Papal Address to Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph

“The specific formation of priests is always one of the main priorities of the Church”

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Lord Rector, Superiors, Religious, Students of the Pontifical Spanish College of Saint Joseph of Rome.

It is a joy for me to receive you on the commemoration of the fifty years of the present headquarters of the Pontifical Spanish College of Saint Joseph, and specifically on the liturgical memoria of Saint John of Avila, patron of the Spanish secular clergy, whom I will soon declare Doctor of the universal Church. I greet the Lord Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid and president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, whom I thank for his kind words, as well as the Lord Archbishops members of the Patronato, the formators, women Religious and you, dear students.

This event marks an important stage of the already vast itinerary of this College, which began at the end of the 19th century, when Blessed Manuel Domingo y Sol, founder of the Brotherhood of Diocesan Worker Priests, launched himself on the adventure to create a College in Rome, with the blessing of my venerable predecessor Leo XIII, and the support of the Spanish Episcopate.

Thousands of seminarians and priests have gone through your College, who have served the Church in Spain with profound love and fidelity to their mission. The specific formation of priests is always one of the main priorities of the Church. On being sent to Rome to further your priestly studies you must think above all, not so much of your particular good, but of service to the holy people of God, who need pastors who dedicate themselves to the beautiful service of the sanctification of the faithful with superior preparation and competence.

But remember that the priest renews his life and draws strength for his ministry from contemplation of the Divine Word and intense dialogue with the Lord. He is conscious that he will be unable to take Christ to his brothers or to meet Him in the poor and the sick, if he does not first discover Him in fervent and constant prayer. It is necessary to nourish a personal relationship with Him, whom one then proclaims, celebrates and communicates. Herein lies the foundation of priestly spirituality, until one becomes a transparent sign and living witness of the Good Shepherd. The itinerary of priestly formation is, also, a school of missionary communion: with the Successor of Peter, with one’s bishop, in the presbytery itself, and always at the service of the particular and universal Church.

Dear priests, may the life and doctrine of the Holy Teacher John of Avila illumine and support your stay at the Pontifical Spanish College of Saint Joseph. His profound knowledge of Sacred Scripture, of the Holy Fathers, of the Councils, of the liturgical sources and of healthy theology, together with his faithful and filial love of the Church, made him an authentic innovator, at a difficult time in the history of the Church. Precisely because of this, he was “a discerning and ardent spirit who added, to the denunciation of evils the suggestion of canonical remedies, a school of intense spirituality” (Paul VI, Homily during the Canonization of Saint John of Avila, May 31, 1970).

The main teaching of the Apostle of Andalusia is the mystery of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, lived in harmony with the Lord’s sentiments, in imitation of Saint Paul (cf. Philippians 2:5). “The priest must look at himself in this priestly mirror to be conformed to Him in his desires and prayer” (Treatise on the Priesthood, 10). The priesthood requires essentially his help and friendship: “This communication of the Lord with the priest … is the relationship of friends,” says the Saint (Ibid., 9).

Hence, encouraged by the virtues and the example of Saint John of Avila, I invite you to carry out your presbyterial ministry with the same apostolic zeal that characterized him, with his same austerity of life, as well as with the same filial affection that he had for the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of priests.

Under the dear name of “Mater clementissima,” the students have been innumerable who have entrusted to her their vocation, their studies, their most noble exertions and projects, as well as their sadnesses and concerns. Do not fail to invoke her every day or tire of repeating her name with devotion. Listen to Saint John of Avila , when he exhorted priests to imitate her: “Let us look at ourselves, Fathers, from head to toe, soul and body, and we will see ourselves made similar to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who with her words brought God to her womb … And the priest brings Him with the words of the consecration” (1st Talk to Priests). The Mother of Christ is the model of that love that leads to giving one’s life for the Kingdom of God, without expecting anything in return.

May the community of the Pontifical Spanish College of Rome, under the protection of Our Lady, be able to continue to fulfill its objectives of further reflection and actualization of ecclesiastical studies, in the climate of profound presbyterial communion and high scientific rigor that distinguishes it, in view of realizing, henceforth, the profound fraternity requested by Vatican Council II “by reason of the common sacred ordination and the common mission” (Lumen Gentium, 28). Thus pastors will be formed that, as reflection of the life of God-Love, One and Triune, will serve their brothers with rectitude of intention and total dedication, promoting the unity of the Church and the good of the whole of human society.

With these sentiments, I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your families, communities of origin and to all those who collaborate in your formative itinerary during your stay in Rome. Thank you very much.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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