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Shepherds of Christ
A Spirituality Newsletter for Priests
Chief Shepherd of the Flock
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
The Son of God be-came man for our salvation. Yes, He became incarnate. He took to
Himself a real human nature. Because Jesus possessed a real human nature, He could die for
us. As the Good Shepherd, He has laid down His life for us, His sheep.
There are many thoughts which come to us when we reflect upon the truth that the Son of
God took to Himself a human nature and dwelt among us. Some of these are as follows:
- The Word Was Made Flesh. St. John puts it very simply in his Gospel: "The Word was
made flesh, he lived among us..." (Jn 1:14). Yes, John states it so succinctly, yet
these few words contain a wealth of meaning and mystery. We should expect nothing else,
since this brief statement of the fourth Gospel points out the central event of all human
history. These words sum up God's creative and redemptive activity. They sum up God's
process of Self-communication to us. Let us briefly examine some of the implications of
the Son of God becoming man.
Adequately to explain the intimacy of the way of redemption which is the Incarnation is
beyond the human powers of articulation. Jesus is Emmanuel-God with us. How tremendously
more approachable God is to us because we have Jesus. The more the mind dwells on the
meaning of the Incarnation, the more one is stricken with wonder at this unfathomable
mystery of love. And yet, for one reason or the other, we are tempted to allow the mystery
of the Son becoming man to be a fact we take for granted. Our sense of appreciation
becomes dulled, and our feeling of enthusiasm about Jesus becomes so tragically mediocre.
If our enthusiasm concerning Jesus is less than it should be, what are the reasons? We are
speaking of a deep-rooted penetrating kind of enthusiasm centered in our graced wills.
Some-times this enthusiasm has deep emotional overtones. If properly controlled, this
enthusiasm involving the human emotions can be a tremendous asset in one's commitment to
Jesus. But we just do not have it within our power to turn the emotions on whenever we
wish. The more fundamental enthusiasm for Jesus which is rooted in the human will can and
should always be substantially with us.
- Realizing Jesus' Love for Us. One reason our commitment to Jesus can lose its ardor is
that the realization of how much Jesus loves each of us becomes a kind of peripheral or
notional assent. We intellectually assent to the fact that Jesus loves us, but at times
such an assent does not have much more effect on our lives than admitting that Caesar
crossed the Rubicon.
We are meant to assent with our entire being to the fact that Jesus loves each of us so
uniquely, so intimately, so unreservedly. This truth of Jesus' love for us is supposed to
transform our lives. It is supposed to so grip our imagination so that we can say in the
spirit of St. Paul: "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 8:38-39)
Giving ourselves over to Jesus' love does not remove pain and suffering from life. But,
through the prism of Jesus' love for us, suffering is seen in proper perspective. We see
the pain and suffering as being able to lead to something greater, just as it did in
Jesus' life. His suffering led to resurrection. We realize that if we relate to suffering
properly, we become persons with a deepened capacity to love God and man - persons sharing
more fully in Jesus' resurrection. With such an attitude, this pain dimension of life can
at times become hardly noticeable because we are so taken up with Jesus and His cause.
- The Cause of Christ. What is this cause? Some two thousand years ago Jesus walked this
earth preaching His Father's message, healing the sick, forgiving sins, extending His
kindness and mercy, training the apostles. In all His varied activity, Jesus was
accomplishing the redemption. Today, Jesus still walks the earth. He teaches the Father's
truth. He is concerned with the sick and the ignorant. He administers the sacraments. He
manifests the Father's love in many different ways. But, unlike that time of two thousand
years ago, Christ Himself is not visible. He is visible only through us, His members. He
extends to us the great privilege-and responsibility-of assisting Him in the continuation
of His redemptive work. The total Christian community and each individual Christian are,
then, certain extensions and continuations of the Incarnation. So close is this union
between the Christian and Christ that St. Paul speaks very strikingly that it is more
Christ than Paul who now lives: "I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now
not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in
this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself
for my sake." (Ga 2:19-20)
Each of us has the privilege of offering Jesus his or her own unique person, one's own
humanity, one's own human existence. As with St. Paul we are asked to allow Jesus to live
within us. Each Christian has the opportunity to allow Jesus to live through the
uniqueness which is this particular Christian. To the extent the Christian does offer
himself to Jesus in this manner, to that extent Jesus has a unique opportunity of
continuing His redemptive work. To the extent the Christian holds back and does not allow
Jesus to live in oneself, to that degree Jesus loses this unrepeatable opportunity.
- Historical and Cultural Awareness. If we are to carry forth the salvific mission of
Jesus properly, the People of God, individually and collectively, must be aware of the
Incarnation's principle of historical and cultural awareness. Jesus, through His
enfleshment, became situated within an historical situation. He lived at a particular
stage of history, in a particular geographical locale, amid a particular kind of culture.
Jesus respected this historical conditioning. Without compromising His Father's message,
Jesus was aware of His historical milieu. He lived like a good Jewish man of the time. He
talked in language which respected the linguistic idiom and thought patterns of the then
existent Jewish culture. He accepted the Jewish people as conditioned by a certain
historical and cultural milieu, and dealt with them accordingly.
The members of the Christian community must follow the example of Jesus. In living and
proclaiming the Gospel message, the People of God must be aware of the particular
historical and cultural milieu in which they find themselves. But, also after the example
of Jesus, they must strive for this awareness without compromising the Gospel. We
immediately see that the Christian community is consequently open to a double danger. On
the one hand, there is the danger that the People of God will not read the signs of the
times properly. On the other hand, in the effort to be aware of their historical setting
there is the danger of compromising the Gospel message. But the Christian community has to
face these dangers and not surrender to them.
- The Temporal Order. Another truth connected with the Incarnation - another incarnational
perspective - leads us to a discussion of the Christian's responsibility toward the
secular or temporal order of things. Through His enfleshment Christ has assumed, or united
to Himself, not only the human race but the entire world or temporal order. The world
literally belongs to Christ. The Christian's attitude toward authentic temporal values
should therefore be obvious. He or she should love the world as redeemed by Jesus more
than does the non-believer. The Christian should be the first to love all authentic human
values. He or she should be the first to promote these values. Obviously, the real
progress of these values must be according to their Christic design, however hidden this
design may be at times. Very importantly, the Christian should be the first to be willing
to suffer for the authentic progress of the world. And why? We reiterate-because it all
belongs to Christ.
The Christian should grieve because all is not well with the temporal order. He or she
should be duly disturbed that there is so much violence, murder, social injustice, lust
for power, drug peddling, pursuit of hedonism, increasing Godlessness. These and other
evils sadly mar the name and image of Jesus which He imprinted upon the universe through
His life, death, and resurrection. The Christian should grieve because the face of Christ
is thus so often covered by the sinful dust of the market place.
But the market place, the temporal order, is not all evil. Far from it. It is basically
good with the creative goodness of God. It's basic goodness and beauty have been deepened
by the grandeur of Jesus' redemptive effort. There is so much good in so many human
hearts. This goodness manifests itself in countless ways. There are so many ways that many
allow us to see their love for neighbor. There are those who selflessly give of themselves
for the good of others in the field of medicine and nursing, in the political arena, in
education, in science and technology, in laboring for justice for the consumer, in
striving for pollution control. The list only be extended indefinitely. Some of these
services of so many for the good of neighbor command national attention. Many, many more
services are so hidden, hardly noticed.
Each Christian, grieving at the world's evil, but rejoicing in its goodness and potential
for greater good, must be inspired to action. He or she should deeply love the world
because it belongs to Christ. He or she should deeply love the people who cover the face
of this world, because they too belong to Christ. His blood has touched them and redeemed
them. The love of the Christian for others must be an operative, an efficacious love. It
must be willing to do, to accomplish, and, in rare cases, to die. Whatever one's state of
life, be it activist or cloistered contemplative, this is the privilege and the
responsibility of the Christian. He or she cannot be committed to Jesus in love without
concomitantly being dedicated to the human family and the temporal order. Through the
Incarnation, all this is interlinked.
If the Christian is to promote the good of the temporal order, one must be free in regards
to it. One must be free, even to the extent that he or she is willing to renounce certain
temporal values, good in themselves, for the service of others. The one who really loves
the world is the person who is willing to forego its use at times. To love the world and
to love the things of the world are not always one and the same. A person can love the
things of the world- selfishly - and consequently, not love the world in itself. This
selfishness is an obstacle to helping the temporal order to progress as it should.
- The Human Condition. As we continue a survey of some of the truths or perspectives
connected with the Incarnation, we notice that Jesus has taught us that redemption occurs
within the human condition. The Father could have redeemed us in a number of ways. He
chose that setting which was the Incarnation of His Son. Jesus saved us by being fully
man, a man who exercised His manhood perfectly in the self-libation which was His.
Although His mission led Him to give up certain human values, He saved us through real
human acts. He saved us by loving Mary and Joseph, by eating with friends, by teaching, by
loving the little children, by thrilling to the beauty of nature, by bearing properly
insult and abuse, and, of course, by dying and rising. Summarily, Jesus saved us by living
that kind of human life which was in harmony with His Father's will.
Jesus did not rebel because He found the human condition less than perfect. He had come to
change things, to give a new release to the goodness of man. He was a revolutionary in the
best sense. His effort was to turn things around, to reorientate the human race toward
God. But Jesus was by no means always the recipient of the goodness He had come to preach.
Although He taught that one should love his or her neighbor, He himself was not always
loved. He suffered, and He suffered mightily, because of the mean streak, the sinful
streak in others. He Who had done nothing wrong, Who had showed His love for others in so
many different ways, this man was the one they beat, insulted, scourged, crowned with
thorns, and nailed to the cross.
Jesus redeemed us within the human condition. We receive His redemption, and help channel
it to others, within that same human condition. We are redeemed by living the
authentically human in the way indicated by the Father's will. Although we are led by that
will to renounce various human values at various times in various ways, we are saved by
living a human existence, or we are not saved at all. We have often heard that grace does
not destroy nature. But, perhaps, we do not too often penetrate the depths of this
theological truth. Perhaps we do not very often have a firm realization that grace
elevates nature, gives it a deepened capacity for fulfillment, and that grace needs
nature. Grace must work through nature if it is to save. Consequently, we are not saved
and sanctified by becoming less human. We are saved and sanctified by being very human-by
allowing grace to perfect the various dimensions of our human nature. Grace inspires us to
the fullest exercise of our humanity. Grace inspires to a Spirit-directed way of living,
of eating and drinking, of working and playing, of enjoying sense pleasure, of
experiencing joy and suffering.
Participation in the human condition, then, offers us a marvelous opportunity of
developing all our human capacities in the work of ongoing redemption. Yet the human
condition is not by any means a completely pleasant situation. As Jesus before us suffered
because of the human condition, so also must we. The human condition can be the occasion
of suffering in so many different ways. For instance, a person can suffer because others
treat him or her unjustly. One can suffer also precisely because someone loves him or her
and he or she loves in return. This love makes one vulnerable to pain, not because the
other intends it, but merely because to love within the human condition means a certain
amount of inevitable suffering. We suffer also because we are to a certain extent pilgrims
in exile. We have not yet arrived at our final destiny, a destiny which will be achieved
only in eternity. Because we are still on the way, we are not yet completely alive,
completely fulfilled. And because all this is so, we suffer, and sometimes deeply so. But,
again looking to Jesus, we must learn how to encounter suffering properly. He encountered
the human condition perfectly, whether it meant great joy or deep anguish. The Spirit asks
us to live by the same attitude.
- Bodily Values. Another perspective very close to the heart of the Incarnation is the
concept of bodily values. The connection is obvious. The Son of God assumed a human nature
with its bodily dimensions. He has given a great new dignity to the human body. Any
attitude which deprecates the body is consequently totally un-Christian. There have been
numerous such attitudes which have influenced Christian thought and practice,
unofficially, of course. There have been Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, and
Jansenism, to name some. Each of these has in one manner or other failed to see the
beauty, dignity, and purpose of the human body.
The body, despite its basic goodness and grandeur, still has sinful tendencies, tendencies
toward laziness, lust, unbridled pursuit of all kinds of sense pleasure. If the body is to
achieve its purpose, it must obviously be properly disciplined. The one who loves his body
the most is, quite obviously, not the one who gives to it all its desires. He or she is
the one who takes the necessary means, however painful, to ensure that the body serves its
wonderful and God-given purpose.
- Incarnationalism and Transcendence. In a quick survey of some of the important truths
consequent upon the Son of God becoming man, certainly one to be mentioned is the fact
that Incarnationalism leads to transcendence - to that which is invisible, to that which
is above material limitation. At the offertory of the Mass, as the priest adds a drop of
water to the wine to be offered, he says: "By the mystery of this water and wine may
we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our
humanity." The Son has come to draw us to God - to the ultimate Transcendent Reality.
Even though we would not have been given a supernatural destiny, we would have had a
thrust toward the transcendent. Our graced nature has an even greater thrust toward
transcendence. The ultimate Transcendent is God, and, as St. Augustine said long ago, our
hearts will not rest until they rest in God.
Christ, in His human nature, points to that which is beyond His humanity and everything
else created. Christ ultimately points to God alone. Through His enfleshment, the Son was
marvelously immanent in this world. But this very immanence of God pointed to the
otherness, the transcendence of God. Jesus taught us that there is something beyond the
material, something beyond marriage, and riches, and culture, something beyond all earthly
Jesus told us to relate to these values in so far as they lead to God. He told us to
renounce them in so far as this would be more conducive to union with God. Jesus told us
something which we all have experienced - the created in itself cannot radically satisfy
us. Only God can, and the created takes an ultimate meaning, and renders authentic
satisfaction, only when it leads us to God. The Son became man to lead us to
transcendence-indeed, to ultimate Transcendence, God Himself.
- Life and Death. "When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when
this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true:
Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your
sting?" (1 Cor 15: 54-55)
Death is a certainty. It cannot be wished away. It cannot be avoided by pretending it is
an event overtaking all people but oneself. It is a sign of maturity, then, that a
Christian fully and meaningfully accepts the reality of his or her own death, and lives
with this realization holding proper perspective in one's consciousness.
God does not intend that a morbid fear of death poison the beauty of our days. He does not
intend that the thought of death diminish our enthusiasm to be and to accomplish. He does
not intend that the prospect of death become an obstacle to our fulfilling our potential
here below. God rather intends that we see the profound union which is meant to harmonize
the reality of life with the reality of death.
If we have the proper attitude toward life, we will have the proper attitude toward
death.If we live the life-event properly, we will be prepared to live the death-event
properly. Death is the final event of our earthly sojourn. If we live life generously, we
shall be oriented to live death generously. If we have tried lovingly to conform ourselves
to God's will throughout the course of life, we will be disposed to accept His will in
The attitudes and virtues which comprise a good Christian life are, then, the same
attitudes and virtues which will assure a good Christian death. The best preparation for a
successful Christian death is a successful Christian life. To live each day as it comes
with a deep love of God and neighbor is simultaneously to prepare properly for the
inevitable event of dying. To live each day according to God's designs is to enable one to
say, "Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?"
- Idols Which Should Not Be.
"When Israel was a child I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to them, the further they went from me;
they have offered sacrifice to the Baals
and set their offerings smoking before the idols.
I myself taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in my arms;
yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them.
I led them with reins of kindness,
with leading-strings of love." (Hos 11:1-4)
God loves us tenderly, mightily. He watches us grow, guiding our steps with a loving
concern so deep that we can never fully fathom it. He constantly showers us with his
varied gifts, all signs of His love. Reflecting upon how much God loves us and how
tenderly He cares for us, we wonder how we could ever wander very far from His loving
truth. But we know there are numerous idols which can usurp His place in our lives if we
fail to resist their specious attractiveness.
Selfishness, greed, pride, laziness, gluttony, manipulation of others for personal gain, a
hedonistic pursuit of pleasure, abuse of power and authority-these are some of the idols
we can focus on rather than God Himself. It is amazing that the false glitter of such
idols, which but thinly covers layers of ugliness, can tempt us to reject in varying
degrees the loveliness of our God, our God who, infinite in all perfections, has
consistently and overwhelmingly, and so mercifully, shown how much He loves us.
Pursuing false idols will eventually leave us feeling empty, frustrated, disgusted. How
would it be otherwise? For to pursue false idols in the place of God is to expect
fulfillment and happiness from that which lacks the capability to satisfy the human nature
God has created. God makes us for Himself. He alone can fulfill the fundamental longing we
have for complete happiness. He made our hearts to seek Him, and in Him alone do they find
the love, the peace, and the security they so deeply desire.
- The Way We Talk. Jesus tells us: "Make a tree sound and its fruit will be sound;
make a tree rotten and its fruit will be rotten. For the tree can be told by its fruit.
Brood of vipers, how can your speech be good when you are evil? For a man's words flow out
of what fills his heart. A good man draws good things from his store of goodness; a bad
man draws bad things from his store of badness. So I tell you this, that for every
unfounded word men utter they will answer on Judgment day, since it is by your words you
will be acquitted, and by your words condemned." (Mt 12:33-37)
The above scriptural passage tells us that the faculty of speech is indeed a mighty one.
It can accomplish much good. It can produce much that is evil. Consequently, to use speech
in a Christlike manner is a sign that grace has taken deep hold of a person. On the other
hand, a noticeably un-Christlike mode of speech is a sign that the way of Christ has not
yet deeply penetrated the heart.
Our speech is laden with numerous and varied possibilities for good. There is the
sympathetic word. Words which convey a sense of "I understand and I care", can
be a soothing balm to the troubled heart. As insignificant as such words may seem at times
to the one offering sympathy and understanding, to the recipient they can be one of the
most precious gifts possible. Especially is this true at moments of deep anguish. Only one
who has been spoken to with sincere sympathy at such a time can fully appreciate the
healing power of the kind and understanding word.
We should also highly value our words of affirmation and encouragement. These can
contribute significantly to the development of a person's potential. One person needs more
affirmation and encouragement than another, but we all need some. Actually, we can be
overcome with awe as we reflect on the powerful role words of affirmation can assume in
helping a person to be and to to become. To help a person to be and to become what God
destines him or her to be-what a privilege this is-and yet we have numerous, even daily
opportunities to be such a catalyst. The right word at the proper time can help change the
orientation of a person's life. On a more moderate scale, words of affirmation can be a
sustaining force in a person's quest for continuing growth.
We have discussed a few ways in which our words can be a very positive force. However, the
faculty of speech which can be a source of constructive good, can also be the source of
destructive evil. There is the uncalled-for word which is so unkindly cutting. Always
uncharitable, it is especially so when it tends to crush the already bruised reed-the
heart already burdened with paralyzing sadness, or discouragement, or grief. There is also
the unjust word which can so suddenly and so decisively ruin a reputation. There is the
word which spreads unjust criticism concerning a person who perhaps is performing
marvelously in an almost impossible situation. There can also be the word which needlessly
divides people. The different forms of community we must often build rather slowly, and
with much effort, pain and selflessness. Then comes the divisive word which need not be.
We can so often be tempted to look for the more grandiose opportunities to promote the
cause of Christ. Such times, however, occur for most of us only at rather rare intervals.
It is the more ordinary setting for accomplishing good that is usually ours. But the
ordinariness of our opportunities does not detract from their inherent greatness. One of
those ordinary possibilities for good, one which is constantly present, is the proper use
of our God-given power of speech.
- To Pay the Price. "All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one
of them gets the prize. You must run in the same way, meaning to win. All the fighters at
the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath that will wither
away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither. That is how I run, intent on
winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air. I treat my body hard and make it obey
me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified." (1
Long hours of practice, the physical weariness, the mental pressure of competitiveness,
the at-least-occasional sting of defeat, the discipline of regular hours and diet-these
are some of the factors involved in the striving for athletic success. Some never do
succeed; they never make the team. Some achieve only moderate success. A few achieve top
glory. However, there are always numberless individuals who keep trying. Win or lose, the
price must be paid even to have the chance at victory and success.The athlete knows
unequivocally that to achieve a cherished goal one must be willing to extend the necessary
effort-one must be willing to pay the price.
Obviously, it is not only the athlete who must pay the price for achievement. Any
worthwhile human endeavor demands effort and a type of discipline commensurate with the
The medical student, for example, must endure long years of demanding and competitive
study. His or her friends, engaged in less demanding academic programs, have many more
leisure hours for social events and other interests. The medical student is tempted at
times to wonder if the demanded price is not too great, as one watches one's peers travel
considerably easier paths. The overriding desire to be a doctor, however, is etched deep
within the spirit. It resides there constantly, sometimes as a quiet glow, sometimes as a
burning flame, always, however, as a persistent force thrusting the young man or woman
onward toward a medical career.
Our goal as followers of Jesus is to be committed Christians. If we are committed
Christians, Jesus is the center of our existence. Jesus sums up all for us. In Him, and
through Him, and with Him, we, as committed Christians, try to relate properly to all
reality-to God, our fellow human beings, the temporal order, and all else. In order to be
committed Christians, however, we have to be willing to pay the price-just as the athlete
and the medical student.
Sometimes, as we so well know from our past experience, we aren't willing to pay the
price. We turn a deaf ear to the voice of Jesus, which quietly but persistently calls us
to higher things, to a more mature living of the Christian life. Sometimes we refuse Him
because of fear, sometimes because of laziness, sometimes because we simply don't take the
time to listen. There are other reasons too, but whatever the cause, we are poorer because
of our refusal. In the moments of honesty we admit this to ourselves. We know that to
refuse Jesus is to refuse growth. It is to refuse more vital living. It is to refuse
greater happiness. It is to refuse a greater capacity to love our neighbor. It is to
refuse a greater love-union with Jesus himself.
At other times, we respond to the voice of Jesus. Whatever the inconvenience involved, we
are not deaf to His whisperings. Whatever the pain involved, we tell ourselves that He
suffered much, much more for us. Whatever the fear involved, we are thoroughly convinced
that Jesus will never fail us. We are open to the way He is leading. We pay the price-and
how happy we are that we do. Jesus draws us closer to Himself. We feel more intimately the
warmth and security of His loving touch. In these moments we wonder how and why we ever
refuse His voice. We wonder how and why we ever refuse to pay the price.
The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests tells us: "The command
of the Lord: go to all the nations (Mt 28:18-20) definitively expresses the place of the
priest in front of the Church. Sent-missus-by the Father by means of Christ, the priest
pertains 'in an immediate' way to the universal Church, which has the mission to announce
the Good news unto the 'ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8).
"The spiritual gift received by priests in Ordination prepares them for a wide and
universal mission of salvation. In fact, through Orders and the ministry received, all
priests are associated with the Episcopal Body and, in hierarchical communion with it,
according to their vocation and grace, they serve the good of the entire Church.
Therefore, the membership to a particular church, through incardination, must not enclose
the priest in a restricted and particularistic mentality, but rather should open him to
the service of other churches, because each church is the particular realization of the
only Church of Jesus Christ, such that the universal Church lives and fulfills her mission
in and from the particular churches in effective communion with her. Thus, all the
priests, must have a missionary heart and mind and be open to the needs of the Church and
The Directory now speaks to us concerning the priest and his relationship with the
"If the services of the Word is the foundational element of the priestly ministry,
the heart and the vital center of it is constituted, without a doubt, in the Eucharist,
which is, above all, the real presence in time of the unique and eternal sacrifice of
"The sacramental memorial of the death and Resurrection of Christ, the true and
efficacious representation of the singular redemptive Sacrifice, source and apex of
Christian life in the whole of evangelization, the Eucharist is the beginning, means, and
end of the priestly ministry, since 'all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the
apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it.' Consecrated in
order to perpetuate the Holy Sacrifice, the priest thus manifests, in the most evident
manner, his identity.
"There exists, in fact, an intimate rapport between the centrality of the
Eucharist, pastoral charity, and the unity of life of the priest, who finds in this
rapport the decisive indications for the way to the holiness to which he has been
"If the priest lends to Christ, Most Eternal High Priest, his intelligence, will,
voice and hands so as to offer, through his very ministry, the sacramental sacrifice of
redemption to the Father, he should make his own the dispositions of the Master and, like
him, live those gifts for his brothers in faith. He must therefore learn to unite himself
intimately to the offering, placing his entire life upon the altar of sacrifice as a
revealing sign of the gratuitous and anticipatory love of God."3
Pope John Paul II speaks to us movingly concerning the Heart of Christ: "The Heart
of the Redeemer enlivens the whole Church and draws men who have opened their hearts 'to
the inscrutable wealth' of this unique Heart....
"I desire in a special way to join spiritually with all those who inspire their
human hearts from this Divine Heart. It is a numerous family. Not a few congregations,
associations and communities live and develop in the Church, taking their vital energy in
a programmed way from the Heart of Christ. This spiritual bond always leads to a great
reawakening of apostolic zeal. Adorers of the Divine Heart become people with sensitive
consciences. And when it is given to them to have a relationship with the Heart of our
Lord and Master, then need also reawakens in them to do reparation for the sins of the
world, for the indifference of so many hearts, for their negligence.
"How necessary these ranks of vigilant hearts are in the Church, so that the love
of the Divine Heart shall not remain isolated and without response! In these ranks,
special mention deserves to be made of all those who offer up their sufferings as living
victims in union with the Heart of Christ pierced on the cross. Transformed in that way by
love, human suffering becomes a particular leaven of Christ's saving work in the Church...
"The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us, above all, of those moments when this
Heart was 'pierced by the lance,' and, thereby, opened in a visible manner to man and the
world. By reciting the litany and venerating the Divine Heart in general, we learn the
mystery of the Redemption in all its divine and human profundity."
And the Pope also speaks to us about the heart of Mary: "The Immaculate Heart of
Mary was open to the word, 'Woman, there is your son.' It went to meet spiritually the
Heart of the Son opened by the soldier's lance. The heart of Mary was opened by the same
love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world, offering up
himself on the cross, even to that lance stroke from the soldier.
"Consecrating the world to the Immaculate heart of Mary means approaching the same
Source of Life, through the Mother's Intercession, that life which flowed forth from
Golgatha, the source which gushes out ceaselessly with redemption and grace. Reparation
for the sins of the world is continually being accomplished in it. It is ceaselessly the
font of new life and holiness.
"Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means returning under
the Cross of the Son. More: it means consecration of this world to the pierced Heart of
the Savior, by bringing the world back to the very source of its Redemption. Redemption is
always greater than man's sin and 'the sin of the world.' The power of Redemption
infinitely surpasses the whole range of evil in man and in the world.
"The Heart of the Mother is aware of it, more than anyone in the whole cosmos,
visible and invisible. This is why she calls. She does not call only to conversion; she
also calls upon us to let ourselves be helped by her, the Mother, to return to the source
of the Redemption."4
- Archbishop Joseph M. Raya of the Byzantine rite, speaks to us about prayer: "The
Fathers can tell us how to fast and abstain, or how to recite and sing psalms. They can
give some guidelines to the soul reaching out to touch the Lord. But they know that prayer
is essentially an experience of a person-to-person relationship, a realization where mere
information becomes life, where the soul reaches out to touch a deeper life. They know
that it is ultimately God, and God alone, who teaches one how to pray. The cry of the
apostles - 'Lord, teach us how to pray'-is not the expression of a desire for a new
method. Rather, it is man's basic longing for a personal relationship and encounter with
- A well-known spiritual writer of our times, Don Humbert van Zeller, reminds us that
prayer is meant to unite us, not only with God, but also with each other: "Not only
is there a law in our members which wars against the spirit and tempts to sin, but there
is a law too which appears to be on the side of the spirit but which in fact wars against
it. This is the law in us which tempts to personal autonomy. Pleading detachment from
human affection and the avoidance of distraction, this spurious law is the enemy of the
one thing, namely individual wholeness, which it claims to be preserving. We are whole
only when we are one with everyone else. This unity of outlook has to be universal in
application, because by being selective it fails in an essential quality.
"Christ died for all, and not merely for an elect percentage...
"So we must be on our guard against the temptation which disguises itself as a grace:
the instinct which shrinks from closeness to our fellow human beings. Psychologists have
one name for it, theologians another. By refusing to break down the barriers and by
clinging to our independence, we are not only being proud and uncharitable, but are also
defying the law of our nature-and a good law this time, not the kind of fallen law which
tempts. Whatever the call to contemplation, it can never be the call...to contract out
from mankind and live on a lonely peak.
"Somehow an exchange must be assured which means more than mutual toleration. It
means welcome, consideration, the crossing over from self to another self. This is why
Christianity, the law of love, alone brings completeness..."6
- A modern master of prayer, Thomas Merton, tells us: "In the 'prayer of the heart'
we seek first of all the deepest ground of our identity in God. We do not reason about
dogmas or faith or 'the mysteries'. We seek rather to gain a direct existential grasp, a
personal experience of the deepest truths of life and faith, finding ourselves in God's
truth. Inner certainty depends on purification. The dark night rectifies our deepest
intentions. In the silence of this 'night of faith' we return to simplicity and sincerity
of heart. We learn recollection which consists in listening for God's will, in direct and
simple attention to reality. Recollection is awareness of the unconditional. Prayer then
means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word,
for knowledge of his will and for capacity to hear and obey him."7
There formerly was a popular song that talked about smiling on the outside, crying on
the inside. The song touched upon a very real human experience. During the journey of life
all of us come to turns in the road where heartache awaits us. It is impossible, given the
human condition, to avoid all such turns. There are no detours available. For the most
part, we have to bear the pain within the confines of our inner selves. There may be
another, or a few others, who know about the pain. It can help some to talk to them about
the suffering. But this by no means takes away all the pain. The greater part of the
suffering remains there, lodged firmly in the center of the heart. And we wonder if it
will ever leave. Obviously, we have to go on living, but the heaviness of the days caused
by the heaviness of the heart, makes us feel as if we have lived, oh, such a long time,
since the heartache began. We try to put up a cheerful front, and with God's help we even
surprise ourselves at the degree of success we achieve with this smiling on the outside.
But the few who know us well, and who may know of the pain, realize the price we are
paying to appear the way we do.
During times of hidden pain, there is present a unique opportunity for spiritual
growth. We have to ask Jesus to allow us to see the pain in proper perspective. We have to
ask Him to help us grow through the experience-grow into persons who increasingly project
Christ to the world. We have to be aware that Jesus is with us in His tender and consoling
love, this love which soothes the hidden pain within, this love which allows us to be in
St. Athanasius tells us: "Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals
are given by the Father through the Word. ...and so the graces given by the Son in the
Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who
bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word."8
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. You are
also my Mother. You love me with a 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.
- Scriptural quotations are taken from The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday & Co.
- Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, as in special supplement, Inside
the Vatican, No. 15.
- Ibid., No. 48.
- Pope John Paul II. Prayers and Devotions, edited by Bishop Peter Canuis
Johannes Van Lierde, Viking, pp. 449-451.
- Archbishop John M. Raya, The Face of God: An Introduction to Eastern Spirituality,
God With Us Publications, p. 199.
- Don Hubert van Zeller, More Ideas for Prayer, Templegate, pp. 119-120.
- Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, Doubleday Image Book, p. 67.
- St. Athanasius, as in The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co.,
Vol. III, pp. 584-585.
Shepherds of Christ
Shepherds of Christ Ministries
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
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.
© 1997 Shepherds of Christ.
Rights for non-commercial reproduction granted:
May be copied in its entirety, but neither re-typed nor edited.