Priests


Priests - Pope Francis       

   
This morning I have the joy of celebrating my first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with affection, especially you, dear priests, who, like myself, today recall the day of your ordination.

The readings and the Psalm of our Mass speak of God’s “anointed ones”: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord. All three have this in common: the anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed… A fine image of this “being for” others can be found in the Psalm 133: “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (v. 2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.
The sacred robes of the High Priest are rich in symbolism. One such symbol is that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on the onyx stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, the ancestor of our present-day chasuble: six on the stone of the right shoulder-piece and six on that of the left (cf. Ex 28:6-14). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the breastplate (cf. Es 28:21). This means that the priest celebrates by carrying on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and bearing their names written in his heart. When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people, our saints and martyrs who are numerous in these times.
From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn now to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. My dear brothers, the ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter.
A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed: this is a clear proof. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me Father”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into a prayer of supplication, the supplication of the People of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes. It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood. But not even the disciples – future priests – see or understand: on the “existential outskirts”, they see only what is on the surface: the crowd pressing in on Jesus from all sides (cf. Lk 8:42). The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak.
We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live our priestly life going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.
The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, the people take the oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad – sad priests - in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with “the odour of the sheep”. This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odour of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.
Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.
Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.


https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/priests/21.04.13.jpg

Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.

It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.

After mature deliberation and prayer, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.

In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice.

Now, my dear brothers and sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy.  Remember your mothers, your grandmothers, your catechists, who gave you the word of God, the faith ... the gift of faith!  They transmitted to you this gift of faith.  Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practise what you teach.  Remember too that the word of God is not your property: it is the word of God.  And the Church is the custodian of the word of God.

In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God’s Church.

Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.

You will gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance.  Today I ask you in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful.  You will comfort the sick and the elderly with holy oil: do not hesitate to show tenderness towards the elderly. When you celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the world—remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ.  You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries.

Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.


Pope Francis  15.05.13  Holy Mass  Santa Marta   John 17: 11-19

Bishops and priests who succumb to the temptations of money and the vanity of careerism turn into wolves “who devour the flesh of their own sheep”. Anyone who, “takes the flesh of the sheep to eat it, exploit it or trade in it, and who is attached to money, becomes a miser and frequently also a simonist”. Or else he makes use of the wool for his own vanity, in order to boast”. 

Bishops and priests must pray not to give in to these “true and proper temptations”, but they need the prayers of the faithful too. 

(Jn 17:11-19), “keep them”, expresses a relationship of protection and love between God and the pastor and between the pastor and the people. This, is a message for us bishops and for priests and clergymen. They must care for their people and “be ready to sound the alarm when wolves are approaching”. Bishops and priests are not for themselves but for the people. “Do you always think of bishops and priests? We need your prayers.... We too are men and sinners... and are also tempted. What are the temptations of the bishop and the priest?” According to St Augustine these temptations are avarice and vanity. “When a priest takes the road of vanity he enters into the spirit of careerism and does great damage to the Church.... He boasts, he likes to be seen as high and mighty. And the people don’t like it! You see what our difficulties and our temptations are; so you should pray for us that we be humble, gentle, and at the service of the people.



Pope Francis  02.07.17   Angelus, St Peter's Square    Matthew 10: 37-42 

 
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s liturgy presents to us the last lines of the
missionary discourse in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew (cf. 10:37-42), by which Jesus instructs the 12 Apostles at the moment in which, for the first time, he sends them on mission to the villages of Galilee and Judea. In this final part, Jesus underscores two essential aspects for the life of a missionary disciple: the first, that his bond with Jesus is stronger than any other bond; the second, that the missionary brings not himself, but Jesus, and through Him the love of the heavenly Father. These two aspects are connected, because the more Jesus is at the centre of the heart and of the life of a disciple, the more this disciple is “transparent” to His presence. The two go hand in hand.

“He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me...” (v. 37), Jesus says. A father’s affection, a mother’s tenderness, the gentle friendship among brothers and sisters, all this, even while being very good and valid, cannot be placed before Christ. Not because he wants us to be heartless and ungrateful, but rather, on the contrary, because the condition of a disciple demands a priority relationship with the teacher. Any disciple, whether a layman or laywoman, a priest or a bishop: an all-absorbing relationship. Perhaps the first question that we must ask a Christian is: “Do you meet with Jesus? Do you pray to Jesus?”. The relationship. One could almost paraphrase the Book of Genesis: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to Jesus and the two shall become one (cf. Gen 2:24).

Those who allow themselves to be drawn into this bond of love and of life with the Lord Jesus become his representatives, his “ambassadors”, above all in the way of being, of living. To the point that Jesus himself, in sending his disciples on mission, says to them: “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Mt 10:40). It is important that the people be able to perceive that for that disciple Jesus is truly “the Lord”; He is truly the centre of his or her life, the everything of life.

It does not matter then if, as for every human being, he or she has limitations and even makes mistakes — as long as he or she has the humility to recognize them; the important thing is that they not have a duplicitous heart — and this is dangerous. I am a Christian; I am a disciple of Jesus; I am a priest; I am a bishop, but I have a duplicitous heart. No, this is not okay. One must not have a duplicitous heart, but a simple, cohesive heart; [one must] not keep one foot in two shoes, but be honest with oneself and with others. Duplicity is not Christian. This is why Jesus prays to the Father so that the disciples may not fall prey to the worldly spirit. You are either with Jesus, with the spirit of Jesus, or you are with the spirit of the world.

Here our experience as priests teaches us something very beautiful, something very important: it is precisely this welcoming of the holy, faithful People of God; it is precisely that “cup of cold water” (v. 42) that the Lord speaks of today in the Gospel, given with affectionate faith, which helps you to be a good
priest! There is a reciprocity in mission too: if you leave everything for Jesus, the people recognize the Lord in you; but at the same time it helps you to convert each day to him, so as to renew and purify yourself from compromises and to overcome temptations. The closer a priest is to the People of God, the closer will he feel to Jesus, and the closer a priest is to Jesus, the closer will he feel to the People of God.

The Virgin Mary felt in the first person what it means to love Jesus by separating herself from him, giv
ing new meaning to family ties, beginning with faith in him. With her maternal intercession, may she help us to be free and happy missionaries of the Gospel.



Pope Francis        18.09.18  Holy Mass  Santa Marta         Luke 7: 11-17
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Pastors imitate Jesus in being near to people, not near to the powerful or ideologues whom, “poison souls”.

What gave Jesus
authority,  was that “he spent most of his time on the road”, touching, embracing, listening and looking at the people in the eye. “He was near them”. This is what gave him authority.

Jesus taught the same thing that many others taught. It was how he taught that was different. Jesus was
meek, and did not cry out. He did not punish the people. He never trumpeted the fact that he was the Messiah or a Prophet. In the Gospel, when Jesus was not with people, he was with the Father praying. His meekness toward the Father was expressed when he visited the house of his Father which had become a shopping mall…. He was angry and threw everyone out. He did this because he loved the Father, because he was humble before the Father.

Jesus was overcome with
compassion for the widow. Jesus “thought with his heart”, which was not separated from his head. Then Jesus tenderly touches her and speaks to her, “Do not weep”. “This is the icon of the pastor”. The pastor “needs to have the power and authority that Jesus had, that humility, that meekness, that nearness, the capacity to be compassionate and tender.

it was also the people who yelled “crucify him”. Jesus then compassionately remained silent because “the people were deceived by the powerful”. His response was silence and prayer. Here the shepherd chooses silence when the “Great Accuser” accuses him through so many people. Jesus suffers, offers his life, and prays.

That prayer carried him even to the Cross, with strength; even there he had the capacity of drawing near to and healing the soul of the repentant thief.



Pope Francis 12.05.19  Priests

Dearest Brothers and Sisters,

Our sons have been called to the order of priests. It will do us all good to consider carefully the position to which they are to be promoted in the Church. It is true that the Lord Jesus is the High Priest of the New Testament and God has also made his entire people a royal priesthood in Christ. But Jesus Christ also chose some of his followers to carry out publicly in the Church a priestly ministry in his name on behalf of mankind, continuing his personal mission as Teacher, as Priest, as Shepherd.

Indeed, for this reason he was sent by the Father, and he in turn sent into the world the Apostles, and then the Bishops and their successors. Priests are co-workers of the order of Bishops, to whom they are joined in the priestly office and are called to serve the People of God.

After many years of reflection — their own reflection, the reflection of their superiors, of those who have accompanied them on this path —, they have presented themselves today so that I may confer on them the priestly Order.

They are called to be moulded into the likeness of Christ, the Supreme and Eternal Priest. By consecration, they will be made true priests of the New Testament, and in this role, sharing in the priesthood of their Bishop, to preach the Gospel, sustain God’s people, and preside at rites of worship, above all the celebration of the Lord’s sacrifice, that is, the Eucharist.

My beloved brothers and sons, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher. This is not a cultural association; it is not a union. You will participate in Christ’s ministry. Share with all mankind the Word of God you received with joy. And for this reason, read and meditate on the Word of the Lord, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach. You should never deliver a homily without much prayer, with the Bible in hand. Do not forget this.

Let the doctrine you teach be true nourishment for the People of God: when it comes from the heart and arises from prayer, it will be very fruitful. Let the example of your life attract the followers of Christ: men of prayer, men of sacrifice so that by word and action you may build up the House of God which is the Church. In the same way you must continue the sanctifying work of Christ. The spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be perfected through your ministry, united to Christ’s sacrifice, and through your hands be offered sacramentally on the altar in celebration of the Holy mysteries. Be attentive in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate. In memory of the Lord’s death and Resurrection, carry Christ’s death within you and walk with him in the newness of life.

The Lord wished to save us gratuitously. He himself said: “Freely give what you freely received”. The celebration of the Eucharist is the culmination of the Lord’s gratuitousness. Please do not soil it with petty interests.

When you baptize you will bring new men and women into the People of God. In the Sacrament of Penance, you will forgive sins in the name of God, of Christ and of the Church. And here, I ask you, please, never tire of being merciful. Merciful like the Father, as Jesus was merciful with us, with all of us. With holy oil you will relieve and console the sick. Idle away time visiting the sick and the invalid. You will celebrate the liturgy and offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day, praying not only for the People of God, but for the whole of humanity.

Remember that you are chosen from among mankind and appointed to act in their favour by attending to the things of God. Carry out the work of Christ’s ministry with genuine joy and love, with sincerity, seeking only to please God and not yourselves. Priestly joy is found only on this path, in trying to please God who elected us.

Finally conscious of sharing in the work of Christ, the head and Shepherd of the Church, and united with the Bishop and subject to him, seek to bring the faithful together into a unified family. These are the affinities proper to priests: close to God in prayer, close to the bishop who is your father, close to the presbytery, to other priests, as brothers, without excoriating each other [speaking ill of each other], and close to the People of God. Always keep in mind the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve and to seek out and rescue those who were lost.





Pope Francis         Letter to Priests 04.08.19

Pope Francis Letter to Priests 04.08.19

I write this letter not only to parish priests but to all of you, my brother priests, who have quietly “left all behind” in order to immerse yourselves in the daily life of your communities. Like the Curé of Ars, you serve “in the trenches”, bearing the burden of the day and the heat (cf. Mt 20:12), confronting an endless variety of situations in your effort to care for and accompany God’s people. I want to say a word to each of you who, often without fanfare and at personal cost, amid weariness, infirmity and sorrow, carry out your mission of service to God and to your people. Despite the hardships of the journey, you are writing the finest pages of the priestly life.







.




Pope Francis      19.09.19   Holy Mass, Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae), Rome          1 Timothy 4: 12-16    Luke 7: 36-50
Pope Francis  19.09.19  Santa Marta - Ministry

The ordained ministry is a gift which should be appreciated and shared.

Jesus offers this gift to deacons,
priests, and bishops so they might serve others.

I invite everyone and even myself to reflect upon St Paul's first letter to Timothy, todays first reading (1 Tim 4:12-16), focusing on the word "gift", on the ministry as a gift to be contemplated, following Paul's advice to the young disciple: "Do not neglect the gift you have".

It is not a job contract: ‘I have to do it’. The act of doing is in the second place. I must receive the gift and care for it, and from there flows all the rest: in contemplation of the gift. When we forget this, we appropriate the gift, and turn it into a function, then we lose the heart of ministry and lose Jesus’ gaze who looked upon us and said: ‘Follow me.’ Gratuitousness is lost. 

If we do not contemplate the gift we have received, all the deviations we can imagine are unleashed, from the most horrible – which are terrible – to the most mundane, which make us turn our ministry into being about us, rather than about the gratuitousness of the gift and about our love for He who gave us the gift of ministry.

A gift "which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the priests" (1 Tim 4: 14) and that applies to bishops and also to priests and deacons. It is important to contemplate ministry as a gift and not as a function. We do what we can, with good intentions, intelligence, and "even with a little cunning", but always taking care of the gift.

It is human to forget the centrality of a gift, as the Pharisee does in today’s Gospel (Lk 7:36-50) when he forgets several rules of hospitality as he welcomes Jesus to his table.

There was this man, a good man, a good Pharisee but he had forgotten the gift of courtesy, the gift of hospitality – which is also a gift. Gifts are always forgotten when there is some sort of self-interest involved, when I want to do this or that thing – always doing, doing… Yes, we priests must all do things, and our first task is to proclaim the Gospel, but we must take care of our centre, our source from which our mission flows, which is the gift we have freely received from the Lord.

May the Lord help us to care for this gift, to consider our ministry above all as a gift, then as service, so as not to ruin it and not to become entrepreneurs, businessmen and the many things that distance us from the contemplation of the gift and the Lord who gave us the gift of ministry.



Pope Francis   20.09.19    Holy Mass, Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae), Rome        1 Timothy 6: 2C-12
Pope Francis  20.19.19 Bishops, Priests, Deacons

In yesterdays' reading the Apostle Paul gives his advice to the young bishop Timothy. More advice to bishops is to be found in today’s reading.
Yesterday, at the heart of the message was the call to never neglect the gift of ordained ministry.
Today, the reflection focusses on things that weaken the ministerial life like money, gossip, chatter and silly discussions.

When a minister –
a priest, a deacon, a bishop – gives too much value to money", he attaches himself to the root of all evils, referring to today's reading in which Paul describes the love of money as the root of all evils (1Tim 6: 2C-12). "The devil enters from the pockets", is what the old ladies of my time used to say.

Not only bishops, but also priests and deacons, are called to be close.
There are four different ways that ordained ministers must be "close".

First of all, a bishop is a man who is close to God. The apostles invented deacons in order to better serve widows and orphans.
Peter, tells us that our duty – that is the duty of the apostles – is to pray and proclaim the Word.

The bishop’s first task is to pray: it gives us strength and awakens within us the awareness of this gift of the ordained ministry that must never be neglected.

Then second closeness for bishops is to be close to their priests, to their deacons and to their collaborators: the ones who are closest to them.
It is sad when a bishop forgets about his priests. It is sad to hear complaints from a priest who tells you: "I have called the bishop, but I need an appointment to say something to him, and the secretary has told me that everything is full up for three months. A bishop feels closeness to priests, if when he sees that a priest has called him today, he should call him back no later than tomorrow, because he has a right to know, to know that he has a father. Closeness to priests. The devil enters to divide the presbytery, to divide.
And when that happens, it leads to small groups who are divided by ideologies or by sympathies.

So, the third "closeness" of which I am speaking, is the need for closeness among priests themselves.

Finally the fourth is that of bishops and priests with the people of God.

In the second Letter, Paul tells Timothy not to forget his mother and his grandmother, meaning that he must not forget where he came from, where the Lord took him from. Do not forget your people, do not forget your roots! And now as a bishop and as a priest, we must always be close to the people of God.

When a bishop breaks away from the people of God he ends up in an atmosphere of ideologies that have nothing to do with ministry: he is not a minister, he is not a servant. He has forgotten the free gift that was given to him.

Let all of us ordained ministers not forget these four ways in which we must nurture "closeness": closeness to God, prayer, closeness of the bishop to his priests and of priest with the bishop; closeness of priests to each other and of bishops to each other; closeness to the people of God.

Do you pray for your priests, for the pastor, for the deputy pastor, or just criticize him? We must pray for priests and bishops, because all of us - the Pope is a bishop - we know how to preserve the gift - do not neglect this gift that has been given to us this closeness.