Year of the Priest 2009–2010: September 2009 Archives

Pope Benedict XVI on Saint Pio

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Messa San Pio.jpg

It is extremely noteworthy and significant that the Holy Father chose to spend the first Sunday of The Year of the Priest in pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo. Saint Pio may well be the best known priest of modern times. In many ways, his priestly ministry resembles that of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. We have entered into an "acceptable year of the Lord" (Is 61:2), a time for contemplating the living icons of priestly holiness set before us by the Church, and for seeking their intercession for all priests. In the text below emphases in boldface are my own.

Discourse of the Holy Father at the Church of Saint Pio

Dear men and women religious,
Dear young people,

With this our encounter my pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo comes to a close. I am grateful to the Archbishop of Lecce, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio, and to Father Mauro Jöhri, secretary general of the Capuchin Friars Minor, for the words of cordial welcome that they have given me on your behalf. My greeting is now turned to you, dear priests, who are daily engaged in the service of God's people as wise guides and diligent workers in the vineyard of the Lord. I greet with affection the dear consecrated persons, called to offer the testimony of a total dedication to Christ through the faithful practice of the evangelical counsels. A special thought for you, dear Capuchin Friars, who lovingly care for this oasis of spirituality and evangelical solidarity, welcoming pilgrims and devotees gathered by the living memory of your holy confrere, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Thank you very much for this valuable service you render to the Church and to souls who here rediscover the beauty of faith and the warmth of divine tenderness. I greet you, dear young people, to whom the Pope looks with confidence as to the future of the Church and society. Here in San Giovanni Rotondo, everything speaks of the sanctity of a humble friar and a zealous priest, who this evening, also invites us to open our hearts to the mercy of God; he exhorts us to be holy, that is, sincere and true friends of Jesus.

Dear priests, just the other day, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day of priestly holiness, we began the Priestly Year, during which we will recall with reverence and affection the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the holy Curé d'Ars. In the letter I wrote for the occasion, I wanted to stress the importance of the sanctity of priests for the life and mission of the Church. Like the Curé d'Ars, Padre Pio also reminds us of the dignity and responsibility of the priestly ministry. Who was not impressed by the fervor with which he re-lived the Passion of Christ in every celebration of the Eucharist? From his love for the Eucharist there arose in him as the Curé d'Ars a total willingness to welcome the faithful, especially sinners. Also, if St. John Mary Vianney, in a troubled and difficult time, tried in every way, to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and the beauty of sacramental penance, for the holy friar of the Gargano, the care of souls and the conversion of sinners were a desire that consumed him until death. How many people have changed their lives thanks to his patient priestly ministry, so many long hours in the confessional! Like the Curé d'Ars, it is his ministry as a confessor that constitutes the greatest title of glory and the distinctive feature of this holy Capuchin. How could we not realize then the importance of participating in the celebration of the Eucharist devoutly and frequently receiving the sacrament of confession? In particular, the sacrament of penance must be even more valued, and priests should never resign themselves to seeing their confessional deserted or to merely recognizing the diffidence of the faithful for this extraordinary source of serenity and peace.

Ipse est sacerdos, ipse est Deus

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The lessons at Vigils this morning were extraordinarily compelling in the context of this Year of the Priest. (I use the Latin-French Lectionnaire monastique in six volumes edited by the Abbey of Solesmes. Would anyone know if a Latin-English version of the same lectionary is in preparation anywhere in the monastic world?)

First Lesson, Hosea 4:6-10
When Priests Lack Knowedge

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for their deeds. They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish harlotry.

Here is my translation of the Second Lesson:

Fulgentius Ferrandus was a sixth century deacon of Carthage renowned for his defense of the orthodox faith against the Arians.

From the Dogmatic Letter of the Deacon Ferrandus, Against the Arians
The Action of the Priest

The action of the priest is twofold: first, he intercedes in order to be heard,
and then, once heard, he gives thanks.
In his intercession he offers the sacrifice of supplication,
in his thanksgiving he offers the sacrifice of praise.
In his intercession he presents the needs of sinners,
in his thanksgiving he recounts the benefits granted with mercy to those who make reparation.
In his intercession he implores pardon for the guilty,
in his thanksgiving he desires to rejoice with those who are absolved.

And so it is with Christ:
possessing an eternal priesthood uninterrupted by death as it is among other priests,
He interceded for us in offering the sacrifice of His own body upon the cross,
and He intercedes even now for us all,
desiring that we also should become a pure sacrifice unto God.

But when Divine Mercy will have become perfected in us,
when death will have been swallowed up in victory,
once all our sorrows will have disappeared,
when, filled with all good things,
we will sin no more,
no more will we lament,
no more will we have to suffer the enemy, the devil,
but we will reign in supreme peace and felicity.
Then, it is true, Christ will no longer intercede for us,
for we will have no need to ask for anything.
Never, however, will He cease giving thanks for us,
just as, in this present day, it is by the mediation of our High Priest
that we will offer the sacrifice of praise.

Always then will Christ be the High Priest
by whose mediation we can offer the sacrifice of praise.
Always, He is lower because He is the priest.
This notwithstanding, because Christ is forever one,
He Himself is the High Priest,
and He Himself is God who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
is adored, blessed, and glorified by the faithful.
He Himself intercedes,
He Himself gives thanks,
and He Himself bestows grace.

Marcel Van: A Soul for Priests

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Called Not to Be a Priest, But to Be for Priests

For a long time, the Servant of God, Vietnamese Redemptorist Brother Marcel Van (1928-1959) believed that he was called to become a priest. The Lord made him understand that, even though he had the soul of a priest, such was not his vocation. Marcel Van understood that he was to pray in a special manner for priests and for future priests. As he himself says:

I recognize that the function the Lord has entrusted to me is very important, that it consists in giving life to priests. . . . God, then, has need of the collaboration of certain souls so as to bring to birth among priests the abundance of divine grace which will help them to live and to act in conformity to the will of God. (Letter to Hghi, 23 July 1952)
Yes, this is the unique thirst of my life, and because of this thirst, I have taken upon myself the obligation of being "the heart" of priests, using the warmth of love and the wellspring of redeeming love to beat and to give life to priests.

I pray Marcel Van to send to the new Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle a few good men like himself: men ready to become, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, "the heart" of priests, offering themselves so that priests may be sanctified in truth and have within themselves life, life in abundance.

A Little Brother of Saint Thérèse

Brother Marcel Van was privileged to experience an extraordinary intimacy with Our Lord, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and with Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Few souls, even among the disciples of Saint Thérèse, have understood the Merciful Love of Jesus, as profoundly as did Marcel Van. Our Lord said to Marcel:

Confidence in Love

O sinful souls . . . the only thing I ask of you, and which suffices for me to press you to my overflowing Heart, is that you truly believe that Love loves you infinitely. Unfortunate little ones, do you believe that I do not know how wretched you are? Even if your wretchedness is infinite, you must believe that my merits are also infinite. Even if your sins have earned hell for you an infinite number of times, you must not, for all that, lose confidence in my Love. The unfortunate thing is that men have no confidence in my Love. Oh! Sin! Sin! Sin never offends my Love; there is absolutely nothing that offends my Love, except the lack of confidence in my Love. . . .
Marcel! Marcel! Little brother, pray that sinful souls, so numerous, never lose confidence in my Love. As long as they keep this confidence, the kingdom of heaven truly does not cease to belong to them.

A Simple Glance of Confidence

A simple glance of confidence towards me suffices to grab sinful souls from the claws of the devil. Even if a soul found itself already at the gates of hell, waiting for its last sigh before falling into it, if in this last sigh there is the slightest element of confidence in my infinite Love, that will still be sufficient for my Love to draw that soul to the arms of the Trinity. That is why I say that it can be very easy for men to go to heaven and even infinitely difficult to fall into hell, because Love can never permit a soul to lose itself so easily.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory