Year of the Priest: October 2009 Archives
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."
The 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.
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