.- Focusing his Wednesday catechesis in St. Peter's Square on a pair of priests from the last two centuries, Pope Benedict underscored the importance of charity, the "love of God and love to God." The Holy Father also spoke of how "signs" can signal the road to our vocations.
Today's teaching is the latest in a series on the priesthood, which the Pope decided to do as the end of the Year for Priests approaches on June 19. For his address today, the Holy Father chose two saints who lived in Turin, Italy as models of the priesthood.
Speaking first of St. Leonard Murialdo, the founder of the Congregation of Saint Joseph who was canonized 40 years ago, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted the joy with which he welcomed his vocation. After a "profound existential and spiritual crisis" in his adolescence, at 17 years old he decided to become a priest following a general confession during which he rediscovered the "immense mercy of God."
The Holy Father underlined the "central nucleus" of Fr. Leonard's spirituality as the "conviction of the merciful love of God: an always good, patient and generous Father, that reveals the greatness and immensity of his mercy with forgiveness."
The Pope added later,"highlighting the greatness of the mission of priests, 'who must continue the work of redemption ... Fr. Leonard always recalled, both to himself and his confreres, the responsibility of living a life coherent with the Sacrament received."
Benedict XVI pointed out that "Love of God and love to God" were "the force of his path to sainthood, the law of his priesthood, the most profound significance of his apostolate among poor young people and the source of his prayer."
The Congregation of St. Joseph continues to be dedicated to the formation of youth, especially the disadvantaged, tending to them as members of a family.
It was with the same spirit of charity as St. Leonard, added Benedict XVI, that the second priest, Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, lived. After experiencing the unfortunate death of a pregnant woman, he prayed to know the meaning of the suffering. Divinely inspired, he went on to dedicate all of his efforts to support those most in need, said the Pope.
Observing the importance of the experience, the Pope said, "The Lord always places signs on our path, guiding us according to His will to what is truly good for us."
Giving himself up completely to the Lord's will, he founded the "Little House of Divine Providence" through which, with the help of many collaborators and volunteers, he was able to provide assistance to address the particular needs of the day.
The Holy Father cited the words of St. Cottolengo in explaining his mentality: "I am a good-for-nothing and I don't even know what I'm doing with myself. Divine Providence, however, certainly knows what it's doing. It's up to me to go along with it.â
"Forward 'in Domino,'" he said, "forward in the Lord."
The "Little House" founded by Fr. Cottolengo still exists in Turin and will be visited by the Holy Father on his visit to the city for the exposition of the Shroud this coming Sunday. His influence is also seen in similar houses throughout the world today which often are known simply by the name "Cottolengo."
More than 16,000 people were on hand to hear the Pope's teaching and visit the See of Peter. Among the diverse group were ecumenical delegations from the Lutheran Church of Norway, the Church of England and a group of Jewish leaders visiting with the Pave the Way Foundation, which has worked to put the Vatican archives regarding the pontificate of Pope Pius XII online.