Priestly Ordination of 29 Faithful of the Prelature, St. Eugene’s Basilica, Rome (September 5, 2020)
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, ordained 29 priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei in the Basilica of St. Eugene. At the ceremony, a letter sent by Pope Francis was read, and at the end of the ceremony Monsignor Ocáriz addressed some words of thanks to the Pope and congratulations to the ordinands and their families.
The new priests came from Argentina, Chile, Ivory Coast, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Holland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ivory Coast, Uganda and Uruguay. These are their names:
Santiago Altieri Massa Daus (Uruguay); Alejandro Armesto García-Jalón (Spain); José Luis Benito Roldán (Spain); Guillermo Jesús Bueno Delgado (Spain); Juan Luis Orestes Castilla Florián (Guatemala); José Luis Chinguel Beltrán (Peru); José de la Madrid Ochoa (Mexico); Andrew Rowns Ekemu (Uganda); Pablo Erdozáin Castiella (Spain); Felipe José Izquierdo Ibáñez (Chile); Kouamé Achille Koffi (Ivory Coast); Santiago Teodoro López López López (Spain); Martín Ezequiel Luque Marengo (Argentina); Andrej Matis (Slovakia); Carlos Medarde Artime (Spain); José Javier Mérida Calderón (Guatemala); Claudio Josemaría Minakata Urzúa (Mexico); Andrés Fernando Montero Marín (Costa Rica); Ignacio Moyano Gómez (Spain); Miguel Agustín Mullen (Argentina); Miguel Ocaña González (Spain); Ricardo Regidor Sánchez (Spain); Antonio Rodríguez Tovar (Spain); Manel Serra Palos (Spain); Juan Esteban Ureta Cardoen (Chile); Giovanni Vassallo (Italy); Roberto Vera Aguilar (Mexico); Juan Ignacio Vergara (Holland); José Vidal Vázquez (Spain).
Homily by Cardinal Parolin
Dear Prelate of Opus Dei, dear brothers in the priesthood, dear ordinands, dear brothers and sisters:
I greet each of you with great affection, thankful for the invitation you have extended to me for this ordination of 29 priests of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei.
We have just heard Jesus proclaim himself to be the good shepherd. I would like to share with you some reflections on this.
The idea that the shepherd is the one who, almost exclusively, leads the flock is quite deeply rooted. Certainly, the shepherd is the one who guides, who goes before the sheep, showing them the way and setting the pace. He marks out for them the path that we could call “pastoral” However, we find in the Gospel a broader perspective. Jesus highlights the difference between the shepherd and the hired hand. Unlike the latter, who views what he does as a profession, the shepherd not only carries out a profession or plays a role, but embodies a lifestyle. In fact, the shepherd, especially in Jesus’ time, was seen not as someone who had a task to perform, but who shared everything with his flock. The shepherd did not live as he wanted but as was best for the flock; he did not stay where he wanted, but where the flock was. He moved with the sheep and spent every hour of the day and night in their company. Rather than leading the flock, he lived immersed in it.
The image of the shepherd, therefore, seems to refer not primarily to government, but to life. It is not by chance that Jesus characterizes the shepherd as someone who gives “his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). The ministry you are about to take on affects your whole life. Assimilated to the good shepherd, immersed in his flock, you will not be called first of all to “do something” (perhaps not even what you would most like to do) but to give and share your life. Thus you will be able to fully make a reality of the call to act in persona Christi: not only in the administration of the sacraments, but incarnating the style of Jesus. For as St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote, “the priest, whoever he may be, is always another Christ” (The Way, 66).
Christ, the Good Shepherd, came to seek us where we were lost, in the dark valleys of sin and death. He took upon himself our sin, suffered our evil, shared our death, dying on the cross. Thus he redeemed us, mercifully taking us up and placing us lovingly on his shoulders, as Christian art has depicted him right from the beginning, especially in this city. The priest’s life is called to witness to the joy of the encounter with God, the joy that God has in showing his mercy to us. St. John of the Cross wrote: “It is truly marvelous to see the pleasure and joy of the loving Shepherd and Spouse of the soul on being reunited with it, placing it on his shoulders and supporting it with his hands in this longed-for union” (Spiritual Canticle, Man. B, Verse 22,1). To be shepherds today is to be witnesses of mercy. “Today is a time of mercy!” the Holy Father proclaimed on the eve of the opening of the last Jubilee (Homily, October 25, 2015). The Church today and your own lives should be a sign of the merciful shepherd who gives his life for the flock.
From this first aspect, intrinsic to the life of the shepherd, I will try to draw several more practical consequences regarding the words and forgiveness imparted by priests. The words with which you preach can only be words of life. The first reading reminded us that preaching always has at its center the kerygma, the perennial and healing newness for us of Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Acts 10:39-40). This is the foundation of our proclamation: before exhorting, the beauty of salvation must always be proclaimed. With regard to forgiveness, St. Paul, in the second reading, recalled its indispensable character. Be ambassadors of mercy, bearers of the forgiveness that produces life, priests who love to help your brothers and sisters be reconciled to God (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). I know how much attention and care you give to the sacrament of reconciliation, to confession: I can only urge you to continue to do so, to be dispensers of the grace and forgiveness of our Lord which today’s world so desperately needs!
I offer a second consequence, also intrinsic to the figure of the shepherd: simplicity. Let us think of the shepherds present at Jesus’ birth. They certainly didn’t represent the cultural pinnacle of the people nor were they the full expression of ritual purity, and yet they were the first ones called to welcome the Messiah when he appeared on earth. Let us think of the young David who, as a humble shepherd, was not even counted by his father among the sons who could be consecrated. But the Lord, who looks at the heart, loves those who are little and seeks out the simple.
The saint whose liturgical memorial we celebrate today, St. Teresa of Calcutta, can help us here. Perhaps you know her book A Simple Path, where she sets forth in a few words the essential path for a believer: “The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.” Simple words that connect us with the two poles of existence: God and others. The first, decisive, step suggested by the saint is to find time every day to be silent and pray. St. Josemaria defined this as “the foundation of the spiritual edifice,” and stressed that it is “always fruitful” (The Way, 83 and 101). This for you will be a true “opus” to be faithfully carried out in the service of God’s people. When a priest dedicated to works of charity approached Mother Teresa, and hastened to tell her about all his commitments and activities, she used to interrupt him abruptly and ask: “How many hours do you pray each day?” (Angelo Comastri, Mother Teresa. A Drop of Clean Water).
Simplicity, which arises from the transparency of prayer, also implies making specific decisions regarding the heart of one’s ministry. In fact, to be truly shepherd like this, one needs above all to have a well-ordered life. This also means not allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by a thousand things, with the risk of losing the simplicity of a heart fully dedicated to God. St. Escriva put it this way: “But the Lord knows full well that giving is a vital need for those in love, and he himself points out what he desires from us. He does not care for riches, nor for the fruits or the beasts of the earth, nor for the sea or the air, because they all belong to him. He wants something intimate, which we have to give him freely: ‘My son, give me your heart.’ Do you see? God is not satisfied with sharing. He wants it all. It’s not our things he wants. It is ourselves. It is only when we give ourselves that we can offer other gifts to our Lord” (Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, January 6, 1956).
Life, simplicity and, finally, mission. This is the third word I would like to share about the good shepherd. He goes in search of the lost sheep; he leaves the enclosure, which he is not content to see crowded with the ninety-nine, to reach the one lost sheep (cf. Lk 15:4-7). This sincere desire of our Lord also appears in today’s liturgy: “I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10:16).
You, dear brothers from different places and countries, are being ordained priests during a pontificate that is transmitting to us, besides the priority of living mercy and the call to evangelical simplicity, the now urgent need for mission as the principal calling of the Church. To be a Church going forth means not to view oneself as an end, but as a means to bring not ourselves, but our Lord to the world. It means not being introverted, but extroverted; not being eager to be the center of attention, but to make Jesus known to those who, as happens today especially in the most fully secularized sectors, think that the question of God belongs to the past.
We are called to make the voice of the good shepherd heard, the voice that the sheep recognize because they feel recognized by it, that is, loved. This requires combining pastoral charity and healthy evangelizing creativity, fidelity and flexibility, deep-rooted faith and a willing heart; it requires going out to meet others, rather than waiting; welcoming, not rejecting, today’s most restless and complex questions, especially those of the younger generations, often distant and sometimes rebellious.
It is difficult to carry disordered and seemingly empty lives on our shoulders, but it is towards these sheep that, especially today, our Lord wants us to set out in search of.
To conclude, I think it is beautiful to let ourselves be provoked once again by Mother Teresa, or rather by the first sentences written on the wall of the Children’s Home in Calcutta: “Man is irrational, illogical, self-centered. Never mind, love him.” On that wall we find the way to overcome the “logic of walls.” We find the invitation to give without fear and without self-seeking the gift of the grace that God gives us freely. To be ministers, in fact, means to be servants.
Dear brothers and sisters, if every day you let the voice of the Good Shepherd, who served us by giving himself to us, vibrate in your hearts, sometimes wounding and provoking them, then, attracted by him, you will express words and gestures of life, you will become prophets of evangelical simplicity, you will spread the renewed ardor of mission.
I confess that I was really moved when I heard your answer: adsum! The Church encourages you, accompanies you and thanks you for your yes. May the Good Shepherd, who wants to conform you to himself, bring to completion what he has begun in you.
Words of thanks from the Prelate of Opus Dei
Translation from the original in Italian:
Your Eminence, dear new priests, dear relatives and friends.
I wish to congratulate you briefly on this long-awaited and significant day, on which we give thanks to our Lord for the ordination of these twenty-nine new priests. From now on their consecrated hands will be the hands of Christ who blesses and welcomes, who forgives and heals.
In particular, I would like to thank Cardinal Pietro Parolin for his willingness to confer the priesthood on these faithful of the Prelature; a willingness manifested, among other things, by the fact that yesterday he was on an important mission in Lebanon, and now he is here with us. The Cardinal’s presence, especially today through the Pope’s letter read at the beginning of the celebration, immediately brings us back to that of our Holy Father Francis. We thank the Pope for all that he wanted to convey to us in that letter and, in a special way, for his apostolic blessing to the new priests, their families and all those present at this celebration. Let us continue to support the Pope and his co-workers with our prayers.
I would also like to give special thanks to the family members and friends who, due to the health emergency, could not be physically present with us. To all of you, present or connected to the celebration through the internet, I say thank you. And I say it especially to the parents of the new priests: thank you for having collaborated with God in making the priestly vocation flourish in your sons.
Our thanksgiving is directed in a special way to St. Josemaría, whose sons these new priests are. Let us ask him to help them from heaven in their mission of service to all souls.
Finally, I ask all of you to accompany these new priests with your prayers on the journey they are beginning today. Let us entrust the fidelity and holiness of these sons of hers to our Lady, Mother of Christ, the Eternal High Priest.
I would like to congratulate the family members present here and in particular the parents, siblings and other family members who, due to the health emergency, were unable to be physically present with us and who are following the ceremony on the internet.
I wish to address, especially to the parents of the new priests, some words of thanksgiving: thank you for having collaborated with God in making the vocation to the priesthood take root in your sons. May God, also through your prayers, fill with fruit the priestly ministry that your sons from now on will carry out, with the motherly mediation of Holy Mary.
Romana, n. 70, January-December 2020, p. 116-120.