Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung sik, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy

Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung sik, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy Photo: Vatican News

Letter of the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy to All Priests: Importance of the Human Dimension and Emotional Maturity

The letter focuses on the importance of the human dimension and emotional maturity in the life of a priest.

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 09.06.2024).- On the occasion of the “Day of Priestly Sanctification,” which the Catholic Church has observed every year since 1995 on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung sik, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, published a letter to all priests worldwide. The letter focuses on the importance of the human dimension and emotional maturity in the life of a priest.

Here is ZENIT’s translation of the letter into English.

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Dear Brother Priests,

On this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we celebrate the Day of Priestl Sanctification. This beautiful annual appointment, which every particular Church is invited to celebrate in communion and reciprocity of prayer, disposes us to implore from the Lord the gift of holy Pastors, according to His Heart. It is a day of prayer suggested by the Dicastery for the Clergy (formerly Congregation) and instituted on March 25, 1995 by Saint John Paul II, so that the prayer offered for the sanctification of priests may obtain as reflection the gift of sanctity of all the People of God, to which their ministry is ordered.

Last February, addressing the participants in the International Conference for the Permanent Formation of Priests, with the theme “Revive the Gift of God That Is in You” (2 Timothy 1:6), at a given moment Pope Francis asked us priests to take care especially of our humanity: a beautiful and urgent challenge, to preserve the freshness of our ministry and to be increasingly “bridge and not obstacle” (PDV, 43) for the encounter with Christ, transparency and reflection of His saving humanity.

Much has been said and written about the importance of the human dimension and emotional maturity in the life of the priest; we are also conscious of the many signs of fragility that are manifested in this ambit. In all ecclesial and social contexts the observations are numerous of the lack of education of sentiments and emotions, as well as the presence of emotional and anaffective illiteracy; some speak of a globalization of indifference, of growing cynicism, together with narcissism and self-referentiality.

Instead, we all know from experience, on the contrary, how it is a source of joy to be able to live fully our humanity and our relationships, perfuming them with love, gratitude, beauty, truth, goodness and authenticity, spirituality,

art, music and poetry, all fruits of the work of the Spirit of the Resurrected One, which blows where it wills and always arouses amazement, wonder and delight, a charge of confidence and hope.

However, how can we take care of our humanity to also contribute to bearing fruit thus, if it’s not turning once again to Jesus and His Gospel? Aa Vatican Council II reminds us, we know that Jesus “loved with a human heart” (GS, r41). Precisely in the link between the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and this Day, we want to find the motivation to revive the gift of God that is among us, asking for the grace to interiorize increasingly in ourselves and in our way of life, the same sentiments of the heart of Christ. In fact, as Pope Francis has reminded us, these are the true and effective contribution to a new humanism (cf. 2015 Florence Convention), the antidote against the dehumanization that can also infect us.

Every day we experience how our heart suffers a division in its interior (GS, 10), so that each one of us can say with Saint Paul ”I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Our heart is fragile and complicated, but beautiful . . .  It’s a battlefield, a “mixture” of clay and spirit, guardian of infinite desires and icon of the limitation to sclerosis, but at the same time a place where we feel the immense love with which it is flooded  and of which it is capable, which has as its ultimate source God Himself, Trinity of Love. Yes, because it is God who has shaped our heart, has created and recreated it, pouring His love into it through the Spirit, so that it is an image of the Heart of His Son, able to love according to the same height, breadth and depth (Ephesians 3:18-19), to the point of being able to say: I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives and loves in me (cf. Galatians 2:20), with the same measure of His love: measureless love (Saint Augustine).

Hence, our human heart itself is the place where Christ wants to continue coming, dwelling, beating until letting itself be pierced with love and by love, in imitation of His. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Christ is a precious occasion  to remember the misery and pettiness of our heart, but even more the infinite and regenerating mercy of the Heart of God manifested in the Heart of Jesus.

From this Heart we want to continue drawing the charity and generosity of the Shepherd that has the smell of a sheep, and who sets off to call and love each one by name, especially those that are lost, wounded and erring, so that all pasture free and happy in God’s field. It is in the heart of the pierced Heart where we want to take refuge to rediscover the confidence and tenacity of the Fisherman of Galilee that, after finding himself poor and unfruitful, with empty boats and nets, casts his heart into the deep trusting in Jesus’ Word. We want to incline our heads on the Master’s breast to obtain the strength and courage of the Prophet, who guards and cries out God’s dreams of making of humanity a family of sisters and brothers all, of bringing liberation and consolation to all, announcing the Good News to the poor and proclaiming a year of grace as pilgrims and witnesses of hope. And learning from Him meekness and humility, tenderness and compassion, that we want to continue engendering daughters and sons for God, as a mother and a father do, nourishing them with the bread of the Word, of the Eucharist and of Forgiveness until feeding them ourselves. We do not want to suede them from their sentiments of love and friendship, of goodness and sweetness, of respect and delicacy, but lead them to Him so that He grows and we decrease, giving freely because freely we have received, as singers and witnesses of new heavens and new earths.

Dear Brother Priests, to take care of our humanity we cannot but take recourse also with confidence to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother: we are certain of having in Her a very pure mirror in which to satisfy the yearning of a free heart, willing to listen and to put into practice her invitation “ “Do whatever He tells you” and we will become shepherds according to Christ’s Heart, immersed in the Father and in people.

Dear Brother Priests, dear brothers and sisters all, we want to implore the Lord of all goodness the gift of so many vocations to the ministerial priesthood and consecrated life for the Kingdom, of surrendered lives that are able to be a transparency of the holiness of God, joyful witnesses of the Father’s love and of Christ’s Heart, rich in mercy for every creature. Let us pray for all priests, take care of them and support them always with our affection and closeness.

Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester.

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