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Vol. I, Sep. 1995

 

On going Formation

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

1. "Servants of His GLORY" was our designation in the last Circular, servants of the invisible Glory of God. The question was, how could anyone take this title and office unto himself. We studied the example of Moses who spent days on end in the presence of God and could give testimony to his experience. Nobody, however, can demand such a special grace. Nevertheless, each one of us is called to holiness and is called be a witness to God, that God is the unique answer to man’s thirst for happiness. Hence, we have to be a teacher, a "Teacher of Wisdom":

There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery ... Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is My contention, O priest ... My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to Me (Hos 4,1-2.4.6).
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. ... As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priest are banded together; they murder on the way to Schechem, yea, they commit villainy (Hos 6,6.9).

Recall the warning of the Lord through Ezechiel:

If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand ... If you warn, ... you will have saved your life. (3, 18.21).

We have an example of a servant, worthy of imitation in St. John the Baptist (read Lk 3,1-20 and 7,18-35). He spoke to every type of person, to tax collectors and soldiers, to the king and to the poor, and answered all their questions. St. Peter points to the wisdom given to St. Paul (cf. 2 Pt 3,15) who admonishes Timothy to "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tm 4,2). Does this refer to a special mission, like that entrusted to a university professor, or is it part of the common duty of every priest?

2. Our Lord is "the light of men," "the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world" (Jn 1,4.9). Through Him everyone should become a light in the world: "You are the light of the world," are his words to all (Mt 5,14). Beyond this, He especially commissions his disciples: "All that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 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 15,15-16). Jesus wants the Apostles to be His preachers. For this purpose He calls them aside many times and gives them deeper insights into His wisdom: "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Mt 13,11; cf. 17,1). Also "the disciples came to Jesus privately" and brought up their questions (Mt 17,19). Jesus wants the Apostles to be guided into the truth, and to be guides to the truth, making all nations His disciples.

There is a special mission to preach so that people can believe and be saved (Cf. Rom 10,14), and this mission has been handed down (tradition) directly to the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, and to their collaborators, to priests and deacons (Cf. Vat. II, Lumen Gentium, 25 & 28; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2 & 4). Preaching the word is our solemn duty!

The Holy Father insists on the need for evangelization today. The ignorance even of the baptized, in these days of maximum communication and school (What communications and educational media!), cries to heaven. Many of the faithful "have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened" (Rom 10,2); they claim that priests do not give satisfactory answers to their questions. And priests themselves admit that they hesitate to hear confessions because they do not know how to answer the questions and to offer fitting counsel for the problems of life today. Some do not want to preach about certain topics, ... whether this stems from their limited knowledge in certain areas, or from the fear before the opinions of others.

Who else, if not us priests, should preach loudly and clearly the "Splendor of Truth"? Who else should bring light into the darkness of these days? St. Paul tells St. Timothy: "In the presence of God and Christ Jesus and of the elect Angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality." (1 Tm 5,21).

In order to be able to do so, the Holy Church insists very much on the "Ongoing Formation" of priests (See Vatican II. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 19; Pope John Paul II. Pastores dabo vobis, 70-81: Congregation for the Clergy. Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 69-82, 85-87, 89-96).

3. Nothing can substitute a continuous study, the reading of the Papal Documents first of all, which aim to give a special orientation for our times and in the areas where we need it most! The preparation for the Sunday Homily ought to be an occasion for reviewing, for rereading our dogmatic, Moral and/ or Spiritual Manuals; our day-off should also find us busy with such readings. The monthly day of recollection should help us deepen our theological formation, possibly by assisting at conferences or by listening to such tapes.

The daily "Office of the Readings" provides the most elementary nourishment, the Word of God. By hearing (reading) it, we take it in; by our daily meditation we digest and assimilate it; in our Holy Hours it becomes fruitful, for its warms our heart and feeds the fire of our love for God. Charity is a fire which increases when fed with its desired fuel: a greater knowledge of God.

In all these exercises we should confidently call upon the light of the angels. They are most interested in our progress, and they not only ‘know’ the truth, but they see it, they contemplate and adore the WORD face to face, and already savour it as the fountain of all their happiness. They irradiate the "Splendor of Truth" by participating in it! They are ‘prisoners’ of the Light and beauty of God; they are prisms of the light and beauty of God. They will to communicate this light in its ‘contagious’ attraction, so that we love to spend time in contemplation and so get to know the Truth! They will help us preach the full truth, overcoming every form of human respect through a greater and genuine love of neighbor. Their ‘preaching’ is full of life for they live in the Truth and participate in its light and freed and joyful peace! They help us also to understand the needs of the people, both generally and individually, so that we can communicate to them the truth and counsel which they need here and now.

4. Therefore, with the help of the holy Angels, let us resolve this month to:

  • revise the schedule of our day in order to find and make room for a fixed time for reading and deepening our theological knowledge;
  • examine the relative proportion of time which we dedicate to the visible and to the invisible world;
  • verify if we have the fundamental theological works necessary for our continued formation: the essential documents of the Church, especially the documents of the present teaching of the Magisterium;
  • examine if we have a clear knowledge of the common problems in marriage-life and the social doctrine of the Church;
  • check if my homilies contain something for the faithfuls’ head (doctrine), heart (conviction) and hands (practical exercise).

 

Remember, that as we deepen our knowledge we will grow more and more secure in our personal convictions, and so remain tranquil in our confession of the whole truth.

Hope to see many of you at our annual retreat in Rockford. Let us all remains and strengthen one another in our common bond of prayer, especially during the retreat.

Fraternally in Christ,      
Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC