Priests Called This Lent to "Become What We Are"

Clergy Congregation Prefect Urges Identity Conversion

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2011 ( The prefect of the Congregation for Clergy says that Lent is a time of conversion for priests, a time for them to convert themselves to what they already are.

With this expression, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza is urging priests to a conversion of “identity” in his annual Lenten letter.

He explained: “Conversion, for us priests, above all else means to conform our lives more closely to the preaching that we offer daily to the faithful, becoming in this way ‘a piece of the living Gospel’ that everyone can read and accept. The foundation of that behavior is, without doubt, the conversion of our own identity: We must convert ourselves to that which we are!

“The identity, welcomed and received sacramentally in our wounded humanity, demands the progressive confirmation of our hearts, our minds, our behaviors to everything that we are in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd that has been sacramentally imprinted in us.”

Cardinal Piacenza invited priests to “enter into the mysteries that we celebrate,” particularly the Eucharist.

“It is in the Eucharist that the priest rediscovers his true identity,” he said. “It is in the celebration of the Divine Mysteries that one can catch sight of ‘how’ to be a shepherd and ‘what’ is necessary to truly serve each other.”

New evangelization

The 66-year-old cardinal reflected that a new evangelization also requires “new” priests.

“Not priests in the superficial sense, like every passing fashion, but in the sense of a heart profoundly renewed by every holy Mass, renewed by the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Priest and Good Shepherd,” he said.

Cardinal Piacenza stated that a particular urgency in this process is “the conversion from noise to silence, from the anxious need ‘to do’ to the desire to ‘remain’ with Jesus participating ever more consciously with his being.”

He went on to call priests to a conversion to communion and to daily participation in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And he emphasized the sacrament of confession.

The cardinal stated: “Christ made possible and efficacious our salvation with his perfect vicarious substitution. In the same way, every priest, alter Christus, is called, as were the great saints, to live firsthand the mystery of their substitution for the service of all especially in the faithful celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation.

“This sacrament is sought for ourselves and generously offered to everyone, along with spiritual direction, such that in the daily offering of our lives we make reparation for the sins of the world.”

Facing needs

Cardinal Piacenza acknowledged that sometimes priests experience great fatigue and the “feeling of being only a few before the needs of the Church.”

“However,” he said, “if we do not convert, we will always be less because only a renewed, converted, ‘new’ priest can become an instrument through which the Holy Spirit calls other new priests. To the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, we entrust this Lenten journey imploring from divine mercy that, based on the model of our Heavenly Mother, also our priestly heart will become a ‘Refugium peccatorum.'”

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