Since giving expression to a spirituality that's been germinating for many years (The Spiritual Association of the Compassionate Hearts of Jesus and Mary: www.cchjm.org) I've become aware of a desire to write something about the priesthood. Not about its theology or how one might express its call but about priestly spirituality as it is realised through the life and being of the priest. A working 'title' came as soon as I allowed myself to recognise that I had this desire: Christ, the Life of the Priest.
I have always hesitated about being proactive to express myself in this regard unsure whether I might have anything of use to say on the subject. Nonetheless I have noticed that, over the years, I have given expression to some of this whenever I have been asked to give talks to priests or retreats I have conducted. My involvement with the Sodality of Mary, Mother of Priests (SMMS) has also had a beneficial effect on my vocation and I was privileged to assist in its inception. I have twice been invited to talk to clergy of the Diocese of London in the question of sustaining a healthy priestly life which seems, in general, to have been well-received. Once the Compassionate Hearts had come to birth the need to express what has been on my own heart over these years also emerged and I could no longer avoid giving it attention. It may come to nothing.
In essence the book would be about the way in which the particular vocation of priesthood is realised and how it is nurtured. The idea of the priest as the alter Christus (another Christ). As HH Pope Benedict XV1 wrote at the start of the Year of the Priest:
"As an alter Christus, the priest is profoundly united to the Word of the Father who, in becoming incarnate took the form of a servant, he became a servant (Phil 2: 5-11). The priest is a servant of Christ, in the sense that his existence, configured to Christ ontologically, acquires an essentially relational character: he is in Christ, for Christ and with Christ, at the service of humankind. Because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of all people: he is the minister of their salvation, their happiness and their authentic liberation, developing, in this gradual assumption of Christ's will, in prayer, in "being heart to heart" with him. Therefore this is the indispensable condition for every proclamation, which entails participation in the sacramental offering of the Eucharist and docile obedience to the Church." - Pope Benedict XVI: 24 June 2009
At present I have considered chapters on:
1. PRIESTLY VOCATION: ‘Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent’ (The Declarations) reflections on the Personal Vocation and vocation to priesthood
2. CLOTHED IN CHRIST: ‘To serve this royal priesthood, God has given particular ministries. Priests are ordained to lead God's people in the offering of praise and the proclamation of the gospel.’ (Introduction to Ordination Rite)
3. PRAYER: ‘Priests are ordained to lead God's people in the offering of praise and the proclamation of the gospel … that we all may grow into the fullness of Christ and be a living sacrifice acceptable to God.’ (Introduction to Ordination Rite)
4. EUCHARISTIC LIVING: ‘They are to preside at the Lord's table and lead his people in worship, offering with them a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.’ (The Declarations)
5. THE SERVANT PRIEST: ‘They are to minister to the sick and prepare the dying for their death. Guided by the Spirit, they are to discern and foster the gifts of all God's people, that the whole Church may be built up in unity and faith.’ (The Declarations)
6. PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION: ‘Formed by the word, they are to call their hearers to repentance and to declare in Christ's name the absolution and forgiveness of their sins.’ (The Declarations)
7. PREACHING THE WORD: ‘‘With their Bishop and fellow ministers, they are to proclaim the word of the Lord and to watch for the signs of God's new creation. … They are to unfold the Scriptures, to preach the word in season and out of season, and to declare the mighty acts of God.’ (The Declarations)’
8. COMPASSIONATE LIVING: ‘With all God's people, they are to tell the story of God's love.’
9. PRIESTLY FORMATION: The responsibility of those who form priests.
10. CONCLUSION: ‘They share with the Bishop in the oversight of the Church, delighting in its beauty and rejoicing in its well-being.’
It’s a project for which I have decided to set aside the next six months. At present I am reading widely – not least re-reading Bishop Ramsey’s seminal book, The Christian Priest Today and Blessed Columba Marmion’s Christ, the Ideal of the Priest, a title that has, obviously, inspired my own.
June 25th, 2017
June 25th, 2017