Monday, January 11, 2010

YEAR FOR PRIESTS international clergy conference a COMPLETE SUCCESS

The first and historic joint meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (of America) and the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy took place last week (January 4th - 8th, in the Year of Our Lord, 2010) in Rome. This was the very first time an international clergy conference was convened for priests and deacons of English speaking countries. Not only did the CCC and ACCC get together, but another confraternity was officially inaugurated for the whole of Ireland, Scotland & Great Britain.

Over 80 clerics attended the gathering held in the Vatican at Domus Sanctae Marthae (the residence of the Cardinals during a papal conclave). Speakers included Msgr. Guido Marini (Papal Master of Ceremonies), Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, CO (Congregation of Divine Worship), Fr. Timothy Finigan (Hermeneutic of Continuity Blogger), Fr. Paul Murray, OP (Professor at the Angelicum), Fr. Robert Dodaro, OSA (Professor at the Augustinianum), Fr. Joseph Carola, SJ (Professor from the Gregorianum), Msgr. Hans Feichtinger (CDF, aka the Holy Office), Fr. Paul Gunter, OSB (Professor at San Anselmo).

Each day we were blessed with magnificent music and singing from the Lassus Scholars who performed Palestrina, Mozart, Haydn, et al. for Solemn Vespers and for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (both Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite). Main Celebrants and Preachers included their Eminences Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Antonio Cardinal CaƱizares Llovera; their Graces Archbishop Joseph Augustus Di Noia, OP and Archbishop Raymond Burke. These took place at the Vatican (St. Peter's Basilica), Basilica of St. John Lateran, and at Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Father John Walshe (Chairman of the ACCC) and myself (President of the CCC) were extremely pleased at the turnout from clergy of the Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Switzerland. The sacerdotal fraternity was infectious. We laughed together and prayed together. We listened to excellent speakers talk on matters of divine worship and priestly spirituality. We discussed ways to promote ongoing spiritual, theological, pastoral and human formation among ourselves as Catholic Clergy.

We simultaneously renewed our consecration of our priesthood to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Queen of the Clergy and Mother of Priests. We pledged our unconditional loyalty and obedience to the Magisterium and the Roman Pontiff. We promised to pray for each other and to support one another as brothers in Holy Orders.

Two Australian Bishops came along as participants as they had been priest members of the ACCC before being consecrated to the episcopacy. Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett and Bishop Luc Matthys joined us for meals, conference talks, prayers, etc., and were most edifying and inspiring in their priestly zeal for their ordained brethren.

Fr. Mark Withoos with the assistance of Fr. Glen Tattersall coordinated the event, planned the divine liturgies, and put up with a bunch of clerics all week (fate worse than death). Despite that, they never lost their cool or demeanor. Both men handled obstacles, surprises, mishaps and human errors with great dignity. Triple tips of the biretta to Fr. Withoos for getting the Cardinals, Basilicas, and the Vatican to accommodate our international clergy conference.

We voted unanimously to return to the Eternal City every five years (a priestly version of the episcopal quinquennial) as an international gathering of English speaking clergy (priests, deacons and bishops) while still maintaining our annual national gatherings in the years between.

Msgr. Guido Marini got the loudest and longest standing ovation of all our speakers. They were ALL magnificent, erudite and very orthodox. But the Papal Master of Ceremonies hit a Grand Slam home-run with his talk on the the reform of the reform. Six candles and an altar crucifix are not distractions but means to enhance focus on the DIVINE rather than the mundane. Banal and pedestrian melodrama often seen in modern parishes was nowhere to be found this past week.

The esprit de corps of our group truly reflected the ethos of the YEAR FOR PRIESTS. Just being in the Pope's backyard, so to speak, made it a most memorable and cherished experience for all of us who attended. Being at the Vatican, seeing the Holy Father (we attended the Papal Mass for Epiphany at Saint Peter's), visiting the other historic churches in Rome, listening to sound speakers, having delicious Italian meals, etc., made this week special to be sure, but it was the priests and deacons themselves that made it a joy. Fr Ken Brighenti (Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD) and I left rejuvenated, renewed and refreshed. Fraternal support and ongoing formation, especially spiritual direction, confession and theological study are absolutely indispensable to priests and deacons today and tomorrow. The ACCC and the CCC exist for one purpose, to support the ordained clergy. Seeing that what most of us already do in our respective parishes and oratories coincides with papal procedures (six candles and a standing crucifix on the altar), then we know we are in VERY GOOD COMPANY. Venerable Pope John Paul the Great and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI are more than heroes to us, they are full, supreme, universal and immediate leaders who shepherd the flock and who deserve our unconditional support and obedience. It was like a SUMMIT MEETING of orthodox and traditional clergy who have come in from the 'Cold War' and are ready and willing to defend Holy Mother Church, both in good times and in bad.

The location, the talks, the food, the music, the accommodations, the weather, the camaraderie, were exceptional and I HIGHLY encourage my brother priests and deacons to seriously plan on coming to Rome in 2015 for our second international clergy conference. Just listening to the various American, Australian, Irish, Scottish and British accents made the week fun and proved our countries are only divided by one language. One Aussie quipped that it was equivalent to a Clerical WYD but in cassocks and lace surplice. An American said it was like a high church B16-alooza, with all the substance and accidents; with full plumage and ceremony. Catholicism at it's best, from orthodox teachings to sublime liturgies; from full reverence to utter elegance and beauty.

Aside from the quinquennial international conferences and the annual national gatherings, the CCC also encourages MONTHLY local meetings where priests and deacons can gather for an afternoon of prayer, study and fraternity. We just started one at Mount St. Mary Seminary (Emmitsburg, MD) on the last Wednesday of the month. The Los Angeles chapter has been consistently meeting for decades. Others can be found around the nation and new ones can be started tomorrow. No matter if it is only TWO guys, it is important to foster ongoing formation and to give fraternal support to each other.

P.S. the food was, obviously, equally superb and most of us are now in pasta withdrawal and in need of a passiagato.


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