Pope Benedict XVI announced that the universal Church will celebrate a Jubilee Year of the Priest, beginning June 19th, 2009, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and celebrating the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Cure D'Ars.
It is my personal experience of 25 years this month living inside of the Church in novitiates, seminaries, pontifical universities, parishes, and chancery offices that we are always in need of renewal and energizing in every vocation, more so than ever in the priesthood. The Holy Father knows this, as do a great many of us priests. So, beginning June 19, 2009 we'll try to move toward this goal of strengthening and energizing the priesthood. This happens one priest at a time. Holiness is an individual work in process for all of us, the priest included.The patron saint of parish priests, St. John Mary Vianney, should be used as a model in principle, remembering that every man or woman must be a person of their time.
Nonetheless, there are principles and practices that transcend time and space. These we should know and exercise. The preeminence of prayer and the spiritual life must come first for the priest, or any practicing Catholic for that matter.St. John Vianney prayed long hours before the Blessed Sacrament. That was the secret of his 'success.' Jesus in the Eucharist must be the heart of the priest's life, the Holy Spirit is the breath that breathes life into his ministry. A simple life, not unfamiliar with penance and sacrifice is also fundamental for apostolic fruitfulness.
Jesus, the High Priest, gave us all his own Mother to be our spiritual mother. Every priest that would bear fruit that endures must accept the gift of Mary the Mother of Priests as his own spiritual mother. This cannot be over emphasized. A failure to do it in these times results in almost certain failure for the Catholic priest.
Pray for your priests more than ever this Year of the Priest. In many cases there is poor morale, little camaraderie, isolation, and loneliness in the life of the priest. Encourage your priests and remember a little kindness and understanding goes a long way. Priests are human beings, like other human beings, with the same weaknesses and strengths. This year think about the life of priests and how you can contribute to their perseverance and holiness in a most noble vocation.
Help your priest get to Heaven by your kindness and your prayers.
You will never be sorry that you did.
God bless you,
Fr. John Corapi