June 26, 2009 – Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
We are quickly approaching the conclusion of the year of
Now Pope Benedict has called us observe with intense prayer the Year of the Priest. He has begun this observance by welcoming the reliquary of Saint Jean Marie Vianney to the Vatican Basilica. How fitting that the Church begins this Year by honoring the Patron of all parish priests: the Cure of Ars, a man who spent hour upon hour in the Confessional, and doing so much good for souls, both in France and throughout Europe; a man who preached the Gospel courageously from the pulpit, changing many lives as a result. People would come back to the Church after many years when they just watched him celebrate Mass and witnessed the love and piety with which he gave himself to this highest priestly act.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá, who simply wanted to be a faithful priest all of his life, heroically brought the sacraments to the sick and the dying in the first months of the Spanish Civil War. At great risk to his own life, when priests and nuns were being killed on the streets, and Churches burned, he wore his priestly garb until it was no longer possible for him to do so. He heard confessions and celebrated Mass in the most difficult circumstances – on one occasion giving absolution to a man in an attic even while the Red militia soldiers were hunting for him on the floor below.
He taught all of his sons who became priests, and who were incardinated in the apostolates of Opus Dei, to have a great love for their calling as priests of Jesus Christ. They should give willing and generous service not only to the members of Opus Dei, but to everyone. How grateful we are for the constant fatherly service and example we all enjoy from the priests of the Prelature.
In its declarations announcing the Year of the Priest the Church has urged that it be “a period of intense appreciation of the priestly identity, of the theology of Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and in society” A priest should not let himself be swayed by a social or temporal view of priesthood, or simply to consider it some kind of career, but must always keep in mind the Good Shepherd whom he is imitating, and who came “not to be served, but to serve.” (cf. Mt 20:28)
Let us pray for priests with special love this year. Let us recall that preparing young men for priesthood is not only the task of priests or bishops, but of all the Catholic faithful. By going to Mass frequently, and begging the Lord of the Harvest, we can obtain more vocations, as has been seen in so many dioceses throughout the country. Pray also, dear friends, for the perseverance of priests and the unity of our presbyterates.
At the same time I would like to reflect a bit on a special insight that Saint Josemaría had: namely, that all the faithful have priestly souls. One does not have to be ordained or consecrated to have a priestly soul. Remember the words of St. Peter in his First Letter: “You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that you may proclaim the perfections of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9). While there is an essential difference between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood (and not just a difference in degree) as the Second Vatican Council teaches (Lumen Gentium, 10), it is also true that all of the faithful, both men and women, possess a priestly soul.
This priestly soul is given in the sacrament of Baptism, which configures the new Christian to Christ the King, Prophet, and Priest. It is animated by supernatural grace, in such way that the lay faithful have the capacity – when they are in the state of sanctifying grace - to connect the free offering of their lives with that of Christ the High Priest, and offer to God the pleasing sacrifice of their prayer, their work, and their sufferings---in union with Jesus on the altar and on Calvary. When the baptiz ed live with Christ’s life and act out of a motive of love for Christ their actions are ‘meritorious’ – helpful to their salvation and that of others. They are –amazing as it may seem – true participants in the very work of redemption.
And this holy participation is effected without the need to go into the sanctuary or do services at the altar. Indeed, in their daily life the lay faithful are called to a spirit of contemplation and reparation. They are called for nothing less than the transformation of the world in Jesus Christ. They are not only called but given the capacity to offer their work for the redemption of the world, as true co-redeemerswith Christ for the salvation of the world. In the words of Saint Josemaría, “I talk about the interior life of ordinary Christians who habitually find themselves in the hubbub of the city, in the light of day, in the street, at work, with their families or simply relaxing; they are centered on Jesus all day long. And what is this except a life of continuous prayer?” (In Christ is Passing By, n.8, second paragraph)
These are all aspects of the priestly soul that the lay faithful should have, Saint Josemaria taught, without losing their lay mentality - since they are ordinary citizens working in the world, and living with their families, with all the responsibilities that this entails. In addition to a life of prayer and sacrifice, they are also called to be the light=2 0of the world (cf. Mt 5:14), by bearing witness to the truth revealed by Christ about human life, sexual morality, care for others, honesty, and so many other truths which are crucial to our society today. Oh how we need such engaged faithful dedicated to the holy work of changing the culture from the inside out!
Perhaps one of the greatest manifestations of the call of the faithful to become saints is the call to sanctify their marriages. Saint Josemaria was one of the few persons in the early part of the twentieth century - perhaps the only one before the Council - to remind the faithful and the entire Church that marriage is also a divine vocation. “For a Christian marriage,” he writes, “is not just a social institution, much less a mere remedy for human weakness. It is a real supernatural calling…..Husband and wife are called to sanctify their married life and to sanctify themselves in it. It would be a serious mistake if they were to exclude family life from their spiritual development.” (In Christ is Passing By, n.23). This sanctification takes place both in their mutual faith and prayer, as well as their love and communication with one another, thus helping each other to find God. It also takes place in their mutual responsibility of raising and educating their children to be good human beings, and faithful members of the Church.
As many of you know, we soon we hope to have – in Easter Missouri – the Cedar Lake Shrine and
As a model for married life and the raising of children, parents have the example of the Holy Family itself---Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. By teaching their children the Faith, and instructing them with good moral training, parents can help their children to avoid the relativism and materialism that is rampant in society today, and actually give them the tools to transform this society for God. In the words of Saint Josemaria in a homily on marriage: “Parents teach their children mainly through their own conduct. What a son or daughter looks for in a father or mother is not simply a certain amount of knowledge or some more or less effective advice, but primarily something more important: a proof of the value and meaning of life…..” (Christ is Passing By, n.28)
Year of the Priest, prayer and action for vocations, the priestly soul of the lay faithful, the sanctification of the home: All these are related in the great gift of the Eucharist where Christ draws us, married and single, priests and laymen into his Sacred Heart? And are they not all related in some way to Our Lady, Mother in the home of
St. Josemaria, pray for us!
Following is a prayer for the intercession of St. Josemaria from the
O God, through the mediation of Mary our Mother, you granted your priest St. Josemaría countless graces, choosing him as a most faithful instrument to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties. Grant that I too may learn to turn all the circumstances and events of my life into occasions of loving You and serving the Church, the Pope and all souls with joy and simplicity, lighting up the pathways of this earth with faith and love. Deign to grant me, through the intercession of St. Josemaría, the favor of ... (make y our request). Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father.