Monthly Archives: October 2018
To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasures; to be member of every family, yet belonging to none; to share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds; to go daily from men to God to offer Him their homage and petitions; to return from God to men to bring them His pardon and hope; to have a heart of fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity; to bless and to be blest forever. O God, what a life, and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!
Ten Basic Statements about priestly ministry:
- The foundation of ministry is character.
- The nature of ministry is service.
- The motive for ministry is love.
- The measure of ministry is sacrifice.
- The authority of ministry is submission.
- The purpose of ministry is the glory of God.
- The tools of ministry are the Word and prayer.
- The privilege of ministry is growth.
- The power of ministry is the Holy Spirit.
- The model for ministry is Jesus Christ
A priest is today’s shepherd and fisherman – teaching, sanctifying and guiding the People of God through a life of ministerial service and leadership. The diocesan priest is called to serve the people of God, to bring them Christ’s healing love through prayer, the sacraments and by proclaiming the Word of God. He also has the great joy and privilege of making Christ present in the Eucharist. Usually he will do all this in a parish – the local Catholic community. St Teresa of Avila once said: “Christ has no body now but yours no hands, no feet on earth but yours.” That sums up the calling of the priest, to be always, another Christ – ‘alter Christus’. The primary meaning of the priesthood lies in its relationship to the Eucharist – as Reality, as Sacrament, as Sacrifice – and, among these three, primarily as Reality, made possible by priestly consecration. Priests are also essentially preachers of the word, or ministers of the Gospel, or organizers of Christian communities, or spokesmen of the poor, or defenders of the oppressed, or social leaders, or political catalysts, or academic scholars, or theological appraisers of the Faith of believers.
Priesthood is demanding; and, to quote the late Cardinal Hume, no one can ever be truly worthy to be a priest. But the Good News is that priesthood is not a human decision. It’s a calling from God, who gives His strength and His grace to those who serve Him. No priest can act fully for Christ without being sustained by his own prayer-relationship with God, rooted in Sacrament and Scripture.
“The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me” (Is. 61:1, Luke 4:18). In every priestly ordination ceremony, we hear this opening sentence of Jesus’ inaugural sermon in his hometown synagogue. At ordination, we priests are anointed, so that we may anoint others; we are blessed so that we may be a blessing to others, and that grace is renewed every day through our ministry to those entrusted to our care. “The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church.” (CCC 1547). Another aspect of the ministerial priesthood is the priest’s mission: “He has sent me to bring good news to the poor.” “The ministerial priesthood confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching, Divine worship and pastoral governance.” (CCC 1592). The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ – Head of the Church – before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice. (CCC 1552).
It is this mystery and mission of the ministerial priesthood we priests try to live every day and which we embrace each day. We put our Faith in the One Who calls us, anoints us and sends us, and that gives meaning to the whole of our lives. Our time of prayer is the time when we explicitly engage in the relationship with the Lord who chooses us and sends us, and it is that time – which crucially includes our celebration of the Mass – that gives sense and direction to all the rest of our lives, especially to those moments when we are a bit lost, or overburdened, or unsure of the value of what we do or of the priorities we should pursue. Prayer yields new insight and new hope.
But this grace of the ministerial priesthood is given to weak human beings who carry this great Divine treasure as Bishop Sheen put it “in vessels of clay.” It explains why the Church was and is plagued by shocking scandals. Not only are the people and the world scandalized, but all of our good priests are equally scandalized. A clear majority of the priests are innocent, and we feel hurt, betrayed, sick, disgusted and repulsed that someone who has consecrated hands would do something so despicable. Our very lives and our vocations as Priests are being attacked by the very few who have done these things. But anger, shame and worry, however understandable, must give way to renewed determination that victims will find justice and healing; determination also that these instances of abuse must never, never again taint the Church and the Priesthood; and determination or conviction that our times call for nothing less than a great resurgence of priestly holiness and a profound appreciation of the gift that is ours as ministerial priests.
We all know that people generalize. They say, “Well, there’s one bad Priest, so all Priests are bad.” Hence it is good to have some statistics today, not to justify the fact that bad priests exist, but to state the facts. Even Jesus didn’t have perfect Priests. We read in the Gospel about Judas that “Satan entered into his heart” and he turned his Lord and Master over for a few silver coins. Thus, Jesus lost one out of His first twelve. There are roughly 45,000 Priests in the United States. Only 2,500 (1.8 %) have either been accused or found guilty of this horrendous evil, this sin. Of Christian marriages, 50 to 75% end in divorce. Further, the highest percentage of child abuse is by married men. It’s terrible! It’s usually a father, an uncle, a cousin or a grandfather! The Kinsey Reports reveals that “a full 10% of the American population had experienced some form of personal exposure to “homosexuality.” The percentage of Americans who have cohabited at one time or another is 50% and the percentage of cohabiting couples who go on to marry is only 50-60%.
Taken together, these facts strongly suggest that it is not the priesthood or priestly celibacy which causes the problem, but our current society, a society which hates God and hates all morality. Nevertheless, we, the faithful, hardworking priests who keep their promise of celibacy, who suffer being discounted and written off just because we are Roman Catholic Priests. Catholic priests are categorized in the media as gay, perverse, evil, disgusting – not worthy of people’s trust. We notice the media bias. If the culprit is a Protestant pastor, a Rabbi, a doctor, lawyer or teacher, it’s in the news for a split second and gone! Why? Because the rich, the powerful, the media want to destroy the morality that Catholic the Church teaches, and because unconsciously, unbelievers hold Catholics, and us as Catholic priests, to the highest standard and are scandalized and disappointed when we fail and fall. And people tend to generalize with priests, where they don’t in other cases: one bad president, bad lawyer, bad doctor, bad mother, bad father – doesn’t make them all bad. The same observation should apply to Priests.
On this Priests Sunday, let us think about all the good Priests in our lives that we have known. Then, let’s make one list of all the good priests, and another of bad priests of our experience. We will probably find that the vast majority of priests are good Priests who love the gift that Jesus has given to them and who would never want to do anything to disgrace that gift. The primary vocation of every Baptized Christian is to become a saint. This is particularly true of a priest. If we, any of us, are good that’s not good enough, Jesus wants all of us to become holy. If we are, by His grace and gift, holy, Jesus wants us to become saints, and if we are saints, Jesus wants us to become like the Father. As Jesus commands us all, “Be holy as my Father is holy.”
As the people of God, we are all challenged to make a commitment, a promise: A) We need to Pray for our Priests every day — not only for those we encounter, but for all Priests, because all Priests are our Priests. B) We need to reject and refuel to listen to idle gossip about our Priests! C) We need to support and love our Priests! There are few enough Priests as it is, and if we don’t support the priests we have, pray for them, we may lose them to discouragement, and may, in addition, discourage men from
considering ministerial priesthood as they discern their vocations, or from following the priestly vocation to which God is calling them In the meantime, we will constantly remember St. Paul’s words: “Christ emptied himself and humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. For all of us priests, and for laymen as well, recent events have been an emptying and humbling experience. May we enter upon this conversion, accept His purification and follow Him as His own – good priests, good people! God bless you. God love you!
Ways to Affirm Our Priests
- We need to PRAY – There is nothing stronger or more appreciated by our priests. Let us ask God to bless them, protect them and strengthen their faith, hope and love.
- We need to GIVE VERBAL APPRECIATION – Let us smile and greet our priests after Mass and tell them that we appreciate them and what they do When something specific strikes us in the homily as valuable, or true, let’s share our insight and delight with the priest; that will help to counteract the effect of the people who are not pleased and aren’t shy about saying so.
- WE need to DO IT IN WRITING a note or a card sometimes when we offer our thanks and appreciation. Often today, we forget the value of the written word or feel that we don’t have the time to sit down and write something. Our priests value what we have to say.
- We need to BE ENGAGED DURING LITURGY – We need to participate actively during the Mass, for our own soul’s sake primarily, but also as a response to our priests who are giving themselves to us in their words as well as in bringing our Eucharistic Lord to earth on our altar so that we can receive Him and enjoy this unprecedented union with the Lord our God. Our priests are the leaders of our prayer during the Mass. It is affirming to them to know that we in the pews are engaged in the Mystery and Miracle of Jesus, our Living Bread come down from Heaven for us and still here after 2000 years or so.
- We need to SHOW RESPECT DURING THE LITURGY. Celebration of the Eucharist is the most important part of every priest’s life and the most important part of every Catholic’s life, recognized as such or not. When we as congregation members come in late, leave early, dress inappropriately, chew gum, etc. we insult the Lord and declare that for us, the Eucharist is not important.
- We need to BE INVOLVED IN OUR PARISH – Contributing to the parish is more than just giving money, it is also offering the gift of our time and talents. There are so many ministries available to and crying out for what we lay folk must give: our talents can be used or developed in any number of ways.
- We can also REMEMBER THEIR BIRTHDAYS (if they have shared these with us), AND THE ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR ORDINATION (ditto). Some parishes publish these in the parish calendar. Our taking the time and trouble to remember our priests with a card or a note on their special days can be very important to them.
- We can INVITE THEM TO OUR HOME – Our priests appreciate getting to know the people of their flock on a more personal basis than just after Mass. Special occasions: Baptisms, First Communions, Anniversaries, Weddings, Wedding rehearsals, Holidays, Special birthdays give us an easy way to offer our invitation, but these are not essential. We can also invite them for no reason other than that we would like to get to know our priest and have our priest share a meal or event with us and our family. We needn’t assume that our priests wouldn’t be interested or are too busy. Our priests since they give up having their own family might enjoy being a be a part of our family.
- We can SEND THEM A GIFT – Gift cards to restaurants, books stores, department stores, and Gas Cards make wonderful appreciation gifts for our priests.
- We can also INVITE THEM ON AN OUTING – It may be as simple as going out for a meal or to the ballgame or a show.
- We need to BE CAREFUL OF HOW WE SPEAK IN FRONT OF OUR CHILDREN – That is we need to be respectful when speaking of and speaking to our priests. An off-hand comment by you can be taken as something more by your children.
- As good sheep, we need to KEEP OUR SHEPHERDS INFORMED OF OUR NEEDS – We need to let them know when we are anticipating surgery or entering the hospital. Our priests will be happy to anoint us and pray for us during this time. When we are experiencing difficulties or tragedies in our family, tell the Shepherds and ask for help. We must not depend on someone else’s thinking to inform our priest; most of us assume that it’s the family’s place to tell the priest and will not interfere!
Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings describe leadership as the sacrificial service done for others and offer Jesus as the best example. They also explain the servant leadership of Jesus, pinpointing service and sacrifice as the criteria of greatness in Christ’s Kingdom.
Scripture lessons: The first reading is a Messianic prophecy taken from the Fourth Servant Song in the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It tells how the promised Messiah will save mankind by sacrificing himself as the atonement for our sins. Jesus has done this sacrificial service of love for us as the Suffering Servant by giving his life on the cross as an offering for sin, interceding for us and taking our punishment on himself. The second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, tells us that, as a God-man and mediator-High Priest, Jesus has offered a fitting sacrifice to God his Father by offering himself as ransom to liberate us from the slavery of sin. In the time of Jesus, ransom was the price paid to free someone from slavery. Sometimes the ransomed offered himself as a substitute for the slave, as Jesus did. The reading also speaks of a high priest who can sympathize with us in our weakness because he has been tested in every way, though sinless, and so we can “confidently” hope for God’s mercy. Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus has accomplished his mission of saving mankind from the slavery of sin by becoming the “Suffering Servant.” Here, Jesus challenges his followers to become great by serving others with sacrificial agape love: “Whoever wishes to be great must be a servant.” Jesus commands us to liberate others as he has freed all of us, by giving ourselves to them in loving and humble service.
Life Messages: 1) We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others. As Christians, we are all invited to serve others – and to serve with a smile! We are challenged to drink the cup of Jesus by laying down our lives in humble, sacrificial service for others, just as Jesus did. The best place to begin the process of service by “self-giving,” is in our own homes and workplaces. When parents sacrifice their time, talents, health and blessings for the welfare of others in the family, they are serving God. Service always involves suffering, because we can’t help another without some sacrifice on our part. We are rendering great service to others also when we present them and their needs before God daily in our prayers.
2) We are invited to servant leadership: To become an effective Christian community, we need lay leaders with the courage of Christian convictions to work for social justice. We need spiritual leaders who can break open the word for us, lead us in our prayer, offer us on the altar, and draw us together as sacrament.