Priesthood: April 2008 Archives

Focusing On That Face

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I am overwhelmed by this letter from the Congregation for the Clergy. It expresses all that I have tried to say on Vultus Christi and elsewhere. The subtitles in boldprint are my own. I will be returning to the text of the letter in order to meditate its content. I took the photo of the Altar of the Holy Face in Saint Patrick's Cathedral, New York City.

Vatican City, April 22, 2008
Here is the message published by the Congregation for Clergy for the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. The day will be celebrated May 30, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Reverend and dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

Focusing On That Face

On the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus let us fix the eyes of our minds and hearts with a constant loving gaze on Christ, the one Savior of our lives and of the world. Focusing on Christ means focusing on that Face which every human being, consciously or not, seeks as a satisfying response to his own insuppressible thirst for happiness.

Hearts Wounded By His Love

We have encountered this Face and on that day, at that moment, his Love so deeply wounded our hearts that we could no longer refrain from asking ceaselessly to be in his Presence. "In the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch" (Psalm 5).

Healed By His Flesh

The Sacred Liturgy leads us once again to contemplate the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, the origin and intimate reality of this company which is the Church: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob revealed himself in Jesus Christ. "No one could see his Glory unless first healed by the humility of his flesh.... By dust you were blinded, and by dust you are healed: flesh, then, had wounded you, flesh heals you" (St. Augustine, Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Homily, 2, 16).

Mercy That Embraces Our Limitations

Only by looking again at the perfect and fascinating humanity of Jesus Christ -- alive and active now -- who revealed himself to us and still today bends down to each one of us with his special love of total predilection, can we can let him illumine and fill the abyss of need which is our humanity, certain of Hope encountered and sure of Mercy that embraces our limitations and teaches us to forgive what we ourselves do not even manage to discern. "Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts" (Psalm 42[41]).

Immersing Ourselves in Prayer

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Last evening, in speaking to the bishops of the Church in the United States, the Holy Father called "the imitation of Christ in holiness of life" exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. Concretely, what does this mean? "Cultivating the virtues," responds the Holy Father, "and immersing ourselves in prayer. Here are his words:

Holiness of Life

Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.

Eucharistic Adoration

Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon us from every side. Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the Eucharistic celebration (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 66).

Rosary and Liturgy of the Hours

Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15). Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that the whole of our day is sanctified and it continually reminds us of the need to remain focused on doing God's work, however many pressures and distractions may arise from the task at hand.

The Gifts We Need

Thus our devotion helps us to speak and act in persona Christi, to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful in the name of Jesus, to bring his reconciliation, his healing and his love to all his beloved brothers and sisters. This radical configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd, lies at the heart of our pastoral ministry, and if we open ourselves through prayer to the power of the Spirit, he will give us the gifts we need to carry out our daunting task, so that we need never "be anxious how to speak or what to say" (Mt 10:19).

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Solemnity of the Sacred Heart

Friday, May 30, 2008, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will be the Seventh Annual World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. Pope John Paul II established the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests in 2002 and decreed that it should be observed every year on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.

Prayer Over Action

According to the Zenit news services, the April 12, 2008 Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano contained a message to the priests of the world signed by Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza of the Congregation for the Clergy. The message invites priests to give priority to "prayer over action." It calls daily celebration of Holy Mass and Eucharistic adoration the very breath and light of priestly life.

Your Response

How will your diocese, your parish, or your community observe the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests? What are you going to do? I invite the readers of Vultus Christi to leave comments sharing their initiatives and plans.

Living the "Totus Tuus"

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Totus tuus ego sum
et omnia mea Tua sunt.
Accipio te in mea omnia.
Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria.

I am all thine,
and all that I have is thine.
I receive thee into everything that is mine.
Give me thy Heart, O Mary.

About a fortnight ago, a bishop whom I hold in the highest esteem gave me a copy of Monsignor Stephen Rossetti's book, Behold Your Mother, Priests Speak About Mary. The book contains the witnesses of ten priests on the presence and grace of the Blessed Virgin Mary in their lives. Monsignor Rossetti introduces and concludes the book. While I found something worth pondering in every chapter, I was most deeply moved by the one written by Monsignor Rossetti himself. He entitled it, "She Will Crush His Head." Here are few excerpts from it:

On Spiritual Combat

"The battleground of the spirit is very real in all Christians: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mt 26:41). But I believe that the spiritual battle is particularly important and waged with a special intensity in our priests. They are configured to Christ in a most unique way, and they are directly engaged in Jesus' mission and ministry."

Casting Out Evil

"It is no accident that prayers for casting out evil, including those in Church exorcisms, often mention the Virgin Mary and Michael the Archangel, and invoke Mary's intercession with her Divine Son. The former priest-exorcist of Rome wrote: 'The power of the Rosary and devotion to the Virgin Mary [in casting out evil] are well documented."

Our Lady and Saint Michael

"It is important for us priests, who are so accustomed to helping others, to have the humility to ask for and to let ourselves receive help from others. A confessor and a spiritual director are important guides along the spiritual path. At times, a professional counselor or therapist may be needed when a difficult personal problem surfaces. And we perpetually and universally depend upon the maternal protection of Our Lady and St. Michael in our unseen struggle to walk in the way of goodness."

Visits

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This is the image of Saint Tarcisius that I brought back with from the catacombs of San Sebastiano in Rome. Back in the 1950s and early 60s, Saint Tarcisius was presented to Catholic schoolboys as a model of courageous love for the Blessed Sacrament.

Making A Visit

Terry had an excellent post recently in which in talked about something distinctively Catholic: "making a visit." Just a few generations ago this expression was current in Catholic culture. When, in passing in front of a church, one would say, "Let's make a visit," it was understood that one was proposing a visit to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Walking Downtown

As a little boy I would sometimes walk "downtown" with my (Irish) grandmother. Halfway there we would come to Saint Patrick's Church on Grand Avenue. Grandma would say, "Let's make a visit," and in we would go. On hot summer days the church was a dark, cool place. A red sanctuary lamped burned near the altar. We knew that Jesus was there. There was comfort in visiting Him in His house. Sometimes we would light a candle. After a few moments in prayer we would resume our walk. This was the kind of experience that marks a child for life.

After School

It was not uncommon for children to visit the Blessed Sacrament after school. Yes, it is true that the teaching Sisters encouraged visits, but it was something that children did freely. In the context of a family neighbourhood where nearly everyone walked to the bank, the Post Office, and the market, visits to the Blessed Sacrament were simply part of the fabric of Catholic life. Rarely were our neighbourhood churches empty. Nearly always there was someone kneeling in prayer, lighting candles, stopping at Our Lady's altar, or making the Way of the Cross. Then came the so-called "urban renewal," the destruction of so many family neighbourhoods, and the so-called "post-conciliar renewal," of which enough has been said elsewhere in the blogosphere.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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