RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Pope Benedict XVI on Friday evening celebrated Vespers with students from the Pontifical Universities in Rome, which began their academic year in October. Students from around the world attend these Church-run institutions, which offer degrees in Philosophy, Theology, Canon Law and other disciplines. During his homily, the Pope gave some reflections on priestly ministry, since many of the students at the Pontifical Universities are priests and seminarians.
In his remarks, Pope Benedict drew attention to the activities of the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary and the US-based Serra Club, one of the largest organizations in the world devoted to promoting vocations to the priesthood.
The Holy Father underlined three main points: the desire to collaborate with Jesus in spreading the kingdom of God; the fact the priestly vocation comes from grace and not merit; and the attitude of service. He said the call to priestly ministry is an “encounter with Jesus and being fascinated by him, overcome by his words, his gestures, his own person.”
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 Pope spoke as a father and with a very friendly tone to all the seminarians and priests who were gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica,” said Father Robert Gahl, Associate Professor of Ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. “He challenged them to grow in their personal with Jesus, and he challenged not to seek human ambition or human success, but rather to seek the Cross of Jesus Christ.”
Father Gahl said Pope Benedict XVI has also given the students an example of this in his own life.
“To everyone its evident that Cardinal Ratzinger did not desire to be elected Pope, it was the last thing he wanted, and yet he accepted it as the will of God. He really laid down his life for the Church.”