Message to Priests - Lent 2011
This time of grace, which is given to us to live, calls us to a renewed conversion. The ministerial Priesthood is always new and through this gift the Lord Jesus is made present in our lives and, through our lives, in the lives of all men.
Conversion, for us Priests, above all else means to conform our lives more closely to the preaching that we offer daily to the faithful, becoming in this way ‘a piece of the living Gospel’ that everyone can read and accept. The foundation of that behaviour is, without doubt, the conversion of our own identity: we must convert ourselves to that what we are! The identity, welcomed and received sacramentally in our wounded humanity, demands the progressive confirmation of our hearts, our minds, our behaviours to everything that we are in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd that has been sacramentally imprinted in us.
We must enter into the Mysteries that we celebrate, especially in the most Holy Eucharist, and to allow ourselves to be formed by them. It is in the Eucharist that the Priest rediscovers his true identity! It is in the celebration of the Divine Mysteries that one can catch sight of ‘how’ to be a shepherd and ‘what’ is necessary to truly serve each other.
A de-Christianised world requires a new evangelisation, yet a new evangelisation requires ‘new’ priests. Not Priests in the superficial sense, like every passing fashion, but in the sense of a heart profoundly renewed by every Holy Mass, renewed by the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Priest and Good Shepherd.
Particularly urgent is the conversion from noise to silence, from the anxious need ‘to do’ to the desire to ‘remain’ with Jesus participating ever more consciously with His being. Every pastoral action must always be an echo and expansion of that what the Priest is! We must convert ourselves to communion, rediscovering what it really is: communion with God and the Church and with each other.
The ecclesial communion is characterised fundamentally by a renewed conscience that is lived out and announces the same doctrine, the same tradition, the same history of holy men and therefore the same Church. We are called to live Lent with a profound ecclesial awareness, rediscovering the beauty of being in an exodus of people, that includes all the Ordained Priesthood and all people, that looks to their own shepherd as a model of secure reference and with an expectation of renewed and luminous testimony.
We must convert ourselves to the daily participation of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Christ made possible and efficacious our Salvation with His perfect vicarious substitution. In the same way, every Priest, alter Christus, is called, as were the great saints, to live first hand the mystery of their substitution for the service of all especially in the faithful celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Sacrament is sought for ourselves and generously offered to everyone, along with Spiritual Direction, such that in the daily offering of our lives we repair the sins of the world. Serene, penitent, Priests before the Blessed Sacrament bring the light of evangelical and ecclesial wisdom in contemporary circumstances which seam to challenge our faith. In this way, they become authentic prophets able, in their turn, to launch to the world the only real challenge: that of the Gospel that calls us to conversion.
Sometimes the fatigue is really great and we experience the feeling of being only a few before the needs of the Church. However, if we do not convert, we will always be less because only a renewed, converted, ‘new’ priest can become an instrument through which the Holy Spirit calls other new Priests.
To the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, we trust this Lenten journey imploring from Divine Mercy that, based on the model of our Heavenly Mother, also our Priestly heart will become a ‘Refugium peccatorum’.
S. Em. R. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza
Prefect of the Congregation For the Clergy