Papal Address to Seminary of Diocese of Rome

«Faith Has Its Own Intellectual and Rational Dimension That Is Essential»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the community from a seminary of the Diocese of Rome, the Almo Collegio Capranica, for the feast of St. Agnes, patron of the college.

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Your Eminence,
Your Excellency, Dear Brothers!

It is always a joy for me to meet the community of the Almo Collegio Capranica, which for over five centuries has been one of the seminaries of the Diocese of Rome. I greet you all with affection, and of course in particular Cardinal Martino and the rector, Msgr. Ermenegildo Manicardi. And I thank your Eminence for the kind words. On the occasion of the feast of St. Agnes, patroness of the College, I would like to offer some reflections that her figure suggest to me.

St. Agnes is one of the famous Roman maidens, who illustrated the genuine beauty of faith in Christ and friendship with Him. Her dual status as Virgin and Martyr reflect the fullness of holiness’s dimensions. This is a fulness of holiness that is requested also of you by your Christian faith and the special priestly vocation with which the Lord has called you and binds you to Him. Martyrdom, for St Agnes, meant the generous and free acceptance of giving her own young life, in its entirety and without reservation, that the Gospel might be preached as truth and beauty that illuminate life. In the martyrdom of Agnes, received courageously in the stadium of Domitian, there shines forever the beauty of belonging to Christ without hesitation, relying on Him. Even today, for anyone who steps into Piazza Navona, the effigy of the saint from atop the gable of the church of St. Agnes in Agony, reminds him that our city is based also on the friendship with Christ and witness to his Gospel, of many of its sons and daughters. Their generous surrender to Him and to the good of their brothers is a primary component of the spiritual physiognomy of Rome.

In martyrdom, Agnes also seals the other crucial element of her life, virginity for Christ and for the Church. The total gift of martyrdom is prepared, in fact, by the conscious, free and mature choice of virginity, a witness to the will to belong totally to Christ. If martyrdom is a final heroic act, virginity is the result of a long friendship with Jesus that has matured in the constant hearing of His Word, in the dialogue of prayer, in the Eucharistic encounter. Agnes, still young, learned that being a disciple of the Lord means loving Him by putting all her life at His disposal. This dual qualification — Virgin and Martyr — calls to mind in our reflection that a credible witness of the faith must be a person who lives for Christ, with Christ and in Christ, transforming their lives according to the higher needs of Grace.

The formation of the priest, too, requires integrity, completeness, ascetic exercise, heroic constancy and fidelity in all the aspects that constitute it; deep down there should be a solid spiritual life animated by an intense relationship with God on the personal and community level, with particular care shown in liturgical celebrations and the frequenting of the Sacraments. The priestly life requires a growing desire for holiness, a clear sensus Ecclesiae and an openness to a fraternity without exclusions or partiality. The path of holiness of the priest forms part also of his choice to develop, with the help of God, his intelligence and his own commitment, a real strong personal culture, fruit of passionate and constant study. Faith has its own intellectual and rational dimension that is essential. For a seminarian and a young priest still struggling with academic study, it means assimilating the synthesis between faith and reason that is peculiar to Christianity. The Word of God became flesh, and the priest, the true priest of the Incarnate Word, must become more transparent, luminous and profound, to the eternal Word which is given to us. He who is mature also in this, his global cultural training, can be a more effective educator and promoter of that worship «in spirit and truth» of which Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:23). Such adoration, which is formed by listening to the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to become, especially in the Liturgy, the «rationabile obsequium» of which the Apostle Paul speaks, a cult in which the man himself in his totality as a being endowed with reason, becomes adoration, glorification of the living God, and that can be achieved not by conforming to this world but being transformed by Christ, renewing the way we think, to discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).

Dear students of the Capranica College, your commitment to the path of holiness, also with a solid cultural background, is the original intention of this institution, founded 555 years ago by Cardinal Domenico Capranica. Always have a deep sense of history and tradition of the Church! Being in Rome is a gift which should make you especially sensitive to the depth of the Catholic tradition. You touch it with your hands already in the history of the building that houses you. In addition, you live these years of training in a special closeness with the Successor of Peter, which enables you to perceive with particular clarity the size of the universal Church and the desire that the Gospel may reach all peoples. Here you have the opportunity to broaden your horizons with experiences of internationality; here, above all, you breathe Catholicism. Take advantage of what is offered, for future service to the Diocese of Rome, or your dioceses of origin! By friendship, which springs from living together, learn about the different situations of the nations and Churches around the world and learn to form in yourselves a Catholic view. Prepare yourselves to be close to every person you meet, not allowing any culture to be a barrier to the Word of life, which you proclaim also with your life.

Dear friends, the Church expects much from the young priests in the work of evangelization and new evangelization. I encourage you so that in the daily fatigue, rooted in the beauty of authentic tradition, deeply united to Christ, you are able to bring it into your communities with truth and joy. With the intercession of Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, and Mary Most Holy, Star of the Evangelization, may your commitment today contribute to the fruitfulness of your ministry. I cordially impart to you and your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]
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