"Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. ... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is".
That eloquent quote from Saint John Vianney was part of Pope Benedict XVI's letter as he officially inaugurated the Year for Priests today (June 19th, 2009) which is also the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From now until June 19, 2010, the universal church will be praying for and will be meditating upon the mystery of the priesthood. Just as we end the Year of Saint Paul we now enter the Year for Priests. No coincidence, either, since Saint Paul is the one who wrote beautifully on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ in his epistle to the Hebrews, chapter seven.
The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy inaugurated its revised and revamped web page today to coincide with the papal proclamation. Back in May on the birthday of St. John Vianney, we announced the historic joint meeting of both the American and the Australian CCC at Rome on January 4th - 8th, 2010. (www.yearforpriests-clergyconferencerome2010.org)
Today, more than ever before, priests NEED prayers and we need TO PRAY. We need the prayers of our people and of our brother priests and our brother deacons. We need to pray for ourselves individually but also as a whole that we all do and be better priests. Before ordination, it is so crucial that proper formation be given in the seminaries. Those seminaries which have not fulfilled their sacred obligation to teach orthodox doctrine as given by the Magisterium should be closed immediately, padlocked and never opened again. Those seminaries where heterodoxy proliferated the classroom and/or sexual misbehavior permeated the living quarters need to be closed A.S.A.P. The good seminaries which by the way are flourishing, where sound doctrine and proper moral bahvior are promoted and anything less not tolerated, need our support. Places like Mount Saint Mary's in Emmitburg, MD (just one hour from me) is but one of several which our nation can be proud of to be sure. The recent Vatican report on Seminaries was precise. There are good seminaries and there are bad ones; exceptionally good and particularly bad. Most have improved since the aftermath of the clergy sex scandal. Unforntunately, there are still some walking time-bombs where ill trained clergy are giving sermons and spiritual advice to others.
ONGOING FORMATION of the clergy is as important as seminary formation. Sadly, too many good priests become 'too busy' to spend one afternoon in prayer with a few of their ordained brethren. Canon Law mandates an annual retreat and guarantees every priest a day off and an annual vacation. Vatican II and the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, however, STRONGLY URGE and EXHORT priests and deacons to foster ongoing spiritual, theological and pastoral formation in a fraternal setting. Therefore, in addition to daily prayer and regular confession, priests NEED what their people need, spiritual nourishment. Attending seminars, workshops, conferences, etc., are not luxuries but necessities for ALL members of the clergy (deacon, priest and bishop). Spiritual direction was mandatory in the seminary but it is even more beneficial to those in parish or diocesan or chaplain ministries. Only one hour a month is not too much to ask. If a priest had a toothache, does he not make time to see the dentist? Then why not make time for monthly or at least bi-monthly spiritual direction? The CCC local chapters have an afternoon of recollection (2-4 pm) with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, Vespers, Rosary, spiritual conference and time for confession. Those of us who attend still find time to visit the sick, go to the hospitals, nursing homes, schools, shut-ins, attend parush council and finance committee meetings, work on budgets and all kinds of managerial tasks PLUS spend time giving pre-Cana, marriage counseling, RCIA, CCD, et al. It is NOT a question of EITHER/OR, rather as Pope Benedict often says, it is BOTH/AND.
Young clergy, middle aged and more mature clergy need each other, need prayers for each other and need to pray with each other. Often, priests do not feel welcome in their diocese maybe because their families are in other towns if not other dioceses. Sometimes, there are cliques and factions, like the liberals vs. conservatives; ordinary vs. extraorindary; progressive vs. traditional; et al. The usual sycophants are present in every diocese and religious community, you know, the 'yes men' who shmooze the bishop or superior by spying and ratting on his brothers or who plot and scheme to discredit their perceived competition in their ambitious climb up the ecclesiastical ladder. They get good assignments and are on every board and committee and their advice is taken and sought by the bishop. In former times, these guys got all the accolades, were made Monsignors and became pastors of the most coveted parishes.
Then we have Saint John Vianney who barely got out of the seminary and was sent to the worst parish in France. His brother priests even signed a petition that the bishop not assign him to Ars due to his lack of qualifications. They mistakenly left it at his rectory thinking he was somene else. He signed the note, too, for he felt unworthy of his calling. HUMILITY was his middle name and his love and REVERENCE for the Mass the center of his heart. He sat in he confessional for hours hearing confessions while some of his contemporaries today spend more time fundraising and attending business meetings. John Vianney transformed not just his parish but his entire diocese just BEING a good priest and not only in DOING priestly things.
Having and cultivating good priest friends is as important as ongoing formation. While most of us live alone, we need not be lonely if we have good friends, clergy and laity alike. When I was growing up, the pastor, usually a Monsignor, was like God to us, especially if you were an altar boy. No one ever complained to him after Mass and neither did they call the office or send hate mail. Despite his idiosyncrasies, he was loved, respected and obeyed. Unfortunately, some took advantage of that trust and betrayed their people by misbehavior. We went from the pedestal to the toilet bowl overnight. Sure, no priest is perfect and none of us is the Messiah. But nowadays, every Tom, Dick and Harry who have a grudge or attitude now have a chip on their shoulder and insist on insulting the priest. Of course, there are the priests who bring this upon themselves when they proliferate liturgical abuses or preach heresy. But when you uphold canon law or defend the Catechism, you get the same animosity as if you were denying them air to breathe.
Nevertheless, we still love being priests and love doing priestly things. Offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the zenith of the day no matter what else we do that day. When we priests celebrate Mass PROPERLY and PRAYERFULLY, it helps us and the people more than anyone can imagine. REVERENCE goes a long way and rushing through any sacrament is not only irreverent it is also unfair to the people who deserve better from us. Parishes where the Tabernacles have been moved to the center of the sanctuary can attest to an increase of vocations, Eucharistic piety, and overall greater piety in the people. The extra time and attention we give the celebration of the sacraments is an investment of time and effort well spent. Being 'in a hurry' because we are 'too busy' is a cop-out, a lie and is inexcusable. No surgeon would rush an operation to keep to his schedule and neither should any priest ever rush through the sacraments just to make meetings or other type of mundane tasks.
In this YEAR FOR PRIESTS, please pray for priests and encourage them to support one another. Mention the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Give a word of appreciation to your pastor or even write a note of thanks to your bishop for sending you your priest. 99% of the correspondence the local bishop gets is negative on any priest, only because the squeaky wheel likes to be heard. What if the satisfied parishioners wrote once in while, too? Not when Father is being transferred but just because he is doing a good job.
Plenary Indulgence Offered for Year for Priests
Jubilee Marks 150 Years Since Death of Curé de Ars
VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican is offering a plenary indulgence for all faithful on the occasion of the Year for Priests, which is set to begin June 19 and last one year.
The decree was made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
The Year for Priests marks the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, also knows as the Curé de Ars.
The decree noted that Benedict XVI will preside at the opening liturgy June 19, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, "a day of priestly sanctification." He will celebrate vespers before the relics of the saint, brought to Rome for the occasion by the bishop of the French Diocese of Belley-Ars.
The Year will end in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of priests from all over the world "who will renew their faithfulness to Christ and their bonds of fraternity."
For priests, the plenary indulgence can be gained by praying lauds or vespers before the Blessed Sacrament exposed to public adoration or in the tabernacle. They must also "offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially the sacrament of penance."
The plenary indulgence, which under current norms must be accompanied by sacramental confession, the Eucharist and praying for the intentions of the Pope, can also by applied to deceased priests.
Priests are granted a partial indulgence, also applicable to deceased priests, every time they "devotedly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and to carry out the duties entrusted to them."
For the faithful, a plenary indulgence can be obtained on the opening and closing days of the Year for Priests, on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, 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.
To obtain the indulgence the faithful must attend Mass in an oratory or Church and offer prayers to "Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to his heart."
The conditions for the faithful for earning a plenary indulgence are to have gone to confession and prayed for the intentions of the Pope.
The elderly, the sick, and all those who for any legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes may obtain the plenary indulgence if, with the intention of observing the usual three conditions as soon as they can, "on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles."
A partial indulgence is offered to the faithful when they repeat five times the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, or any other duly approved prayer "in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life."
courtesy of zenit.org