Benedict XVI Reflects on Meaning of Priesthood

Concludes Annual Lenten Retreat

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- During his Lenten spiritual exercises, Benedict XVI reflected on the priesthood and what it means to be a priest.

The Pope noted this Saturday at the end of the annual seven-day spiritual exercises for the Pontiff and the Roman Curia, preached by Salesian Father Enrico dal Covolo.

This year's retreat focused on "The Lessons of God and of the Church in the Priestly Vocation." This theme was chosen to reflect the Year for Priests currently under way.

"In the name of all of us present here," the Holy Father said in a brief address, "I would like to say thank you with my whole heart to you, Father Enrico, for this retreat, for the impassioned and very personal way in which you guided our path toward Christ, on path of renewal of our priesthood."

Benedict XVI recounted how the Salesian preacher chose as his "starting point, as an always present background, as destination [...] Solomon's prayer for 'a heart that hears.'"

"In truth, it seems to me that here the whole Christian vision of man is recapitulated," the Pope said. "Man is not perfect in himself, man has need of relation -- he is a being in relation.

"It is not his 'cogito' that can 'cogitare' the whole of reality. He needs to listen, to listen to the other, above all the Other -- with a capital 'O' -- who is God. Only in this way does he know himself, only in this way does he become himself."

The Pontiff noted that during the spiritual exercises, he had full view of an image of the Mother of the Redeemer, "the 'Sedes Sapietiae,' the living seat of wisdom, with Wisdom incarnate in her womb."

"St. Luke presents Mary precisely as a woman who listens from the heart," Benedict XVI explained, "who is immersed in the Word of God, who listens to the Word, who meditates (synballein) on it, composes and treasures it, who carries it in her heart."

"The Fathers of the Church say that in the moment of the conception of the eternal Word in the womb of the Virgin the Holy Spirit entered into Mary through her ear," he said. "In listening she conceived the eternal Word, she gave her flesh to this Word. And thus she tells what it means to have a heart that listens.

"Mary is surrounded here by the fathers and the mothers of the Church, by the communion of saints.

"And so we see and we have understood during these days that we cannot truly hear the Word in the isolated 'I' but only in the 'we' of the Church, in the 'we' of the communion of saints."

"And you, dear Father Enrico, have shown us, have provided a voice for five exemplary figures of the priesthood, beginning with Ignatius of Antioch and continuing to the dear and venerable Pope John Paul II," continued the Pope. "Thus we have truly again perceived what it means to be a priest, to become priests more and more.

"You have also stressed that consecration is for mission, it is destined to become mission. During these days we have penetrated our consecration more deeply with God's help.

"Thus, with new courage, we would like now to take up our mission."

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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-28496?l=english