The Catholic University of America

HOMILY TO THE SEMINARIANS AT THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE

Cardinal Rode with Father Blanchette
I thank you, Father Melvin Blanchette, the Sulpician priests, and the entire Theological College community, for your kind invitation to visit the seminary and for your words of welcome. To all of you, I offer my special greetings and gratitude.

Young friends, I am very pleased to be able to greet you, you who have the grace to prepare for the priesthood in the 39 dioceses represented here. Washington, D.C., is not only the political capital of this great country, but also, so to speak, the heart of the Church in the United States. Here in Washington we find the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, The Catholic University of America, the John Paul II Cultural Center and the headquarters of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here one senses, to a certain degree, the pulse of the Catholic Church throughout the whole nation. I am sure you are well aware of the privilege you enjoy, living here in this seminary.

Naturally, every old bishop, like myself, who visits young seminarians, like you, remembers his own good old times in the seminary. Good memories spontaneously come back. And the more one thinks about his formation years, the more one realizes how decisive those years were for his priestly ministry. That has been my experience, dear friends, and the experience of most of your older brothers in the priesthood: what a seminarian sows in those years is what he will reap in his ministry. It is hard to overstress this truth.

For this reason, I would like to encourage you to follow the example and advice of your formators, and to take advantage of every activity and means you have in the seminary to grow in your integral formation - in the spiritual, pastoral, academic and social fields - as an alter Christus. The priest truly acts in persona Christi. He must, therefore, think, speak, feel and act as Jesus Christ thought, spoke, felt and acted.

As our beloved Pope John Paul II wrote in his autobiography Gift and Mystery, "If we take a close look at what today's men and women expect from priests, we will see that, in the end, they have but one great expectation: they are thirsting for Christ. Everything else - their economic, social and political needs - can be met by any number of other people. From the priest they ask for Christ! And from him they have the right to receive Christ, above all through the proclamation of the word" (Gift and Mystery, New York [Image Books, Doubleday: 1996], p.85).

How right our beloved Holy Father was! Consciously or not, people look for Christ and seek to find him in the priest who has been called to represent him here and now. Keep striving to identify yourselves daily more and more with Christ the High Priest and Redeemer of the world.

I'm delighted to have the opportunity to pray with you this evening as we celebrate the Eucharist together. I also hope to meet each of you afterwards as we gather informally. I offer you my sincerest best wishes in your formation program here at Theological College.

Thank you once again for your welcome and may God bless you all!

Cardinal Franc Rode, C.M.