An Encouraging Word — Priests need your help

Father J. Ronald Knott

I give you thanks, O Lord! Isaiah 12:1

Next Wednesday will mark the 42nd anniversary of my ordination. Why am I writing about this? I am sharing this with you because the church teaches us that “each and every one of you should offer precious assistance in the ongoing formation of your priests.” In order to help us, you need to understand us.
In January, Pope Benedict XVI spoke eloquently about priesthood to the seminarians of the Diocese of Rome. “Priestly life,” he said, “requires an ever increasing thirst for sanctity, a clear ‘sense of the church’ and an openness to fraternity without exclusion or bias.”

Priestly life requires an ever-increasing thirst for sanctity.

What is the path to holiness for a priest? The first path to holiness for the priest is through the pulpit.
“The priest is first of all a minister of the word of God. For this reason, the priest himself ought to develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Only if he ‘abides’ in the word will the priest become a perfect disciple of the Lord. The priest ought to be the first ‘believer’ in the word, while being fully aware that the words of his ministry are not ‘his,’ but those of the one who sent him. Precisely because he can and does evangelize, the priest ought to grow in awareness that he himself is continually in need of being evangelized.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 26)

Priestly life requires a clear ‘sense of the church.’

Diocesan priests make two solemn “promises:” celibacy and obedience. Our promise of obedience is about loyalty to the Church. It is first of all “apostolic” in the sense that it recognizes, loves and serves the Church, not just abstractly, but in her hierarchical structure because there can be no genuine priestly ministry except in communion with the Pope and the bishops, especially one’s own bishop.

Priestly obedience has a communal dimension. Our promise of obedience is not just a promise to the bishop. It is also a promise to every priest of the diocese to be a  “team player”  with our bishop and with one another. Our promise is to “not be overly attached to our own preferences and points of view” for the sake of a unified ministry to the People of God. (PDV, 28)

Priestly life requires an openness to fraternity without exclusion or bias.

“Of special importance is the capacity to relate to others. This is truly fundamental for a person called to be a ‘man of communion.’ This demands that a priest not be arrogant, or quarrelsome, but affable, hospitable, sincere in his words and heart, prudent and discreet, generous and ready to serve, capable of opening himself to clear and brotherly relationships and of encouraging the same in others, quick to understand, forgive and console.” (PDV, 18 and 43)

Pray for your priests! Pray that we may have an appetite for holiness, a clear sense of the Church and an openness to all people!

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