|Priests should be witnesses and apostles of Christ's
On Wednesday, 19 August , during
the General Audience held at the Papal Summer Residence in Castel
Gandolfo on the Memorial of St John Eudes, the Holy Father commented on
this French Saint of the 17th century, who spread the devotion to the
Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and on the formation of the clergy. The
following is a translation of the Pope's Catechesis, which was given in
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today is the liturgical Memorial of St John Eudes, a
tireless apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary
who lived in France in the 17th century that was marked by opposing
religious phenomena and serious political problems. It was the time of
the Thirty Years' War, which devastated not only a large part of Central
Europe but also souls.
While contempt for the Christian faith was being spread
by certain currents of thought which then prevailed, the Holy Spirit was
inspiring a spiritual renewal full of fervour with important figures
such as de Bérulle,
St Vincent de Paul, St Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort and St John Eudes.
This great "French school" of holiness also included St John Mary
Through a mysterious design of Providence, my venerable
Predecessor Pius XI canonized John Eudes and the Curé
d'Ars together, on 31 May 1925, holding up to the whole world two
extraordinary examples of priestly holiness.
In the context of the Year for Priests, I want to dwell
on the apostolic zeal of St John Eudes, which he focused in particular
on the formation of the diocesan clergy. The saints are true
interpreters of Sacred Scripture. In the experience of their lives the
saints have verified the truth of the Gospel; thus they introduce us
into a knowledge and understanding of the Gospel.
In 1563 the Council of Trent issued norms for the
establishment of diocesan seminaries and for the formation of priests,
since the Council was well aware that the whole crisis of the
Reformation was also conditioned by the inadequate formation of priests
who were not properly prepared for the priesthood either intellectually
or spiritually, in their hearts or in their minds.
This was in 1563; but since the application and
realization of the norms was delayed both in Germany and in France, St
John Eudes saw the consequences of this omission.
Prompted by a lucid awareness of the grave need for
spiritual assistance in which souls lay because of the inadequacy of the
majority of the clergy, the Saint, who was a parish priest, founded a
congregation specifically dedicated to the formation of priests. He
founded his first seminary in the university town of Caen, a
particularly appreciated experience which he very soon extended to other
The path of holiness, which he took himself and proposed
to his followers, was founded on steadfast trust in the love that God
had revealed to humanity in the priestly Heart of Christ and in the
maternal Heart of Mary.
In those times of cruelty, of the loss of interiority,
he turned to the heart to speak to the heart, a saying of the Psalms
very well interpreted by St Augustine. He wanted to recall people, men
and women and especially future priests, to the heart by showing them
the priestly Heart of Christ and the motherly Heart of Mary. Every
priest must be a witness and an apostle of this love for Christ's Heart
and Mary's Heart. And here we come to our own time.
Today too people feel in need of priests who witness to
God's infinite mercy with a life totally "conquered" by Christ and who
learn to do this in the years of their seminary training. After the
Synod in 1990 Pope John Paul II published the Apostolic Exhortation
Pastores Dabo Vobis in which he returned to and updated the norms of
the Council of Trent and stressed above all the necessary continuity
between the priest's initial and continuing formation.
For him this is a true starting point for an authentic
reform of the life and apostolate of priests. It is also the key to
preventing the "new evangelization" from being merely an attractive
slogan and to ensuring that it is expressed in reality.
The foundations laid in seminary formation constitute
that indispensable "humus spirituale" in which "to learn Christ",
letting oneself be gradually configured to him, the one and only High
Priest and Good Shepherd.
The seminary period should therefore be seen as the
actualization of the moment when the Lord Jesus, after calling the
Apostles and before sending them out to preach, asks them to be with him
(cf. Mk 3:14).
When St Mark recounts the calling of the Twelve Apostles
he says that Jesus had a twofold purpose: firstly that they should be
with him, and secondly, that they should be sent out to preach. Yet, in
being with him always, they really proclaim Christ and bring the reality
of the Gospel to the world.
During this Year for Priests I ask you, dear brothers
and sisters, to pray for priests and for all those who are preparing to
receive the extraordinary gift of the ministerial priesthood. I address
to you all — and thus I conclude — the exhortation of St John Eudes who
said to priests:
"Give yourselves to Jesus in order to enter the
immensity of his great Heart which contains the Heart of his Holy Mother
and the hearts of all the Saints and lose yourselves in this abyss of
love, charity, mercy, humility, purity, patience, submission and
holiness" (Coeur admirable, III, 2).
With this in mind, let us now sing the "Our Father" in