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Year for Priest

Year for Priests First Thursday Plenary Indulgence Reminder

 Here’s a reminder for Thursday :

original post
During the Year for Priests which began on June 19, 2009 and will end on June 19, 2010, the gift of special Indulgences is granted as described in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, published on 12 May. The instructions for priests and for the faithful are as follows:
A. Truly repentant priests who, on any day, devoutly recite at least morning Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for public adoration or replaced in the tabernacle, and who, after the example of St John Mary Vianney, offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially Confession, are mercifully granted in God the Plenary Indulgence which they may also apply to their deceased brethren in suffrage, if, in conformity with the current norms, they receive sacramental confession and the Eucharistic banquet and pray for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions.
Furthermore the Partial Indulgence is granted to priests who may apply it to their deceased confreres every time that they devoutly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a holy life and to carry out in a holy manner the offices entrusted to them.
B. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to all the faithful who are truly repentant who, in church or in chapel, devoutly attend the divine Sacrifice of Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, for the priests of the Church, and any other good work which they have done on that day, so that he may sanctify them and form them in accordance with His Heart, as long as they have made expiation for their sins through sacramental confession and prayed in accordance with the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions: on the days in which the Year for Priests begins and ends, on the day of the 150th anniversary of the pious passing of St John Mary Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month or on any other day established by the local Ordinaries for the benefit of the faithful.


The Little Flower’s Prayer for Priests

Prayer for Priests
by St. Therese of Lisieux

O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.

Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.

Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.

Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.

Let Your holy love surround them and
shield them from the world’s contagion.

Bless their labors with abundant fruit and
may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and 
consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and 
everlasting crown. Amen.

The Death of a Priest…Alone?

In the latest installment of his Without a Doubt column entitled The Death of a Priest,  Bishop Tobin of Providence talks about the recent passing of four priests in his diocese and offers a reflection on the lasting legacy of faithful priests.  It is worth a read.  He aptly points out that “when a priest dies, he doesn’t leave a lot behind, at least not in earthly terms. He leaves no children or grandchildren, often not a lot of material possessions, and not even a large hole in the fabric of the Church. The mission of the Church continues beyond the life of any one individual; other priests went before him, and others will come after him to carry on the work of the Lord.”  In the eyes of the world a priest leaves no lasting legacy on the world.  What the priest of God does leave behind however, “is far more valuable than the passing things of this world. He leaves behind the witness of a good life that was informed and directed by the love of God. He leaves behind an example of generous sacrifice and commitment that made a positive difference for others. And he leaves behind a legacy of faith, hope and love in the people he served, planting in them the very seeds of eternal life.”

This post mortem analysis (pun intended) is well articulated, but it does not mention the penultimate stage of life…the dying.  Perhaps the greatest sacrifice of priestly celibacy is not the mastery of the lower virtues but the privation of children-and in particular the blessing of children and family at one’s bedside while dying.  But just think about it.  What a blessing it is to have family and especially your children at your bedside, sitting with you, praying for you and on your behalf.  Religious priests (by this I mean those priests who are members of a religious order or congregation) have the blessing of community life.  When they approach the end of their journey, they are comforted by their brothers and have their community to pray with them and for them.  But what about the diocesan priest?  He most likely would have served alone as pastor, retired alone, and would have been predeceased by his parents.  I have witnessed this first hand and have a friend who is presently experiencing this with  his uncle, who is a priest.  Each night he visits to pray a rosary and read Compline aloud.  The discomfort and restlessness subsides, only to resume after the Nunc dimittis.  Wouldn’t it be a blessing, a corporal work of mercy, fraternal charity for his brother priests to pray at his bedside for just an hour a day.  In a diocese with some 400 priests, it would require just one hour–once a year–to pray beside a dying brother with the knowledge that this would be reciprocated when it is your time.

Bishop Tobin writes:  “In his sacramental ministry a priest has welcomed individuals into the Church and touched them with the grace of God in the Sacrament of Baptism. He has celebrated Holy Mass a thousand times, offering thanksgiving to the Lord on behalf of God’s People and making God present among them in the Eucharist. He has forgiven the sins of God’s people, freeing them from guilt, and giving them the blessed opportunity to make a new beginning. He has prepared couples for Holy Matrimony, witnessing their vows on behalf of the Church and bestowing God’s blessings as they begin their journey together. He has accompanied frightened, vulnerable people during times of illness, anointing them with oil, assuring them of the presence and compassion of Christ. He has celebrated many funerals, sending holy souls to eternal life with the prayers of the Church and giving comfort and hope to those who mourn the loss of their loved ones.”  They deserve a better send off.

In this Year for Priests:  Pray for all living priests that they renew their commitment to Christ’s Sacred Heart; pray for priests who approach the end of their life that they may know the comfort of fraternal love; and pray for those priests who have died that their lasting legacy may gain them eternal reward.


Year for Priests First Thursday Plenary Indulgence Reminder

 Here’s a reminder for Thursday :

original post
During the Year for Priests which began on June 19, 2009 and will end on June 19, 2010, the gift of special Indulgences is granted as described in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, published on 12 May. The instructions for priests and for the faithful are as follows:
A. Truly repentant priests who, on any day, devoutly recite at least morning Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for public adoration or replaced in the tabernacle, and who, after the example of St John Mary Vianney, offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially Confession, are mercifully granted in God the Plenary Indulgence which they may also apply to their deceased brethren in suffrage, if, in conformity with the current norms, they receive sacramental confession and the Eucharistic banquet and pray for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions.
Furthermore the Partial Indulgence is granted to priests who may apply it to their deceased confreres every time that they devoutly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a holy life and to carry out in a holy manner the offices entrusted to them.
B. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to all the faithful who are truly repentant who, in church or in chapel, devoutly attend the divine Sacrifice of Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, for the priests of the Church, and any other good work which they have done on that day, so that he may sanctify them and form them in accordance with His Heart, as long as they have made expiation for their sins through sacramental confession and prayed in accordance with the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions: on the days in which the Year for Priests begins and ends, on the day of the 150th anniversary of the pious passing of St John Mary Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month or on any other day established by the local Ordinaries for the benefit of the faithful.


The Priest is an Alter Christus, Bridging the Human and Divine

During this Year for Priests it is the intention of the Holy Father to educate the faithful’s understanding of what a priest is and to encourage priests to renew their own priestly identity.  On the Friday after Ash Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI addressed the priests of his diocese and referred to the priest as a bridge and mediator; his mission “unites and thus brings man to God, to His redemption, to His true light, to His true life”.

If the priest is a “bridge” bringing humankind into communion with the divinity, his soul must draw nourishment from constant daily prayer and from the Eucharist, said the Pope.  “A priest, who is above all other things a completely-fulfilled man, has a heart dedicated to “compassion”.  For St. John Vianney, patron of priests and of the Year for Priests, “the Priesthood is the love for the heart of Jesus”.

Below is a three part video produced by the Congregation of the Clergy in order to promote The Year for Priests. It is well done and pretty comprehensive.


To Priests: "You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have"

For the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John’s Seminary in Boston invited Dominican Fr. Romanus Cessario, OP to preach to the seminarians.  Fr. Cessario is a professor of dogmatic and moral theology at St. John’s, as well as an author and editor (I am a former student, though he doesn’t cite that in his credentials)

The “must-read” full text of the homily can be found here…below are excerpts (my emphasis):

Study for the Catholic priest remains a contemplative act. We do not read theology books to discover the knack of doing this or that, we do not ponder divine truth so that we can acquit ourselves of professional responsibilities, we do not undertake study even to develop the high-end skills of management or technology. We study so we can pray. The study of theology and the practice of contemplative prayer flow from the one and the same act of divine faith whereby we accept the Truth about God. For the priest, contemplative study provides the inexhaustible and irreplaceable source of everything that he does. No short cuts are available. No one is exempt. The Church developed a Latin adage to capture this basic truth of priestly formation. Nemo potest dare quod non habet. You can’t give what you do not have.
[…]
For the Catholic priest, especially the diocesan priest, the separation of study and prayer brings catastrophic results. No one more than the priest needs the experience of contemplative study. The reason is the Headship that the Church confides to the priest. The priest is not ordained to see about the practical details of programs and everyday activities. He is ordained to preach from the abundance of his heart. The only way that the priest’s heart obtains the abundance of divine truth that the world needs so desperately is through the prayerful study of divine truth. He needs to absorb it, to penetrate it, to make it his own, like breathing in and breathing out. St. Thomas recognized that study does not come easy. Like every good action, study requires a virtuous formation to ensure that our study achieves the desired effect.

Lay people as well ought to adopt the habitus of study and spiritual reading.  Making time is half the battle…episodes of Jersey Shore may be relaxing entertainment but will not improve the quality of your life…I’m pretty certain of that.  I came across a great quote from Fr. Larry Richards (from a video on the Archdiocese of Boston “Confession site”): “If you dropped dead right now and God offered to give you ‘what you love the most’ for all eternity, would it be Him?”  Happy reading.


Year for Priests First Thursday Indulgence Reminder

 Here’s a reminder for tomorrow:

original post
During the Year for Priests which began on June 19, 2009 and will end on June 19, 2010, the gift of special Indulgences is granted as described in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, published on 12 May. The instructions for priests and for the faithful are as follows:
A. Truly repentant priests who, on any day, devoutly recite at least morning Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for public adoration or replaced in the tabernacle, and who, after the example of St John Mary Vianney, offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially Confession, are mercifully granted in God the Plenary Indulgence which they may also apply to their deceased brethren in suffrage, if, in conformity with the current norms, they receive sacramental confession and the Eucharistic banquet and pray for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions.
Furthermore the Partial Indulgence is granted to priests who may apply it to their deceased confreres every time that they devoutly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a holy life and to carry out in a holy manner the offices entrusted to them.
B. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to all the faithful who are truly repentant who, in church or in chapel, devoutly attend the divine Sacrifice of Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, for the priests of the Church, and any other good work which they have done on that day, so that he may sanctify them and form them in accordance with His Heart, as long as they have made expiation for their sins through sacramental confession and prayed in accordance with the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions: on the days in which the Year for Priests begins and ends, on the day of the 150th anniversary of the pious passing of St John Mary Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month or on any other day established by the local Ordinaries for the benefit of the faithful.


There is Hope for the Church 1

From Bishop Tobin’s Without a Doubt column in the Rhode Island Catholic:

How the Seminary has Changed

BY BISHOP THOMAS J. TOBIN

When I first entered high school seminary in 1962, seminary life was still very conservative, strict and disciplined. The Seminary Rule was second in importance only to the Bible itself. “The Rule is the disciplinary means the seminary uses to mold all the individual characteristics and personal talents of seminarians into the likeness of Christ . . . The importance of strict observance of the Seminary Rule cannot be over-emphasized,” the Rule boasted. The Rule was enforced by a well-defined demerit system which “is similar to that used at West Point.”

Each hour of the day was programmed for us and was clearly announced by the omnipresent bell. And so for example, on weekdays, the rising bell rang at 5:50; at 6:05 the chapel bell sounded, and at 6:10 morning prayers and Holy Mass began. If a student wasn’t in his assigned place in the chapel at that moment, a demerit was issued. And so it went all day, until the bell sounded night prayer at 9:00 and “lights out” at 9:45.

Along with the daily routine, just about every other aspect of seminary life was tightly controlled: our vacation time, visiting days, free days, and where we could go and what we could do; our attire – cassocks and surplices in chapel, coats and ties in public areas of the building, and standard-issue gym shorts and shirts for recreation; our telephone calls were severely limited and our mail, both outgoing and incoming, was subject to inspection.

Some students chafed under the strict discipline of the seminary and hated the experience. Personally, it didn’t bother me. In fact, I enjoyed seminary life and thrived under its discipline and expectations.

But then the Second Vatican Council came along, the windows of the Church were thrown open, and by the time I arrived at the North American College in Rome, seminary life had changed dramatically. Most minor seminaries had disappeared and major seminaries were completely different.

In the major seminary of the 1970s and 80s, there were very few rules and expectations. The emphasis was on personal freedom and accountability. You were expected to attend Mass and class, but that was about it. Other hours of prayer – morning prayer and evening prayer for example, were said privately, if at all. Devotions were deemed old-fashioned, and the Rosary was relegated to little old ladies.

A seminarian could move about as he wished with few questions asked; he could go out every night, party till midnight, and travel at will. Because the house was comprised of adults, alcohol was free-flowing and certain rooms became party rooms. In some major seminaries, students were permitted to have part-time secular jobs, and there were few limitations on social relationships. Boundaries between faculty and students disappeared as everyone wanted to be part of the action. Spiritual direction was encouraged, but not supervised, and personal formation programs were just beginning.

Most of the baby-boomer priests, now in their fifties and sixties attended seminaries like this and, for the most part, believe that the more open experience was beneficial to their growth and maturity. And, in fact, lots of fine priests came through this liberal system.

But the story doesn’t end there, because now, in the last twenty years or so, the pendulum has swung again and seminaries have become more structured and conservative.

In a typical seminary today there are more rules and expectations; there’s a lot of structure and discipline. Masses and classes are mandatory and the public recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours is expected. Devotions have returned in force, the Rosary is part of the daily routine, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a litmus test for orthodoxy.

Seminarians are far more “conservative” than their immediate predecessors. They embrace ritual, love the Pope, willingly accept the teachings and disciplines of the Church, display the Roman Collar and even – gasp! – wear the traditional cassock. Seminarians today are expected to participate in a robust program of spiritual direction and human formation. Even getting into the seminary these days requires serious psychological testing – a requirement I’m not sure I would have passed in my day, or even now!

Some older priests are wary of the new breed of seminarians and young priests. The veterans think the young guys are regressing to a pre-conciliar Church. One senior priest told me recently that he’s not sure the young priests will be able to relate to the laity because they’re “too clerical.” Other priests encourage me to assign our seminarians to more “liberal seminaries.” Of course there are no “liberal seminaries” anymore, as seminaries today are either conservative or ultra-conservative.

From my personal perspective, however, I’m proud of and thrilled with our crop of seminarians and young priests. I find them to be intelligent, talented, balanced and personable. They’re in love with the Lord, generous with their gifts, and anxious to serve the Church. They’re not perfect, of course, and are sometimes a little eccentric. (Now there’s a new phenomenon in the Church – eccentric priests!) But, I’m really excited about where the Spirit is leading the Church and I just hope I’m around long enough to see these young guys in action.

Do I hear an “Amen”!


Pope Benedict: "The Role of Priests is Irreplaceable"

From the Vatican News Service today comes highlights of Pope Benedict’s address to the Bishops of Brazil, who just completed their “ad limina” visit. Commenting on the various roles in the Church, the Pope explained how “the particular identity of priests and laity must be seen in the light of the essential difference between priestly ministry and the ‘common priesthood’. Hence it is important to avoid the secularization of clergy and the ‘clericalization’ of the laity”.

“In this perspective the lay faithful must undertake to give expression in real life – also through political commitment – to the Christian view of anthropology and the social doctrine of the Church. While priests must distance themselves from politics in order to favour the unity and communion of all the faithful, thus becoming a point of reference for everyone”.

“The lack of priests does not justify a more active and abundant participation of the laity. The truth is that the greater the faithful’s awareness of their own responsibilities within the Church, the clearer becomes the specific identity and inimitable role of the priest as pastor of the entire community, witness to the authenticity of the faith, and dispenser of the mysteries of salvation in the name of Christ the Head”.

“The function of the clergy is essential and irreplaceable in announcing the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. … For this reason it is vital to ask the Lord to send workers for His harvest; and it is necessary that priests express joy in their faithfulness to their identity”.

“The shortage of priests must not come to be considered as a normal or typical state of affairs for the future”. In this context he encouraged the prelates “to combine efforts to encourage new priestly vocations and find the pastors your dioceses need, helping one another so that all of you have better-trained and more numerous priests to support the life of faith and the apostolic mission”.

Pope Benedict once again focused on St. John Vianney as a model for priests. In this Year For Priests, remember to keep your parish pastors and priests in your daily prayers. Thank them for their commitment and offer them encouragement to continually renew their awareness of their identity, dignity, responsibility, and irreplaceable role.


Be a model for the faithful

St Augustine’s sermon On Pastors
When the Lord had explained what these bad shepherds seek, he also said what they neglect. The defects of the sheep are widespread. There are a very few healthy, fat sheep – that is, those that are made strong by feeding on the truth, by God’s gift making good use of the pastures – but they are not safe from the bad shepherds. Those shepherds not only do not look after the sick, the weak, the wandering and the lost, but they do as much harm as they can to the strong and sleek among the flock. Those sheep survive – by the mercy of God they survive – but the bad shepherds do what they can to kill them.
You may ask how they do this. By living badly, by setting a bad example. There was a reason why the servants of God, eminent among shepherds, were told In everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good, and Be a model for the faithful. Often even a strong sheep, seeing its leader living a wicked life, will turn from contemplation of the laws of the Lord to the behaviour of the man and say to itself, “if my leader lives thus, who am I that I should do things differently?” In that way the shepherd is killing the strong sheep: and if the strong, then what of the rest? Even if their strength did not come from his care – even if they were strong and healthy before he saw them – still he is killing him by his evil life.
I say this to your loving kindness, I say it again: even if the sheep are living strong in the word of the Lord, even if they follow what their Lord has told them: Do what they say; but what they do, do not do yourselves, whoever lives wickedly in the sight of the people is a murderer in so far as he is able. Let him not flatter himself that his victim is not dead. The victim is not dead but the man is still a murderer. When a man lusts after a woman then even if she remains chaste he is still an adulterer. The Lord’s judgement is clear and true: If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He has not come to her in his bedroom but in the interior bedroom of his heart he is already in the throes of passion with her.
And so it is that anyone who lives wickedly in the sight of those over whom he has authority is killing them, even the strong ones, as far as he is able. Whoever imitates him dies and whoever does not imitate him lives, but as far as he himself is concerned he is killing them all. As the Lord says, You are killing the fattest sheep but you do not feed my flock.

Pope Benedict on Saint Odon

During the first general audience in Rome after his summer vacation, Benedict remembered Saint Odon, famous for preaching the presence of God in the Eucharist.

“Those priests who approach the altar without dignity stain the bread, which is the body of Christ. Only those who are spiritually united to Christ can worthily receive His Eucharistic Body; in any other case, eating His flesh and drinking His blood would not be beneficial, but harmful”.

Benedict XVI defended Saint Odon’s way of life, based on humility, the austerity and detachment from material things and told the faithful not to immitate.



Priest-Hero of a Death Camp

His name wasn’t always Maximilian. He was born the second son of a poor weaver on 8 January 1894 at Zdunska Wola near Lodz in Poland, and was given the baptismal name of Raymond. Both parents were devout Christians with a particular devotion to Mary. In his infancy Raymond seems to have been normally mischievous but we are told that one day, after his mother had scolded him for some mischief or other, her words took effect and brought about a radical change in the child’s behaviour. Later he explained this change. ‘That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.’ Thus early did the child believe and accept that he was destined for martyrdom. His belief in his dream coloured all his future actions.

In 1907 Raymond and his elder brother entered a junior Franciscan seminary in Lwow. Here he excelled in mathematics and physics and his teachers predicted a brilliant future for him in science. Others, seeing his passionate interest in all things military, saw in him a future strategist. For a time indeed his interest in military affairs together with his fiery patriotism made him lose interest in the idea of becoming a priest, The fulfilment of his dream would lie in saving Poland from her oppressors as a soldier. But before he could tell anyone about his decision his mother announced that, as all their children were now in seminaries, she and her husband intended to enter religious life. Raymond hadn’t the heart to upset his parents’ plans and so he abandoned his plans for joining the army. He was received as a novice in September 1910 and with the habit he took the new name of Maximilian. From 1912 to 1915 he was in Rome studying philosophy at the Gregorian College, and from 1915 to 1919 theology at the Collegio Serafico. He was ordained in Rome on 28 April 1918.

The love of fighting didn’t leave him, but while he was in Rome he stopped seeing the struggle as a military one. He didn’t like what he saw of the world, in fact he saw it as downright evil. The fight, he decided, was a spiritual one. The world was bigger than Poland and there were worse slaveries than earthly ones. The fight was still on, but he would not be waging it with the sword. At that time many Catholics in Europe regarded freemasonry as their chief enemy; and it was against the freemasons that Maximilian Kolbe began to wage war. On 16 October 1917, with six companions, he founded the Crusade of Mary Immaculate (), with the aim of ‘converting sinners, heretics and schismatics, particularly freemasons, and bringing all men to love Mary Immaculate’.

As he entered what was to be the most creative period of his life, Fr Maximilian’s health had already begun to deteriorate. He was by now in an advanced state of tuberculosis, and he felt himself overshadowed by death. His love for Mary Immaculate now became the devouring characteristic of his life. He regarded himself as no more than an instrument of her will, and the only time he was known to lose his temper was in defence of her honour. It was for her that he strove to develop all the good that was in him, and he wanted to encourage others to do the same.

When Maximilian returned to Poland in 1919 he rejoiced to see his country free once again, a liberation which he typically attributed to Mary Immaculate. Pius XI in response to a request from the Polish bishops had just promulgated the Feast of Our Lady Queen of Poland, and Fr Maximilian wrote: ‘She must be the Queen of Poland and of every Polish heart. We must labour to win each and every heart for her.’ He set himself to extend the influence of his Crusade, and formed cells and circles all over Poland. The doctors had by now pronounced him incurable; one lung had collapsed and the other was damaged. Yet it was now that he flung himself into a whirlwind of activity. In January 1922 he began to publish a monthly review, the , in Cracow. Its aim was ‘to illuminate the truth and show the true way to happiness’. As funds were low, only 5,000 copies of the first issue were printed. In 1922 he removed to another friary in Grodno and acquired a small printing establishment; and from now on the review began to grow. In 1927 70,000 copies were being printed. The Grodno Friary became too small to house such a mammoth operation, so Fr Maximilian began to look for a site nearer to Warsaw. Prince Jan Drucko-Lubecki offered him some land at Teresin, west of Warsaw, Fr Maximilian promptly erected a statue of Mary Immaculate there, and the monks began the arduous work of construction.

On 21 November 1927 the Franciscans moved from Grodno to Teresin and on 8 December the friary was consecrated and was given the name of Niepokalanow, the City of the Immaculate. ‘Niepokalanow’, said Fr Maximilian, ‘is a place chosen by Mary Immaculate and is exclusively dedicated to spreading her cult. All that is and will be at Niepokalanow will belong to her. The monastic spirit will flourish here; we shall practise obedience and we shall be poor, in the spirit of St Francis.’

At first Niepokalanow consisted of no more than a few shacks with tar-paper roofs, but it soon flourished. To cope with the flood of vocations all over Poland, a junior seminary was built at Niepokalanow ‘to prepare priests for the missions capable of every task in the name of the Immaculate and with her help’. A few years later there were more than a hundred seminarians and the numbers were still growing. Before long Niepokalanow had become one of the largest (some say largest) friaries in the world. In 1939 it housed 762 inhabitants: 13 priests, 18 novices, 527 brothers, 122 boys in the junior seminary and 82 candidates for the priesthood. No matter how many labourers were in the vineyard there was always work for more. Among the inhabitants of Niepokalanow there were doctors, dentists, farmers, mechanics, tailors, builders, printers, gardeners, shoemakers, cooks. The place was entirely self-supporting.

Not only the friary but the printing house had been expanding. More modern machinery had been installed, including three machines which could produce 16,000 copies of the review in an hour. New techniques of type, photogravure and binding were adopted. The new machinery and techniques made it possible to meet the growing demand for —which had now reached the incredible circulation figure of 750,000 per month—and to produce other publications as well. In 1935 they began to produce a daily Catholic newspaper, , of which 137,000 copies were printed on weekdays and 225,000 on Sundays and holydays.

Maximilian did not rest content with mere journalistic activity. His sights were set even further. On 8 December 1938 a radio station was installed at Niepokalanow with the signature tune (played by the brothers’ own orchestra) of the Lourdes hymn. And now that there was so much valuable equipment around, Niepokalanow acquired its own fire brigade to protect it against its enemies. Some of the brothers were now trained as firemen.

There was no doubt that Niepokalanow was going from strength to strength, a unique institution within Poland. The results of the work done there were becoming apparent. Priests in parishes all over the country reported a tremendous upsurge of faith, which they attributed to the literature emerging from Niepokalanow. A campaign against abortion in the columns of the (1938) seemed to awaken the conscience of the nation: more than a million people of all classes and professions ranged themselves behind the standard of Mary Immaculate. Years later, after the war, the Polish bishops sent an official letter to the Holy See claiming that Fr Kolbe’s magazine had prepared the Polish nation to endure and survive the horrors of the war that was soon to follow.

Fr Maximilian was a restless spirit, and his activities could not be confined to Poland. His junior seminary had been started in 1929 but he didn’t intend to wait for its first priest to be trained before he himself set out for the mission lands. To those who pointed out that Niepokalanow wasn’t yet up to undertaking foreign apostolic work, he quoted the example of St Francis, who had risked himself on the mission fields when the other Orders had remained uninvolved. With the blessing of his Father General, Maximilian prepared his expedition. Asked whether he had money to finance it, he replied: ‘Money? It will turn up somehow or other. Mary will see to it. It’s her business and her Son’s.’

On 26 February 1930 Fr Maximilian left Poland with four brothers from Niepokalanow on a journey to the Far East. They travelled by way of Port Said, Saigon and Shanghai, and on 24 April they landed at Nagasaki in Japan. Here they were given episcopal permission to stay. In fact Archbishop Hayasaka received them very warmly when he learned that Fr Maximilian had two doctorates and would be able to take the vacant chair of philosophy in the diocesan seminary in exchange for a licence to print his review.

The going was hard. The Poles’ only shelter was a wretched hut whose walls and roof were caving in. They slept on what straw they could find and their tables were planks of wood. But despite such hardships, and the fact that they knew no word of the Japanese language, and had no money, on 24 April 1930, exactly a month after their arrival, a telegram was despatched to Niepokalanow: ‘Today distributing Japanese . Have printing press. Praise to Mary Immaculate.’ After that, it was scarcely surprising that a year later the Japanese Niepokalanow was inaugurated, Mugenzai no Sono (the Garden of the Immaculate), built on the slopes of Mount Hikosan. The choice of this site in the suburbs had been dictated by poverty, but it proved a lucky one. People thought Fr Maximilian was crazy to be building on steep ground sloping away from the town; but in 1945, when the atomic bomb all but levelled Nagasaki, Mugenzai no Sono sustained no more damage than a few broken panes of stained glass. Today it forms the centre of a Franciscan province.

Despite his passionate zeal in the cause of Mary, Fr Maximilian proved to be a wise missionary. He did not attempt to impose Western ideas on the Japanese. He respected their national customs and looked for what was good in Buddhism and Shintoism. He entered into dialogue with Buddhist priests and some of them became his friends. In 1931 he founded a noviciate and in 1936 a junior seminary. And of course he continued to publish his beloved magazine. , the Japanese , had a circulation six times that of its nearest Japanese Catholic rival. This was because it was aimed at the whole community, not just Catholics. The first 10,000 copies had swollen to 65,000 by 1936.

Father Maximilian’s health was rapidly deteriorating, but he didn’t allow this fact to diminish his zeal or his restless energy. Although he often complained of the lack of manpower and machines needed to serve the people of Japan, in 1932 he was already seeking fresh pastures. On 31 May he left Japan and sailed to Malabar where, after a few initial difficulties, he founded a third Niepokalanow. But his superiors requested him to return to Japan, and as no priests could be spared for Malabar that idea had to be given up. On another of his journeys he travelled through Siberia and spent some time in Moscow. Even here he dreamed of publishing his magazine-in Russian. He had studied the language and had a fair acquaintance with Marxist literature. Like Pope John XXIII he looked for the good elements even in systems which he believed to be evil; and he tried to teach his friars to do likewise.

In 1936 he was recalled to Poland, and left Japan for the last time. He had thought that he would find martyrdom there; and indeed he had found martyrdom of a kind. He was racked by violent headaches and covered with abscesses brought on by the food to which he could not grow accustomed. But these things were only pinpricks: the real martyrdom awaited him elsewhere.

Just before the Second World War broke out Fr Maximilian spoke to his friars about suffering. They must not be afraid, he said, for suffering accepted with love would bring them closer to Mary. All his life he had dreamed of a martyr’s crown, and the time was nearly at hand.

By 13 September 1939 Niepokalanow had been occupied by the invading Germans and most of its inhabitants had been deported to Germany. Among them was Fr Maximilian. But that exile did not last long and on 8 December the prisoners were set free. From the moment that he returned to Niepokalanow Fr Maximilian was galvanized into a new kind of activity. He began to organize a shelter for 3,000 Polish refugees, among whom were 2,000 Jews. ‘We must do everything in our power to help these unfortunate people who have been driven from their homes and deprived of even the most basic necessities. Our mission is among them in the days that lie ahead.’ The friars shared everything they had with the refugees. They housed, fed and clothed them, and brought all their machinery into use in their service.

Inevitably the community came under suspicion and was closely watched. Early in 1941, in the only edition of which he was allowed to publish, Fr Maximilian set pen to paper and thus provoked his own arrest. ‘No one in the world can change Truth’, he wrote. ‘What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is an inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?’

He would never know that kind of defeat; but a more obvious defeat was near. On 17 February 1941 he was arrested and sent to the infamous Pawiak prison in Warsaw. Here he was singled out for special ill-treatment. A witness tells us that in March of that year an S. S. guard, seeing this man in his habit girdled with a rosary, asked if he believed in Christ. When the priest calmly replied ‘I do’, the guard struck him. The S. S. man repeated his question several times and receiving always the same answer went on beating him mercilessly. Shortly afterwards the Franciscan habit was taken away and a prisoner’s garment was substituted.

On 28 May Fr Maximilian was with over 300 others who were deported from Pawiak to Auschwitz. There he received his striped convict’s garments and was branded with the number 16670. He was put to work immediately carrying blocks of stone for the construction of a crematorium wall. On the last day of May he was assigned with other priests to the Babice section which was under the direction of ‘Bloody’ Krott, an ex-criminal. ‘These men are lay-abouts and parasites’, said the Commandant to Krott, ‘get them working.’ Krott forced the priests to cut and carry huge tree-trunks. The work went on all day without a stop and had to be done running—with the aid of vicious blows from the guards. Despite his one lung, Father Maximilian accepted the work and the blows with surprising calm. Krott conceived a relentless hatred against the Franciscan and gave him heavier tasks than the others. Sometimes his colleagues would try to come to his aid but he would not expose them to danger. Always he replied, ‘Mary gives me strength. All will be well.’ At this time he wrote to his mother, ‘Do not worry about me or my health, for the good Lord is everywhere and holds every one of us in his great love.’

One day Krott found some of the heaviest planks he could lay hold of and personally loaded them on the Franciscan’s back, ordering him to run. When he collapsed, Krott kicked him in the stomach and face and had his men give him fifty lashes. When the priest lost consciousness Krott threw him in the mud and left him for dead. But his companions managed to smuggle him to the Revier, the camp hospital. Although he was suffering greatly, he secretly heard confessions in the hospital and spoke to the other inmates of the love of God. In Auschwitz, where hunger and hatred reigned and faith evaporated, this man opened his heart to others and spoke of God’s infinite love. He seemed never to think of himself. When food was brought in and everyone struggled to get his place in the queue so as to be sure of a share, Fr Maximilian stood aside, so that frequently there was none left for him. At other times he shared his meagre ration of soup or bread with others. He was once asked whether such self-abnegation made sense in a place where every man was engaged in a struggle for survival, and he answered: ‘Every man has an aim in life. For most men it is to return home to their wives and families, or to their mothers. For my part, I give my life for the good of all men.’

Men gathered in secret to hear his words of love and encouragement, but it was his example which counted for most. Fr Zygmunt Rusczak remembers: ‘Each time I saw Father Kolbe in the courtyard I felt within myself an extraordinary effusion of his goodness. Although he wore the same ragged clothes as the rest of us, with the same tin can hanging from his belt, one forgot this wretched exterior and was conscious only of the charm of his inspired countenance and of his radiant holiness.’

There remained only the last act in the drama. The events are recorded in the sworn testimonials of former inmates of the camp, collected as part of the beatification proceedings. They are as follows:

Tadeusz Joachimowski, clerk of Block 14A: ‘In the summer of 1941, most probably on the last day of July, the camp siren announced that there had been an escape. At the evening roll-call of the same day we, i.e. Block 14A, were formed up in the street between the buildings of Blocks 14 and 17. After some delay we were joined by a group of the Landwirtschafts-Kommando. During the count it was found that three prisoners from this Kommando had escaped: one from our Block and the two others from other Blocks. Lagerfuhrer Fritzsch announced that on account of the escape of the three prisoners, ten prisoners would be picked in reprisal from the blocks in which the fugitives had lived and would be assigned to the Bunker (the underground starvation cell).’ Jan Jakub Szegidewicz takes up the story from there: ‘After the group of doomed men had already been selected, a prisoner stepped out from the ranks of one of the Blocks. I recognized Father Kolbe. Owing to my poor knowledge of German I did not understand what they talked about, nor do I remember whether Fr Kolbe spoke directly to Fritzsch. When making his request, Fr Kolbe stood at attention and pointed at a former non-commissioned officer known to me from the camp. It could be inferred from the expression on Fritzsch’s face that he was surprised at Fr Kolbe’s action. As the sign was given, Fr Kolbe joined the ranks of the doomed and the non-commissioned officer left the ranks of the doomed and resumed his place in his Block; which meant that Fritzsch had consented to the exchange. A little later the doomed men were marched off in the direction of Block 13, the death Block.’

The non-commissioned officer was Franciszek Gajowniczek. When the sentence of doom had been pronounced, Gajowniczek had cried out in despair, ‘O my poor wife, my poor children. I shall never see them again.’ It was then that the unexpected had happened, and that from among the ranks of those temporarily reprieved, prisoner 16670 had stepped forward and offered himself in the other man’s place. Then the ten condemned men were led off to the dreaded Bunker, to the airless underground cells where men died slowly without food or water.

Bruno Borgowiec was an eye-witness of those last terrible days, for he was an assistant to the janitor and an interpreter in the underground Bunkers. He tells us what happened: ‘In the cell of the poor wretches there were daily loud prayers, the rosary and singing, in which prisoners from neighbouring cells also joined. When no S. S. men were in the Block I went to the Bunker to talk to the men and comfort them. Fervent prayers and songs to the Holy Mother resounded in all the corridors of the Bunker. I had the impression I was in a church. Fr Kolbe was leading and the prisoners responded in unison. They were often so deep in prayer that they did not even hear that inspecting S. S. men had descended to the Bunker; and the voices fell silent only at the loud yelling of their visitors. When the cells were opened the poor wretches cried loudly and begged for a piece of bread and for water, which they did not receive, however. If any of the stronger ones approached the door he was immediately kicked in the stomach by the S. S. men, so that falling backwards on the cement floor he was instantly killed; or he was shot to death … Fr Kolbe bore up bravely, he did not beg and did not complain but raised the spirits of the others…. Since they had grown very weak, prayers were now only whispered. At every inspection, when almost all the others were now lying on the floor, Fr Kolbe was seen kneeling or standing in the centre as he looked cheerfully in the face of the S. S. men. Two weeks passed in this way. Meanwhile one after another they died, until only Fr Kolbe was left. This the authorities felt was too long; the cell was needed for new victims. So one day they brought in the head of the sick-quarters, a German, a common criminal named Bock, who gave Fr Kolbe an injection of carbolic acid in the vein of his left arm. Fr Kolbe, with a prayer on his lips, himself gave his arm to the executioner. Unable to watch this I left under the pretext of work to be done. Immediately after the S. S. men with the executioner had left I returned to the cell, where I found Fr Kolbe leaning in a sitting position against the back wall with his eyes open and his head drooping sideways. His face was calm and radiant.’

The heroism of Father Kolbe went echoing through Auschwitz. In that desert of hatred he had sown love. Mr Jozef Stemler, former director of an important cultural institute in Poland, comments: ‘In those conditions … in the midst of a brutalization of thought and feeling and words such as had never before been known, man indeed became a ravening wolf in his relations with other men. And into this state of affairs came the heroic self-sacrifice of Fr Maximilian. The atmosphere grew lighter, as this thunderbolt provoked its profound and salutary shock.’ Jerzy Bielecki declared that Fr Kolbe’s death was ‘a shock filled with hope, bringing new life and strength…. It was like a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp.’

His reputation spread far and wide, through the Nazi camps and beyond. After the war newspapers all over the world were deluged with articles about this ‘saint for our times’, ‘saint of progress’, ‘giant of holiness’. Biographies were written, and everywhere there were claims of cures being brought about through his intercession. ‘The life and death of this one man alone’, wrote the Polish bishops, ‘can be proof and witness of the fact that the love of God can overcome the greatest hatred, the greatest injustice, even death itself.’ The demands for his beatification became insistent, and at last on 12 August 1947 proceedings started. Seventy-five witnesses were questioned. His cause was introduced on 16 March 1960. When all the usual objections had been overcome, the promoter spoke of ‘the charm of this magnificent fool’. On 17 October 1971 Maximilian Kolbe was beatified. Like his master Jesus Christ he had loved his fellow-men to the point of sacrificing his life for them. ‘Greater love hath no man than this … and these were the opening words of the papal decree introducing the process of beatification.

Blessed Maximilian Kolbe, Priest hero of a death camp. By Mary Craig. Published by The Catholic Truth Society-London.


Almighty and eternal God, we presumptuously call you our father.
Make us in our hearts truly your adopted children,
so that we deserve the inheritance you have promised us.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Saint Dominic for All Times

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, who answered the Church’s need for a steady body of preachers rooted in obedience to the Truth. In early 1200 in France, the Albigensians were flourishing and very effectively teaching a false gospel, gaining many followers. They were preaching that the world and material things–the body–were evil and could not have been created by an all good God. Thus they denied that Christ was truly a man. Suicide by starvation was seen as a noble act. They mortified themselves and lived a very ascetic life in stark contrast to the wealthy monasteries and comfortable lifestyles of monks at the time. The common priest was poorly educated and often did not have the facility to either correct a false teaching or persuasively articulate true Church teaching.

St. Dominic answered by forming a band of itinerant preachers who lived a monastic life out in the world. Poverty, chastity, obedience, and study proved to be the winning formula. St. Dominic carried a copy of the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul with him and poured over them often enough to commit them to memory. Arduous study, contemplation and prayer prepared him to preach with great love, clarity and zeal which won over many hearts and extinguished many heresies. Dominic referred to the preacher as a well which must first be full itself before it can overflow with water for others. Contemplata aliis tradere-to pass on the fruits of one’s own conteplation-is a motto of the Order to this day. This mission and this formula are as necessary today as they were in Dominic’s time. The Truth–Veritas–attracts. This is evidenced by the booming ministries of the Dominican Order and in a time of contraction for many religious orders in the US, the Dominicans are thriving and expanding. Pope Benedict recently used the example of Saint Dominic as a model for priests during this Year for Priests.

Pray for the continued success of the Dominican Order, that St. Dominic’s vision of a preacher, filled with love for Christ in the Gospels and a trained intellect to catechise, teach and reach people to convert hearts will grow in the Church. Pray for all priests that the spirit of Dominic will inspire them to pray fervently, strive for holiness, study, and preach with substance to feed the faithful who are starving for Truth. In this Google world people have become sophisticated in filtering their sources and information. The Gospel message is often not heard because it is drowned out by worldly alternatives, simply not preached, or dismissed as a result of a non credible source. Therefore the preaching must be like that of Saint Dominic. (Brief historical note: the Jesuits were founded to combat the Protestant Reformation). There’s a fraternal spirit of competition between the Dominicans and the Jesuits–the two premiere intellectual orders of the Church (though that statement itself is subject to scrutiny)–as to which Order/Society is “better”. When’s the last time you met an Albigensian? You be the judge.

from the Office of Readings:

From various writings on the history of the Order of Preachers
He spoke with God or about God
Dominic possessed such great integrity and was so strongly motivated by divine love, that without a doubt he proved to be a bearer of honour and grace. He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animates the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.
Wherever he went he showed himself in word and deed to be a man of the Gospel. During the day no one was more community-minded or pleasant toward his brothers and associates. During the night hours no one was more persistent in every kind of vigil and supplication. He seldom spoke unless it was with God, that is, in prayer, or about God, and in this matter he instructed his brothers. Frequently he made a special personal petition that God would deign to grant him a genuine charity, effective in caring for and obtaining the salvation of men. For he believed that only then would he be truly a member of Christ, when he had given himself totally for the salvation of men, just as the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of all, had offered himself completely for our salvation. So, for this work, after a lengthy period of careful and provident planning, he founded the Order of Friars Preachers.
In his conversations and letters he often urged the brothers of the Order to study constantly the Old and New Testaments. He always carried with him the gospel according to Matthew and the epistles of Paul, and so well did he study them that he almost knew them from memory.
Two or three times he was chosen bishop, but he always refused, preferring to live with his brothers in poverty. Throughout his life, he preserved the honour of his virginity. He desired to be scourged and cut to pieces, and so die for the faith of Christ. Of him Pope Gregory IX declared: “I knew him as a steadfast follower of the apostolic way of life. There is no doubt that he is in heaven, sharing in the glory of the apostles themselves.”


Pray for Priests

“Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.

—-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen,
before the Knights of Columbus, June 1972


The World is Everything and God is Nothing

This is as true today as it was 150 years ago.

Sermon by St. Jean Marie Vianney

If people would do for God what they do for the world, my dear people, what a great number of Christians would go to Heaven! But if you, dear children, had to pass three or four hours praying in a church, as you pass them at a dance or in a cabaret, how heavily the time would press upon you! If you had to go to a great many different places in order to hear a sermon, as you go for your pastimes or to satisfy your avarice and greed, what pretexts there would be, and how many detours would be taken to avoid going at all. But nothing is too much trouble when done for the world. What is more, people are not afraid of losing either God or their souls or Heaven. With what good reason did Jesus Christ, my dear people, say that the children of this world are more zealous in serving their master, the world, than the children of light are in serving theirs, who is God. To our shame, we must admit that people fear neither expense, nor even going into debt, when it is a matter of satisfying their pleasures, but if some poor person asks them for help, they have nothing at all. This is true of so many: they have everything for the world and nothing at all for God because to them, the world is everything and God is nothing.


Benedict XVI points priests to August saints for inspiration

.- Pope Benedict XVI led the Angelus prayer for faithful gathered on Sunday in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo. He spoke to those present about the numerous saints whose feasts are celebrated in August and how their lives can serve as models for priests in the Year for Priests.

Thinking of the just-initiated Year for Priests, Pope Benedict called it a “precious occasion to deepen the value of the priestly mission in the Church and in the world.”

As priests seek to grow deeper in their vocation, Pope Benedict pointed to the examples of several saints, whose feast days are celebrated in August.

“Yesterday was the liturgical memorial of St. Alphonsus Mary Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, great master of moral theology and model of Christian and pastoral virtue, always attentive to the religious needs of the people,” he recalled. “Today we contemplate in St. Francis of Assisi the ardent love for salvation of souls, which every priest must constantly nurture.”

“In order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney I declared the Year for Priests,” the Pope reminded. “I will speak about this humble pastor, who constitutes a model of priestly life not only for pastors, but for all priests, during the catechesis of the upcoming Wednesday’s general audience.”

“On August 7, there is the memorial of St. Cajetan of Thiena, who said that ‘not with sentimental love, but with love of facts do we purify souls,” the Holy Father said. On August 8, there is the feast of St. Dominic, of whom it is said that when “he opened his mouth it was to either speak of God in prayer or to speak of God.”

Benedict XVI also noted the 31st anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI, who died at Castel Gandolfo on August 6, 1978.

Pope Paul VI, Benedict observed, was a man who with “His life, so profoundly priestly and so rich in humanity, remains in the Church a gift for which to thank God. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, aid priests to be totally in love with Christ, following the examples of these models of priestly holiness.”


Year for Priests–1st Thursday Plenary Indulgence

During the Year for Priests which began on June 19, 2009 and will end on June 19, 2010, the gift of special Indulgences is granted as described in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, published on 12 May. The instructions for priests and for the faithful are as follows:

A. Truly repentant priests who, on any day, devoutly recite at least morning Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for public adoration or replaced in the tabernacle, and who, after the example of St John Mary Vianney, offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially Confession, are mercifully granted in God the Plenary Indulgence which they may also apply to their deceased brethren in suffrage, if, in conformity with the current norms, they receive sacramental confession and the Eucharistic banquet and pray for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions.

Furthermore the Partial Indulgence is granted to priests who may apply it to their deceased confreres every time that they devoutly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a holy life and to carry out in a holy manner the offices entrusted to them.

B. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to all the faithful who are truly repentant who, in church or in chapel, devoutly attend the divine Sacrifice of Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, for the priests of the Church, and any other good work which they have done on that day, so that he may sanctify them and form them in accordance with His Heart, as long as they have made expiation for their sins through sacramental confession and prayed in accordance with the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions: on the days in which the Year for Priests begins and ends, on the day of the 150th anniversary of the pious passing of St John Mary Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month or on any other day established by the local Ordinaries for the benefit of the faithful.

Dear Saint John Vianney, your childhood dream was to be a Priest, to win souls for God. You endured years of toil and humiliation to attain the Priesthood. You became a Priest truly after God’s own heart, outstanding in humulity and poverty; prayer and mortification. Totally devoted to the service of God’s people. The Church has exalted you as model and patron saint of all Parish Priest, trusting that your example and prayers will help them to live up to the high dignity of their vocation to be faithful servants of God’s people, to be perfect imitators of Christ the Savior Who came not to be served but to serve, to give His Life in ransom for many.

Pray that God may give to His Church today many more Priests after His own Heart. Pray for all the Priests under your patronage, that they may be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd. May they wholeheartedly devote themselves to prayer and penance; be examples of humility and poverty; shining modelss of holiness; tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God; zealous dispensers of God’s Grace in the Sacraments. May their loving devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist and to Mary His Mother be the Twin Fountains of fruitfulness for their ministry.
Amen.


YEAR FOR PRIESTS: COMPLETE IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST

Once again Pope Benedict focuses on the Year for Priests, demonstrating the great importance he is placing on the desired fruit of this year: the sanctification of priests. Hopefully those dioceses and priests that have yet to join the Holy Father in this endeavor will be moved to do so and dedicate themselves to a continued renewal of self conformed to Christ.

From Vatican Information Service:

VATICAN CITY, 24 JUN 2009 (VIS) – During today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope focused his remarks on the Year for Priests which he inaugurated last Friday, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and day of prayer for the sanctification of the clergy, and which is intended to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney.

“Why a Year for Priests?” the Pope asked. “And why should it recall the holy ‘Cure of Ars’ who apparently did nothing out of the ordinary?”

The Holy Father went on to explain how “Divine Providence ordained that the figure [of St. John May Vianney] should be associated with that of St. Paul” because, “although the two saints followed very different life paths, … these exists nonetheless a fundamental factor that unites them: their total identification with their ministry, their communion with Christ”.

“The aim of this Year for Priests”, he went on, “is to support each priest’s struggle towards spiritual perfection, ‘upon which the effectiveness of his ministry particularly depends’, and to help priests, and with them the entire People of God, to rediscover and revive an awareness of the extraordinary and indispensable gift of Grace which the ordained ministry represents, for the person who receives it, for the entire Church, and for the world which would be lost without the real presence of Christ”.

“Although the historical and social conditions in which the ‘Cure of Ars’ worked have changed, it is right to ask how priests can imitate him by identifying themselves with their ministry in modern globalised societies”, said the Pope.

“In a world in which the common view of life leaves ever less space for the sacred, in place of which ‘functionality’ becomes the only decisive category, the Catholic concept of priesthood could risk losing its due regard, sometimes even in the ecclesial conscience”.

The Holy Father identified two conceptions of the priesthood, “which do not in fact contradict one another”. On the one hand “a social-functional conception which identifies the essence of priesthood with the concept of ‘service’. … On the other hand there is a sacramental-ontological conception” which sees priestly ministry “as determined by a gift called Sacrament, granted by the Lord through the mediation of the Church”.

“What”, the Pope asked, “does it mean for priests to evangelise? In what does the primacy of announcement exist? … Announcement coincides with the person of Christ”, he said, “a priest cannot consider himself as ‘master’ of the Word, but as its servant”.

“Only participation in Christ’s sacrifice, in His ‘chenosi’, … and docile obedience to the Church … makes announcement authentic. … Priests are Christ’s servants, in the sense that their existence, ontologically configured to Him, have an essentially relational character. The priest is in Christ, for Christ and with Christ at the service of humankind. Precisely because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of man”.

Benedict XVI concluded by expressing the hope that “the Year for Priests may lead all the clergy to identify themselves completely with Christ Who died and rose again, so that, imitating St. John the Baptist, they may be ready ‘to diminish’ that He may grow; and that, following the example of the ‘Cure of Ars’, they may be constantly and profoundly aware of their mission, which is both sign and presence of the infinite mercy of God”.


Pope Benedict Inaugurates Year for Priests


A PRIEST by Lacordaire

To live in the midst of the world
without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family,
yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering;
to penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds;
to go from men to God
and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men
to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity,
and a heart of bronze for Chastity
To teach and to pardon,
console and bless always.
My God, what a life;
and it is yours,
O priest of Jesus Christ.

—Lacordaire


Catechism on the Priesthood

by St. John Vianney

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God — a man who is invested with all the powers of God. “Go, ” said Our Lord to the priest; “as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations. . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me. ” When the priest remits sins, he does not say, “God pardons you”; he says, “I absolve you. ” At the Consecration, he does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body. “

Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest — always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, “Go in peace; I pardon you. ” Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home. ” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, “Where are you going?” you might answer, “I am going to feed my soul. ” If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, “What is that golden door?” “That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept. ” “Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?” “The priest. ” “And what is the Food?” “The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord. ” O God! O God! how Thou hast loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world. . . . Someone said, “Does Saint Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars?” Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. Saint Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, “There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. ” At the sight of a church tower, you may say, “What is there in that place?” “The Body of Our Lord. ” “Why is He there?” “Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass. “

What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


Faithful to Christ, Faithful to the Priesthood

The Year for Priests begins tomorrow, June 19th, at Solemn Vespers in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Thus begins a special year of grace and intercession for the “importance of the priest’s role and mission in the Church and in contemporary society ever more clearly perceived”. (Pope Benedict audience 16 March, 2009) It is more than a year to honor, a public relations maneuver or a “shot in the arm” for priests who have been fatigued by scandal and bad press. To think this is to miss the point…and a tremendous opportunity for grace. This year is “precisely to encourage priests in [their] striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends”. (ibid)

Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, writes, “Each day we are called to conversion, but we are called to it in a very particular way during this year, in union with all those who have received the gift of priestly ordination. Conversion to what? It is conversion to be ever more authentically that which we already are, conversion to our ecclesial identity of which our ministry is a necessary consequence, so that a renewed and joyous awareness of our “being” will determine our “acting”, or rather will create the space allowing Christ the Good Shepherd to live in us and to act through us”.

The Holy Father has asked 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world to dedicate themselves to a year of prayer for the sanctification of priests, and has called the over 400,000 priests of the world to re-dedicate themselves to the goal of personal sanctity and mission. Think about that! How important a cause must be for the Pope to mobilize behind it the entire Church Militant? Priests, rediscover the nature of your priestly identity, recommit yourselves to Christ in prayer, lectio divina, continuing education, theological study, preaching the Gospel and the salvation of souls. All faithful unite their prayers with yours in a common goal of renewal and holiness.

St. John Mary Vianney pray for us!


The Priest – the Believer

The priest must be a believer, one who converses with God. If this is not the case, then all his activities are futile. The most lofty and important thing a priest can do for people is first of all being what he is: a believer. Through faith he lets God, the other, come into the world. And if the other is not at work, our work will never be enough; When people sense that one is there who believes, who lives with God and from God, hope becomes a reality for them as well. Through the faith of the priest, doors open up all around for people: it is really possible to believe, even today. All human believing is a believing-with, and for this reason the one who believes before us is so important. In many ways this person is more exposed in his faith than the others, since their faith depends on his and since, at any given time, he has to withstand the hard-ships of faith for them….

There is a mutual given-and-take in faith in which priests and lay people become mediators of the nearness of God for one another. The priest must also nurture the humility of such receiving in himself ….

The first “task” a priest has to do is to be a believer and to become one ever anew and ever more. Faith is never simply there automatically; it must be lived. It leads us into conversation with God which involves speaking and listening to the same degree. Faith and prayer belong together; they cannot be separated. The time spent by a priest on prayer and listening to Scripture is never time lost to pastoral care or time withheld from others. People sense whether the work and words of their pastor spring from prayer fabricated at his desk.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, from A New Song for the Lord, tr. by Martha M Matesich, NY: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1996, and quoted in Magnificat for Holy Thursday, March 24, 2005.


Pray for Priests

Back on March 16th Pope Benedict XVI declared a “Year for Priests” beginning with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 19, 2009–this Friday. The year will conclude in Rome with an international gathering of priests with the Holy Father on June 19, 2010.

With the announcement of this Year for Priests, the Pope has declared St. John Vianney the Universal Patron of Priests on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Curé d’Ars.

During the Year for Priests the gift of special Indulgences is granted as described in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, published on 12 May.

Pope Benedict has called this special year of dedication to encourage priests to “strive for spiritual perfection [and] divine intimacy in which the priest is called to be expert, so that he may be able to lead the souls entrusted to him humbly and trustingly to the same encounter with the Lord”. Throughout this year our part is to pray for all priests that they may have a renewal of personal purity and holiness, a re-dedication to study and evangelization, and a profound self-identity of being an “alter Christus“.

There is no Church without the Eucharist and there is no Eucharist without the Priest!