.- In preparation for the Year of Priests, Pope Benedict XVI has sent a Letter to the priests of the world, calling on them to live out the words of St. John Vianney, “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”
The Holy Father will inaugurate the Year of Priests during Vespers at St. Peter's Basilica tomorrow, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The celebratory year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of priests worldwide, and is intended to “deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world.”
In his letter, the Holy Father praised “the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation.” Speaking of he great role of the priesthood, he recalled the words of St. John Vianney, “O, how great is the priest!...If he realized what he is, he would die.”
The Pope pointed to the example of St. John Vianney, who “devoted himself completely to his parish's conversion” by living a holy and dedicated life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
“St. John Mary Vianney taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life,” said the Holy Father, inviting priests around the world to follow St. Vianney’s example of offering himself as a sacrifice. “It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth.”
He continued to speak of the priest’s essential role in bringing the gift of Christ to the faithful through the sacraments and emphasized the importance of the priest harmonizing his life with that of Christ.
Highlighting the importance of the Sacrament of Penance, Pope Benedict said, “Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this Sacrament.”
The Pope encouraged priests to follow in St. Vianney’s footsteps by engaging in mortification for souls and remaining strong in the midst of suffering, saying, “Souls have been won at the price of Jesus' own blood, and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the ‘precious cost’ of redemption.”
The Holy Father concluded his letter by entrusting the coming Year of Priests to the Virgin Mary and encouraging priests to demonstrate “unity with their bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary.”
To read the entire letter from Pope Benedict to priests, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=943