Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Benedict XVI Calls Priests to Be Saints (NOT Bureaucrats, Politicians or Managers)


His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, recently addressed members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (Vatican Diplomat School). Although his audience was priests preparing for specific work in Apostolic Nunciatures (Vatican Embassies) around the world, the words also aptly apply to ALL PRIESTS, EVERYWHERE.

"Always remember that it is vital and fundamental for the priestly ministry, however practiced, to maintain a personal bond with Christ; he wants us as his 'friends,' friends who seek intimacy with him, who follow his teaching and who undertake to make him known and loved by everyone."

"The Lord wants us to be saints," he affirmed, "in other words, entirely his, not concerned with building a career that is interesting and comfortable in human terms, not seeking success and the praise of others, but entirely dedicated to the good of souls, ready to do our duty unto the end, aware of being 'useful servants' and happy to offer our poor contribution to the spreading of the Gospel."


The Pope urged priests to be "men of intense prayer who cultivate a communion of love and life with the Lord."

He continued: "Without this solid spiritual base, how would it be possible to continue our ministry? Those who work in the Lord's vineyard in this way know that what is achieved with dedication, with sacrifice and for love, is never lost."

The Pontiff spoke about the Year for Priests, which will begin June 19, as a "valuable occasion to renew and strengthen your generous response to the Lord's call, in order to intensify your relationship with him."

"Use this opportunity to the utmost," he said, "so as to be priests in accordance with the dictates of Christ's heart, like St. Jean Marie Vianney, Cure of Ars," whose 150th anniversary of death we are preparing to celebrate.

courtesy of Zenit News Agency

The Pope urged priests to be 'men of intense prayer who cultivate a communion of love and life with the Lord.'

This message is CRUCIAL as many American dioceses are gearing up (if not already) for their annual ordination to the priesthood and to the diaconate. Holy Mother Church has over one BILLION members and is a global, worldwide Church. Hence, she NEEDS various types of priests:

PARISH priests - pastors and parochial vicars; serving the daily spiritual needs of the faithful at the local parish level; the majority of priests

priests - high school, college and seminary professors who help in the prophetic role of the church to teach the faith.

priests - hospital, military, prison, nursing home, etc., who provide a necessary work of mercy

(administration) priests - vocation directors, vicar generals, judicial vicars, chancellors, secretaries to the bishop, etc. who give good advice and
provide necessary assistance to the local bishop. And of course, the Vatican and Apostolic Nunciatures need DIPLOMAT priests to help that vital work of the Church.

What is NOT NEEDED, however are:

BUREAUCRAT priests - ambitious clerics who have miter & crosier envy (bishop wannabees) and/or those middle management pencil pushers who emulate the old Soviet Union bureaucrat. This type is neither liberal nor conservative; neither progressive nor traditional; in other words, he has NO affiliation with either side. He just sides with the current party in power. Someone who says and does anything and everything to preserve his office job rather than spend his time and effort doing the 'Will of God.' Bureaucrat priests are often autocrats who pretend to have more authority than they actually possess. They make dictatorial pronouncements and presume to speak on behalf of the current diocesan bishop or currently reigning pontiff. These are the 'professional' clergy who are detached and removed from real parish life and are clueless to what goes on in the real world. They pontificate from ivory towers and often have hidden or enigmatic agendas. You can spot a bureaucrat priest a mile away by the plethora of paperwork (memos, mailings, notices, etc.) emanating from his desk, just to show his importance. POLICY means more to these fellows than canon law or defined dogma and doctrine. Moral principles are made subservient to practical concerns. The bureaucrat priest covers his backside to survive. Moving up the ecclesiastical ladder is their prime directive.

BUSINESS MANAGER priests are obsessed with nickels and dimes, balancing the books and making everything look good on paper. Saving souls is not an urgency, rather, the productivity of programs becomes paramount. These guys run parishes or dioceses like corporations, not like spiritual families or sacred institutions. They place efficiency as their highest goal. As long as the check book balances, the diocesan assessments are paid and the collection never goes down, then they consider themselves SUCCESSFUL. These guys worry about how much it will cost more than how much good will it do.

POLITICIAN priests want to be POPULAR. They preach cotton-candy Catholicism so as not to offend anyone. They tell people what they want to hear instead of what they need to be taught. These guys bend or break canon law and/or diocesan rules to keep the big roller, high end, generous donors from leaving the parish. They think accommodating and compromise are effective tools whereas the real parish priest relies on doctrinal orthodoxy, liturgical accuracy (and reverence) and paternal pastoral authority (being a real spiritual father instead of a corporate stooge). Politician priests want happy faces and avoid all confrontation. These are the wheeler-dealers who make behind the scene arrangements, engage in skulduggery and can often be IDEOLOGUES who are usually throwbacks to the 1960's and 1970's. They see innovation as a political tool to keep and make new members. These guys are usually the ones who deny parishioners their legitimate options and impose their own personal choices as if law. Being politically correct is one indicator of this sort.

ENTERTAINER priests use sacred worship and the Divine Liturgy to entertain and amuse the congregation rather than to render to Almighty God true and proper worship (latria) and adoration. These fellows perform when the celebrate the sacraments. They choreograph gestures and movements, not based on the rubrics of the Missal but based on what they learned in a recent liturical workshop. Entertainer priests want to BE loved and to be showered with affection and approval. They do not preach uncomfortable messages nor do they enforce complicated laws. These guys are current on every fad and tidbit the modern media eschews daily so as to appear to be 'with it.'  Reverence takes a back seat, if not in the trunk, to enjoyment. They want people to enjoy the Mass instead of seeking to please God by giving Him proper worship.

The good priests who work in parishes, hospitals, prisons, chancery offices, the military or who teach in schools and seminaries, etc. are different from the bureaucrat, business manager, politician, or entertainer priest. The former are committed to serving God and Holy Mother Church by doing and giving his best in any and every assignment he is given. The latter insist on picking and choosing what they do, how they do it and where it is done. The motives of the former are based on SACERDOTAL OBEDIENCE and SACRIFICE.  The motives of the latter are rooted in AMBITION, ENVY, and PRIDE.

Our current Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, is a Vatican diplomat and an excellent one at that. He is NOT a politician priest nor a bureaucrat priest, however. He is at heart a parish priest serving the Holy Father in a diplomatic assignment. He treats priests the same way he treats bishops; with dignity and respect. When my mother met him last year, he was as gracious to her as if she were the Queen of England. A real priests' priest and a true son of the Church, we need more bishops and officials like Archbishop Sambi, to show what is really important. There are too many politician, business manager and bureaucrat priests who dilute doctrine and disregard discipline just to make people comfortable and so make themselves popular. The president of Notre Dame University pleased the crowd at graduation but he offended many alumni and scandalized the faithful around the nation and around the world.

Fathers Pavone, Corapi, Groeschel, Levis, et al. are not the most popular priests in the USA but they are some of the most faithful. When Father Zuhlsdorf or Father Finigan (in the UK) write their blogs, there are always some who disagree, but these priests do not seek fame, rather, they seek fidelity to the truth.

Priesthood is practiced in the parish but also in the classroom, seminary, office or battlefield. The good priests must be rooted in daily prayer and regular confession and direction, annual retreats, workshops and seminars. They must be loyal to the Magisterium and the Roman Pontiff even when unpopular or when politically precarious. The motive must be, as is stated in the last canon of the 1983 Code: (#1752)

SALUS ANIMARUM IN ECCLESIA SUPREMA LEX = the supreme law of the church is the salvation of souls

When the motive, however, is move up the ladder at all cost; do whatever has to be done to get ahead; the ends justifies the means, etc., then church life is no better or different than corporate America during this recent business scandal. Each priest must decide for himself HOW he will act and WHY. If it is to SERVE the Lord and His holy Church, then all he has to do is be FAITHFUL to what the Church teaches and how she prays. Sound doctrine and reverent, accurate liturgy is what the people need, want and expect. Nero sought to entertain the crowds in Rome and they turned on him first chance they got.  Jesus came and established a Church to teach the truth and to celebrate the divine mysteries of faith, properly.


Michael said...

As far as the entertainer priest, understand what the Catholic church is up against from other denominations and in the fallen world that seeks what they can get out of something and not what they can give. Catholic Mass is and has always been centered around worship and it always should.

Unfortunately, today's society is more interested about being entertained than worshiping God. So I think it is vital for all priests to give a moving homily and to incorporate some aspects of entertainment into the service. For example, my parish priest always tells a cute clean joke, usually at the end of Mass unless it is during Holy Week or on Holy days. This keeps people from leaving early and also popular with the men of the parish. We all know that we need more men in church.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Thank you Father!

At my old parish is one of those Politician priests. I pray for his conversion (as well as my own, as all of us are constantly in need of conversion)...Say the black do the red doesn't apply there.

Sandy said...

Amen, amen, Father!!!! I've met those in all your categories and all I want is reverence and holiness at Mass. I respectfully disagree with Michael about jokes. They make me cringe at Mass. I've been around long enough to have seen the "before and after" and I long for the reverent, other-worldly Masses of my youth.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Great post!

radio45 said...

We are all called to be ambassadors of Christ, but priests in a very special way. What does it mean to be an ambassador? Ambassadors should have the ability to be skillful and wise as they manage the affairs of state. So too priests must always see themselves as an emisary of Jesus, himself, to gather his sheep and lead them to Heaven.

As envoys of Heaven and Jesus, each priests is responsible for understanding how Jesus represented Heaven on earth. His example should be the standard. Jesus cared less about Roman law and more about the individual. He cared less about Rabiis and synagogues and more about the individuals in them. He cared less about the legalism and more about each person's personal relationship with God. He cared less about lecturing and more about teaching. But He cared the most about doing all things with love.

A priest has a duty to carefully and skillfully repesent the Kingdom to the lost and bring them to Christ. And he can do it in any way that is successful. If it brings the lost to salvation, it cannot be bad. Each priest has his own personality, and that personality will shape the priest and not the other way 'round. There are many personalities in the Church and we kid ourselves into thinking that if we create conservative priests like Ford creates cars, molding sheet metal from plans made from on high, we will fulfill the fundemental mission of the Church, to bring the lost to salvation.

Just as there are many ways to catch fish, so each pastor must use all the arrows in his quiver to reach the lost. If that be humour, great! If that be Life Teen, great! If that be "saying the black", wonderful! Just remember that all the lost won't be reached with one method, be it conservative or liberal. It will, however, be reached by keeping ever in the forefront that priests especially are called to be ambassadors of Christ, ordained to reach the lost, and help them attain a better understand of God and his plan of salvation.

Ian Paisley, Presbyterian minister of Ulster and profound critic of the Roman Church, would not make a very good ambassador to the Vatican. In turn priests should be less like Ian Paisley and more like Christ as they go out and represent the Church in the world.

Notting Hill said...

Amen, Padre! Thank you for your life of holy service. And, as G.K. Chesterton would point out, there is nothing more lively than authentic godliness! It is the spirit of the age which is so quickly out-of-date....

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