Year for Priests

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In March, Pope Benedict XVI announced a special "Year for Priests" to begin on June 19 2009. On Wednesday of this week there will be a convocation of priests in the Archdiocese of Boston which will anticipate the beginning of this year of prayer. I will be posting occasionally on this theme in the months ahead.

Here's a report of the papal announcement made in March:
VATICAN CITY, 16 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received members of the Congregation for the Clergy, who are currently celebrating their plenary assembly on the theme: "The missionary identity of priests in the Church as an intrinsic dimension of the exercise of the 'tre munera'".

"The missionary dimension of a priest arises from his sacramental configuration to Christ the Head", said the Pope. This involves "total adherence to what ecclesial tradition has identified as 'apostolica vivendi forma', which consists in participation ... in that 'new way of life' which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the Apostles made their own".

Benedict XVI highlighted the "indispensable struggle for moral perfection which must dwell in every truly priestly heart. In order to favor this tendency of priests towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends, I have", he said, "decided to call a special 'Year for Priests' which will run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010". This year marks "the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', Jean Marie Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock".

Benedict XVI stressed the need to "have care for the formation of candidates to the priesthood", a formation that must maintain "communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity. In this context, it is important to encourage priests, especially the young generations, to a correct reading of the texts of Vatican Council II, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance".

Priests must be "present, identifiable and recognizable - for their judgment of faith, personal virtues and attire - in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church's mission".

"The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of priestly ministry, without which there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church. It is necessary then, to ensure that 'new structures' or pastoral organizations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to 'do without' ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry".

(Here's the complete text of the pope's address to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome.)


  1. The Holy Father seems to be asking priests to look inward and to return to the essence of their vocation.

    I wonder if his call for priests to be identifiable in their attire will cause any priests in the Archdiocese to reconsider their style of dress. The last paragraph quoted above ("erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity") might not set well with the Voice of the Faithful set, since Benedict seems to be saying a dilution of priestly ministry would make the existing problems worse.

    And then there is his caution against "discontinuity" -- an implicit criticism of the "spirit of Vatican II."

    Irish Gal

  2. Irish Gal,
    Please explain why you think these comments might not set well with the "Voice of the Faithful set". What is their position?

  3. Michael,
    Don't know whether you're local or not. Concord Pastor hosted a VOTF meeting this spring at his parish, at which some of the national organizers spoke... I recall the phrase "American Church." The state and local VOTF has hosted interesting characters not in communion with their bishops or the hierarchy (putting it mildly). You can search on this blog for Pat Gomez, another VOTF official, take on the role of women. Then, if you feel like doing research, look up the issues in Connecticut, including a legislative attempt to impose a pastoral council structure on Catholic churches. Read that, and consider: Is this in tune with Pope Benedict's call to faithfulness to tradition?

  4. Would you please explain what "tre munera" is. I read the pope's letter more than once and still don't understand what "tre munera" is.

    Thank you.


  5. I find the Holy Father's comments discouraging. I think that the people are the Church and the dilution of the priesthood, I would say, is not the fault of the people.

  6. tre is Latin for three;
    munera is the plural of the Latin munus which means "gift, present, office, spectacle, function, duty, tribute, service"

    In the pope's statement it means tre munera means "three functions or services" of a priest.

  7. Be not discouraged. When the pope declares a "year for priests" you can be sure that it will attract all manner of response.

    For some, any attention to ordained priests is read/understood as an infringement on the ministry, the priesthood of the laity. For others, any mention of the priesthood of the laity is read/understood as an infringement on the priesthood of the ordained.

    Let's get it straight: the priest hood of the laity and the priesthood of the ordained are just plain different! They are not the same. But to speak of one is not necessarily to criticize or diminish the other. In a quite sensible and logical fashion, the two kinds of priesthood in the Church share a common bond in Christ and in the service of the gospel.

  8. CP you say "...the priest hood of the laity and the priesthood of the ordained are just plain different! They are not the same. But to speak of one is not necessarily to criticize or diminish the other." and I say Amen.

    I think that it is essential to know and understand this, more importantly to live this.

    I often wonder if the priesthood of the people is fully understood by those of us who are in it as a result of our baptism.

    A clear understanding and expression of the priesthood of the people in my mind should underscore and support fully the priesthood of the ordained.

    As you said - one does not criticize or diminish the other.


  9. Irish Gal,
    I just read Cardinal Sean's blog for this week. He didn't seem to mind that at the Convocation most of the priests were not in "habit," as the pope called it.

    Also, there is a picture taken at the Hispanic Conference of Cardinal Sean and another bishop, who was dressed quite casually. They are both smiling.

    I think the important thing is for us to pray for our priests during this Year for Priests and not to worry too much about their wardrobes.


  10. Just a response to Anonymous' response to Michael relative to his/her reference to VOTF in Connecticut and the issue with the legislature: VOTF in CT supported the bishop in his opposition to the proposed legislation... VOTF had not proposed nor been instrumental in the judicial committee's proposal.

  11. Dear Rosemary,

    Exactly. One of the reasons that the archdiocese of Boston is still shattered in many respects. It seems to me members of Red Sox Nation are more eager to proclaim their allegiance to their "team" than religious are to theirs. Dress does make a difference: Go to court some day and observe the way people present themselves at hearings. Or look at the Susan Boyle video! Orders whose members wear a habit tend also to have higher numbers of vocations and a higher retain rate than not.

    We would be better off if everyone, especially our priests, listened to the Holy Father. Like members of a family, priests and religious owe respect to the opinion of their "Father."

  12. Anonymous ii -- Not exactly. The Bridgeport VOTF was vocally for it. And the man who introduced the legislation was associated with the VOTF in the state. See the American Papist blog for a history.

    Irish Gal

  13. This is a post about the pope's announcement of a year of prayer for and renewal of priests, with a link to his address to the Congregation for the Clergy.

    Unfortunately, it's quickly devolved intoto something fairly predictable with a mix of anonymous and identifiable readers going back and forth on tracks already covered here many, many times.

    I'm no longer playing host to such threads - they generate far more heat than light and give me a headache.

    There are other blogs where such threads might be welcome but no longer here.

    I just read several new blogs where anonymous comments are not allowed. I'm on the verge of that policy here.

    On this post, comments are closed.