- Saturday, 21 November 2009 10:35
Obedience is part of everyone’s human experience. Right now I can’t think of anyone on the planet who is not called/bound to some type of obedience. Can you? In the Catholic priesthood the man being ordained a priest makes a promise of respect and obedience to the bishop (if the man is going to be a diocesan priest), for life. How counter-cultural that is! In a regular letter to those interested, the secretary at the Congregation for Clergy has been writing periodic letters exploring various themes in the priesthood because we are in the “Year for Priests.” Today’s reflection is on priestly obedience.
Even if they are not bound by a Solemn Vow of
obedience, ordinands profess a “promise” of “filial respect and obedience” to
their own Ordinary and his Successors. If the theological standing of a Vow and
a promise is different, the total and definitive moral obligation is identical,
and likewise identical is the offering of one’s will to the will of Another: to
the Divine will, mediated through the Church.
In a time such as ours, marked as
it is by relativism and democraticism, by various forms of autonomous
individualism and libertinism, such a promise of obedience appears ever more
incomprehensible to the prevailing mindset. It is not rare for it to be
conceived as a diminution of dignity and human freedom, as a perseverance in obsolete
forms, typical of a society incapable of authentic emancipation.
We who live
authentic obedience know well that this is not the case. Obedience in the
Church is never contrary to the dignity and respect of the person, nor must it
ever be understood as an abandonment of responsibility or as a surrender. The
Rite utilizes a fundamental adjective for the right understanding of such a
promise; it defines obedience only after mentioning “respect”, and this with
the adjective “filial”. Now the term “son”, in every language, is a relative
name, which implies, specifically, the relationship of a father and a son. It
is in this context that the obedience we have promised must be understood. It
is a context in which the father is called to truly be a father, and the son to
recognize his own sonship and the beauty of the fatherhood that has been given
to him. As happens in the law of nature, no one chooses his own father, nor
does one choose one’s own sons. Therefore, we are all called, fathers and sons,
to have a supernatural regard for one another, one of great reciprocal clemency
and respect, that is to say the capacity to look at the other keeping always in
mind the good Teacher who has brought him into being, and who always,
ultimately, moulds him. Respect
is, by definition, simply this: to look at someone while keeping Another in
It is only in the context of “filial respect” that an authentic obedience
is possible, one which is not only formal, a mere execution of orders, but one
which is ardent, complete, attentive, which can really bring forth the fruits
of conversion and of “new life” in him who lives it.
The promise is to the
Ordinary at the time of ordination and to his “Successors”, since the Church
always draws back from an excessive personalism: She has at heart the person,
but not the subjectivism that detracts from the power and the beauty, both
historical and theological, which characterize the Institution of obedience.
The Spirit resides also in the Institution, since it is of divine origin. The
Institution is charismatic, of its very nature, and thus to be freely bound by
it in time (the Successors) means to “remain in the truth”, to persevere in
Him, present and operative in his living body, the Church, in the beauty of the
continuity of time, of ages, which joins us enduringly to Christ and to his
Archbishop Mauro Piacenza
Secretary, Congregation for Clergy
- Friday, 06 November 2009 22:43
Meeting “blog personalities” is always fun, especially meeting a popular blogging priest. Father John Zuhlsdorf writes the blog, What Does The Really Say? He’s an affable priest with a good sense of humor and a good thinker. He celebrated a Solemn Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form for First Friday at the beautiful Church of the Guardian Angels (NYC). The particular intention for the Mass was for deceased priests.
The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus
In his homily, Father Zuhlsdorf spoke about the priesthood as the result of the outpouring of love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mindful of the human condition and the Incarnation, we have Perfect Love choosing imperfect men to be priests to preach the Gospel and to celebrate the sacraments. And because the priest is a normal human being with the normal failings as other men, we know the imperfect minister needs conversion. Our job is to beg for God’s mercy upon our priests, living and deceased, as an act of love for the priests. Priests are fallible, sinful human beings like everyone else and yet they are called by God to serve Him as priests for the good of His people. It is an awesome thing to consider that our souls are fed by priests, some of whom are worthy ministers of the Lord and some not. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of a priest’s ministry does not depend on the state of his soul (something part of our doctrine since the time of Saint Augustine).
We believe that two sacraments give permanent character to our souls that lasts into eternity: Baptism and Holy Orders. So, when a priest dies his soul is recognized as a priestly soul in heaven by God and whole heavenly court. The priesthood, therefore, does not end on the day when the priest’s body dies.
In this Year for Priests, indeed even outside of this special year, we ought to care for the priests who serve our parishes and other ministries in concrete ways. We ought to pray for the souls of the priests who have died, too. I am particularly thinking of the priests and bishops who gave us new Life in Christ through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Penance, and the other sacraments as applicable.
I have an immense sense of gratitude for the faith I received from the priest who baptized me, the bishop who confirmed me, the priests who heard my confessions and gave me the Body of Christ.
Could we offer a prayer once a day during November for the deceased priests we knew? After November, could we offer a prayer for the priests at least once a month in the years to come?
- Wednesday, 23 September 2009 19:42
Archbishop Mauro Piacenza looks briefly at this question and explores some key points of what a priest’s identity is. Watch the video clip.
- Sunday, 20 September 2009 09:45
Many think that Saint John Vianney is the only canonized
parish priest. Vianney is certainly the most known for his extraordinary life.
And it helps that popes and other notable authors have drawn our attention to
him. But there is another saint who has a persuasive personality who is also a
parish priest and worthy of our attention. In this Year of the Priest it fitting to have yet another intercessor before God. Today the Church celebrates the
liturgical memorial of Saint Gaetano Catanoso.
Pope Benedict XVI canonized him on October 23, 2005. In
the homily of the Mass of Canonization said:
Catanoso was a lover and apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus. “The Holy Face,” he
affirmed, “is my life. He is my strength”. With joyful intuition he joined
this devotion to Eucharistic piety.
He would say: “If we wish to adore the real
Face of Jesus…, we can find it in the divine Eucharist, where with the Body
and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of Our Lord is hidden under the white veil
of the Host.”
Daily Mass and frequent adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar
were the soul of his priesthood: with ardent and untiring pastoral charity he
dedicated himself to preaching, catechesis, the ministry of confession, and to
the poor, the sick and the care of priestly vocations. To the Congregation of
the Daughters of Saint Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, which he founded,
he transmitted the spirit of charity, humility and sacrifice which enlivened
his entire life.
More of Saint Gaetano can be read here.
The American cousin of the saint has a book on Saint Gaetano Catanoso, see it at this link.