Cardinal to Priests: Strengthen Corporate Identity

Announces Confession Campaign for Priestly Year

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, JUNE 22, 2009 ( The archbishop of Boston is calling for a renewal of the priesthood by means of a stronger prayer life and a corporate sense of identity and mission.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley affirmed this earlier this month in a presbyteral convocation for the inauguration of the Year for Priests.

Nearly 400 priests attended the gathering to prepare for the year, which began Friday, marking the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars.

The cardinal highlighted the saint’s example, and his work in a situation that, «humanly speaking, seems impossible,» with the «indifference, hostility, cynicism in a post-French Revolution world where the culture had been turned upside down.»

The prelate added, «In many ways the state of crisis in the Church in his day parallels the challenging situation the Church faces in today’s world.»

He continued: «There were so very good mentors in John Vianney’s life, holy priests who reached out to help this rather lackluster cleric of limited abilities. The encouragement and good example of these holy priests set him on a path that led to his own transformation and that of his parish.»

Cardinal O’Malley added that these mentors are needed today as well, to help new priests learn their identity.

He also pointed out St. John Vianney’s love for the people he was sent to serve, «even when they didn’t like him, or were totally indifferent, or when they openly opposed him.»

«He knew instinctively that his principal task was to rescue the lost sheep who far outnumbered the saved ones,» the cardinal added.

Nor was the saint «driven by a desire for popularity,» he affirmed.


Cardinal O’Malley continued: «Part of the identity of a diocesan priest must be love for his people. Not a love that is self-seeking or narcissistic, but a love that translates into an overwhelming desire to help people know God and experience his love.

«A desire to help people lead a good life that will prepare them for eternal life by living a life of faith. Our faith is not baggage that burdens, but is a wing that lifts people up and leads to true happiness.»

He noted that the priestly celibacy «must be able to express our pastoral love.»

The cardinal explained: «For a diocesan priest, celibacy means a special fatherhood, a life-giving love for our people.

«As fathers make so many sacrifices to feed, clothe and educate their children so the priest, a spiritual father, makes countless sacrifices for the people God has entrusted to him to ensure their salvation.»

He announced a campaign that will take place during this priestly year called «Leaving the Lights On,» which will include having confessions available on Wednesday evenings during Advent and Lent, as well as a promotional program to prepare for the reconciliation.

It «will encourage our Catholic people to reconnect with this sacrament of the Lord’s mercy,» the cardinal explained, and as priests, «this sacrament must be a part of our own spiritual journey.»

Cardinal O’Malley expressed the hope that all priests will model the Curé d’Ars and Padre Pio in their love for the confessional «as the throne of God’s mercy and an expression of our own pastoral love for God’s people and our desire to see them live graced lives in God’s friendship.


He also encouraged the priests to follow St. John Vianney’s example as a «teacher of the faith,» and to take advantage of opportunities to «mentor new disciples in the faith.»

The cardinal continued: «Our own life of study, ongoing formation and personal reflection help equip us for this challenge.

«We must help people see how the various aspects of our faith are interconnected and how they flow from Christ, who is the Head of the Church.

«We must first help people to know Christ, to experience his love, and then the hard words of the Gospel become the yoke that is sweet and the burden that is light.»

He affirmed that the» role of piety and devotion in the life of the Church cannot be overlooked as we try to help people have a personal relationship with the Lord,» because a «religion that is too cerebral fails to touch people’s hearts.»

The prelate urged the priests to «commit more time to prayer,» to make a «game plan, a rule of life that ensures that we make time and space for God in our lives.»

He continued: «The breviary, daily Mass, some meditation should be the centerpiece of a priest’s spiritual life. Marian devotion and Eucharistic piety are also essential for the priest.

«Our yearly retreat and yearly check up with the doctor is the way we responsibly take care of ourselves. And to neglect either is an egregious mistake. I can think of nothing that could excuse one from these minimal kinds of self-help.»

Cardinal O’Malley encouraged a «return to the ancient theology of a presbyterate — an intimate sacramental brotherhood, which has been replaced by a strong notion of individual ministry.»

He continued: «We must develop a corporate sense of priestly identity and mission. We must become men of communion.»

The cardinal affirmed that «the more we become friends, and the more we become focused on Christ and on the mission of announcing the good news of building a civilization of love, the more Christ’s Church will flourish.»

He encouraged the priests to use this year to «repair our nets together — and prepare for the miraculous draught of fishes.»

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