ. Sacrifice consists precisely in coming out of ourselves, in allowing ourselves to be drawn into the communion of the one bread, of the one Body, and thus to enter into the great adventure of the love of God. Thus we should celebrate, live, meditate always on the Eucharist, as the school of liberation from my “I”: to enter into the one bread, which is bread of all, which unites us in the one Body of Christ. Hence, the Eucharist is, in itself, an act of love, which obliges us to this reality of love for others: the sacrifice of Christ is the communion of all in his Body. Hence, we must learn the Eucharist in this way, which is, precisely, the opposite of clericalism, of being shut in on oneself.
Let us also think of Mother Teresa, truly the great example in this century, in this time, of a love which leaves itself, which leaves every type of clericalism, of extraneousness to the world, which goes to the most marginalized, to the poorest, to persons close to death and gives itself totally to love for the poor, for the marginalized. But Mother Teresa who has given us this example, the community that follows her footprints, always understood the presence of a tabernacle as the first condition of one of her foundations. Without the presence of the love of God who gives himself, it would not have been possible to realize that apostolate, it would not have been possible to live in that abandonment of oneself; only by inserting themselves in this abandonment of self in God, in this adventure of God, in this humility of God, were they able and are able to carry out today this great act of love, this openness to all. In this sense, I would say: to live the Eucharist in its original meaning, in its true profundity, is a school of life, it is the most sure protection against every temptation to clericalism.
Q: Most Holy Father, I am Anthony Denton and I come from Oceania, from Australia. Here, this evening, we are so many priests. We know, however, that our seminaries are not full and that, in the future, in several parts of the world, a drop is expected, even a sharp drop. What can be done that is truly effective for vocations? How can we propose our life, and that which is great and beautiful about it, to a youth of our time?
Benedict XVI: Thank you. Really you touch upon, again, a great and painful problem of our time: the lack of vocations, because of which local Churches are in danger of withering, as the Word of life is lacking, the presence of the sacrament of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments is lacking.
What to do? The temptation is great to take the matter into our own hands, to transform the priesthood — the sacrament of Christ, being chosen by him — into a normal profession, into a job that has its hours, and for the rest of the time one belongs to oneself, thus rendering it, as any other vocation, accessible and easy. But this is a temptation, which does not resolve the problem. It makes me think of the story of Saul, the king of Israel, who before the battle against the Philistines waits for Samuel for the necessary sacrifice to God. And when Samuel does not come at that very moment, he carries out the sacrifice himself, though he was not a priest (cf. 1 Samuel 13); he thus thinks of resolving the problem, which of course he does not resolve, because he takes into his own hands what he cannot do, he makes himself God, or almost so, and it cannot be expected that things will really go in God’s way. Thus, we also, if we only carried out a profession like others, giving up the sacredness, the novelty, the difference of the sacrament that only God gives, which can only come from his vocation and not from our “doing,” we won’t resolve anything. So much more must we — as the Lord invites us — pray to God, knock at the door, at the heart of God, so that he will give us vocations; pray with great insistence, with great determination, with great conviction, also because God does not close himself to an insistent, permanent, trusting prayer, even if he lets one do, wait, like Saul, beyond the times that we had foreseen.
This, it seems to me, is the first point: to encourage the faithful to have this humility, this trust, this courage to pray with insistence for vocations, to knock at the heart of God so that he will give us priests. Beyond this, I would mention perhaps three points. The first: each one of us should do everything possible to live our priesthood in such a way that it is convincing, in such a way that young men can say: This is a true vocation, I can live like this, thus one can do an essential thing for the world. I think none of us would have become a priest if he did not know convincing priests in which the fire of the love of God burned. Hence, this is the first point: Let us seek to be convincing priests ourselves.
The second point is that we must invite, as I already said, others to the initiative of prayer, to have this humility, this trust of speaking with God with force, with determination. The third point: to have the courage to speak with young men if they think that God is calling them, because often a human word is necessary to open the hearing to the divine vocation; to speak with young men and above all to help them find a vital context in which they can live. Today’s world is such that it almost seems to exclude the maturing of a priestly vocation; young people need environments in which the faith is lived, in which the beauty of the faith appears, in which it appears that this is a model of life, “the” model of life, and hence to help them find movements, or the parish — the community in the parish — or other contexts where they really are surrounded by faith, by t
he love of God, and can then be open so that the vocation of God will come and help them. On the other hand, we thank the Lord for all the seminarians of our time, for young priests, and we pray. The Lord will help us! Thank you all!
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Part 1: www.zenit.org/article-29612?l=english
Part 2: www.zenit.org/article-29623?l=english