Exclusive to ZENIT, we publish below the full text of a letter to priests just released by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary. Cardinal Piacenza was until last year the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.
Gathered spiritually in the Cenacle with the Blessed Virgin Mary and in a spirit of intense ecclesial communion, let us relive the mystery of the “Red Easter”, the descent of the eternal Spirit of Love, who makes the Church alive and renews her unceasingly through the gift of grace with which the Lord has consecrated us for his service: the baptismal and the priestly seal.
Because the Sacrament of mercy is the door through which the Spirit breaths most effectively in history and guides its path, I would like to share a particular thought on the solemnity of Pentecost with all my brothers who exercise the ministry of Confessor and to all penitents, to assure them that they are daily in my prayers.
We know very well that, just as our new life is rooted in the mission of the Holy Spirit, so is the very identity of the Church and the vitality of her mission. In the wide “embrace” of Pentecost, the very person of Jesus, Risen and Ascended to Heaven, makes himself present until the end of time in all his disciples and, through them, by the working of the same Spirit, spreads out like a great sigh of mercy. Because of this divine working, the reality of the Person and the saving Love of Christ is no longer something “distant”, as if merely a thing to be imitated but that stays basically unreachable, or an “ideal role model” to follow without ever being able to attain it. On the contrary, this reality becomes the very root of our being, the new reality in which we live, that power of Love by which we are now “inhabited” and that asks that, in the course of the earthly pilgrimage, he might be able to act in the world through us.
We know, true and immediate as this is for every one of the faithful by virtue of Baptism, it is true for Priests in a particular way. For they have been introduced, not by their own merit but by grace, to a “level of being”, to an intimacy with the Lord, such as to become participants in the Love of his Heart, of his very work of salvation, so much so that the encounter with Christ comes about for the faithful in a real way through them. Priests have been constituted ministers of divine mercy and thus servants of the Divine Love and compassion of Christ.
For this reason, the Priest, object of mercy, cannot but be always a “man of mercy”.
His new being gives witness to it and the faithful and passionate exercise of the ministry becomes a continuous remembrance of it.
To be an expert of mercy, it is enough to “listen” to the working of the Spirit in ourselves and in the faithful; to “listen” to the gift of Pentecost that in Baptism has consecrated each one of us, and in priestly ordination the Confessors, and who renews us in each celebration of the Sacraments. This he does in a most particular way in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This Sacrament is, in fact, an ever new experience of the Holy Spirit in action both for the Priest and for the penitent.
For the penitent because sacramental pardoning represents a true and personal “Pentecost for the soul”, enlightened by his divine grace, purified by the blood of the Lamb sacrificed for us and adorned with every gift of grace, beginning with our renewed full communion with Jesus. For the priest, insofar as he is deeply united with Christ, the living “end” of each failing confessed by sinful man, because he becomes in the Sacrament the very thought of Christ by correcting, weighing, healing, and because, as he pronounces the words of absolution, he feels the sacramental seal and the personal identification with the Good Shepherd reviving in his heart through the working of the Spirit! What love is shown forth!
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Redeemer, to teach us to treasure and to make this reality remembered so that the splendour of the fire of Pentecost might be rekindled every anew; the fire of Love, the fire of mercy.