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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"You Want Holy Catholic Priests? Then Do Your Part and Pray for Them"

The post below is from Patrick Madrid's blog


"Fr. Jason Vidrine, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisianna, has composed the following beautiful prayer for priests, invoking the special intercession of St. John Vianney. My suggestion is that you print this out and post it in your workspace or kitchen or some other place where you'll see it each day, and pray it fervently for the sake of our beloved priests."
— Patrick

DEAR SAINT JOHN VIANNEY,
your childhood dream was to be a Priest,
to win souls for God.
You endured years of toil and humiliation
to attain the Priesthood.
You became a priest truly after God's own heart,
outstanding in humulity and poverty;
prayer and mortification.
Totally devoted to the service of God's people.
The Church has exalted you as model
and patron saint of all Parish priests,
trusting that your example and prayers
will help them to live up
to the high dignity of their vocation
to be faithful servants of God's people,
to be perfect imitators of Christ the Saviour
Who came not to be served but to serve,
to give His Life in ransom for many.

Pray that God may give to His Church today
many more priests after His own Heart.
Pray for all the priests under your patronage,
that they may be worthy representatives
of Christ the Good Shepherd.
May they wholeheartedly devote themselves
to prayer and penance;
be examples of humility and poverty;
shining modelss of holiness;
tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God;
zealous dispensers of God's Grace in the Sacraments.
May their loving devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist
and to Mary His Mother
be the Twin Fountains of fruitfulness for their ministry.

Amen.

— Fr. Jason Vidrine

Monday, March 30, 2009

Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations

MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE 46TH WORLD DAY
OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
3RD MAY 2009, FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the next World Day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life, which will be celebrated on 3 May 2009, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, I want to invite all the People of God to reflect on the theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response. The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really “have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 26) if it is enlivened by prayer.

The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity. The Apostle Paul, whom we remember in a special way during this Pauline Year dedicated to the Two-thousandth anniversary of his birth, writing to the Ephesians says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ef 1:3-4). In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God’s initiative of choosing some to follow his Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be his privileged ministers and witnesses. The divine Master personally called the Apostles “to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk 3:14-15); they, in turn, gathered other disciples around them as faithful collaborators in this mission. In this way, responding to the Lord’s call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church. Let us give thanks to God, because even today he continues to call together workers into his vineyard. While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakable certitude that the one who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfilment of the Kingdom is he, the Lord, who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow him according to the mysterious plans of his merciful love.

Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer. We must pray that the whole Christian people grows in its trust in God, convinced that the “Lord of the harvest” does not cease to ask some to place their entire existence freely at his service so as to work with him more closely in the mission of salvation. What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly reminds us that God’s free initiative requires a free response on the part of men and women; a positive response which always presupposes acceptance of and identification with the plan that God has for everyone; a response which welcomes the Lord’s loving initiative and becomes, for the one who is called, a binding moral imperative, an offering of thanksgiving to God and a total cooperation with the plan which God carries out in history (cf. n. 2062).

Contemplating the mystery of the Eucharist, which expresses in a sublime way the free gift of the Father in the Person of his Only Begotten Son for the salvation of mankind, and the full and docile readiness of Christ to drink to the dregs the “cup” of the will of God (cf. Mt 26:39), we can more readily understand how “faith in the divine initiative” models and gives value to the “human response”. In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfilment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers himself freely for the salvation of mankind. “The Church”, my beloved predecessor John Paul II wrote, “has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as a gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11).

It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century until the Lord’s glorious return, for they can contemplate, precisely in the Eucharistic Christ, the eminent model of a “vocational dialogue” between the free initiative of the Father and the faithful response of Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ himself who acts in those whom he chooses as his ministers; he supports
them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness (cf. Rm 8:26-28), or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter (cf. Rm 8:35-39).

The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful and especially in priests, cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is “called” voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16).

This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. The Second Vatican Council recalls, “The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace” (Lumen Gentium, 43).

Once more, Jesus is the model of complete and trusting adherence to the will of the Father, to whom every consecrated person must look. Attracted by him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness. Today too, many undertake this same demanding journey of evangelical perfection and realise their vocation in the profession of the evangelical counsels. The witness of these our brothers and sisters, in contemplative monasteries, religious institutes and congregations of apostolic life, reminds the people of God of “that mystery of the Kingdom of God is already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (Vita Consecrata, 1).

Who can consider himself worthy to approach the priestly ministry? Who can embrace the consecrated life relying only on his or her own human powers? Once again, it is useful to reiterate that the response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfilment, is never patterned after the timid self-interest of the worthless servant who, out of fear, hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground (cf. Mt 25:14-30), but rather expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord’s invitation, as in the case of Peter who, trusting in the Lord’ word, did not hesitate to let down the net once more even after having toiled all night and catching nothing (cf. Lk 5:5). Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes “co-responsibility”, responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of his Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:5).

An emblematic human response, full of trust in God’s initiative, is the generous and unmitigated “Amen” of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High announced to her by God’s messenger (cf. Lk 1:38). Her prompt “Yes” allowed Her to become the Mother of God, the Mother of our Saviour. Mary, after this first “fiat”, had to repeat it many times, even up to the culminating moment of the crucifixion of Jesus, when “standing by the cross of Jesus” as the Evangelist John notes, she participated in the dreadful suffering of her innocent Son. And it was from the cross, that Jesus, while dying, gave her to us as Mother and entrusted us to her as sons and daughters (cf. Jn 19:26-27); she is especially the Mother of priests and consecrated persons. I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God’s call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.

Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with him. Imitating the Virgin Mary whom all generations proclaim as blessed because she believed (cf. Lk 1:48), commit yourselves with every spiritual energy, to realise the heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, cultivating in your heart, like her, the ability to be astonished and to adore him who is mighty and does “great things”, for Holy is his name (cf. Lk 1:49).

From the Vatican, 20 January 2009

Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Members of the Congregation for the Clergy (Announcing the Year for Priests)


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

I am glad to be able to welcome you at a special Audience on the eve of my departure for Africa, where I am going to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa that will be held here in Rome next October. I thank Cardinal Cláudio Hummes for the kind words with which he has interpreted the sentiments you share and I thank you for the beautiful letter you wrote to me. With him, I greet you all, Superiors, Officials and Members of the Congregation, with gratitude for all the work you do at the service of such an important sector of the Church's life.

The theme you have chosen for this Plenary Assembly "The missionary identity of the priest in the Church as an intrinsic dimension of the exercise of the tria munera" suggests some reflections on the work of these days and the abundant fruit that it will certainly yield. If the whole Church is missionary and if every Christian, by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation quasi ex officio (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1305), receives the mandate to profess the faith publicly, the ministerial priesthood, also from this viewpoint, is ontologically distinct, and not only by rank, from the baptismal priesthood that is also known as the "common priesthood". In fact, the apostolic mandate "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole of creation" (Mk 16: 15) is constitutive of the ministerial priesthood. This mandate is not, as we know, a mere duty entrusted to collaborators; its roots are deeper and must be sought further back in time.

The missionary dimension of the priesthood is born from the priest's sacramental configuration to Christ. As a consequence it brings with it a heartfelt and total adherence to what the ecclesial tradition has identified as apostolica vivendi forma. This consists in participation in a "new life", spiritually speaking, in that "new way of life" which the Lord Jesus inaugurated and which the Apostles made their own. Through the imposition of the Bishop's hands and the consecratory prayer of the Church, the candidates become new men, they become "presbyters". In this light it is clear that the tria munera are first a gift and only consequently an office, first a participation in a life, and hence a potestas. Of course, the great ecclesial tradition has rightly separated sacramental efficacy from the concrete existential situation of the individual priest and so the legitimate expectations of the faithful are appropriately safeguarded. However, this correct doctrinal explanation takes nothing from the necessary, indeed indispensable, aspiration to moral perfection that must dwell in every authentically priestly heart.

Precisely to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, I have decided to establish a special "Year for Priests" that will begin on 19 June and last until 19 June 2010. In fact, it is the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars, John Mary Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock. It will be the task of your Congregation, in agreement with the diocesan Ordinaries and with the superiors of religious institutes to promote and to coordinate the various spiritual and pastoral initiatives that seem useful for making the importance of the priest's role and mission in the Church and in contemporary society ever more clearly perceived.

The priest's mission, as the theme of the Plenary Assembly emphasizes, is carried out "in the Church". This ecclesial communal, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable to every authentic mission and, alone guarantees its spiritual effectiveness. The four aspects mentioned must always be recognized as intimately connected: the mission is "ecclesial" because no one proclaims himself in the first person, but within and through his own humanity every priest must be well aware that he is bringing to the world Another, God himself. God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest. The mission is "communional" because it is carried out in a unity and communion that only secondly has also important aspects of social visibility. Moreover, these derive essentially from that divine intimacy in which the priest is called to be expert, so that he may be able to lead the souls entrusted to him humbly and trustingly to the same encounter with the Lord. Lastly, the "hierarchical" and "doctrinal" dimensions suggest reaffirming the importance of the ecclesiastical discipline (the term has a connection with "disciple") and doctrinal training and not only theological, initial and continuing formation.

Awareness of the radical social changes that have occurred in recent decades must motivate the best ecclesial forces to supervise the formation of candidates for the ministry. In particular, it must foster the constant concern of Pastors for their principal collaborators, both by cultivating truly fatherly human relations and by taking an interest in their continuing formation, especially from the doctrinal and spiritual viewpoints. The mission is rooted in a special way in a good formation, developed in communion with uninterrupted ecclesial Tradition, without breaks or temptations of irregularity. In this sense, it is important to encourage in priests, especially in the young generations, a correct reception of the texts of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of the Church's entire fund of doctrine. It seems urgent to recover that awareness that has always been at the heart of the Church's mission, which impels priests to be present, identifiable and recognizable both for their judgement of faith, for their personal virtues as well as for the habit, in the contexts of culture and of charity.

As Church and as priests, we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth Lord and Christ, Crucified and Risen, Sovereign of time and of history, in the glad certainty that this truth coincides with the deepest expectations of the human heart. In the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, that is, of the fact that God became man like us, lies both the content and the method of Christian proclamation. The true dynamic centre of the mission is here: in Jesus Christ, precisely. The centrality of Christ brings with it the correct appreciation of the ministerial priesthood, without which there would be neither the Eucharist, nor even the mission nor the Church herself. In this regard it is necessary to be alert to ensure that the "new structures" or pastoral organizations are not planned on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the proper promotion of the laity for a time in which one would have "to do without" the ordained ministry, because in that case the presuppositions for a further dilution of the ministerial priesthood would be laid and possible presumed "solutions" might come dramatically to coincide with the real causes of contemporary problems linked to the ministry.

I am certain that in these days the work of the Plenary Assembly, under the protection of the Mater Ecclesiae, will be able to examine these brief ideas that I permit myself to submit to the attention of the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, while I invoke upon you all an abundance of heavenly gifts, as a pledge of which I impart a special, affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Home Grown Vocations"

From Catholic Exchange
By Rachel Watkins (no relation)

With a daughter off for religious life I’ve been asked, “How do you do it? How do you raise children open to religious life and willing to pursue it?” Wondering myself, I asked other moms and dads we know who have sons and daughters either in religious life or discerning. I asked priests and religious their vocation stories. The results are in. We have no idea.

Seriously, each parent raised his or her child differently. Each family is unique in size and make-up. Several families are large in anyone’s eyes — 10 or more such as mine. Others are large in society’s eye — four or more and others have smaller families. Some families were committed to Daily Mass, a family rosary, novenas, the scapular, or other familiar Catholic devotions. Some families did all of them, some practiced a few and, surprisingly, a few religious tell me their families did none of those devotionals. Some families might be described as rigid in these commitments while others might be seen as more lax. Again, each family was unique.

How then?? In a sentence: They were called. Plain and simple, they were called by God to come and love Him completely and totally, forsaking all others for Him. In addition, just as in Matthew 20 when the landowner went to find workers for the vineyard they also found themselves called at a variety of hours. For some the call came for at a young age — the first hour, so to speak, as “the landowner went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Others were called at the last hour. However, they all heard Him call — at Adoration, during a family Rosary or walking on a beach after a long night.

So, with a lack of uniformity in family experience one might assume that it doesn’t matter how you raise your children to help foster a religious vocation. You may even say, if God is going to call them regardless of what you do, why bother?? Well, there are several very important reasons why you should.

First, He asks us to. Scripture is full of advice and admonitions on how to be holy. The simplest, and yet so complex, is the call to be like Christ. Read 1 Peter 2 as an outline of the life of a Christian in a hostile world.

Second, the Church asks us to. The Church makes quite clear the expected responsibilities of its members, including Mass attendance, frequent reception of the sacraments and more. Check out the Catechism if you have questions here.

Third, Our Mother asks us to. “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

Fourth is that it easier to recognize His voice if you’ve been tuning in to God’s voice all along. This fine-tuning comes through prayer, Mass and the sacraments on a regular basis. Teaching yourself and your kids to keep their hearts and minds tuned to Christ makes it easier to hear Him call for both the little stuff, “be reconciled with your brother” (Mt. 5:24), and the big stuff, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). Keep your souls tuned to Christ and hearing the call is much easier.

Fifth, seek the support and example of families worth modeling. In our home, on a daily basis, my husband and I offer our children up to Mary and Joseph to raise. After all, they did pretty good with their boy Jesus. All kidding aside, we rest and rely on their intercession for our family. We get as unsure and afraid as everyone else when it comes to raising good kids in a seemingly increasingly bad world. Their protection and prayers give us strength, comfort and guidance. We ask the Holy Family every evening to help make us a holy family. But we also seek out like-minded families for friendship, barbeques and play dates. We aren’t living behind stone walls hiding from the world but helping our kids, with the help of others, to learn to navigate it safely and surely.

Lastly, offer your children to God. Simply put, God prefers what is generously offered. Children who are raised in a family that openly welcomes and supports a religious vocation do much better in their formation. Don’t worry about those grandchildren you may not have (not that you were guaranteed them anyway) or what the neighbors may say in the rebound from the scandals. When your child talks about having a vocation, don’t dismiss it, ignore it or tell them they’re too young, not smart enough, or not holy enough. I have spoken to many priests who have said that “good” parents have stopped their children’s vocations because they refused to see in them what God saw in them.

My children are not perfect, far from it. Matt and I liken ourselves to Mr. and Mrs. Idiot living on Stupid Island. We have fits of temper, selfishness and laziness. Nevertheless, God looks beyond us as sinful parents. He is a perfect Father who can work as a potter with any clay He’s been given. But He has to be given it. Let Him work His miracle on you and your child and you might discover your little hothead becomes the next Damian of Molokai or your clotheshorse the next Clare of Assisi.

And on a final note, if you hope for a religious vocation and one is not given it never means that you did something wrong. Raising good and holy children who will transform the world from behind a desk or at home with a baby is just as necessary for God’s plan of salvation. Just continue to pray for wisdom to help your child pursue with an open heart whatever God wills for them. After all, if your child becomes a parent, you get the grandchildren you always wanted… and one of them may enter religious life.

"Sister Prema, whose name means love, is the new superior of the Sisters of Mother Teresa"

From AsiaNews

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – In Sanskrit “Prema means love,” love that is pure and holy, a name that befits the new superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, Brother Paul told AsiaNews. The 41-year-old British priest is a member of the male branch of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation founded by Mother Teresa.
Sister Prema met the Blessed for the first time in 1980, in Berlin, after reading Something Beautiful for God, a book by BBC journalist Malcolm Muggeridge who wrote about his meeting with Mother Teresa in 1969 when he was making a documentary on the nun from Kolkata that would make her known worldwide.

“I know Sister Prema. She is a visionary, a deeply spiritual person with an implicit trust in God. She has a clear understanding of her mission, with the charism of the Missionaries of Charity implanted in her heart, to serve Jesus by serving the poorest of the poor,” said Brother Paul who has been posted for the past seven years in the Shanti Bhavan, or House of Peace, in Kolkata.

The general chapter of the Missionaries of Charity held in Dum Dum picked the German-born nun to replace Indian-born Sister Nirmala Joshi as the head of the congregation to reflect its international reach, which now includes some 4,500 nuns in 133 countries.

Mgr Lucas Sircar, archbishop of Kolkata, said that Sister Prema was elected on the first round of voting, getting more than two thirds of the votes cast by 163 delegates.

For Brother Paul the new superior general’s country of origin does not represent any change since “God looks not at nationalities, but at hearts.”

Sister Prema’s task now is “to guide the Missionaries of Charity towards the holiness of our Blessed Mother Teresa.”

"Australia hardest country to find vocations in, says Cardinal Pell"

From Catholic News Agency

Lima, Peru, Mar 26, 2009 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- During a visit to Peru this week, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney told a group of consecrated women that in Australia it’s very difficult to find vocations to the consecrated life. The Australian cardinal also said that he would like to see new Catholic communities, such as the Marian Community of Reconciliation, change the direction of the country.

The cardinal made his comments during a Mass celebrating the 18th anniversary of the Marian Community of Reconciliation, an association of the Sodalit Family, made up of consecrated women (called Fraternas) and founded in 1991 in Peru by Peruvian consecrated layman Mr. Luis Fernando Figari. The Comunity is present today in the Americas, Europe and Australia.

“One of the missionaries of Mother Teresa of Calcutta told me once that Australia was the hardest country in the world to find vocations in. For several decades many religious congregations in Australia have not received a single new vocation,” the cardinal said.

“I hope and pray that the strictly lay vocation of the Fraternas to work in the world at the service of God and the Church provides an opening and leads to a necessary change in the direction of my country. I ask all of you, gathered here tonight, to pray for the Church in Australia, that we may be open to discerning ever more the will of God and fulfilling it with greater fidelity,” he added.

The cardinal thanked God and the leaders of the Marian Community of Reconciliation for their presence in Sydney.

Cardinal Pell went on to explain that “Sydney has a peaceful and quite prosperous secular culture. It has a Christian majority of approximately 60% of the population. Although Catholics constitute the largest religious denomination, Australia is not a Catholic country. ”

Cardinal Pell also reflected on yesterday’s Feast of the Annunciation and pointed out that “the enemies of the Church see in the Annunciation an emblematic sign of the wrong understanding of submission to the will of God, especially on the part of women. Such submission is considered a subhuman act and hostile to the necessary and adult goal of human autonomy. To affirm that the greatness of Mary comes from her submission to the only true God is portrayed as a provocation,” he said.

The cardinal explained that for these people, the Annunciation “is a confirmation of all that is wrong with Christianity, because they do not recognize that true freedom can only be found in the truth. For many men and women of today, this is a difficult teaching to accept and therefore, it is often rejected. The free acceptance of the will of God is the fullest way to exercise freedom.”

“The gift of our own freedom leads us to be conscious of the effort we should make to cooperate with the divine Will. Certainly none of us has deserved the mission that God has entrusted to us through Baptism. He is the one who has called us to serve him, whether in marriage or in the consecrated life, whether in the priesthood, in leadership as committed laity, in the religious life or as a bishop. Each one of us should thank God for our particular vocation, being aware that the ways of the Lord are mysterious; sometimes difficult and even hard to accept at the beginning,” he said.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Called to Singlehood?"


From Real Love Productions
By Mary Beth Bonacci


A single girl questions the existence of the single “vocation.”
2003-09-16

I’m taking a class on John Paul II’s apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Vocation and Dignity of Women). And it’s been fascinating.

This class is, as one would expect, comprised entirely of women. (What is it about men that they don’t want to sit around a classroom on a weekday afternoon, gabbing about the nature of womanhood?) Yesterday, we were discussing chapter six, which is entitled “Motherhood – Virginity: Two Dimensions of Women’s Vocation.” As we read along, it became clear that the Holy Father wasn’t referring to virginity simply as “the state of never having had sex,” but rather in the context of consecrated virginity – a woman who consecrates herself completely to Christ as a spouse.

The chapter opens with this statement. “We must now focus our meditation on virginity and motherhood as two particular dimensions of the fulfillment of the female personality.” That same paragraph closes by referring to “these two paths in the vocation of women.”

Hands immediately began shooting up. “Well, those are only two of the three vocations. What about the vocation to the single life?” They have, as I have, been seeing more and more references in spiritual literature to the “vocation” to the single life. Entire books are being written about it. Discussion groups are dissecting it. Unmarried men and women are immersing themselves deeply in prayer, trying to discern it.

But there’s one problem. As far as Church teaching is concerned, it doesn’t exist.

Hold on! Are you saying God doesn’t want anybody to remain unmarried unless they’re priests or nuns?

Of course I’m not. There may be specific individuals whom God, In His infinite wisdom, wishes to remain single but unconsecrated. Many others will remain single for reasons beyond their control. If they turn that singleness over to God, He will no doubt bring tremendous good out of it. A particular single person may be infinitely happier or holier than a particular married person.
But none of that raises unconsecrated singleness to the level of a “vocation.”
Why not? Traditionally, “vocation” has been understood to indicate a call from God – and a subsequent public vow -- to completely give oneself and one’s life to someone (or Someone, as the case may be.) As the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes says, man finds himself only in a sincere gift of himself. And just plain old singleness doesn’t do that. Not that single people can’t be giving people. In fact, unmarried people are often among the most giving, generous people I know. But we haven’t taken a vow or formally given our lives to someone – and that, in the strictest sense, is the definition of a vocation.

What about teachers, youth ministers and others who consider that type of work a “vocation”? It may be, in the sense of being work God has called them to. Some may even forego marriage in order to give themselves completely to their students. But it’s still not a vow, not a complete self-gift. A teacher or youth minister can quit, or retire, or be promoted. It’s not a “life sentence.”

Nevertheless, several people in the class were righteously indignant. Interestingly, it was the married people who were upset on behalf of us single folk. The unmarried women there, like single people I’ve met elsewhere, were nodding and saying, ”This makes sense. My life doesn’t feel like a vocation in this way.”

In the document, John Paul II refers to the “naturally spousal predisposition on women.” I’ve experienced this, and so have the other women in the class. We want to give ourselves. We want to belong to someone – not in the sense of property, but in the sense of mutual self-gift. The Holy Father says that consecrated virginity, like marriage, fulfills that spousal predisposition.

So what about those of us who remain in this “no man’s land” – consecrated neither to God nor spouse? Some may be called to marriage, but due to the rampant immorality of today’s world have been either temporarily or permanently unable to find a suitable spouse. Others may desire marriage but experience personal problems that render them unable to enter into sacramental marriage. Still others may be called to consecrated celibacy, but haven’t heard or responded to the call.

Regardless, I know that all human persons find fulfillment through a sincere gift of self. For those of us who are unmarried, opportunities for that gift of self may not present themselves as often. But they’re the key to our happiness for the time we remain unmarried. We can – and must --participate in vocation analogously. We will find real fulfillment only by giving generously of ourselves -- to our families, our friends, to those we encounter in ministry, and to God.

God loves every person deeply and personally. That goes for those who have resolved their life’s vocation, as well as those of us who haven’t. Single people are not second-class citizens of the Church. We just, for whatever reason, haven’t settled into a vocation.

I see no need, therefore, to condescend to us and make up a “new” vocation for us. We prefer to deal with the truth.

True vocations in the Church are recognized liturgically. There is a Mass for Diaconate and Priesthood Ordination, Religious Consecration, Marriage and Consecrated Virginity, but there is no Mass for "single life." Vocations are also (supposed to be) lifelong and permanent - not just until something else comes along, like a spouse or another vocation.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Benedict XVI announces Priestly Year"

Franciscans of the Immaculate Ordinations

J.P. Sonnen has posted extensive photos from the recent Franciscans of the Immaculate ordinations in Italy. The pictures are beautiful and many - too many to reproduce here. Take the time to go to his blog, Orbis Catholicvs, and check them out.

If you're viewing this later, below are direct links to the posts:

Pictures of the Church

Processing into the Church

Ordination

Ordination

Ordination

Recessional

"German Elected to Lead Missionaries of Charity"

From ZENIT

Mother Teresa's Successor Steps Down

CALCUTTA, MARCH 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- German Sister Mary Prema was elected as superior-general of the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

The Union of Catholic Asian News reported today that the election took place during the congregation's general chapter, which ended today in Calcutta.

Sister Mary Prema succeeds Sister Nirmala Joshi, who has headed the congregation since the founder's death in 1997.

Sister Nirmala was re-elected for the third time, but UCAN cited sources inside the congregation that revealed she requested to be relieved of her obligations for health reasons, and because she wanted to dedicate herself to a more contemplative life within the Missionaries of Charity.

Some 163 sisters voted at the general chapter, of whom 74 are of Indian origin and the rest are from other countries of the world.

Spiritual exercises

The outgoing superior, Sister Nirmala, was invited to preach spiritual exercises to directors of Asia's diocesan Caritas chapters at a meeting planned for this September in Taipei, Taiwan.

The meeting is being organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the dicastery responsible for coordinating the charitable activities of the Catholic Church, which already convoked a similar meeting for Latin America in Guadalajara, Mexico, in June 2008.

Sources of the dicastery confirmed to ZENIT that Sister Nirmala has not declined this invitation, and will honor the commitment to preach the spiritual exercises, together with other prelates of the Asian continent.

"German Nun to Lead Missionaries of Charity"

From Earth Times

New Delhi - German-born Sister Mary Prema has been elected the new head of the Missionaries of Charity, a congregation founded by Mother Teresa in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, a spokeswoman for the order said Thursday. The appointment has to be ratified by the Vatican.

"Sister Mary will be reaching Mother House [the global headquarters of the order in Kolkata] on Friday," said Sister Christie, spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity. "We will be able to give more details only after she is here."

The congregation's general chapter elected Sister Mary Prema as superior general Tuesday, Sister Christie said.

Sister Mary Prema, 55, was born as Mechtild Pierick in Recken in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state.

She joined Mother Teresa's order at the age of 27 and has since been a member of the congregation, serving in Rome and Nepal among other places.

Known to be close to Mother Teresa, the low-profile Sister Mary Prema is one of the seniormost nuns of the order.

She was chosen as one of the four leaders to lead the congregation at the general chapter held in 2003. The order holds a general chapter every six years to evaluate the functioning of the congregation.

The 2009 general chapter elected her to lead the order after current superior general Sister Nirmala said she wanted to dedicate herself to a more contemplative life within the Missionaries of Charity, the Union of Catholic News website reported.

Sister Nirmala, 74, has headed the Missionaries of Charity since Mother Teresa's death in 1997.

A total of 163 nuns voted at the general chapter to choose Sister Mary Prema to take over as the new leader, the Union of Catholic Asian News reported.

Seventy-four of the nuns were from India and the rest were from the more than 130 countries where the order has branches.

Albania-born Mother Teresa lived and worked in Kolkata for more than 45 years ministering to the sick, dying and orphans. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title Blessed Teresa of Kolkata in 2003.

The Missionaries of Charity now has more than 4,000 nuns as part of the order and runs more than 700 branches round the world.

"North Dakota seminary partially evacuates because of flood alert"

From Catholic News Service

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Msgr. Gregory Schlesselmann, rector of Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo, N.D., was doing all he could during a heavy snowstorm March 26 to prepare for the expected rise in two days of floodwaters of the adjacent Red River.

An existing, half-mile-long clay dike, about 45 feet high in his estimation, was expanded in an effort to keep an expected 41-foot crest of water not only from the seminary property but also from the north side of Fargo.

He told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview March 26 that he couldn't see the river, because the dike, significantly raised the previous day by the Army Corps of Engineers, blocked the view.

Several days of unrelenting rain had caused the waters of the Red River to rise as much as 5 feet in one day, according to news reports. The city had closed a number of bridges over the river. A heavy blizzard March 25 knocked out power and dumped wet snow and freezing rain on the already rain-soaked region.

President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration March 24 for much of the state.

Msgr. Schlesselmann spent a good part of the morning of March 26 making sure the dike-building crew, who had worked through the night, was well-fed. He was also arranging for a partial evacuation of the junior seminary.

The seminary's maintenance worker, some resident priests and any seminarians who were particularly handy with water pumps were staying on the property. As of March 26 there had not been a mandatory evacuation.

The rector said he would be "the last man out."

Some seminarians were planning to stay at the residence of Fargo Bishop Samuel J. Aquila while others were staying at nearby parishes.

Bishop Aquila, who was getting ready to take in seven seminarians March 26, told CNS he was glad to help.

Days before the Army Corps arrived to raise the dike next to the seminary, Msgr. Schlesselmann was coordinating volunteers to pile sandbags on it. The dike was built 12 years ago in anticipation of floodwaters that rose more than 39 feet.

In the days prior to the river cresting in the current storm, the priest was making sure there would be volunteers to patrol the dike at all hours.

Msgr. Schlesselmann, who is not a North Dakota native, said he has lived through two floods in the state in 1997 and 2006.

He said the current reaction of Fargo residents, who were in a "wait and see mode," has been primarily positive.

"Neighbors are helping each other and there is a great spirit of cooperation," he said.

With the immediate work behind him, the priest said his main focus was urging people to pray for protection through the "intercession of St. Joseph, who kept the Holy Family safe."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Back to blogging

Dear Readers, sorry for yet another gap in blogging. I returned yesterday from a three day visit to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary with Bishop Burbidge and Fr. Shlesinger (our Director of Vocations) for His Excellency's annual Episcopal visit. We had a wonderful visit, but it's a challenge to keep up with the blog while there. Regular posting should resume now.

"Youth get vocation advice at Portland rally"

From the Catholic Sentinel
By Ed Langlois

More than 350 sixth graders broke up laughing when Father Michael Biewend pulled out a cell phone and started dialing up youths in the crowd. When they answered, the priest said loudly that God is calling to ask them to follow Jesus.

Father Biewend’s keynote speech was part of last week’s vocations rally, which drew sixth graders from a dozen Catholic schools to St. Pius X community center.

The day examined the four vocation groups: priesthood or diaconate, religious life, marriage and single life.

Father Biewend, pastor of The Madeleine Parish in Portland, explained that until seventh grade, he really wanted to be a pilot, or a bus driver or a milk man. But then he met a holy nun who prayed the rosary during breaks in class and he wanted her joy, her peacefulness, her goodness. He later met an impressive young priest and the idea of life in the church endured. He tried to push it aside, but kept getting nudged. Once, he inadvertently knocked a book down at the home library — it was about a missionary priest.

When he finally started seminary, he was so homesick, he called his mother and asked her to bring him home. She returned, and he thanked her later for the tough love.

Vocations directors from around the Archdiocese of Portland have consolidated efforts to broaden their outreach to youths. Father Kelly Vandehey, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Portland, and directors from various women’s religious communities and members of the vocations promotion group Serra Club have decided to concentrate on two crucial phases in early life — the age of 11 and grade 11. That’s why the program is called Focus 11.

“Everyone has a vocation, a call to holiness,” says Sister Charlene Herinckx, director of vocations for the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

“We’re not talking about a job or career — we’re talking about a way of life,” Father Vandehey told the youths. “How is it we hear where God is calling us to be?”

Schools sending sixth graders to the rally were Valley Catholic, Christ the King, St. Cecilia, St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Clare, St. John the Baptist, St. Matthew, St. Pius X, Archbishop Howard, Holy Cross and The Madeleine.

The students were able to meet priests and religious, and play a few games along the way.

“I was surprised that all the people found out they wanted to be a priest or nun in middle school or high school,” says Tracey Nguyen, a sixth grader at St. Anthony School in Tigard.

She enjoyed the day, especially the parts where the students could participate.
Tracey learned more about religious life and missionaries, topics on which she was hazy before.

“We’re a little far from choosing what kind of life we want,” she explains. “But before our field trip, we really didn’t know anything about some of the things.”

"Play about life of St. John Vianney to tour U.S. in 2009"


From Catholic News Agency

Photo at left: Leonardo Defillipis as St. John Vianney

Seattle, Wash., Mar 26, 2009 / 03:05 am (CNA).- A production of a play on the life of St. John Vianney will begin its U.S. tour this August, traveling to parishes, theaters, seminaries, universities and Catholic schools to help mark the Year of the Priesthood declared by Pope Benedict XVI.

The play "Vianney" is produced by Leonardo Defilippis, director and star of the film Thérèse. It tells the story of St. John Vianney, who lived from 1786 to 1859. The play will discuss the life of the saint, also known as the Curé of Ars, from his childhood during the French Revolution through his forty years as parish priest in the small village of Ars, France.

Pilgrims from across the globe flocked to the priest for confession and for his preaching. Ars itself changed from a lax community to a thriving Christian center.

Ordinary witnesses reported that the Virgin Mary regularly appeared at the rectory to converse with the saint, while the devil reportedly tried to harass him. Miracles of multiplying bread for the hungry, healing and prophecy also followed the saint.

Pope Benedict declared June 2009 through June 2010 as the Year of the Priesthood, dedicated to St. John Vianney.

Defilippis said in a press release that the focus on the saint is "right on target."

"The Curé of Ars is the saint who will inspire all of us, especially young people, with a deeper understanding of the heroic life of the priest," he added, predicting a "tremendous surge" in vocations because youth are seeking a "radical choice" to make a difference in the world.

"John Vianney points the way through his dramatic life of self-sacrifice and his struggle with evil," he said.

Defilippis remarked that "Vianney" is a good introduction to the life and vision of the saint because the live production "comes right into the local community, right into the parish itself" where it "speaks to individuals in much the same way that John Vianney did."

"It wasn’t through the media that he converted so many souls. It was in parish life, and with the example of his life and his incredible insight in the confessional. That’s what I want to bring to audiences– an intimate encounter with this powerful, yet humble priest, an encounter that will stay with them and draw them into a deeper commitment to prayer, repentance and holiness."

Father John Cihak, pastor, seminary professor and St. John Vianney scholar, said the saint is "pivotal" in "bringing about a renewal of holiness among priests and laity alike."

"We need a drama to help create this spiritual renewal. Writing books and articles about the Curé of Ars is good, but nothing gets a saint into the minds and hearts of people today better than drama and film," he added.

Bishop Ronald Gainer of Lexington, Kentucky said the play has the potential of doing "great good" in encouraging vocations to the priesthood and in encouraging "God’s call to each individual soul."

A feature film will reportedly follow the live production tour, pending funding and greater awareness of the effort.

The Battle Ground, Washington-based Saint Luke Productions is scheduling performances of "Vianney" for the 2009-2010 seasons. The production group provides the elements of professional theater such as lights, sets, costumes and an original musical score.

The website for "Vianney" is located at http://www.vianneydrama.com/

Monday, March 23, 2009

"YOUNG PEOPLE: DO NOT BE AFRAID TO MAKE DEFINITIVE DECISIONS"

VATICAN CITY, 21 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 4.20 p.m. today, the Holy Father went to Stadio dos Coquieros in the Angolan capital city of Luanda. On arrival he toured the stadium - which has a capacity of 30,000 - by popemobile greeting the crowds of young people he had come to meet.

Commenting on the theme of the meeting, taken from the Book of Revelation, "Behold the dwelling of God is with men", the Pope assured the young people that "God makes all the difference, ... and more! God changes us; He makes us new!".

"God is the future of a new humanity, which is anticipated in His Church. When you have a chance, take time to read the Church's history. You will find that the Church does not grow old with the passing of the years. Rather, she grows younger, for she is journeying towards her Lord, day by day drawing nearer to the one true fountain overflowing with youthfulness, rebirth, the power of life".

He then addressed some remarks to young Angolans who have been maimed or disabled as a result of the war or landmines. "I think of the countless tears that have been shed for the loss of your relatives and friends", he said. "It is not hard to imagine the dark clouds that still veil the horizon of your fondest hopes and dreams".

"See how Jesus does not leave us without an answer; He tells us one thing very clearly: renewal starts from within; you will receive a power from on high. The power to shape the future is within you.

"It is within you", he added, "but how? Just as life exists within a seed. That is how Jesus explained it at a critical juncture in His ministry. ... Jesus spoke about the sower who sows in the field of the world, and He explained that the seed is His word and His miracles of healing. These are so few in comparison to the immense needs and demands of everyday life. And yet, deep within the seed, the future is already present, since the seed contains tomorrow's bread, tomorrow's life. The seed seems almost nothing. But it is the presence of the future, the promise already present. When it falls on good soil, it produces fruit, thirty, sixty and even a hundredfold".

"In your midst", he told the young people, "you have the new Bread, the Bread of future life, the Blessed Eucharist, which nourishes us and pours out the life of the Trinity into the hearts of all people".

"He gives Himself to us and we respond by giving ourselves to others, for love of Him. This is the way that leads to life; it can be followed only by maintaining a constant dialogue with the Lord and among yourselves". Yet "the dominant societal culture is not helping you to live by Jesus' word or to practise the self-giving to which He calls you in accordance with the Father's plan".

After encouraging his young audience not to be "afraid to make definitive decisions", the Pope added: "You do not lack generosity - that I know! But the idea of risking a lifelong commitment, whether in marriage or in a life of special consecration, can be daunting. You might think: ...'Can I make a life-long commitment now, without knowing what unforeseen events lie in store for me? By making a definitive decision, would I not be risking my freedom and tying my own hands?' These are the doubts you feel, and today's individualistic and hedonist culture aggravates them. Yet when young people avoid decisions, there is a risk of never attaining full maturity".

"Take courage!", he cried. "Dare to make definitive decisions, because in reality these are the only decisions which do not destroy your freedom, but guide it in the right direction, enabling you to move forward and attain something worthwhile in life. There is no doubt about it: life is worthwhile only if you take courage and are ready for adventure, if you trust in the Lord Who will never abandon you. Young people of Angola, unleash the power of the Holy Spirit within you, the power from on high!

"Trusting in this power, like Jesus, risk taking a leap and making a definitive decision. Give life a chance", the Holy Father concluded. "This is the life worthy of being lived, and I commend it to you from my heart. May God bless the young people of Angola!".

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Pope: Priests need True sense of Vatican II"

LONDON (UK Catholic Herald) - Pope Benedict XVI called for a young generation of priests who embrace a "correct" interpretation of the Second Vatican Council as he announced a "year for priests" on Monday.

Continuing the work of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in consolidating the work of the Council, the Pope explicitly supported Vatican II's reforms but insisted that they should not be exaggerated or understood as a complete rupture with the past. He also said that lay structures could not replace the ministry of the priesthood.

His comments coincided with the announcement of a year for priests beginning on June 19 and marking the 150th anniversary of St John Vianney, patron saint of the clergy. He told the Congregation for the Clergy that an indispensable struggle for moral perfection must dwell in every priestly heart. The Pope warned Church leaders against creating lay structures as solutions to a vocations crisis.

He said: "The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of priestly ministry, without which there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church.

"It is necessary, then, to ensure that 'new structures' or pastoral organisations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to 'do without' ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry."

Pope Benedict stressed the sacramental nature of the ordained priesthood. "The missionary dimension of the priest arises from his sacramental configuration to Christ the head", he said, which requires "total adherence to what ecclesial tradition has identified as apostolica vivendi forma, which consists in participation... in that 'new way of life' which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the Apostles made their own."

Benedict XVI also underlined the importance of priestly formation and called for a younger generation of priests to be encouraged towards a "correct reading of the texts of the Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance".

He urged priests to be "present, identifiable and recognisable for their judgment of faith, personal virtues and attire - in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church's mission".

The Pope added that the priesthood is indispensable to the Church. Explaining the different dimensions essential to the mission of the priesthood, he named the ecclesial, communial, hierarchical and doctrinal aspects.

St John Vianney's relics will be brought to St Peter's Basilica by the Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars to inaugurate the celebrations and the Pope will close the year by presiding over a "world meeting of priests" in St Peter's Square.

To mark the year for priests, which has "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests" as its theme, the Congregation for Clergy will promote spiritual and pastoral exercises to highlight the role of the clergy in the modern world. Pope Benedict will also publish a collection of texts which deal with the aspects of the life and mission of priests in the modern world.

This year's Annuario Pontificio indicated a gradual increase in the number of vocations to the priesthood, although the number of vocations has been on a steady decline.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI speaks to the Bishops and Priests of Africa


APOSTOLIC JOURNEYOF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVITO CAMEROON AND ANGOLA (MARCH 17-23, 2009)

MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS OF CAMEROON

ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI

...

"Dear Brothers, the Bishop and his priests are called to maintain relations of close communion, founded on the one priesthood of Christ in which they share, albeit in different degrees. The quality of the bond uniting you with the priests, your principal and irreplaceable co-workers, is of the greatest importance. If they see in their Bishop a father and a brother who loves them, listens to them and offers them comfort in their trials, who devotes particular attention to their human and material needs, they are encouraged to carry out their ministry whole-heartedly, worthily and fruitfully. The words and example of their Bishop have a key role in inspiring them to give their spiritual and sacramental life a central place in their ministry, spurring them on to discover and to live ever more deeply the particular role of the shepherd as, first and foremost, a man of prayer. The spiritual and sacramental life is an extraordinary treasure, given to us for ourselves and for the good of the people entrusted to us. I urge you, then, to be especially vigilant regarding the faithfulness of priests and consecrated persons to the commitments made at their ordination or entry into religious life, so that they persevere in their vocation, for the greater holiness of the Church and the glory of God. The authenticity of their witness requires that there be no dichotomy between what they teach and the way they live each day.

In your dioceses, many young men are presenting themselves as candidates for the priesthood. We can only thank the Lord for this. It is essential that serious discernment should take place. With this in mind, I encourage you, despite the organizational difficulties that can sometimes occur at the pastoral level, to give priority to the choice and training of formators and spiritual directors. They must have a personal and profound knowledge of the candidates for the priesthood, and must be capable of offering them a solid human, spiritual and pastoral formation so as to make them mature and balanced men, well prepared for priestly life. Your constant fraternal support will help the formators to accomplish their task in the love of the Church and her mission."

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Novitiate Class of 2009

The 17 newest members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR's)

(top row, l-r) Br. Pierre Toussaint Marie Guiteau, Br. Malachy Joseph Napier, Br. Gabriel Emmanuel Monahan, Br. Xavier Mariae Meiergerd, Br. Oisín Emmanuel Martin, Br. Bernardino Maria Soukup

(center row, l-r) Br. Guy LaFranz Bourgeois, Br. André Mary Manders, Br. Joseph Michael Fino, Br. Angelo Marie LeFever, Br. Alan Paul Fimister, Br. Joshua Mary Braum

(front row, l-r) Br. Isaiah Marie Hofmann, Br. Declan Joseph Gibson, Br. Peregrino Peña,
Br. Anthony Terrence Ocello, Br. Stephen Marie Dufrene

See more pictures from the novices' investiture HERE.

For those who are interested in joining the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal community this coming September, now is the time to apply. Please let them know if you are interested in submitting an application. They will have a formal two-week visit from July 5 - 19, 2009.

Contact: Fr. Gabriel Mary Bakkar, CFR
Vocation Director - Saint Joseph Friary
523 W. 142nd Street
New York, NY 10031
(212)281-4355

Read the CFR's March 2009 Vocations eLetter HERE.

Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate launch a new blog


The Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate have just started a new blog - stop by and check it out:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Pope Urges Argentine Bishops to Promote Vocations"

Notes Challenges of Religious, Priestly, Married States

From ZENIT
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging Argentine bishops to promote vocations to the priesthood by supporting solid family structures and encouraging youth ministry.

The Pope said this Saturday in an audience with bishops on their five-yearly visit to Rome.

He told them, "The essential role carried out by priests will lead you to make a great effort to promote priestly vocations."

The Pontiff added, "In this regard, it would be appropriate to project a more incisive program of matrimonial and family pastoral care, which takes into account the Christian's vocational dimension, as well as a more audacious program of youth pastoral care, which will help young people to respond with generosity to God's call to them."

Thirty-one Argentine bishops, headed by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, primate of the country, listened to the Holy Father's words in the Vatican apostolic palace. That morning and on previous days, the Pope met personally with each bishop.

Benedict XVI reviewed the unique challenges facing each state of life in the Church -- bishops, priests, religious and laity -- and also appealed to the bishops to carry out "an effective and exacting discernment of the candidates to sacred orders."

At the same time, he continued, "it is necessary to intensify the formation of seminarians in all their dimensions: human, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and pastoral."

The Pope urged the Argentine bishops to intensify their mutual unity, which will be a "source of consolation in the grave commitment entrusted to you."

He continued, "Thanks to this affective and effective collegiality, no bishop is alone, because he is always closely united to Christ, Good Shepherd, and also, in virtue of his episcopal ordination and of the hierarchical communion, to his brothers in the episcopate and to him whom the Lord has chosen as successor of Peter."

The Pontiff asked the bishops to be close to their priests, "with the love of a father and brother."

He exhorted the prelates to be very charitable and prudent "when you have to correct teachings, attitudes or behavior that are unworthy of the priestly condition of your closest collaborators and which can, moreover, harm and confuse the faith and Christian life of the faithful."

He noted that "it is extremely important to recognize, appreciate and motivate the participation of religious in the diocesan evangelizing activity, which they enrich with the contribution of their respective charisms."

The Holy Father spoke about the lay faithful who "in virtue of their baptism, are called to cooperate in the building of the Body of Christ." He added, "To do so they must be led to have a more lively experience of Jesus Christ and of the mystery of his love."

Argentina has just over 40 million inhabitants of which approximately 92% are Catholics -- though less than 20% are practicing -- 2% are Protestants, 2% are Jews and 4% belong to other denominations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Pope: missionary activity "intrinsic" to the life of the priest"

From AsiaNews

Benedict XVI has proclaimed a Year for Priests, which will begin next June 19. During the year, he will proclaim St. John M. Vianney "Patron of all priests of the world." A "Directory for Confessors and Spiritual Directors" will be published, as well as a collection of texts by Benedict XVI on the essential themes of priestly life and mission in the present era.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI has proclaimed a special Year for Priests, during which he will proclaim Saint John M. Vianney (the Curé of Ars) "Patron of all the priests of the world." The pope himself made the announcement today, to participants in the plenary meeting of the Congregation for the Clergy, received in audience.

The speech to the Vatican dicastery for the clergy was also an opportunity, for Benedict XVI, for some statements about priests, beginning with the statement that missionary activity is "intrinsic" to priestly life, for which "there is an essential apostolic mandate: 'Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to all creation' (Mk. 16:15)." This distinguishes "ontologically" the mission of the priest from that of the lay Christian, in that for the priest the missionary dimension "arises from his sacramental configuration to Christ the Head." Because of this, on the one hand, there is a "necessary, even indispensable tension toward moral perfection, which must inhabit every authentically priestly heart," and on the other hand the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, without which there would not be the Eucharist, nor even the mission or the Church itself. "In this sense," the pope added, "it is necessary to be careful that new pastoral structures or organizations are not designed in view of a time when one will have to 'do without' the ordained ministry, departing from an erroneous interpretation of the proper promotion of the laity, because in this case the presuppositions would be put in place for a further dilution of the ministerial priesthood and the eventual presumed 'solutions' would dramatically coincide with the real causes of the contemporary problems connected to the ministry."

The mission of the priest "is carried out 'in the Church'. This dimension of ecclesiality, communion, hierarchy and doctrine is absolutely indispensable to any authentic mission, and alone guarantees its spiritual efficacy. The four aspects mentioned must always be recognized as being intimately correlated: mission is 'ecclesial' because no one proclaims or conveys himself, but within and through his own humanity every priest must be well aware of convening an Other, God himself, to the world. God is the only treasure that men ultimately want to find in a priest. Mission means 'communion' because it takes place in a unity and communion that only secondarily has significant aspects of social visibility. Moreover, these derive essentially from that divine intimacy in which the priest is called to be an expert, in order to be able to lead, with humility and trust, the souls entrusted to him to the same encounter with the Lord. Finally, the dimensions of 'hierarchy' and 'doctrine' suggest a reiteration of the importance of ecclesial discipline (a term related to 'disciple') and initial, permanent doctrinal formation, and not only theological.

The pope emphasized this last point both in order to stress the necessity of the permanent formation of the priest, and, in this regard, to reaffirm that the necessary interpretation of Vatican Council II must be made within the Church's tradition, and not as a "novelty" detached from it. "Mission," he said, in fact, "has its roots in a special way in good formation, developed in communion with the uninterrupted ecclesial tradition, without ruptures or temptations of discontinuity. In this sense, it is important to foster among priests, especially in the young generations, a correct reception of the texts of the Ecumenical Council Vatican II, interpreted in the light of the entire doctrinal heritage of the Church."

It appears equally urgent "to recover that awareness which drives priests to be present, identifiable, and recognizable for their judgment in faith, their personal virtues, and even their dress, in the areas of culture and charity, always at the heart of the Church's mission."

The pope, finally, will take part, at the closing of the Year for Priests - which begins next June 19 - in a "World Encounter of Priests" in St. Peter's Square, on June 19, 2010. During the Year for Priests, a "Directory for Confessors and Spiritual Directors" will also be published, together with a collection of texts by Benedict XVI on essential topics of priestly life and mission in the present era.

"Pope Cautions Against Dilution of Priestly Ministry"

Encourages Solid Doctrinal Education Among Clergy

From Zenit

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is affirming the importance of the ministerial priesthood in the Church, and is calling for greater attention to the education of clergy.

The Pope said this today during an audience with participants of the Congregation for Clergy's plenary assembly, a Vatican communiqué reported. In this meeting, he also announced his intention to convoke a Year for Priests, beginning June 19, on the occasion of 150th anniversary of the death of the Curé of Ars.

The Pontiff cautioned his audience against confusing the baptismal and ministerial priesthood, stating that the two are distinguished on an ontological level, rather than by a variance in degrees. The second dimension, he said, "arises from [the priest's] sacramental configuration to Christ the Head."

This configuration, he noted, "brings with it, as a consequence, a cordial and total adherence to what ecclesial tradition has identified as 'apostolica vivendi forma,' which consists in participation in that 'new way of life' that was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the Apostles made their own."

The Holy Father urged the bishops to ensure that "the 'new structures' or pastoral organizations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to 'do without' ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry."

He also admonished them to cultivate a "truly paternal" relationship with the priests, and to concern themselves with "their permanent education, above all in the doctrinal area."

The Pope stressed the importance of the ministry, without which "there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church" and he recalled that the mission of the priest "has its roots in a special way in a good formation, carried out in communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity."

"In this regard," he continued, "it is important to encourage priests, especially the young generations, to correctly read the texts of the Second Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance."

Visibility

The Pontiff spoke about the urgent need for priests to be "present, identifiable and recognizable -- for their judgment of faith, personal virtues and attire -- in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church's mission."

He said the mission of the priest concerns the Church, communion, hierarchy and doctrine, and added that these aspects should not be separated.

He explained: "The mission is ecclesial because no one announces or brings themselves, but rather in and through his own humanity, every priest should be very conscious of bringing Another, God himself, to the world. God is the only treasure that, definitively, mankind wishes to find in a priest."

The Holy Father said the mission concerns communion "because it takes place in a unity and communion which only at a secondary level possess important aspects of social visibility. These, moreover, are derived essentially from that divine intimacy of which the priest is called to be an expert, so that he can bring, with confidence and humility, the souls entrusted to him to the same meeting with the Lord."

He said that "the 'hierarchical' and 'doctrinal' dimensions emphasize the importance of ecclesiastical discipline -- a term related to that of 'disciple' -- and of doctrinal -- not just theological, initial and permanent -- formation."

The Pope concluded by urging those present to discover the centrality of Jesus Christ who gives meaning and value to the ministerial priesthood.

He added, "As Church and as priests we announce Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, crucified and risen, Sovereign of time and history, in the joyful certainty that this truth coincides with the deepest hopes of the human heart."

"Better awareness of all vocations will lead to more priests, pope says"

From Catholic News Service

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The key to increasing the number of candidates for the priesthood is helping all Catholics -- including married couples and youths -- understand that God is calling them to serve him and the church in a special way, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Meeting 30 bishops from Argentina March 14, the pope called for "a more incisive pastoral program for marriage and family life" that emphasizes that each Christian has a specific vocation and for "a bolder youth ministry that helps the young to respond with generosity to God's call."

The bishops were making their "ad limina" visits to report on the status of their dioceses.

"The fundamental role that priests play should lead you to undertake a great effort to promote priestly vocations," the pope told them.

Pope Benedict said the fatherly attitude of love and encouragement that must characterize a bishop's relationship to his priests is even more important in situations where a priest is in difficulty.

"I exhort you to demonstrate charity and prudence when you must correct teachings, attitudes or behaviors that are not fitting for the priestly character of your closest collaborators and that also can damage and confuse the Christian faith and life of the faithful," the pope told them.

The church in Argentina will grow and thrive if all the faithful are helped to have a "living experience of Jesus Christ and the mystery of his love," the pope said.

"Constant contact with the Lord through an intense life of prayer and an adequate spiritual and doctrinal formation will increase in Christians the pleasure of believing and celebrating their faith and their joy at belonging to the church, leading them to participate actively in the mission of proclaiming the good news to all," the pope said.

"Pope declares year of the priest to inspire spiritual perfection"

From Catholic News Service
By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI declared a year of the priest in an effort to encourage "spiritual perfection" in priests.

The pope will open the special year with a vespers service at the Vatican June 19 -- the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day for the sanctification of priests. He will close the celebrations during a World Meeting of Priests in St. Peter's Square June 19, 2010.

The pope made the announcement during an audience March 16 with members of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

He met with some 70 participants of the congregation's March 16-18 plenary assembly, which focused on the missionary identity of the priest and his mission to sanctify, teach and govern.

During this jubilee year, the pope will also proclaim St. John Vianney to be patron saint of all the world's priests. At present he is considered the patron saint of parish priests.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of this 19th-century saint who represents a "true example of a priest at the service of the flock of Christ," the pope said.

St. John Vianney is widely known to Catholics as the Cure (parish priest) of Ars who won over the hearts of his villagers in France by visiting with them, teaching them about God and reconciling people to the Lord in the confessional.

In his address, Pope Benedict said the priestly ministry consists of total adherence to the ecclesial tradition of participating "in a spiritually intense new life and a new lifestyle which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the apostles made their own."

Priestly ordination creates new men who are bestowed with the gift and office of sanctifying, teaching and governing, he said.

The pope underlined the necessary and "indispensable struggle for moral perfection which must dwell in every authentically priestly heart."

The pope said he was calling for the special year for priests in an effort to foster the priest's yearning "for spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends."

"The awareness of the radical social changes over the past decades must stir the best ecclesial energies to look after the formation of priestly candidates," the pope said.

This means great care must be taken to ensure permanent and consistent doctrinal and spiritual formation for seminarians and priests, he said, specifying the importance of passing down, especially to younger generations, "a correct reading of the texts of the Second Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of all the church's doctrinal heritage."

Priests must also be "present, identifiable and recognizable -- for their judgment of faith, their personal virtues and their attire -- in the fields of culture and charity which have always been at the heart of the church's mission," he said.

"The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of ordained ministry," he said, adding that, without priestly ministry, there would be no Eucharist, no mission and even no church.

Therefore, he said, it is crucial to make sure that new bodies or pastoral organizations are not set up "for a time in which one might have to 'dispense with' ordained ministry based on an erroneous interpretation of the rightful promotion of the laity."

"This would lay the foundations for further diluting the priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently connected with the ministry," he said.

Monday, March 16, 2009

'ST. JEAN MARIE VIANNEY: PATRON SAINT OF ALL PRIESTS"

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAR 2009 (VIS) - "Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests" is the theme of the Year for Priests announced today by the Holy Father, according to a communique issued by the Holy See Press Office.

The Pope will inaugurate the Year on 19 June, presiding at Vespers in St. Peter's Basilica where the relics of the saintly 'Cure of Ars' will be brought for the occasion by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, France. He will close the year on 19 June 2010, presiding at a "World Meeting of Priests" in St. Peter's Square.

During the course of the Year, Benedict XVI will proclaim St. Jean Marie Vianney as patron saint of all the priests of the world. A "Directory for Confessors and Spiritual Directors" will also be published, as will a collection of texts by the Supreme Pontiff on essential aspects of the life and mission of priests in our time.

The Congregation for the Clergy, together with diocesan ordinaries and superiors of religious institutes, will undertake to promote and co-ordinate the various spiritual and pastoral initiatives which are being organised to highlight the role and mission of the clergy in the Church and in modern society, and the need to intensify the permanent formation of priests, associating it with that of seminarians.

OP/YEAR FOR PRIESTS/... VIS 090316 (230)

"HOLY FATHER ANNOUNCES A SPECIAL YEAR FOR PRIESTS"

VATICAN CITY, 16 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received members of the Congregation for the Clergy, who are currently celebrating their plenary assembly on the theme: "The missionary identity of priests in the Church as an intrinsic dimension of the exercise of the 'tre munera'".

"The missionary dimension of a priest arises from his sacramental configuration to Christ the Head", said the Pope. This involves "total adherence to what ecclesial tradition has identified as 'apostolica vivendi forma', which consists in participation ... in that 'new way of life' which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the Apostles made their own".

Benedict XVI highlighted the "indispensable struggle for moral perfection which must dwell in every truly priestly heart. In order to favour this tendency of priests towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends, I have", he said, "decided to call a special 'Year for Priests' which will run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010". This year marks "the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', Jean Marie Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock".

"The ecclesial, communional, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable for any authentic mission, and this alone guarantees its spiritual effectiveness", he said.

"The mission is 'ecclesial'", said the Pope, "because no-one announces or brings themselves, ... but brings Another, God Himself, to the world. God is the only wealth that, definitively, mankind wishes to find in a priest.

"The mission is 'communional' because it takes place in a unity and communion which only at a secondary level possess important aspects of social visibility. ... The 'hierarchical' and 'doctrinal' dimensions emphasise the importance of ecclesiastical discipline (a term related to that of 'disciple') and of doctrinal (not just theological, initial and permanent) formation".

Benedict XVI stressed the need to "have care for the formation of candidates to the priesthood", a formation that must maintain "communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity. In this context, it is important to encourage priests, especially the young generations, to a correct reading of the texts of Vatican Council II, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance".

Priests must be "present, identifiable and recognisable - for their judgement of faith, personal virtues and attire - in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church's mission".

"The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of priestly ministry, without which there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church. It is necessary then, to ensure that 'new structures' or pastoral organisations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to 'do without' ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry".

AC/PRIESTS MISSION/CPC VIS 090316 (530)

"Military padres a rare breed"


From Canada.com
By Matthew Fisher

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Padre Bastien Leclerc is one of the rarest of the rare. He is a Roman Catholic priest and a cleric in the Canadian Forces.

Just as the Catholic Church is having a devil of a time finding priests for its parishes across Canada, it has become more and more difficult for the military to find priests to fill billets at bases in Canada and overseas.

Forty of the 84 Roman Catholic positions in the forces are now filled by lay pastoral associates. Four more are lay deacons, meaning that the 40 priests still in uniform have become a minority within their own chaplaincy.

"It is very hard for a bishop to give up a priest but it is even worse if the priest is young and I was only 34 when I joined the military,” said Father Leclerc, whose rank is major and is Task Force Afghanistan’s senior chaplain.

"There is such a shortage of priests in Canada that some have two or three parishes and spend all their time running from masses to baptisms to marriages. I admire the priests who can do that, but that was not me."

A priest who was a padre suggested to Leclerc, who was not keen on parish life but enjoyed his work at the time with street kids in Quebec, that joining the military might be his calling.

"I took spiritual direction and prayed and signed on the dotted line," he said, pausing for a moment as a pair of fighter jets screamed past his window. "My bishop reluctantly agreed. Ten years later he can see how much happier I am."

Nevertheless Leclerc, unlike some other military priests, remains on loan to the forces, and could be called back to Quebec at any time.

"The bishop still has that option but I think he knows that he would only get half a priest back," Leclerc said with a boisterous laugh.

Leclerc’s home base is Edmonton. He has done a tour of duty in Bosnia and is now near the front end of 9 months in the heat and dust of southern Afghanistan.

Part of his duties at the Kandahar Airfield include celebrating a mass every Saturday night for a congregation that includes not just Canadians, but soldiers from many other NATO countries and devout Filipino civilian workers who provide music for the service. Leclerc also often fills in for an American padre at a mass on Sundays.

Like all padres, Leclerc went through boot camp — minus weapons training — when he joined the military. The deployment to Afghanistan was preceded by months of pre-mission training at Wainwright, Alta.

During exercises there that simulated serious casualty situations "we made training prayers," Leclerc, explaining with another big laugh that "I had to begin those prayers by stating, ‘I am faking a prayer.’

"It is different work here than in Canada. The guys are younger and we deal a lot with family issues. Some will leave a newborn and come back to a walking kid who looks at them and wonders, ‘Who the heck is that guy?’”

There is also the immense challenge of helping soldiers to deal with grief.

"There is only so much that a man can take sometimes," he said. "When they lose a friend, and sometimes more than one, they sometimes ask questions about what we are doing here."

Leclerc was philosophical about the inexorable trend toward more Roman Catholic lay ministers in the military.

"The lay ministers bring a lot of different ways of doing things, of thinking and of reflecting, and there is a real richness to that," he said.

The future of the Catholic ministry within the military was already evident in how its representatives have been divided into three groups, with priests, deacons and pastoral associates.

"A lot of our future Catholic chaplains will be permanent deacons." Leclerc said. "These are usually married people who have been pastoral associates. They are not allowed to say mass but they can do weddings and baptisms."

Leclerc considers himself to be doubly blessed to be a padre and to have been given the "experience of a lifetime" by being posted to Afghanistan.

"To be here or anywhere in the world with our soldiers is a privilege," he said. "Some people, especially in Quebec, have questioned this mission. But it is something special to be part of a team that is trying to improve the quality of life here."