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World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter, 29 April 2007

Theme: The vocation to the service of the Church as communion

Papa Benedict XVI's words at the Regina Caeli in St Peter's Square
- in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter and "Good Shepherd Sunday", is the [44th] World Day of Prayer for Vocations. All the faithful are exhorted to pray especially for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This morning in St Peter's Basilica I had the joy of ordaining 22 new priests. As I greet these new priests with affection together with their relatives, I ask you to remember all those whom the Lord continues to call by name, just as he once called the Apostles on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to become "fishers of men", that is, his closest collaborators in the proclamation of the Gospel and the service of the Kingdom of God in our time. Let us ask for the gift of perseverance for all priests: may they stay faithful to prayer, celebrate Holy Mass with ever renewed devotion, live listening to the Word of God and day after day assimilate the same sentiments and attitudes as those of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Let us then pray for those who are preparing to take on the priestly ministry and for the teachers who form them in the seminaries of Rome, Italy, and the whole world. Let us pray for families, so that the "seed" of the call to the presbyteral ministry may continue to mature and flower.

This year, the theme of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is: "The vocation to the service of the Church as communion". In presenting the mystery of the Church in our time, the Second Vatican Council gave priority to the category of "communion". In this perspective, the rich variety of gifts and ministries acquires great importance for the People of God. All the baptized are called to contribute to the work of salvation. In the Church, however, there are some vocations which are dedicated especially to the service of communion. The person primarily responsible for Catholic communion is the Pope, Successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome; with him, the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, are custodians and teachers of unity, assisted by the priests. But consecrated persons and all the faithful are also at the service of communion. At the heart of Church communion is the Eucharist: the different vocations draw from this supreme Sacrament the spiritual power to build constantly, in charity, the one ecclesial Body.

Let us now turn to Mary, Mother of the Good Shepherd. May she who responded promptly to God's call, saying: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1: 38), help all of us to accept with joy and willingness Christ's invitation to be his disciples, always motivated to be "of one heart and soul" (cf. Acts 4: 32)."

After the Regina Caeli:

[in French] "J’adresse une cordiale bienvenue aux pèlerins francophones réunis ce matin pour la prière du Regina caeli, en particulier au groupe des Servants de Messe de Benfeld. En cette Journée mondiale de prière pour les vocations, puissiez-vous répondre toujours plus généreusement aux appels du Bon Pasteur, lui qui vous invite à prier le Père avec insistance afin qu’il suscite des vocations pour le service de l’annonce de l’Évangile. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique!"

[in English] "I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims! Today, on this "Good Shepherd Sunday", the Church observes the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In my message for this occasion, I emphasized that the call to ordained and consecrated life in the Church is a call to communion—a communion rooted in the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel, "The Father and I are one" (Jn 10:30). Today, I invite you to join me in praying that young people will answer this call to communion and the service of the Church by responding generously to Christ’s call to priesthood and religious life. May God bless you all!"

[in German] "Einen frohen Gruß richte ich an alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Unter ihnen heiße ich besonders die Mitglieder und Gäste der Katholischen Studentenverbindung Capitolina und eine Jugendgruppe aus der Diözese Linz willkommen. Am heutigen Weltgebetstag für geistliche Berufe bitten wir Jesus Christus, den Guten Hirten, daß er seiner Kirche stets neue Priester- und Ordensberufungen schenke und daß die Berufenen ihrem heiligen Auftrag treu bleiben. Wo gebetet wird und gelebte Gemeinschaft mit Gott erfahrbar ist, dort können Menschen auf Gottes Stimme hören und seinen Ruf bereitwillig annehmen. Bitten wir inständig um die Gabe der Berufungen, die die Kirche nötig braucht. Von Herzen segne ich euch alle."

[in Spanish] "Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, especialmente a los fieles de Almendralejo, Badajoz; a los alumnos del Colegio San Francisco de Asís de Cocentaina, Alicante, así como a los de la Inmaculada Concepción de Gavà y al Coro parroquial de San Vicente de Riells, de Barcelona. En esta Jornada Mundial de Oración por las Vocaciones pidamos al Señor que, por la intercesión de la Virgen María, conceda numerosas y santas vocaciones al servicio del Evangelio. ¡Feliz domingo!"

[in Croatian] "Od srca pozdravljam drage hrvate, a posebno mnogobrojne hodočasnike Požeške biskupije! Danas, u nedjelju Dobroga Pastira, žarko molimo Gospodina da svoju Crkvu obdari novim duhovnim zvanjima, a sve svoje svećenike podrži u vjernom i radosnom služenju. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!"

[in Slovenian] "Pozdravljam vas, dragi romarji iz Slovenije. Blagoslov vstalega Kristusa naj bo vedno z vami!"

[in Polish] "Pozdrawiam Polaków. Obchodzimy dziś światowy dzień modlitw o powołania. „Żniwo wielkie, robotników mało" (por. Mt 9, 37-38). Prośmy Pana żniwa o liczne i dobre powołania kapłańskie i zakonne. Otaczajmy modlitwą tych, którzy wielkodusznie odpowiedzieli na wezwanie Chrystusa. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi."

[in Italian] "Saluto con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare il folto gruppo di cresimandi della Diocesi di Venezia accompagnati dal Patriarca con sacerdoti, catechisti e genitori grazie per la vostra presenza; i ragazzi dei Decanati di Bollate, Merate e Trezzo sull'Adda, e quelli del post-Cresima di Cuneo; i giovani di Offanengo e di Brignano Gera d'Adda. Saluto i fedeli provenienti da Cassacco, Santa Giustina Bellunese, Padova, Venezia, Bergamo, Seregno, Carnago, Cesano Maderno, Cesano Boscone, Cazzago Brabbia, Albano Laziale, Antrodoco, Altamura e paesi del Tesino; come pure le scolaresche, i gruppi AVIS, AIDO e ADMO di Montegranaro e le altre associazioni. A tutti auguro una buona domenica e una buona settimana. Auguri!"

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily on Good Shepherd Sunday
St Peter's Basilica - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate, Dear Ordinandi, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Fourth Sunday of Easter, traditionally known as 'Good Shepherd Sunday, has a special significance for us who are gathered in this Vatican Basilica. It is an absolutely unique day especially for you, dear deacons, upon whom, as Bishop and Pastor of Rome, I am pleased to confer priestly Ordination. In this way you join our "presbyterium". Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops and the priests of the Diocese, I thank the Lord for the gift of your priesthood which enriches our Community with 22 new Pastors.

The theological density of the brief Gospel passage which has just been proclaimed helps us to perceive better the meaning and value of this solemn Celebration. Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd who gives eternal life to his sheep (cf Jn 10: 28). This image of the shepherd is deeply rooted in the Old Testament and dear to Christian tradition. The Prophets attributed to David the title: "Shepherd of Israel", which hence possesses an indisputable messianic importance (cf Ex 34: 23). Jesus is the true Shepherd of Israel, since He is the Son of Man who desired to share the condition of human beings to give them new life and lead them to salvation. Significantly, the Evangelist adds to the term "shepherd" the adjective kalós, good, which he only uses with reference to Jesus and his mission. In the account of the Wedding at Cana, the adjective kalós is also used twice to signify the wine offered by Jesus, and it is easy to see it as a symbol of the good wine of messianic times (cf 2: 10).

"I give them (that is, to my sheep) eternal life and they shall never perish" (Jn 10: 28). These are the words of Jesus, who had said a little earlier, "the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (cf Jn 10: 11). John uses the verb tithénai - to offer, which he repeats in the following verses (cf 15, 17, 18). We find the same verb in the Last Supper narrative when Jesus "laid aside his garments" in order to "take" them back later (cf Jn 13: 4, 12). Thus, it is clear that the intention is to affirm that the Redeemer has absolute freedom to do with his life as He chooses and thereby give it up or take it back freely. Christ is the true Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep, for us, sacrificing Himself on the Cross. He knows his sheep and his sheep know Him, just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father (cf Jn 10: 14-15). This is not a matter of mere intellectual knowledge but of a profound, personal relationship: a knowledge of the heart, of one who loves and one who is loved; of one who is faithful and one who knows how to be trustworthy. It is a knowledge of love, by virtue of which the Pastor invites his sheep to follow Him and which is fully manifest in the gift of eternal life that He offers to them (cf Jn 10: 27-28).

Dear Ordinandi, may the certainty that Christ does not abandon us and that no obstacle can prevent the accomplishment of his universal plan of salvation be a cause of constant consolation - also in difficulties - and steadfast hope for you. The Lord's goodness is always with you, and it is powerful. The Sacrament of Orders, which you are about to receive, will make you sharers in the very mission of Christ; you will be called to scatter the seed of his Word, the seed that carries in itself the Kingdom of God; to dispense divine mercy and to nourish the faithful at the table of his Body and Blood. To be his worthy ministers, you must ceaselessly nourish yourselves with the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life. In approaching the altar, your daily school of holiness, of communion with Jesus, of the way of entering into his sentiments in order to renew the sacrifice of the Cross, you will increasingly discover the richness and tenderness of the love of the divine Teacher, who today is calling you to a closer friendship with Him. If you listen docilely to Him, if you follow Him faithfully, you will learn to express in your life and in your pastoral ministry his love and his passion for the salvation of souls. With Jesus' help, dear Ordinandi, each one of you will become a Good Shepherd, ready, if necessary, to lay down your life for Him.

Thus it was at the beginning of Christianity with the first disciples, while as we heard in the First Reading the Gospel continued to be disseminated amid consolations and difficulties. It is worth stressing the last words in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard: "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (13: 52). Despite the misunderstandings and disagreements, about which we have heard, the apostle of Christ does not lose joy; indeed, he is a witness of that joy which flows from being with the Lord and from love for him and for the brothers and sisters. On today's World Day of Prayer for Vocations, whose theme this year is: "The vocation to the service of the Church as communion", let us pray that all who are chosen to such a lofty mission may be accompanied by the prayerful communion of all the faithful

Let us pray that in every parish and Christian community attention to vocations and to the formation of priests will increase: it begins in the family, continues at the seminary and involves all who have at heart the salvation of souls. Dear brothers and sisters who are taking part in this evocative celebration, and in the first place you, relatives, family members and friends of these 22 deacons who will shortly be ordained priests! Let us surround these brothers of ours in the Lord with our spiritual solidarity. Let us pray that they may be faithful to the mission to which the Lord is calling them today and ready to renew their "yes" to God, their "here I am", every day without reserve. And let us ask the Lord of the harvest on this Day for Vocations to continue to bring forth many holy priests who are totally dedicated to the service of the Christian people.

At this most solemn and important moment of your life, dear Ordinandi, I once again address you with affection. On this day Jesus repeats to you: "I no longer call you servants, but friends". Welcome and nurture this divine friendship with "Eucharistic love"! May Mary, the heavenly Mother of priests, accompany you. May she who beneath the Cross united herself with the Sacrifice of her Son and after the Resurrection accepted together with the other disciples the gift of the Spirit, help you and each one of us, dear brothers in the priesthood, to allow ourselves to be inwardly transformed by God's grace. Only in this way is it possible to be faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only in this way can we carry out joyfully the mission of knowing, guiding and loving the flock which Jesus acquired at the price of his blood. Amen."