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Vol. I, Jun. 1995

 

Call to Sanctity

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The Letter of the Holy Father to us on the occasion of Holy Thursday ended with the call to sanctity. "Holy Thursday, which brings us back to the origin of our priesthood, reminds us also of the duty to strive for sanctity, in order to be a servant of sanctity for men and women entrusted to our pastoral care."

To help towards this goal, the Holy Father accepts the suggestion that in every diocese may be celebrated a "Day of the Sanctification of Priests"! Such a day should help priests to live in ever more perfect conformity with the Heart of the Good Shepherd.(Cf. Nr. 8 of the letter).

1. There are means of sanctification and there is sanctity itself. We considered in the last two months some means of our sanctification: The exemplarity of the saints and help through their intercession.

Last month we dedicated ourselves especially to Our Lady; we saw her example, her intimacy with JESUS, her lessons and care for us as her spiritual sons. The Holy Father says at the end of his Letter: The priest in his service stands at the steps or Our Lady! "If the priesthood is in its nature a service, then it must be lived in union with the Mother, who is the Handmaid of the Lord." In the previous month we saw the Holy Angels as models of the priestly mission and as our co-workers. They merried a proper reflection about their help they are for our own deeper conformation with CHRIST! Just to mention two examples:

They help us towards true faith in our vocation, and to understand at any moment the Will of GOD, as the Angel helped Zacharias, the priest (cf. Lk. 1,11 ff.) As the Apostles after the Ascension of the Lord they recall the commands of Our Lord when we are looking backwards and are sad and discouraged about something we have lost (cf. Acts 1:9-11).

2. The "Communion of Saints" is of special importance as the priest is taken from among men. There are saints as models and encouraging examples for us priests, among which we celebrate this month St. John the Baptist. It is true, that he is not a priest of the new covenant: "He who is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Mt 11:11). But nevertheless he lived a priestly life and was sent with a priestly mission: He lived in the desert an austere life with poor vestments and simple nourishment (cf. Lk 1,80; Mt 3,4) - just as a priest is taken from among the people and is called away from this world, he is told to live together with a grateful use of the means of life with ascetical zeal, joyful renunciation and so gives testimony through a simple and severe life (cf. PO 17; Pastores davo vovis, pdv, 30; Directory 67). He was totally dedicated to his apostolate, to prepare all; man and woman, poor and rich, for the coming of the Messiah. Calling to conversion and baptizing, as we priests should be absorbed by our mission, committing ourselves totally. All his reflections and sermons, all his counsel and meetings with the people were guided by one intention: To bring Israel back to GOD. For us this means: in all dimensions of our life we should desire only this, to help lead man to GOD through CHRIST in the Holy Church. St. John gives testimony of his Lord at the risk of being persecuted, so should the priest have fatherly patience, yes, but not to the extent of adapting the Word of GOD to the will of man, rather he should give up his life in testimony of his master as St. John did.

3. Similar to St. John is the priestly St. Paul, however, St. Peter who celebrates with him his feast day, is somehow different. Of St. Peter we know of different lessons he received in view of his ordination, we are somehow present during his 'seminarian' time. After being ordained a priest and bishop, he is known to us as a preacher and in general as the one he is: the rock, the priest ordained by CHRIST. His life gives hardly any testimony of what the priest is to do and therefore draws attention to the importance and independent value of what the priest is. He is by the effect of the ordination, another CHRIST: "In priestly ordination, the priest has received the seal of the HOLY SPIRIT which marked him by the sacramental character in order to always be the minister of CHRIST and the Church. Assured of the promise that the Consoler will abide "with him forever" (Jn 14:16-17), the priest knows that he will never lose the presence and the effective power of the HOLY SPIRIT in order to exercise his ministry and to live with charity his pastoral office as a total gift of self for the salvation of his own brothers." (Dir. 8; cf. St. Thomas A., Summa Theol. III, 63 and Suppl. 35).

This powerful and somehow ontological conformation with CHRIST through the HOLY SPIRIT is the cause and foundation of any priestly sanctity. To HIM, the High Priest on the Cross, "who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to GOD" (Heb. 9:14), points our Holy Father when he suggests us to celebrate the "Day for the Sanctification of Priests" on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. We can namely say, that CHRIST on the Cross is the Total priest: He is so because of His total consecration and union with the FATHER and because of the sarifice which shines through His few words on the cross. There, He shows the most perfect harmony and union between being and action, between intention and execution, between call from "above" and answer from "below '. On the Cross, He is and acts as a priest:

He asks pardon to the FATHER as a priest in the penitential rite; as JESUS then transmits the forgiveness to the repentant thief, so does the priest to all the faithful who ask for it with a contrite heart.

Then JESUS anounces the Good News: Behold your Son! Behold, your Mother, pointing him through Her to the mediatrix, the Church, through which man will receive all things necessary for his salvation. And as long as he accepts her as his mother in filial submission, as the faithful christian today responds in the Holy Mass during the Profession of Faith, after the Liturgy of the Word where he hears this good news!

The thirst for the practise of the announced word of GOD leads JESUS to the vicarial self denial, to the offering of 'self', giving away everything until he even experiences the abandonment of GOD. this is what we should have in mind before the Holy Mass: His thirst in the offering of the gifts, and His abandonment by the FATHER during the Consecration.

His faithfulness even in the darkest hour, expressed in His total surrender: "FATHER, into your hands ..." which the FATHER accepts as a sacrifice of expiation which then becomes the sacrifice of Reconciliation: " Consummatum est - All is fulfilled", and the great MASS ends with the everlasting communion - to which the faithful are invited after the Consecration and who should try to remain in through a converted life in adoration and thanksgiving (Centurion, Mk 15:39).

This short look at CHRIST on the Cross shows Him to us as the one Priest to whom we all are conformed.

4. Therefore let us this month first of all make a deep effort to grow in the conscience of being a priest! For this purpose, the short sentence, "I am a priest" which we may repeat before GOD with gratitude during our Holy Hour, as well as through the entire day whenever it comes to mind, may help. We may meditate about this deep grace throughout this month, a month in which the Holy Father places the day of our sanctification. We may also make the resolution to wear our priestly vestment consciously and even in hours or days of vacation, because we believe that we are CHRIST's priests and can never take this part of our being off or put it away. And of course we, in our Association, want to take this day seriously, preparing it with a good or even a sort of general confession about our priestly life, trying to be near JESUS on this day as His friend, inclined at His side through special meditation and the Holy Hour. Besides this, we may suggest to people or even lead a novena for the Sanctification of Priests, or have a special devotion before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on Thursday evening offered for the sanctification of priests.

With this, all of us wish for a deeper renewal of our priestly consciousness and of the apostolic zeal like St. Paul and St. John the Baptist. May they intercede for us!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC