Priests Aren't Immune to Temptation, Says Preacher

Meditations Published From Pope

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By Mirko Testa

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Speaking about the recent sexual abuse cases by clergy, Salesian Father Enrico dal Covolo noted that priests are not immune to temptations, and like the Apostles, they can fall.

The Salesian, who was selected to preach Benedict XVI’s annual spiritual exercises last February, spoke to ZENIT about the abuse scandals that have affected the Church recently.

“The figure of the angelic priest does not exist,” he said. There is no priest “who does not suffer temptations, falls; all is present in a dramatic way in the priest’s history.”

“Not even Jesus was exempt from trial, nor was Mary exempt from temptation,” noted the Salesian.

He added that temptation is part of the “pedagogy of God; it is a test of faith that makes the vocational call ripen.”

“Therefore,” Father dal Covolo said, “we must regard temptation not so much as a risk, but rather as a providential way.”

He underlined the “starting point,” which is “the grace of God, because the priestly vocation, as any other vocation, is in the first place an act of grace, of election by God.”

Gratuitous

“In the perspective of faith, no one calls himself,” the priest said. “God alone calls and it is he who, calling in a free and gratuitous way, also appreciates the one whom he is calling.”

In this sense, he added, the vocation of the Apostles represents “the most beautiful proof and best documentation: It is in fact the Lord himself who called them, who prepared them for the mission to which he sent them, though without taking away their liberty.”

“So much so that one of the Twelve is in fact the traitor,” Father dal Covolo continued. In the same way, there are “innumerable proofs of human weakness in the other eleven.”

“Therefore, it is not that priests, as the Apostles, are immune to temptations,” he affirmed. “They, in fact, are subject to the sad consequences of original sin.”

What saves us, the priest noted, “as we see in Peter’s life, is recourse to faith and to love of the One who calls.”

He explained, “What was decisive for Peter was the definitive answer: ‘Lord, you know that I love you.'”

“And from this stems the apostolic mission, that is: ‘feed my lambs,’ ‘feed my sheep,'” Father dal Covolo concluded.

Listening

The meditations that this priest preached for the seven-day retreat to the Pope and the Roman Curia are now compiled in an Italian-language book, “In ascolto dell’Altro” [Listening to the Other], published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The title refers to Solomon’s prayer for “a listening heart,” on which the priest meditated while developing his reflections.

Father dal Covolo stated, “Clearly, this is a fundamental point given the crisis of a culture that is increasingly incapable of listening to the Other, but also to the others who surround us, and in face of the temptation of self-centeredness, which is always lying in wait.”

In his preaching, he followed the methods of lectio divina, reviewing the stages of the biblical accounts of vocation: God’s call, the person’s response to the mission; doubt, temptations and fall; and finally God’s confirmation that brings peace.

The priest also spoke about some models of priestly sanctity: St. Augustine, Venerable Giuseppe Quadrio, Venerable Pope John Paul II, the tale by Georges Bernanos, “The Diary of a Country Priest,” and of course, the patron of the Year for Priests, St. John Vianney.

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