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.