Tuesday 28 June 2011

The Joy of the Priesthood - as we would like to experience it.

Bishop Rey, wearing a small mitre used when travelling!

Mgr Dominique Rey ordained 15 new priests at La Castille on Sunday before a crowd of 3,000 of the faithful. As with last year, the ordinations had to take place outside to accommodate the numbers (the diocese of Frejus-Toulon does not boast a large cathedral). Among them was Sean Davidson, a deacon from the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist who attended the Adoratio Conference last week and, as one of his last diaconal acts, assisted the Holy Father at Mass and Benediction on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Congratulations and prayer for God's blessing upon them. Ad multos annos!

If you to to the bottom of this page, you can see a slideshow of photographs from the occasion.

The Bishop's homily focused on the joy of Priesthood. (My highlights.)

“Remain in my love…I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your
joy may be complete.” (Jn 15)
The Priest has to relive these words of the Gospel of John. The joy of the priest,
is to belong to Christ. The joy of identification to the priesthood of Christ, “high priest of the happiness which is to come”, to quote the words of Revelation.
This joy to follow the Christ all the way to the end, into the night, the Acts of the
Apostles testifies: “So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” (Acts 5:41) To the external resistance, results of indifference, of incomprehension, of persecutions, is added the suffering of love which, in us, is imperfect. The priest, more than all others, is confronted with his flesh, with the tragedy of this world which draws him away from God. But the joy of belonging to Christ guides us, not to stop at suffering, but by giving our consent, through suffering, to love all the way to the end. The challenge is often the shadow of the blessing.

“Later on, we will see that the moments of weakness were maybe the biggest moments of our lives” confided Cardinal Journet. We know that all ascending is nourished through pain which is overcome.

Yes, the priest experiences the joy of paternity at the same time as he is giving birth
within the difficulties, but also he knows the joy of fraternity. In the Acts of the
Apostles, the “see how they love one another” is expressed in this testimony, “The
disciples where filled with joy and the holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52). The joy of the agape, of fraternal life. The priest lives his ministry inserted into a presbyterium which surrounds the bishop and collaborates with his apostolic charge. The priest is sent to a community which did not choose him and which he did not choose. St Thomas Aquinas said that “joy is not a virtue which is separated from charity. It is the result or the effect of charity”. Interior joy expands with fraternal communion. In this world so often given to solitude and to being anonymous, to disenchantment and to the frenetic search of superficial happiness and to mirages, the priest is the testimony of true joy. The Apostle Paul himself called ministers of the Gospel “the servants of joy, charged to collaborate with our joy” (Cor 1:24). Community life, lived between priests, lived with the lay faithful, must teach us to never give up joy, but to otherwise nourish joy between us, and in giving up ourselves to deploy joy in the service of others. Our joy is to give happiness to others. “Don’t let anyone come to you and leave without being more joyful”, Mother Theresa asked of her sisters. Our joy, the joy of the communion of the saints, is, as in every Eucharistic procession on the day of Corpus Christi, is to walk together with the Lord, towards the Lord. The joy of serving our brothers and sisters unfolds the soul. God will have the corresponding space in our hearts which we allow for joy and service.

The joy of the priest is the daughter of hope. Let us remember the parable of the servant. “Blessed are the servants who, at his arrival, the Master will find at his service” (Mt. 25:45). This parable brings us into the grace of fidelity. At each mass, the sacramental coming of Christ pulls our joy into the joy of God, towards the glorious manifestation of Christ at the end of time. The beatitude of the priest is to be a witness of a promise which is being accomplished, for the world, at each Mass, the prelude to a definitive victory which is entrusted to our hope. Our salvation is not earned. The priest reminds the faithful that our salvation is given.

The mission of the priest, faced with skepticism, is to awaken us to worship, in union with the heavenly choirs and with all those who contemplate the glory of God, all those who call us into giving thanks; “Rejoice always” (1 Thes. 5:16) “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil. 4:4). The scriptures address these constant reminders to all Christians, but in particular to the priest. The priest is ordained “for the joy” of salvation, and it is to this joy that he brings order to the world, by revealing the author of this joy. His ministry is to place the world back in its rightful place, that is, within the orbit of God, to place God in the center of our lives so that all can acquire its form from him.

Dear brothers and sisters,
These 15 priests will be sent out to the service of your sanctification, in the service of the theological and missionary growth of your communities.
“Esteem” them (1 Thes. 5:13) for their commitment, for their ministry. It is the Lord who sends them to you.
Ask them to help you to grow in faith, and you will help them to root their trust in God.
Ask your priests for whatever you expect from Christ. Ask them to give you Christ, it is the best service which you can give to them.
Support their ministry through your faithful prayer, by your material and pastoral help, all the while accepting that “your” priests belong not only to you. They are also priests to the sheep who have gone astray.
Help them to live their fidelity to Christ and to the Church, their path to holiness, all the way to the end.
Help them to live their vows which they will take before you today: the choice of celibacy, a simplicity of evangelical life, obedience to the Church.
I offer to you their humanity. Do you remember what a priest is? I don’t ask you to place them on a pedestal, but to place upon them a gaze of faith and hope, for although priests, they undergo the same battles as you. I entrust them to you, for they haven’t founded a family, because you are their family.
And may the joy of this ordination span across their entire existence, may it become the joy of the Church. A joy that no one can take away from them.

You can read the whole of the homily here.

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