Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pope's response to the question of multiple-parish Pastors

In another Question/Answer session with His Holiness Pope Benedict on August 6, he was asked a particular question that is part of our Diocesan reality - priests with multiple parishes. The full session of the meeting in Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone can be found at this link. Here is the Question and response:

Fr Franz Pixner, dean at Kastelruth: Holy Father, I am Franz Pixner and I am the pastor of two large parishes. I myself, together with many of my confreres and lay persons, are concerned about the increasing burden of pastoral care caused by, for example, the pastoral units that are being created: the intense pressure of work, the lack of recognition, difficulties concerning the Magisterium, loneliness, the dwindling number of priests but also of communities of the faithful. Many people wonder what God is asking of us in this situation and how the Holy Spirit wishes to encourage us. In this context arise questions concerning, for example, the celibacy of priests, the ordination of viri probati to the priesthood, the involvement of charisms, particularly those of women, in pastoral care, making men and women collaborators trained in theology responsible for conferring Baptism and preaching homilies. The question is also asked how we priests, confronted by the new challenges, can help one another in a brotherly community, at the various levels of the diocese, diaconate and pastoral and parish unit. We ask you, Holy Father, to give us some good advice for all these questions. Thank you!

Pope Benedict XVI:

Dear dean, you have opened a whole series of questions that occupy and concern pastors and all of us in this age, and you certainly know that I cannot answer all of them here. I imagine that you will have repeated opportunities to consider them with your Bishop and we in turn we will speak of them at the Synod of Bishops. All of us, I believe stand in need of this dialogue with one another, of the dialogue of faith and responsibility, in order to find the straight narrow path in this era, full of difficult perspectives on faith and challenges for priests. No one has an instant recipe, we are all searching together.

With this reservation, I find myself together with all of you in the midst of this process of toil and interior struggle, I shall try to say a few words, precisely as part of a broader dialogue.

In my answer I would like to examine two fundamental aspects: on the one hand, the irreplaceableness of the priest, the meaning and the manner of the priestly ministry today; and on the other - and this is more obvious than it used to be - the multiplicity of charisms and the fact that all together they are Church, they build the Church and for this reason we must strive to reawaken charisms. We must foster this lively whole which in turn then also supports the priest. He supports others, others support him and only in this complex and variegated whole can the Church develop today and toward the future.

On the one hand, there will always be a need for the priest who is totally dedicated to the Lord and therefore totally dedicated to humanity. In the Old Testament there is the call to "sanctification" which more or less corresponds to what we mean today by "consecration", or even "priestly Ordination": something is delivered over to God and is therefore removed from the common sphere, it is given to him. Yet this means that it is now available for all. Since it has been taken and given to God, for this very reason it is now not isolated by being raised from the "for", to the "for all". I think that this can also be said of the Church's priesthood. It means on the one hand that we are consigned to the Lord, separated from ordinary life, but on the other, we are consigned to him because in this way we can belong to him totally and totally belong to others. I believe we must continuously seek to show this to young people - to those who are idealists, who want to do something for the whole - show them that precisely this "extraction from the common" means "consignment to the whole" and that this is an important way, the most important way, to serve our brethren. Part of this, moreover, is truly making oneself available to the Lord in the fullness of one's being and consequently, finding oneself totally available to men and women. I think celibacy is a fundamental expression of this totality and already, for this reason, an important reference in this world because it only has meaning if we truly believe in eternal life and if we believe that God involves us and that we can be for him.

Therefore, the priesthood is indispensable because in the Eucharist itself, originating in God, the Church is built; in the Sacrament of Penance purification is conferred; in the Sacrament, the priesthood is, precisely, an involvement in the "for" of Jesus Christ. However, I know well how difficult it is today - when a priest finds himself directing not only one easily managed parish but several parishes and pastoral units; when he must be available to give this or that advice, and so forth - how difficult it is to live such a life. I believe that in this situation it is important to have the courage to limit oneself and to be clear about deciding on priorities. A fundamental priority of priestly life is to be with the Lord and thus to have time for prayer. St Charles Borromeo always used to say: "You will not be able to care for the souls of others if you let your own perish. In the end you will no longer do anything even for others. You must always have time for being with God". I would therefore like to emphasize: whatever the demands that arise, it is a real priority to find every day, I would say, an hour to be in silence for the Lord and with the Lord, as the Church suggests we do with the breviary, with daily prayers, so as to continually enrich ourselves inwardly, to return - as I said in answering the first question - to within the reach of the Holy Spirit's breath. And to order priorities on this basis: I must learn to see what is truly essential, where my presence as a priest is indispensable and where I cannot delegate anyone else. And at the same time, I must humbly accept when there are many things I should do and where my presence is requested that I cannot manage because I know my limits. I think people understand this humility.

And I now must link the other aspect to this: knowing how to delegate, to get people to collaborate. I have the impression that people understand and also appreciate it when a priest is with God, when he is concerned with his office of being the person who prays for others: "we", they say, "cannot pray so much, you must do it for us: basically, it is your job, as it were, to be the one who prays for us". They want a priest who honestly endeavours to live with the Lord and then is available to men and women - the suffering, the dying, the sick, children, young people (I would say that they are the priorities) - but also who can distinguish between things that others do better than him, thereby making room for those gifts. I am thinking of Movements and of many other forms of collaboration in the parish. May all these things also be reflected upon in the diocese itself, new forms of collaboration should be created and interchanges encouraged. You rightly said that in this it is important to look beyond the parish to the diocesan community, indeed, to the community of the universal Church which in her turn must direct her gaze to see what is happening in the parish and what the consequences are for the individual priest.

You then touched on another point, very important in my eyes: priests, even if they live far apart are a true community of brothers who should support and help one another. In order not to drift into isolation, into loneliness with its sorrows, it is important for us to meet one another regularly. It will be the task of the diocese to establish how best to organize meetings for priests - today we have cars which make travelling easier - so that we can experience being together ever anew, learn from one another, mutually correct and help one another, cheer one another and comfort one another, so that in this communion of the presbyterate, together with the Bishop we can carry out our service to the local Church. Precisely: no priest is a priest on his own; we are a presbyterate and it is only in this communion with the Bishop that each one can carry out his service. Now, this beautiful communion recognized by all at the theological level, must also be expressed in practice in the ways identified by the local Church, and it must be extended because no Bishop is a Bishop on his own but only a Bishop in the College, in the great communion of Bishops. This is the communion we should always strive for. And I think that it is a particularly beautiful aspect of Catholicism: through the Primacy, which is not an absolute monarchy but a service of communion, that we may have the certainty of this unity. Thus in a large community with many voices, all together we make the great music of faith ring out in this world.

Let us pray the Lord to comfort us when we think we cannot manage any longer: let us support one another and then the Lord will help us to find the right paths together.

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last week's Gospel include Peter's proclamation that Jesus is the Son of the Most high, the Messiah. This week, our Gospel includes Jesus telling them what He as the messiah most do to bring salvation. Peter holds strong to his perception, and finds a reprimand. No, the Messiah most suffer, die, and rise. Peter is think by worldly standards, not by God's. In the second reading this weekend, we hear Paul telling the Romans that they (and we) must be about the transformation of our minds and the sacrifice of our bodies, to discern the will of God.

Discernment, therefore, requires the offering of our bodies and allowing the transformation of our minds. We allow God to be God, and cooperate with His action in our lives.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good Homilies Have 2 Prerequisites

In a post at ZENIT, Father Dario ViganĂ², director of "Cinema" and president of Ente dello Spettacolo, an Italian foundation dedicated to the cinema, as well as president of the Redemptor Hominis Pontifical Institute at the Pontifical Lateran University, spoke with L'Osservatore Romano about the recipe for a good homily. While there are different styles and methods, he contends there are two basics that make a homily 'good': the consistency of the preacher's life and the brevity and concreteness of the message.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Who is Jesus Christ? Is he just a man, or is He God-made-flesh, dwelling among us? When we can answer the question (even if it is only a start of an answer), we can move forward to serve Him as He deserves. If we see him as a nothing more than a teacher, a leader, a revolutionary, or such, we might be tempted to simply follow whatever aspect. But if we know him to be Lord and Savior, we are more apt to give Him our life!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Resources

We are adding to our resources made available to download. Please See our rooster of seminarians, as well as the list of young women discerning religious life. Also available is the newest prayer folder to print off. This lists a priest or pastoral administrator as well as a seminarian for every day for the next 6 months. Note that it should be printed off on 8.5 x 14 Paper and folded in half. It can be folded again and fits well into your Liturgy of the Hours book (hint, hint).

Prayers for Butch Hendrickson

We are asking for your prayers for one of seminarians, Butch Hendrickson. He had an accident water tubing last week and broke his nose. In the surgery to correct it, they discovered that he has also fractured his skull onto his sinus cavity. He will need further surgery, and additional time to heal and recover.

Yet Another Seminarian

We are pleased to publicly announce that we have accepted another young man as candidates for the seminary. Samuel Wagner will be in pre-Theology at St. Paul Seminary. He is from Sleepy Eye. This brings our total seminarians to 10! May God bless us with more!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Lord's ministry, there were people that He seemed to 'lead on', as in this Sunday's Gospel. This pagan women comes begging for help, and he feigns disinterest, unwillingness, and general contempt. He tells her that is is wrong to give her what she wants when there are so many Jews who need Him, but does so in analogy - it is wrong to throw the food out to the dogs while the children are still eating. She respectfully admits that she is not worthy of His help, but that even an indoor dog will accept the scraps that are given to it. Jesus sees that she is sincere with her faith, and grants her request, complimenting her on her deep faith.

In our prayer, we might feel like the Lord is not listening, that He is putting us off. We might need to consider are we asking for something that is good and holy, and if so, are we being persistent? The Lord does answer sincere prayers. Some are: Help me to know You. Show me where I can serve you. In the Sacraments, He hears and responds to the prayer, give me strength, forgive me, renew my heart... Let us be persistent in asking, but always aware that we are made worthy by the the Lord.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, we hear the episode of Peter strolling on the water with Jesus. He musters the courage to leave the boat behind, to get out on to the waves and to walk to Jesus. Everything goes well - until he realizes the waves and the wind. Only then does he start to fall. He cries out, and the Lord grasps him, chides him for his lack of faith. But they had to get back into the boat - how did they do that? They had to walk back, with Jesus beside him, Peter was able to walk again.

So often, we find it easy to walk wherever it is. It is really not our effort, but rather that our eyes are fixed on Christ. As long as we do, we will be alright. But when we take our eyes off of Him, when we focus on the things come at us instead of to Whom we are heading, we are destined to sink. We can cry out like Peter and the saints, "Lord, save me!", and He will. He will grasp us by the hand, pull us onto the waves, and take us for a walk. That is where we need to be. There is no comfort like being in the arms of our Lord, walking with Him.

May we continue to walk with Him in the discernment of our vocations. May He speak to us what plans He has for us.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Jesus meets all human needs. While we say that, we might ask how. When He looks at us with the same mercy that He had with the crowds of His day, does He see our hunger, too? How does He meet this hunger? In the multiplication of loaves, He shows us.

He meets our needs through the Eucharist, when He takes our bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it back to his disciples (the priest) who give it to the people.

We cannot so easily dismiss this miracle without destroying our understanding of the Eucharist as Catholics. Let us remember, Christ is still multiplying the loaves in our own day, but now through the hands of the priest, taking the offering of the people of God, and making it His Body and Blood!