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Shepherds of Christ

A Spirituality Newsletter for Priests

May/June 1997

CONTENTS


Chief Shepherd of the Flock

Incarnational Perspectives

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)

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:


Scriptural Reflections


The Priest and the Universal Church

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 world."2


The Priest and the Euchrarist

The Directory now speaks to us concerning the priest and his relationship with the Eucharist:

"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 Christ.
"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 specifically called.
"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


The Heart of Christ, the Heart of Mary

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


Thoughts on Prayer


The Hidden Pain

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 basic peace.


The Trinity in Our Lives

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


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. 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.


NOTES:

  1. Scriptural quotations are taken from The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday & Co.
  2. Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, as in special supplement, Inside the Vatican, No. 15.
  3. Ibid., No. 48.
  4. Pope John Paul II. Prayers and Devotions, edited by Bishop Peter Canuis Johannes Van Lierde, Viking, pp. 449-451.
  5. Archbishop John M. Raya, The Face of God: An Introduction to Eastern Spirituality, God With Us Publications, p. 199.
  6. Don Hubert van Zeller, More Ideas for Prayer, Templegate, pp. 119-120.
  7. Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, Doubleday Image Book, p. 67.
  8. St. Athanasius, as in The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co., Vol. III, pp. 584-585.

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May/June 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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