Called to Holiness and National Vocation Awareness Week

An Interview with Fr. Pietro Rossotti on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Called to Holiness

November 5-11, 2017 is this year’s annual celebration of “National Vocation Awareness Week.” This is a time to reflect on how the Lord is calling each of us to follow him in some way, as we recall his words: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (John 15:16a).

In light of National Vocation Awareness Week, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Pietro Rossotti, who compiled Pope [Emeritus] Benedict XVI’s Called to Holiness: On Love, Vocation, and Formation (Catholic University of America Press, 2017). Here are Fr. Rossotti’s inspirational words regarding vocations, with a particular focus on seminarians and priests, in light of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s own reminders.

How did this book come to be?

There are a couple of reasons: 1) at the time, I was teaching in the Seminary at Mount Saint Mary’s, so I had the opportunity to be in touch with seminarians. It was important for them to know Benedict XVI’s teachings about seminaries and seminarians, because there is a treasure there at the service of the Church. Being a professor and spiritual director there allowed me to reflect on this more. Another reason is intrinsic to Benedict XVI in particular – there is a novelty with which Benedict XVI teaches, as he introduces seminarians to the time of seminary formation. So, one reason was personal, and the other was more theological, as it was related to what Benedict XVI has taught within the Church.

Did you collaborate with Benedict XVI on the book?

I sent a draft of the manuscript to Benedict, and he replied indicating that he was very happy that it would be published. After the book’s publication, I sent him a copy, and he requested more in order to share them with some of his friends, so I sent him thirty-five copies of the book. Fr. Paolo Sottopietra, the superior general of my congregation (the Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo), is a friend of Benedict’s, as well as the current Holy Father, Pope Francis. As far as I know, Benedict was happy with the book.

Tell us more about your religious congregation.

It is the Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo, which was founded in 1985 by Fr. Massimo Camisasca. It was inspired by the experience of Communion and Liberation (founded in 1984 by Luigi Giussani). There are 120 total priests, with fifteen in the United States: in the Archdioceses of Washington, Boston, Denver, and Saint Paul-Minneapolis.

What year were you ordained?

I was ordained in Rome in 2009, at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, by the Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, the Latin Rite Metropolitan Archbishop of Moscow (Russia).

What have some of your priestly ministries been?

I have taught at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, and I am now working in a parish in Saint Paul as a parochial vicar, as well as teaching at Saint Paul’s Seminary here in Saint Paul.

Do you have any words of advice for future seminarians?

From Benedict XVI, I learned not to be afraid of being called and accepting God’s call to follow him. A vocation is a call; once we accept what God has called us to, God will bring that to fulfillment. Do not be afraid of being called to love. Also, it is important to be open to this love, and to allow yourself to be educated and exposed, opening yourself to Christ. Also, do not be afraid of the sacrifices. Sacrifices are the path to a truer way of living life, and are necessary for our conversion. It is the path to holiness. Be open to the love of God, and do not be afraid of the sacrifice.

Do you have any parting words?

There are many other words that Benedict has shared. No matter what vocation you are called to, there is a beauty to being a part of the Church, which is building the kingdom of God. We receive love through the tradition and laws of the Church. Our lives are a response, and we are called to give our life to Christ. It is very difficult, because the world thinks a different way, and there is a temptation to think about life on our own terms, but we only experience joy in following Christ.

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Justin, his wife Bernadette, and their children live in Bowie, Maryland. Justin has taught theology and Spanish at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, since 2006. He has degrees from the University of Maryland - College Park, the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), and Staffordshire University (England), and he has studied philosophy and theology at Seton Hall University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Notre Dame's Satellite Theological Education Program. Justin has written for Ave Maria Press, Aleteia, EpicPew, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic365, Church Life, and various other publications. He is on Twitter (@McClainJustin).

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