Pope Benedict XVI recently called priests and those in parish leadership positions to hold fast to Christ and allow his love to lead them to proclaim the Gospel.
The Pope spoke on Nov. 4 during the celebration of vespers with students from the pontifical universities in Rome, marking the beginning of their academic year.
He recalled the 70th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s motu propio “Cum Nobis” on priestly vocations. “One cannot become a good shepherd without becoming one with Christ and his members through charity.
“Charity is the first duty of the good shepherd,” he said.
The Pope then explained several conditions in order for a priest to adequately carry out the mission entrusted to him: “the aspiration to collaborate with Jesus in spreading the Kingdom of God, the gratuitousness of pastoral commitment, and an attitude of service.”
He said the call to priestly ministry is above all an “encounter with Jesus and being fascinated by him, overcome by his words, his gestures, his own person.
“And being able to distinguish His voice from so many others, and responding like Peter, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’”
This call is the result of being enveloped by the Lord’s goodness and love, to the degree that one desires to “remain with Him, like the disciples of Emmaus … and bring the proclamation of the Gospel to the world,” he said.
The Pope underscored that a minister of the Gospel “is one who clings to Christ and learns ‘to remain’ with Him, who is in tune and in intimate friendship with Him, so that everything is fulfilled ‘as God wants,’ according to his loving will, with great interior freedom and profound joy of heart.”
He added the clergy “must never forget … the Lord's call to ministry is not the result of special merit, but is a gift to be accepted … according to his will, even if it does not correspond to our desires for self-realization.”
The priestly life should be marked by attentive care for the flock, faithful celebration of the liturgy and prompt concern toward all, especially the poorest and most in need, Benedict XVI continued.
By living this “pastoral charity” according to the model of Christ, he said, priests will experience fulfillment in their vocations wherever the Lord calls them to serve.
This call of the Lord extends to all Catholics, the Pope noted, who should ever more learn to “remain with the Lord each day, in personal encounter with Him in order to be fascinated by Him and cling to his love and be proclaimers of the Gospel.”
“It is important to generously seek out what God’s plan is for each us and not our own, and thus conform our wills to the Lord’s. It is important to prepare one’s self, through serious and dedicated study as well, to serve the People of God in the tasks that will be entrusted to us,” the Pope said.
He concluded expressing hope that St. Charles Borromeo, whose feast was celebrated on Nov. 4, would obtain grace for all those who attend the pontifical universities in Rome.