On February 26th Zenit published an article by Father Massimo Camisasca looking at what he considers to be the pillars (prayer & Liturgy) of priestly reform in the Catholic Church. Reading a bit of Church history recently there’s been a lot to consider when thinking about the state of the Catholic Church viz. the rise of Portestantism and then the decline of the Christian religion in some parts of the US and the world. Father Massimo Camisasca is the founder and superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo. The Fraternity was founded in 1985 and recognized as a Society of Apostolic Life in 1999.
Statistical data of the past 30 years reveals an increase of 5% more diocesan priests worldwide, compared with an increase of 48% more baptized persons.
This alone could explain the question in the title of my latest book, “Padre ci saranno ancora sacerdoti nel futuro della Chiesa?” (Father, Will There Still Be Priests in the Future of the Church?) — a theme that underlies the entire text.
However, even more than the number of priests, the Church is interested in the truth of their experience. For reasons connected with my work as superior of a fraternity of missionaries, I travel throughout the world and am in contact with the most diverse realities. And, meeting with priests of different regions, I note that many of them experience difficulties not so much of an ideological type as of an emotional order.
Why is it that today the priestly life — which has made thousands of men happy and contributed enormously to the spiritual growth of humanity — is going through such a profound qualitative crisis?
My [Italian-language] book stems from this question. It is an attempt to rethink the life of a priest from its roots.
The regeneration of priestly life is one of the conditions for the new flowering of Christianity in Europe, and more generally, in our jaded West (Asia and Africa merit separate treatment).
I have attempted to trace the path for a rebirth returning to the fundamentals of the priesthood. I find one of those fundamentals in prayer.
Today many priests lose themselves in action, in the infinite number of activities and preoccupations that entrap them. For the action of each one of us to always be a source of nourishment, it must be constantly redirected to our relationship with Christ. And the place of our relationship with Christ is prayer, inseparable from silence.
Silence, prayer, reflection and study are the answer to one of the evils that afflict the figure of the priest: activism, which remains on the surface of things and absorbs the time of our energies and our feelings. Instead, action that stems from charity introduces us in the work of God, who precedes and exceeds us.
Another pillar of the renewal of priestly life is the liturgy. I say this following the teaching of the Pope. I am not ruled by the desire to accommodate myself to a current, but by a profound conviction that is born from experience.
If the priest does not rediscover the true meaning of the liturgy in his life, he cannot find himself.
Surmounting the process of trivialization, which we have witnesses in the last 30 years, it is necessary to return to that “fons et origo” that the Second Vatican Council identifies in the liturgy.
When it is faithful to the one who instituted it, when it is lived in all its rigorous totality and is attentive to the tradition of the Church, the liturgy is the place of education to communion.
The protagonist of the liturgy is Christ. By living the liturgy, we can enter into the life of God, and only thus can we priests be an effective company of men.
In the third place, the emotional question is central in the life of a priest. Loneliness is the other great evil that today afflicts thousands of priests.
Only by discovering himself a son can the priest be a father.
Friendship is a positive experience in a person’s emotional life. In the Church there is still much fear of friendship. Pathologies are not channeled if one is not helped to develop a healthy life.
Unhealthy and negative friendships, which because of this are not proper friendships, must not close us off from the essential value of these bonds of preference that open us to the love of others and help us to understand who God is.