In their most recent meeting, the Dutch bishops made two interesting and welcome decisions in two very different but important, fields.
Starting with the Thursday after Pentecost 2014, the Feast of Christ the Priest will be celebrated in the Dutch Church province. The decision, which follows the example of several religious institutions and countries which already mark the feast, has several sources. One was the Year of the Priest (2009-2010), the other the annual day of prayer for the sanctification of priests. The Feast of Christ the Priest invites faithful, especially those who are called to be priests, to reflect on the Lord’s priestly identity and to follow Him in total submission to God and Church, so to strive for holiness. The liturgical texts, the Dutch translation of which has been approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, will be published in the latter half of October.
A second decision (and of rather different nature) made by the bishops, is the appointment of a new media and communications chief for the Church province. The position has been vacant for six months, so the appointment of Ms. Anna Kruse is timely. Ms. Kruse was the editor of Inspiratie Magazine, a Catholic monthly with a special focus on families. As communications chief she will manage all external communications from the bishops’ conference, and prepare and manage all media contacts for the bishops on a national level. About her new functions, Ms. Kruse says, “In addition to informing the Dutch press, I really want to, where possible, inform the Catholic faithful directly about what is happening in the Dutch Church province. For example via social media. In that way the involvement with their own Church can be increased even more.”
Both decisions are hopeful, in my opinion. The Feast of Christ the Priest may help strengthen priestly identity, and the new communications chief may help fill the too-frequent silence from our bishops.
Photo credits:  Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy,  Inspiratie Magazine
At a meeting with Catholics active in the new evangelisation, pictured at left, Pope Benedict XVI announced a Year of Faith, starting a year from now. Following the Year of Saint Paul and the Year of the Priest, this once again promises to be an important period in the current pontificate. The Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei”, which expands the announcement to an extensive invitation to all faithful, which contains a number of significant points. In my opinion, this letter can be linked to various other important texts and addresses by Pope Benedict XVI, and so it in itself may be one of the most important texts he has issued.
Read the original letter here and my Dutch translation here.
Today the Year of the Priest ends. Has it really been a year already? Apparently so.
Anyway, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a rather fantastic homily, containing far more than the apology which will undoubtedly be making headlines:
“And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite. We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers.”
Read the original here and my Dutch translation here
The Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch reports that it still has some places available for people wanting to attend the Day of the Priest they are organising on the 5th of July. Attendance now stands at 275, but apparently they can fit some more people in the cathedral and the theatre on the Parade in Den Bosch.
Walter Cardinal Kasper will speak and Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard will also attend. The latter is also available on Monday the 6th to enter into discussion with seminarians about the future of the Church and their role in that. Attendance is open to anyone, not just priests. Father Filip de Rycke, rector of the St. John’s Centre, the seminary in Den Bosch, says:”We hope that the Year of the Priest can contribute to a renewed interest for the priesthood, for the benefit of the growth of the Church at the start of the 21st century.”
It’s a very appealing program that they’re offering and if it was any closer I would have loved to attend. Sadly the train fair to the other side of the country is quite prohibitive.
It makes me wonder though, large at St John’s cathedral is, if and how they’ll fit 180 priests in the sanctuary…
Well, here is part 1 of the Cyprus edition of ‘Papal Soundbytes’. Just like I have done following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Portugal, I will share a choice selection of quotations from the various addresses, speeches and homilies given by the Holy Father when he was in Cyprus this past weekend. They’re intended as highlights of what I think are important and interesting points raised. You may read the full texts here.
The intention of the visit:
“Following in the footsteps of our common fathers in the faith, Saints Paul and Barnabas, I have come among you as a pilgrim and the servant of the servants of God. Since the Apostles brought the Christian message to these shores, Cyprus has been blessed by a resilient Christian heritage. I greet as a brother in that faith His Beatitude Chrysostomos the Second, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, and I look forward shortly to meeting many more members of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. […] I hope to strengthen our common bonds and to reiterate the need to build up mutual trust and lasting friendship between all those who worship the one God. […] I come in a special way to greet the Catholics of Cyprus, to confirm them in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) and to encourage them to be both exemplary Christians and exemplary citizens, and to play a full role in society, to the benefit of both Church and state.” (Welcome ceremony at Paphos International Airport.)
About communion in the Apostolic faith, and ecumenism:
“This is the communion, real yet imperfect, which already unites us, and which impels us to overcome our divisions and to strive for the restoration of that full visible unity which is the Lord’s will for all his followers. For, in Paul’s words, “there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:4-5).” (Ecumenical celebration in the archeological area of the church of Agia Kiriaka Chrysopolitissa in Paphos.)
“The unity of all Christ’s disciples is a gift to be implored from the Father in the hope that it will strengthen the witness to the Gospel in today’s world. The Lord prayed for the holiness and unity of his disciples precisely so that the world might believe (cf. Jn 17:21).” (Idem)
“Today we can be grateful to the Lord, who through his Spirit has led us, especially in these last decades, to rediscover the rich apostolic heritage shared by East and West, and in patient and sincere dialogue to find ways of drawing closer to one another, overcoming past controversies, and looking to a better future.” (Idem)
About bearing witness:
“Like Paul and Barnabas, every Christian, by baptism, is set apart to bear prophetic witness to the Risen Lord and to his Gospel of reconciliation, mercy and peace.” (Idem)
On public service:
“From a religious perspective, we are members of a single human family created by God and we are called to foster unity and to build a more just and fraternal world based on lasting values. In so far as we fulfil our duty, serve others and adhere to what is right, our minds become more open to deeper truths and our freedom grows strong in its allegiance to what is good.” (Meeting with the civil authorities and diplomatic corps in Nicosia.)
On the role of morality in public service:
“The ancient Greek philosophers also teach us that the common good is served precisely by the influence of people endowed with clear moral insight and courage. In this way, policies become purified of selfish interests or partisan pressures and are placed on a more solid basis. Furthermore, the legitimate aspirations of those whom we represent are protected and fostered. Moral rectitude and impartial respect for others and their well-being are essential to the good of any society since they establish a climate of trust in which all human interactions, whether religious, or economic, social and cultural, or civil and political, acquire strength and substance.” (Idem)
On how the pursuit of truth can bring greater harmony to the troubles regions of the world, in three steps:
“Firstly, promoting moral truth means acting responsibly on the basis of factual knowledge. […] A second way of promoting moral truth consists in deconstructing political ideologies which would supplant the truth. […] Thirdly, promoting moral truth in public life calls for a constant effort to base positive law upon the ethical principles of natural law.”(Idem)
On what individual faithful can do for the immediate needs of the Church:
“With regard to the immediate needs of the Church, I encourage you to pray for and to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life. As this Year for Priests draws to a close, the Church has gained a renewed awareness of the need for good, holy and well-formed priests. She needs men and women religious completely committed to Christ and to the spread of God’s reign on earth. Our Lord has promised that those who lay down their lives in imitation of him will keep them for eternal life (cf. Jn 12:25). I ask parents to ponder this promise and to encourage their children to respond generously to the Lord’s call. I urge pastors to attend to the young, to their needs and aspirations, and to form them in the fullness of the faith.” (Meeting with the Catholic community of Cyprus in Nicosia.)
Cláudio Hummes, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has written a letter to all the priests on the occasion of the upcoming closing of the Year of the Priest, this summer in Rome. He repeats the pope’s invitation to all priests to come to Rome for that occasion, but Cardinal Hummes adds that a large presence of priests in St. Peter’s Square will also be a major sign of solidarity with the pope.
Zenit has the letter in English, and I have it in Dutch.
It’s not even remotely May yet, but the Vatican already published the text of Pope Benedict’s message for the World Communications Day, on 16 May 2010.
The Holy Father connects the theme of the day, The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word, to the ongoing Year for Priests, and as such the target audience seems to be mostly the priesthood. The pope aptly identifies modern communication as an arena in which the Church, and priests especially, must invest.
The spread of multimedia communications and its rich “menu of options” might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.
The world of modern communications, especially the internet, is not simply a place to reach out to Catholics. It very clearly is a plce where priests can make God present for all, believer and non-believers alike.
Just as the prophet Isaiah envisioned a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56:7), can we not see the web as also offering a space – like the “Court of the Gentiles” of the Temple of Jerusalem – for those who have not yet come to know God?
These are very keen and important observations, I think. With many people being very active online, it would be quite strange if the Church would not do anything with that. The pope accurately quotes St. Paul, from the letter to the Romans: “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?”
Contuining the theme of the previous post, vocations, a piece from Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph. A few key phrases in bold.
In my first months as bishop of the diocese I said Vocations were a “Super Priority.” While we have had a meaningful increase in vocations to priesthood, the diaconate, and some new vocations to consecrated life, I still offer this intention for more vocations to priesthood and Consecrated Life with fervor in my daily prayer. I hope you do also.
We are reaching the midpoint of the Year for Priests, inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI last June. How proud I am of our priests who do so much for you, God’s people. Still, they need more help, particularly as the pastoral needs seem always to increase. This year, please God, we will ordain four new priests; and it remains possible that in 2012 we could celebrate the ordination of eight or nine new priests at once. I haven’t figured out how we will get everyone in the Cathedral; a pleasing dilemma!
Am I greedy to suggest that we need more priests? I believe that God is calling more men to this wonderful vocation, and we have to listen carefully and prepare well so that your sons can hear and answer that call.
What kind of life awaits the priest? To be sure, there are many joys, and also challenges. The priest is helped by God to give himself to many people. He shares in the greatest joys of people’s lives and is with them in times of hardship and sorrow. He is a pastor, a shepherd, a teacher, and spiritual father. He stands in the place of Jesus Christ, particularly in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
How does a man discern a possible vocation to priesthood? The healthy man (healthy in body, mind and soul), as he matures, wants to give himself in an honest and generous way. It is important and normal that he sees the beauty of marriage, and its central meaning and purpose in society. At the same time, he realizes he has a spiritual dimension to his life and he wants to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and follow God’s call wherever it may take him. He works hard at every task before him, and finds joy in generously reaching out to others. He studies with zeal. He prays. He establishes caring friendships, and determines to live a moral life, growing in the frequent reception of the sacraments, particularly of Confession and Holy Eucharist.
As a man experiences this spiritual depth to his life, he does not seek a vocation that makes him materially rich or famous. Instead, having realized something of the cost and demands of authentic human love, he is ready to trust God and give himself to others out of love for God. He realizes that the Father in heaven has loved him a lot, and the awareness of this love and mercy makes him want to follow God’s plan in his life. Our seminarians are responding to this vocation to the priesthood. Our priests are living this out with dedication. Keep praying for them to persevere.
The role and support of parents is very important to those who are discerning God’s call. Your sons (and daughters) look up to you for approval. They should. Your love for them is unconditional and unselfish. I do not suggest that you should urge your sons to go to seminary, but pray for them, that they do whatever God wants for them. Support them in their search. I pledge once again to our parents that if we receive their sons as our seminarians we will do all in our power to see they get good formation.
Over the course of my priesthood, I have also had occasion to meet many outstanding men and women Religious. I was taught by and have worked closely with several Orders of Religious Women. There is a real renewal taking place in these vocations today. I have established an office for Consecrated Life, and we stand ready to direct young women and men who may be drawn to Religious life as priests, sisters or brothers.
Our Vocation Director, Fr. Richard Rocha, and the Director of our Office of Consecrated Life, Sr. Connie Boulch, will be pleased to receive your call (816-756-1850) or go to our diocesan website http://www.diocese-kcsj.org and look for the Vocations tab. Let us never cease to do as Jesus urged us: “Beg the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers for His harvest.” (Lk 10:2)
Don’t forget the Support Our Seminarians (S.O.S.) Dinner Auction coming up Friday, January 29, 2010. Your participation and/or donations are greatly appreciated. For information, call the vocation office at 816-756-1850.