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!"