PAPAL MASS FOR SEMINARIANS
BY CINDY WOODEN
SEMINARIANS preparing seriously for the priesthood should devote themselves to becoming saints, Pope Benedict XVI said at World Youth Day.
He gave them a role model: St John of Avila, who will become the 34th Doctor of the Church.
At the end of a Mass with some 6,000 seminarians from around the world last Saturday the Pope announced he would soon add the 16thcentury Spanish saint to the short list of saints formally recognised for making a significant mark on Catholic theology through their teaching and writing. His remarks were greeted with sustained applause in Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral.
Pope Benedict entrusted all the seminarians, as well as priests and bishops, to the intercession of St John, a master of spirituality and a renowned preacher.
“As they persevere in the same faith which he taught, may they model their hearts on that of Jesus Christ the good shepherd,” the Pope prayed.
Pope Benedict did not say when he would make the formal proclamation.
The 33rd saint honoured with the title was St Thérèse of Lisieux. It was during World Youth Day in Paris in 1997 that Blessed John Paul II made the announcement: the formal ceremony was held at the Vatican two months later.
The Doctors of the Church are all saints and come from both the Eastern and Western Church traditions. They include early Church Fathers like St Jerome, St John Chrysostom and St Augustine, as well as major theologians like St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure and St John of the Cross. In addition to St Thérèse of Lisieux, the women Doctors of the Church are St Catherine of Siena and St Teresa of Avila.
Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that a date for the ceremony has not been set.
He described St John of Avila (1500-1569) as “a great master of priestly spirituality” and an important influence on Spanish Catholic luminaries like St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier, St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.
“He was one of the important figures of the golden age of Spanish spirituality,” Fr Lombardi said.
During the Mass for seminarians attending World Youth Day Pope Benedict said the young men preparing for priesthood are “proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles”.
Pope Benedict told the students that their time in the seminary “should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study” and gradual introduction into pastoral activities.
But prayer, study and pastoral activity are not enough, he said. Seminarians must strive for holiness.
“The holiness of the Church is, above all, the objective holiness of the very person of Christ,” the Pope said, and “we have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the real ity that we wish to signify”. Seminarians must be open to the grace of the Holy Spirit that will help them decide to live a life of celibacy, simplicity and obedience, he said. “Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts,” the Pope said.