Tag Archives: Year of the Priest

Examination of Conscience for priests

confession-6.jpgThe Congregation for Clergy published an examination of conscience entitled “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors” which hopes to reinvigorate the priest’s spiritual paternity by a recovery of the sacrament of Confession by penitent and confessor. Here is yet another aspect of the new evangelization called for by Blessed John Paul II and now Pope Benedict: the renewal of priests and people through Reconciliation.

“The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy” is the fruit of Pope Benedict’s Year for Priests. As Cardinal Piacenza notes, this “is a measure of authentic faith in the saving action of God which shows itself more clearly in the power of grace than in human strategic or pastoral initiatives which sometimes overlook this essential truth.” A sobering statement for one who works in a parish.

On the surface it seems that this text is exclusively for the clergy. Don’t be fooled into putting it aside.  I would recommend it to the laity as well. Be acquainted to the sacrament of Confession, the theology and practice of the Church and what the Church expects of her clergy. We have to help each other see Christ’s work among through concrete manifestation of Divine Mercy.

Consider the ideas found in the introduction (the link to the full text is at the end):

“It is necessary to return to the confessional as a place in which to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also as a place in which “to dwell” more often, so that the faithful may  and compassion, advice and comfort, feel that they are loved and understood by God and experience the presence of Divine Mercy beside the Real Presence in the Eucharist”.

With these words, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI addressed confessors during the recent Year for Priests, indicating to each one present the importance and therefore the apostolic urgency of rediscovering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both from their viewpoint of penitents as well as that of ministers. Along with the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the availability of the priest to hear sacramental confessions, to welcome penitents, and to accompany them spiritually when they so request, is the real measure of a priest’s pastoral charity. By their availability, priests give joyful witness and in a certain sense take upon themselves their true identity, redefined in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and not reducible to a mere functionality. The priest is a minister, which is to say that he is at the same time both a servant and a prudent dispenser of Divine Mercy. To him is entrusted the serious responsibility “to forgive or to retain sins” (cf. John 20: 23).

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Through him, and through the power of the Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of Life, the faithful are able to experience today in the Church the joy of the Prodigal Son, who after a life of sin returned to his father’s house in the manner of a servant but was welcomed with the dignity of a son. Whenever a confessor is available, sooner or later a penitent will arrive. And if the confessor continues to make himself available, even stubbornly so, sooner or later many penitents will arrive! Our rediscovery of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both as penitents and as ministers, is a measure of authentic faith in the saving action of God which shows itself more clearly in the power of grace than in human strategic or pastoral initiatives which sometimes overlook this essential truth.

Responding to the appeal of the Holy Father and expressing his profound intent, this aid is intended as yet another fruit of the Year for Priests, to be a helpful instrument for the ongoing formation of the Clergy and an aid in rediscovering the indispensible value of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and of Spiritual Direction. The new evangelization and the ongoing renewal of the Church, semper reformanda, draw their life blood from the true sanctification of each member of the Church. It is clear that sanctifi cation must precede both evangelization and renewal, for it lays claim to and forms the necessary precondition for every effective apostolic effort, as well as for the reform of the Clergy.

In the generous celebration of the Sacrament of Divine Mercy, each priest is called to experience for himself the uniqueness and the indispensability of the ministry entrusted to him. Such an experience will help him to avoid the “ever-changing sense of identity” which so often marks the existence of some priests. Instead, his experience will cultivate within himself that sense of wonder which fi lls his heart, for through no merit of his own he is called by God, in the Church, to break the Eucharistic Bread and to forgive the sins of others.

Here’s “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and spiritual Directors”: Examination of Conscience for confessors and spiritual directors.pdf

Priesthood: “First of all, authentically human,” Fr Carron suggests

Father Julián Carrón, published the following commentary on priesthood in the  L’Osservatore Romano (June 9, 2010), at conclusion of the Year of Priest.

I will never forget the impact of a question at a spiritual retreat with some priests in Latin America. I had just finished saying that often our faith lacks the human, when a priest approached me and said that when he was in seminary, they taught him that it was better to hide his concrete humanity, not to have it in sight “because it disturbed the journey of faith.” This episode made me more aware of how Christianity can be reduced and of the state of confusion in which we are called to live our priestly vocation. Once someone asked Fr. Giussani his advice for a young priest, “That he be above all a man,” he answered, to the surprise of those present. We find ourselves at the polar opposite of the advice given the seminarian: on the one hand, to look away from one’s humanity, and on the other, a gaze full of fondness for oneself.


So then, what is decisive for our faith and our vocation? What do we need? Fr. Giussani repeatedly indicated that “the forgetfulness of the ‘I’,” the absence of authentic interest for one’s own person is the “supreme obstacle to our human journey” (Alla ricerca del volto umano, Rizzoli, Milano 1995, p. 9). Instead, true love for oneself, true affection for oneself is what leads us to rediscover our constituent exigencies, our original needs in their nakedness and vastness, so as to see ourselves as relationship with the Mystery, entreaty for the
infinite, structural expectant awaiting. Only people so “wounded” by reality, so seriously engaged with their own humanity can open themselves totally to the encounter with the Lord. Fr. Giussani affirms, “In fact, Christ offers Himself as the answer to what “I” am and only an attentive and also tender and passionate awareness of myself can throw me wide open and dispose me to acknowledge, admire, thank, and live Christ. Without this awareness, even that of Jesus Christ becomes a mere name” (At the Origin of the Christian Claim, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal 1998, p. 4).

“There is no response more absurd than that to a question one hasn’t asked” wrote Reinhold Niebuhr. This also applies to us when we uncritically submit to the influence of the culture in which we are immersed, which seems to favor the reduction of humanity to our biological, psychological and sociological antecedents. But if humanity is truly reduced to this, what is our task as priests? What use are we? What is the sense of our vocation? How can we resist a flight from reality, taking refuge in spiritualism or formalism, seeking alternatives that make life bearable? Or wouldn’t it be better, obeying the cultural climate, to become social assistants, psychologists, cultural operators or politicians? As Benedict XVI reminded us in Lisbon, “Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programs, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavor?” (Homily at Holy Mass at Terriero do Paco of Lisbon, May 11, 2010).


Therefore, everything depends on the perception, first of all for us, of what humanity is and what truly corresponds to our infinite desire. The decision with which we live our vocation therefore derives from the decision with which we live our being men. Only within an authentically human vibration can we know Christ and let ourselves be fascinated by Him, to the point of giving Him our lives to make Him known to others. “Why does the faith still absolutely have a chance of success?” then Cardinal Ratzinger asked himself, and answered, “I would say because it finds correspondence in the nature of man. […]  In man there is an inextinguishable nostalgic aspiration toward the infinite. None of the answers sought is sufficient; only the God who has made Himself finite, to lacerate our finiteness and lead it in the breadth of His infinity, is able to meet the questions of our being. Therefore today as well, Christian faith will return to find humanity” (Fede, Verità, Tolleranza [Faith, Truth, Tolerance] Cantagalli, Siena 2003, pp. 142-143).

This certainty that Benedict XVI testifies to continually even in the face of all the evil we bring upon ourselves or cause others – just think of the pedophilia issue – invites us on a journey to rediscover and deepen our understanding of the reasonableness of the faith: “Our faith is well-founded, but this faith needs to come alive in each of us […]: only Christ can fully satisfy the profound longing of every human heart and give answers to its most pressing questions about suffering, injustice and evil, concerning death and life hereafter” (Homily at Holy Mass at Terriero do Paco di Lisbon, May 11, 2010). Only if we experience the truth of Christ in our life will we have the courage to communicate it and the audacity to challenge the hearts of the people we meet. In this way, the priesthood will continue to be an adventure for each of us and thus the opportunity to testify to our fellow women and men the answer that only Christ is for the “mystery of our being” (G. Leopardi). Thank you.

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Father Julián Carrón is a priest of the Archdiocese of Madrid and he is the President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation centered in Milan, Italy. He was appointed by Benedict XVI to be among the experts at the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God and he is a consultant on the Pontifical Council of the Laity.

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Praying for priests as an act of Mercy

Fr Ignacio Ortigas giving a blessing.JPGO my Jesus, I beg you on behalf of the whole Church:
Grant it love and the light of the your Spirit, and give power to the words of
priests so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance and return to
you, O Lord.

Lord, give us holy priests; you yourself maintain them in
holiness. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of your mercy
accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil’s traps and snares
which are continually being set for the souls of priests. May the power
of your mercy, O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the
sanctity of priests, for you can do all things. Amen.

Saint John Vianney, pray for our priests.

First Thursday Plenary Indulgence for Lay Faithful for Year for Priests

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In response to questions about the Plenary Indulgence for
the Year for Priests, the decree says that, “all truly penitent
priests”–having confessed their sins and received Holy Communion–may
obtain a Plenary Indulgence each day by devoutly praying Lauds or Vespers
before the Blessed Sacrament, and by making themselves available “with a
ready and generous heart” for the Sacrament of Penance and the other

This Plenary Indulgence may be applied to the souls of priests in
purgatory. Priests may also obtain a partial indulgence so often as they offer
prayers to ask for the grace of sacerdotal holiness. As I mentioned the other day about praying for souls of our priests, this an opportunity for priests to come to the assistance of their brother priests in

The decree also makes generous provision for the lay faithful. They
may obtain a Plenary Indulgence on the opening and closing days of the Year of
the Priest and on the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney
(August 4, 2009), on the First Thursday of the Month, or on any other day
established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the
faithful. The particular conditions are given below.

An example, a
prayer suitable for obtaining the Plenary Indulgence would be:

O Jesus, Eternal
Priest, keep Thy priests within the shelter of Thy Sacred Heart, where none may
touch them. Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Thy Sacred
Body. Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with Thy Precious Blood. Keep
pure and unworldly their hearts sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Thy holy love surround them from the world’s contagion. Bless their labors
with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and
consolation here and their everlasting crown hereafter. Mary, Queen of the
Clergy, pray for us; obtain for us numerous and holy priests. Amen.

To acquire
a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the
indulgence is attached and to fulfil three conditions: sacramental confession,
Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It
is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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