Clergy Congregation to the priests: “Be holy!”

In a letter published on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy, taking place on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 15 June this year, the Congregation for the Clergy writes a letter (translation)to the world’s priests. The letter, signed by the Congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza (pictured), and secretary Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, focusses on St. Paul’s appeal to all Christians: “This is the will of God: your holiness!” (1 Thess. 4:3).

The authors firmly relate the letter to the upcoming Year of Faith and the anniversaries of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and also the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the new evangelisation. These latter three events must be the focus of priests everywhere in the framework of the Year of Faith.

The final paragraph outlines why priests especially need to be holy:

“Today’s world, with its ever more painful and preoccupying lacerations, needs God – The Trinity, and the Church has the task to proclaim Him. In order to fulfil this task, the Church must remain indissolubly embraced with Christ and never part from Him; it needs Saints who dwell “in the heart of Jesus” and are happy witnesses of God’s Trinitarian Love. And in order to serve the Church and the World, Priests need to be Saints!”

Morning reflection: Holiness

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus; we instructed you how to live in the way that pleases God, and you are so living; but make more progress still. God called us to be holy, not to be immoral.

1 Thessalonians 4:1,7

“God calls us to be holy.” Okay, but what does that mean? In our modern society holiness is something looked down upon as being overly sentimental, soft and sugar sweet. Not something that we should automatically strife for. But is holiness like that? Obviously, I would say not.

The Catholic Encyclopedia entry for ‘holiness’ offers a detailed explanation, and distinguishes two elements to holiness: It “involves a very real though hidden separation from this world, as it also demands a great strength of character or stability in the service of God”. Separation from the world on the one hand, and strength or stability on the other.

There are of course degrees to this separation from the world, but at the heart lies the recognition that the Lord who sanctifies us, and thus allows us to be holy, is not of this world. To follow Him, we must not remain attached to the things of this world. We still live in it and take part in it, but we must not look to the world for our holiness.

To be able to do that, we need strength of character, which is developed through the service of God. It’s not something you just do. Like we need to physically train our bodies to excel in some sport, we need to spiritually train ourselves to excel in holiness, to be able to say, with Saint Paul, “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Holiness is not something weak-kneed and sugar sweet. It requires a moral and spiritual effort, but a joyful one. The goal we work towards, the holiness given by the Lord God through our sanctification at Baptism, is a goal of love. Holiness is a manifestation of His love.