If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

To Be A Priest

Fr. Valencheck recently posted this beautiful reflection on his blog:

It is an awesome and terrifying thing to be a priest.


A combination of a question from a fellow blogger and some quiet time in prayer had me contemplating my priesthood yesterday. Most of the time I think God keeps my brain pretty dull to the reality of this vocation. This dullness is a gift.

This is the way I see it. It is like once, while hiking in the Adirondacks I came across a black bear. I was close enough to see his muscles working under his thick black coat and make out the teeth in his open snout. I was rendered speechless and could not move but could only look on in awe. If we could truly “see” in its entirety what is offered to us in holy orders (or in baptism for that matter,) I think we would be likewise so overawed that we would be powerless to move at the magnificence of it.

Sometimes I get the slightest glimpse of it, usually at the mass. One usual spot is the response to the exhortation, “Pray my brothers and sisters that this, our sacrifice, may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father.”

A look out into the congregation reveals some pretty amazing people. I see my elders, others who do incredible ministries, people far more intelligent, persons with greater spirituality, I see my true brothers and sisters and hear them say, “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His Name, for our good, and the good of all His Church.” If I listen too carefully to the enormity of this statement it comes close to overpowering me. “How can they entrust this to me?” Can you imagine being on the altar and seeing your Mom saying this? Your best friend? Your professor? Eyes on you, they entrust you with this sacred action and then wait for you to lead them to the Eucharist.

Can you imagine the first time you say, “On the night before He died, He took bread in His sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to You, His Almighty Father, He gave You thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take this all of you and eat it. This is My Body which will be given up for you.’” And it becomes His Body. Who can comprehend this?

Can you see how easy it would be for a priest to let this go to his head? To forget that in reality, it has nothing to do with him, it is all Christ. For a brief moment God allows his sins to be put into a bracket, He works through him, and brings about the source and summit of our lives.

Fortunately there is a prayer just before communion that puts the priest squarely in his place. “. . .I eat Your Body and drink Your Blood, let it not bring me condemnation but health in mind and body.” Christ is present by His own power, not mine. He is present by His own purity, not mine. Before the priest is life and death, a blessing and a curse. If he is in serious sin it is a tragedy. After all what is serious sin? It is a sober, informed, serious, and free rejection of God and His people. Before Him is that God and what a mockery he makes of Him by receiving Him whom he rejects. It is also the cause and symbol of the unity of the Body of Christ. What hypocrisy to partake of the Eucharist while at the same time rejecting the same community.

Yet, if he loves, if he strives to be the man God calls him to be, if he is priest to his people and son to his God, before him is the power of the universe.

Why did God choose him to be a priest? Because he is holier than the rest of the Church? Because he is smarter? Because he is more worthy? Because he is more loved? No. He was chosen because God asked and he said yes and thereby God was able to work with him as where someone else said no. That’s it. Then he takes the ciborium down to the aisle of the church, says, “The Body of Christ,” and places the Eucharist on the tongue of his Dad and wonders, “How could anyone say no to the priesthood?”

“The self same power of the word makes the priest holy and venerable, for he is set apart from the rest of the community by the new blessing which he has received. As far as externals go, he is who he was; but his invisible soul is changed for the better by a certain invisible power and grace.” - St. Gregory of Nyssa

Pope Benedict XVI Ordains 22 Priests, Including the Son of a Vatican Photographer, on 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Article below is from Asia News, but does not include the fact that the son of a long time Vatican photographer was also ordained. This from the Associated Press:

"Juan Carlos Mari (in photo at left) was ordained as a member of the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative religious order, the order said. His father Arturo has been taking photographs of pontiffs on pilgrimages and during ceremonies for decades for the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. The elder Mari was among the faithful in the pews on Sunday."

From AsiaNews:

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Twenty two young men from Italy, but also from the Philippines, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Slovakia were ordained today by Benedict XVI in a suggestive ceremony in St Peters Basilica, concelebrated by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s Vicar for the diocese of Rome, along with various auxiliary bishops.
Some of the newly ordained hail from Roman collages and seminaries, others are students from seminaries run by the Neocathecumenal movement (Redemptoris Mater) or Legion of Christ. Their initiation to the priesthood took place on the very day the universal Church celebrates “Good Shepherd Sunday” (IV Sunday of Easter) and the 44th world day of prayer for vocations.

In his homily Benedict XVI underlined first and foremost the profound unity between the priest and the Good Shepherd, “the Son of man who wanted to share the human condition in order to gift them new life and guide them to salvation”, defined as “good” (kalos), a sign of definitive beauty and goodness “since messianic times”. One’s relationship with Christ “is a deep and personal relationship; knowledge of the heart of he who loves and is loved; of he who is faithful and in turn has faith; knowledge of love because of which the Shepherd invites his to follow him”. This relationship is also “a source of constant consolation and indestructible hope”. Because “Christ never abandons us” and “no obstacle can ever impede his universal plan of salvation”.

“The Sacrament of Holy Orders which you are about to receive – continued the Pontiff as he turned to the candidates – will make you participants in Christ’s mission; you will be called to sow the seeds of his Word, the seeds which contain the Kingdom of God, to dispense divine mercy and feed the faithful at the banquet of his Body and his Blood. In order to worthy ministers you must continually feed yourselves of the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life. Stay close to the altar, your daily school of holiness, to renew the sacrifice of the Cross, renew your own discovery of the richness of the Divine Master’s love, which today has called you to an even more intimate friendship with Him. If you listen to him carefully, if you follow him faithfully, you will learn to translate your lives and your pastoral mission into his love and passion for the salvation of souls. Each one of you my dear Ordinates, with God’s help will become a good shepherd, ready to give, if necessary, even your lives for Him”.

An element that the pope deliberately underscored is the joy of priesthood, even in the midst of difficulties. Citing a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, in today’s reading, Benedict XVI said: “ “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (13,52). In spite of the misunderstandings and contrasts, Christ’s apostle does not loose that joy, no; he is the witness of that joy which is born of being with the Lord, from love for Him and his brothers”.

Commenting then on the theme of the world day of prayer for vocations (“Vocations at the service of Church communion”), the pope underlined that a growth in vocations depends strongly on prayer, formation and the attention of the family and entire Christian community. Turning to the families and friends of the newly ordained the pope advised: “Let us surround, these our Lord’s brothers, with our spiritual solidarity. Let u spray that they remain faithful to the mission which the Lord entrusts to them today, and that they are ready to renew each and every day their ‘yes’ to God, there ‘Here I am’ without any reserves. Let us ask the Lord of the mass, on this day dedicated to vocations, that he continues to evoke many holy presbyteries, wholly dedicated to the service to the Christian people”.

The last thoughts of the homily went to the Ordinates: “Jesus says to you today – said the pope – ‘I no longer call you servants, but friends’. Welcome and nurture this divine friendship with ‘Eucharistic love’! Mary, celestial Mother of Priests accompanies you; She who beneath the Croce joined herself to Her Sons sacrifice, and who after His resurrection in the Cenacle welcomed His gift of the Holy Spirit together with the apostles and the other disciples, helps all of us and each one of you, my dear friends in the Priesthood, to allow ourselves be transformed inside through the grace of God. Only in this way is it possible to become faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only in this way can the mission to know, love and lead the flock which Christ won with the price of his blood, be carried out with joy. Amen!”.

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVIFOR THE 44th WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVIFOR THE 44th WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
29th APRIL 2007 -FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Theme: “The vocation to the service of the Church as communion”

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,Dear brothers and sisters!
The annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations is an appropriate occasion for highlighting the importance of vocations in the life and mission of the Church, as well as for intensifying our prayer that they may increase in number and quality. For the coming celebration, I would like to draw the attention of the whole people of God to the following theme, which is more topical than ever: the vocation to the service of the Church as communion.
Last year, in the Wednesday general audiences, I began a new series of catechesis dedicated to the relationship between Christ and the Church. I pointed out that the first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, let themselves be conquered by his gaze and his voice, and accepted his pressing invitation: “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!” (Mk 1: 17; cf. Mt 4: 19). In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish his plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, he called Abraham to form a “great nation” (Gn 12: 2); afterwards, he called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt (cf. Ex 3: 10). Subsequently, he designated other persons, especially the prophets, to defend and keep alive the covenant with his people. In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with him (cf. Mk 3: 14) and to share his mission. At the Last Supper, while entrusting them with the duty of perpetuating the memorial of his death and resurrection until his glorious return at the end of time, he offered for them to his Father this heart-broken prayer: “I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn 17: 26). The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.
The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution Lumen gentium describes the Church as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (n. 4), in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form “one body and one spirit” in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its Pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of his passion: “Father…that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17: 21). This intense communion favours the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord. The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant “education” for listening to the voice of God. This is what Eli did, when he helped the young Samuel to understand what God was asking of him and to put it immediately into action (cf. 1 Sam 3: 9). Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the “Lord of the harvest”. The invitation is in the plural: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9: 38). This invitation of the Lord corresponds well with the style of the “Our Father” (Mt 6: 9), the prayer that he taught us and that constitutes a “synthesis of the whole Gospel” according to the well-known expression of Tertullian (cf. De Oratione, 1,6: CCL I, 258). In this perspective, yet another expression of Jesus is instructive: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven (Mt 18: 19). The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that he may send vocations for the service of the Church as communion.
Harvesting the pastoral experience of past centuries, the Second Vatican Council highlighted the importance of educating future priests to an authentic ecclesial communion. In this regard, we read in Presbyterorum ordinis: “Exercising the office of Christ, the shepherd and head, according to their share of his authority, the priests, in the name of the Bishop, gather the family of God together as a brotherhood enlivened by one spirit. Through Christ they lead them in the Holy Spirit to God the Father” (n. 6). The post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis echoes this statement of the Council, when it underlines that the priest is “the servant of the Church as communion because – in union with the Bishop and closely related to the presbyterate – he builds up the unity of the Church community in harmony of diverse vocations, charisms and services” (n. 16). It is indispensable that, within the Christian people, every ministry and charism be directed to full communion; and it is the duty of the Bishop and priests to promote this communion in harmony with every other Church vocation and service. The consecrated life, too, of its very nature, is at the service of this communion, as highlighted by my venerable predecessor John Paul II in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata: “The consecrated life can certainly be credited with having effectively helped to keep alive in the Church the obligation of fraternity as a form of witness to the Trinity. By constantly promoting fraternal love, also in the form of common life, the consecrated life has shown that sharing in the Trinitarian communion can change human relationships and create a new type of solidarity” (n. 41).
At the centre of every Christian community is the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church. Whoever places himself at the service of the Gospel, if he lives the Eucharist, makes progress in love of God and neighbour and thus contributes to building the Church as communion. We can affirm that the “Eucharistic love” motivates and founds the vocational activity of the whole Church, because, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, vocations to the priesthood and to other ministries and services flourish within the people of God wherever there are those in whom Christ can be seen through his Word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. This is so because “in the Church’s Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives. He loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love” (n. 17).
Lastly, we turn to Mary, who supported the first community where “all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1: 14), so that she may help the Church in today’s world to be an icon of the Trinity, an eloquent sign of divine love for all people. May the Virgin, who promptly answered the call of the Father saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lc 1: 38), intercede so that the Christian people will not lack servants of divine joy: priests who, in communion with their Bishops, announce the Gospel faithfully and celebrate the sacraments, take care of the people of God, and are ready to evangelize all humanity. May she ensure, also in our times, an increase in the number of consecrated persons, who go against the current, living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, and give witness in a prophetic way to Christ and his liberating message of salvation. Dear brothers and sisters whom the Lord calls to particular vocations in the Church: I would like to entrust you in a special way to Mary, so that she, who more than anyone else understood the meaning of the words of Jesus, “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8: 21), may teach you to listen to her divine Son. May she help you to say with your lives: “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God” (cf. Heb 10: 7). With these wishes, I assure each one of you a special remembrance in prayer and from my heart I bless you all.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2007.
BENEDICT XVI29th APRIL 2007 -FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Theme: “The vocation to the service of the Church as communion”

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,Dear brothers and sisters!
The annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations is an appropriate occasion for highlighting the importance of vocations in the life and mission of the Church, as well as for intensifying our prayer that they may increase in number and quality. For the coming celebration, I would like to draw the attention of the whole people of God to the following theme, which is more topical than ever: the vocation to the service of the Church as communion.
Last year, in the Wednesday general audiences, I began a new series of catechesis dedicated to the relationship between Christ and the Church. I pointed out that the first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, let themselves be conquered by his gaze and his voice, and accepted his pressing invitation: “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!” (Mk 1: 17; cf. Mt 4: 19). In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish his plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, he called Abraham to form a “great nation” (Gn 12: 2); afterwards, he called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt (cf. Ex 3: 10). Subsequently, he designated other persons, especially the prophets, to defend and keep alive the covenant with his people. In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with him (cf. Mk 3: 14) and to share his mission. At the Last Supper, while entrusting them with the duty of perpetuating the memorial of his death and resurrection until his glorious return at the end of time, he offered for them to his Father this heart-broken prayer: “I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn 17: 26). The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.
The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution Lumen gentium describes the Church as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (n. 4), in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form “one body and one spirit” in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its Pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of his passion: “Father…that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17: 21). This intense communion favours the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord. The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant “education” for listening to the voice of God. This is what Eli did, when he helped the young Samuel to understand what God was asking of him and to put it immediately into action (cf. 1 Sam 3: 9). Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the “Lord of the harvest”. The invitation is in the plural: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9: 38). This invitation of the Lord corresponds well with the style of the “Our Father” (Mt 6: 9), the prayer that he taught us and that constitutes a “synthesis of the whole Gospel” according to the well-known expression of Tertullian (cf. De Oratione, 1,6: CCL I, 258). In this perspective, yet another expression of Jesus is instructive: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven (Mt 18: 19). The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that he may send vocations for the service of the Church as communion.
Harvesting the pastoral experience of past centuries, the Second Vatican Council highlighted the importance of educating future priests to an authentic ecclesial communion. In this regard, we read in Presbyterorum ordinis: “Exercising the office of Christ, the shepherd and head, according to their share of his authority, the priests, in the name of the Bishop, gather the family of God together as a brotherhood enlivened by one spirit. Through Christ they lead them in the Holy Spirit to God the Father” (n. 6). The post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis echoes this statement of the Council, when it underlines that the priest is “the servant of the Church as communion because – in union with the Bishop and closely related to the presbyterate – he builds up the unity of the Church community in harmony of diverse vocations, charisms and services” (n. 16). It is indispensable that, within the Christian people, every ministry and charism be directed to full communion; and it is the duty of the Bishop and priests to promote this communion in harmony with every other Church vocation and service. The consecrated life, too, of its very nature, is at the service of this communion, as highlighted by my venerable predecessor John Paul II in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata: “The consecrated life can certainly be credited with having effectively helped to keep alive in the Church the obligation of fraternity as a form of witness to the Trinity. By constantly promoting fraternal love, also in the form of common life, the consecrated life has shown that sharing in the Trinitarian communion can change human relationships and create a new type of solidarity” (n. 41).
At the centre of every Christian community is the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church. Whoever places himself at the service of the Gospel, if he lives the Eucharist, makes progress in love of God and neighbour and thus contributes to building the Church as communion. We can affirm that the “Eucharistic love” motivates and founds the vocational activity of the whole Church, because, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, vocations to the priesthood and to other ministries and services flourish within the people of God wherever there are those in whom Christ can be seen through his Word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. This is so because “in the Church’s Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives. He loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love” (n. 17).
Lastly, we turn to Mary, who supported the first community where “all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1: 14), so that she may help the Church in today’s world to be an icon of the Trinity, an eloquent sign of divine love for all people. May the Virgin, who promptly answered the call of the Father saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lc 1: 38), intercede so that the Christian people will not lack servants of divine joy: priests who, in communion with their Bishops, announce the Gospel faithfully and celebrate the sacraments, take care of the people of God, and are ready to evangelize all humanity. May she ensure, also in our times, an increase in the number of consecrated persons, who go against the current, living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, and give witness in a prophetic way to Christ and his liberating message of salvation. Dear brothers and sisters whom the Lord calls to particular vocations in the Church: I would like to entrust you in a special way to Mary, so that she, who more than anyone else understood the meaning of the words of Jesus, “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8: 21), may teach you to listen to her divine Son. May she help you to say with your lives: “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God” (cf. Heb 10: 7). With these wishes, I assure each one of you a special remembrance in prayer and from my heart I bless you all.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2007.
BENEDICT XVI

Friday, April 27, 2007

Priestly Vocations Up

Fr. Finigan posted this on his blog "The Hermeneutic of Continuity":

Zenit reports on an increase in vocations in England and Wales in the article U.K. Vocations Appear to Be on the Rise. The number of those entering the seminary has risen from 28 in 2003 to 44 this year.

Father Paul Embery, director of the National Office for Vocations, is quoted as saying

"After several decades of decline in the number of those training for the priesthood, we have seen four consecutive years of growth, which is good news; however we have no guarantee that this growth will continue,"

Now wait a minute! We have had documents for years now predicting that we'll have to close parishes because the Church will run out of priests by 2020 or whenever.

Let's do the same sort of meaningless linear prediction. The rise from 2003 to 2006 is a 57% rise so we'll assume naively that things carry on in the same way over the next five three-year periods. By 2021 we will have 419 seminarians wanting to enter the seminary. So instead of closing Churches, we should be building new seminaries!

Of course I don't believe that the statistics "show" this. But I am skeptical about the predictions of disaster. Growth of a quarter of that rate would be very healthy indeed.(By the way, someone needs to explain to Zenit that England and Wales is not "The UK".)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Two young men, with prominent blogs, accepted as Seminarians

With great joy I post that two young men from the Catholic blogosphere have been accepted as seminarians for their respective Diocese. We should all say a prayer of thanksgiving for Edward and Matthew's "yes" to God's call. May Almighty God bless them abundantly, Our Lady keep them, and St. Michael protect them!
I would ask everyone reading this to remember to pray daily for our seminarians - they need it, particularly in the culture we live in today. Their generous and faith filled response is absolutely counter culutural and may prove challenging at times.

As suggested by Fr. Finnigan and Mulier Fortis, how about stopping their blogs and congratulating them...

Matthew at A Catholic Life (hat tip for the beautiful picture - don't know where that is, but I like the look of it)

Edward at To Jesus Through Mary

Hat tip to Fr. Finigan for his post

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New York Times Article on the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR, vocations director for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, sent out an email with a link to a surprisingly positive article in the New York Times about the Friars. Perhaps most surprising was the neutral/positive coverage of the Friars pro-life work. Overall the article reads as though it were written for a Catholic publication, not the New York Times, and does a really good job of writing about the Friars prayer life and spirituality.

Take the time and read the article here.

There is also a slideshow with some great photos.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


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POPE TO ORDAIN 22 DEACONS FROM THE DIOCESE OF ROME

VATICAN CITY, APR 24, 2007 (VIS) - On April 29, fourth Sunday of Easter and 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Pope is due to preside at a Eucharistic celebration in the Vatican Basilica during which he will confer priestly ordination upon 22 deacons from the diocese of Rome.

VOCATIONS FOR THE SERVICE OF THE CHURCH AS COMMUNION

VATICAN CITY, APR 24, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was the Message of Benedict XVI for the 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which is due to be celebrated on April 29, the fourth Sunday of Easter, and which has as its theme this year: "The vocation to the service of the Church as communion."

The Message is dated February 10 and has been published in Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Polish. Extracts from the text are given below:

"The first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, ... accepted His pressing invitation: 'Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!'

"In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with Him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish His plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, He called Abraham to form a 'great nation;' afterwards, He called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt. ... In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with Him and to share His mission. ... The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.

"The Vatican Council II Constitution 'Lumen gentium' describes the Church as 'a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,' in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form 'one body and one spirit' in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of His passion."

"This intense communion favors the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord.

"The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant 'education' for listening to the voice of God. ... Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the 'Lord of the harvest.' The invitation is in the plural. ... The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that He may send vocations for the service of the Church as communion."

"It is indispensable that, within the Christian people, every ministry and charism be directed to full communion; and it is the duty of the bishop and priests to promote this communion in harmony with every other Church vocation and service. The consecrated life, too, of its very nature, is at the service of this communion."

"Dear brothers and sisters whom the Lord calls to particular vocations in the Church: I would like to entrust you in a special way to Mary, so that she, who more than anyone else understood the meaning of the words of Jesus: 'My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.' ... May she help you to say with your lives: 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God'."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

*VIDEO* The Dominican Order - 1964 vocation film excerpts

Hat tip to New Liturgical Movement for finding it, and to the Dominicans at the Dominican House of Studies for making it available. What a beautiful glimpse into the history of our church and the Dominican Order...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Incredible News! More Vocations!!!

Deo Gratias!!! Thanks be to God, that the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban!

This is great news, because countless priests, deacons, and religious will no longer be killed before being able to take their first breath.




Which means...

we'll see more of this, and pray God...










more of this, and God willing...








more of this - Holy Priests celebrating the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

*VIDEO* Inside look at the life of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI

Hat tip to New Liturgical Movement for this video on Pope Benedict XVI...

It's in Italian, but it's quite interesting to see some of the private spaces (gardens, office, Chapel, TV room, dining room, etc.) were our Holy Father prays, lives, and works in on a daily basis.

“Thou Art a Priest Forever”

posted by Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer on his blog "Spirit and Life"

In a climate of secular hostility toward faith in general and the Catholic Church in particular, it is worth calling to mind the need we have for priests, a need that is built into the very fabric of who we are as Catholics. Holy Thursday is the day in which the Church celebrates, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the institution of the sacred priesthood. Today we thank God for the priesthood—and for the good priests who have served us so faithfully!

The institution of the priesthood is intrinsically tied to God’s covenant of love for sinful man. This covenant was so perfectly ratified at the Last Supper and consummated by Christ’s Blood on the Cross that it is called the “new and eternal covenant” of the Eucharist which will never pass away. So great is this expression of God’s love that Padre Pio said, “It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” Another holy priest, St. John Vianney, said that if we really knew the value of the Mass we would die!

Christ Jesus offered the new covenant on Calvary as the High Priest of our faith, but He also gave men a share in the gift of His priesthood so that the covenant sacrifice could be renewed until the end of time. It is the ministerial priesthood that allows this perfect sacrifice to penetrate the lives of God’s people even on a daily basis. When the priest holds the sacred Host high, he does so in the person of Christ (in persona Christi), not in his own person or name. The priest may be an imperfect man and a sinner, but, thankfully, it is not by his own authority that he serves people! It is Christ who offers the Sacrifice in him. It is Christ who prays for the world with him. It is Christ who ministers to others through him. The priest is spiritually Christ’s younger brother, set apart and consecrated for this indispensable work of bringing the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity to the world as no one else can. Without the priest, the Sacrifice does not reach us.

I remember well the day that my favorite priest took me aside and asked me to consider a vocation to the priesthood. It was at my eighth grade graduation, I was fourteen, I was awed beyond belief, and I don’t even remember the words he used to sow that seed within me. I only remember the effect of suddenly being brought face to face with a wonderful mystery, and from that moment on, my life has never been the same. It was as if he reached into the bonfire of his priestly heart and brought out an ember to plant in my very tiny heart, a spiritual dynamism of love that God would later consecrate for service to His people. I only pray that I will persevere in fidelity to that great gift which I am sure can literally transform the world when it is lived heroically.

The Letter to the Hebrews says of Christ, “Thou are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek,” and the Church has always applied this to all priests. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is an eternal gift which ministers the everlasting Eucharistic love of Christ to the world—and apparently even to the members of the Church Triumphant in heaven too. What a marvelous gift!

On this holy day, let us pray not only for the priests that God has given to His Church, but for a renewal of the priesthood and an abundance of good, holy priestly vocations. May many young men hear that call to serve God’s people through the Church and be willing to plunge their lives into that purifying fire that only the priest’s anointed hands can bring to the world.
Hat tip to Brendan for this article

Monday, April 16, 2007

Parents grateful for two sons’ ‘special calling’

Pittsburgh Catholic article by: Paula A. Smith

Bob and Carmella Kesicki smiled as they shared a photo of their son, Father Michael, putting a chasuble on his younger brother, Father Timothy, on the day of Timothy’s priesthood ordination.
“It’s just about the holiest day of your life when your child becomes ordained,” Bob said.
When their sons became priests, Bob said he experienced a feeling of inspiration from the Holy Spirit, finally seeing their years of raising children in a religious atmosphere come to fruition.
The Kesickis have been married 48 years and have four children: Daniel, Father Michael, Father Timothy, Mary Theresa and two grandchildren. They are active members of St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, and attend daily Mass. They lived and raised their family in Erie.
Father Michael is a diocesan priest, a teacher at Gannon University and rector of St. Mark’s Seminary in Erie. Father Timothy is a Jesuit priest and president of St. Ignatius High School, a boys’ preparatory school in Cleveland.
Just as brothers Simon and Andrew and James and John left their nets when Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” Fathers Michael and Timothy heard the call and followed. They say their greatest influences in becoming priests were their parents and the priests and nuns at Sacred Heart Parish in Erie, who gave them good examples to follow.
“The most important thing my parents have done is fulfill their own vocation as spouses and parents,” Father Michael said. “That my parents love each other and sacrifice for each other is evident in the care and faith they passed on to their children. The church is a communion of faith, hope and love rooted in the mission of Christ to live for the truth, make an offering of oneself and serve others. In an analogous way, the family home is also a ‘small church’ — rooted in Christian truth, sacrifice and loving service to others. This was the home my parents created.”
He felt a call to the priesthood at age 7, and as he grew into adulthood he never doubted it was the life he was meant to live.
“My parents have been supportive of the decisions of all their children. Their chief concern was that I wasn’t doing this to please them. Mom and Dad wanted me to be sure that I knew the seriousness of this commitment. While they would be happy with my decision, they didn’t want me to do it for them, but for the Lord and his call in my life,” Father Michael said.
“My father has truly been the ‘paterfamilias’ (father of the family) in every good way. He provided for his family, taught us in faith and virtue, and he never nagged his children. At the same time, he was able in his own quiet and gentle way to teach us how important it is to have a strong relationship with the Lord,” he said.
“My mother has also been an important influence. She always had a heart for neighbors and friends, especially when they were in need.”
Father Timothy remembers that his mother and father reached out to others in faith and through the church that was central in their lives. They were involved in church and school events while the children were growing up, and the parish was the family’s primary means of socialization. Priests were invited home for family dinners and often mentioned to the brothers the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood. So becoming a priest was considered a real option for them.
When Father Timothy was 20, he completed an eight-day silent retreat based on the teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. He was attracted to the spirituality of the saint and embraced his mission to encourage dynamic people to follow and use their gifts and talents in the service of God. At the time, Father Timothy realized a strong desire to learn more about the Jesuit order and their place in the church, but found it to be a humbling experience at a young age with so many wonderful Jesuit role models. The pastor at his home parish was acquainted with a few Jesuit priests and introduced him so he could gain more information.
Father Timothy realized the seed for a vocation to the priesthood was within him, and while visiting the Jesuit novitiate he felt he wanted to be part of this religious group as he sensed a strong feeling of belonging in their fellowship.
“There was something greater that I felt called to do. I had to trust those desires inside me, listen deep down and go with it. You have to put it in God’s hands. I had to be patient, and he revealed it in his time,” he said.
God did reveal his plans for Father Timothy and, although his vocation came as a surprise to his family, his parents accepted the decision in faith.
His mother told him, “If you find happiness in this, we will be happy for you.”
As parents, they understood that a call to the priesthood is an honor.
“It’s a gift of God. They serve the people,” Carmella said.
“It’s a special calling they have received,” Bob said. “Now as I reflect on it, I see that they truly are priests and they respect their vocation very deeply. They know how to serve the communities they are in very well.”
Taking their religious vocations seriously as priests is a reflection of the way Bob and Carmella share responsibility as parents. Raising four children close in age was challenging at times, and they encountered similar situations many parents face today.
It was not easy to do, but Bob and Carmella strongly believed it was important for a mother to be home with children in their formative years. To support the family, Bob worked two jobs. As the children grew older, Carmella returned to work outside the home.
“We could not afford it at the time, but the most important thing was for the children not to come home to an empty house,” Bob said
And the Kesicki home was filled with love, laughter, prayers and dinners together.
“We always tried to have one family meal together,” Carmella said.
Daniel, their oldest son, remembers having family dinners and observing the church regulations of fast and abstinence during Lent.
“The basis of my parents’ religious practice is that Christian sense of loving sacrifice that is seen in the ebb and flow of family living,” Father Michael said. “I think you instill the sense of belonging to God’s family by first instilling the sense of belonging to your own. Our evening meal was always a time to be together. We never ate ‘on the run.’ Dinnertime was a time to talk about the day, to tell stories and enjoy being together. Besides, my mother is a fantastic cook.”
Along with prayers before meals and bedtime, the family worshipped weekly at Sunday Mass and the children attended Catholic schools. Christian values of honesty, fairness and respect were instilled in them. Growing up in a Christ-centered home embedded with moral principles was a typical family experience for Daniel and Mary Theresa, who says her three brothers are certainly blessings in her life.
“We were raised as normal everyday children,” Daniel said. “We played pranks on each other, hide and seek, and board games ’til all hours of the night together.”
Daniel said he is happy his brothers found their calling and pursued it, and he would support a child or relative interested in the religious life.
“Whenever we are together, it is like we were never apart,” he said.
While a religious vocation is a personal commitment, Father Timothy believes parents should not discourage their son or daughter by worrying if they will be lonely or happy. He suggests talking about it and letting them know this is something they could do, and to be unafraid.
“A religious vocation is a real-life vocation. It is a beautiful vocation in the church. I try daily to live out the spiritual mission of St. Ignatius Loyola and be a true servant of the church,” he said.
One of Father Timothy’s favorite verses comes from the Spiritual Exercises in the first principle and foundation of St. Ignatius Loyola: “Man is created to praise, reverence and serve God and, by so doing, save his soul.”
Father Michael said prayer is so important in recognizing a call to the religious life. “You don’t get an envelope in the mail from God with written instructions. A relationship with God and an honest relationship with family and friends help me to be honest with myself and discern what is the true path of Christian vocation.
“Live your life responsibly and well right now. Strive to be a person of integrity. Always make the time to have a relationship with God rooted in prayer every day.
“Make the Eucharist a daily priority. You can’t think of giving your life to God as a priest unless you are learning to grow in a relationship with him right now. I would also advise you to seek out a priest as spiritual director; he can help you listen for the voice of God in your life,” Father Michael said.

To listen for the voice of God, he relies on the words he prays every day in the Liturgy of the Hours from Psalm 95: “O, that today you would hear his voice: Harden not your hearts.”

Friday, April 13, 2007

*VIDEO* "The Flying Padre"

Hat tip to Shrine of the Holy Whapping, who hat tipped Mike for this old RKO newsreel about a parish priest in New Mexico that used a plane he bought to fly to his rural mission churches. Taking into mind the time period, and the not so great "acting", it's a great short film, by lengendary director Stanley Kubric, about the real life of a rural priest from the 40's. It's worth taking the time to watch, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for all the priests and religious that sacrificed so much, and worked to so hard to bring the faith to the people. May God grant us more priests like Fr. Stockmiller!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thank you to the Caveman and Fr. Longenecker

Welcome to everyone visiting Roman Catholic Vocations via the "Lair of the Catholic Caveman" and "Standing On My Head". I pray that this site may be of some help to those of you visiting that are also actively discerning Church vocations.

A special thanks to the Catholic Caveman, Vir Speluncae Catholicus, for highlighting this blog on his site, and for permanently linking to it.

Thanks also to Fr. Longenecker for linking to my "Shrinking Catholic Church?" post. Fr. Longenecker wrote an excellent post on the same subject, Vatican 2 and the Shortage of Priests, which I highly recommend that you take the time to read.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Now that's a fire!


As a good friend of mine, and God willing soon to be seminarian for the Diocese of Raleigh, said, "those Domincans know how to build an Easter fire."

No joke. Now that's a fire!

On a serious note, if you haven't checked out the English Dominican Studentate Blog "Godzdogz", you need to. It's a great site, with some fantastic pictures from the Triduum and Easter liturgies. Take the time, the pictures won't dissapoint.

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI FOR THE XI WORLD DAY OF CONSECRATED LIFE

FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
11th WORLD DAY OF CONSECRATED LIFE
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO CONSECRATED MEN AND WOMEN

Vatican Basilica
Friday, 2 February 2007



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am glad to meet you at the end of the Eucharistic Celebration that has gathered you in this Basilica this year too, on an occasion so meaningful for you who belong to Congregations, Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life and New Forms of Consecrated Life; you constitute a particularly important element of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Today's liturgy recalls the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the feast chosen by my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, as the "Day of Consecrated Life".

With great pleasure I address my cordial greetings to each one of you present here, beginning with Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of your Dicastery, to whom I am grateful for his kind words on your behalf. I then greet the Secretary and all the members of the Congregation which looks after a vital sector of the Church. Today's celebration is especially appropriate for asking the Lord for the gift of an ever more consistent and incisive presence of men and women religious and consecrated persons in the Church journeying along the roads of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Feast day we are celebrating reminds us that your Gospel witness, to be truly effective, must stem from a response without reserve to the initiative of God who has consecrated you to him with a special act of love.

Just as the elderly Simeon and Anna longed to see the Messiah before they died and spoke of him "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (cf. Lk 2: 26,38) so also in our time, especially among young people, there is a widespread need to encounter God.

Those who are chosen by God for the consecrated life make this spiritual longing their own in a definitive way. In it, in fact, they have one expectation: the Kingdom of God: that God reign in our will, in our hearts, in the world. In them burns a unique thirst for love which can be quenched by the Eternal One alone.

By their example they proclaim to a world which is often bewildered but, in fact, increasingly in search of meaning, that God is the Lord of life and that his "steadfast love is better than life" (Ps 63[62]: 4[3]).

By choosing obedience, poverty and chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven, they demonstrate that any attachment or love for people and things is incapable of definitively satisfying the heart; that earthly existence is a longer or shorter period of waiting for the "face-to-face" encounter with the divine Bridegroom, an expectation to be lived with an ever vigilant heart, to be ready to recognize and welcome him when he comes.

Consecrated life, therefore, is by its nature a total and definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God (cf. Vita Consecrata, n. 17). And so, when one renounces everything to follow Christ, when one gives to him all that one holds most dear, braving every sacrifice as did the divine Teacher, the consecrated person who follows in Christ's footsteps necessarily also becomes "a sign of contradiction", because his/her way of thinking and living is often in opposition to the logic of the world, as it is almost always presented in the media.

Indeed, in choosing Christ we let ourselves be "conquered" by him without reserve. How many people thirsting for the truth are struck by this courage and attracted by those who do not hesitate to give their life, their own life, for their belief.

Is not this the radical evangelical fidelity to which every consecrated person is called in our time too? Let us give thanks to the Lord so that many Religious men and women in all the corners of the earth may continue to offer a supreme and faithful witness of love to God and to the brethren, a witness that is often marked by the blood of martyrdom. Let us also thank God so that these examples may continue to inspire in the souls of many young people the desire to follow Christ always in an intimate and total way.

Dear brothers and sisters, never forget that the consecrated life is a divine gift and that it is the Lord in the first place who ensures its success in accordance with his plans. This certainty that the Lord leads us to a successful conclusion despite our weakness; this certainty must be a comfort to you, protecting you from the temptation of discouragement in the face of the inevitable difficulties of life and the many challenges of the modern epoch. Indeed, in the difficult period in which we live many Institutes may feel a sense of dismay at the failings they discover within them and the many obstacles they encounter in carrying out their mission.

Today that Child Jesus who is presented at the Temple is alive among us and invisibly supports us so that we may cooperate faithfully with him in the work of salvation, and he does not abandon us.

Today's liturgy is particularly evocative because it is marked by the symbol of light. The solemn procession with candles which you made at the beginning of the celebration points to Christ, the true light of the world who shines in the night of history and illumines every seeker of the truth. Dear consecrated men and women, burn with this flame and make it radiant with your life so that a gleam of the brightness that shone from Jesus, the splendour of the truth, may shine everywhere.

By dedicating yourselves exclusively to him (cf. Vita Consecrata, n. 15), you witness to the fascination of the truth of Christ and the joy that derives from love for him. In contemplation and in activity, in solitude and in fraternity, in service to the poor and the lowly, in personal guidance and in the modern areopaghi, be ready to proclaim and to witness that God is Love and that to love him is sweet.

May Mary, the Tota Pulchra, teach you to transmit to men and women today this divine fascination that must transpire from your words and actions. As I express to you my grateful appreciation for the service you render to the Church, I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer and I warmly bless you all.

The Shrinking Catholic Church?

Below is an exerpt from a 2003 Catholic World News article entitled "The Incredible Shrinking Catholic Church" by Kenneth C. Jones. The focus of the article is what happened to vocations after 1965/the Second Vatican Council. There is no question something happened. Part of the problem seems to have been very "progressive" developments within the Church, and part of it is no doubt the culture we live in. The question is how will the Church respond to what is sure to be a crisis in the very near future.

One thing is for sure - the Lord has not stopped calling men and women to the priesthood and religious life.


Before I go any farther, look at the picture to the left. This is the ordination class from ONE Spanish seminary before the Second Vatican Council. (Check out the Altars in front of each group) (hat tip for picture to Greg)

Now with this picture in mind, from the article:


EMPTY SEMINARIES

Beyond a vague understanding of a need for "more vocations," most Catholics are perhaps unaware of the disaster facing the American priesthood. After skyrocketing from about 27,000 in 1930 to 58,000 in 1965, the number of priests in the United States dropped to 45,000 in 2002. By 2020, there will be about 31,000 priests--and only 15,000 will be under the age of 70, according to a study conducted by Dr. James R. Lothian of Fordham University.

The shortage of priests has created a problem previously unknown to modern Catholics: the priestless parish. Only 3 percent of the parishes in the US--a total of 549--were without a priest in 1965. In 2002 there were 2,928 priestless parishes, about 15 percent of all US parishes. By 2020, a quarter of all parishes, 4,656, will have no priest.

As one would expect, the priest dearth has been fueled by a collapse in the seminarian population. There were 16,300 seminarians in 1930 and 49,000 in 1965. By 2002 the number had plunged to 4,700: a 90 percent decrease. Without any students, countless seminaries across the country have been sold or shuttered. There were 596 seminaries in 1965, and only 200 in 2002.

And empty seminaries result in declining ordinations. While there were 1,575 ordinations to the priesthood in 1965, in 2002 there were 450, a decrease of 350 percent. Taking into account ordinations, deaths and departures, in 1965 there was a net gain of 725 priests. In 1998, there was a net loss of 810.

RELIGIOUS ORDERS DISAPPEARING

The tragedy of the convents has been perhaps even more startling. A host of 138,000 sisters ran the Catholic education and health systems in 1945; their numbers swelled to 180,000 by 1965. In 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, with an average age of 68. By 2020, the number of sisters will drop to 40,000--and of these, only 21,000 will be age 70 or under. One does not have to be Chicken Little to predict that within a generation there will be no nuns.

The same is true for the once-proud religious orders of men. For example, in 1965 there were 5,277 Jesuit priests and 3,559 seminarians; in 2000 there were 3,172 priests and 389 seminarians. There were 2,534 OFM Franciscan priests and 2,251 seminarians in 1965; in 2000 there were 1,492 priests and 60 seminarians. There were 2,434 Christian Brothers in 1965 and 912 seminarians; in 2000 there were 959 Brothers and 7 seminarians. It does not require special training in statistics to conclude that by 2050, if these trends continue, the Jesuits, the Franciscans, and the Christian Brothers, will be the virtually extinct in the US.

Other statistics on the life of the Catholic Church in America tell the same story. At the time of the Council there were 4.5 million students in US parochial schools; now there are 2 million. Before the Council there were less than 400 marriages annulled by Catholic diocesan tribunals in an average year; now there are 50,000. Before the Council 3 out of 4 Catholics attended Mass each week; now the figure is 1 in 4.

Given these alarming facts, one wonders how a movie star like Mel Gibson can sense a Church in extremis, but the American bishops cannot. They know the statistics (which are published by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops), yet take no action to counter the catastrophe.
The bishops do not have a good track record when it comes to responding to crisis. Just as they showed no interest in the sexual abuse of minors--in fact they were sometimes complicit--it is a good bet that the bishops will neglect the emergency that threatens the very existence of the Church in the America.

Kenneth C Jones of St. Louis is the author of Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church since Vatican II, published by Oriens Publishing Co.

Hat tip on the article to Vir Speluncae Catholicus

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI FOR THE X WORLD DAY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE

Pope's Homily on 2006 World Day of Consecrated Life
"An Eloquent Sign of the Presence of the Kingdom"
February 17, 2006
Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2006 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Feb. 2, World Day of Consecrated Life, in St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope spoke at an evening Mass for religious on the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's Feast of Jesus' Presentation at the temple 40 days after his birth places before our eyes a special moment in the life of the Holy Family: Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic law, took the tiny Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem to offer him to the Lord (cf. Luke 2:22). Simeon and Anna, inspired by God, recognized that Child as the long-awaited Messiah and prophesied about him. We are in the presence of a mystery, both simple and solemn, in which Holy Church celebrates Christ, the Anointed One of the Father, the firstborn of the new humanity.

The evocative candlelight procession at the beginning of our celebration has made us relive the majestic entrance, as we sang in the Responsorial Psalm, of the One who is "the King of glory," "the Lord, mighty in battle" (Psalm 24[23]:7,8). But who is the powerful God who enters the temple? It is a Child; it is the Infant Jesus in the arms of his Mother, the Virgin Mary. The Holy Family was complying with what the Law prescribed: the purification of the mother, the offering of the firstborn child to God and his redemption through a sacrifice.

In the First Reading the Liturgy speaks of the oracle of the Prophet Malachi: "The Lord ... will suddenly come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1). These words communicated the full intensity of the desire that had given life to the expectation of the Jewish People down the centuries. "The angel of the Covenant" at last entered his house and submitted to the Law: He came to Jerusalem to enter God's house in an attitude of obedience.

The meaning of this act acquires a broader perspective in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, proclaimed as the Second Reading today. Christ, the mediator who unites God and man, abolishing distances, eliminating every division and tearing down every wall of separation, is presented to us here.

Christ comes as a new "merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). Thus, we note that mediation with God no longer takes place in the holiness-separation of the ancient priesthood, but in liberating solidarity with human beings.

While yet a Child, he sets out on the path of obedience that he was to follow to the very end.
The Letter to the Hebrews highlights this clearly when it says: "In the days of his earthly life Jesus offered up prayers and supplications ... to him who was able to save him from death .... Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (cf. Hebrews 5:7-9).

The first person to be associated with Christ on the path of obedience, proven faith and shared suffering was his Mother, Mary. The Gospel text portrays her in the act of offering her Son: an unconditional offering that involves her in the first person.

Mary is the Mother of the One who is "the glory of [his] people Israel" and a "light for revelation to the Gentiles," but also "a sign that is spoken against" (cf. Luke 2:32,34). And in her immaculate soul, she herself was to be pierced by the sword of sorrow, thus showing that her role in the history of salvation did not end in the mystery of the Incarnation but was completed in loving and sorrowful participation in the death and Resurrection of her Son.

Bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother offered him to God as a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She held him out to Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption; she presented him to all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love.

The words that came to the lips of the elderly Simeon: "My eyes have seen your salvation" (Luke 2:30), are echoed in the heart of the prophetess Anna. These good and devout people, enveloped in Christ's light, were able to see in the Child Jesus "the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25). So it was that their expectation was transformed into a light that illuminates history.
Simeon was the bearer of an ancient hope and the Spirit of the Lord spoke to his heart: for this reason he could contemplate the One whom numerous prophets and kings had desired to see: Christ, light of revelation for the Gentiles.

He recognized that Child as the Savior, but he foresaw in the Spirit that the destinies of humanity would be played out around him and that he would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him; he proclaimed the identity and mission of the Messiah with words that form one of the hymns of the newborn Church, radiant with the full communitarian and eschatological exultation of the fulfillment of the expectation of salvation. The enthusiasm was so great that to live and to die were one and the same, and the "light" and "glory" became a universal revelation.

Anna is a "prophetess," a wise and pious woman who interpreted the deep meaning of historical events and of God's message concealed within them. Consequently, she could "give thanks to God" and "[speak of the Child] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).

Her long widowhood devoted to worship in the temple, fidelity to weekly fasting and participation in the expectation of those who yearned for the redemption of Israel culminated in her meeting with the Child Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this feast of the Presentation of the Lord the Church is celebrating the Day of Consecrated Life. This is an appropriate occasion to praise the Lord and thank him for the precious gift represented by the consecrated life in its different forms; at the same time it is an incentive to encourage in all the People of God knowledge and esteem for those who are totally consecrated to God.

Indeed, just as Jesus' life in his obedience and dedication to the Father is a living parable of the "God-with-us," so the concrete dedication of consecrated persons to God and to their brethren becomes an eloquent sign for today's world of the presence of God's Kingdom.

Your way of living and working can vividly express full belonging to the one Lord; placing yourselves without reserve in the hands of Christ and of the Church is a strong and clear proclamation of God's presence in a language understandable to our contemporaries. This is the first service that the consecrated life offers to the Church and to the world.

Consecrated persons are like watchmen among the People of God who perceive and proclaim the new life already present in our history.

I now address you in a special way, dear brothers and sisters who have embraced the vocation of special consecration, to greet you with affection and thank you warmly for your presence.
I extend a special greeting to Archbishop Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and to his collaborators who are concelebrating with me at this Holy Mass.

May the Lord renew in you and in all consecrated people each day the joyful response to his freely given and faithful love. Dear brothers and sisters, like lighted candles, always and everywhere shine with the love of Christ, Light of the world. May Mary Most Holy, the consecrated Woman, help you to live to the full your special vocation and mission in the Church for the world's salvation.

Amen!