Dear brothers and sisters,
I desire, above all, to direct my affectionate and fraternal greeting to the members of the Fraternity of St. Charles who today will be ordained deacons and priests, to their parents, families and friends, who have come from different parts of Italy and of the world. And then, to all of you who, like every year, gather around this feast of faith and Christian joy.
In particular, my grateful greeting goes to the Superior General, Fr. Paolo Sottopietra, whom I thank in the name of the Church for the generosity with which he has, for some time now, led the Fraternity, to his collaborators, in particular to the rector of the seminary and to the educators and teachers who collaborate with him.
I spoke of a feast of faith and joy: today, above all, is the response of God to our prayer. Jesus invites us to pray that there not be a lack of laborers for the harvest of the Lord. He responds to our requests, calling forth many different vocations: vocations to marriage, to maternity and to paternity, to the education of children, who today are so rare and precious. Vocations to virginity in the dedication to God, in particular, vocations to the ordained priesthood that He has granted to the Fraternity of St. Charles during the arc of its still brief history, in an always significant and blessed measure. Let us continue to pray so that this chain of vocations not only does not diminish, but grow for the good of the Kingdom of God and the glory of Christ on earth and in Heaven.
In light of my episcopal ministry, I can say today with greater awareness and distance that the Fraternity of St. Charles is an important gift for the entire Church. This is for a number of reasons.
The first is the custody of the common life, as a precious good entrusted by Christ to His Church since the beginning of the apostolic community. Since the expression “common life” carries within itself a considerable number of different and well-determined historical experiences, it is a characteristic that is common to many communities. The common life arises from the very heart of the Trinity, who desires to gather all men into one people, and educate them on how to live on the earth, as an anticipation of that communion which will be full and total in Heaven. Every community is a path to Heaven, a difficult and glorious path which implies a great conversion of the heart and the mind, at times painful, but full of promise, of joy and of friendship.
The Fraternity of St. Charles, then, safeguards the treasure of mission. It intends to live the invitation of Jesus as He formulated it before ascending into Heaven: “Go forth, baptize, teach” (cfr. Matt 28:18-20). These words of our Master are certainly not meant to be an affront to the freedom of others. Rather, they are born from the awareness that only in Christ can man find his happiness and his peace. Mission is an offering to man’s freedom. It is nourished by sharing. For this reason, the members of the Fraternity of St. Charles set out for distant lands, learn unknown languages, and share the lives of men and women who have customs and rules that for us are rather distant. They make themselves all things to all people, or, at least, they ask God for this grace.
The Fraternity of St. Charles, finally, is born from the Christian experience of Fr. Giussani, from his knowledge of man and of God, from his teaching and from the gift of self that he made during his life. We can say that it is a continuous discovery of the fecundity of a charism given by the Spirit to Fr. Giussani and destined to bear fruit beyond his own intuition and imagination.
With these words of mind, I do not intend to glorify a present or a recent past that, like every human work, is not lacking in limits, defects, and imperfections, and that must be safeguarded like that treasure in earthen vessels of which Paul spoke in the Second Letter to the Corinthians. The Fraternity of St. Charles, like every community of the Church and like the Church herself, stands in need of ongoing renewal in the light of its purpose and of its original contours. Instead, I intended to thank the Lord for what He has given to His Church through this Society of Apostolic Life, despite the poverty of its members, among which I consider myself to be, realistically, the least.
The Gospel of this Sunday authorizes all of the worlds that I have just stated. It expresses the great freedom that must set every missionary apart, the great dignity of their task and of their life, and, at the same time, the great humility that is born from the certainty that God passes through our fragile poverty.
The Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians, a piece of which we listened to, contains affirmations that we know by heart, but that we do not, perhaps, yet know the meaning of. What does it mean that the world has been crucified for me and that I have been crucified for the world? What does it mean that the only reality that counts is being a new creature? These expressions of the Apostle to the Gentiles which are so profound and mysterious reveal to us the heart of Christian life. In Baptism, it finally happens, because of the resurrection of Jesus, that there emerges the new creation that nothing can ruin, much less destroy. The new creation, of which Fr. Giussani spoke many times, shines in the life of the Church so luminously described in the world of the prophet Isaiah. It is the new Jerusalem in which we can find joy, food that satisfies our life, peace, and the experience of the true paternity of God and of the maternity of Mary.
All of this happens if we accept that the world is crucified for us and we for the world. The crucified world means that we can enjoy everything only if we enjoy it in Christ. No joy is withheld from us if only we seek the face of Christ in every affection, in all knowledge, in every thing, in every relationship. The desires that do not pass through the Cross lead us to death. At the same time, we are crucified for the world. Our life grows only in obedience to God, mysterious, sometimes incomprehensible and, for that reason, through crucifixion. But glorious crucifixion, in which our death and our life are realized at the same time in a mysterious way.
With these words, I have meant to express the content of my prayer for you all that now will become the prayer of consecration and the laying on of hands.