November 1, 2015 – A View from the Rectory Window

 

“Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart. And pray for those whom God is calling to be priests that they may respond to this call with humility and joy.

Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his spirit in our hearts so that this anointing may spread to everyone, especially to those “outskirts” where our lay faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us.”Pope Francis

This weekend, throughout the Diocese of Camden, each priest is asked to speak about the priesthood. As I considered what I might share, I was drawn to the priesthood of Pope Francis.

Recently our Holy Father spoke to a group of priests about “the joy of being a priest.” He said, “There is nothing more beautiful for a man than to be called to the priesthood, he said… called to follow Jesus, to be with Him, to bring Jesus to others, to bring them His Word and His forgiveness. Although the work of a priest is not always easy, drawing near to Jesus can renew and re-animate priestly zeal.”

At the heart of any priest’s ministry must be a living relationship with Christ, so that the priest sees as Christ sees and loves as he loves. The Holy Father encouraged priests to be faithful in prayer in order for Jesus to show us if we are working as good workers; “for if we are open, generous ‘channels’, His love and His grace can flow abundantly.” In a typically direct question, Pope Francis asked a gathering of Rome’s priests at the beginning of Lent, “At night, how does your day end? With God, or with television?”

A priest, he said, “must put his own skin and own heart on the line.” If priests truly are to be pastors they need to “go out to meet the people,” especially the lost sheep. The pastor who stays behind his computer in the rectory, he declared, is not an “authentic pastor.” Pope Francis praised one priest for knowing his parishioners so well that he knew not only their names, but also their pets’ names!

The Holy Father challenged priests; “We need to ‘go out’, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the ‘outskirts’ where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters.”

The power of grace “comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all,” he said. As Pope Francis said at his first Chrism Mass, “A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed… when our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news.”

I conclude with Pope Francis’ appeal to all people that they, “be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.”

And so I ask your prayers for myself and all the priests who have served and still serve our parish that we may be men of joy, authentic pastors, who know your names and the names of your pets!

Fr. Pete