Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's the best part of being a priest?

I was at lunch with two young laymen today and one of them asked me this question. Of course my initial reaction was to say that the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highlight of my day. And so it is. But from the point of view of personal satisfaction, i suppose you'd call it, I had to say that hearing confessions is both the most challenging and rewarding part of my ministry.

I have had the privilege of really encountering Jesus christ through the ministry of a priest in the confessional and from that liberating experience my passion for the priesthood arose. I have often said that my call to the priesthood was, in a sense, born in the confessional. I so wanted others to experience the liberty and joy I had been granted in this great sacrament.

Of course it is only one of many things that make the priesthood so fulfilling for me - though of course there are days when things aren't always easy.

Still, Cross and all, I love being a priest!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pope Benedict's Letter to Seminarians

Our great Holy Father has issued a letter to all Seminarians. Hopefully they will all read it - and hopefully all those of you who are considering the path to priesthood will also get something from what he has written. It is a short but wonderful gem of a letter. Thank you Holy Father - may the Lord keep you safe and healthy for many years to come!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Is God calling me to the Priesthood?


well hopefully!

The very fact that you might be asking yourself that question means that it is a distinct possibility.
So what's your next move? (in no particular order)
  1. Talk to a priest you know and trust about it. (His perspective might just help you in the discernment process.)
  2. Pray the Rosary every day. (No one understands discerning God's call better than our Blessed Mother.)
  3. Try to attend Mass daily if at all possible. (The priesthood is primarily about the Eucharist and so it is at the Mass that your call will be clarified.)
  4. Try to spend some time each week in Eucharistic Adoration (for the same reason as point 3)
  5. Do not be afraid to step out in faith - if you wait until you are absolutely certain that you are called, then you never will make it as far as seminary.
  6. Do not expect a visit from Our Lady or the Lord telling you clearly and unambiguously that you are meant to be a priest.
  7. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you're not holy enough (it's the priesthood of Jesus Christ - who could be holy enough for that!!)
  8. Just do it!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Heart of St. John Marie Vianney

I'm just back from a wonderful one day pilgrimage to Knock Shrine where the relic of the Cure of Ars (his heart) was present for the day for public veneration.

Today was day 3 of a four day pilgrimage of this relic to Ireland. The relic arrived at 12 noon and prayers and veneration went on until 2.30pm. Then at 3pm in the Basilica Mass began. The Celebrant of the Mass was Bishop Philip Boyce of the Diocese of Raphoe (a Carmelite) and he was assisted by the Bishop of Ars, several other Irish Bishops and by (I'd estimate) 120 priests.

It was such a joy to be with my brother priests for this great occasion as we venerated our patron saint. Many of the lay faithful and religious turned up also - of all different ages. Not a bad turn out for a Tuesday!

Bishop Boyce gave a fine homily and the whole experience left me re-enthused (is that a word?) and one line of the homily that hit me like a freight train was the question the good bishop asked and answered: If a bishop were to ask the Holy Cure what he must do to ensure that renewal takes place in his diocese - the Holy Cure would say: Ensure all you priests become saints!! I may be misquoting him somewhat - but that's the jist of it.

I love Knock at the best of times - but this visit of the relics of St. John Marie Vianney were extra special and couldn't come at a better time for the Church and the priests in Ireland. I am sure that the Holy Cure is obtaining countless graces for his brother priests in Ireland in these days and - please God - well into the future.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Ideal - Jesus, Son of Mary

I'm just back from a few days pilgrimage (and rest) at Knock Shrine. Went browsing in the bookshop there and came across a little book (little books are best for me - more than 100 pages and it takes me an inordinate amount of time to finish a book) called My Ideal - Jesus Son of Mary. I couldn't put it down.

The book seeks (and succeeds IMHO) to instill in the reader a desire to imitate Jesus in his love for the Blessed Virgin - his Mother and ours.

It is not expensive, is published by Tan Books and can be found HERE.

Answer the Call Young Man

This VIDEO is a great call to young men. The great Fr. Corapi has words of encouragement for any young man who feels even the slightest stirrings of a call to priesthood in his heart. Thanks to Fr. Steve over at Da Mihi Animas for this. He always seems to be able to find the best Catholic videos.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Apostolic Visitation of Irish Seminaries

While the recent Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father addressed the litany of Clerical Child Abuse in Ireland, he also mentions that part of the program for renewal will be, among other things, an Apostolic Visitation of the Seminaries. Ireland has only three diocesan seminaries left: St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, St. Malachy's in Belfast (which offers formation only during the first few years of priestly formation - during philosophical studies) and the Irish College in Rome (which will presumably - and hopefully - fall under the remit of the Apostolic Visitor).

Having spent time in two of these three institutions I am delighted to hear that this visitation is taking place. Since my time in formation I have been convinced that the renewal of the Church in Ireland must begin with a renewal of our houses of formation, which in my experience were (are?) woefully inadequate. Let's just say they didn't inspire a strong sense of priestly identity and one didn't always feel that being truly Catholic in one's outlook was all that important or necessary even.

It is time that the Church in Ireland moved beyond 70's style formation programs which have proven themselves to be disastrous at so many levels. It is time that seminary training involved the encouragement of young men to become holy men of God, zealous for the Lord's flock and faithful to the teaching and direction of Holy Mother Church. I can honestly say that not one (with the exception of one spiritual director I had) ever even hinted that the priesthood had anything to do with the salvation of souls.

I know from experience, and many who shared my time in the seminary will also know, that many times we were asked to compromise here, there and everywhere on what we knew was the right thing to do. Not on any grand scale perhaps - but my philosophy has always been fidelity in small things - so the Lord can entrust me with bigger things.

Perhaps one fruit of the Visitation will be that the Seminarians in Maynooth will once again return to the traditional posture for the Consecration of the Mass - i.e. that they will get on their knees and not remain standing. It might not be a massive issue in alot of peoples minds, but I think it is symptomatic of something greater. As Pope Benedict wrote (as Cardinal Ratzinger):

It may well be that kneeling is alien to modern culture – insofar as it is a culture, for this culture has turned away from the faith and no longer knows the One before whom kneeling is the right, indeed the intrinsically necessary gesture. The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or a liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core.” (Spirit of the Liturgy)

End of rant!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Seminarians - Do not Be Afraid

Mother Adela Galindo, Foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary has this wonderful talk which she gave a few years ago to the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Miami. The Webpage of this wonderful Religious Community can be found HERE.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who then is the Priest?

Gregory Nazianzus writes:

"We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God's greatness and man's weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ's priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God's image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes". (As found in CCC #1589)

Friday, March 5, 2010

On What a Priest Leaves Behind in Death

Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has a very beautiful reflection on the lasting legacy of a priestly life of service to the Gospel and the People of God.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vocations to the Priesthood in Ireland

For any young man enquiring about the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood in Ireland the website of Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors might be a useful website to start with.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fishers of Men

Below are 2 parts to a video maded to promote vocations to the Priesthood. It's a few years old now - but still a valuable view - especially for any young man considering the call.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Priestly Ordination Video

This short video is quite inspiring. Have a look.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Importance of Meditation and Contemplation

The following is an extract from an Apostolic Exhortation on Priestly Sanctity given by Pope St. Pius X called Haerent Animo. It is a rather long extract but well worth a read.

Despite the high dignity of the various functions of the priestly office and the veneration which they deserve, frequent exercise of these functions may lead those who discharge them to treat them with less respect than is their due. From a gradual decline in fervor it is an easy step to carelessness and even to distaste for the most sacred things. In addition, a priest cannot avoid daily contact with a corrupt society; frequently, in the very exercise of pastoral charity, he must fear the insidious attacks of the infernal serpent. Is it not all too easy even for religious souls to be tarnished by contact with the world? It is evident, therefore, that there is a grave and urgent need for the priest to turn daily to the contemplation of the eternal truths, so that his mind and will may gain new strength to stand firm against every enticement to evil.

Moreover, it is the strict duty of the priest to have a mind for heavenly things, to teach them, to inculcate them; in the regulation of his whole life he must be so much superior to human considerations that whatever he does in the discharge of his sacred office will be done in accordance with God, under the impulse and guidance of faith; it is fitting then that he should possess a certain aptitude to rise above earthly considerations and strive for heavenly things. Nothing is more conducive to the acquisition and strengthening of this disposition of soul, this quasi-natural union with God, than daily meditation; it is unnecessary to dwell upon this truth which every prudent person clearly realizes.

The life of a priest who underestimates the value of meditation, or has lost all taste for it, provides a sad confirmation of what we have been saying. Let your eyes dwell on the spectacle of men in whom the mind of Christ, that supremely precious gift, has grown weak; their thoughts are all on earthly things, they are engaged in vain pursuits, their words are so much unimportant chatter; in the performance of their sacred functions they are careless, cold, perhaps even unworthy. Formerly, these same men, with the oil of priestly ordination still fresh upon them, diligently prepared themselves for the recitation of the Psalms, lest they should be like men who tempt God; they sought a time and place free from disturbance; they endeavored to grasp the divine meaning; in union with the psalmist they poured forth their soul in songs of praise, sorrow and rejoicing. But now, what a change has taken place!

In like manner, little now remains of that lively devotion which they felt towards the divine mysteries. Formerly, how beloved were those tabernacles! It was their delight to be present at the table of the Lord, to invite more and more pious souls to that banquet! Before Mass, what purity, what earnestness in the prayers of a loving heart! How great reverence in the celebration of Mass, with complete observance of the august rites in all their beauty! What sincerity in thanksgiving! And the sweet perfume of Christ was diffused over their people! We beg of you, beloved sons: Call to mind . . . the former days; for then your soul was burning with zeal, being nourished by holy meditation.

Some of those who find recollection of the heart a burden, or entirely neglect it, do not seek to disguise the impoverishment of soul which results from their attitude, but they try to excuse themselves on the pretext that they are completely occupied by the activity of their ministry, to the manifold benefit of others.

They are gravely mistaken. For as they are unaccustomed to converse with God, their words completely lack the inspiration which comes from God when they speak to men about God or inculcate the counsels of the christian life; it is as if the message of the Gospel were practically dead in them. However distinguished for prudence and eloquence, their speech does not echo the voice of the good Shepherd which the sheep hear to their spiritual profit; it is mere sound which goes forth without fruit, and sometimes gives a pernicious example to the disgrace of religion and the scandal of the good.

It is the same in other spheres of their activity; there can be no solid achievement, nothing of lasting benefit, in the absence of the heavenly dew which is brought down in abundance by the prayer of the man who humbles himself.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The National Lottery and the Priesthood

The British National Lottery had an advert some years back, if I recall well, in which a large hand floats down from above and points to the potential lottery winner; and a voice thunders from above: "It could be you!"
Sometimes in my own journey just such an epiphany from on high would have been useful in my discernment. Wouldn't it be great if the Lord made it absolutely clear in a water-tight way that he was calling me to the priesthood. Alas - it was not to be. Nevertheless, I still discerned my vocation and was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ in 2007.
Certainly the most joyous day of my life was that day of my ordination. I sat gazing into the sanctuary of the Cathedral, and I had this intense feeling of being totally and absolutely loved by Jesus and indeed by all of heaven. And yet, even in that intense experience of God's presence, even with that final affirmation from above - I could not say that I was 100% certain that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. There still remained that space for the leap of faith. Yes, that space was narrow on that day, given the effusion of grace into my soul, and so the leap was less of a leap and more of a hop. Still though - I stepped out (and continue to do so daily) in faith that this is what the Lord had called me to do; this is what has filled my heart with longing and this was the only thing which would ultimately fulfil me; this was what I was meant to do, meant to be.
No I didn't have 100% certainty on the day of my ordination, but can we ever get that 100% in anything we choose to commit to in this life. And yet we have to commit.
For those of you who are seeking 100% clarity before you take the plunge - try to make do with less than 100%. Some days it might feel like you have less than 25% clarity on what the Lord is asking of you. Still - step out in faith, step out on a limb, into the somewhat unknown - and you will be stepping into the Lord's hand - for you do it for him and the Lord will recognise that and reward you for it - even if you find that you have stepped in the wrong direction and misunderstood his promptings.
Like the participant in the Lottery - the advert doesn't promise: "It WILL be you" but only that it could be. It could be that he or she will win the jackpot, but they will only know for sure if they buy the ticket. It could be that the Lord is calling you to priesthood. You'll never know unless you seriously make moves towards discernment - and the first step in that direction is to speak to your local priest or to the diocesan vocations director. Good Luck!

Recommended Reading for a Future Priest (4)

The book I recommend today is written by St. Peter Julian Eymard and in it he encourgaes us to greater awareness of the great gift of the Eucharist so as to draw greater fruit from our Sacramental Communion with the Lord Jesus.

The details are as follows:

St. Peter Julian Eymard, How to get more out of Holy Communion, Sophia Institute Press, 2000

Friday, February 19, 2010

St. John Chrysostom on Prayer

Prayer is the light of the soul
Below is the text from a homily of St. John Chrysostom - Homily 6 on Prayer.

There is nothing more worthwhile than to pray to God and to converse with him, for prayer unites us with God as his companions. As our bodily eyes are illuminated by seeing the light, so in contemplating God our soul is illuminated by him. Of course the prayer I have in mind is no matter of routine, it is deliberate and earnest. It is not tied down to a fixed timetable; rather it is a state which endures by night and day.

Our soul should be directed in God, not merely when we suddenly think of prayer, but even when we are concerned with something else. If we are looking after the poor, if we are busy in some other way, or if we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and the remembrance of God. Through this salt of the love of God we can all become a sweet dish for the Lord. If we are generous in giving time to prayer, we will experience its benefits throughout our life.

Prayer is the light of the soul, giving us true knowledge of God. It is a link mediating between God and man. By prayer the soul is borne up to heaven and in a marvellous way embraces the Lord. This meeting is like that of an infant crying on its mother, and seeking the best of milk. The soul longs for its own needs and what it receives is better than anything to be seen in the world.

Prayer is a precious way of communicating with God, it gladdens the soul and gives repose to its affections. You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God's grace. As Saint Paul says: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

Anyone who receives from the Lord the gift of this type of prayer possesses a richness that is not to be taken from him, a heavenly food filling up the soul. Once he has tasted this food, he is set alight by an eternal desire for the Lord, the fiercest of fires lighting up his soul.

To set about this prayer, paint the house of your soul with modesty and lowliness and make it splendid with the light of justice. Adorn it with the beaten gold of good works and, for walls and stones, embellish it assiduously with faith and generosity. Above all, place prayer on top of this house as its roof so that the complete building may be ready for the Lord. Thus he will be received in a splendid royal house and by grace his image will already be settled in your soul.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fr. Joseph Carola's New Book

As mentioned in a previous post on recommended reading Fr. Joseph Carola has a new book: "Confromed to Christ Crucified - Meditations on Priestly Life and Minstry". The Mid-West Theological Forum now has the book on sale for $10 and it can be purchased from them by clicking HERE. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Priesthood Video

Below are 3 parts to a video on the Priesthood issued by the Congregation for the Clergy. Thank to Fr. Leake at Da Mihi Animas for the heads up on this. Enjoy!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Marmion on Holiness

“From his seminary days the priest must be convinced of the real sanctity to which he is called. As time goes on he will maintain and develop this conviction by a life of prayer and of devotion” Blessed Columba Marmion

Marmion on Study

“We must apply ourselves to study with the intention of working for the Kingdom of God and His Glory; for the Church; in order to defend the deposit of faith against all attacks, in order to preserve the faith of people in all its purity and in all its vigour and, finally, in order to fill our own minds with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and of his incomparable mysteries.” Blessed Columba Marmion

Marmion on the Prayer of Priests

“Believe me, whatever may be your talents, your knowledge, and your enthusiasm when you begin your ministry, unless you are men of prayer, you will do nothing worth while… The Saints who accomplished great things for love of God delighted certainly in devotedness and in action, but they were also men of prayer; look at St. Benedict, St. Francis Xavier, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Cure d’Ars; they all spent hours conversing with God."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Priestly Disposition

Many books have been written about finding an appropriate priestly spirituality – But I think we’ll find no better foundation than these words. This is my body! It’s the spirituality of St. Paul who could write: “I am more than glad to spend what I have and to be spent for the sake of your souls”. It is the spirituality of Bl. Mother Teresa who vowing never to refuse God anything lived by the motto: “I willingly take what he gives me and give what he takes from me.” And pre-eminently it is the spirituality of Our Lady who when called to dedicate in the most profound way, her whole being to God’s plan of salvation responded: “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” These are people who, being called by God to a mission of service, responded wholeheartedly, unreservedly; and never took back that initial “Yes”. Their ‘Yes’ was made in light-filled moments, in faith-filled encounters with God. But they had to repeat it daily with the same conviction in darker moments, moments when God seemed more distant.

Now we’re not St. Paul, not Mother Teresa and certainly nothing like the Blessed Virgin. But we are men called by God to service and called to respond with our daily ‘Yes’. The Lord has placed something in us, some strength, some talent, the seed of something great, that we often don’t even know is there, but which he knows about, something he desires to nourish and to use – if we are but willing to say our yes and stick to it.
John Henry Newman speaks about that fidelity to the call when he writes:
God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good, I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me -- still He knows what He is about.

God has called me, he may be calling you. I don't always respond well, how about you?

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Oh Holy Spirit descend upon me today as you did on the day of my baptism and renew in my soul the image of Jesus Christ our Lord. May I be Christ-like in my way of thinking, Christ-like in my way of speaking, Christ-like in my way of living; may I be like Christ in all things here in this life, so as to share in his likeness eternally in heaven. Help me to remove anything which is an obstacle to the full glory of Christ in my soul, anything which is unworthy of my baptismal dignity, sin which enslaves me, anything which drives me away from my destiny as an adopted son of God. Holy Spirit, all things are possible to you. Come and renew the face of the earth, come and renew the likeness to Christ in me – so that I can be all that the Father created me to be. Amen.

Pope Pius XI on the Seminary

It may be pre-Vatican II, but I think Pope Pius XI's words on Seminary training, addressed to the bishops, have a timeless wisdom - unfortunately a wisdom that seemed to be lacking in the past few decades:

From Ad Catholicii Sacerdotii:

#66. The seminary is and should be the apple of your eye, Venerable Brethren, who share with Us the heavy weight of the government of the Church; it is, and should be, the chief object of your solicitude. Careful above all should be the choice of superiors and professors; and, in a most special manner, of the spiritual father, who has so delicate and so important a part in the nurture of the priestly spirit. Give the best of your clergy to your seminaries; do not fear to take them from other positions. These positions may seem of greater moment, but in reality their importance is not to be compared with that of the seminaries, which is capital and indispensable. Seek also from elsewhere, wherever you can find them, men really fitted for this noble task. Let them be such as teach priestly virtues, rather by example than by words, men who are capable of imparting, together with learning, a solid, manly and apostolic spirit. Make piety, purity, discipline and study flourish in the seminary. With prudent foresight, arm and fortify the immature minds of students both against the temptations of the present, and against the far more serious perils of the future. For they will be exposed to all the temptations of the world, in the midst of which they must live, "that they save all."

Pope Pius XI on the Priesthood

The following is a quotation from Pope Pius XI called Ad Catholicii Sacerdotii. It is an Encyclical Letter on the Catholic Priesthood:
#21. What a comfort to the guilty, when, stung with remorse and repenting of his sins, he hears the word of the priest who says to him in God's name: "I absolve thee from thy sins!" These words fall, it is true, from the lips of one who, in his turn, must needs beg the same absolution from another priest. This does not debase the merciful gift; but makes it, rather, appear greater; since beyond the weak creature is seen more clearly the hand of God through whose power is wrought this wonder. As an illustrious layman has written, treating with rare competence of spiritual things: ". . . when a priest, groaning in spirit at his own unworthiness and at the loftiness of his office, places his consecrated hands upon our heads; when, humiliated at finding himself the dispenser of the Blood of the Covenant; each time amazed as he pronounces the words that give life; when a sinner has absolved a sinner; we, who rise from our knees before him, feel we have done nothing debasing. . . We have been at the feet of a man who represented Jesus Christ, . . . we have been there to receive the dignity of free men and of sons of God."

#22. These august powers are conferred upon the priest in a special Sacrament designed to this end: they are not merely passing or temporary in the priest, but are stable and perpetual, united as they are with the indelible character imprinted on his soul whereby he becomes "a priest forever"; whereby he becomes like unto Him in whose eternal priesthood he has been made a sharer. Even the most lamentable downfall, which, through human frailty, is possible to a priest, can never blot out from his soul the priestly character. But along with this character and these powers, the priest through the Sacrament of Orders receives new and special grace with special helps. Thereby, if only he will loyally further, by his free and personal cooperation, the divinely powerful action of the grace itself, he will be able worthily to fulfill all the duties, however arduous, of his lofty calling. He will not be overborne, but will be able to bear the tremendous responsibilities inherent to his priestly duty; responsibilities which have made fearful even the stoutest champions of the Christian priesthood, men like St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Charles and many others.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI remembers...

Zenit catholic news service has a translation of the Holy Father's address to the Mayor of Freising, Germany where he spent his seminary years and some years of his early priesthood. It is a wonderful walk down memory lane for him and he has a few important points to make for the future priest.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What is a Priest?

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.

By your Holy Spirit you anointed your only Son high priest of the new and eternal covenant. With wisdom and love you have planned that this one priesthood should continue in the Church. Christ gives the dignity of a royal priesthood to the people he has made his own. From these, with a brother's love, he chooses men to share his sacred ministry by the laying on of hands. He appointed them to renew in his name the sacrifice of redemption as they set before your family his paschal meal. He calls them to lead your holy people in love, nourish them by your word and strengthen them through the sacraments. Father, they are to give their live in your service and for the salvation of your people as they strive to grow in the likeness of Christ and honour you by their courageous witness of faith and love.

(Preface of Priesthood for the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday)

A Saint speaks to Priests

This Video was shot in 1972. Excuse the subtitles for those of you who speak Spanish.

Recommended Reading for a Future Priest (4)

The Confessions of St. Augustine

Anything by St. Augustine would be wonderful to read, but certainly his 'Confessions' is a timeless classic that has influenced countless souls throughout the centuries. I read this right at the beginning of my discernment of the call to priesthood - even before I realised it was a call to priesthood. This is a book that you should read at least once every year - and each time you will find a new treasure. It's not so much a confession by St. Augustine of his sins (though he does that) but more a confession of the greatness of God and his limitless mercy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Vocation as God's Initiative

This short passage is an extract from Pope Benedict's Message for the World Day of Pryaer for Vocations 2009:

"The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful and especially in priests, cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is “called” voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16)."
The complete text can be found HERE.

Mary, The Priest and Saying Yes

Just as Jesus called St James and the other apostles he also calls each one of us. Each one of us... has to understand and believe: "God is calling me, God is sending me" From all eternity God has thought about us and has loved us as unique and unrepeatable persons. He calls us and his call comes to us through the person of Jesus Christ who says to us, as he said to the apostles: "Come, follow me". He is the Way which leads to the Father!Yet we must recognize that we have neither sufficient strength, nor constancy, nor purity of heart to follow God with our whole life with our whole heart. Let us ask Mary, who was the first to follow the path of her Son, to intercede for us.
(Pope John Paul II, Compostella, Spain, 1989)

When does a Priest Falls in Love?

"Dear friends, this is the mystery of God's call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely. The seminarian experiences the beauty of that call in a moment of grace which could be defined as "falling in love". His soul is filled with amazement, which makes him ask in prayer: "Lord, why me?". But love knows no "why"; it is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self." (Pope Benedict XVI, Cologne 2005)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Giving your all for Jesus

This short Video will be inspiring to those who think that some things matter and that some things are worth dying for, no matter what!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Recommended Reading for a Future Priest (3)

Conformed to Christ Crucified: Meditations on Priestly Life and Ministry.

The author of this book, Fr. Joseph Carola S.J., is a professor of Patristics at the Gregorian University in Rome. The book consists of a compilation of talks and homilies he has given to Seminarians and Deacons of the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) in Rome over the past number of years. Additionally the book has two homilies which Fr. Carola preached at the first Mass of two of his former students.

As a former student of Fr. Carola myself, I can highly recommend anything that he would say or write. He is an impressive priest, highly gifted intellectually, absolutely faithful to Holy Mother Church and overall quite a humble man.

The book is published by the Gregorian Bibilical Press, but Fr. Carola mentioned that it would soon be published by the Midwest Theological Forum.

Recently Fr. Carola gave an address at the International Conference for Clergy held in Rome January 4th-8th. His Talk had the rather long title: "Three Patristic Texts on the Priesthood: Gregory Nazianzus' De Fuga, John Chrysostom's Six Books on the Priesthood and Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care". Hopefully that address will be available online somewhere soon as it didn't fail to disappoint those of us who hold Fr. Carola in such high esteem, both as a priest and as an academic.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recommended Reading for a Future Priest (2)

Treasure in Clay

This book is the Autobiography of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I was given this book to read when I first approached a priest about the possibility of having a vocation and I must say that it was a wonderful read and helped me immensely in my discernment. Archbishop Sheen has a number of other books that are well worth reading also - not least his book "The Priest is not his own".

Recommended Reading for a Future Priest (1)

Called by Name: The Inspiring Stories of 12 Men Who Became Catholic Priests

This is a great book to read. It is really inspiring and shows how the Lord can call people from vastly differing backgrounds to the Holy Priesthood. I recommend this book very much. One thing to note however is that one of the contributors to this book (Fr. Alberto Cutie) recently left the priesthood and, having married a woman he was seeing for some time, has now entered the episcopalian church. Which just goes to show, I suppose, that we can never be sure if we will persevere in our decisions. Our perseverence very much depends on God's grace, our response to that grace, and the prayers of the Holy People of God (H-POG.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

St. Joseph - A Model for Priests?

St. Joseph was not a priest and so it might at first seem strange to place him before you as a model for the priesthood. But if you consider the nature of Joseph’s fatherhood then you’ll see that he is a perfect model for the priest, (although obviously the most perfect model is Jesus Christ himself, the High-priest from whom all priests get their priesthood. In fact, in the Catholic faith, there is only one priest – Jesus Christ – priests merely participate in his priesthood).

To explain St. Joseph as the model for priests I would like to tell you about a young boy in the school here in my parish and the answer he gave me about priests. One boy in the class asked why priests are called ‘Father’. And so I asked if anyone in the class of 10 year olds knew the answer. One boy raised his hand and said the following:

Our natural fathers give us life, they feed us, rear us, and under their care we grow up into men. The priest is like a spiritual father, he feeds us with God and teaches us about God and makes our souls grow and that’s why we call him Father.”

That young boy had simply expressed the spiritual paternity of the priesthood. Priests are called to be fathers of a community, the church. They are to feed that portion of the family of God which he has given to their care. They are unworthy of that family. They are unworthy of the bride, the Church, which they are called to serve and build up. The Church is a bride way beyond their worth and their natural abilities. And the children of that bride, the flock of God in a parish, are children that the priest did not beget, they are God’s children and yet he has placed them under the guardianship of the priest, under his care. The priest is to nourish them in God’s name, feed them with the word of God and with the strength of the sacraments, he is to protect them from all that would harm them and he is called to love them as God their heavenly Father loves them; to mediate his love to them through his ministry.

And it is in this spiritual fatherhood that priests can look to Joseph as their model. He too was called by God to take a bride he is unworthy to have. He too is given the responsibility of a child of God, the only-begotten Son of God himself, and he finds himself ill-equipped for that task. Under Joseph’s fatherly care the Son of God would experience the Father’s love in a human way and he will rejoice in it. But, though this call is way beyond what Joseph, or any man, can hope to fulfil, Joseph faithfully and trustingly steps forward to take up the Lord’s invitation. It is a huge challenge, but Joseph knows that the Lord does not call the qualified, he qualifies those he calls.

All that I have said is said so as to encourage you to grow in devotion to St. Joseph so that you can grow in your journey as Christian men, accompanied by one who knows the struggles that we men face in being the men the Lord desires us to be. Go to Joseph and you will not be disappointed. Depend on his care for you and your state in life as Jesus and Mary depended upon him. Turning to Joseph in our needs does not, will not and cannot take away from our love and devotion to Jesus and Mary. It will increase it, as St. Joseph will teach us how to love and cherish them in a new and deeper way. We will be taught by one who had and still has great intimacy and influence with the Lord and his Mother.

I will finish with a call to greater devotion to St. Joseph issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1889:
The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the Husband of Mary and that he was the reputed Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory… Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life's companion, the witness of her virginity, the protector of her honour, but also, by virtue of the marital bond, a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and was reputed as His father among men. Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents… And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch, Joseph looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust - this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as St. Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and surrounded it with his protection, he should now cover it with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.
May St. Joseph assist you as you discern your call to the priesthood.
In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Fr. B

Knock - Shrine of Vocations

I was at Knock Shrine, Co. Mayo, Ireland today. It was a beautiful, but cold, day there. Many people think of Knock as a Shrine of Our Lady - and it is. But more importantly it is a Shrine of the Blessed Eucharist; for the apparition which took place there in 1879 was one of a Lamb on an Altar surmounted by a Cross and surrounded by adoring angels. To the left of the altar stood three figures, St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph with Our Blessed Mother in between, as can be seen in the carved representation which is in the Apparition Chapel of the Shrine. (Unfortuantely the architecture of the Chaepl leave alot to be desired - as you can see from the photo)

But Knock is also, I think, a Shrine for Vocations . When we look at who appeared in Knock we see three people who represent the various calls that a person can have. We have St. Joseph - Husband and Father (and Virgin in my opinion). We have St. John - Bishop/Priest/Consecrated Virgin and of course we have Our Lady - Mother, Wife and Consecrated Virgin.

We have all the vocations gathered with the heavenly hosts - all gathered around the Eucharist. It's as though the apparition were shwoing forth what John Paul II would state in his Encyclical on the Eucharist - Ecclesia de Eucharistia: "The Church draws her life from the Eucharist."

If you are a young man who is discerning your vocation to the priesthood you could do worse than take St. Joseph and St. John as your patrons in discernment and of course entrust your call to the one who responded perfectly to the Lord's call - the All-Holy Immaculate Virgin Mary. Praying daily the Rosary will allow her the time to teach you how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly and she will obtain for you the grace to respond fearlessly and whole-heartedly to that which the Lord asks of you.

And of course time spent in Eucharistic Adoration will affirm and confirm you in the path towards priesthood.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Fr. B

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why Not You?

During the 6 – 7 years that a young man spends in seminary he will come across a wide variety of other young, and not so young, men and each of them comes from vastly different backgrounds. In my 6 years of seminary I journeyed towards priesthood and the same was true for me. Those I met on the same path as myself had sometimes come to seminary directly from High School, but there were also many who had taken a longer road, a detour you might call it. Some were teachers, one was a law graduate, one was a St, John of God brother, one was a psychologist, one had spent time living in a hippy commune, three were chefs, there were a couple of accountants, one was a scientist, one was a meteorologist, one was a doctor, and one was a former U.S. Marine – you didn’t mess with him. All called in their own particular way to serve the Lord in the Holy Priesthood; all bringing with them vastly different life experiences, and the many gifts and talents the Lord had endowed them with.

And all that goes to prove that God chooses his priests from among the men of the world. God doesn’t magically snap his fingers and hey presto – he creates a priest. No he calls those men aside and offers them the gift of priesthood. For some that call came at a time when it was inconvenient – they were doing well in their chosen path, for others the call to priesthood had always been a niggling feeling, an itch they didn’t want to scratch, but somewhere, somehow the Lord’s invitation became irresistible to them. Sometimes that invitation came in unexpected ways.

A major pastoral priority for us priests has to be the planting of seeds for vocations. We can’t have a pastoral plan that works if we don’t have enough pastors, enough priests to provide the sacraments which are the life blood of the Church. But I, as a priest, can’t turn every conversation I have with a young man into a recruitment drive. That’s where the lay faithful play such a pivotal role. They must encourage young men to consider the call to the priesthood. The majority of the seeds they sow will never sprout, but every now and then the Lord might use them, and somewhere in their throw away remark a young man might discern the voice of Christ. If you think some man you know might have a vocation – pray about it, pray for him and maybe the Lord will direct you to speak and encourage him.

To any young man reading this I say – why not you? Are you any more sinful than was St. Augustine with his mistress? Are you any less intelligent than was St. John Vianney who barely passed any exam in seminary? Are you any more uncertain about the strength of your faith commitment than was St. Peter who denied the Lord, though he had spent three whole years in his company. Yet all these became great priests and the Lord used them to bring about the salvation of many many souls. Every priest I know, myself included, can find a hundred reasons why we are not the right person for the job, but despite all our many shortcomings, the overriding reason we respond and continue to respond is that Christ has called us to it – not because we are perfect, but because the priesthood is our road towards perfection, our road, please God, to heaven.

Prayer by Pope Benedict XVI

"Father, let there be amongst Christians
many holy vocations to the priesthood,
to keep alive the faith
and guard the grateful memory of your Son Jesus
through preaching his word
and administering the Sacraments,
with which you continually renew your faithful.
Give us holy ministers for your altar,
who can be attentive and fervent keepers of the Eucharist,
sacrament of the supreme gift of Christ for the redemption of the world.
Call upon the ministers of your mercy,
who, through the sacrament of Reconciliation,
spread the joy of your forgiveness.
Father, may the Church welcome with joy
the numerous inspirations of the Spirit of your Son
and, meek to your teaching,
may it take care of the vocations to the priestly ministry
and the consecrated life.
Support bishops, priests, deacons,
the consecrated and all those baptised in Christ,
that they may faithfully fulfill their mission
in the Service of the Gospel.
We ask you to do it through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mary, Queen of the Apostles, pray for us!"