To the Servers....
This'll be the way things roll until the Pope comes home from Bavaria on 14 September... and gives a talkin' to the Secretariat of State the following morning, when he introduces the new Lord of San Damaso, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Given the infamous heat of Roman August, Benedict kept his reflection short at this week's gathering. Yet again, it was an impromptu talk -- oriented specifically at Europe's altar servers, who were represented en masse at the close of their annual meeting. As most of the servers were from Germany, the Pope took the liberty of addressing the crowd in his native tongue. Before delivering his message, Benedict donned the scarf the group gave him as a gift, and kept it on for the duration of the gathering.
As some of our pastors might find these words useful for their own servers, you'll find the meditation below in Whispers translation from the Italian rendering of the original.
(And, for the record, aside from a sole reference to priestly vocations, the Holy Father made no differentiation between male and female servers, however apoplectic an American fringe element may get on the topic.)
I'm happy that my first Audience after my vacation in the Alps is with you servers, and I greet with affection each one of you. I thank the Auxiliary Bishop of Basel Martin Gachter for the words with which, as President of the International Ministerial Committee, he introduced this Audience, and I thank him for the scard, thanks to which I've returned to being a server. More than 70 years ago, in 1935, I started as an altar server, beginning a long journey on this road. I cordially greet Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, who yesterday celebrated the Holy Mass for you, and the numerous Bishops and Priests who have come from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and from Hungary. To you, dear servers, I wish to offer, briefly, seeing how hot it is, a message which may accompany you in your life and in your service in the Church. For this reason, I wish to take up again the line which has run through the catecheses of these recent months. Maybe some of you know that in the Wednesday General Audiences I am presenting the figures of the Apostles: first Simon, to whom the Lord gave the name Peter, his brother Andrew, then another two brothers: St James called "the Greater," the first martyr among the Apostles, and John the theologian, the Evangelist, and then James called "the Less." I plan to continue presenting the single Apostles in future Audiences, in which, so to say, the Church becomes personal. Today, however, let's look at a common theme: what kind of people the Apostles were. In a nutshell, we could say that they were the "friends" of Jesus. He himself called them that in the Last Supper, telling them "I no longer call you servants, but friends" (Jn 15:15). They were, and they were able to be, apostles and witnesses of Christ because they were his friends, because they knew him on the basis of friendship, because they were close to him. They were united by a link of enlivened love by the Holy Spirit. In this context, we can understand the theme of your pilgrimage: "The Spirit Enlivens" ("Spiritus vivificat"). It is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit who enlivens. It is he who enlivens your relationship with Jesus, not just in an external way: "we know that he existed and that he is present in the Sacrament," but one which becomes an internal relationship, a profound one of truly personal friendship, capable of making sense of life for each of you. And as you know him and know him in friendship, then you're able to give him testimony and carry him to other people. Today, seeing all of you here before me in St Peter's Square, I think of the Apostles and I feel the voice of Jesus telling you: "I no longer call you servants, but friends: remain in my love, and you will bear much fruit" (Jn 15:9,16). I invite you: listen to this voice! Christ didn't just say this 2000 years ago; he is alive and he says this to you here and now. Listen to this voice with great openness; it has something to say to everyone. Maybe to some of you it says: "I want to serve in a special way as a priest becoming his witness, him being my friend, and introducing others to this friendship." Listen together with trust to the voice of Jesus. The vocation of each of us is different, but Christ desires to make friends with all, as he did with Simon, who he named Peter, with Andrew, James, John and the other Apostoles. He gave you his word and continues to give it to you, that you may know the truth, because when you know how things really are for man, and therefore how you must live in a just way, you must confront life so that you become true. So you must be, each in your own way, his disciples and apostles.
Dear servers, in reality you are already apostles of Jesus! When you participate in the Liturgy offering your service at the altar, you offer to all a testimony. Your thoughtful attitude, your devotion to the parts of the heart and those expressed in the liturgical motions, in singing, in the responses: if you do these in a proper way and not distractedly in whatever way, then yours is a testimony which touches others. The chain of friendship with Jesus has as its source and its summit in the Eucharist. You are very close to Jesus in the Eucharist, in the celebration of the Holy Mass and this is the greatest sign of his friendship for each of us. Don't forget this! And for this I ask: don't get used to this gift, so that it doesn't become a sort of habit, knowing how everything functions and doing it automatically, but discover it anew each day that something so great is happening, that the living God is in our midst, and that you may be ever more closer and bring your contribution so that the mystery may be celebrated and reach the people.
If you don't give in to the habit of it and develop your service from your interior selves, then you are truly his apostles and carry fruits of goodness and of service in each area of your life: in your family, at school, in your free time. This love that you receive in the Liturgy, carry it to all people, especially where you notice those who lack love, who don't receive goodness, those who suffer and are alone. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, seek to bring Jesus himself to those who are cast out, who aren't loved very much, people who have problems. To these, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, you must bring Jesus. So that Bread, which you see broken on the altar, will be shared and multiplied further. And so that you, like the twelve Apostles, may help Jesus today to distribute the Bread of Life among the people of our time, in the diverse situations of life. They need this bread! So, dear servers, let my final words to you be these: always be friends and apostles of Jesus Christ!
PHOTOS: AP/Plinio Lepri