With little fanfare, the Year for Priests proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI began June 19, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
At first blush, the commemoration hardly seems worth more than a brief mention in a publication with a mainly lay readership. After all, priests are a tiny proportion of the Catholic faithful: barely 0.04 percent worldwide, and here in the United States, only about 0.06 percent of our 67 million coreligionists.
Additionally, in his announcement, the pope himself aimed this year primarily at priests. He said it would provide them an opportunity to reflect on the "necessary, indeed indispensable, aspiration to moral perfection that must dwell in every authentically priestly heart."
Priestly holiness is something we all can support unreservedly. The commemoration is a welcome opportunity to honor our Church's many faithful, self-sacrificing priests.
But otherwise, how is this year relevant to the vast majority of us?
Well, even the fact that this can be the premise for an editorial shows, in no small way, how important it is to reflect anew on how essential the ministerial priesthood is to the Catholic understanding of Church and community of believers.
The ministerial priesthood is how God continues to make himself and his enduring love present to us, physically in the Eucharist, even 2,000 years after his death.
This commemoration also serves as an opportunity to correct misconceptions that many have about priests:
Healthy, mutually supportive relationships between priests and parishioners will be increasingly critical if the current slump in priestly vocations continues. While the global Catholic population is increasing annually by 1.4 percent, according to the latest Vatican figures, the number of priests is increasing only by 0.18 percent. Lay Catholics in the United States, like those in regions of the world currently with a far worse priest-to-parishioner ratio, increasingly will be called to serve where priests cannot: in works like visiting the sick and the prisoners, and as committed catechists and evangelizers.
So how can the Church get the most out of this year? First, as the Vatican's top official for clergy said in a recent letter, through prayer, especially in the Mass and in front of the Eucharistic Lord.
It should also be a time for Catholics to ensure that their families are environments conducive to priestly (and Religious) vocations and a deep sense of appreciation for the priests with whom God has blessed us.
Please note: Comments left online may be considered for publication in the Letters to the Editor section of OSV Newsweekly.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs