A friend of min who is a religious of the Daughters of St Paul brought to my attention that a 100 years ago, their founder, Blessed James Alberione, was talking about the ministry of the parish priest. Perhaps Pope Francis is reading the work of Blessed James. The diocesan priesthood is in very great need of reform. So much dysfunction and a lack of good formation in-and-out of seminaries. Look at the fact that so many priests do not know their people (Catholic and otherwise in their area), are not following a spiritual discipline of lectio divina, praying the Divine Office, making a daily hour, making an annual directed retreat, monthly spiritual direction, etc. Never mind that there is still an acceptance of priests and bishops having girlfriends and boyfriends, using and dealing drugs, and being accused of unwanted sexual advancements on adults or children. If you do not believe me, read the papers, get to know the substance of parish priests.
In recent years lots of seminaries have changed their formation program for the better, BUT Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have been calling the church to a new way of being a priest that is healthy and oriented toward to Christ the Good Shepherd. If you don believe me, start reading papal homilies and allocutions. For many priests that I know this is not new news, but there are problems at a deeper level yet to be revealed and dealt with.
The following comes from Alberione’s 1913 textbook for pastoral theology (Pastoral Theology Notes):
“The parish priest should not busy hims only with a small flock of devout souls, with retreats, pilgrim hostels, hospitals…while in the meantime there is a great number of souls, especially the neediest who either don’t even know who the pastor is, or only know him by name or by sight: they are the working masses, the women laborers, the upper class, the most miserable of the poor: those to whom Jesus Christ would have approached the most often.”
“The parish priest is the priest of all of them; and he must even leave the ninety-nine secure sheep to track down the one that is lost: how much more when the secure sheep are a ‘little flock’ and the lost are the majority!”
What I have given above by James Alberione is but one point of reflection for all of us. For more on the subject and on the Pauline charism can be found here with the Superior General of the Society of St. Paul, Father Silvio Sassi in a essay the speaks about the gift, the fidelity of following Blessed James Alberione. Father Sassi’s essay worth reading can be found here.