Pope Francis continued his catechetical series on the Sacraments, reflecting on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, during his weekly General Audience today in St. Peter’s Square. This, along with Marriage, he said, correspond to two vocations, through which Christians “can make of their life a gift of love, in the example and name of Christ.”
Holy Orders, marked in three degrees of episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate, is the Sacrament which enables the exercise of ministry from the Lord Jesus to the Apostles, “to shepherd his flock in the power of his Spirit, according to his heart,” the Pope said. “In this sense, the ministers who are chosen and consecrated this service to prolong in time the presence and action of the one true Master and Shepherd, who is Christ.”
The Pope focused on three aspects that highlight the presence of Christ in the community, the first of which is the minister as the head of the community. Emphasizing the example set by Jesus, the Holy Father said that this aspect means placing one’s authority at the service of others.
The second characteristic of a minister is what the Pope described as a “sacramental union with Christ and the passionate love for the Church.”
In virtue of the Holy Orders, the minister dedicates his whole self to the community and loves it with his whole heart: it is his family. The bishops, the priest, love the Church in their community and love it strongly. How? Like Christ loved the Church.”
Comparing it to the Sacrament of Marriage, the Pope said that are both signs of the great mystery of love that brings one along the path towards the Lord.
The final aspect the Holy Father reflected on was to always rekindle the gift that is always in him (the minister). The 77 year old Pontiff stressed the need for those in ordained ministry to be nourished by prayer, the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
“A bishop that does not pray, the bishop that does not hear and listen to the Word of God, that does not celebrate everyday, that does not confess regularly, the same goes for a priest who does not do these things, will lose in the long run the union with Jesus. They become a mediocrity that is not good for the Church,” he said.
The Pope called on the faithful to help their priests and bishops to pray and listen to the Word of God, which he called their “daily meal.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis invited those present to contemplate their vocation and to take care if one feels the calling to the priesthood.
“What must one do to become a priest?” he asked. “Tickets to enter are not sold, it is an initiative that is taken by the Lord. The Lord calls: He calls each one who wants to be a priest, and maybe there are some young men here, that have felt this call in their heart.”
“If one of you have felt this in your heart, it is Jesus who has placed it there! Take care of this invitation and pray that it may grow and give fruit in the whole Church.” (J.A.E.)
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On ZENIT’s webpage:
For the full text of the Pope’s address, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-sacrament-of-holy-orders