Year of the Priest 2009–2010: February 2010 Archives

Domus mea domus orationis vocabitur

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A Resolution

I apologize to you, dear readers, for my absence from Vultus Christi over the past few weeks. The task of settling into the new house and the duties of hospitality that, almost immediately, presented themselves, made it difficult to find time to write daily. One of my Lenten resolutions is to be more faithful to writing on Vultus Christi and this in obedience, not only to the Holy Father's desire that priests make good use of the apostolic opportunities offered by the internet, but also in obedience to my own bishop, who believes it important that I continue writing daily.

Visitors from Florida

The petite chronique of the last two months includes the visit of Father Jordi, Lourdes, and Tessie from Miami, Florida, as well as that of Mary from Iowa. Father Jordi and Lourdes, founders of the Community of Love Crucified in Miami, met with the Spiritual Mothers of Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa and also addressed priests of the diocese of Tulsa on January 14th. Tessie and Mary offered support in prayer. Father Jordi stayed here at the monastery, while Tulsa's Spiritual Mothers of Priests, Sheila and Kate, offered hospitality to the ladies. Heartfelt thanks to all.

January Day of Recollection for Priests

The January Day of Recollection for the Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa was abundantly blessed. Father Jordi's message, and the challenging conference given by Lourdes, touched many priestly hearts.

Retreatants

Shortly thereafter, Father Rick Jones of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri arrived to spend several days in prayer, and on February 2nd, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, a young Nebraskan, who graduated in 2009 from the University of Tulsa, began an extended period of observership in order to discern a vocation to this particular expression of Benedictine-Eucharistic life.

NAC Seminarian Sean Donovan, currently serving a pastoral year at Tulsa's Church of the Madalene, shared our life for a full week of retreat. Immediately after Sean's retreat, Father Gerard Dewan of the Diocese of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan arrived from Canada to begin his retreat.

February Day of Recollection for Priests

Last, but by no means least, we welcomed Father Basil Cole, O.P., of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., to address the priests of the Diocese of Tulsa for their monthly Day of Recollection on February 18th. Father Basil is the author of The Hidden Enemies of the Priesthood, The Contributions of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Father's stay was all too brief. Apart from his brilliant conferences, I especially enjoyed his contributions in choir, at table, and at recreation.

Et Haec Tua Dona

During all this time of comings and goings, Spiritual Mothers of Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa supplied us with a splendid variety of tasty casseroles, breads, salads, and soups. Thank you to each one. May the King of glory make us all partakers of the heavenly table.

Lenten Horarium

Some readers and friends asked what the Lenten Horarium is at 1132 East 21st Street in Tulsa. Here it is. You are welcome to join us for prayer.

HORARIUM FOR LENT 2010

4:45 a.m. Rise
5:15 Matins, Angelus

Lectio Divina

7:30 Lauds
Chapter

9:30 Tierce and Holy Mass
Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

12:30 p.m. Sext, Rosary, Angelus
1:00 Dinner / Kitchen duties
2:00 Rest

3:00 None

5:00 Vespers
Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

6:45 Supper / Kitchen duties
7:45 Compline Reading
8:00 Compline, Angelus


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The Holy Father's homily for Vespers on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is, as are all his homilies, a model of liturgical preaching. At the core of the Holy Father's message is the mystery of Christ, the Eternal High Priest. Consecrated men and women, be they hidden in the cloister, or engaged in the Church's mission to the world, are associated to the priestly mediatorship of the Lord Jesus and called, at every moment, to remain close to Him, at "the throne of grace."

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a celebration of a mystery of the life of Christ, linked to the precept of the Mosaic law that prescribed for parents, 40 days after the birth of their first-born, to go to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer their son to the Lord and for the ritual purification of the mother (cf Exodus 13:1-2.11-16; Leviticus 12:1-8).

The Only-Begotten Son Presented to Men

Mary and Joseph also fulfilled this rite, offering -- according to the law -- a couple of turtle doves or pigeons. Reading things in greater depth, we understand that at that moment it was God himself who presented his Only-begotten Son to men, through the words of the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Simeon, in fact, proclaimed Jesus as "salvation" of humanity, as "light" of all nations and "sign of contradiction," because he would reveal the thoughts of hearts (cf Luke 2:29-35).

The Feast of Meeting

In the East this feast was called Hypapante, feast of meeting: In fact, Simeon and Anna, who met Jesus in the Temple and recognized in him the Messiah so awaited, represent humanity that meets its Lord in the Church. Subsequently, this feast spread also to the West, developing above all the symbol of light, and the procession with candles, which gave origin to the term "Candlemas." With this visible sign one wishes to signify that the Church meets in faith him who is "the light of men" and receives him with all the impulse of her faith to take this "light" to the world.

A Life of Oblation

In concomitance with this liturgical feast, Venerable John Paul II, beginning in 1997, wished that the whole Church should celebrate a special Day of Consecrated Life. In fact, the oblation of the Son of God -- symbolized by his presentation in the Temple -- is the model for every man and woman that consecrates all his or her life to the Lord.

The purpose of this day is threefold: first of all to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of consecrated life; in the second place, to promote the knowledge and appreciation by all the People of God; finally, to invite all those who have fully dedicated their life to the cause of the Gospel to celebrate the marvels that the Lord has operated in them.

In thanking you for having gathered in such numbers, on this day dedicated particularly to you, I wish to greet each one of you with great affection: men and women religious and consecrated persons, expressing to you my cordial closeness and heartfelt appreciation for the good you do in the service of the People of God.

Christ the High Priest

The brief reading, which was just proclaimed, treats of the Letter to the Hebrews, which brings together well the motives that were at the origin of this significant and beautiful event and offers us some ideas for reflection. This text -- which has two verses, but very charged with significance -- opens the second part of the Letter to the Hebrews, introducing the central theme of Christ the high priest.

The Priestly Mediatorship of Christ

One should really consider as well the immediately preceding verse, which says: "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Hebrews 4:14). This verse shows Jesus who ascends to the Father; while the subsequent one presents him descending toward men. Christ is presented as the Mediator: He is true God and true man -- that is why he really belongs to the divine and to the human world.

In reality, it is properly and only from this faith, from this profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the only and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life has meaning in the Church, a life consecrated to God through Christ. It has meaning only if he is truly Mediator between God and us, otherwise it would only be a form of sublimation or evasion.

The Consecrated Person: A Bridge

If Christ was not truly God, and was not, at the same time, fully man, the foundation of Christian life as such would come to naught, and in an altogether particular way, the foundation of every Christian consecration of man and woman would come to naught. Consecrated life, in fact, witnesses and expresses in a "powerful" way the reciprocal seeking of God and man, the love that attracts them to one another. The consecrated person, by the very fact of his or her being, represents something like a "bridge" to God for all those he or she meets -- a call, a return. And all this by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Father's Consecrated One. He is the foundation! He who shared our frailty so that we could participate in his divine nature.

Our text insists on more than on faith, but rather on "trust" with which we can approach the "throne of grace," from the moment that our high priest was himself "put to the test in everything like us." We can approach to "receive mercy," "find grace," and "to be helped in the opportune moment." It seems to me that these words contain a great truth and also a great comfort for us who have received the gift and commitment of a special consecration in the Church.

A Love So Great and Beautiful

I am thinking in particular of you, dear sisters and brothers. You approached with full trust the "throne of grace" that is Christ, his Cross, his Heart, to his divine presence in the Eucharist. Each one of you has approached him as the source of pure and faithful love, a love so great and beautiful as to merit all, in fact, more than our all, because a whole life is not enough to return what Christ is and what he has done for us. But you approached him, and every day you approach him, also to be helped in the opportune moment and in the hour of trial.

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I am inserting at this point the image of an heroic French woman, religious, and mystic: Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus (1901-1951). Yesterday, February 3rd, was, in fact, the anniversary of her death, her dies natalis. Like Saint Faustina in Poland, Mother Yvonne-Aimée was an extraordinary witnesse to the mercy of the Lord in the Church of the last century. She is, for all consecrated men and women, a model of burning love for Christ, humility in moments of misunderstanding and persecution, and greathearted hospitality. Among her many charisms -- almost too many to be catalogued -- Mother Yvonne-Aimée exercised a spiritual motherhood in favour of the souls of priests. This aspect of her rich life is abundantly documented in a book by her spiritual son, Father Paul Labutte, Yvonne-Aimée, ma mère selon l'Esprit. Personally, I have received many graces through the intercession and supernatural friendship of Mother Yvonne-Aimée. Her "little invocation," O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy merciful goodness, has been for countless souls a means of inner healing and growth in holiness.

Witnesses of the Mercy of the Lord

Consecrated persons are called in a particular way to be witnesses of this mercy of the Lord, in which man finds his salvation. They have the vivid experience of God's forgiveness, because they have the awareness of being saved persons, of being great when they recognize themselves to be small, of feeling renewed and enveloped by the holiness of God when they recognize their own sin. Because of this, also for the man of today, consecrated life remains a privileged school of "compunction of heart," of the humble recognition of one's misery but, likewise, it remains a school of trust in the mercy of God, in his love that never abandons. In reality, the closer we come to God, and the closer one is to him, the more useful one is to others. Consecrated persons experience the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God not only for themselves, but also for their brothers, being called to carry in their heart and prayer the anxieties and expectations of men, especially of those who are far from God.

The Cloister and the Cross

In particular, communities that live in cloister, with their specific commitment of fidelity in "being with the Lord," in "being under the cross," often carry out this vicarious role, united to Christ of the Passion, taking on themselves the sufferings and trials of others and offering everything with joy for the salvation of the world.

At the Throne of Grace

Finally, dear friends, we wish to raise to the Lord a hymn of thanksgiving and praise for consecrated life itself. If it did not exist, how much poorer the world would be! Beyond the superficial valuations of functionality, consecrated life is important precisely for its being a sign of gratuitousness and of love, and this all the more so in a society that risks being suffocated in the vortex of the ephemeral and the useful (cf Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Consecrated Life, 105). Consecrated life, instead, witnesses to the superabundance of the Lord's love, who first "lost" his life for us. At this moment I am thinking of the consecrated persons who feel the weight of the daily effort lacking in human gratification, I am thinking of elderly men and women religious, the sick, of all those who feel difficulties in their apostolate. Not one of these is futile, because the Lord associates them to the "throne of grace." Instead, they are a precious gift for the Church and the world, thirsty for God and his Word.

The Year for Priests

Full of trust and gratitude, let us then also renew the gesture of the total offering of ourselves, presenting ourselves in the Temple. May the Year for Priests be a further occasion, for priests religious to intensify the journey of sanctification, and for all consecrated men and women, a stimulus to support and sustain their ministry with fervent prayer.

This year of grace will have a culminating moment in Rome, next June, in the international meeting of priests, to which I invite all those who exercise the Sacred Ministry. We approach the thrice Holy to offer our life and our mission, personal and community, of men and women consecrated to the Kingdom of God.

In the School of Mary

Let us carry out this interior gesture in profound spiritual communion with the Virgin Mary: while contemplating her in the act of presenting the Child Jesus in the Temple, we venerate her as the first and perfect consecrated one, carried by that God she carries in her arms; Virgin, poor and obedient, totally dedicated to us because totally of God. In her school, and with her maternal help, we renew our "here I am" and our "fiat." Amen.

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This morning His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the bishops of England and Wales on the occasion of their ad limina visit. His message was "gentlemanly" and firm. I was particularly moved by the connections he highlighted between the witness of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman and the Year for Priests. I pray that the Holy Father's request, that their Lordships implement Anglicanorum Coetibus by extending a warm and open-hearted welcome to those Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, fall into fertile soil. "Such groups," said the Holy Father, "will be a blessing for the whole Church."


From the Holy Father's Address to the Bishops of England and Wales


Much attention has rightly been given to Newman's scholarship and to his extensive writings, but it is important to remember that he saw himself first and foremost as a priest. In this Annus Sacerdotalis [Year for Priests], I urge you to hold up to your priests his example of dedication to prayer, pastoral sensitivity towards the needs of his flock, and passion for preaching the Gospel.

You yourselves should set a similar example. Be close to your priests, and rekindle their sense of the enormous privilege and joy of standing among the people of God as alter Christus. In Newman's words, "Christ's priests have no priesthood but His ... what they do, He does; when they baptize, He is baptizing; when they bless, He is blessing" (Parochial and Plain Sermons, VI 242).

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Indeed, since the priest plays an irreplaceable role in the life of the Church, spare no effort in encouraging priestly vocations and emphasizing to the faithful the true meaning and necessity of the priesthood. Encourage the lay faithful to express their appreciation of the priests who serve them, and to recognize the difficulties they sometimes face on account of their declining numbers and increasing pressures. The support and understanding of the faithful is particularly necessary when parishes have to be merged or Mass times adjusted. Help them to avoid any temptation to view the clergy as mere functionaries but rather to rejoice in the gift of priestly ministry, a gift that can never be taken for granted.
Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue assume great importance in England and Wales, given the varied demographic profile of the population. As well as encouraging you in your important work in these areas, I would ask you to be generous in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, so as to assist those groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. I am convinced that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing for the entire Church.

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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