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Vol. XI, July 2005

 

The Priest With the Angels is a Eucharistic Priest

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Do you recall the first letters of John Paul II to us priests? They focused on our responsibility for the Eucharistic Jesus. With the Eucharistic Year, John Paul II wanted to give us a personal sign of gratitude: “From the time I began my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have always marked Holy Thursday, the day of the Eucharist and of the priesthood, by sending a letter to all the priests of the world. This year, the twenty-fifth of my Pontificate, I wish to involve the whole Church more fully in this Eucharistic reflection, also as a way of thanking the Lord for the gift of the Eucharist and the priesthood” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 7 citing Gift and Mystery).

1. Christ “is calling for you” (Jn 11:28)

“From [the Eucharist] the Church draws her life. From this ‘living bread’ she draws her nourishment. How could I not feel the need to urge everyone to experience it ever anew?” (EdeE) John Paul II wanted to say to everyone, especially to us priests, as “intimately” as Martha said it to her sister Mary, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” Let us not overhear this call, but respond as Mary did: “When she heard it, she rose quickly and went to Him” (Jn 11:28-29).  

a. “[It] is a pastoral priority far superior to any other”.

In his first address to the Clergy of Rome, Benedict XVI quotes John Paul II saying: “‘Holy Mass is the absolute center of my life and of every day of my life’ (Oct. 27, 1995). And each one of us should be able to say these words as our own:   Holy Mass is the absolute center of my life and of my every day” (May 13, 2005).

And in the same address, he repeats almost verbatim, although not expressly, what the Congregation for the Clergy said three years ago about the Priest…of the Parish Community. He said: “Thus spending time in God’s presence in prayer,” (or, in the words of the Congregation, “Spending time in intimate conversation with, and adoration of, the Good Shepherd, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar,”) “is a real pastoral priority; it is not an addition to pastoral work: being before the Lord is a pastoral priority and in the final analysis, the most important.” The Congregation justifies this esteem saying that it is “to ensure that he [the priest] does not become spiritually barren, nor transformed into a dry channel no longer capable of offering anything to anyone. Spirituality is, without doubt, the most important pastoral concern. Any pastoral initiative, missionary program, or effort at evangelization that eschews the primacy of spirituality and divine worship is doomed to failure” (Congregation for the Clergy, The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community, 2002, 11).

b) Have a heart for Him!

It seems to follow clearly, if the Church is built upon the Eucharist and grows from the Eucharistic Lord as from her center, then the priest is first of all “Priest of the Eucharist”. He has to care for the faithful, members of the Mystical Body of Christ; but before that and in view of that, he has to care for the sacramental Body of Christ, for Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. This is again from John Paul II: “We can understand, then, how important it is for the spiritual life of the priest, as well as for the good of the Church and the world, that priests follow the Council’s recommendation to celebrate the Eucharist daily: ‘for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and the Church’ (PO 13; cf. CIC Can. 904; CCEO 378). In this way priests will be able to counteract the daily tensions which lead to a lack of focus and they will find in the Eucharistic Sacrifice—the true center of their lives and ministry—the spiritual strength needed to deal with their different pastoral responsibilities. Their daily activity will thus become truly Eucharistic” (EdE 31b).

2. “I am a fellow servant with you” (Rev 22:9). The holy Angel told St. John: “I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren the prophets” (Rev 22:9).

a) The angel comes down.

The angel comes down to the level of our narrow minds and hearts. He goes with us every step we make, listens to every word we say, holy or less holy. Should we not wonder how we can oblige him to support the loss of so much of the precious time God gives us? How can we ask him to follow us in our interests in cars and money and politics and in whatever else of this passing world that attracts us, when we leave so many beggars unattended: first, Our Eucharistic Lord Himself in the tabernacle, then so many sinners and the sick in mind and body! While at our side, the angel continues always in the presence of God, immersed in His holiness, sanctity, love and perfection, so that we should wonder, how we can not be drawn up to God or near the tabernacle by the love and the joy of the angel, this first helper in our priestly ministry.

b. Come, N.N., my friend, and don’t doubt! (cf. Jn 20:27)

Has God not repeatedly made clear His expectations and offerings to His chosen ones down through history? We are called by the same Lord, Who “used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11). We are called by the same Lord, Who “said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing’” (Jn 20:27). He called Paul and caught him “up to the third heaven…caught up into Paradise,” where “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Cor 12:2-4). He calls us as He called St. John Marie Vianney, to gaze upon Himself in his priestly hands and to gain confidence for his mission. He calls us as He called Saint Pio, who shared everyday in His Passion at the altar. What a grace to be called to be the Lord’s priest, if only we understand it as being a Eucharistic Priest! Let us call upon the holy angels; they want to lead us to a deeper union with their Lord and God.

c. “I have called you friends.” (Jn 15:15)  

Silent Eucharistic adoration is the open door to Jesus. He opens His Heart as He did for Thomas, He calls us near to His breast, as He did St. John, the beloved disciple (cf Jn 13:23,25). He calls us “friends” like the Apostles. He wants to breathe upon us and fill us, each time anew, with His Holy Spirit, with faith and love, with joy and courage, with zeal and a spirit of sacrifice or, perhaps better put, a spirit of surrender.

Our holy angel comes each time to communicate to us a share in his own heavenly experience. He is a trustworthy testimony of the divine love towards us. Live in union with him; do not leave him standing there alone, frustrated before obstacles in our mind and soul. Share in his joy, and your joy too will enkindle your parishioners. In this way, the time spent with the Lord will prove to be the most fruitful pastoral work, “the most important,” “a pastoral priority far superior to any other”.

3. “Stay with us, Lord!” (Lk 24:29)

a) With Him we are “at home”.

Adoration is supposed to be the extension of our union with Jesus in Holy Communion (cf. CCC 1178). How often do we have to dispense ourselves from an extended thanksgiving when parishioners are waiting, even though we should “not fail to make the required prayerful preparation for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice or the thanksgiving to God upon its completion” (CIC can. 909).

God will accept us in “spiritual communion”, when we renew our union with Him in our time of adoration. He is so patient that He is willing to wait, as long as we do not voluntarily neglect Him. In such an hour we might think back on the beginning of our vocation: Did I not start with a personal encounter with Jesus, with a moment like this in adoration, where I am with Him alone? Is it not also the personal contact with Jesus, which has carried me through the years, and which is my support when all seem to be against me? Will not also my personal friendship with Jesus alone secure my fidelity in the future, my future joy about my priestly vocation? Will not the personal meetings with Him every day at the Holy Mass, at Holy Communion, and prolonged in adoration be the sole foundation of the priestly existence of all of us?

b) He takes care of me.

Not a few priests are hiding their priesthood behind secular clothing. Some do so because they have lost their contact with Jesus; others are suffering malaise at their lack of spiritual conformity with Jesus. How much in us is still contrary to Him, Who is meek and humble of heart, and loves His sheep to the point of giving His life? But precisely near the burning furnace of His loving Heart in the Eucharist will He transform us into His likeness. There my anger about the daily misfortunes disappears. There gentleness and peace of heart grow. There a sensibility matures for the real needs of souls in the parish and in the world. Thus John Paul II assures us: “In the same act of love by which He freely established the Twelve as Apostles, Jesus called them to share His own life. This sharing, which is a communion of mind and heart with Him, also appears as an inner demand of their participation in Jesus’ own mission” (Pastoris Gregis, 11).

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The time is coming when, after the pastoral efforts for the Eucharistic Year,   we are to ask ourselves: What have I personally done with this year of grace? Have I come closer to Him? Have I made more time for Him (cf. CCC 2710)? Has my prayer-life grown deeper? Did I start or restart my daily Holy Hour? Did I doctrinally refresh my theology on the Sacrament of the Eucharist? Is some adjustment to the Eucharistic norms of Redemptionis Sacramentum still missing in my parish? St. Charles Borromeo said: “Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself” (Liturgy of the Hours, 2nd reading on Nov. 4). Take time during your vacation for Him and listen to Him, let Him love you!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC