WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE SANCTIFICATION OF PRIESTS
Congregation for the Clergy
 

The Eucharist and Confession: Set out anew from God’s Mercy to rediscover priestly identity

For the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests 2002, the Congregation for the Clergy prepared a spiritual reflection on the Holy Father's Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2002 on the topic "Eucharist and Confession". The reflection brings together key points of John Paul II's other Letters to Priests for Holy Thursday of 2000 and 2001, which concentrated on these sacraments. The first part of the reflection develops the Holy Father's Letters. In the second part the Congregation has gathered passages from Scripture, the Fathers and the Saints as suggestions for a lectio divina. On the Website (www.clerus.org) one can find the original Italian text. The bishops are free to reproduce this text as they see fit. The Day for the Sanctification can be celebrated on the date that is best for a diocese or country. Officially, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, Friday, 7 June 2002 was the intended day. That day was chosen because the feast of the Sacred Heart celebrates God's merciful love, that becomes tangible for priests in the Eucharistic Mystery, which they celebrate daily, and in the sacramental pardon which they administer and receive. As happens now, other groups can join together to pray for the fruitfulness of the Day for the Sanctification including: parish communities, the seminary, cloistered orders, institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life as well as the movements, associations, prayer groups, confraternities and the various ecclesial bodies. Here is an English translation of the Congregation's reflection.

Dear Priest Friends,

The World Day for the Sanctification of Priests 2002 takes its inspiration from the theme of John Paul II's Letters to Priests for Holy Thursday 2000, 2001, and 2002, which have focused our attention on the mystery of the Eucharist and Confession.

These are the two sacraments in which we as ordained ministers experience, in a particular and personal way, the inexpressible, merciful love of God the Father for us and for all of humanity.

Eucharist and Reconciliation

The sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession are truly the heart of our priesthood. In fact, God the Father entrusts himself to priests in a unique way, when through our ministry in the Mass, he gives to us his Son Jesus who gives Himself to all with his Body and Blood: "poured out for you and for all" (Mt 26,28; Mk 14,24; Lk 22,20).

How many times in the celebration of the Divine Sacrifice have we pronounced these sacred words, overcome by a certain fearful amazement at the confidence that the Lord has in us, as he calls us to immerse our misery and poverty in his Blood, which daily is "poured out for us and for all".

Return to the Cenacle

We cannot rediscover our priestly identity without returning to its Eucharistic source in the Upper Room, where the priesthood began. During the Great Jubilee the Holy Father reminded us of this: "We must never cease meditating anew on the mystery of that night. We should often return in spirit to this Upper Room, where we priests especially can feel, in a sense, ‘at home’. With regard to the Upper Room, it could be said of us what the Psalmist says of the peoples with regard to Jerusalem: 'In the register of peoples, the Lord will write: These were born here’" (Ps 86[87], 6) (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2000, n. 3).

In the sacrament of Reconciliation the Father and the Son give us the Holy Spirit for the remission of sins and they do so through the action of the Church, by means of the priest. Therefore, in the act of Confession, for the faithful and more so for us, the ministers of Reconciliation, the action of the Spirit of God becomes particularly tangible, calling us to a special intimacy of intention and action with him. The minister of Confession is the representative of divine Forgiveness in the confessional; the extent to which the penitent is able to contemplate the merciful face of Jesus and taste the joy of reconciliation, as the Holy Father points out, depends on him:

"In other wordsand this is a great responsibilityGod counts on us, on our availability and fidelity, in order to work his wonders in human hearts. In the celebration of this sacrament, perhaps even more than in the others, it is important that the faithful have an intense experience of the face of Christ the Good Shepherd" (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2002, n. 4).

St Paul uses the term "ambassadors" to sum up our wonderful and freely received ministry: "So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (II Cor 5,20).

Justice itself requires Mercy

Today, the Church and humanity feel the need for mercy, purification and peace. There is a great demand for justice, but justice can never be separated from forgiveness. Justice without mercy would not be the justice of God but only a human justice, which could never resolve the many individual, communal, national, and international conflicts, that can only be overcome by a great infusion of mercy.

We priests are among the first to be warmly invited by Christ and his Vicar on earth, the Pope, to go back to drinking deeply at the spring of Divine Mercy, which flows in superabundance from the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. "Christ must be our point of departure in rediscovering the source and the profound rationale of our brotherhood: 'As I have loved you, you also must love one another’" (Jn 13,34) (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2001, n. 2).

If for some strange reason we were not to do so, we would find ourselves more deeply immersed in darkness, in an obscure ethical confusion and spiritual impotence in the face of a wave of evil, which could risk overwhelming us if not halted and overcome by the wave of Divine Mercy.

We must bring Divine Mercy to the world

On this score, on 30 April 2000, Divine Mercy Sunday, in his homily for the canonization of the Polish sister, St Faustina Kowalska, the Pope quoted from her diary: "Jesus told Sr Faustina: 'Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy’" (Diary, 300). In his homily, the Holy Father continued with prophetic foresight: "What will the years ahead bring us? ... It is certain that in addition to new progress there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sr Faustina's charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium, However, as the Apostles once did, today too humanity must welcome into the upper room of history the risen Christ, who shows the wounds of His Crucifixion and repeats: Peace be with you! Humanity must let itself be touched and pervaded by the Spirit given to it by the risen Christ. It is the Spirit who heals the wounds of the heart, pulls down the barriers that separate us from God and divide us from one another, and at the same time, restores the joy of the Father's love and of fraternal unity" (John Paul II, Homily, 30 April 2000, ORE, 3 May 2000, p. 1).

If we proclaim today Jesus' appeal to "trust in divine mercy", as the Pope so much stresses in our time, then we will realize that it is primarily priests, who are called to allow themselves to be transformed in spirit by the Spirit (of forgiveness) whom the Risen Lord gives us so we can become for all a sign of God's forgiveness (cf. Jn 20, 19-23). Without forgiveness, the fruit of mercy, peace would be reduced to being a mere pipedream and, in its place, vengeance and retaliation would ultimately prevail.

Christ's will for us: Mercy, Pardon, Reconciliation

Only Christ's commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13,34) and "love your enemies" (Lk 6,27), is capable of reconciling us to God, of reconciling man with himself and with his neighbour. This is the force of Christianitymercy and forgivenessthat no other religion knows as well.

This dynamic and ever active energy that flows from Christ's Redemption is granted to humanity above all through the priestly ministry. Only the priest can celebrate the Eucharist and administer the sacrament of Pardon! Even if, at times, we can be deeply discouraged by the world's indifference, which can even become hostility to the Church, we must not forget that our society thirsts for the forgiveness and peace which the risen Christ has come to bring and which has its source in Him alone. The Holy Father speaks a profound truth in this regard, when he asks us to reflect on the nature of Christ's message:

"Chosen to proclaim Christ, we are first of all invited to live in intimacy with him: we cannot give to others what we ourselves do not have! There is a thirst for Christ which, despite many appearances to the contrary, emerges even in contemporary society; it is present among all the inconsistencies of new forms of spirituality; it can be seen even where, on important ethical issues, the Church's witness becomes a sign of contradiction. This thirst for Christwhether conscious or notcannot be quenched with empty words. Only authentic witnesses can communicate in a credible way the word that saves" (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2001, n. 3).

Frequent confession, spiritual retreats, Eucharistic adoration

How do we obtain the Spirit of Christ, who makes us witnesses of his gift, if we do not return to the frequent and regular practice of individual Confession, and if we do not return to the experienced and lived celebration of the Mass, prolonged in Eucharistic adoration, which must once more have a place and time in our daily schedule?

Eucharistic adoration and frequent Confession nourish the priest spiritually. They can become for him an effective repose, source of deep peace and balm of the soul. In fact, the activity, speeches, or the meetings we have attended will not save us, but the love of the Lord Jesus, whose absolute lordship must stand out in the life of every priest. From the love of the Lord comes the missionary call "omnia instaurare in Christo"! (Restore all things in Christ!). From this love we obtain the zeal that is indispensable!

The Saints of the Church readily understood and lived this spiritual reality; they have given us a written record of their fruitful experience of communion with the Lord Jesus. In his The Introduction to the Devout Life, St Francis de Sales masterfully describes the absolute necessity of regular times of spiritual retreat, for fine-tuning the soul, which he compares to a clock:

"There is no clock, no matter how good it may be, that doesn't need resetting and rewinding twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. In addition, at least once a year it must be taken apart to remove the dirt clogging it, straighten out bent parts, and repair those worn out. In like manner ... a man who really takes care of his heart ... at least once a year ... must take it apart and examine every piece in detail, that is, every affection and passion, in order to repair whatever defects there may be. Again, a watchmaker oils his watch's wheels, springs, and works with delicate oil.... So also with a devout person. After he has re-examined his heart in order to reform it, he must anoint it with the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. Such an exercise will restore your strength, which has been impaired by time, warm up your heart, bring new life to your good resolutions, and make your soul's virtues flourish with fresh vigour" (Introduction to the Devout Life, V 1).

Bishops and priests need to spend time together in prayer

This holy Bishop, a cherished teacher of the spiritual life, became an example for his episcopal confreres, who throughout the centuries have applied themselves dutifully to helping their worthy, indispensable collaborators, the priests, calling them "in disparte" (aside), to silence and rest to find themselves and the joy of their ministry. This is what Jesus did, by dedicating so much of his time to the personal care of his apostles, to whom, far from the crowds and work, he often explained the meaning of the Scriptures, preparing them for painful events, consoling them and strengthening their faith (cf. Mt 17,1; 20,17; Mk 10,32; Lk 10,23).

In our time, in which we feel the urgent need to reaffirm our priestly identity and spirituality, there are bishops who consider the personal care of priests as their primary pastoral priority because they realize that it is the indispensable condition for the fruitfulness of their other efforts. Accordingly, they reserve a great amount of time for their priests: for personal conversation and exchange of correspondence, for praying and promoting mutual confidence, for ensuring guidance and counsel, authority and kindness ... just as Jesus did when he was living with his apostles.

For this reason a bishop must make clear, courageous choices that allow for greater time for prayer and fraternal sharing with the priests. For example, some have suggested there be a special house for priests in the diocese, a place where they would feel welcome and could go when they need time for spiritual retreat and physical rest. There are also real experiences of priestly life in common, both among the priests and between priests and their bishop. In the future these forms of priestly community life in dioceses may well become necessary, where there is a strong danger of isolation in which some priests feel at risk who are left on their own with too little help, overloaded with work, geographical distances, difficulties and misunderstanding.

Some bishops move from parish to parish in order to spend a few days with the parish priest, to be at his side, sharing his life, taking stock of his ministry so as to obtain a realistic appreciation of his own body of priests.

No one can imagine how beneficial the time is that bishops and priests spend together as friends! It is a great help both for the priests and for the bishops, who, bearing primary responsibility for their priests, share their joys and sorrows. Did not the Lord Jesus do the same? The bishop cannot shirk the mission of knowing his priests personally, and they cannot do without their bishop's fatherly care and genuine guidance.

Return to the 'Upper Room' for experience of Communion

Today there are many pastoral demands on a bishop, but without personal attention for the priests and the seminary, everything will come to nothing.

Indeed, we continue to realize how important shared prayer is, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, for strengthening the bonds of ecclesial communion in every community. Yes, the work is overwhelming and the challenges ever greater, but it is for this reason we must go to the essential, to the soul of the apostolate, to the divine intimacy and to the communal unity at the heart of the Mystical Body.

This applies especially to the bishop and his priests, who form the heart of the entire diocesan community. In the first Christian communities, as reported in the Acts of the Apostles, this communion was very much alive. In them, there was a strong acceptance of the words pronounced by Jesus as his Testament at the Last Supper "You must also love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13,34); the distinctive sign of the authenticity of their Christianity, was this: "all will know you are my disciples, if you love one another" (Jn 13,35).

The two sacraments of the merciful love of God, the Eucharist and Confession, are given to us by the Lord to consolidate our union with him and, accordingly, union among all the brethren. These have been given to us in the context of a great spiritual friendship; both flow from the Upper Room, where the Lord Jesus called his followers friends: giving us the Eucharist before the Resurrection and instituting the Sacrament of Penance immediately after the Resurrection. The "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22,19) of the Sacrament of Orders that enabled the first apostles and all of us to perpetuate the Eucharistic Sacrifice through the centuries, was lived in the Upper Room in a spirit of intense trust and prayer. This is why the Holy Father has told us that we too must feel "at home" in the Upper Room, the place of our birth.

We constantly need to go back to this "place", the birthplace of our priestly ministry, in the midst of our many commitments and concerns. Like the early apostles, priests must be led there by a special pastoral intention because it requires strongly motivated dedication, and great concentration adequately to prepare the content of reflection, the climate that fosters prayer and fraternal sharing, as the Lord and his disciples did.

This "place" also requires periods of unbroken time, which are needed in order to create the spiritual atmosphere of mutual esteem, both between priests and between the bishop and priest, that produces a Eucharistic celebration that takes place in a harmonious unity of intentions. Moreover, individual confessions, exchanged by brothers in the priesthood, must become more frequent and regular:

"Let us make regular use of this Sacrament, that the Lord may constantly purify our hearts and make us less unworthy of the mysteries which we celebrate" (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2001, n. 11).

Conclusion

I address you as a brother in the Lord on the day dedicated to our sanctification, aware, as St Paul says: that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us" (II Cor 4,7). For this reason we must be all the more convinced that God the Father assists us with such effective means of grace that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5,20).

Above all, it is absolutely necessary for us to abandon ourselves with confidence into the arms of divine mercy, according to the example of the Mother of God and following in her footsteps.

Mary, Mother of Mercy

I wish to entrust these reflections to Mary, in order that all her priestly sons who read them might understand the present urgency of daily conversion, to become what they are called to be by virtue of their vocation. Let us strive to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, to rediscover for ourselves and for the faithful the richness of the sacrament and the virtue of penance, to recover the wisdom of ecclesiastical discipline, with the pastoral fruitfulness that comes from observing it in a heartfelt way.

Discouragement should not find a home in the heart of the "Lord's anointed", for "with God nothing is impossible" (Lk 1,37). God reveals Himself to a simple and humble heart.

Our heavenly Mother reminds us in the "Magnificat" that the Lord "has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the humble" (Lk 1,52) that he did this through his mercy, which "is from generation to generation on those who fear him" (Lk 1,50). With her let us ever repeat: "Jesus, I trust in You".

From the Vatican, 8 May 2002.

Card. Dario Castrillón Hoyos
Prefect of the Congregation
for the Clergy


Aid to Meditation: Word of God, Praise, Prayer
World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests

I. The Priest is God's merciful gift to humanity

The Word of the Lord

From the Gospel of John

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another (Jn 15,14-17).

Meditation

From the Letters of John Paul II to Priests

"Mercy is the absolutely free initiative by which God has chosen us: 'You did not choose me, but I chose you' (Jn 15, 16). Mercy is his deigning to call us to act as his representatives, though he knows that we are sinners.

"Mercy is the forgiveness which he never refuses us, as he did not refuse it to Peter after his betrayal. The avowal that 'there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance' (Lk 15,7) also holds true for us. Let us then rediscover our vocation as a 'mystery of mercy’" (Holy Thursday, 2001, nn. 6, 7).

"How marvellous is this vocation of ours, my dear Brother Priests! Truly we can repeat with the Psalmist: 'What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord'" (Ps 116,12-13) (Holy Thursday, n. 1, 2002, n. 1).

From St John Chrysostom

"These are really the ones who are in charge of spiritual travail and responsible for the birth which comes through baptism. Through them we put on Christ, and are buried in union with the Son of God, and become members obedient to our blessed Head (cf. Rom 6,1; Gal 3,27). For that reason they should not only be more justly feared than rulers and kings, but also be more honoured than our parents. For our parents generated us of blood and the will of the flesh (cf. Jn 1,13), but the priests are the authors of our birth from God, even that blessed regeneration which is true freedom and adopted sonship according to grace" (cf. St John Chrysostom, De sacerdotio, III, 6, PG 48, 643-644).

From St Anthony of Padua

"Our altar of gold is the Heart of Christ. We must enter into the Holy of Holies, which is this same Heart of Jesus, and gather up the riches of His love" (St Anthony of Padua).

From St John of Avila

"If the Jewish High priest carried the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on his shoulders and on his breast, how much more Christ, our High Priest, carries our names written on His Heart" (St John of Avila).

From the holy Curé of Ars

"The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus" (CCC, n. 1589St John Vianney, quoted in B. Nodet, Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d'Ars, 100).

"The priest is not a priest for himself. He does not give absolution to himself. He does not administer the sacraments to himself. He does not exist for himself, he exists for you" (Curé of Ars: Monnin II 453).

From Blessed John XXIII

"Today everything which concerns the Sacred Heart of Jesus has become familiar and doubly dear to me. My life seems destined to be spent in the light shining from the tabernacle, and it is to the Heart of Jesus that I must look for a solution to all my troubles. I feel I would be ready to shed my blood for the cause of the Sacred Heart. My fondest wish is to be able to do something for that precious object of my love.

"At times the thought of my arrogance, of my unbelievable self-love and of my great unworthiness alarms and dismays me and robs me of my courage, but I soon find reason for comfort in the words spoken by Jesus to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque: 'I have chosen you to reveal the marvels of my heart, because you are such an abyss of ignorance and insufficiency'.

"Ah! I wish to serve the Sacred Heart of Jesus, today and always. I want my devotion to his Heart to be the measure of all my spiritual progress. I desire to do everything in intimate union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

"My greatest joy will be to seek and find comfort only in that Heart which is the source of all consolation. I am determined to give myself no peace until I can truly say I am absorbed into the Heart of Jesus" (Bl. John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, ["During the retreat in preparation for the ordination to the diaconate, 9-18 December 1903"], pp. 208-209, New English Library: London, 1966).

Praise and Thanksgiving

From the Letter to the Ephesians

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5,25b-27).

From the Psalms

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Ps 22[23]).

Prayer

"The Heart of Jesus is also my own, I have the courage to say it. If, in fact, Christ is my head, what is His must be mine as well. As the eyes of my body are truly mine, so the Heart of my spiritual head is also my heart. I am so fortunate: behold that I have one same heart with Jesus.... With this your and my heart, O sweetest Jesus, I will pray to you, my God" (St Bonaventure).

II. Sacramental Confession and the Priest

The Word of the Lord

From the Gospel of John

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you'. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you'. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained' (Jn 20,19-23).

Meditation

From the Letter of John Paul II to Priests

"Left to himself, man can do nothing and he deserves nothing. Before being man's journey to God, confession is God's arrival at a person's home. In confession, therefore, we can find ourselves faced with all kinds of people. But of one thing we must be convinced: anticipating our invitation, and even before we speak the words of the sacrament, the brothers and sisters who seek our ministry have already been touched by a mercy that works from within. Please God, we shall know how to cooperate with the mercy that welcomes and the love that saves. This we can do by our words and our attitude as pastors who are concerned for each individual, skillful in sensing people's problems and in delicately accompanying them on their journey, and knowing how to help them to trust in God's goodness" (Holy Thursday, 2002, n. 6).

From the Apostolic Letter Dilecti Amici of John Paul II

"It is also necessaryand always in relationship with the Eucharistto reflect on the Sacrament of Penance, which is of irreplaceable importance for the formation of the Christian personality, especially if it is linked with spiritual direction, which is a systematic school of the interior life" (Apostolic Letter Dilecti Amici of Pope John Paul II to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the International Youth Year, n. 9, Palm Sunday, 31 March, 1985).

From St Ephrem the Syrian

"I tremble and shudder when I think of my hidden sins, when I weigh my works. The frightening memory of my sins and of the day of judgement fill my heart with fear, fill my thoughts with anguish. But ... despite that, I do what is wrong; I know what is right and I end up doing what is wrong.... I am well versed in the sacred writings and in their reading, but I am far from doing my duty. I read the Bible to others, but nothing enters my ear. I admonish and exhort the ignorant, but I do not carry out what is good for me.... And so I take refuge in you, Lord, from this perverse world and from the body so full of evil, cause of all sin. For this reason I cry out to you, as the Apostle Paul did, 'When will I be set free from this body of death?' (cf. Rom 7,24).

"... Mysteriously there arises in my thought a consoling thought, that counsels me for good and stretches out its hand of hope to me.... 'Listen, sinner,penitence whispers in my earI wish to give you a life-giving counsel!... Do not be discouraged, do not surrender to despair.... The Lord is kind and merciful, he desires to see you at his gate and he is happy if you will be converted, so he can embrace you again with joy. Your sin, that is so great, cannot even be compared with the smallest drop of his mercy; he purifies you with his grace from the sins that reign in you. The sea of your sins cannot suffocate the slightest breath of his mercy.... Do not look at the immense number of your hidden sins ... your Lord can purify you from every sin, wash you clean from every stain.... He will make you white as snow, according to what is written in the prophet Isaiah (Is 1,18). Sinner, abandon your misdeeds, repent of what you have performed and, in his mercy, he will receive you....'

"To all those who are sinners like me, I said all this, to stir up in them hope, consolation and repentance" (cf. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on 'Woe to we who have sinned!' 9-13).

From St John Chrysostom

"For the priestly office is indeed carried out on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances. And this is very naturally so. Neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, ordained this succession, and persuaded men who are still living on earth to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in heaven itself among those powers.... For they who inhabit the earth and live there are entrusted with the administration of heavenly things, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For has it not been said to them, 'Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven' (Mt 18,18).... For indeed what is it but all the authority of heaven which He has given them when He says, 'Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain, they are retained?' (Jn 20,23). What authority could be greater than this? 'The Father has given all judgement to the Son' (cf. Jn 5,22). But I see the Son has placed all of it in the hands of these men. For they have been raised to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable" (St John Chrysostom, De sacerdotio, III, 4-5).

From Presbyterorum ordinis

"The ministers of sacramental grace are intimately united to Christ the Saviour and Pastor through the fruitful reception of the sacraments, especially sacramental Penance. If it is prepared for by a daily examination of conscience, it is a powerful incentive to the essential conversion of heart to the love of the Father of Mercies" (Presbyterorum ordinis, "Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests", n. 18, Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, 7 December 1965).

From the Diary of St Mary Faustina Kowalska

"Write, speak of My mercy. Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are constantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one's misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of Divine Mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late" (St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul: The Diary of the Servant of God Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, Notebook V, 1448, pp. 511-512, Marian Press: Massachusetts, 1987).

Praise and Thanksgiving

From the Letter to the Hebrews

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4,14-16).

From the Psalms

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who alone does great wonders,
To him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures for ever....
It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and rescued us from our toes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures for ever (Ps 135[136],1-4, 23-26).

Prayer

"Our Father for Priests"

Our Father who art in heaven,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That Thy name be hallowed,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That Thy kingdom come,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
To give us each day the Bread of life,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
To forgive us our trespasses,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That we be not led into temptation,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
And deliver us and all of Your priests from evil. Amen.
(Anonymous)

III. The Most Holy Eucharist and the Priest

The Word of the Lord

From the Gospel of Luke

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. And likewise the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you' (Lk 22,19-20).

From the Gospel of John

So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever (Jn 6,53-58).

Meditation

From the Letter of John Paul II to Priests

"'Do this in memory of me' (Lk 22,19): although addressed to the whole Church, the words of Christ are entrusted as a particular task to those who carry on the ministry of the first Apostles. It is to them that Jesus hands on the action which he has just performed changing bread into his Body and wine into his Bloodthe action in which he appears as Priest and Victim. It is the will of Christ that henceforth his action should also become sacramentally the action of the Church through the hands of priests. In saying 'Do this', he refers not only to the action, but also to the one who is called to act; in other words, he institutes the ministerial priesthood, which thus becomes one of the essential elements of the Church" (Holy Thursday 2000, n. 10).

From Origen

"Our Lord and Saviour says, 'Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life in you. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink' (Jn 6,53-55). Therefore, since Jesus is completely pure, all his 'flesh is food' and all his 'blood is drink' because his every deed is holy and his every word is true. For this reason, therefore, his 'flesh is true food' and his 'blood is true drink'. For from the flesh and blood of his word, as from pure food and drink, he quenches the thirst and satisfies the hunger of mankind. Thus in the second place, after his flesh, the clean food is Peter, Paul, and all the apostles; in the third place, their disciples. In this way every person, either through great merit or purity of understanding can become wholesome food for his neighbour.... Every person has some store within him from which, if indeed he is good and 'from the good treasure of his heart he brings forth good' (cf. Mt 12,35), he may proffer pure food to his neighbour. But if he is evil and 'brings forth evil' (cf. Lk 6,45), he produces unclean food for his neighbour" (cf. Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, Homily 7, sec. 5, pp. 145-147, Catholic University of America Press: Washington, D.C., 1990).

From St Francis de Sales

"The most holy, sacred, and supremely sovereign sacrament and sacrifice of the Mass, [is the] centre of the Christian religion, heart of devotion, and soul of piety, the ineffable mystery that comprises within itself the deepest depths of divine charity, the mystery in which God really gives himself and gloriously communicates his graces and favours to us. Prayer made in union with this divine sacrifice has inestimable power.... The choirs of the Church triumphant and those of the Church militant are united to our Lord in this divine action, so that with him, in him, and through him they may enrapture the heart of God the Father and make his mercy all our own" (St Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Second Part of the Introduction, "How to Attend Holy Mass", pp. 103-104, Image Doubleday: New York, 1989).

From St Thérèse of the Child Jesus

"I only desire the science of Love.... I understand so well that it is only love which makes us acceptable to God that this love is the only ambition I have....

"Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude.... He has no need of our works but only of our love.... Ah! I feel it more than ever before, Jesus is parched, for he meets only the ungrateful and indifferent among his disciples in the world, and among his own disciples, alas, he finds few hearts who surrender to him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of his infinite Love" (cf. Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Ch. IX, "My Vocation is Love", pp. 187-189).

"Dear Lord! To win my heart, from heaven Thou didst come;
For me Thy blood didst shed, O King adored!
And on our altars makest Thy home.
So, if I may not here behold Thy Face,
Or catch the heavenly music of Thy Voice,
I still can live, each moment, by Thy grace,
And in Thy Sacred Heart
I can rest"
(cf. The Poems of St Thérèse of Lisieux, "To the Sacred Heart", October 1895).

From Venerable Conchita Cabrera de Armida

"What a sublime thing is the priest! What immense predilection of God to choose these souls for his intimate service and to continue his work upon earth! Do not let one day go by without expressing your thanks for such a great favour. Of my seven children, you have received the best portion by the pure goodness of Jesus, who so greatly loves you that he has sent you such proofs of his love. And do you still doubt? Seek to love him and to make him loved; do not think of yourself but of him and abandon yourself like a child into his maternal arms, because his heart, the heart of Jesus, is profoundly maternal. Is it not true? With him, and with Mary Most Holy, what have we to fear? Take from that heart your happiness, your peace, your nourishment, your consolation, everything which you need: light, grace, fervour, recollection, and love, and live and die, be enflamed, and lose yourself in him. Your faith must be eternal as the Mercy of God is eternal" (cf. Letters of a Mother, Conchita Cabrera).

Praise and Thanksgiving

From the Letter to the Ephesians

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.

For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory (Eph 1,3-12).

From the Psalms

O God, you are my God, whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
I will remember you upon my couch,
and through the night-watches I will meditate on you:
That you are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
But they shall be destroyed who seek my life,
they shall go into the depths of the earth;
They shall be delivered over to the sword,
and shall be the prey of jackals (Ps 63[62]).

Prayer

O Jesus, how I wish that my heart lived solely in obedience to Your adorable Heart!

I will become more humble, more sweet, more charitable, from the moment that your Heart is admired especially for its sweetness, its humility, and charity.

When, O God, will You give me the grace to free myself of my miserable heart and give me Your own, if not in the sacrament of the Eucharist, supreme pledge of Your love?

May the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus be praised, adored, and thanked, in every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, until the end of time! Amen (St Francis de Sales).

One may conclude the time of meditation with the recitation of the "Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ Priest and Victim" that can be found in the Pope's book on the priesthood, Gift and Mystery.

One may also conclude with the Act of Entrustment and Consecration to Mary, by John Paul II at Fatima, 13 May 1991 (ORE 1991, n. 20, p. 7).


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
28 August 2002, page 5

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