.- In a letter to all of the episcopal conferences of the world to mark the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on May 30, the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has said that the priestly vocation can only be lived with radical commitment.
In his letter, the cardinal said, “As we celebrate the Day of Prayer for the sanctification of priests, which coincides with the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I wish to point out the priority of prayer with respect to our actions, namely that the efficacy of our work depends on it. The mission of the Church depends in large measure on the personal relationship of each one of us with the Lord Jesus. Therefore, the mission must be nourished by prayer.”
Cardinal Hummes said, “The most authentic dimension of our priesthood is begging: simple and continuous petition. One learns through silent prayer, which has always characterized the lives of the saints; we must ask for it with insistence.”
“The only adequate means to living our holy vocation is radicalism,” the cardinal continued, adding that “this complete surrender, with complete awareness of our infidelity, can only take place as a prayerful and repeated decision which Christ later fulfills day after day. Even the gift of priestly celibacy must be welcomed and lived in this dimension of radicalism and in complete configuration to Christ. Any other position, regarding the reality of our relationship with Him, runs the risk of being ideological,” he said.
Cardinal Hummes also warned priests that their excessive workloads should lead them to “care for our priestly identity with greater attention.” The “peculiar conditions of priestly ministry” should lead to a deeper spiritual life, thus bearing greater witness to the fact that priests belong “exclusively to the Lord.”
“Dear brothers,” the letter continued, “let us be faithful to the daily celebration of the holy Eucharist, not only to fulfill our pastoral duty or because our parish community demands it, but because of the absolute personal necessity that we have for it, like our breathing, the light of our life, the only adequate reason for a total priestly life.”
The cardinal went on to remind priests that their parishes are not a “distraction” from their own lives but rather “the face of Christ that we contemplate each day, as the face of the beloved to her spouse, as Christ is to the Church, His spouse. The people entrusted to us are the essential path to our own sanctification, that is, the path in which Christ manifests the glory of the Father through us.”
He also encouraged all priests to foster an intense closeness to Mary. “Our relationship with her cannot be reduced to a pious practice of devotion, but rather must be nourished by continuously abandoning to the arms of the Virgin our entire lives, our entire ministry,” Cardinal Hummes said.
The Congregation for Clergy has issued three prayers to help priests grow and mature in their priesthood. CNA has made them available here.