In this season of sending graduates off with a pat on the back and a few inspiring words, we may forget about a very special group that needs its own brand of encouragement: newly ordained priests. Word On Fire contributor Fr. Damian Ference, after 10 years "on the job," has some sound words for his brethren, and with a few semantic adjustments, are applicable to all of us.
I was humbled when the folks at Word on Fire asked me to write this piece. I just celebrated my 10th anniversary of ordination two weeks ago, and although I do teach at the seminary, there’s always something in me that thinks, “I am not qualified for such an important mission of forming young men to be priests.” But then I remember the words of Saint Paul: “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies those he calls.” So with that in mind, I offer my newly ordained brothers 10 things to keep in mind as they begin their priestly ministry. (Admittedly, this list is far from exhaustive, but hopefully it’s helpful.)
Be Human: Why start here? Why not start with prayer or spirituality? Well, I start here because this was the starting point of Christianity – The Incarnation. God didn’t come to us as an angel, he came to us as a man, as a human being like ourselves in all things but sin. God became man in the person of Jesus in order to make God accessible and approachable. Jesus brings us salvation in his very flesh. He brings us divinity in his humanity. So, as human beings, we find our divinity in our humanity. A priest must never forget that the same is true of his vocation. Running from our humanity is no way to find holiness or redemption, and it’s no way to minister to the people of God. It’s only when we run to the One who reveals man to himself that we find ourselves and we find our mission. So, never forget you are a priest, but don’t forget that first you are a human being.
Pray: In Gift and Mystery, John Paul II’s reflection on his fifty years of priestly service, he writes: “If we take a close look at what contemporary men and women expect from priests, we will see that, in the end, they have but one great expectation: they are thirsting for Christ. Everything else – their economic, social, political needs – can be met by any number of people. From the priest they ask for Christ!” A priest’s primary mission is to bring Jesus to others, but you can only give what you have first received. If a priest is not a man of prayer, he will not be able to teach his people to pray. If a priest doesn’t know Jesus, he will not be able to lead others to Him. If a priest doesn’t know the voice of the Shepherd, how can he teach others to listen to Him? Prayer is the foundation of the priesthood. Praying the Office, praying with scripture, contemplative prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, and continuous communication throughout the day with the Triune God keeps the priest healthy and holy. Priesthood is busy; make time for prayer every day...
Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Bede the Venerable, a Benedictine from the 7th century who had a keen sense of what it meant to translate intellectual pursuits into action. He stands as a great example for new evangelists in the 21st century. Fr. Steve Grunow explains why.
There is an understanding of the Church put forward by her detractors and enemies that for much (if not all) of its history, the Church has been a backward institution responsible for fomenting superstition, persecution and violence. Is this true? Might there be something that this negative appraisal is missing?
From roughly the sixth to the tenth century, civilization in Western Europe passed through a momentous transformation as the power of Rome faded and the culture that had enabled that empire to flourish and grow fractured. The grandeur of Rome passed into memory and a new kind of Europe emerged in its place.
In the midst of this cultural transformation a monk by the name of Benedict founded a new kind of religious movement that would act as a stabilizing influence for the peoples of Europe. Monks of the Benedictine Rule would establish monastic houses, and in their efforts to bring the Gospel to bear on their time and place they would produce innovations in technology, advance intellectual inquiry, produce art and music, and preserve the cultural patrimony of the ancient world. All this was accomplished for Christ and because of Christ.
Saint Bede, whose memory the Church celebrates today, was a member of this Benedictine movement. He was born in the year 673...