In his very first “Holy Thursday Letter to Priests” in the year 1979, Pope John Paul II addressed the following moving words to the priests of the world. They are reproduced here so that by meditating on the nature of the priesthood, we too might come to a better understanding and appreciation of this great gift of Christ to His Church and share in the Holy Father’s deep love and solicitude for each and every priest in the Church.
"Think of the places where people anxiously await a priest and where for many years, feeling the lack of such a priest, they do not cease to hope for his presence. And sometimes it happens that they meet in an abandoned shrine, and place on the altar a stole which they still keep, and recite all the prayers of the Eucharistic Liturgy; and then, at the moment that corresponds to the transubstantiation, a deep silence comes down upon them, a silence sometimes broken by a sob…so ardently do they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a priest can efficaciously utter. So much do they desire Eucharistic Communion, in which they can share only through the ministry of a priest, just as they also so eagerly wait to hear the divine words of pardon: “Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis!” So deeply do they feel the absence of a priest among them! …Such places are not lacking in the world. So if one of you doubts the meaning of his priesthood, if he thinks it is “socially” fruitless or useless, reflect on this!
We must be converted every day, we must rediscover every day the gift obtained from Christ himself in the sacrament of Orders, by penetrating the importance of the salvific mission of the Church and by reflecting on the great meaning of our vocation in the light of that mission.
Dear brothers, at the beginning of my ministry, I entrust all of you to the Mother of Christ, who in a special way is our Mother: the Mother of priests. In fact, the beloved disciple, who, as one of the twelve, had heard in the Upper Room the words “Do this in memory of me,” was given by Christ on the Cross his Mother, with the words: “Behold your son.” The man who on Holy Thursday received the power to celebrate the Eucharist was, by these words of the dying Redeemer, given to his Mother as her “son.” All of us, therefore, who receive the same power through priestly ordination, have in a certain sense a prior right to see her as our Mother. And so I desire that all of you, together with me, should find in Mary the Mother of the Priesthood which we have received from Christ. I also desire that you should entrust your Priesthood to her in a special way. Allow me to do it myself, entrusting to the Mother of Christ each one of you—without any exception—in a solemn and, at the same time, simple and humble way. And I ask each of you, dear brothers, to do it yourselves, in the way dictated to you by your own heart, especially by your love for Christ the Priest, and also by your own weakness, which goes hand-in-hand with your desire for service and holiness. I ask you to do this.
Now, dear brothers: how near you are to this cause of God! How deeply it is imprinted upon your vocation, ministry, and mission. In consequence, in the midst of the People of God, that looks to Mary with immense love and hope, you must look to her with exceptional hope and love. Indeed, you must proclaim Christ who is her son; and who will better communicate to you the truth about him than his Mother? You must nourish human hearts with Christ: and who can make you more aware of what you are doing than she who nourished Him? “Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary.” In our “ministerial” Priesthood there is the wonderful and penetrating dimension of nearness to the Mother of Christ. So let us try to live in that dimension. If I may be permitted to speak here of my own experience, I will say to you that in writing to you I am referring especially to my own personal experience.
As I communicate this to you, at the beginning of my service to the Universal Church, I do not cease to ask God to fill you, priests of Jesus Christ, with every blessing and grace, and as a token of this communion in prayer I bless you with all my heart, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. "
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