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Shepherds of Christ

A Spirituality Newsletter for Priests

September/October 1997

CONTENTS


Chief Shepherd of the Flock

To Live in Christ Jesus

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, the Good Shepherd has laid down His life for us. Through His life, His brutal and agonizing suffering and death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection, He has achieved new life for us. We truly live a new life in Jesus: "You have been taught that when we were baptized in Christ Jesus we were baptized in His death; in other words, when we were baptized we went into the tomb with Him and joined Him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory, we too might live a new life." (Rom 6:3-4).

And again Paul speaks to us: "...wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body." (2 Cor 4:10).

Christ has come to give us a share in Trinitarian life. In Baptism the Persons of the Trinity have given Themselves to us in an extraordinary fashion. The intimacy of this Trinitarian communication imprints upon us the image of the Trinity. Because Christ as man mediates this Trinitarian gift, this image also possesses a Christ-like dimension. This Christ-like, Trinitarian image within us is our life of sanctifying grace. This life of grace, this Christ-life, allows us to communicate with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the divine Persons who dwell within us. This Christ-life allows us to pour ourselves out in love of God and neighbor.

The life that Christ has given us is not a type of superstructure which is erected atop our human nature. Although nature and grace are distinct, they are not side by side as separate entities. Rather, grace permeates nature. The Christian is one graced person. He or she has been raised up into a deeper form of life in Christ Jesus. Nothing that is authentically human has been excluded from this new existence. Whatever is really human in the life of the Christian is meant to be an expression of the Christ-life. The simple but deep joys of family life, the joy of being accepted by another in deep friendship, the wonderment at nature's beauty, the agony of crucial decision-making, the success or frustration that is experienced in one's work, the joy of being well received by others and the heartache of being misunderstood-all these human experiences are intended to be caught up in Christ and made more deeply human because of Him.

Christ, has come, then, not to destroy anything which is authentically human, but to perfect it by leading it to a graced fulfillment.
There follows various ideas concerning our life in Our Savior, our life in Christ Jesus Our Lord.


Scriptural Reflections


The Priest and the Eucharist


Reflections on Prayer


Words from Henri Houwen

Although death has recently taken him from us in one way, Henri Nouwen will always remain with us through his written words. There follow a few excerpts from these writings.


A Sense of Perspective

Life, in its basic orientation and purpose, is really quite simple. However, this fundamental simplicity of life is expressed in a multiplicity of ways. There are, as a consequence, many pieces which compose the varied and complete picture of human existence. It is not always easy to keep each piece in its proper place. To try to keep all aspects of life in balance requires consistent effort. To maintain a proper sense of perspective offers a challenge which makes persistent demands upon our powers of Christian maturity.

All sorts of human experiences, some pleasant, some exciting, some painful, can make inroads on our sense of perspective. These experiences, if not correctly handled, can detract from a balanced vision of life. What are some of these experiences?

Episodes of failure have a peculiar power to distort our sense of perspective. The failure, especially if it is of more extreme proportions, seems to spread its cloak over our entire consciousness, trying to make us forget those many times we have experienced success. Failure can be a source of growth. But not automatically. It takes a rather painful effort to make the experience of failure a positive factor in our quest for Christian maturity.

At the other end of the spectrum we find states of happiness and success. These, for different reasons, can also make us lose a sense of proportion if they are not properly assimilated. During times of success and happiness, particularly at moments of ecstatic happiness, we have to hold our hearts with a gentle but firm grasp lest they lead us down undesirable paths. Happiness can be an impetus and inspiration for noble and successful living. But if not properly controlled, moments of success and happiness can be a heady wine. In our desire to continue to bask in the glow of happiness, we can block out other aspects of our lives-the call of duty or whatever-which rightfully demand their proper share of time and attention.

Experiencing failure-which we mentioned above-is one kind of suffering. But there are other kinds also. As we look at suffering with a faith-vision, we see that it is meant to be expansive. It is intended, through its process of purification, to deepen our capacity for real living. If properly assimilated, suffering has a special capacity to make us capable of deeper love toward God and neighbor. If, however, we try to immaturely flee the suffering, if we rebel under its purifying thrusts, then suffering has an opposite effect. It tends to make us bitter.

Rather than expanding us, it narrows us. It turns us selfishly in on ourselves. It makes us engage in a process of continual self-pity. It narrows our vision, making us morbidly gaze at our pain in a way which distorts the experience of suffering. We fail to see the place of suffering in the broader scheme of things. We fail to see that suffering is an inevitable dimension of life. Because we have lost perspective, we fail to see that unless one is willing to accept suffering properly, he or she is really refusing to continue in the quest for maturity. To refuse suffering is to refuse personal growth.

Anxiety concerning a particular task or goal to be achieved is another kind of experience which can narrow the broad vision which is our balanced view of life. Because of the importance the matter has for us, we begin to think as if the very success or failure of life itself depends on whether or not we properly perform the task or achieve the goal in question. We tend to lose perspective. We tend to narrow down our gaze almost exclusively to this one matter at hand, forgetting that, while it is important, it still makes up but one point in the long journey which is the totality of our human existence.

The above examples chosen from the many possibilities of life's experiences, are sufficient to make us realize that to maintain a consistent and dynamic sense of perspective is no easy task. Yet the pursuit of such a balanced view of life is well worth the effort. People who maintain a proper perspective of life manifest a certain calm. They can experience failure, success, suffering, joy, happiness, and apprehension. But their experience of all this is channeled through the prism which is a balanced view of life. As a result they seem to be basically at peace with themselves, and consistently so. They are persons who drink deeply of the peace of Christ, this Christ who always maintained that perfect perspective of human existence.


Shepherds in Christ

St. Augustine has these words for pastors: "Certainly, if there are good sheep there are also good shepherds; good sheep give rise to good shepherds. But all good shepherds are one in the one good shepherd; they form a unity. If only they feed the sheep, Christ is feeding the sheep. The friends of the bridegroom do not speak with their own voice, but they take great joy in listening to the bridegroom's voice. Christ himself is the shepherd when they act as shepherds. 'I feed them', he says, because his voice is in their voice, his love in their love...

"All shepherds should therefore be one in the one good shepherd. All should speak with the one voice of the one shepherd, so that the sheep may hear and follow their shepherd; not this or that shepherd, but one shepherd. All should speak with one voice in Christ, not with different voices...The sheep should hear the voice, a voice purified from all schism, freed from all heresy..."17

These words of Augustine emphasize the profound union which exists between Christ and His shepherds. Building upon Augustine's thought we should always strive to grow in the conviction that the closer the shepherd is united with his Savior and Master, the more fruitful is his ministry. Vatican II tells us: "Priestly holiness itself contributes very greatly to a fruitful fulfillment of the priestly ministry. True, the grace of God can complete the work of salvation even through unworthy ministers. Yet ordinarily God desires to manifest His works through those who have been made particularly docile to the impulse and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because of their intimate union with Christ and their holiness of life, these men can say with the apostle: "It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.'" (Gal 2:20)18


Mary and the Priest

Father Arthur Culkins, a contemporary Marian scholar, offers us these words on Mary and the priest:

"If every Christian ought to see himself in the Apostle John, entrusted to Mary as her son or daughter, how much more ought priests to recognize themselves as sons of Mary, as the subject of a 'double' entrustment to her. I say 'double' because they are successors of John by a twofold title: as disciples and as priests. This is beautifully drawn out by our Holy Father in his "Holy Thursday Letter to Priests" of 1988: 'If John at the foot of the Cross somehow represents every man and woman for whom the motherhood of the Mother of God is spiritually extended, how much more does this concern each of us, who are sacramentally called to the priestly ministry of the Eucharist in the Church!'...

"Although Jesus had already entrusted every priest to his Mother from the height of the Cross and the Pope has done it even hundreds of times, it is still necessary for the priest to do so himself if he would truly experience the power and the protection of the Mother of God in his life as her Divine Son intends it. Priests who have done so know the difference it makes".19


The Trinity in Our Lives

Pope John-Paul II speaks to us concerning the action of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit towards us: "The truth, revealed in Christ, about the 'Father of mercies,' enables us to 'see' him as particularly close to man, especially when man is suffering, when he is under threat at the very heart of his existence and dignity. And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God. They are certainly being moved to do this by Christ himself, who through his Spirit works within human hearts. For the mystery of God the 'Father of mercies' revealed by Christ becomes, in the context of today's threats to man, as it were, a unique appeal addressed to the church."20


Spirituality Program for Priests

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, a spirituality that can inspire, motivate and thus sustain the busy daily lives of contemporary diocesan priests.

The 26 day program is conducted in an atmosphere of rest and leisure.

Following some initial days of rest, orientation and foundations for prayer participants will engage in:

Presenters/Directors:
    Rev. George Aschenbrenner, S.J., S.T.L.
    Rev. Richard Gabuzda, S.T.D.
    Rev. John Horn, S.J., D.Min.
    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. Room and board is included in the total fee.

The total cost for room, board, program fees and materials is $1,763.00 due to a grant received! Limited financial assistance is available.

For further information/registration contact:

Rev. Richard J. Gabuzda
Director
The Institute for Priestly Formation
320 N. 20th Street, #1208
Omaha, NE 68178
Phone: (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. 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. William Johnston, Christian Mysticism Today, Doubleday Harper and Row, p. 88.
  3. Edward Leen, C.S. Sp., In The Likeness of Christ, Sheed & Ward, pp. 198-199.
  4. Edward Leen, C.S. Sp., Why the Cross? Sheed & Ward, pp. 46-47.
  5. Pope John-Paul II, On Human Work (Laborem Exercens), United States Catholic Conference, No. 27.
  6. Pope John-Paul II, On the Christian Meaning of Suffering (Salvific Doloris), United States Conference, No. 23.
  7. St. John Eudes, Lib. 1,5: opera omnia 6, 107. 113-115 as in The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co., Vol. IV, p. 1331.
  8. Supplement to the Divine Office for the Society of Jesus, published by the English Province of the Society of Jesus, pp. 21-22.
  9. Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests as in Inside the Vatican, November 1994, Special Supplement. For quotation within the excerpt, see C.I.C. can. 929; Missale Romanum, Institutio generalis, nn. 81; 298; S. Congregation for the Divine Cult, Instruction Liturgicae instaurationes (5 September 1970, 8c; AAS 62 (1970), 701.)
  10. Rita Ring, Mass Book, Shepherds of Christ Publications, p. 103.
  11. Edward Farrell, The Father is Very Fond of Me, Dimension Books, p 96.
  12. Dom Hubert van Zeller, More Ideas for Prayer, Templegate, pp. 35-36.
  13. Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved, Crossroads, pp. 80-81.
  14. Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns, Doubleday, pp. 98-99.
  15. Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out, Doubleday, p. 67.
  16. Ibid, p. 82.
  17. St. Augustine, Sermon 46, 29-30: CCL 41, 555-557 as in The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing Co., pp. 305-306.
  18. The Documents of Vatican II. "Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests", America Press, Ch 3, No. 12.
  19. Arthur Culkins, Soul Magazine Jan-Feb, 1995, p. 30.
  20. Pope John Paul II, Rich in Mercy (Dives in Misericordia), United States Catholic Conference, No. 2.

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September/October 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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