By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
As the world prepares for today’s opening of the Year of Priests, Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to the priests of the world, calling on them to live out the words of St. John Vianney, “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”
“On the forthcoming Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009 – a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of the clergy – I have decided to inaugurate a ‘Year for Priests’ in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the death of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide,” the pope wrote.
After stating that this year is meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal “for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world,” he went on to praise the often unrecognized work of faithful priests throughout the world.
“I think of all those priests who quietly present Christ’s words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of life. How can I not pay tribute to their apostolic labours, their tireless and hidden service, their universal charity? And how can I not praise the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation as ‘friends of Christ’ . . .”
He continued to speak of the priest’s essential role in bringing the gift of Christ to the faithful through the sacraments and emphasized the importance of the priest harmonizing his life with that of Christ.
Highlighting the importance of the Sacrament of Penance, Pope Benedict said, “Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this Sacrament.”
The Pope encouraged priests to follow in St. Vianney’s footsteps by engaging in mortification for souls and remaining strong in the midst of suffering, saying, “Souls have been won at the price of Jesus’ own blood, and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the ‘precious cost’ of redemption.”
The Holy Father concluded his letter by entrusting the coming Year of Priests to the Virgin Mary and encouraging priests to demonstrate “unity with their bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary.”
To read the entire letter from Pope Benedict to priests, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=943
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For more resources on the Year of Priests, visit http://womenofgrace.com/