“In a very special way, my greeting goes to the seminarians and young religious who are present among us. Like the young Israelites in today’s first reading, they are a sign of hope and renewal for God’s people; and, like those young Israelites, they will have the task of building up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.” (from the mass homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral July 19th). The sign of hope and renewal that Pope Benedict described us as is radiated first from he who has become known as the “Pope of hope.” We aspire to only magnify what he is teaching us and in that will build up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.
It was only appropriate that during World Youth Day our Holy Father desired to gather with the seminarians and young religious from across the globe. As Pope Benedict entered the Cathedral a shout of “viva el papa” came from one of the seminarians hovering around the front door where a sea of cassock clad seminarians and habited religious were flooding the center isle to get a closer glimpse of the pontiff.
The vibrancy and youth of the Church’s vocations were obvious by looking around at the faces of those religious and seminarians that were in attendance. At the mass on Sunday at Randwick Racecourse, the Pope noted how the Church is young. It was all too apparent at this solemn mass in Sydney’s Cathedral that Her vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are also young and filled with great love for the Supreme Pontiff.
During this mass with young religious and seminarians Pope Benedict dedicated the Cathedral’s new altar. How fitting that this took place in the presence of those who are preparing their souls for lives of consecration. Cardinal Pell reminded us that Christ is our Head and true altar and all Christians, most especially those consecrated as religious and priests are also spiritual altars on which the sacrifice of a holy life is offered to God.
As the Holy Father was reciting the prayers of the rite of dedication I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to religious consecration. As I along with six other novices are preparing for our own profession of vows in a few short weeks I was all the more compelled by these prayers when he said “Bless this altar…that it may ever be reserved for the sacrifice of Christ.” As consecrated souls we are called to be a sacrificial offering out of love for the Lord. During his homily the Pope emphasized to us that “you yourselves will become living altars, where Christ’s sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet.”
During these days in Sydney with the young Catholics of the world we saw this everyday in the numerous encounters we experienced. Whether it was local Australians just wanting to be in our presence and chat about what it means to be a Christian. To daily mass going college students inquiring about the possibility of their own vocation to religious life. No matter the situation these people desired a sign of hope. They desired authentic love with the living God. They desired to encounter Jesus Christ and were given the great treasure of that experience with His Vicar on earth whom they long follow in order to build up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.
Sr. Mariam Caritas