Yesterday at 4.30 p.m., Benedict XVI travelled by popemobile from the convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Altotting to the town's basilica of St. Anne, which was built between 1910 and 1912. There he presided at the celebration of Vespers with religious, priests and seminarians. Prior to entering the basilica, he paid a brief visit to the church of St. Konrad Birndorfer (1818-1894), a Capuchin friar canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934.
In 1989, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had celebrated Mass in the basilica of St. Anne to mark the beginning of celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin at Altotting.
"Under the watchful gaze of Saint Anne, in whose home the greatest vocation in the history of salvation developed," that of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Father invited those present to reflect upon "our vocation to serve Jesus Christ."
"God's harvest is indeed great, and it needs laborers," said Pope Benedict, "in the so-called Third World - in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia - people are waiting for heralds to bring them the Gospel of peace, the good news of God Who became man. But also in the so-called West, here among us in Germany, and in the vast lands of Russia it is true that a great harvest could be reaped. But there is a lack of people willing to become laborers for God's harvest."
"Lord, ... look upon our world and send us laborers!" cried the Pope. "With this petition we knock on God's door; but with the same petition the Lord is also knocking on the doors of our own heart. Lord do you want me? Is it not perhaps too big for me? Am I too small for this? 'Do not be afraid,' the Angel said to Mary. 'Do not fear: I have called you by name,' God says through the Prophet Isaiah."
"Only one who is 'with Him' comes to know Him and can truly proclaim Him. Anyone who has been with Him cannot keep to himself what he has found; instead, he has to pass it on."
"The first and most important thing for the priest is his daily Mass," the Holy Father insisted, "always celebrated with deep interior participation."
"The Liturgy of the Hours is another fundamental way of being with Christ," he added, "here we pray as people conscious of our need to speak with God, while lifting up all those others who have neither the time nor the ability to pray in this way."
Another essential way of being with the Lord is "Eucharistic adoration. ... In the sacred Host, He is present, the true treasure, always waiting for us. Only by adoring this presence do we learn how to receive Him properly. ... Let us love being with the Lord! There we can speak with Him about everything. We can offer Him our petitions, our concerns, our troubles. Our joys. Our gratitude, our disappointments, our needs and our aspirations. There we can also constantly ask Him: 'Lord send laborers into Your harvest! Help me to be a good worker in Your vineyard!'."
Benedict XVI concluded his homily by considering Mary, "who lived her life fully 'with Jesus' and consequently was, and continues to be, close to all men and women. ... Let us think of Mary's holy mother, St. Anne, and with her let us also think of the importance of mothers and fathers, of grandmothers and grandfathers, and the importance of the family as an environment of life and prayer, where we learn to pray and where vocations are able to develop."
After the ceremony, the Holy Father travelled by car to the village in which he was born, Marktl am Inn. There he visited the parish church of St. Oswald where he was baptized on the day of his birth, 16 April 1927.
Later, from the heliport of Marktl am Inn, he flew to Regensburg where he went to the major seminary of St. Wolfgang to dine and spend the night.
Read the full text of the Pope's speech here.