|World Movement of Prayer for Priests|
Cardinal Hummes announces initiatives to support priestly sanctification
Adoration, Reparation, Spiritual Motherhood for Priests is the title of a new booklet published by the Congregation for the Clergy. The 40-page booklet begins with the words spoken by Benedict XVI on 14 September 2006 in the Cathedral of Freising, the place where he was ordained a priest.
An overview of important figures follows, including among others, St. Monica, Eliza Vaughan (mother of six priests and four women religious), St. Thérčse of Lisieux, St. Pius X and John Paul I.
Also recounted are Anna Stang's experiences during persecution in Kazakhstan, as well as events in the village of Lu Monferrato, where the prayers of the mothers there have inspired 323 vocations to the religious life.
The booklet ends with the testimony of the Benedictine Religious at the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae monastery.
Internet site updated
The Congregation for the Clergy also has an updated Web site (www.clerus.org).
"I am very pleased", said the Congregation's Prefect, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, O.F.M., "because it enables us to be increasingly present in real time and opens exceptional possibilities for communication. With the site, we seek to be attentive to needs in the field of formation and information for priests".
The Congregation's special goal was to enrich the online library, a useful tool for study and preaching. Further, through the e-mail service, enrolment in the Dicastery's database makes it possible to receive Documents of the Holy See and of the Congregation directly.
There is also an initiative of "perpetual" Eucharistic adoration on a worldwide scale for reparation of the faults of priests and in particular for "the victims of grave situations of moral and sexual conduct of a very small percentage of the clergy".
Cardinal Hummes, in announcing this new prayer initiative, recently said: "We are asking everyone to participate in Eucharistic adoration, to make reparation to God for the grave damage that has been done and to uphold once again the dignity of the victims. Yes, we wanted to think of the victims so that they feel we are close to them. We are concerned with the victims above all, it is important to state".
The Cardinal said he considers it a priority to open "Eucharistic Upper Rooms", thereby inspiring a great spiritual movement of prayer for all priests and for their sanctification.
"The things to be done for the true good of the clergy and the fruitfulness of their pastoral ministry in today's world are really numerous", he explained. "But the knowledge that action follows being and that the heart of every apostolate is intimacy with God has prompted us to waste no time in encouraging an immense Eucharistic adoration, perpetual if possible".
At an interview he granted to L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Hummes presented the meaning, motivations and practical characteristics of the world movement of prayer for the clergy.
Q: Why is there such a pressing need to further this initiative for reparation for the shortcomings of priests and for their sanctification at this very moment?
A: There have always been problems because we are all sinners. Today, however, events that really are very serious have been pointed out. Obviously, it should always be remembered that only a minimal part of the clergy is involved in these grave situations. Not even as much as 1 percent of the clergy has anything to do with problems of moral and sexual conduct. The overwhelming majority have absolutely nothing to do with this kind of thing.
But to continue to live their own vocation and mission in the contemporary world all priests need spiritual assistance. Moreover, the Church has always prayed for the atonement of the sins of all. This, for instance, is one of the characteristics of the traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Q: What does this specific initiative entail?
A: We thought of two distinct forms: Eucharistic adoration, perpetual if possible, and spiritual motherhood for priests. Even though these are two different realities, they are very often combined precisely in Eucharistic adoration.
Q: Did you send a letter to the Bishops? What did you ask them?
A: We suggested to the Bishops that they promote in their Dioceses true and proper "Upper Rooms", where consecrated and lay people, joining forces and in a spirit of true communion, can pray for genuinely real reparation and purification in the form of continuous Eucharistic adoration, through the intercession of the Mother of God.
In continuity with Mary's role in the history of salvation, the initiative intends to entrust all priests to her in a very special way by generating in the Church this prayer movement centred on Eucharistic adoration that spans 24 hours, so that a prayer of adoration, thanksgiving, praise, entreaty and reparation is perpetually being raised to God in every corner of the earth. It is a ceaseless prayer which aims to generate a sufficient number of holy vocations to the priesthood and at the same time to accompany spiritually, with a sort of spiritual motherhood, all those who have been called to the priesthood.
Q: Why did you specifically choose Eucharistic adoration?
A: First of all, for the value of the Eucharist: it is the very centre of the Church's life, its crowning point. The Most Blessed Sacrament is adored in the tabernacles of churches across the world; people recognize that Jesus is truly present and can encounter him directly. The Sacrament of the Eucharist has a total relationship with the priest, who is ordained in the first place in order to celebrate it. Priests came into being at the Last Supper precisely with the institution of the Eucharist, when Jesus said: "Do this in memory of me". Thus, Eucharistic adoration on behalf of priests recalls the very nature of the priesthood.
Q: What have you suggested?
A: We have addressed an explanatory note to dioceses, parishes, rectories, chapels, monasteries, convents and seminaries in order to increase the practice of continuous Eucharistic adoration for all priests and priestly vocations. For example, it would be appropriate for each Diocese to ask a priest to devote himself full time to the specific ministry of promoting Eucharistic adoration. We also proposed the creation of Eucharistic shrines and the identification of specific places to be reserved especially for perpetual Eucharistic adoration. Then it is important that initiatives for the formation of the clergy be imbued with a Eucharistic atmosphere.
Q: Who is to be involved in this initiative?
A: All living forces, starting with children being prepared for First Communion. Eucharistic adoration, whether or not it is perpetual, is very deeply felt and is practised in a multitude of communities and parishes. It is lived by the people: families, young people, children, the elderly. Everyone. Adoration has always had a special attraction for the People of God, although people are unaware of its value. It actually makes one feel physically close to Jesus Christ.
Thus, our suggestion does not only concern religious and contemplative communities, consecrated people, movements and associations, but also the lay faithful of parish communities. An organizational effort on the part of the Bishop, parish priest or religious superior is of course required in order to foster a spiritual deepening that leads to understanding the question of the priesthood and the priest's role in the world today.
Q: Do women religious have a special role?
A: After Mary's example, consecrated women can spiritually adopt priests and help them with the offering of themselves, with prayer and with penance. This initiative makes it possible to acquire an ever greater knowledge of the ontological link between the Eucharist and the priest, as well as of the special motherhood of Mary with regard to all priests.
Q: What does being a spiritual mother to priests mean?
The vocation to be a spiritual mother to priests is too little known, hardly understood and thus rarely lived, despite its vital and fundamental importance. Independently of their age and civil status, all women may become spiritual mothers to a priest. This applies especially to women missionaries and Religious who offer their whole life to God for the sanctification of humanity. Offering spiritual motherhood therefore means being people who pray for a specific priest and thus accompany him throughout his life, usually anonymously. History tells us, moreover, that this bears important spiritual fruits for priests.
Q: What does being a priest mean today?
A: Today, being a priest in Latin America, Africa or Europe is very different. There are huge differences between the north and the south of the world. In Europe, where societies are more developed, the culture is very cold to religious life, which is not appreciated; the culture is excessively secular. But in other regions the religious spirit is stronger but there is always more work to be done everywhere and many sacrifices are demanded of priests.
Q: How do people view priests today?
A: I always say that priests should be venerated, loved and respected. They spend their whole life, despite their limitations, for God and for their neighbour. They greatly benefit humanity. They preach and encourage goodness, they help people. What more does society want? Theirs is a service that everyone should recognize and appreciate. In this regard, I believe that prayer is very important in order to sustain them in their mission.
Q: You have been Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy since 31 October 2006. Can you outline a preliminary evaluation of your service and tell us what the plans, the strategies of the Congregation entrusted to you are?
A: My worries and my prayers are centred on priests, deacons and catechists. One of the greatest challenges — I do not call it a problem — for priests which we have before us comes from the new post-modern culture which is overturning everything and is highly critical, even hostile, to religion: it is as though faith had to disappear but we know that if we lose God we lose the meaning of things.
The question is: how can we help priests live their vocation and mission today in the new post-modern society? How can we help them be enthusiastic witnesses of Christ? How can we help them not to experience their priesthood as unhappy, disheartened men but rather, joyfully, aware and conscious that they are making an important contribution by reproposing God to the contemporary world?
We are convinced that with this culture the world is losing out rather than winning. Progress is not being made. Yet it is true that this culture helps us to have critical attitudes regarding certain aspects of the religious phenomenon. Nonetheless, we are firmly convinced that Jesus Christ is the most important factor of history. And we must proclaim him and take him to the whole world.
Q: What other important issues must be faced?
A: The continuing formation of the clergy; spirituality, interiority,
which today is more crucial than ever; the selection and training of
candidates to the priesthood. A careful selection must be made and
future priests must be given a rigorous formation: we know that this is
the special task of the Congregation for Catholic Education. We also
constantly discuss these subjects with Bishops on their ad limina
visits and on every other possible occasion.
Weekly Edition in English
23 January 2008, page 5
L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
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