More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Year of the Priest

Sr. Jane Gaughan, IHM
IHM Center, Scranton, PA
January 21, 2010

Year of the Priest

Good evening!

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he says:   

“God has given me the grace to be a minister of Christ Jesus…with the priestly duty of preaching the Gospel.”

Yes God has!  Tonight we are here to celebrate the priesthood.  When I was in the novitiate we used to sing a hymn by Fr. Lucien Deiss.  It was called “Priestly People.”  The refrain went like this: “Priestly People, kingly people, God’s chosen people, sing praise to the Lord.”  

Yes we are a priestly people.  The whole Church is a priestly people.  Through our Baptism we all share in Christ’s priesthood – this is the common priesthood of the faithful.  There are two ways to participate in Christ’s priesthood:

  • the common or baptismal priesthood of the faithful
  • the ministerial priesthood of bishops and priests.

Msgr. David Bohr in his book entitled The Diocesan Priest: Consecrated and Sent says: “The ordained priesthood is at the service of the laity’s mission to live out their baptismal priesthood and evangelize the world to transform the world according to the Gospel.”  There is a relationship between the baptismal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood.

This evening you are invited to reflect on your baptismal priesthood and discern how God is calling you to live it out.  How will you participate in the priesthood of Christ?

As you know Pope Benedict XVI has named this year the Year of the Priest from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010.  Our bishop, Cardinal Justin Regali has said: “I invite everyone…to observe this Year of the Priest as a splendid opportunity to reflect on the gift of the priesthood of Jesus shared with his priests.  This gift belongs to the whole Church and it is for the whole Church.  

The Pope has declared St. John Vianney the universal Patron of Priests on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Cure of Ars.  John Vianney is one of my favorite saints.  As a young person I was so taken with his humility.  John Baptist Vianney was the son of a shepherd.  At the age of 20 he entered the seminary.  Then he went into the army and back to the seminary.  John had great difficulty with his studies, especially Latin. The Abbot Baley personally intervened in his behalf.  John was ordained for his goodness, not his knowledge.  Would that  that could be said of each of us!  John became the Cure of Ars, a 19th century parish priest who transformed the lives of villagers in France through his example of holiness, his celebration of the Mass, his teachings and his ability to touch people’s souls in the Sacrament of Penance. Toward the end of his life, he spent 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional.  St. John Vianney is the perfect patron of priests.  

Msgr. Bohr notes that there is a three-fold aspect to the priesthood:

  1. proclaiming the word
  2. celebrating the sacraments
  3. shepherding God’s people.

This calls for a diversity of gifts.  The priest preaches, celebrates and serves.  One of my priest friends uses the image of a bridge builder between the people and God.  The priest is a connection, a link, a companion.

As John Paul II reflected on the priesthood he said: “There is a need for heralds of the gospel who are experts in humanity, who have a profound knowledge of the heart of the present day humanity, participating in humanity’s joys and hopes, anguish and sadness, and who are at the same time contemplatives in love with God.”

I love the image of a herald of the Gospel and a contemplative in love with God.  The priest is at the service of his people.  He ministers to them at key moments in their lives.  

This Year of the Priest calls us to re-capture the treasure of the priesthood, to re-invigorate this ministry, to live out the priestly vocation with zeal and enthusiasm.  In order to do this we need to support, affirm and appreciate our priests.    

I see our role in this process is to MINISTER to the MINISTER.  I know we have and do and will continue to respond to this need.  I believe that as IHM’s we have a special call, gift, charism to journey with our brother priests.  

And now I invite you to spend a few minutes remembering priests who have profoundly touched your life…

  • The priest who baptized you.
  • The priest who heard your first confession.
  • The priest who gave you your First Communion.
  • The priests who have absolved you from your sins.
  • The priests who have celebrated Mass for you and given you Eucharist.
  • The priests who have taught you and instructed you.
  • The priests who have companioned you on your spiritual journey
  • The priests who have become your friends over the years.
  • The priest who will give you the anointing of the sick
  • And the priest who will say your funeral Mass and bury you…

Let us hold these priests in prayer for a moment.  

Our lives have been enveloped and interwoven by the ministry of priests and we are most grateful.  May God continue to bless them abundantly. And may they be heralds of the Gospel and contemplatives in love! 

I would like to close with a prayer from our late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

“O Lord of the harvest, your Word finds a home in our hearts, calls us to community, and invites us to generous service of the human family.  Bless with courage and spirit your priestly people, called to full participation in the one Body of Christ.  May many choose to respond in public service to your call offered in Jesus’ name.  Amen.