CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (EWTN News/CNA) — Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the new class of seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome to be unafraid to carry the cross of Christ.
“Dear seminarians, do not be afraid to take up the challenge in today’s Gospel to give your lives completely to Christ,” he told the new students during his Sunday Angelus address on Aug. 28 at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence 15 miles south of Rome.
“Indeed, may all of us be generous in our commitment to him, carrying our cross with faith and courage.”
The Pontifical North American College was founded in 1859 in response to an appeal by Pope Pius IX for an American seminary in Rome. Its present building sits on Rome’s Janiculum Hill, only minutes from St. Peter’s Basilica. Regarded as one of the most flourishing seminaries in the city, the college is currently home to more than 300 students and priests.
Moments earlier, the American students, along with several thousand other pilgrims, listened as the Pope explained in more detail the need for all Christians to embrace the cross. The Pope invited all present to surrender their will to Jesus who, in return, will transform their ways of thinking for the better.
“The Christian follows the Lord with love when he accepts his cross, which in the eyes of the world appears as a defeat and a ‘loss of life,’ while that man knows that he does not bear his alone but with Jesus, sharing the same path of self-giving,” the Pope said.
In doing so, he added, “We allow ourselves to be transformed through divine grace, renewing our way of thinking in order to discern the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The Pope based his comments upon the Gospel in which Jesus rebukes St. Peter for reacting negatively to the revelation that the Christ must “go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
This prediction by Jesus presented “a clear discrepancy between the loving plan of the Father,” observed the Pope, “and the expectations, desires, projects of the disciples.”
He said it’s a discrepancy that often continues to this modern day: “When the fulfillment of one’s life is only aimed towards social success and physical and economic well-being, man is not thinking according to God but according to man.”
Such an attempt to refuse God’s “project of love,” said the Pope, “almost prevents man from carrying out his [God’s] masterly will.”
Hence, said the Pope, the challenge of Jesus to the first apostles, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” is equally applicable to anybody who seeks true happiness in the modern world.