Saturday, 18 July 2009

Pope's Letter to Priests

The purpose of declaring the Year for Priests is to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world.

Priesthood is God's gift and not anyone's right.

The priest's identity becomes most clear when he is celebrating the Eucharist. St John Mary Vianney: "My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!"

The pope praises the courageous fidelity and devotion to pastoral duties of many priests. He thinks especially of those who are offended in their dignity, obstructed in their mission and persecuted, even to the point of death. With much sorrow he also laments and deplores situations in which the Church herself suffers becasue of the infidelity of some of her ministers.

The priest is not a priest for himself, but for the people of God. St John Mary Vianney, as soon as he arrived in his parish, went straight to the church and spent the whole day in prayer: "Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life." The parish priest regularly visits the sick, the bedridden, and the families in his parish; he organizes popular missions, collects and manages funds with transparency in order to support charitable and missionary works, care of orphans, etc.

The priest knows that he and his people make up 'one priestly people', and so works in cooperation with his people.

He makes himself available for the sacrament of reconciliation. St John Mary Vianney did not wait for people to come to him for the sacrament. "It is not the sinner who returns to God to beg his forgiveness, but God himself who runs after the sinner and makes him return to him."

The concrete example of a witnessing life is the key to successful ministry. Example is more effective than preaching. The vows (celibacy, poverty, obedience) are necessary for all priests, religious and diocesan.

And Mary has a very important place in the life of a priest. "After giving us all, Jesus gave us his most precious possession, his Blessed Mother," St John Mary Vianney used to say.

Abp. Felix requests all the faithful to pray for priests, especially during the family rosary. He is organizing a Day of Prayer for Priests on 4 August 2009, at Abp. House, 1000 to 1600 hrs. He has given a prayer to be recited after Mass and on other occasions:
Keep them, I pray Thee, dearest Lord,
keep them, for they are Thine -
Thy priests whose lives burn out
before Thy consecrated shrine.

Keep them, for they are in the world,
though from the world apart;
when earthly pleasures tempt, allure -
shelter them in Thy heart.

Keep them, and comfort them
in hours of loneliness and pain,
when all their lives of sacrifice
for souls seem but in vain.

Keep them, and O remember, Lord,
they have no one but Thee,
yet they have only human hearts,
with human frailty.

Keep them as spotless as the Host,
that daily they caress;
their every thought and word and deed,
Deign, dearest Lord, to bless. Amen.

(Imprimatur: D. Cardinal Dougherty)

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