Priests are called to holiness despite struggles, says Cardinal Castrillón


In the present international situation, Christians have to be in communion with God, said Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, who inaugurated a series of lectures at the St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver yesterday.

The Colombian-born President of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy gave the first lecture of the Josephine Hanna Lecture Series, named after the late grandmother of Catholic philanthropist Frank Hanna.

"Prayer and action are important for our mission and for the sake of humankind," he said. Holiness is the end of the journey. Sainthood means imitating Christ, who is the final and exemplary cause in the journey of holiness. 

His talk, however, reflected mostly on the ministry of priests, who, he said, are also called to holiness in a very specific way and are bound to acquire that perfection. 

"The life of the priest is the continuation of the life and action of Christ," he said. Priests are ontologically configured to Christ. He described priestly holiness as a deep friendship and intimacy with God. 

However, he conceded that priests live the internal and external struggles of life. As a man, the priest is also a sinner and has to accept reconciliation quickly.

The struggles of a priest are not only internal but are manifested in words and in action. Priests are called to holiness in the midst of these difficulties and prayer is necessary to overcome these struggles.

"Man is a protagonist and not simply a spectator in the fight between good and evil," he said.  

"Christ reveals the meaning and gravity of sin. There is no Christian life without a cross," he continued, adding that despite this, priests should not be afraid to preach.  
"We, as ministers, are depositories of faith," he said. "Illuminate all Christians with the knowledge of the faith."  

The cardinal spoke of the need of priests to be in contact with the world through TV and Internet.  

"In the United States, you have freedom, a commitment to international solidarity, concern for the environment, respect for human life," he said. "But in your society are illnesses that affect the Christian faith. Existential materialism and relativism cause the disintegration of the family." In addition, men of God are often attacked by individualism and hedonism, he said.

"Being a man of prayer means finding the reason and criteria for our everyday life," he said. Prayer is the gateway to God, he said. The priest must have faith and listen to God.

"We priests cannot advance disconnected from God," he said. "We have to say .I trust in the Gospel as flesh of God.

The cardinal said the priest has tremendous responsibility in the sacraments, "which are epiphanies of the upcoming world." Each sacrament contains the continuous presence of God.  "Let us develop a christological dimension on the administration of sacraments," he said.

"The fundamental task of the priest is to die to the self and to serve in order to live in Christ. Only those who have learned to live with Jesus can evangelize," he said. The priest must encounter Christ not only in prayer but also in His way to the Cross, the Eucharist.

"The Church lives from the Eucharist," he said, making reference to Ecclesia in Eucaristia. "Let us live our priestly lives at the foot of the Cross. Let us adore Him," he said.

Despite this affirmation of the actions of priests, the cardinal added: "We are not saving by activities, but by love for the Lord Jesus Christ." He added that Pope John Paul II's 25th-anniversary celebrations were especially evocative of the love of Christ.

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