Year of the Priest 2009–2010: July 2009 Archives


Cathedral of the Holy Family
Tulsa, Oklahoma
August 2, 3, 4 at 6:30 in the evening

Here, dear Fathers and other readers, is the full text of the booklet being prepared for the Solemn Diocesan Triduum in honor of Saint John Mary Vianney for the Diocese of Tulsa's observance of the Year of the Priest. Do feel free to use it as it is or to adapt it for your own needs.


Novena to Saint John Mary Vianney: July 27- August 4

I composed this Litany of Saint John Mary Vianney for the Novena that begins today and for the Triduum that will be held at Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa on August 2, 3, and 4 at 6:30 p.m. It will also be included in the prayerbook for the Spiritual Mothers of Priests that is now in preparation.

It is not necessary to pray the entire litany every day. I propose a method of alternating the sections of the litany. One must take care not to "rattle off" the invocations. Allow each invocation to descend gently into the heart, bearing the particular grace it implores.

Each day:

Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. R. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, R. Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, R. Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, R. Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, R. Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, R. Pray for us.
Holy Mary, Advocate of Priests, R. Pray for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, R. Pray for us.

Days 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 of the Novena: Childhood and Youth

Saint John Vianney, R. Pray for us.
Saint John Vianney, graced by God even as a little boy, R.
Saint John Vianney, a blessing to your parents and family, R.
Saint John Vianney, nourished by the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ, R.
Saint John Vianney, most loving son of Mary Immaculate, R.
Saint John Vianney, devoted to the Holy Rosary, R.

Days 2, 4, 6, and 8 of the Novena: Man of the Beatitudes

Saint John Vianney, poor in spirit, R.
Saint John Vianney, who shed tears over the hardheartedness of sinners, R.
Saint John Vianney, meek and humble of heart, R.
Saint John Vianney, merciful and ready to forgive, R,
Saint John Vianney, pure in heart and radiant with chastity, R.
Saint John Vianney, peacemaker and healer of divisions, R.
Saint John Vianney, persecuted for righteousness' sake. R.

Days 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 of the Novena: Mirror of the Gospel

Saint John Vianney, salt of the earth and shining lamp of the Church, R.
Saint John Vianney, rewarded by the Father who sees in secret, R.
Saint John Vianney, showing us the narrow gate that leads to salvation, R.
Saint John Vianney, physician of sick souls, R.
Saint John Vianney, reaching out to sinners, R.
Saint John Vianney, healer of disease and infirmity, R.
Saint John Vianney, to whom the Father revealed
the mysteries of the Kingdom, R.
Saint John Vianney, gentle with the bruised reed and the smoldering wick, R.
Saint John Vianney, who denied yourself, took up your cross,
and followed Jesus, R.

Days 2, 4, 6, and 8 of the Novena: Holy Parish Priest I

Saint John Vianney, chosen to offer the Holy Sacrifice, R.
Saint John Vianney, enriched with the Holy Spirit's Seven Gifts, R.
Saint John Vianney, zealous for the beauty of the Lord's house, R.
Saint John Vianney, imbued with reverence at the altar, R.
Saint John Vianney, tender father of the poor, R.
Saint John Vianney, able to sympathize with our weaknesses, R.
Saint John Vianney, fearless in preaching the truth, R.
Saint John Vianney, nourishing souls with pure spiritual milk, R.
Saint John Vianney, graced with the gift of prophecy, R.
Saint John Vianney, preacher of the Word in season and out of season, R.
Saint John Vianney, unafraid to convince, rebuke, and exhort, R.
Saint John Vianney, faithful dispenser of the Divine Mysteries, R.
Saint John Vianney, persevering in prayer by night and by day, R.
Saint John Vianney, faithful adorer of the Most Blessed Sacrament, R.
Saint John Vianney, privileged friend of Saint Philomena, Virgin and Martyr, R.

Days 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 of the Novena: Holy Parish Priest II

Saint John Vianney, penetrated with the fear of God's judgment, R.
Saint John Vianney, whom the devil tormented cruelly, R.
Saint John Vianney, shining image of priestly holiness, R.
Saint John Vianney, inflamed with priestly zeal, R.
Saint John Vianney, compassionate toward the sick, R.
Saint John Vianney, catechist of children and teacher of your entire parish, R.
Saint John Vianney, wise and prudent father of souls, R.
Saint John Vianney, who spent hours in the confessional each day, R.
Saint John Vianney, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, R.
Saint John Vianney, formidable enemy of Satan's empire, R.
Saint John Vianney, tenderhearted toward every suffering, R.
Saint John Vianney, providence of poor orphans, R.
Saint John Vianney, favoured with the charism of miracles, R.
Saint John Vianney, who reconciled so many sinners to God, R.
Saint John Vianney, who helped countless souls along the path of holiness, R.

Each Day of the Novena: In the Glory of Heaven

Saint John Vianney, who tasted divine sweetness at the hour of your death, R.
Saint John Vianney, rejoicing in the glory of Heaven, R.
Saint John Vianney, giving joy to those who invoke you, R.
Saint John Vianney, advocate of struggling seminarians, R.
Saint John Vianney, patron of parish priests, R.
Saint John Vianney, comforter of bishops, R.

Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
R. Christ, graciously hear us.

V. Pray for us, Saint John Mary Vianney,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty and merciful God,
who made Saint John Mary Vianney
wondrous in his pastoral labour;
grant, we implore, that by his example and intercession,
we may win our brothers and sisters for you in the charity of Christ,
and with them be able to attain glory everlasting.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.
R. Amen.


Spiritual Mothers of Priests

Do visit Jane Mossendew's wonderful new blog here:

Jane calls it a "blog created in response to Pope Benedict's institution of the Sacerdotal Year 2009-10 and which aims to spread knowledge of the vocation of a spiritual mother and to encourage women to consider embracing it." The new blog could be an effective "meeting place" for spiritual mothers of priests from around the world.


In response to questions about the Plenary Indulgence for the Year of Priests, readers can find the Vatican's announcement of the decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary below these comments of my own.

The decree says that, "all truly penitent priests" -- having confessed their sins and received Holy Communion -- may obtain a Plenary Indulgence each day by devoutly praying Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament, and by making themselves available "with a ready and generous heart" for the Sacrament of Penance and the other sacraments. This Plenary Indulgence may be applied to the souls of priests in purgatory. Priests may also obtain a partial indulgence so often as they offer prayers to ask for the grace of sacerdotal holiness. What a splendid opportunity for priests to come to the assistance of their brother priests in purgatory!

The decree also makes generous provision for the lay faithful. They may obtain a Plenary Indulgence on the opening and closing days of the Year of the Priest and on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney (August 4, 2009), on the First Thursday of the month, or on any other day established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the faithful. The particular conditions are given below. By way of example, a prayer suitable for obtaining the Plenary Indulgence would be:

O Jesus, Eternal Priest,
keep Thy priests within the shelter of Thy Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Thy Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with Thy Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unworldly their hearts sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Thy holy love surround 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 their everlasting crown hereafter.
Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us;
obtain for us numerous and holy priests.

VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2009 (VIS) - According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant priests and faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the Year for Priests, which is due to run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010 and has been called in honour of St. Jean Marie Vianney.

The means to obtain the Plenary Indulgence are as follows:

(A) All truly penitent priests who, on any day, devotedly pray Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament exposed to public adoration or in the tabernacle, and ... offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, will be granted Plenary Indulgence, which they can also apply to their deceased confreres, if in accordance with current norms they take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. Priests are furthermore granted Partial Indulgence, also applicable to deceased confreres, every time they devotedly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and to carry out the duties entrusted to them.

(B) All truly penitent Christian faithful who, in church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to His Heart, are granted Plenary Indulgence, on the condition that they have expiated their sins through Sacramental Confession and prayed in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. This may be done on the opening and closing days of the Year of Priests, on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month, or on any other day established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the faithful.

The elderly, the sick and all those who for any legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, "on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles".

Partial Indulgence is offered to all faithful each time they pray five Our Father, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri, or any other duly approved prayer "in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life".


Answering Your Questions

I have been receiving so many requests concerning the call to spiritual motherhood for priests that I am unable to answer them all in a timely fashion. For the moment I am still alone, following the monastic horarium and devoting the greater part of the day to Holy Mass, the Divine Office, and Eucharistic Adoration. After prayer, I must give priority to welcoming the priests, deacons, and deacon candidates who come seeking spiritual support. The promotion of spiritual motherhood is intrinsically related to my work here in Tulsa but, not having a secretary to assist with the correspondence that comes in almost daily from women all over the country, many requests remain in the "to do" pile. I apologize for this.

The Prayer Book

With regard to the promised book of prayers for the Spiritual Mothers of Priests, I will announce its publication here on Vultus Christi as soon as it becomes available. I am still working on the final revisions of the text and on some additional content.

Indispensable Reading

In the meantime, I thank you for your patience and recommend that you read the 2007 letter from the Congregation for the Clergy entitled Adoration, Reparation, and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests here, and the equally important letter to bishops that accompanied it here.

Misa San Gregorio.jpg

The Seventeenth Sunday of the Year B
The First of Five Sundays
Focusing on the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist
in the Sixth Chapter of Saint John's Gospel

A Midsummer Eucharistic Season

Every three years when the B cycle of the Sunday Lectionary returns, the Church interrupts her reading of Saint Mark's Gospel to spend five weeks listening to the magnificent sixth chapter of Saint John: Our Lord's discourse on the Bread of Life. These five Sundays -- the 17th through the 21st -- constitute a kind of Johannine interlude, a Eucharistic season within the cycle of Time Throughout the Year. In this Year of the Priest, these five Sundays will take on an even richer meaning.

These five weeks, marked by the contemplation of the Bread of Life, invite us to three things:

1) a clear and systematic Eucharistic catechesis;
2) an examination of conscience on our personal response to what the Church teaches concerning the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist;
3) a more generous dedication of time to Eucharistic adoration.

A Eucharistic Program

Pope John Paul II's Year of the Eucharist in 2004-2005 is, I fear, already beginning to fade from our consciousness. We are, as the saying goes, "no better than our fathers, slow to remember and quick to forget." I would suggest, then, that you make yourself a program for these next five weeks. It would be opportune to re-read Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and his Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum, Domine. Take out the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and study articles 271-294 on the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Meditate on Pope Benedict XVI's Letter for the Year of the Priesthood. Prepare each day's Mass with attention. Make more time for Eucharistic adoration, remembering that when adoration involves an element of sacrifice, it is a more worthy expression of love.

A Lavish Love

Our Lord multiplies the loaves in today's Gospel in order to give us an image of just how lavish His superabundant love for us is. The twelve baskets left over demonstrate that God is not content with providing us with what is strictly necessary: the work of God is characterized by superabundance. "I came that they may have life," says Our Lord, "and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

The Antiphons at the Magnificat and Benedictus

The three antiphons carefully chosen by the Church for the Gospel Canticles of today's Divine Office are, in themselves, a meditation in three movements on the Mystery of Faith that we will contemplate over the next five weeks:

Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Benedictus Antiphon

The Lord satisfied five thousand men with five loaves and two fish.

Magnificat Antiphon at Second Vespers

When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!"

Note: The American edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, due to a purely arbitrary editorial decision, does not, alas, give all three antiphons for each of the yearly A, B, and C cycles. They are given in the Latin editio typica, as well as in the Italian, French, and German editions of the Liturgy of the Hours. Those who pray the Hours in English are unjustly deprived of the richness of what Mother Church wants them to have. One hopes that this omission will be corrected in future editions of the Liturgy of the Hours in English. Until then the best solution is to repeat the antiphon corresponding to the Sunday Gospel at all three Gospel Canticles. The Magnificat I Antiphon corresponds to Year A; the Benedictus Antiphon to Year B; and the Magnificat II Antiphon to Year C.


The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves is a very little thing in comparison to the miracle which takes place on the altar in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Acting in the very person of Christ the Head of His Mystical Body, the Eternal High Priest, the priest pronounces the words of consecration over the offerings of bread and wine. By the words of consecration and by the action of the Holy Spirit, the bread becomes the very Body of Christ and the wine becomes His Precious Blood. This is the miracle of Transubstantiation: the change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of his Blood" (Comp. CCC, art. 283).

You still see the appearance of bread, but there is no longer any bread, but only Christ, the Bread of Life. You still see the appearance of wine, but there is no longer be any wine, but only the Precious Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine: "Christ whole and entire, God and Man" (Comp. CCC, art. 282). This is no momentary or fleeting presence; it is permanent, lasting so long as one can see, touch, and taste the outward properties of bread and of wine.

Fruits of Holy Mass and Communion

In Holy Mass the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Christ are offered to the Father for the salvation of the world, for the forgiveness of sins, for the needs of the living and for the eternal rest of the dead. This same Sacred Body and Precious Blood are offered to us as food and drink in Holy Communion. Holy Communion builds up the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ; "it increases our union with Christ and with His Church. It strengthens us in charity, wipes away venial sins and preserves us from mortal sin in the future" (Comp. CCC, art. 292).

The Eucharistic Life

Without Holy Communion the Christian life is impossible. The more you receive Holy Communion, the more will you hunger and thirst for it. Saint Sharbel Makhlouf, the Lebanese monk whose feast we celebrated this past Friday, organized his whole life around the Eucharist; he celebrated Mass at noon each day so as to have the whole morning to prepare for it, and the whole afternoon for thanksgiving. Holy Communion is Love poured into our hearts, and the effect of Love is to make us long for even more Love.

Real Presence

The mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist is not confined to the duration of Holy Mass. The miracle of Our Lord's real presence is ongoing and dynamic, continuing by day and by night at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world. This, of course, is why we Catholics adore the Most Holy Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle and exposed to our gaze in the monstrance on the altar. The faithful Catholic is compelled to linger before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, is magnetized by His presence, and drawn to His Open Heart hidden, and yet beating with love for us in the Sacrament of the Altar.

Our Lord's real sacramental presence is not static; it is not the presence of some thing, however sacred; it is the living presence of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, eternally Priest and Victim, offering Himself to His Father, and saying to us, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is supremely active, divinely active, testifying here and now to what Saint Luke wrote: "And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power (virtus) came forth from him and healed them all" (Lk 6:19).

With the Saints

In a few days the Church will present us with the feasts of three holy priests: passionate lovers of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. These three saints appear right on cue as if to encourage us in living this summer Eucharistic season as they lived their whole lives. On August 1st, we will remember Saint Alphonsus Liguori; on August 2nd, Saint Peter Julian Eymard; and on August 4th, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. These will be privileged moments of grace in this Year of the Priesthood. Do not let them pass you by!

Saint Alphonsus, Saint Peter Julien Eymard, and Saint Jean-Marie Vianney were priests overwhelmed with Eucharistic Love, drunk with Eucharistic Love, all ablaze with Eucharistic Love! They lived from one Holy Mass to the next. I so look forward to their companionship in this Year of the Priesthood. Ask them, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests, to introduce us into these five weeks of Eucharistic renewal. There is no better way to go straight to the heart of the Year of the Priesthood.

Tulsa Will Observe Three Evenings in Prayer for Priests

Diocese of Tulsa News
7/14/2009 - EOC Staff


In observance of the Year of Priestly Jubilee, the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Tulsa are invited to spend three consecutive evenings next month to pray for the priests of this Diocese and of the whole Church.

The Triduum will begin at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2 at Holy Family Cathedral and will continue, gathering at the same time and place, on Monday, Aug. 3 and Tuesday, Aug. 4. The Triduum will end on the Feast of St. John Mary Vianney, in whose name Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed the Year of Priestly Jubilee that began in June and will continue through June 2010.

The preacher for the Tulsa evenings will be Father Mark Kirby, O.S.B., who serves as spiritual director to the clergy. He said each event will include prayer for priests, supplication and litany to St. John Mary Vianney, benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and veneration of the relic of St. John Mary Vianney.

Morning Offering for Priests

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I composed this Morning Offering for Priests for the Prayerbook for the Spiritual Mothers of Priests that I am preparing for publication.

Father most holy,
I offer You the prayers, works,
joys, and sufferings of this day
by placing them in the holy and venerable hands
of Jesus, the Eternal High Priest,
and by saying, as He did upon entering the world,
"Behold, I come to do Your will" (Hebrews 10:9).

For the sake of all His priests,
and in particular for Fathers N. and N.,
I entreat Your beloved Son to unite my offering
to the Sacrifice of the Cross,
renewed upon the altars of Your Church
from the rising of the sun to its setting (Malachy 1:11).

Most merciful Father,
look upon these men chosen by Your Son
to show forth His death until He comes (1 Cor 11:26);
keep them from the Evil One (John 17:15)
and sanctify them in the truth (John 17:17).

Bind them by a most tender love
to the Virgin Mary, their Mother
that, by her intercession,
they may be overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)
in every act of their sacred ministry;
thus may their priesthood reveal
the Face of Jesus and the merciful love of His Heart,
for the fruitfulness of His spouse, the Church.
and the praise of Your glory. Amen.


For the Year of the Priesthood


Our priests, deacons, religious, and lay faithful are invited to assemble on three consecutive evenings to pray for the priests of our diocese and of the whole Church.

Where: Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa
When: 6:30 each evening
Sunday, August 2
Monday, August 3
Tuesday, August 4

The Triduum will end on the feast of Saint John Mary Vianney.

Preacher: Father Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B.

Prayers for priests
Supplication and Litany to Saint John Mary Vianney
Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Veneration of the Relic of Saint John Mary Vianney

Agnello Immolato.jpg

Yesterday, after praying the Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the Precious Blood of Christ. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches" (Ap 2:29). My comments are in italics.

Dear brothers and sisters!

In the past, the first Sunday of July was characterized by devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Christ. In the last century some of my venerable predecessors confirmed this [tradition] and Blessed John XXIII, with his apostolic letter "Inde a Primis" (June 30, 1960), explained its meaning and approved its litanies.

How wonderful that the Holy Father should allude to the custom of keeping July as the month of the Precious Blood. The Litanies of the Precious Blood approved for public prayer by Blessed John XXIII are a favourite prayer of mine, a devotion entirely grounded in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition, and endowed with a particular efficacy.

The theme of blood linked to that of the Paschal Lamb is of primary importance in sacred Scripture. In the Old Testament the sprinkling of the blood of sacrificed animals represented and established the covenant between God and the people, as one reads in the Book of Exodus: "Then Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying: 'This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you on the basis of all these words of his'" (Exodus 24:8).

The Mass and Office of the Most Precious Blood (Feast: July 1st) are woven of Old Testament types and images of the Blood of Christ, the Immolated Lamb.

Jesus explicitly repeats this formula at the Last Supper, when, offering the chalice to his disciples, he says: "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). And, from the scourging, to the piercing of his side after his death on the cross, Christ has really shed all of his blood as the true Lamb immolated for universal redemption. The salvific value of his blood is expressively affirmed in many passages of the New Testament.

The Holy Father invites us to meditate on the mystery of the Precious Blood from the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist in the Cenacle, through the Passion and piercing of Our Lord's Side, to the glory of the Immolated Lamb in the Apocalypse.

In this Year for Priests, one need only cite the beautiful lines of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Christ ... entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own Blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the Blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God?" (9:11-14).

The mystery of the Blood of Christ that appears so vividly in the Letter to the Hebrews is inseparable from all that is related to the Year of the Priest. I recommend, in particular, the recitation of the Litany of the Precious Blood for priests during this year.

Dear brothers, it is written in Genesis that the blood of Abel, killed by his brother Cain, cried out to God from the earth (cf. 4:10). And, unfortunately, today as yesterday, this cry does not cease, since human blood continues to run because of violence, injustice and hatred. When will men learn that life is sacred and belongs to God alone? When will men understand that we are all brothers? To the cry of the blood that goes up from many parts of the earth, God answers with the Blood of his Son, who gave his life for us. Christ did not answer evil with evil, but with good, with his infinite love.

Life is sacred and belongs to God alone. In the Bible, life is blood. God answers the taking of human life with the giving of the Blood of His Son. The Blood of Christ pleads on behalf of all: those who are the victims of violence and even those who perpetrate it, that they may be converted and live.

The blood of Christ is the pledge of the faithful love of God for humanity. Looking upon the wounds of the Crucified, every man, even in conditions of extreme moral misery, can say: God has not abandoned me, he loves me, he gave his life for me -- and in this way rediscover hope. May the Virgin Mary, who beneath the Cross, together with the apostle John, witnessed the testament of Jesus' Blood, help us to rediscover the inestimable riches of this grace, and to feel profound and perennial gratitude for it.

I am in awe of this sentence: "Looking upon the wounds of the Crucified, every man, even in conditions of extreme moral misery, can say: God has not abandoned me, he loves me, he gave his life for me -- and in this way rediscover hope." And then, the Holy Father directs us to Our Lady with Saint John at the foot of the Cross, eyewitnesses of the Blood and Water that gushed from the Open Side of Jesus. There is room for everyone at the foot of the Cross, even those who find themselves "in conditions of extreme moral misery." And there, at the foot of the Cross, is hope and copious redemption.

One Who Prays Is Never Alone

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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's teaching during yesterday's general audience in St. Peter's Square. He continues to foster a fruitful celebration of the Year of the Priest. The beginning of the last paragraph is extraordinary: "One who prays is not afraid; one who prays is never alone; one who prays is saved!"

Dear brothers and sisters:

Deeper Into the Knowledge of the Mystery of Christ

As you know, with the celebration of First Vespers for the solemnity of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Pauline Year has come to a close -- the year that marked the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the Lord for the spiritual fruits that this important initiative has brought to so many Christian communities.

As a precious heritage of the Pauline Year, we can reap the Apostle's invitation to go deeper into the knowledge of the mystery of Christ, so that he becomes the heart and center of our personal and social realities.

True Spiritual and Ecclesial Renewal

This is, in fact, the indispensable condition for a true spiritual and ecclesial renewal. As I already emphasized during the first Eucharistic celebration in the Sistine Chapel after my election as the Successor of the Apostle St. Peter, it is precisely from that full communion with Christ that "flows every other element of the Church's life: first of all, communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardor of love for all, especially the poorest and lowliest" (1st Message at the End of the Eucharistic Concelebration With the Members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, April 20, 2005).

How Great Is the Priesthood

This is true in the first place for priests. Because of this, I thank Divine Providence, which now offers us the possibility of celebrating the Year for Priests. It is my heartfelt wish that this will be an opportunity for interior renewal for every priest, and consequently, [a year of] firm reinvigoration in the commitment to his own mission.

Just as during the Pauline Year, our constant reference point was St. Paul, so in the coming months we will look to St. John Vianney, the holy Curé d'Ars, recalling the 150th anniversary of his death. In the letter I wrote to priests for this occasion, I wanted to emphasize what shines forth in the existence of this humble minister of the altar: "the complete identification of the man with his ministry."

He often said that "a good pastor, a pastor after the heart of God, is the greatest treasure that the good God can give to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy." And almost unable to conceive the greatness of the gift and the task entrusted to a poor human creature, he sighed, "Oh how great is the priesthood! ... If he could understand himself, he would die. ... God obeys him: He pronounces two words and Our Lord descends from heaven at his beckoning and enters into a tiny Host."

Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests

In truth, precisely considering the binomial "identity-mission," every priest can better see the need for this progressive identification with Christ that will guarantee him fidelity and fruitfulness in the evangelical testimony.

The very theme of the Year for Priests -- Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests -- shows that the gift of divine grace precedes every possible human response and pastoral accomplishment, and thus, in the life of the priest, missionary proclamation and worship are never separable, just as the ontological-sacramental identity and the evangelizing mission are not separable.

Holy Oblation

Apart from that we could say the objective of every priest's mission is "cultic": so that all people can offer themselves to God as a living host, holy and pleasing to Him (cf. Romans 12:1), that in creation itself, in people, it becomes worship and praise of the Creator, receiving from it that charity that they are called to abundantly dispense among each other.

The Sacrifice Offered by Priests

We clearly see this in the beginnings of Christianity. St. John Chrysostom said, for example, that the sacrament of the altar and the "sacrament of one's brother" or, as they say, the "sacrament of the poor," are two aspects of the same mystery. Love for neighbor, attention to justice and to the poor, are not just themes of social morality, but rather the expression of a sacramental conception of Christian morality, because through the ministry of the priest, the spiritual sacrifice of all the faithful is carried out, in union with that of Christ, the one Mediator: the sacrifice that priests offer in an unbloody and sacramental manner awaiting the new coming of the Lord.

United to the Sacrifice of Christ

This is the principal dimension, essentially missionary and dynamic, of priestly identity and ministry: by way of the proclamation of the Gospel, those who still do not believe are begotten in the faith, so that they can unite their sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ, that translates in love for God and neighbor.

Primacy of Divine Grace

Dear brothers and sisters, faced with so many uncertainties and struggles, it is urgent to recover -- also in the exercise of priestly ministry -- a clear and unmistaken judgment about the absolute primacy of divine grace, recalling what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "The smallest gift of grace surpasses the natural good of the whole universe" (Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 113, a. 9, ad 2).

Encounter With Christ

The mission of every priest depends, therefore, also and above all on the awareness of the sacramental reality of his "new being." The priest's renewed enthusiasm for his mission will always depend on the certainty of his personal identity, which is not artificially constructed, but rather given and received freely and divinely. What I have written in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" is also true for priests: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (No. 1).

Critique of a Post-Concilar Misconception

Having received such an extraordinary gift of grace with their "consecration," priests become permanent witnesses of their encounter with Christ. Beginning precisely from this interior awareness, they can plentifully fulfill their "mission," by means of the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression has come about that in our times, there is something more urgent in priests' missions; some believed that they should in the first place build up a distinct society. On the other hand, the verses from the Gospel that we heard at the beginning call our attention to the two essential elements of priestly ministry. Jesus sends the apostles, at that time and now, to proclaim the Gospel and he gives them the power to cast out evil spirits. "Proclamation" and "power," that is to say "word" and "sacrament," are therefore the two foundational pillars of priestly service, beyond its many possible configurations.

Identity of the Priest

When the "diptych" consecration-mission is not taken into account, it becomes truly difficult to understand the identity of the priest and his ministry in the Church. Who in fact is the priest, if not a man converted and renewed by the Spirit, who lives from a personal relationship with Christ, constantly making the Gospel criteria his own? Who is the priest, if not a man of unity and truth, aware of his own limits and at the same time, of the extraordinary greatness of the vocation he has received, that of helping to extend the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth?

Eucharistic Adoration -- Especially Monasteries

Yes! The priest is a man totally belonging to the Lord, because it is God himself who calls him and who establishes him in his apostolic service. And precisely being totally of God, he is totally of mankind, for all people. During this Year for the Priest, which will continue until the next solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us pray for all priests. May there be an abundance of prayer initiatives and, in particular, Eucharistic adoration, for the sanctification of the clergy and for priestly vocations -- in dioceses, in parishes, in religious communities (especially monasteries), in associations and movements and in the various pastoral groups present in the whole world -- responding to Jesus' invitation to pray "to the lord of the harvest that he may send workers to his harvest" (Matthew 9:38).

The True Path of Sanctification for Priests

Prayer is the first task, the true path of sanctification for priests, and the soul of an authentic "vocational ministry." The numerical scarcity of priestly ordinations in some countries should not discourage, but instead should motivate a multiplication of opportunities for silence and listening to the Word, and better attention to spiritual direction and the sacrament of confession, so that the voice of God, who always continues calling and confirming, can be heard and promptly followed by many youth.

An Existence Made Prayer

One who prays is not afraid; one who prays is never alone; one who prays is saved! St. John Vianney is undoubtedly a model of an existence made prayer. Mary, Mother of the Church, help all priests to follow his example so as to be, like him, witnesses of Christ and apostles of the Gospel.

[Translation: Libreria Editrice Vaticana]

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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