Recently in Year of the Priest Category


The 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. This document 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! 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.

The introduction follows here (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".

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

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.

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.
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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 sacraments.

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 purgatory!

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.

Meeting Fr Z in NYC

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Thumbnail image for Fr John Zuhsldorf-2 Nov 6 2009.jpgMeeting "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.

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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? 

It would be good to read (or re-read) the Pope's letter to the Church announcing the Year for Priests. There you will find some startlingly beautiful points to reflect upon and live out of. In my opinion, the Pope's letter has so much to consider that it would take a lifetime to understand.

In the August-September 2009 issue of Inside the Vatican, Angela Ambrogetti interviews Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, the archbishop-secretary of the Congregation of the Clergy on the year dedicated to the priest. In the interview Archbishop Piacenza notes:

1. "Among the new generations [of priests] there is a certainly a great desire for commitment, spirituality, rigorous training, a life of ascesis and penance.

2. "...the Church does not invent its doctrine [on the priesthood] but has received it from the Lord Jesus."

3. "Believers need to find a unique paternity in the priest. The priest's personal virtues, then the cassock itself, are indicative of his identity, which must be recognized by everyone. His presence in all fields, especially education, is fundamental for the Church's mission. Unless we resume our educational work, we won't be able to accomplish our apostolic mission! The Church cannot give up the education of the young, as most society is doing. It would be like renouncing our future."

4. "The Lord Jesus gave Himself completely to man. Everything and forever are in the logic of Christian love. This complete devotion requires order and disciple. The rule of prayer, for example, must be observed. Should it fall into disuse, for any reason, it must be restored immediately. The same importance must be attached to daily rest, to a wholesome diet and to holidays, which are for the priest, time of the spirit."

5. "The priest plays a decisive and irreplaceable role in the liturgy. He is not just an organizer of prayers and celebrations, as he is sometimes thought to be! In the liturgy, the priest stands for Christ Himself. In his offering to God, he repeats Christ's words and gestures with effectiveness. The thing which the priest really needs in the celebration of the liturgy is prayer. The risk of triviality, superficiality and secularization can be avoided through the education of the priest and the people of God. If we all think of ourselves as being in the presence of the Lord, the liturgy will look quite different to us, along with our faith."
Rutler & Walsh.jpgThe life we lead is based on the influences we have. For some, like Father George Rutler, John Newman and John Vianney are two such influences. George Rutler, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and pastor of the Church of Our Saviour (NYC) gave the Terrence Cardinal Cooke Theology Lecture tonight at Saint Joseph's Seminary. Himself a convert, author, TV personality tried to dispel the florid presentations of the saint which detach reality from the soul. John Vianney (8 May 1786 - 4 August 1859) knew himself well as a farm boy who desired to serve the Lord as a priest in love. What ought to be resisted when thinking about Vianney is sugar coating his ministry and manner of living. His was not a life akin to pouring molasses on roast beef. The saint, in Catholic theology and as reminded by Rutler, is a person who shows us that living the gospel is possible, that conversion is possible, that real, self-giving love is possible because the saint shows us Christ. And since Christianity is not speculation but fact, the fact of the saint is a testament to the reality of Christ today.

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Saint John Vianney loved his people in substantial ways: he revealed Christ to them and allowed Christ to speak through his priestly life in ways that challenged each person to take more seriously the desires of their heart and their state of life. Vianney was direct when it came to sin and sinful ways; he was devoted to the humanity of those whom he encountered, and he responded as Christ would if someone presented himself. Vianney may have been a poor student and a man of little sophistication as judged by the world, but he was a brilliant disciple of the Lord who acted like a shepherd for the flock. Like the apostle who is known for his zeal, the martyr his patience, the virgin her purity and the confessor his intellect, Vianney is known for his love. Can we model our lives accordingly?

Nearly 125 people attended the lecture tonight.
Below is an extract of a homily given by Franciscan Cardinal Claudio Hummer to new bishops at a gathering in Rome on 21 September 2009. The stage is set...

Our priests need to be loved and supported in their vocation and mission, above all by their own Bishop and by their community. They wish to be recognised for that which they are and that which they do. They also need to be assisted and guided to renew in their hearts the true identity of the priesthood and the true meaning of celibacy. In this context, the renewal and reinvigoration of their priestly spirituality will be decisive, which has as its foundation in being true and unconditioned disciples of Jesus Christ, who has configured them to Himself, Head and Shepherd of the Church. For this discipleship, so determining of their lives, it will be of great help for priests to listen and to pray aloud the Word of God, the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession, the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, frequent visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament, the recitation of the Holy Rosary and other means of spiritual enrichment and of personal encounter and intimacy with Jesus Christ. Also of great importance are the annual Spiritual Exercises and ongoing formation.

Moreover, it is necessary to awaken the missionary consciousness of priests. The Church knows there is a missionary urgency being experienced throughout the world, not only ad gentes, but also within the very flock of the Church already established for centuries in the Christian world. It is necessary to promote a true missionary urge in our Dioceses and in our parishes. All our countries have become a land of mission, in the strict sense. A new fire needs to be lit in our priests and in us ourselves, a new passion to make us arise and go to meet people where they live and work, to bring to them anew the Kerygma, the first proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen, and of his Kingdom, to lead them to a personal and then a communitarian encounter with the Lord. Our beloved Pope, Benedict XVI, referring to the situation in the lands of age-old Christian tradition, has said, "We should give serious thought as to how to achieve a true evangelization in this day and age [...] It is not enough for us to strive to preserve the existing flock" (Discourse to the German Bishops, 21st August 2005), but we need a true mission. It is not enough merely to welcome those who come to us, in the parish or in the parish house. There is an urgent necessity to arise and go in search above all of the many baptised who are distanced from participation in the life of our communities, and then to seek also those who know little or nothing of Jesus Christ. The mission has always renewed the Church. The same will also be true for priests when they go into the mission. This, then, is a whole programme to develop during this Year for Priests.

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, OFM
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

What is a priest's identity?

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Archbishop Mauro Piacenza looks briefly at this question and explores some key points of what a priest's identity is. Watch the video clip.
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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:

Saint Gaetano 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.

On the feast of Saint Lawrence (August 10), the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Claudio Cardinal Hummes, OFM, wrote to the world's permanent deacons that what the Year of the Priest is also oriented toward the Order of Deacon and what is said to the priests applies very much to the deacons. This is welcome news! 

I admire the vocation of deacons but I have had my fill of deacons who believe their vocation is undervalued, mis-understood or abused by priests. While there are tensions among some deacons and priests, the problem is often grossly reported. In recent weeks since the pope inaugurated the Year of the Priest I have heard deacons complaining that they feel "left out" by not having a spiritual/intellectual year dedicated to them as one is to the priesthood. The moaning distracts. Complaining is rather 

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tedious when you see the connections among the various hierarchies in our Church because none can exist without the other (even though the Church didn't have the permanent deaconate for long a period of time). Look at the witnesses of the sainted deacons through the millennia: Stephen, Ephrem, Francis among many. Quoting Pope "to work in favor of this pull of priests toward spiritual perfection, upon which, above all, depends the efficacy of their ministry," (discourse of March 16, 2009). Hence, I am happy to see something on the value of the permanent deacons in the Year of the Priest because the call and ministry of priests and deacons are intimately interrelated as is the call to the episcopacy in the service of the Gospel. Additionally, I am elated the Cardinal once again drew our attention to the need to know our Scripture and the practice of lectio divina. Proper and ongoing formation in the Lord and the Church requires careful attention to the place of Scripture and lectio. The letter said in part:

To know Revelation, to adhere unconditionally to Jesus Christ as a fascinated and enamored disciple, to base oneself always upon Jesus Christ and to be with Him in our Mission, this is then what awaits a permanent deacon, decisively and without any reservation. From a good disciple a good missionary is born.

The ministry of the Word which, in a special way for Deacons, has as its great model St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, requires of ordained ministers a constant struggle to study it and carry it out, at the same time as one proclaims it to others. Meditation, following the style of lectio divina, that is, prayerful reading, is one well traveled and much counseled way to understand and live the Word of God, and make it ones own. At the same time, intellectual, theological and pastoral formation is a challenge which endures throughout life. A qualified and up to date ministry of the Word very much depends upon this in depth formation.

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The second reflection regards the ministry of Charity, taking as a great model St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr. The diaconate has its roots in the early Church's efforts to organize charitable works. At Rome, in the third century, during a period of great persecution of Christians, the extraordinary figure of St. Lawrence appears. He was archdeacon of Pope Sixtus II, and his trustee for the administration of the goods of the community. Our well beloved Pope Benedict XVI says regarding St. Lawrence: "His solicitude for the poor, his generous service which he rendered to the Church of Rome in the area of relief and of charity, his fidelity to the Pope, from him he was thrust forward to the point of wanting to undergo the supreme test of martyrdom and the heroic witness of his blood, rendered only a few days later. These are universally recognized facts." (Homily Basilica of St. Lawrence, November 30, 2008). From St. Lawrence we also take note of the affirmation "the riches of the Church are the poor." He assisted the poor with great generosity. He is thus an ever more present example to permanent deacons. We must love the poor in a preferential way, as did Jesus Christ; to be united with them, to work towards constructing a just, fraternal and peaceful society. The recent encyclical letter of Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), should be our updated guide.  In this encyclical the Holy Father affirms as a fundamental principle "Charity is the royal road of the social doctrine of the Church" (n. 2). Deacons must identify themselves in a very special way with charity. The poor are part of your daily ambiance, and the object of your untiring concern. One could not understand a Deacon who did not personally involve himself in charity and solidarity toward the poor, who again today are multiplying in number.

Yesterday's general audience (August 19, 2009) Pope Benedict took the opportunity to draw our attention to the saint being memorialized in the Liturgy, Saint John Eudes, as a model for personal renewal which will lead to the renewal of the priesthood. The zeal, the desire for the face of God, the need for conversion will lead, I am convinced, not only the renewal of the priesthood (and seminarians) but also the entire Church. Christ is the one thing we are seeking, the one person we are seeking. As the Baptist said, "He must increase; I must decrease." AND focus on CHRIST!!!!!  Read a portion of the Pope's address.

While contempt was being spread for the Christian faith by some currents of thought that were prevalent then, the Holy Spirit inspired a fervent spiritual renewal, with prominent personalities such as that of Berulle, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort and St. John Eudes. This great "French school" of holiness also had St. John Mary Vianney among its fruits. By a mysterious design of Providence, my venerated predecessor, Pius XI, proclaimed John Eudes and the Curé d'Ars saints at the same time, on May 31, 1925, offering the Church and the whole world two extraordinary examples of priestly holiness.

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In the context of the Year for Priests, I wish to pause to underline the apostolic zeal of St. John Eudes, directed in particular to the formation of the diocesan clergy.

The saints have verified, in the experience of life, the truth of the Gospel; in this way, they introduce us into the knowledge and understanding of the Gospel. In 1563, the Council of Trent issued norms for the establishment of diocesan seminaries and for the formation of priests, as the council was aware that the whole crisis of the Reformation was also conditioned by the insufficient formation of priests, who were not adequately prepared intellectually and spiritually, in their heart and soul, for the priesthood.

This occurred in 1563 but, given that the application and implementation of the norms took time, both in Germany as well as in France, St. John Eudes saw the consequences of this problem. Moved by the lucid awareness of the great need of spiritual help that souls were feeling precisely because of the incapacity of a great part of the clergy, the saint, who was a parish priest, instituted a congregation dedicated specifically to the formation of priests. He founded the first seminary in the university city of Caen, a highly appreciated endeavor, which was soon extended to other dioceses.

The path of holiness he followed and proposed to his disciples had as its foundation a solid confidence in the love that God revealed to humanity in the priestly Heart of Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary. In that time of cruelty and loss of interior silence, he addressed himself to the heart so as to leave in the heart a word from the Psalms very well interpreted by St. Augustine. He wanted to remind people, men and above all future priests of the heart, showing the priestly Heart of Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary. A priest must be a witness and apostle of this love of the Heart of Christ and of Mary.

Today we also feel the need for priests to witness the infinite mercy of God with a life totally "conquered" by Christ, and for them to learn this in the years of their formation in the seminaries. After the synod of 1990, Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, in which he took up and actualized the norms of the Council of Trent and above all underlined the need for continuity between the initial and permanent moments of formation. For him, for us, this is a real point of departure for a genuine reform of priestly life and apostolate, and it is also the central point so that the "new evangelization" is not simply an attractive slogan, but rather is translated into reality.

The foundations of formation in the seminary constitute that irreplaceable "humus spirituale" in which it is possible to "learn Christ," allowing oneself to be progressively configured to him, sole High Priest and Good Shepherd. The time in the seminary should be seen, therefore, as the actualization of the moment in which the Lord Jesus, after having called the Apostles and before sending them out to preach, asks that they stay with him (cf. Mark 3:14).

When St. Mark narrates the vocation of the Twelve Apostles, he tells us that Jesus had a double objective: The first was that they be with him, the second that they be sent to preach. But in going always with him, they truly proclaim Christ and take the reality of the Gospel to the world.

In this Year for Priests, I invite you to pray, dear brothers and sisters, for priests and for those preparing to receive the extraordinary gift of the priestly ministry. I conclude by addressing to all the exhortation of St. John Eudes, who said thus to priests: "Give yourselves to Jesus to enter into the immensity of his great Heart, which contains the Heart of his Holy Mother and of all the saints, and to lose yourselves in this abyss of love, of charity, of mercy, of humility, of purity, of patience, of submission and of holiness" (Coeur admirable, III, 2).

Archbishop Mauro Piacenza writes that holiness is our concern for today, not something we should put off until tomorrow. His letter to priests exerted below speaks of some elements that are important for those observing the Year of the Priest. Piacenza highlights the fidelity that Saint John Vianney had even when he wanted to abandon the ministry in Ars, that is, being faithful and not creating some ambiguous, heroic sensibility is not coherent to the ministry of Christ. This is what alerts us that Vianney is a model worth following: grace truly building on nature. A theological concept that I associate most with John Paul II in his theology of the body, that of "self-gift," is applied here in the context of the life of the priest and to the sacrament of the Church. In time we'll here more about the role of self-gift as it applies to priesthood because it is an essential fact in the "becoming" of a priest of Christ and the richness of giving and receiving of that particular grace. Plus, the theology of self-gift, if really lived, might eradicate some evident sacred cows that diminish the flowering of life of holiness. Finally, let me draw our attention to the archbishop's last sentence because it is worth the time reflecting on, not because he happens to be right but because he reminds us what we are made for--God.

The Curé of Ars stands before us as an outstanding figure of priestly holiness, demonstrated not in the extraordinary nature of his works but in his daily fidelity to the exercise of the Ministry; he became a model and a beacon for the France of the early nineteenth century, and for the whole Church, of every time and place; he is a source and consolation for each one of us, even in the midst of various "exhaustions" which can touch our priesthood.

His total dedication is a spur to our joyful self-giving to Christ and to the brethren, so that the Ministry may always be a luminous echo of that consecration from which comes the one apostolic mandate and, in it, every pastoral fecundity.

May his love for Christ, which was the bearer of his humanity and sincere affection, be for us an encouragement to love every more deeply "our Jesus": may His be the sight we seek in the morning, the consolation which accompanies us in the evening, the memory and the companionship of every breath we take by day. To live according to the example of St. John Mary Vianney, as lovers of the Lord, means to always maintain at a high level of missionary tension, becoming progressively but concretely living images of the Good Shepherd and of him who proclaims to the world, "behold the Lamb of God".

May the real spiritual enrapture of the Curé of Ars during the celebration of Holy Mass be for each one of us an explicit invitation to always have a full consciousness of the great gift which has been entrusted to us: a gift which leads us to sing with St. Ambrose: "And we can all, raised to a dignity such as to consecrate the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, hope in Your Mercy!"

May his heroic dedication to the confessional, nourishes by a real expiatory spirit and sustained by the consciousness of being called to participate in a "vicarious substitution" of the one High Priest, spur us on to rediscover the beauty and the necessity, even for us priests, of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That sacrament is, as well we know, a place of real contemplation of the marvellous works of God in souls which He delicately captivates, guides and converts. To deprive ourselves of such a "marvellous manifestation" is an irreparable and unjustified privation for us, even more than for the Faithful, and for our ministry which is fed by the wonder which is born of every miracle of human liberty which says "yes!" to God!  
The priestly figure should not be detached from the person of Paul. Saint Paul shows all of us a way of living, a way of creating a relationship with God. The priesthood is a privileged way, and as such it is not separated from all that Saint Paul himself is, what he teaches and tells us. Therefore, I believe that this association and connection between the Year for Priests and the Pauline Year is and will be very good and very important.

Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, emeritus archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls
Mauro Piacenza.jpg

"Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of the priesthood in the presbyteral order as a conscientious fellow worker with the Bishop in caring for the Lord's flock?"

The Archbishop-Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, Mauro Piacenza, wrote to the world's priests on July 15th reflecting on the liturgical theology that identifies and supports the theology of priesthood. Now that we are clearly in the Year of the Priest we have to make solid effort at connecting our daily prayer for priests (and, those preparing for ordination) and education on what the Church believes and teaches about the priesthood. This year dedicated to the priesthood is not only directed to renewal and reform of the priesthood but also conversion of the entire Church. The year of priestly renewal is not merely centered on prayer for the local priest (which is most essential) but also a time for some intellectual formation for both priest and people. So, the proposal of the Pope is that we give a sufficient attention to both prayer and education, not one or the other. I'd like to note that I find myself disappointed to see the lack of a public of storming heaven for the graces of renewal but also the lack of sufficient discussion of what the Church teaches and believes. What to do? In the meantime, Archbishop Piacenza offers a number of juicy tidbits to consider. He said in part:

The Church, in her maternal wisdom, has always taught that the ministry is born of the encounter of two freedoms: divine and human. If on the one hand one must always recall that, "no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God" (CCC n.1578), on the other hand, clearly, it is always a "human and created I", with his own story and identity, with his own qualities and also his own limitations, who responds to the divine call.

            The liturgical-sacramental translation of this asymmetric and necessary dialogue between the divine freedom which calls and the human freedom which responds is represented by the questions which each of us has had addressed to him by the Bishop during the rite our own ordination, immediately prior to the imposition of hands. We shall revisit together in the months ahead this "dialogue of love and freedom".

            We have been asked, "Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of the priesthood in the presbyteral order as a conscientious fellow worker with the Bishop in caring for the Lord's flock?" We answered, "I Am"

            The free and conscious response is based, therefore, on an explicit act of the will ("Are you resolved to discharge the office", "I am") which, as we know well, requires to be continuously enlightened by the judgement of reason and sustained by freedom, so as not to become a sterile voluntarism or, worse, to change over time, becoming unfaithful. The act of the will is enduring of its very nature, because it is a human act, in which the fundamental qualities of which the Creator has made us participants are expressed.

            The undertaking, then, that we have assumed is "for the whole of life" and thus not related to fads or indulgences much less to sentiments, which might be apparent to a greater or less degree. While feelings may be said to have a role in coming to the knowledge of the truth, it is only so as to direct out focus in such a way as not to obstruct such knowledge but to assist the discernment of it. Nevertheless, this is but one aspect of consciousness and cannot be its determining factor.

            Our will has accepted to exercise "the priestly ministry", not other "professions"! Above all else we are called to be priests always and, as the Saints remind us, in every circumstance, exercising with our very being that ministry to which we have been called. One does not merely act as a priest: one is a priest!

            Each one of us is part of a dynamic entity, called to collaborate by demonstrating, each in his own way, the Head of this Body: always as "fellow workers with the Bishop", in obedience to the good which he indicates, and "under the guidance of the Holy Spirit", that is in praying with each breath. Only he who prays can hear the voice of the Spirit. As the Holy Father recalled in the General Audience of the 1st July last, "Those who pray are not afraid; those who pray are never alone; those who pray are saved!".

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]



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