Sunday, July 22, 2012

Help Priests be Priests

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

It was a busy day for the Lord and his apostles: “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” Even when they went off in a boat by themselves to a deserted place, people hastened on foot to that place. The sight of the vast crowd waiting for them on the shore must have exasperated the apostles, but it moved the Lord’s heart to pity “for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” What should have been taken as an opportunity for rest was spent by our Lord ministering to people: “he began to teach them many things.”

That pity which moved the heart of our Lord is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah in the first reading: “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them…I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadows; there they will increase and multiply.”

The Lord associates men to this task of ministering to his flock: “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing.” The task of caring for the Lord’s flock is truly a huge task which demands immense personal sacrifices. In speaking to priests, the Holy Father said: “You must think above all, not so much of your own personal good, but of the service to the holy people of God, who need pastors who dedicate themselves to the beautiful service of the sanctification of the faithful…” (Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph, May 10, 2012.)    

Knowing the human limitation of those whom he appointed as shepherds of his flock, the Lord tells his apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The rest which the Lord offers his disciples is none other than prayer which should be part of a priest’s daily schedule. “Remember that the priest renews his life and draws strength for his ministry from contemplation of the Divine Word and intense dialogue with the Lord. He is aware that he will be unable to take Christ to his brethren or to meet him in the poor and the sick, if he does not first discover him in fervent and constant prayer. It is necessary to nourish a personal relationship with the One whom he then proclaims, celebrates, and communicates. Herein lies the foundation of priestly spirituality, until one becomes a transparent sign and living witness of the Good Shepherd.”

If we want our priests to minister to us in the manner desired by our Lord, we must help them maintain the high standard of priestly spirituality. This we do providing them ample time to pray. The demands of pastoral life are already immense. The least we can do is not to tempt priests to spend the little time of their rest for “unpriestly” things. The little times of rest for a priest should be spent in prayer and study. It is not right to require of priests to live a secular lifestyle so that they can be like the rest of us. If we expect them to teach us well, give them time to study. If we expect them help us along the way of holiness, give them time to pray. In other words, help priests be priests. Help priests serve you well.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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