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Priests must anoint others with oil of gladness, Pope reflects

Vatican City, Apr 17, 2014 / 04:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily given during the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis spoke on the joy of the priestly vocation, saying a cleric “is useless” unless his happiness is found in the grace of God.

“Anointed with the oil of gladness so as to anoint others with the oil of gladness,” the pontiff said April 17, noting that priestly joy “is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God.”

Pope Francis made his remarks on the priesthood during the morning’s Chrism Mass, which takes place in the Catholic Church each year on Holy Thursday and involves the blessing of oils used for the sacraments of Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick.

Highlighting how priestly joy has its source in the Father’s love, Pope Francis said that “I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that (the) priest is very little indeed: the incomparable grandeur of the gift granted us for the ministry sets us among the least of men.”

“The priest is the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians unless the Good Shepherd strengthens him in the midst of the flock,” the Pope continued, adding that “No one is more ‘little’ than a priest left to his own devices.”

Encouraging priests to seek the protection of Mary and to echo her words in the Gospel, saying “I am a priest because he has regarded my littleness,” he explained that “in that littleness we find our joy.”

Drawing attention to three important characteristics of this joy, the pontiff observed that it is a gladness that anoints, is imperishable and is also missionary.

On the anointing, the Pope reflected that this joy “has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally.”

Through all the signs and actions performed during the rite of ordination, he added, “Grace fills us to the brim and overflows, fully, abundantly and entirely in each priest.”

“We are anointed down to our very bones…and our joy, which wells up from deep within, is the echo of this anointing.”

Turning to the imperishable quality of this gladness, the Pope explained that the fullness of this gift is something “which no one can take away or increase,” and “is an unfailing source of joy.”

“It can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles, yet deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed,” he continued.

Highlighting the missionary quality of priestly joy, Pope Francis emphasized that it “is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy,” adding that “Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people,” to baptize, bless, comfort and evangelize them.

The Bishop of Rome pointed out that since this joy “only springs up when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock,” it is a “guarded joy” which is “watched over by the flock itself.”

“Even in those gloomy moments when everything looks dark and a feeling of isolation takes hold of us, in those moments of listlessness and boredom which at times overcome us in our priestly life (and which I too have experienced), even in those moments God’s people are able to ‘guard’ that joy,” he stated.

Pope Francis then alluded to three “sisters” of this guarded joy who “surround it, tend it and defend it,” revealing that they are “sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience.”

“Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to poverty,” he observed, noting that “the priest is poor in terms of purely human joy. He has given up so much! And because he is poor, he, who gives so much to others, has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people.”

On how the priest does not need to create this joy for himself, the pontiff expressed that it is found in his belonging to God and to his holy people.

“The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than ‘exit’ signs,” the Pope continued, “signs that say: exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you.”

“Unless you ‘exit’ from yourself, the oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful,” he explained, stating that “going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty.”

Moving on to the theme of fidelity, the Pope highlighted that priestly joy is also a “sister to fidelity,” but “Not primarily in the sense that we are all ‘immaculate,’ for we are sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church.”

Whenever the priest “does all that he has to do and lets go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord has entrusted to him,” his mission will bring him joy.

Calling attention to obedience as a sister to this priestly joy, Pope Francis stated that it is “An obedience to the Church in the hierarchy which gives us, as it were, not simply the external framework for our obedience…but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood.”

“It is likewise an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always and as best I can,” he went on to say, noting that through obedience “Wherever God’s people have desires or needs, there is the priest, who knows how to listen and feels a loving mandate from Christ who sends him to relieve that need with mercy.”

“All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world,” he added, highlighting that “it is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus” that is true.

Pope Francis then prayed that “on this priestly Thursday” Jesus would enable “many young people to discover that burning zeal which joy kindles in our hearts as soon as we have the stroke of boldness needed to respond willingly to his call.”

He also prayed that the Lord would preserve the joy “sparkling in the eyes of the recently ordained who go forth to devour the world,” and to confirm the joy “of those who have already ministered for some years,” especially those who “bear the burden of the ministry” and who “having experienced the labors of the apostolate, gather their strength and rearm themselves.”

Concluding his homily, the Roman Pontiff also prayed that Jesus “make better known the joy of elderly priests, whether healthy or infirm,” adding that “It is the joy of the Cross, which springs from the knowledge that we possess an imperishable treasure in perishable earthen vessels.”

“May these priests find happiness wherever they are; may they experience already, in the passage of the years, a taste of eternity,” he asked.

And “may they know the joy of handing on the torch, the joy of seeing new generations of their spiritual children, and of hailing the promises from afar, smiling and at peace, in that hope which does not disappoint.”

John XXIII, John Paul II linked by love of dialogue with world

Vatican City, Apr 17, 2014 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- John XXIII and John Paul II, who will be canonized April 27, are “bound together” by their love for addressing the world in conversation, a cardinal who worked with them both has said….

Meditations for Good Friday’s Via Crucis Led by Pope Francis

Here are the texts of the meditations for Good Friday’s Way of the Cross, which will be led by Pope Francis at the Colosseum. The texts were written by Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano. * * *
INTRODUCTION
He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is tr…

U.K. Should be Unashamedly ‘Evangelical’ About Its Christian Faith, Says British Prime Minister

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has said the United Kingdom should be unashamedly “evangelical” about its Christian faith and actively give churches and other faith groups a greater role in society. Writing in today’s edition of the Anglican ‘Church Times’, Cameron said he had experienced the “healing powe…

The Loss of Mystery and the Loss of Childhood

In the aftermath of the sexual revolution of 1960s — which espoused sex education, the contraceptive mentality, no-fault divorce, and legalized abortion on demand — an anti-life and anti-child philosophy has prevailed over much of Western civilization, where European nations are barely replacing their populations o…

Pope’s Homily At Chrism Mass

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s homily at this morning’s Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. * * *
Dear Brother Priests,
In the eternal “today” of Holy Thursday, when Christ showed his love for us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1), we recall the happy day of the institution of the priesthood, as well as …

Colo. parish looks to John Paul II in family-focused initiative

Denver, Colo., Apr 16, 2014 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Blessed John Paul II’s life and teachings on family and marriage are still bearing fruit, say members of one Colorado parish that has launched a family-friendly initiative inspired by the late Pope’s example.

Pope John Paul II taught that “the Christian family is a ‘locus theologicus,’ a place where we can understand the mystery of God,” Father Luis Granados of Saint Mary Parish in Littleton, Colo., explained in a recent interview with CNA.

“As a priest, I look at spouses loving each other and loving their children and I understand a lot about God’s mercy, God’s faithfulness, God’s sacrifice,” he said. “The families are better than many books of philosophy and theology.”

Saint Mary’s is in the middle of a 12-month initiative titled “Toward a Family-Friendly Parish,” which launched in October 2013.

The program is divided into 12 monthly topics that delve into God’s plan for the family. On the first weekend of each month, the priest at each Mass introduces the topic, and parishioners receive a guide to exploring the topic at home during the weeks to follow. The guide includes a visual image, a proposed family project, and a song and psalm for weekly family prayer.

Parishioner Julie Hecker told CNA that February’s topic of “Fruitfulness” particularly affected her. The month’s challenges included creating a photo slideshow of your family.

Hecker says many of the family pictures she rediscovered for the project showed her family’s involvement in the sacraments and the parish.

“(The project) revealed just how important the Church has been in our lives,” she reflected.

Her husband, Michael, says the first month’s theme of “Family Tree” had a special impact on him. That month’s activities included a short song called “Magnificat,” which he sang together with his wife and their children.

“I can’t help but smile when I hear my 6-year-old and 3-year-old singing it when they think no one is listening,” he reflected. “It is a song that connects my high school kids, middle school child, grade school kids and toddler together.”

During that first month, the Heckers also sang that song with their parish. Michael says the experience taught him to consider his fellow parishioners as extended family.

“Over the past few months my concept of family has changed,” Hecker said. “I still have my nucleus family, but I have grown to look at and love all in our parish as part of my ‘extended’ family.”

Longtime parishioner Thomas Buelt says he has also noticed this transformation of the parish community into a family – even in the early months of the program.

“The real change, I have noticed, in those who participate, is the desire and action to incorporate the extended family to the program,” Buelt said. “It inspires the entire St. Mary Community to view your fellow parishioner as a family member, and in turn allows each member to transfigure their relationships.”

Specific community-building efforts include Family Movie Nights and Discipleship Nights, where parishioners share their testimonies and receive catechesis.

Fr. Granados says the initiative also aims to build relationships between priests and families, an effort he says is at the core of the new evangelization.

“The new evangelization will come through the personal relationship between the priest and the spouses: the reciprocal gratitude for their fidelity: ‘Thank you for your priesthood.’ ‘Thank you for your marriage’,” Fr. Granados explained.

“This is not a matter of programs, plans, theories – even family-friendly theories. The point of our ‘program’ is to foster this relationship and connection between the priests and the families that will help both parts to grow in the faithfulness of their vocation.”

He added that John Paul II is the model of this goal, pointing to a parish in St. Florian, Poland, as one of the first implementations of this family-based concept.

“There was no explicit ‘program,’ but there was the life of the priest and the lives of the young adults and families,” he said.

The image for St. Mary’s entire “Toward a Family-Friendly Parish” initiative is an icon of Christ sharing a meal with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Parishioners were invited to hang the icon of Bethany in their homes. The image is part of the parish’s efforts to emphasize the inclusion of all members, even those who may not currently be married or raising children.

“We needed to remember that not only do the family members have an age, but the family as a whole unit has an age as well,” Fr. Granados explained. “Every family experiences very different stages of life and progress in the path of holiness accordingly.”

He said the initiative aims to include widowed parishioners as well as single people and those who are divorced.

“When we touch the family, we touch every person at every time of life: the child, the young adult, the widow, the sick, the poor, the divorced, or the priest,” he said.

In this way, the program does not detract from or compete with other programs at the parish.

“If the family is the path of the Church, then it is the path of the parish, the center of its mission,” Fr. Granados said. “Any department in the parish should be family oriented. If we help the sick, we will try to heal his or her relationships with the family. If we have a wonderful food bank, we need to consider the poverty of being without relationships – loneliness.”

“To consider the family as (simply) another ‘sector’ of the ministry is to forget the way God has chosen to come to us,” Fr. Granados said. “God came to us in the Holy Family of Nazareth and comes to us through the sacrament of marriage.”

During one month of the initiative, parishioners were invited to reflect on outreach, specifically to widows and orphans.

Parishioners Tim and Angela Urban say this challenge particularly affected them.

“(It) challenged us to look outside our family, to treat all members of the parish as family and to be more attentive to who might be needing our family’s help,” they said. “We realize what a gift family is and sharing it with others has been a blessing for us and our children.”

Fr. Granados’ Spain-based community, the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, also has a parish in Virginia, but Saint Mary’s is the first to host the “Towards a Family-Friendly Parish” program. Fr. Granados says the order hopes to spread the program to its school in Madrid next year.

New English discernment house hopes to help vocations flourish

Manchester, United Kingdom, Apr 16, 2014 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, has announced plans for a house of discernment for potential priests, emphasizing the need for “a renewed love for the priesthood.&rd…

Pope is bringing human trafficking into public eye, ambassador says

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2014 / 12:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis is contributing to the fight against human trafficking by making the matter a frequent point of public discourse, says a U.S. ambassador who specializes in the subject.
 
Luis …

Denver archbishop rallies Coloradans against ‘extreme’ abortion bill

Denver, Colo., Apr 16, 2014 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Denver on April 15 rallied opposition to a Colorado bill he says is “both extreme and dangerously ambiguous” in its ban on all abortion regulations and other pro-lif…

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