12 Sunday in Ordinary Time June 21, 2009
Last Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during Vespers at St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father inaugurated the Year of Priests. The celebratory year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney the Curé d'Ars, the patron saint of priests worldwide, and is intended to “deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more powerful and sharp witness to the Gospel in today's world.”
In his letter, the Holy Father praised “the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation.” Speaking of the great role of the priesthood, he recalls the words of St. John Mary Vianney, “O, how great is the priest! ... if he realized what he is, he would die not out of fear but out of love."
"St. John Vianney devoted himself completely to his parish's conversion by living a holy and dedicated life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life,” said the Holy Father, inviting priests around the world to follow St. Vianney’s example of offering himself as a sacrifice.
“It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth.” St. John Mary Vianney spent long hours in church before the tabernacle, inspiring the faithful "to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness." Over time, penitents started coming from all over the country, and the priest would be in the confessional for up to 16 hours a day. Thus, his parish became known as "a great hospital of souls."
So, Pope invites us (not only the priest) to interiorize our faith, to make it deeper and more spiritual by the means of prayer, meditation of the Word of God and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We are very often like Martha to whom Jesus said: "Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part."
"There are also, sad to say, situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers. Then it is the world which finds grounds for scandal and rejection."
"How can one forget that nothing makes the Church -- the Body of Christ -- suffer more than the sins of its pastors, above all those that are 'wolves in sheep's clothing,' whether because they lead the faithful away with their private doctrine, or because they bind the faithful down with the ties of sin and death?"
From the letter we can find out what are the causes of this situation, this infidelity to the Church. In all cases we can point out the lack of prayer, lack of the meditation of the Word of God and the lack of humble adoration of Jesus present in His Holy Sacrament. The contact with the Word of God and with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament was replaced by private ideas and theories, by selfish arrogant conviction that I am able to save myself. And this is true not only for priests, but also for the persons living the consecrated life, as well as for the parents, for the teachers, for the formators, for all Christians.
The priests like all others are under a constant stress of success, under continuous pressure of achievement, under permanent tension of activity and even activism, a vigorous and sometimes aggressive action in pursuing a political or social ends. We have no time for prayer, no time for the meditation, no time for adoration. We are deeply convinced that the salvation of the whole world depends on our pastoral activity, meetings, gatherings, actions. And in this way we become like a barren soil unproductive and sterile. But all this is revealing also a deep lack of faith. Like the Apostles in today's Gospel we are afraid and anxious that the storm around us will destroy everything, that we will perish, and we have to do something, we must be active. And Jesus reproaches us "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" Why do you relay only on your human resources, on your human wisdom and human means?
...In today's world, as in the troubled times of the Cure of Ars, the lives and activity of priests need to be distinguished by a forceful witness to the Gospel. As Pope Paul VI rightly noted, "modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses".
During this Year of Priests let us pray for the authentic witnesses in our parishes. But also let us not forget that the ultimate source of our salvation is not our own activism and not our achievements but Jesus Christ, whom even the wind and the sea obey.
And He is always present with us in a very special way in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.