Saturday, 3 March 2007

Pope Benedict on the Priestly Life


The Holy Father recently responded to questions posed by seminarians of the Seminario Romano Maggiore and Zenit has provided an English translation. Here are some extracts that I found helpful - I particularly liked his emphasis on never missing out on daily Mass and his advice on preparing the Sunday homily:

On Preparing the Sunday Homily

I have a fairly simple recipe for it: combine the preparation of the Sunday homily with personal meditation to ensure that these words are not only spoken to others but are really words said by the Lord to me myself, and developed in a personal conversation with the Lord. For this to be possible, my advice is to begin early on Monday, for if one begins on Saturday it is too late, the preparation is hurried and perhaps inspiration is lacking, for one has other things on one's mind. Therefore, I would say, already on Monday, simply read the Readings for the coming Sunday which perhaps seem very difficult: a little like those rocks at Massah and Meribah, where Moses said: "But how can water come from these rocks?". Then stop thinking about these Readings and allow the heart to digest them. Words are processed in the unconscious, and return a little more every day. Obviously, books should also be consulted, as far as possible. And with this interior process, day by day, one sees that a response gradually develops. These words gradually unfold, they become words for me. And since I am a contemporary, they also become words for others. I can then begin to express what I perhaps see in my own theological language in the language of others; the fundamental thought, however, remains the same for others and for myself. Thus, it is possible to have a lasting and silent encounter with the Word that does not demand a lot of time, which perhaps we do not have. But save a little time: only in this way does a Sunday homily mature for others, but my own heart is also touched by the Lord's Word.

On Careerism in the Church

...The Lord knows, knew from the beginning, that there is also sin in the Church, and for our humility it is important to recognize this and to see sin not only in others, in structures, in lofty hierarchical duties, but also in ourselves, to be in this way more humble and to learn that what counts before the Lord is not an ecclesial position, but what counts is to be in his love and to make his love shine forth... St Augustine said: All of us are always only disciples of Christ, and his throne is loftier, for his throne is the Cross and only this height is the true height, communion with the Lord, also in his Passion. It seems to me, if we begin to understand this by a life of daily prayer, by a life of dedicated service to the Lord, we can free ourselves of these very human temptations.

On Daily Routine and the Importance of Mass and the Divine Office

I would say that it is also important in the life of pastors of the Church, in the daily life of the priest, to preserve as far as possible a certain order. You should never skip Mass - a day without the Eucharist is incomplete - and thus already at the seminary we grow up with this daily liturgy. It seems to me very important that we feel the need to be with the Lord in the Eucharist, not as a professional obligation but truly as an interiorly-felt duty, so that the Eucharist should never be missed. Another important point is to make time for the Liturgy of the Hours and therefore, for this inner freedom: with all the burdens that exist, it frees us and helps us to be more open, to be deeply in touch with the Lord. Of course, we must do all that is required by pastoral life, by the life of a parochial vicar or of a parish priest or by another priestly office. However, I would say, never forget these fixed points, the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, so that you have a certain order in the daily routine. As I said at the outset, we learned not to have to plan the timetable ever anew; Serva ordinem et ordo servabit te. These are true words.

On Perseverence

It is good to recognize one's weakness because in this way we know that we stand in need of the Lord's grace. The Lord comforts us. In the Apostolic College there was not only Judas but also the good Apostles; yet, Peter fell and many times the Lord reprimanded the Apostles for their slowness, the closure of their hearts and their scant faith. He therefore simply shows us that none of us is equal to this great 'yes,' equal to celebrating in persona Christi, to living coherently in this context, to being united to Christ in his priestly mission. To console us, the Lord has also given us these parables of the net with the good fish and the bad fish, of the field where wheat but also tares grow. He makes us realize that he came precisely to help us in our weakness, and that he did not come, as he says, to call the just, those who claim they are righteous through and through and are not in need of grace, those who pray praising themselves; but he came to call those who know they are lacking, to provoke those who know they need the Lord's forgiveness every day, that they need his grace in order to progress. I think this is very important: to recognize that we need an ongoing conversion, that we are simply not there yet. St Augustine, at the moment of his conversion, thought he had reached the heights of life with God, of the beauty of the sun that is his Word. He then had to understand that the journey after conversion is still a journey of conversion, that it remains a journey where the broad perspectives, joys and lights of the Lord are not absent; but nor are dark valleys absent through which we must wend our way with trust, relying on the goodness of the Lord. Therefore, also the Sacrament of Reconciliation is important. It is not correct to think we must live like this, so that we are never in need of pardon. We must accept our frailty but keep on going, not giving up but moving forward and becoming converted ever anew through the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a new start, and thus grow and mature in the Lord by our communion with him. It is also important of course not to isolate oneself, not to believe one is capable of going ahead alone. We truly need the company of priest friends and also lay friends who accompany and help us. It is very important for a priest, in the parish itself, to see how people trust in him and to experience in addition to their trust also their generosity in pardoning his weaknesses. True friends challenge us and help us to be faithful on our journey. It seems to me that this attitude of patience and humility can help us to be kind to others, to understand the weaknesses of others and also help them to forgive as we forgive. I think I am not being indiscrete if I say that today I received a beautiful letter from Cardinal Martini: I had congratulated him on his 80th birthday -- we are the same age; in thanking me he wrote: "I thank the Lord above all for the gift of perseverance. Today", he writes, "good is done rather ad tempus, ad experimentum. Good, in accordance with its essence, can only be done definitively; but to do it definitively we need the grace of perseverance. I pray each day", he concluded, "that the Lord will grant me this grace". I return to St Augustine: at first he was content with the grace of conversion; then he discovered the need for another grace, the grace of perseverance, one which we must ask the Lord for each day; but since - I return to what Cardinal Martini said - "the Lord has given me the grace of perseverance until now, I hope he will also give it to me in the last stage of my journey on this earth". It seems to me that we must have trust in this gift of perseverance, but we must also pray to the Lord with tenacity, humility and patience to help and sustain us with the gift of true "definitiveness", and to accompany us day after day to the very end, even if our way must pass through dark valleys. The gift of perseverance gives us joy, it gives us the certainty that we are loved by the Lord, and this love sustains us, helps us and does not abandon us in our weakness.

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2 Comments:

Blogger northern cleric said...

As ever - simple, profound and practical. We are blessed!

9:48 pm  
Blogger Simon-Peter said...

I can't deny, I really do like this man, and the more I read (his books, lectures - even admonishments - and the things that he has read - like Josef Pieper's works - the more I like him. It's pretty clear a. he is not happy about a lot of things,& b. he has a plan (he's had it for years).

Two things that make me scratch my head sometimes when listening to sermons are 1. how detached they are from the text and no matter how hard the priest tries to make his sermon apply to "today" it either doesn't, or lacks authority...2.Forsooth, I do not understand why so many priests think they have to tickle ears, perform, and reinvent the wheel. How refreshing it would be if a priest, now and again, would simply consult say, Cornelius a Lapide, or Bernard of Clairvaux, or Hilary of Poitiers, or Francis de Sale and, yes, essentially, just quote them word for word! I am not ashamed of always giving way to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and admitting "well, you can't say it better than that."

There is no shame in handing on what we have received. In fact, I think by unashamedly using the Fathers and Doctors of the Church priests would actually a. boost morale (for various reasons...), b. increase trust in their abilities, prudence, etc. c. reinforce the fact of the communion of saints (also by using in *full* eucharistic prayer number 1...) and living Tradition, and d. bolster their authority, e.g. "I do not speak on my own authority."

Just my two pence Father offered in a right spirit I hope.

BTW: Father northen cleric said something that has been said about the Holy Father since the early 1960s. This is a great article (part one)!

Here is a quote:"What was it that so gripped the students in those lessons given out in a soft, concentrated tone, without theatrical gestures? It’s clear that what the young professor had to say was not of his making."

You see!? Not of his own making!

and again:

"Precisely from the relish of rediscovering Tradition by reading the Fathers a total and malleable openness to the questions, and the ferment that made the theological thinking of those years vibrant, was stirred in the young professor."

Okay, here is the link, in tinyurl [http://tinyurl.com/] form, hope it helps:

http://tinyurl.com/27pjlu

also complete listing (629 articles) from this site under "Ratzinger" here:

http://tinyurl.com/26w5yq

10:01 pm  

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