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Vol. I, Feb. 1995

 

The Priest of Christ

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

1. The priest of Christ, by the grace of his ordination, is introduced, as the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests explains, into manifold forms of communion. This document sheds a bright warm light on this our sacerdotal 'lot,' our 'home', our inheritance in the Lord (cf. Dt18,20: "The Lord said to Aaron (the priest), 'You shall have no inheritance in their land,.. I am your inheritance and your portion among the people of Israel.'")

Jesus appointed twelve apostles (Mk 3,14 actually says, "made" or "constituted" signifying thereby a new creation) first of all, to be with Him, and then to go out and preach. When they returned after their first mission, He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest awhile" (Mk 6,31). This desire of Jesus for a special communion with His priests also found expression in His prayer to the Father: "Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, may be with Me where I am" (Jn 17,24). Together with the Apostles, Christ formed the first priestly community of the New Covenant, conferring a signal character to this unity so that all "those who believe,... may all be one, even as, Thou Father, and I in thee, that they also may be one is us, so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21.22).

Christ the SON, the unique Mediator, is at the middle of the mystery of the Priesthood. In Him, through Him and with Him we priests adore and glorify the Father in the Holy Spirit and seek to lead souls to salvation along this same path through Him to the Father.

2. Priestly community has taken on different forms throughout the history of the Church. In early times, priests lived with their bishop, the link to apostolic succession, at the cathedral. With the spreading of the faith, priests in the care of the flock had to withdraw from their spiritual father in order to live among the faithful at a distance from the cathedral: accordingly, parish life sprung up. Although they now meet with their bishop only occasionally, as at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, priests ought still to "sincerely recognize the bishop as their father and respectfully obey him. The Bishop, on his side, should consider his priests, his collaborators, as sons and friends, just as Christ calls His disciples no longer servants, but friends" (cf. Jn 15,15; Vat.II, LG 28,2). The tone of this text points beyond the merely juridical to the level of the mystery of Holy Orders and to interpersonal relationships on different levels.

The Association of Priests in the Work of the Holy Angels tries to foster this interpersonal bond among priests and between priests and their bishop by the local canonical erection of the Association in the diocese by the bishop himself. It ought to be at his disposition for general and particular needs while vivifying the fraternal bonds among the priests themselves.

3.Threefold is the life in our Association:

  1. It fosters a vital bond among priests through their faithful adherence to the entire Magisterium of the Church, free of criticism, and through the exchange of spiritual graces among the members.
  2. It provides a viable form of fraternal community and exchange on a monthly basis, and in other possible forms.
  3. It leads to mutual collaboration in the pastoral work of its members.
    1. The distinctive characteristic proper to our Association is the belief and trust in the help of the holy angels in our personal and pastoral life as priests. From the holy angels we especially expect the help to live and benefit from the mystery of the 'communion of saints' in the complete unity of Faith and by sharing grace among the members. Moreover, like the angles we hope to become more sensitive for the good and needs of others, so that we are desirous of sharing the grace God gives and communicates through us; we want to consciously include one another in our prayers and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
    2. Friendship and fraternity demand the investment of our personal time. When left to chance, experience shows that it just does not happen, so we need to make it happen through a regular gathering of the members (cf. CIC can. 276 § 2.4). As a standard format these meetings should offer a balanced spiritual, intellectual and social dimension.
    1. The spiritual dimension has a triple accent, reflecting the spirituality of the Work of the Holy Angels. It finds its principal expression in a period of silent Eucharistic Adoration (Holy Hour) concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Secondly, its marian devotion is expressed by the recitation of the Rosary (which could be incorporated into the Holy Hour when the gathering does not extend over an entire day). The third accent, flowing from the efficacy of the Cross, is the opportunity to avail oneself of the Sacrament of Penance and to consult over the personal matters of one’s interior life.

      The intellectual dimension consists in short theological presentations (of about two pages each) that have been prepared by the priest members themselves. Themes and individual topic will have been agreed upon at the prior meeting. The particular themes may be chosen according to the goals of the Association, for example, documents of the Magisterium or from the liturgical season; other topics may be taken from the spiritual life, such as prayer, priestly poverty, or the Sacrament of Penance, etc. The holy angels and their ministry in relation to grace, the sacraments, the Blessed Mother, the priesthood, etc. offer a perennial source of interest and pastoral application in the light of Faith. Each topic ought to be subdivided so as to be considered from different sides by different members.

      Ten minutes is ample time to make a significant contribution and stimulate discussion. The first finality here is our growth in knowledge of doctrine and the increasing firmness of our faith and fidelity. We may also note and verify, that since supernatural friendships are based on the mysteries of the Faith, truly sacerdotal friendships can only prosper in situations where these mysteries are the topic of frequent conversations. Unless one’s faith is expressed and theological viewpoints are presented and exchanged, there is no formal foundation for personal friendship. This vacuum explains both the isolation of priests among themselves, and the reason why the Association of Priests in the OA insists on this intellectual dimension of our fraternity.

      The third dimension is the social dimension of our fraternity, in which spontaneity we may experience, "how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity" (Ps 133,1). It is difficult for priest to find occasions on which they can speak freely about personal interests, world events or even about pastoral difficulties or things which trouble their heart. In the Association they should enjoy the security of finding themselves in the midst of confreres who share one mind and one heart and one spirit, who can both empathize with one another's situation and difficulties and help seek solutions that are in harmony with the Faith and sound pastoral principles. Lunch or dinner, or some other sort of recreation may help foster the circumstances necessary for such leisure and free exchanges of thought.

      Such meetings may lead with time to other forms of confraternity and find their culmination in the annual retreat, where a still larger group coming from other diocese from around the country is united in prayer.

    2. The unity of faith, one of the greatest treasures of the Association, should finally be manifested in the reciprocal collaboration and help in the pastoral work, as far as circumstances and distance permit. Members may help one another at vacation time or for special events, like parish days of recollection and the hearing of confessions.

      In addition to a generic promulgation of the Faith in its integrity, members may also wish to form a group of the laity under their pastoral care, which they introduce more deeply into the spirituality. Here a great symbiosis develops, for as the faithful are helped towards sanctity, they form an ever stronger spiritual wall of prayer around the priests and provide the hidden but so necessary arm of actual graces upon which a successful apostolate depends.

4. This is how we conceive the life and activity of the Association on a local basis. These particulars are not contained in the general statutes presented in the last letter, but belong to the customs of the local groups. Insofar as they are a concrete expression of the life of the Association, they could even be be formalized and appended to the Statues as a sort of by-laws subject to approval by the local executive members of the Association.

For the present we would ask you to be on the look out for those confreres who may be grateful for someone who shares with him the true and complete treasure of our faith, including the holy angels, for someone who, like themselves, wants to strive forward in his priestly vocation. It requires a fortitude and an openness to establish such contact, but we ought to make the effort. Propose the idea of the Association to him. If there is not association presently active in your area, then try to make, at least, a half day of recollection, either inviting another or alone, in the manner described in this letter in order to recover your spiritual, intellectual and physical strength. Where the Association is active, make sure to meet this month and reflect together, who among the clergy in the diocese, secular or religious, might be invited to join the group and who would be best suited to make the contact and extend the invitation. Remember, the kingdom of God is spread by such visible angelic messages and invitations. The Church (and the Association) will grow in the measure that our joy in the Faith makes us want to share it with others.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC