Dear sons, in your beautiful white albs you present us with a splendid sight that is a joy to our eyes and our heart. We are happy to address a few words to you, in response to the request expressed in your name by your friend and protector in Rome, the Cardinal Archpriest of St. Peters.
His words introducing you to us suggest the thought that the whiteness of your vestments is a reflection of the whiteness of your souls. Your contact with the altar sustains and develops in your souls faith, devotion, purity, and all the other virtues that are pleasing to God.
You will remember the young man in the gospel who had faithfully cultivated those same virtues since childhood. The evangelist tells us that Jesus looked up him with love: Iesus, intuitus eum, dilexit eum, "Looking on him, Jesus loved him." (Mark 10:21)
We believe that we see the Savior's look also resting upon each one of you with special favor. Are you not the ones who come so very near to him as you serve at the altar? Is it then surprising that his call to an even greater nearness to him should at some time -- as has just been said to us -- sound in the hearts of some of you?
Dear sons, the charge that we wish to commit to you consists in two points: be faithful to carry out in exemplary fashion the liturgical functions assigned to you; listen to the voice of Christ if he graciously calls you to follow him more closely.
To be faithful: that is a whole program for life. As you know the word "faithfulness" includes the word "faith". To revivify that faith at the tombs of the Apostles is the reason you have come to Rome. In that faith St. Paul summarized his whole life as an apostle when he came to the end of his earthly life: fidem servavi, "I have kept the faith," he said to his disciple Timothy. (2 Timothy 4:7) I have been faithful to God, to Christ, to the Church. I have been faithful to my calling, to the ministry entrusted to me. May such a faithfulness be yours and may it be particularly true of those concerns involved in your functions as servers at the altar.
You might at times think that the liturgy is made up of a lot of minor details: posture, genuflections, bows, handling the censer, missal, cruets, etc. It is then that you must remember the words of Christ in the gospel: "He that is faithful in the smallest things is faithful also in the great." (Luke 16:10) Moreover, in the liturgy nothing is little, when we realize the greatness of the one to whom it is directed.
Therefore, dear sons, be outstanding in faithfulness toward carrying out your sacred functions. To that devote your attention, all your heart, and all your love.
Next, listen to the divine call. We will share with you one of our worries. In the face of the vastness of the task of evangelization that the modern world sets before us, we often put the question to ourself: How are we going to find enough priests, enough religious to meet this need? Does it not seem as though God is calling in vain -- that today's young people have no wish to hear him; that they no longer have the taste for God, the response to the ideal, the attraction toward sacrifice?
Dear sons, a good number of those older than you have resoundingly repudiated such fears. May it come true that a great many of you also will follow in their footsteps! Be on your guard against letting the voice that calls you go unheard and unanswered. Pray ardently that from among your ranks Christ may choose many to carry on his priesthood.
(Documents on the Liturgy 338, paragraphs 2919-2920)
Thursday, October 09, 2008
1967 Address of Paul VI to altar servers
Here is an address that Pope Paul VI gave in March of 1967 to a pilgrimage of (male) altar servers from across Europe to Rome. I just read it this evening, and I think it's rather timely and appropriate.