Last week in Rome there were a number of events for the closing of the Year of the Priest.  Pope Benedict XVI spent some time with priests where he had a question and answer session.  The following question and his answer spoke strongly to me:

“Asked by a Brazilian priest how pastors must face the difficulties they encounter in their ministry, the Pope recognised that “today it is very difficult to be a pastor, especially in countries where Christianity is a faith of ancient standing. Parishes become ever larger, … and it is impossible to know everyone, impossible to do everything that is expected of a pastor”. In this context he underlined the importance of the faithful “seeing that the priest does not just do a job, with so many hours of work after which he is free and lives for himself, but that he is a man impassioned by Christ. … To be filled with the joy of the Gospel with all our being is the main condition”, to which must be added “three fundamental priorities: the Eucharistic and the Sacraments, … announcement of the Word and … Caritas, the love of Christ”. Another priority “is the personal relationship with Christ. … Prayer is not a marginal aspect. It is the priest’s ‘profession’ to pray, also in representation of those people who do not know how to pray or do not find the time to pray. Individual prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours, is fundamental nourishment for our souls, for all our activity”.

Wow, he hit the target right in the middle.  I don’t know how he could have answered this question any better.  It inspires me to really pray for priests each day that they may put first things first in their busy lives.  I remember a pastor my wife worked for saw his job as a priest as a 40 hour work week.  This is not a proper understanding of the mission/calling/role of a priest.  May our prayers continually draw them to Christ as they seek to draw their flocks to Christ.
Later, Pope Benedict was asked a question  by an Australian priest about what could be done regarding the decline in vocations.  He gives great insight to how we should respond:

“There is a great temptation”, the Holy Father replied, “to transform the priesthood – the Sacrament of Christ – into a normal profession, into a job that has its working hours, … thus making it like any other vocation, making it accessible and easy. Yet this temptation does not resolve the problem. … As the Lord invites us, we must pray to God, knock at the door, at the heart of God, that He may give us vocations, pray insistently and with great determination and conviction, because God does not close Himself to insistent, incessant and trusting prayer, even if He lets us wait …. longer that we expect”. Moreover, “each of us must do everything we can to live our own priesthood convincingly”. We must invite people to pray, “to have this humility, this trust in speaking with God forcefully and decisively. And we must “have the courage to speak to the young if they think that God is calling them and, … above all, help them to find a life context in which to live their vocation”.
Is is me or does the Holy Spirit really seem to be working powerfully through Pope Benedict XVI’s words?  Praise God!

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