Joseph Ratzinger's Happiest Day

June 29 Marks 60th Anniversary of His Ordination at Age 24

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ROME, JUNE 27, 2011 ( This Wednesday, Benedict XVI will be celebrating the «high point of his life» as he marks the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

Joseph Ratzinger was ordained at age 24, together with his brother Georg, and more than 40 candidates, at the cathedral of Freising, near Munich, by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber.

«Adsum,» (here I am), were the words the young Ratzingers pronounced in Latin before God and the people.

As the universal Church relives that day on Wednesday, the Pope has not wished it to be a moment of personal exaltation. Rather, it has been designated a day to promote thanksgiving to God for the gift of the priesthood and to ask him to call forth new vocations.

In his Memoirs of 1927-1977, Ratzinger recalls that «radiant summer day.»

«We should not be superstitious,» he wrote, «but at the moment when the elderly archbishop laid his hands on me, a little bird — perhaps a lark — flew up from the high altar in the cathedral and trilled a little joyful song. And I could not but see in this a reassurance from on high, as if I heard the words, ‘This is good; you are on the right way.'»

The following four weeks of discovery were like «an unending feast,» the memoirs recount.

«Everywhere we were received even by total strangers with a warmth and affection I had not thought possible until that day,» he remembered. «In this way I learned firsthand how earnestly people wait for a priest, how much they long for the blessing that flows from the power of the sacrament. The point was not my own or my brothers’ person. What could we two young men represent all by ourselves to the many people we were now meeting? 

«In us they saw persons who had been touched by Christ’s mission and had been empowered to bring his nearness to men.»

60 hours

The whole Church is celebrating the day as a time of prayer for priests.

The Congregation for the Clergy has invited the faithful to mark the anniversary with 60 hours of Eucharistic adoration.

A note signed by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza and Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, prefect and secretary of the congregation, notes that the anniversary is a «particularly propitious» occasion to draw near to Benedict XVI, and to express to him gratitude, affection, and communion in the service of God and his Church and, above all, in that «shining of the Truth on the world,» which he calls us to.

The congregation proposed that the prayer vigil can culminate on July 1, feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Day of Prayer for Priests.

«Thus,» the dicastery proposes, «homage could be rendered to the Pontiff with an extraordinary wreath of prayer and of supernatural unity, capable of showing the real center of our lives, from which every missionary and pastoral effort derives, and the authentic face of the Church and of her priests.»

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