The most important moment of my life

source – L’Osservatore Romano

In his autobiographical account published in 1997 Pope Benedict XVI remembered with vivid simplicity his ordination to the priesthood. The great German Catholic Cardinal, Michael von Faulhaber (1869-1952), distinguished biblicist and patrologist, Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1917, who during the dark years of the Third Reich had become one of the most courageous critics of Hitler’s regime, laid his hands on the 24-year old deacon in June 1951 and on his older brother Georg and 42 other young men.

“We were more than forty candidates, who, at the solemn call on that radiant summer day, which I remember as the high point of my life, responded “Adsum”, Here I am.

We should not be superstitious; but, at that moment when the elderly archbishop laid his hands on me, a little bird—perhaps a lark—flew up from the high altar in the cathedral and trilled a little joyful song. And I could not but see in this a reassurance from on high, as if I heard the words “This is good, you are on the right way.”

There then followed four summer weeks that were like an unending feast. On the day of our first Holy Mass, our parish church of Saint Oswald gleamed in all its splendor, and the joy that almost palpably filled the whole place drew everyone there into the most living mode of “active participation” in the sacred event, but this did not require any external busyness.

We were invited to bring the first blessing into people’s homes, and everywhere we were received even by total strangers with a warmth and affection I had not thought possible until that day.

In this way I learned firsthand how earnestly people wait for a priest, how much they long for the blessing that flows from the power of the sacrament. The point was not my own or my brother’s person. What could we two young men represent all by ourselves to the many people we were now meeting? In us they saw persons who had been touched by Christ’s mission and had been empowered to bring his nearness to men. Precisely because we ourselves were not the point, a friendly human relationship could develop very quickly.”