Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 29, 2009
Clergy urged to use Year of the Priest for interior renewal
Pope Benedict says the designated year should spark a realization of the generosity of God's pastors
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
VATICAN CITY - Clergy around the world should use the Year for Priests as an opportunity for interior renewal, Pope Benedict said in a letter to priests.
The renewal should aim at "a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world," the pope said in the letter released June 18 at the Vatican.
The Year for Priests began June 19, the feast of the Sacred Heart. In the Edmonton Archdiocese, it was to begin June 26 at a previously-scheduled gathering of clergy.
The pope said the Church must acknowledge that some priests have done great harm to others, but it also must thank God for the gifts the majority of priests have given to the Church and the world.
The special year, he said, should spur in the Church "a joyful and renewed realization of the greatness of God's gift, embodied in the splendid example of generous pastors, religious afire with love for God and for souls and insightful, patient spiritual guides."
ST. JOHN VIANNEY
The pope noted that St. John Vianney - the patron of parish priests and whose 150th anniversary of death is this year - linked the priesthood with the Sacred Heart.
"The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus,' the saintly Curé of Ars would often say."
The pope's 4,200-word letter was largely a reflection on the life and thought of St. John Vianney, who was posted to the village of Ars in 1818 and remained there until his death 41 years later.
Vianney was told there was little love of God in the parish and he began his ministry by making the parish church his home.
"He entered the church before dawn and did not leave it until after the evening Angelus.
There he was to be sought whenever needed," the pope wrote, quoting from a biography of the saint.
"The curé devoted himself completely to his parish's conversion, setting before all else the Christian education of the people in his care," the pope wrote.
He urged priests today to learn from John Vianney's example. "The first thing we need to learn is the complete identification of the man with his ministry."
Pope Benedict noted the efficacy of the priest's ministry is independent of his personal holiness.
But the personal holiness of the priest can lead to "extraordinary fruitfulness" in his ministry.
John Vianney taught parishioners mainly by the witness of his life, he said.
"It was from his example that they learned to pray, halting frequently for a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament."
The saint also constantly tried to help his parishioners "rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance."
He spent up to 16 hours a day hearing confessions, consoling the humble with words of God's mercy and challenging the lukewarm and indifferent, the pope said.
"In his time the Curé of Ars was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord's merciful love."
(The text of the pope's letter in English is available online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20090616_anno-sacerdotale_en.html.)