Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thoughts on Year of the Priest

I was looking for articles to comment over the web and read some articles telling how the Church should celebrate the Year of the Priest.  Before the Holy Father's intent for the celebration of the Year of the Priest falls victim to those with "dissenting views opinions", like what happened with the interpretation of Vatican II documents, (we're so used to hear things like, "In the spirit of Vatican II..."  or "As part of the reforms of Vatican II..."), I have gathered a few excerpts from the letter of the Holy Father, announcing the celebration of the Year of the Priest.


This Year, meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal  for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world, will conclude on the same Solemnity in 2010. "The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”, the saintly Curé of Ars would often say. [It's what's in the inside that matters for a priest. You will definitely witness a priest who has a very deep prayer life.  The signs?  How they celebrate Mass, how they deliver their homilies, how much time they spent dispensing God's Grace through the sacraments.  If a priest celebrates Mass as if it were his own show, you get a good idea of what motivates him to lead the Mass.  It's not for the praise and worship of the Almighty by making present the same sacrifice on Calvary Christ did.  It's for the clapping, the smiles and the accolades after Mass.]


All good works, taken together, do not equal the sacrifice of the Mass” – he would say – “since they are human works, while the Holy Mass is the work of God”. [Never will it be the priest's own show!] He was convinced that the fervour of a priest’s life depended entirely upon the Mass: “The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!”.  [I know some priests who complain of getting bored at Mass that is why they are into liturgical creativity.  My!  If you love someone, nothing will ever be boring!  As Thomas Carlyle once said, "The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.”  If you love what you are doing, there is no room for boredom.]  He was accustomed, when celebrating, also to offer his own life in sacrifice: “What a good thing it is for a priest each morning to offer himself to God in sacrifice!”


The Curé of Ars immediately set about this patient and humble task of harmonizing his life as a minister with the holiness of the ministry he had received, by deciding to “live”, physically, in his parish church: As his first biographer tells us: “Upon his arrival, he chose the church as his home. He entered the church before dawn and did not leave it until after the evening Angelus. There he was to be sought whenever needed." [In other words, the Holy Father also expects priests to stay at their posts! And not spend time gallivanting, appearing in TV and other radio programs, or running in the streets, or in picket lines, or in.... ok nuff said.]


If someone was troubled by the thought of his own frailty and inconstancy, and fearful of sinning again, the Curé would unveil the mystery of God’s love in these beautiful and touching words: “The good Lord knows everything. Even before you confess, he already knows that you will sin again, yet he still forgives you. How great is the love of our God: he even forces himself to forget the future, so that he can grant us his forgiveness!” 

To a priestly confrere he explained: “I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place”. Aside from the actual penances which the Curé of Ars practised, the core of his teaching remains valid for each of us: souls have been won at the price of Jesus’ own blood, and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the “precious cost” of redemption.  [Again the Holy Father impresses upon priests the grace of the Sacrament of Penance which so many priests disregard nowadays.  Quack psychology became a fad.  Priests spent more time reading new age materials masked as self-help books.  It so influenced the Church even becoming the yard stick of vocations to those in seminaries and monasteries.  Imagine, if the Cure of Ars and St. Therese lived today and entered the priestly and religious life!  They would have been sent out by their superiors using these psychological tools as a gauge for their "worthiness".]

Nonetheless, with exemplary obedience he never abandoned his post, consumed as he was by apostolic zeal for the salvation of souls. [Again as I blogged before, remember your job description!  Remember why God called you according to your state of life.  So many priest are confused of their roles.  I know of a priest who spends more time managing the school but would not even celebrate one single Mass in the schools chapel.  Not even ONE!  You don't need ordination to run a school!  Ordination is for....THE SALVATION OF SOULS not building a brotherhood of men!]


The Curé of Ars lived the “evangelical counsels” in a way suited to his priestly state.

His poverty was not the poverty of a religious or a monk, but that proper to a priest: while managing much money (since well-to-do pilgrims naturally took an interest in his charitable works), he realized that everything had been donated to his church, his poor, his orphans, the girls of his “Providence”, his families of modest means. Consequently, he “was rich in giving to others and very poor for himself”. As he would explain: “My secret is simple: give everything away; hold nothing back”. When he lacked money, he would say amiably to the poor who knocked at his door: “Today I’m poor just like you, I’m one of you”. At the end of his life, he could say with absolute tranquillity: “I no longer have anything. The good Lord can call me whenever he wants!”.

His chastity, too, was that demanded of a priest for his ministry. It could be said that it was a chastity suited to one who must daily touch the Eucharist, who contemplates it blissfully and with that same bliss offers it to his flock. It was said of him that “he radiated chastity”; the faithful would see this when he turned and gazed at the tabernacle with loving eyes”.

Finally, Saint John Mary Vianney’s obedience found full embodiment in his conscientious fidelity to the daily demands of his ministry. We know how he was tormented by the thought of his inadequacy for parish ministry and by a desire to flee “in order to bewail his poor life, in solitude”.  Only obedience and a thirst for souls convinced him to remain at his post. As he explained to himself and his flock: “There are no two good ways of serving God. There is only one: serve him as he desires to be served”.  He considered this the golden rule for a life of obedience: “Do only what can be offered to the good Lord”

[Well what can I say?  The Holy Father nailed it.]


The Year of the Priest is not only for priests but more importantly for the laity.   Priests need our support.  Not financial support but moral and spiritual support.  Prayers are more important for them than money.  They need our prayers more than ever that they stay true to their vocation, THAT THEY BE FAITHFUL TO THEIR JOB DESCRIPTIONS, and that they be an Alter Christus when celebrating the Holy Sacrifice and the Church's rites.

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