Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Freising, Germany on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. He has called his ordination “the most important moment of my life.”
The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano included in its June 29 edition an excerpt from the book “Memoirs: 1927-1977,” published in 1997 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. In the book, he recounts the day of his priestly ordination.
“For at least the past two months,” Ratzinger wrote, “I was able to focus completely on preparing myself for the big step: priestly ordination, which we received at the Cathedral of Freising from the hands of Cardinal Faulhaber on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1951.”
“It was a splendid summer day which was unforgettable,” he continued, “and the most important moment of my life.
“Not to be superstitious, but the moment in which the elderly archbishop laid hands on me, a bird—perhaps a lark—flew up from the main altar in the cathedral and began chirping joyfully, which for me was like a voice from on high had said: this is okay, you are on the right path.
“The next four weeks of summer were like one long celebration,” the Pope continued. He recalled that the day of his first Mass (July 8 in Traunstein), the parish of St. Osvaldo “was splendidly illuminated” and filled with the joy of all in attendance.
“We were invited to bring the blessings of the first Mass to all of the homes, and we were welcomed everywhere, even by complete strangers, with a kindness which up until then I had never even imagined.
“Thus I directly experienced the great expectations that people have of priests, how much they await their blessing, which comes from the strength of the sacrament. It was not about me or about my brother. What could two young men like us mean to so many people we encountered?
“They saw us as persons to whom Christ had entrusted the task of making Him present among men. No doubt because we were not the center of everything, friendly relationships soon began to form.”
The future Pope was ordained by the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, who was an expert in Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, and one of the most courageous critics of the Nazi regime.
The Congregation for the Clergy has encouraged Catholics around the world, especially priests, to hold 60 hours of eucharistic adoration to pray for the Pope, one hour for each year he has been a priest.