VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI called to mind today the approaching conclusion of the Year for Priests, dedicating the general audience to a reflection on “two saintly priests” of the 19th century.
The Pope spoke of St. Leonard Murialdo and St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, saying they were “exemplary in their giving of themselves to God and in their witness of charity — lived in the Church and for the Church — toward their neediest brothers.”
Reflecting on St. Leonard (1828-1900), the Holy Father emphasized that “the central nucleus of Murialdo’s spirituality was the conviction of the merciful love of God: a Father who is always good, patient and generous, who reveals the greatness and immensity of his mercy with forgiveness.”
“St. Leonard experienced this reality at the existential, not the intellectual level, through a living encounter with the Lord,” he explained. “He always considered himself a man graced by the merciful God: because of this he lived the joyous sense of gratitude to the Lord, the serene awareness of his own limitations, the ardent desire of penance, the constant and generous commitment to conversion. He saw all his existence not only illumined, guided, sustained by this love, but continually immersed in the infinite mercy of God.”
This sense of gratitude carried over into the saint’s understanding of his priestly vocation “as a free gift of the mercy of God,” the Pontiff reflected.
He cited the saint: “God has chosen me! He has called me, has in the end forced me to the honor, to the glory, to the ineffable happiness of being his minister, of being ‘another Christ.’ And where was I when God sought me? At the bottom of the abyss! I was there, and God came there to seek me; there he made me hear his voice.”
Similarly, St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo (1786-1842) was an example of charity and priestly zeal.
He founded the work called “Little Home of Divine Providence” and also called today “Cottolengo.” The Pope will visit that work, which still thrives today, when he visits Turin next month.
“Dear friends,” the Holy Father concluded, “these two priests, of whom I have presented some traits, lived their ministry in the total gift of their lives to the poorest, to the neediest, to the last, always finding the profound root, the inexhaustible source of their action in the relationship with God, drinking from his love, in the profound conviction that it is not possible to exercise charity without living in Christ and in the Church.”
“May their intercession and example continue to enlighten the ministry of so many priests who spend themselves with generosity for God and for the flock entrusted to them,” the Pontiff prayed, “and may they help each one to give himself with joy and generosity to God and to his neighbor.”
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