Pope Benedict XVI used much of his General Audience today to greet the thousands of altar servers who are visiting Rome as part of the international pilgrimage of altar servers, sponsored by Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium. He told the many servers gathered that they should be open to the call of the Lord and be prepared if he is calling them to serve as priests.
The Holy Father began his remarks by recalling his first year serving Mass in 1935. Pope Benedict, assuring them that he would keep his comments brief due to the heat, told the altar servers that he wished to offer a message, “that can accompany you in your life and your service to the Church.”
Benedict spoke of the Apostles and their great friendship with the Lord as well as their service to him and the Gospel.
“Today, as a look out at you standing here in St. Peter’s Square,” the Pope told the many altar servers, “I think of the Apostles and feel the voice of Jesus who says to you, ‘I no longer call you servants, but friends, remain in my love and bear much fruit.’ I invite you: listen to this voice. Christ did not just say this 2000 years ago, he lives and speaks to you now.”
The Pope called the servers to be open to their Vocations, “Perhaps to some of you the voice is saying, ‘I want you to serve me in a special way, as a priest, becoming my witness, being my friend and introducing others to this friendship.”
Benedict told the servers to listen faithfully to the voice of Jesus and that, while the Vocation of each person is different, He desires friendship with all.
The Pope told the servers that they are, “in a real way, already apostles of Jesus,” when they serve at the altar. Benedict told them that by the way they serve, by their reverence and participation at the altar, they are providing a witness to others.
“The bond of friendship with Jesus flows forth from and finds its culmination in the Eucharist. You stay very close to Jesus in the Eucharist, and this is the greatest sign of his friendship for everyone of us,” Benedict said.
Benedict told the young people not to let themselves fall into familiarity with their service at the altar - letting it become merely a function or habit. “But,” he said, “rediscover everyday that what is happening is something great, that God is coming in the midst of us and that you are able to be close and assist, that His mystery can be celebrated and might touch the people.”
The Pope challenged the young servers to take the fruits of goodness and service and carry them to all areas of their life, this he said, would make them true apostles and friends of Jesus.