Address at Holy Spirit Seminary
Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran
25 April 2011
Your Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio, Excellencies,
Fr. Rector, Fathers, Professors and Seminarians,
I am deeply grateful to God who has given us the opportunity to meet in this welcoming country, rich in its great variety of traditions, cultures and religions.
I am also happy to visit this Seminary for the first time as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Vatican and to be with you, Fr. Rector Sharat Gomes, the Professors and the Seminarians present.
It is indeed a great joy to be in front of such a large number of Seminarians, especially when Christians in this country are – as Pope John Paul II called you during his visit in 1986 to this country – “God’s little flock” among other more numerous religions. This indicates on one hand, the positive growth of the Catholic Church in this country, generating optimism for the secure existence of the Church of God on this soil in the future, and on the other hand, it is a prophetical message that God doesn’t abandon his beloved people.
Regarding the priest formation in the Major Seminaries, the Second Vatican Council in the Decree on Priestly Training “Optatam Totius”, proclaimed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965, stated, that the Major Seminary is the place to form the Seminarians to become true shepherds of souls after the model of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd. Your formation and education is to prepare you to be the bearers of the Word which means that you, firstly, understand what you are going to proclaim, secondly, possess it ever more firmly, and thirdly express it in an appropriate and just way in order to help others to understand (cfr. OT III, 4).
In other words, here you are prepared to be able to make Jesus Christ present to every body, regardless of age, religious and cultural background. Jesus to be proclaimed, is he, who did not “come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; cf. John 13:12-17), who loved and forgave without conditions and being among people of various attitudes, faiths and point of views without prejudices.
How can this goal be better realized?
1. A Balanced Passion for Theology and Pastoral Praxis
In an occasion of dialogue with the youth of Rome, the Holy Father Benedict XVI replied to a young man who asked how the Holy Father had discovered his priestly vocation. He replied: Christianity lives in different epochs and contexts with different challenges. He personally faced the brutality of the Nazi-regime forbidding the new establishment of priestly formation centres and religious monasteries. But because of such difficult circumstances, the number of vocations to the priesthood grew.
In the Seminary, the Holy Father loved Theology passionately. But soon he realized that it was not enough to love Theology fervently in order to become a good priest. It was necessary to be involved in pastoral commitments with children, youth, old, sick, poor and marginalized. The “orthodoxy” (right belief or purity of faith) must be transformed into “orthopraxis” (right-doing).
That is what the Sacred Council meant by saying that all the forms of training: spiritual, intellectual, disciplinary, are to be ordered with a concerted effort towards the pastoral end. In order to reach this goal, all the administrators, professors and students are requested to work zealously and harmoniously together.
2. Man of Prayer
The apostles were called by Jesus to follow him, and they left everything to be with him. This ‘being with Jesus’ is always the first key part of any vocation, and this is true in a special way of the call to be a priest.
In order to make Jesus present to others, it is necessary to cultivate a personal friendship and to develop a personal relationship with him as well. It is not enough to know Jesus from theological books and other literature, but Jesus needs to be recognized and known better through personal prayer, in the reading of the Holy Bible and in meditation, accompanied by courage and humility, optimism and openness for greater adventures in the way of the vocation. The priest has to be someone whose personal, intimate friendship with Jesus is the very heart of all he is and does.
Amidst of millions of opportunities in this high-tech age, being a priest, which means, to negate oneself in order to be a true follower of Jesus, is a big challenge. But I am convinced, that a priest, who is a man of prayer, will be able to overcome the challenges, because he is building his “house of vocation” on the rock. He “will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream. And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8).
Priesthood is indeed a vocation, not a career or a “business” we partake in. A vocation is a special call of God to certain persons because God has a certain project in mind for them. We, those who have the grace to be called, are entrusted with special mission to follow Jesus, to make his life our life, and his mission our mission. We are called to make Jesus known beyond the borders of our own communities and nation, because indeed, we have something to tell, and that is Jesus, the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Thank you and Happy Easter to you all.