On Workers for the Lord's Harvest

«There Will Always Be a Need for Shepherds Who Announce the Word»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The liturgy of the Fourth Sunday of Easter presents us with one of the most beautiful images that, from the first centuries of the Church, has portrayed the Lord Jesus: that of the Good Shepherd. St. John’s Gospel, in the 10th chapter, describes to us the particular traits of the relationship between Christ the Shepherd and his flock, a relationship that is so close that no one can ever steal the sheep from his hands. The sheep, in fact, are united to him by a bond of love and mutual knowledge, which guarantees them the incommensurable gift of eternal life. Also, the attitude of the flock toward the Good Shepherd, Christ, is presented by the evangelist with two specific verbs: listening and following. These terms designate the fundamental characteristics of those who live as followers of the Lord. First of all, listening to his word from which faith is born and nourished. Only those who are attentive to the Lord’s voice are able to determine by their own conscience the right choices to act according to God. From listening, then, is derived the following of Jesus: we act as disciples after we have listened and internalized the Master’s teaching, to live it daily.

On this Sunday it is natural to remember the Shepherds of the Church of God, and those who are being formed to become Shepherds. I therefore invite you to say a special prayer for bishops — including the Bishop of Rome! — for parish priests, for all those who have a responsibility in leading the flock of Christ, that they might be faithful and wise in carrying out their office. In particular, let us pray for vocations to the priesthood on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, that authentic workers for the Lord’s harvest never be lacking.

Seventy years ago Venerable Pius XII instituted the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations. The happy intuition of my predecessor was founded on the conviction that vocations grow and mature in the particular Churches, facilitated by healthy family contexts and strengthened by the spirit of faith, charity and piety. In my message for this day I stressed that a vocation is followed when we leave behind “our will that is closed in itself and our idea of self-actualization, to immerse ourselves in another will, God’s, letting ourselves be guided by it.” In this time too when the Lord’s voice risks being submerged by so many other voices, every ecclesial community is called to promote and safeguard vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Men, in fact, always have need of God, even in our technological world, and there will always be a need for Shepherds who announce the Word and help us to meet the Lord in the sacraments.

Dear brothers and sisters, reinvigorated by Easter joy and faith in the Risen Christ, let us entrust our proposals and our intentions to the Virgin Mary, Mother of every vocation, that with her intercession she awaken and support numerous holy vocations in service to the Church and the world.

[Before praying the Regina Caeli with the faithful, the Holy Father also made the following remarks:]

I continue to follow the armed conflict in Libya with great attention. This conflict has caused a great number of victims and suffering above all among the civilian population. I renew a pressing call that the path of negotiation and dialogue prevail over that of violence, with the help of international organizations that are seeking a solution to the crisis. I assure, furthermore, my prayerful and heartfelt participation in the local Church’s undertaking to help the population, in particular through consecrated persons present in the hospitals.

My thoughts also turn to Syria, where it is urgent that a coexistence marked by concord and unity be restored. I ask God that there be no more bloodshed in that homeland of great religions and civilization, and I invite the authorities and all citizens to stop at nothing in seeking the common good and in accepting the legitimate aspirations for a future of peace and stability.

[After praying the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, the beatification of Pope John Paul II had, as you know, a global impact. There are other exemplary witnesses of Christ, much less known, that the Church proposes with joy for the veneration of the faithful. Today in Würzburg, Germany, Georg Häfner, a diocesan priest who died in the concentration camp at Dachau is being proclaimed blessed. And last Saturday at Pozzuoli another priest was beatified, Giustino Maria Russolillo, the founder of the Society of the Divine Vocation. We thank the Lord that he does not allow the Church to do without holy priests!

[In English he said:]

I greet with joy the English-speaking visitors gathered here today, and I pray that your pilgrimage to Rome will strengthen your faith and your love for the Lord Jesus. Today we pray especially for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, asking Christ our Lord to send shepherds to care for his flock, so that God’s people may have life in abundance. Upon all of you I invoke the peace and joy of the Risen Lord!

© Copyright 2011 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you for your presence.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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