Priesthood is not merely a task which has been assigned; it is a vocation, a call to be heard again and again. To hear this call and to respond generously to what this call entails is a task for each priest, but it is also a responsibility for the senates of priests.
This responsibility means deepening our understanding of the priesthood as Christ instituted it, as he wanted it to be and to remain, and as the church faithfully explains it and transmits it. Fidelity to the call of the priesthood means building up this priesthood with God's people by a life of service according to apostolic priorities: concentration 'on prayer and the ministry of the word.'
. . . At times, our concept of [the priesthood] is too earth-bound; we lack confidence in him who calls us. We can also become too attached to our own vision of ministry, thinking that it depends too much on our own talents and abilities, and at times forgetting that it is God who calls us, as he called Jeremiah from the womb.Nor is it our work or our ability that is primary; we are called to speak the words of God and not our own; to minister the sacraments he has given to his church, and to call people to a love which he has first made possible.
Hence the surrender to God's call can be made with utmost confidence and without reservation. Our surrender to God's will must be total -- the 'yes' given once for all which has as its pattern the 'yes' spoken by Jesus himself.
As Saint Paul tells us, 'As God keeps his word, I declare that my word to you is not 'yes' one minute and 'no' the next. Jesus Christ . . . was not alternately 'yes' and 'no'; he was never anything but 'yes.'
. . . When we reflect on the intimacy between the Lord and his prophet, his priest -- an intimacy arising as a result of the call which he has initiated -- we can better understand certain characteristics of the priesthood and realize their appropriateness for the church's mission today as well as in times past:
a) Priesthood is forever . . . we do not return the gift once given. It cannot be that God who gave the impulse to say 'yes' now wishes to hear 'no'.
b) Nor should it surprise the world that the call of God through the church continues to offer us a celibate ministry of love and service after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. God's call has indeed stirred us to the depths of our being. And after centuries of experience, the Church knows how deeply fitting it is that priests should give this concrete response in their lives to express the totality of the 'yes' they have spoken to the Lord who calls them by name to his service.
c) The fact that there is a personal individiaul call to the priesthood given by the Lord to 'the men he himself had decided on' is in accord with the prophetic tradition. It should help us too to understand that the church's traditional decision to call men to the priesthood, and not to call women, is not a statement about human rights, nor an exclusion of women from holiness and mission in the church. Rather this decision expresses the conviction of the church about this particular dimension of the gift of priesthood by which God has chosen to shepherd his flock. At Philadelphia Civic Center. Land and the Farmer
As one who has always been close to nature, let me speak to you today about the land, the earth, and that 'which earth has given and human hands have made.'
The land is God's gift entrusted to people from the very beginning. It is God's gift, given by a loving creater as a means of sustaining the life which he had created. But the land is not only God's gift; it is also man's responsibility. Man, himself created from the dust of the earth, was made its master. In order to bring forth fruit, the land would depend upon the genius and skillfulness, the sweat and the toil of the people to whom God would entrust it. Thus the food which would sustain life on earth is willed by God to be both that 'which earth has given and human hands have made.'
To all of you who are farmers and all who are associated with agricultural production I want to say this: the church highly esteems your work. Christ himself showed his esteem for agricultural life when he described God his father as 'the vine dresser.' You cooperate with the creator, the 'vine dresser' in sustaining and nurturing life. You fulfill the command of God given at the very beginning: 'Fill the earth and subdue it.'
Here in the heartland of America, the valleys and hills have been blanketed with grain, the herds and the flocks have multiplied many times over. By hard work you have become masters of the earth and you have subdued it.
By reason of the abundant fruitfulness which modern agricultural advances have made possible, you support the lives of millions who themselves do not work on the land, but who live because of what you produce. Mindful of this, I make my own the words of my beloved predecessor, Paul VI:
'It is the dignity of those who work on the land and of all those engaged in different levels of research and action in the field of agricultural development which must be unceasingly proclaimed and promoted.'
. . . Closeness to nature, a spontaneous awareness of creation as a gift from God, as well as the blessing of a close-knit family -- characteristics of farm life in every age including our own -- these were part of the life of Jesus. Therefore, I invite you to let your attitudes always be the same as those of Christ Jesus.
Every day the farmer is reminded of how much depends upon God. From the heavens come the rain, the wind and the sunshine. They occur without the farmer's command or control. The farmer prepares the soil, plants the seed and cultivates the crop. But God makes it grow; he alone is the source of life.
. . . The land must be conserved with care since it is intended to be fruitful for generation upon generation. You who live in the heartland of America have been entrusted with some of Earth's best land: The soil so rich in minerals, the climate so favorable for producing bountiful crops, with fresh water and unpolluted air available around you. You are stewards of some of the most important resources God has given to the world. Therefore, conserve the land well, so that your children's children and generations after them will inherit an even richer land than was entrusted to you. At Living History Farms Near Des Moines. Hispanic Catholics
I greet you with joy and I thank you for your enthusiastic presence here, in the Church of St. Peter, which houses the remains of St. John Neumann, the first American man to be canonized a saint.
You, members of the Spanish-speaking community, have gathered in great numbers in this place, you who arrived in this country as immigrants, or who were born here of immigrant ancestors, but who preserve the Christian faith as the greatest treasure of your tradition.
St. John Neumann, too, was an immigrant, and he experienced many of the difficulties that you yourselves have encountered: the difficulties of language, of a different culture, of social adaptation.
Everyone knows about your efforts and perserverance in preserving your own religious heritage, which is also at the same time placed at the service of the whole national community, so that it may be a witness of unity within a pluralism of religion, culture and social living. Delivered in Spanish At Church of St. Peter, Philadelphia. Ukrainian Catholics
Dear brothers and sisters: I welcome the occasion to assure you, as universal pastor of the church, that all who have inherited the Ukrainian tradition have an important and distinguished part to fulfill in the Catholic Church.
As history testifies, the church developed a number of rites and traditions as in the course of time she spread from Jerusalem to the nations and took flesh in the language, culture and human traditions of the individual peoples who accepted the gospel with open hearts. These various rites and traditions, far from being a sign of deviation, infidelity or disunity, were in fact unfailing proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit who continually renews and enriches the church, the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery . . .
For many years, I have highly esteemed the Ukrainian people. I have known of the many sufferings and injustices you have endured. These have been and continue to be matters of great concern to me. I am also mindful of the struggles of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, throughout its history, to remain faithful to the gospel and to be in union with the successor of Saint Peter.
I cannot forget the countless Ukrainian martyrs, in ancient and more recent times, most of whose names are unknown, who gave up their lives rather than abandon their faith. I mention these in order to show my profound esteem for the Ukrainian Church and its proved fidelity in suffering. Delivered in Ukrainian At Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Philadelphia.