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Shepherds of Christ

A Spirituality Newsletter for Priests

March/April 1997

CONTENTS


Chief Shepherd of the Flock

Love for One Another

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. (Jn 10:11-151)

Yes, Christ, in the great love of His Heart for us, has laid down His life for us. In the giving up of His life for us He gave us new life in Him. And at the heart of our life in Him-our life of grace-is the infused virtue of love. In Jesus we have a new power to love God and others.

In the First Letter of John, we read:

"My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God." (1 Jn 4:7)

"Anyone who says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen." (1 Jn 4:20)

Yes, in Christ we are called to love one another in a special way. What are some of the characteristics of our love for neighbor? There follow some reflections on our love-relationship with others.


Spiritual Freedom

Growth in the spiritual life requires that we grow in spiritual freedom. This freedom consists in striving to relate to all reality according to God's will. The following excerpt addresses itself to this important issue of spiritual freedom: "The apostles who experienced the transfiguration were obviously not expected to close their eyes to the beauty of the experience. (To do so would be to turn their backs on a wonderful gift of God; more than that, it could be an act of ingratitude.) But, on the other hand, neither were they called to set up tents there. Instead, they were expected through this experience of God to be free to carry the experience with them and go out into the unknown future, even to Jerusalem. So, other questions we are asked to grapple with by our spiritual guides are: Are we truly grateful for the people and things God has given to us to enjoy in our lives? Are we also willing to let go of them rather than to try to possess, control, or idolize them?2


Life Means Christ

The writings of St. Paul are often vividly self-revelatory. More than once the reader is allowed to see inside the person Paul. In one such passage the deep, enthusiastic love of Paul for Jesus is amply evident: "Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in the body means doing work which is having good results-I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake." (Phil: 1:21-24).

We should all be inspired by these words of Paul to stimulate our own personal enthusiasm for Jesus. After all, for us, too, to live should mean Christ. What else does the word "Christian" mean? If we reflect on the meaning of the word "Christian", we realize that it ideally means a follower of Christ, one totally committed to Christ, one for whom life has no real meaning without Jesus, one who is willing to live and die for Jesus and His cause.

Jesus calls us to share in the work of ongoing redemption. He invites, but He does not coerce. He promises us that it is an enterprise which immensely satisfies. He does not say there will be no suffering, no hardships, no weariness. He challenges us to a great work, but He does so with complete honesty - He tells us what to expect.

This Jesus who invites us is a leader who Himself has suffered greatly for His cause. There were, of course, numerous sufferings throughout His life, but His passion challenged to the utmost His capacity for pain and anguish. He had been deprived of food and sleep. He had been spat upon, made fun of, scourged, and crowned with thorns. Then there was the terrible, brutal suffering of the crucifixion itself. But, despite this great suffering brought on by the physical brutalities He endured, the greatest suffering was His immense anguish of spirit.

And what are we willing to endure for Jesus? As we labor with Him in the work of ongoing redemption, is there a limit beyond which we refuse to go in bearing suffering? Can insults separate us from the work of Christ? Can weariness? Can misunderstandings? Can the failure of others to show us love and appreciation? Can the opposition of others? We pray and hope that nothing-absolutely nothing-will ever separate us from Jesus and His cause. St. Paul offers us eloquent words in this regard: "Nothing therefore can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. As scripture promised: For your sake we are being massacred daily, and reckoned as sheep for the slaughter. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him who loved us.

"For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rm 8:35-39)


Scriptural Reflections


Words of Death-Resurrection

Here are appropriate words for our Easter Season from St. Melito of Sardis, bishop: "There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover; that mystery is Christ, and to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

"For the sake of suffering humanity he came down from heaven to earth, clothed himself in that humanity in the Virgin's womb, and was born a man. Having then a body capable of suffering, he took the pain of fallen man upon himself; he triumphed over the diseases of soul and body that were its cause, and by his Spirit, which was incapable of dying, he dealt man's destroyer, death, a fatal blow.

"He was led forth like a lamb; he was slaughtered like a sheep. He ransomed us from our servitude to the world, as he had ransomed Israel from the land of Egypt; he freed us from our slavery to the devil, as he had freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. He sealed our souls with his own Spirit, and the members of our body with his own blood.

"He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One who smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his own forever. He is the Passover that is our salvation.

"It is he who was made man of the Virgin, he who was hung on the tree; it is he who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven. He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of his was broken; in the earth his body knew no decay. He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb."3


Thoughts on the Mass


Thoughts On Prayer


New Congregation of Nuns Prays for Priests

There has recently been formed a new congregation of nuns whose purpose is to pray-indeed, live their entire lives-for priests and for vocations to the priesthood. The name of this new congregation is The Hermits of Jesus the Eternal Priest.

Here are words from the foundress, Mother Elias, H.J.E.P., concerning their life and purpose: "It has recently come to our attention that many people, priests included, do not truly understand our life as hermits - in a religious community - contemplative - living a radical witness to God's Presence in the world. One other question that so often has arisen is that of our wearing a color and style of religious habit that people are unaccustomed to seeing. We hope that the following explanation will clarify these points.

"Very simply, we stand as a sign of contradiction to the world and its spirit. We cannot follow the values of the world and accommodate to them. We must stand as a constant sign silently proclaiming the presence of God. We are set aside, called apart, to a very special vocation as hermit, and for us in particular, in immolation for the priesthood.

"In order to understand where we are coming from we ask you to keep in mind Our Holy Father's words during his last visit to the United States at Giants' Stadium, 'I do not speak in words of the world but from the Spirit; not in human terms of human values, but in spiritual terms of spiritual values.'

"The Hermits of Jesus the Eternal Priest have their origin in the eremitic tradition of monastery life begun by the prophet St. Elias on Mt. Carmel and St. Sharbel, patron of our hermitage. This tradition was revitalized by the life, death and resurrection of the Lord and by the many Christian nuns and monks through the centuries who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have followed Christ in solitude, prayer and penance.

"We are an institute wholly ordered to heavenly contemplation and joyful penitence, in a special way for the spiritual welfare of all priests and for vocations to the priesthood. The hermits dedicate themselves to the worship of God in a hidden life within the monastery, a life totally separated from people and the world by the practice of solitude and silence as defined in the Constitution. Our purpose is to live in intimate union with the Most Holy Trinity, talk to Him whom we love, intercede continually for His priests and help them, in their needs, insofar as this is compatible with our eremitic way of life.

"We do not leave our monastic grounds unless there is a special need to do so. We have the permission of our Archbishop to go to Holy Mass, Confession, Ordinations and First Mass of a new priest and other spiritual functions pertaining to the prayerful support of the priesthood. It is most important in these days, where religious vocations are not encouraged, that the laity see that there do exist in the church today young consecrated souls totally on fire with God's love and joy."

For further information, write:

The Hermits of Jesus the Eternal Priest
P.O. Box 216, North Brookfield MA 01535
(508) 867-0134


Spirituality Program for Priests

The Institute for Priestly Formation Announces a Mini-Sabbatical Program for Diocesan Priests, January 5-30, 1998 at the Oratory Center for Spirituality, Rock Hill, S.C. The Institute for Priestly Formation, founded to assist in the spiritual formation of diocesan priests in the Roman Catholic Church, invites diocesan priests to a time of spiritual renewal. Inspired by the biblical-evangelical spirituality of Ignatius Loyola, this program seeks to give diocesan priests a time and place in which they can allow the Holy Spirit to touch their hearts with a deeper experience of his love.

Going beyond programs of continuing education, this program offers a time of spiritual formation intended to help foster the spirituality of diocesan priests. The twenty-six day program features:

- an atmosphere of rest and leisure
- an eight day silent directed retreat
- ongoing spiritual direction
- seminars on: prayer and finding God in everyday busyness, sexuality, celibacy and priestly life; discernment and everyday decisions; the spirituality of diocesan priesthood, personal prayer and liturgical prayer.

Presenters/directors: Rev. George Aschenbrenner, S.J., S.T.L., Rev. Richard Gabuzda, S.T.D., Rev. John Horn, S.J., D. Min., Miss Kathleen Kanavy, M.A., Margarett Schlientz, Ph.D.

The program will be conducted at the Oratory Center for Spirituality, Rock Hill, South Carolina, located just south of Charlotte, N.C. With its cultural and athletic opportunities for leisure, the center is situated on six acres in a residential area of Rock Hill. The grounds, the neighborhood and two nearby parks offer opportunities for meditation, prayer and relaxation. Pool facilities of the local Y.M.C.A., located next door to the Center, are available.

Rooms are single occupancy with private bath. The sabbatical program begins Monday, January 5, 1998 and concludes Friday, January 30, 1998. Cost: $2,435. Limited financial assistance is available.

For further information, please contact:
Rev. Richard J. Gabuzda, Director
The Institute for Priestly Formation
320 N. 20th Street, #1208
Omaha, NE 68178
Tel 402-449-6384  Fax 402-280-2423  E-mail: rgabuzda@creighton.edu


Act of Consecration

Lord Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, I consecrate my priestly life to Your Heart, pierced on Calvary for love of us. From Your pierced Heart the Church was born, the Church You have called me as a priest to serve in a most special way. You reveal Your Heart as symbol of Your love in all its aspects, including Your most special love for me, whom You have chosen as Your priest-companion. Help me always to pour out my life in love of God and neighbor. Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You!

Dear Blessed Virgin Mary, I consecrate myself to your maternal and Immaculate Heart, this Heart which is symbol of your life of love. You are the Mother of my Savior and you are also my Mother. You love me with the most special love as this unique priest-son. In a return of love I give myself entirely to your motherly love and protection. You followed Jesus perfectly. You are His first and perfect disciple. Teach me to imitate you in the putting on of Christ. Be my motherly intercessor so that, through your Immaculate Heart, I may be guided to an ever closer union with the pierced Heart of Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, who leads me to the Father in the Holy Spirit.


Letters

We thank all those who have taken the time to write to us. We very much appreciate your letters. Space limitations permit us to publish only a few of them.


Dear Fr. Carter,
I want to thank you for sending me a copy of Shepherds of Christ. This Spirituality Newsletter for Priests contains very nourishing food for priests. Reading through it lifted up my "drooping spirit." May you be blessed in this ministry.
And I have a request: There are 78 Diocesan priests in the Diocese of Darjeeling, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, working in the remote missions. A copy of Shepherds of Christ to each one of them would be very enriching. May I request you to send to me about 80 copies of Shepherds of Christ regularly so that I can send each priest in the Diocese a copy.

Thanking you in advance,
Yours fraternally in the Lord,
Fr. Thomas DiSouza
Diocesan Administrator
Darjeeling, India


My dear Fr. Carter:
Just a short note and a small donation to support the wonderful work you are doing for the Lord. May He bless you and your spiritual ministry to His priests throughout the world. I read all that you have been writing with care and prayer.
In your charity, please remember me and the Church in China.

Fr. Bernard Hwang
Oregon City, Oregon


NOTES:

  1. Scriptural quotations are taken from The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday & Co.
  2. Robert J. Wicks and Robert M. Hanna, A Circle of Friends, Ave Maria Press, p. 97.
  3. St. Melito of Sardis, as found in The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co., Vol II, pp. 458-459.
  4. Documents of Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Nos. 47-48, America Press edition.
  5. Rita Ring, The Mass: A Journey Into His Heart, to be published by Shepherds of Christ Publications.
  6. Fr. John Wright, S.J., A Theology of Christian Prayer, Pueblo Pub., p. 101.
  7. Thomas Merton, A Thomas Merton Reader, Thomas P. McDonnell, editor, Doubleday, p. 325.

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March/April 1997
Shepherds of Christ

Shepherds of Christ Ministries
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
U.S.A.

Shepherds of Christ, a spirituality newsletter for priests, is published bi-monthly by Shepherds of Christ Ministries, P.O. Box 193, Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193. While distribution is free of charge to all priests in the U.S., and growing internationally, donations are still very much appreciated. Inquiries and comments are welcome, as are address changes and addresses of the newly ordained. Permission to reproduce intact is granted for non-commercial use. Editor Father Edward Carter S.J. is Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. John Weickert is President. Good Shepherd illustration is by Brother Jerome Pryor, S.J. Layout and design are by Cathy Ring. Also dedicated to the spiritual advancement of priests is a worldwide network of lay/religious prayer chapters, Shepherds of Christ Associates, headquartered at 2919 Shawhan Road, Morrow, Ohio 45152, telephone toll free 1-888-211-3041, fax 513-932-6791.


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