Homily to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Rome 10/31/1993
S. John Paul II
Vatican City – Chapel “Redemptoris Mater”, October 31, 1993
"It is precisely the deepening of spiritual life, in the acceptance of "evangelical radicalism", a more fertile ground to make a vocation grow." This was stated by John Paul II in the homily given on Sunday, October 31, during the mass celebrated by the community of the "Redemptoris Mater" seminary of Rome.
"Praised be Jesus Christ! 1. Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, all brothers and sisters! "We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children." (l Thess 2: 7): words of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. Every priest should be able to endorse these words of Saint Paul that we have just heard. The maternal image that he attributes to himself is, in fact, one of the most suggestive to express the beauty of the priestly vocation. Not only does it indicate a rare intensity of affection and dedication, but it also suggests the intimate connection that exists between the apostolic ministry and the ministry of the new "birth" in Christ through the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3: 5-8). The mother who cares for her creatures, the mother who nurtures. As the bearer of the "divine word of preaching", the apostle feels himself an instrument of this spiritual regeneration, he feels like a mother. He embodies for his brothers "the motherhood" of the Church. Having been called to beget them in Christ through the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor 4:15), with full right he feels, regarding them, not only father, but also a mother, "father" and "mother", willing not only to give them the Gospel, but "his very life" for them ... (cf. 1 Thess 2: 8).
2. What a difference between this image of the apostolate and the one that appears in the other two readings, accompanied by sharp and severe warnings! These are addressed to the priests of the old covenant, to the scribes, to the Pharisees, pointing out the dangers of deviation that are always lurking in our ministry as well. "You have strayed from the straight path, you have made many to stumble with your teaching" (Mal 2, 8). These words of the prophet Malachi underline the great responsibility of the ministers of the Altar and of the Word. Its inconsistency is doubly serious, as it is accompanied by scandal. Woe to who should be the educators of God's people and instead stumble upon him! Equally harsh are the words of Jesus referring to those who had sat in the chair of Moses, not as humble servants of the Word of God, but as seekers eager for the applause of men. In them, word and life appear in strident contrast: they are masters of things that they do not fulfill, they impose burdens that they do not dare to bear and they claim a title -that of rabbi- that does not belong to them, because "only one is the Master: the Christ ”(cf. Mt 23, 10).
3. The word of God thus presents to us, on the one hand, the authentic model of the apostolic and priestly vocation, and on the other, its possible degenerations. The Word of God in this liturgy comes on purpose for this meeting with you, "Redemptoris Mater", responsibles and students, clergymen of the Roman seminary that bears the same name as this chapel: "Redemptoris Mater". This reminds us so much of the Redemption, it reminds us of the "Redemptoris Hominis", the "Redemptoris Mater", the "Redemptoris Custos", and also the "Redemptoris Missio", all in the same context. I greet, therefore, the seminarians and the superiors of the "Redemptoris Mater" in this chapel dedicated to the Redemptoris Mater. I greet the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Camilo Ruini, who in a certain sense is the first person in charge of your seminary, since, distinguishing himself for his missionary purpose, it is configured as a seminary of the diocese of Rome and it is. I greet your rector, Monsignor Julio Salimei, and your spiritual father, Monsignor Maximino Romero de Lema and I thank you both for taking over these important tasks of educating the "Redemptoris Mater" after so many years of work in the Roman Curia and in the Vicariate of Rome. I greet you all, beloved seminarians, I greet you one by one, seeing in you future priests, who have already made a choice and are preparing for the priesthood of Christ. It is significant and important that you have discovered the priestly vocation following the Neocatechumenal Way and now continue your formative journey, adhering, as necessary, to the guidelines that the Church gives to all candidates for the priesthood. The goal you have is a deep rootedness in Christ, accompanied by full, cordial adherence to the Church. This is the inalienable base of an authentic priestly formation and also the guarantee of the blessing of God in this priestly and Neocatechumenal journey; Neocatechumenal and missionary; apostolic and missionary.
So I am glad to know that, as yours, many other vocations are flourishing on the path of your spirituality, the Neocatechumenal Way, not only here in Rome, but also in various places, in various countries of Europe and the whole world. It is precisely the deepening of spiritual life, in this Camino, the one she finds, in the acceptance of “evengelical radicalism”, a more fertile ground to raise a vocation. God does not stop calling, but only deep intimacy with Christ allows to listen to the voice, accept it promptly and follow it with perseverance.
4. You cannot be “generators” of faith if you have not previously been “begotten” by faith. Paul could announce Christ, because he could also say in all truth: “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Thus he could announce Christ, for he had been previously begotten by Christ, converted by Christ, permeated by Christ. At that time, he did not claim an improper title, like the one that today’s Gospel forbids, when he felt and called himself “father” of his communities, because his fatherhood was nothing other than the transparent manifestation of the one of God. And, at the same time, he called herself “mother”, moreover, she gave a certain priority to apostolic motherhood, which was his own, with respect to those communities. Indeed, the mystery of the priesthood is to be seen in its intimate connection with the mystery of Christ. It is up to the whole Church to make Christ, in some way, “visible”, present in the history of men, but it is primarily the responsibility of the priest, the priest, called to act “in persona Christi”, called to represent him as “Shepherd” and “head” of his people, his flock, his community. The priest must be a conquered person, “reached” by Christ (cf. Phil 3, 12). A truly “great” ministry, but with a greatness characterized by the humility of service: “The greatest among you is your servant.” (cf. Mt 23, 11), thus says Jesus.
5. I greet you, once again, in this chapel “Redemptoris Mater”, I am so glad to be able to celebrate with you this Eucharist that I offer to the Lord for your perseverance. May God help you to walk on the paths of holiness, of joy, towards all the peoples to which His Providence will guide you. How good that the Cardinal Vicar has left us this Sunday free! I don’t have to visit any parish in Rome! Next to the Roman seminary is the “Redemptoris Mater”, it was worth finding this free Sunday!
I wish you the presence, the support of Mary, Most Holy Mother of the Redeemer. Entrusting yourselves to her, to her motherhood you will really feel “calm and serene”, like “children in her mother’s arms” (the words of today’s responsorial psalm). May Mary obtain for you the ardor of the Apostle Paul for the Kingdom of God, with total fidelity and obedience to the Church, to the Church that is also Mother, as the whole tradition teaches us, Vatican II: the Church is also Mother , in imitation of the Mother of Christ. This Church begets you, has engendered you to faith and in this Church you have been called to be priests, to serve until the end of your life. So be it”.