We leave Saint John Paul II for another great Pope, Benedict XVI who marked his pontificate among others by the year of priests in 2010. Did he expect it to be so painful for the priests and for the church? We will not know, but in these times when the priests undergo so many hardships, those coming from their own brothers who have seriously failed, those coming from a world that accuses them and sometimes slanders them, it is good to reread these texts of a pope that one could Characterize as the Pope of faith.
It does not surprise us therefore that he is pursuing the teaching of his predecessor, starting from the priest's being. From the expression of the Curé of Ars, "The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus," Pope Benoit presents the priesthood as a gift: "This touching expression allows us above all to evoke with tenderness and gratitude the immense gift that are the Priests, not only for the church, but also for humanity itself. Fear not, the pope does not want to make the priests proud, but he wants us to become more aware of the greatness of the priesthood and therefore of our responsibility.
The consecration of the priest is the gift of Grace received on the day of his ordination. The more the priest realizes this gift, the more he will live, the more fruit he produces. To continually revive his consecration, the priest must let himself be shaped by the word of truth: "Consecrate them in truthJesus said to his father in his priestly prayer.
This consecration is a true transformation of the priest's being. Saint Gregory of Nyssa says the priest is changed "better". But we also know that grace does not destroy nature! That is why, throughout his priestly life, the priest must let himself be grasped by Christ and come to say as St. Paul " It is no longer I who live, but the Christ who lives in me ». It is clear that for Pope Benedict, the absolute primacy of divine grace is the foundation of his theology of the priesthood. The gift of grace precedes the gift of the priest. Moreover the priest can say yes to the Lord thanks to the strength he gives him. We remain free to say yes, but thanks to such an appeal, that we disarm before the love of God.
Before we even talk about the mission of the priest, his ministry, what he must do, he returns to his being: The missionary dimension of the priest arises from his sacramental configuration to the Christ-head... The candidates by the imposition of the hands become new men, become priests. This is what we have in the Gospel: Christ calls his disciples to be first with him, then to proclaim the word. But one must first experience the proximity with Christ, identifying himself with him. We have to continue his mission, yet we must live with Christ to understand him well.
Saint Basil, a Cappadocian father, asked the future priests to live a time in the wilderness, in a monastery, to read and meditate the Holy Scriptures. The purpose is the same, to learn to be with Christ, to live deeply the consecration.
So we have to go from what the priest does to what the priest is! Moreover, young people will surely be more sensitive to what a priest is, rather than to see him run incessantly, to lose his Latin and to sink into a frantic activism that risks making him forget the essential, his friendship with Christ.
In the Face of a functional conception of the priest and thus reductive, Cardinal Ratzinger opposes a sacramental, ontological conception that does not negate the service character of the priesthood. Indeed the pope does not want to oppose these two ways of approaching the priesthood. He wants to leave the consecration where the priest is given totally to God, apart, to be available to the mission. It is because I am consecrated to God that I am only a gift to men. This is what he says to priests: "The fact of putting himself at the disposal of the Lord truly in the entirety of his being and thus of being totally at the disposal of men, is the consecration." We understand then that celibacy takes all its meaning in this consecration. Recounting his vocation and the day before his ordination, this is what he writes: On the eve of my priestly ordination, 58 years ago, I opened Holy Scripture, because I still wanted to receive a word from the Lord for that day and for the path I will have to P Arcourir as a priest. And my gaze fell upon this passage: " Consecrate them by the truth: Thy word is truth So I knew: The Lord is talking about me, and is talking to me. That's exactly what will happen to me tomorrow. We are not consecrated by rites, even if there is a need for rites. The bath in which the Lord plunges us is himself. »
The rite of the imposing of the hands so beautiful, so mysterious with the beautiful prayer pronounced by the Bishop underlines this consecration with this sacred silence and, to Notre-Dame, his bumblebee which rings to tell the Parisians the gift of grace which is being lived in the Cat Hédrale. and the rite of anointing the hands "so that they become hands of blessing," said the Pope. At this hour, let us pray to the Lord that our hands always serve to bring salvation, to bear the blessing, to render his kindness. "(2009)
This consecration identifies the priest to Christ. Thus it is not the priest who evangelizes, but Christ and the priest must participate in the life of Christ until his sacrifice lived and celebrated in the Eucharist, for the proclamation to be authentic.
In the year Pauline in 2008, here is what he says: In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul affirms as a fundamental thing, that with Christ began a new way of worshipping God, a new cult. This consists in the fact that the living man becomes himself adoration, sacrifice in his own body... It is our existence that must become praise to God. Evangelism is not about socialism, but its purpose is worship, so that all men can offer themselves to God as a living, holy and pleasing host to God. The relationship that the priest has with the Lord pushes him to share it with those around him. As Christ is given everything, he makes his priests of given beings. Our ministry is the most true expression of our being of Christ. As the Pope said at a hearing in 2009: "In the life of the priest, missionary proclamation and worship are inseparable, as can never be separated ontological identity, sacramental and evangelizing mission."
We then understand how the liturgy is the place-source for the priest. This is where the priest took up Christ and speaks and acts "in Persona Christi", that is to say that he leaves Christ the place of the subject of the liturgy. Pope Benedict reiterated it to the priests: "It is necessary for the priests to be aware that, throughout their ministry, they must never put themselves in the foreground, themselves or their opinions, but Jesus Christ." That is to say that the liturgy does not belong to us; We cannot dispose of them as we wish. The priest in celebrating must be able to fade away so that it is Christ who can appear at the heart of the liturgy.
We know how central the liturgy is to the pope. One of my greatest priestly joys was to prepare with a team the mass aux Invalides and Vespers at Notre-Dame. At a meeting at the Vatican with his ceremonies, I asked what would please the Holy Father. The answer was clear: at the exit of Notre-Dame, a work of Messiaen and the Invalides, two times of silence, after the homily and communion. The Holy Father did not imagine the presence of 260,000 faithful... But he reiterated it to me at the start of the procession. I asked for silence after the homily; I did not need to ask for it after communion. The praying presence of Benedict XVI, his recollection was a call to interiority. He himself was deeply touched by the silence of this House.
The pope often denounced those who disfigured the Eucharistic celebrations, turning them into a show, a spectacle: "The liturgy does not live with sympathetic surprises, captivating finds, but solemn rehearsals." It is through these solemn repetitions that the holiness of God manifests itself. It is necessary in the liturgy to receive what is given and not to produce a product. As Joseph Ratzinger writes in "Talks on Faith" "in the liturgy there is a force, a power that even the whole Church cannot confer upon us: what manifests itself is the absolutely other which, through the community arrives to us."
As he said to the priests of the Diocese of Albano: "It seems to me that people know how to perceive whether we are truly in dialogue with God, with them and, so to speak, if we draw others into our common prayer, if we draw others In communion with the Sons of God; Or if on the contrary, we are only doing something outside. »
Next to the Holy Mass there is the sacrament of reconciliation. Pope Benoit often refers to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, pointing out that it is not the holy curé that we would see, or rather if we went to see the Holy Curé, the latter was fading to let the Christ appear.
The famous priest, but he is there to teach and drive.
The first place of teaching is the homily. The Pope exhorts us to always from the word of God and in the way of Saint Ambrose, to translate it into our life. The Word of God is never a word of the past, but of today.
The second place is catechesis; The pope insists on the content of the catechetical programmes. Some may recall his brilliant lecture in this cathedral. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives faith a harmonious synthesis; As he said to the bishops of France, "catechesis is not primarily a matter of method, but of content."
The second charge of the priest is to lead the community – the authority of the priest is a service – in a very beautiful homily, in the Feast of the Sacred Heart, in June 2010, the pope develops this pastoral mission; Listen:
"God wants us, as priests, in a small point of history, to share his concern for men." Yes, the mission of priests is to allow the faithful to experience the tenderness of God.
Taking Psalm 22, that of the Good Shepherd and Jn 10, 14 where Christ presents himself as the Good Shepherd, here is what he says: The priest should be able to say: I know my sheep and my sheep know me... knowing means being close to one another, loving it... we should seek to walk with our faithful on the path of friendship with God. The pope knows well, and probably even around him, that there are priests who regard the priesthood as a social lift; In other words, there may be careerists priests: "We enter the priesthood through the sacrament, that is, through the gift of oneself to Christ, so that he has me; So that I may serve him and follow his call, even if it were to be in opposition to my desires of self-realization and self-esteem (ordinations, 2006). Fortunately, every year we have the rite of foot-washing which reminds us that our priestly authority is only a humble service of love. This service is lived among the laity to allow them to live their common priesthood. The Pope reminds us that the priest is not a soloist! He can't do everything and he has to accept it! The priest must delegate and discern the charisms of the faithful for good collaboration. This will allow the priest to live his relationship with the Lord and be available to children, young people, the sick, all those in his parish. This collaboration with the laity can be a source of conflict, because of the will of power, but it can also be a source of communion: It is not only the priest who must check everything, but we must all cooperate and help, so that the priest will not Remains not isolated above as a collaborator, but that he is actually a pastor. »
Since the priest's mission derives from his being priestly, existential, he must conform to this mission. We find the spirituality of the diocesan priest in the image of the Curé of Ars that Pope Benedict gives us as a model of holiness. The Curé of Ars has fully identified himself with his ministry and this identification is the best pastoral method. As the pope says: "It was his whole existence that was a living catechesis." It is spiritual perfection that depends above all on the effectiveness of the Ministry of the priest. The priests hear it on the day of their ordination: "Imitate what you do." Even though he remains a man with his weaknesses, he is also "other Christ". To get there, we have the Evangelical councils already developed in the other conferences.
Benedict XVI underlines the priest's poverty when he recognises his limits with humility. Poverty when, faced with difficult situations, in the face of illness, in the face of a young convict in the hospital, we cannot say anything. The priest is there as the Christ close to those who suffer.
Chastity is a special confirmation of the life-style of Christ. It is not required only for the priest to be available, but because he is a sign of the coming kingdom. Celibacy will always be a sign of contradiction, but as Christ says: " Understands who can understand ». (Mt 19, 12)
Finally obedience must be understood in terms of communion. For the priest, she was living at the time of her appointment; That is his availability. Let us remember the Curé of Ars who wanted to flee his parish!
The priest must also enter the Ministry of the Bishop, working with him and with his brothers priests. The pope says: "Our obedience is a way of believing with the church, of thinking and speaking with the church, of serving with it."
The whole life of the priest is prayer; Mass is the center, but there is also the fact of staying with Christ. "The priest who prays very much, and who prays well, is gradually expropriated of himself and ever more united to Jesus the Good Shepherd and servant of his brethren." Saint Charles Borromeo said: "Thou wilt not heal the soul of others if you let yours wither..." You must have time for yourself to be with God. " The priest must repeat it constantly, especially if he has to run everywhere! It is through these times of prayer that the priest will be close to the wounded humanity. As Benedict XVI says: "The priest enters as Christ in human misery, the door with him, goes to the suffering people, takes care of it..." »
Yes "compassion for the priest is the mercy of which he is the witness in his own existence before he is the minister for others." What a beautiful call to holiness! When the pope speaks to the seminarians, it is to tell them the demands of the priesthood. This time of formation must be "years of inner silence, of permanent prayer, of assiduous study... and he continues: we must be saints to avoid the contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we want to signify."
We know that the seminarians are the first apostles of the vocation, and that is why Benedict XVI reminds them "that a life deeply rooted in Christ will truly show itself as a novelty and draw with force those who seek Truly God, truth and justice. »
When Benedict XVI announced that he was now withdrawing from the silence of a retreat, it was a real blow of thunder! Some found it courageous, others thought it was fleeing! It was an act of humility and poverty as he himself preached to the priests. This choice was for the good of the church.
Do not believe that Benedict XVI is no longer doing anything in his monastery located in the Vatican Gardens. He has a beautiful mission, that of carrying the church in his prayer. No doubt he receives, not to speak of Pope Francis, but to share his theological and exegetical research.
Everything he told us about the priesthood, he saw himself in silence. On the day of his first Mass as Peter's successor he said: Right now, I don't need to present a government program... My true program of government is not to do my will, not to pursue my ideas, but, with the church, to listen to the word and the will of the Lord, and to let me be guided by him. »
By withdrawing, he told the Cardinals that it was the fruit of his prayer that it was the will of God that he had discerned.
That in his monastery, so close to Pope Francis, he continues to exercise his priestly ministry and that he continues to pray that there are priests according to the heart of Christ, since such was his teaching to the priests of the whole world.