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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 10:11-151)
Yes, the Good Shepherd has laid down His life for us. He gave His life so that we might have life in Him. This life we gloriously possess in Christ, we live within the Church. The Church herself came forth from the pierced side of Jesus. Vatican II tells us: "For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament which is the whole Church."2
There follow various thoughts concerning the Church.
St. Paul speaks to us concerning the Church as the
Body of Christ: For as with the human body which is a unity although it has many
partsall the parts of the body, though many, still making up one single bodyso
it is with Christ. We were baptised into one body in a single Spirit, Jews as well as
Greeks, slaves as well as free men, and we were all given the same Spirit to drink. (l
Now Christs body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole (1 Cor 12:27).
The Church considered as Body of Christ certainly
emphasizes the sense of corporateness that should permeate the consciousness of the
Churchs members. We must think in terms of both what is good for the entire Church
and, through this Church, what is good for the total human community. Even when we
disagree among ourselves, we do so not because we want to glory in having the upper hand,
but because we believe that to disagree here and now is necessary so that the truth might
emerge for the good of the community. St. Paul speaks to us about this sense of
corporateness: So if in Christ there is anything that will move you, any incentive in
love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any warmth or sympathyI appeal to you, make my
joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart and one in mind.
Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. (Phil 2:1-4)
In our sense of corporateness, that is, as we are motivated by a common purpose and a common good, we should learn to rejoice in the gifts and achievements of others. These are not isolated gifts and achievements. Rather, they redound to the good of the whole body. We all probably know of numerous instances of jealousy and a false sense of competition that have harmed the work of the Church. If the work of Christ is being accomplished, and if I am striving to do my part, does it really matter whether I or someone else is responsible for this or that particular accomplishment? Does it matter whether this or that group, or organization receives credit?
St. Paul again has words for us: For what is Apollos and what is Paul? The servants through whom you come to believe, and each has only what the Lord has given him. I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God gave growth. (1 Co 3:5-6)
The Church continues the work of the Incarnation. With Christ as the Head of His Body, the Church, she continues the life and the work of Jesus according to the pattern and characteristics of Christ Himself. Because Christs existence was centered in death-resurrection, so also is the Churchs existence centered in death-resurrection.
Fr. Avery Dulles, S.J., tells us: "The Church
a sign. It must signify in a historically tangible form the redeeming
grace of Christ. It signifies that grace as relevantly given to men of every age, race,
kind, and condition."3
God in His love was in a pre-eminent manner signified by Jesus in His incarnation.
Vatican II points out to us: " the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows. For the goal of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in her sacrifice, and to eat the lords supper." 5
"The mysteries of the life of Jesus are not dead, static They are living and dynamic. They have been lived for the members of Christ. All the states that the Savior traversed, all the human experiences that he willed to go through, have for their purpose the sanctification of all that enters into a mans deliberate life. These mysteries of His love accumulated vast reservoirs of merit in order to communicate this human-divine quality to the Christians doings and sufferings
"That this divinizing process take place, there is required a willed contact between the individual and Christ. This contact is effected by the activity of the virtue of faith. It is perfected by sympathy and love. The Christian who wills to have the life of Christ develop in himself, must consent to steep mind, imagination and heart in the earthly career of Jesus. He must aim at a sympathy with the Savior in all that he went through. He must strive to identify himself with the divine Master, to think with Him, to feel with Him, to judge with Him, to see with His eyes and to speak with His tongue. He must will to be as the Savior was in all these incidents
"The Son of man is ever at the service of His brethren for their good. The transformation of their souls is His chief concern, though He is not indifferent to their bodily welfare. It is certain, then, that if a soul lays hold of Him in faith and trusts to receive an inflow of divine life through that contact, its expectations will be fulfilled. Christ Himself states that He came to give life. By life He meant the supernatural life of divine grace.
"Christs mysteries belong to all Christs members. To secure the advantages that follow from their privileged condition the members of Christ must deliberately aspire to harmonize thoughts, affections and aspirations with those of the Lord. They must try to be, in fact, one spirit with Him. It is this Oneness in spiritual ideal that releases the streams of life accumulated through Christs merits and permits them to circulate through the soul
"The events of the thirty-three years are not to be laid hold of by the Christian in the sense that he has to undergo exactly similar things. It is the spirit of these experiences that is important. And it is by putting that spirit into his own encounters with circumstances that the Christian posits the condition that enables the virtue and the merits of Christ to transmute his actions into something of divine worth. An excellent imitation of the Lord may be realized without demanding anything extraordinary in the way of poverty, sufferings, trials or persecutions."8
The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a proper appreciation of the rites and prayers they should participate knowingly, devoutly, and actively. They should be instructed by Gods word and be refreshed at the table of the Lords body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves too. Through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever closer union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 48)10
Through the Eucharistic Sacrifice Christ the Lord desired to set before us in a very special way this remarkable union whereby we are united one with another and with our divine Head, a union that no word of praise can ever sufficiently express. For in this sacrifice the sacred ministers act not only as the representative of our Saviour, but as the representative of the whole Mystical Body and of each one of the faithful. Again, in this act of sacrifice, the faithful of Christ, united by the common bond of devotion and prayer, offer to the eternal Father through the hands of the priest, whose prayer alone has made it present on the altar, the Immaculate Lamb, the most acceptable victim of praise and propitiation for the Churchs universal need. Moreover, just as the divine Redeemer, while dying on the Cross, offered Himself to the eternal Father as Head of the whole human race, so now, in this clean oblation He not only offers Himself as Head of the Church to His heavenly Father but in Himself His mystical members as well. He embraces them all, yes, even the weaker and more ailing members, with the deepest love of His Heart. (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis AAS, XXXV, 232-233)11
"Now, how will this mystical reproduction be brought about in souls? In the same way in which Jesus was brought into the world, for God gives a wonderful mark of unity to all His works. Divine acts have a wealth of variety because they are the work of omnipotence; nevertheless, a most perfect unity always shines forth from them because they are the fruit of wisdom; and this divine contrast of unity and variety stamps the works of God with sublime and unutterable beauty.
"In His miraculous birth, Jesus was the fruit of heaven and earth The Holy Spirit conveyed the divine fruitfulness of the Father to Mary, and this virginal soul brought forth in an ineffable manner our most loving Savior, the divine Seed, as the prophets called Him
"That is the way He is reproduced in souls. He is always the fruit of heaven and earth.
"Two artisans must concur in the work that is at once Gods masterpiece and humanitys supreme product: the Holy Spirit and the most holy Virgin Mary. Two sanctifiers are necessary to souls, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, for they are the only ones who can reproduce Christ.
"Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary sanctify us in different ways. The first is the Sanctifier by essence: because He is God, who is infinite sanctity; because He is the personal Love that completes, so to speak, the sanctity of God, consummating His life and His unity, and it belongs to Him to communicate to souls the mystery of that sanctity. The Virgin Mary, for her part, is the co-operator, the indispensable instrument in and by Gods design. From Marys maternal relation to the human body of Christ is derived her relation to His Mystical Body which is being formed through all the centuries until the end of time, when it will be lifted up to the heavens, beautiful, splendid, complete, and glorious.
"These two, then, the Holy Spirit and Mary, are the indispensable sanctifiers of souls. Any saint in heaven can co-operate in the sanctification of a soul, but his co-operation is not necessary, not profound, not constant; while the co-operation of these two artisans of Jesus of whom we have been speaking is so necessary that without it souls are not sanctified (and this by the actual design of Providence), and so intimate that it reaches to the very depth of our soul. For the Holy Spirit pours charity into our heart, makes a habitation of our soul, and directs our spiritual life by means of His gifts. The Virgin Mary has the efficacious influence of Mediatrix in the most profound and delicate operations of grace in our souls. And, finally, the action of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of the most holy Virgin Mary are constant; without them, not one single character of Jesus would be traced on our souls, no virtue grown, no gift be developed, no grace increased, no bond of union with God be strengthened in the rich flowering of the spiritual life.
"Such is the place that the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary have in the order of sanctification. Therefore, Christian piety should put these two artisans of Christ in their true place, making devotion to them something necessary, profound, and constant."14
But the news of him kept spreading, and large crowds would gather to hear him and to have their illnesses cured, but he would go off to some deserted place and pray. (Lk 5: 12-15)
All of us no doubt have told ourselves on more than one occasion that we were too busy to pray. We are speaking about set, formal periods of prayer. We are not speaking about prayer in action, or that prayerful attitude which should permeate our daily activity. Such prayer in action allows us to bring a deeper Christian awareness to what we are doing and why we are doing it.
We cannot tell ourselves that we are busier than Jesus was, that we have more important work to accomplish than He did. Yet, as the above Scripture passage reminds us, Jesus set aside special time for prayer. Many, many holy Christian men and women from all states of life have likewise always found the time to pray. Moreover, they were more effective in their work precisely because they did pray.
Prayer serves various purposes. One of its functions is to mold us to become more effective workers in the Fathers vineyard. Prayer helps us to control worry and anxiety. Worry and anxiety obviously can make us less efficient in our work. We cannot expect prayer to remove all anxiety from life. But prayer has a significant contribution to offer in making us Christians who are basically permeated with the peace of Christ. If we are persons of prayer, we grow in the awareness of what it means to be loved by Jesus, and, consequently, are in a position to control worry and anxiety. Prayer also aids us in our work by giving the motivation to do the right thing at the right time. Sometimes we can fail to do the work of the Lord precisely because we are not properly motivated. Prayer can also aid in making our work of a higher Christian qualityprayer can help permeate our work with a deeper faith, hope and love.
These are some of the ways prayer assists us to go about our work more effectively. When we pause to analyze the situation, then, we have to admit that we really are not too busy to pray.
Nouwen tells about a meeting with Mother Teresa:
"Once, quite a few years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Mother Teresa of
Calcutta. I was struggling with many things at the time and decided to use the occasion to
ask Mother Teresas advice. As soon as we sat down I started explaining all my
problems and difficultiestrying to convince her of how complicated it all was! When,
after ten minutes of elaborate explanation, I finally became silent, Mother Teresa looked
at me quietly and said: Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord and
never do anything which you know is wrong
you will be fine!
"When she said this, I realized, suddenly, that she had punctured my big balloon of complex self complaints and pointed me far beyond myself to the place of real healing. In fact, I was so stunned by her answer that I didnt feel any desire or need to continue the conversation.
"The many people waiting outside the room to see her could probably use her time better than I. I thanked her and left. Her few words became ingrained on my heart and mind and remain to this day. I had not expected those words, but in their directness and simplicity, they cut through to the center of my being. I knew that she had spoken the truth and that I had the rest of my life to live it.
"Reflecting on the brief but decisive encounter, I realize that I had raised a question from below and that she had given an answer from above. At first, her answer didnt seem to fit my question, but then I began to see that her answer came from Gods place and not from the place of my complaints. Most of the time we respond to questions from below with answers from below. The result is more questions and more answers and, often, more confusion.
"Mother Teresas answer was like a flash of lightning in my darkness. I suddenly knew the truth about myself."18
"To know God in the world requires knowing him by
heart. To know God by heart is the purpose of a contemplative discipline. It is a very
hard discipline, especially for those of us who are heady people. But if we
are serious about the task of ministry, we must be willing to engage in the tough and
often agonizing struggle to break through all our mental defenses and know our God by
"Let us not underestimate the intensity of this struggle. Surrounded by books, papers and professors, and inundated by lectures, talks, presentations, chats, and chitchat, we are constantly in danger of letting Gods Word become caught in the network of our clever distinctions, elaborate arguments, and sheer verbosity. As ministers of the Word of God we urgently need a discipline of contemplative prayer
"Contemplative prayer requires that we listen, that we let God speak to us when he wants and in the way he wants. This is difficult for us precisely because it means allowing God to say what we might not want to hear. But if we listen long and deeply, God will reveal himself to us as a soft breeze or a still, small voice; he will offer himself to us in gentle compassion."19
"Christians are called to bear witness to the
truth that God has gathered all people into one family. Yet wherever we look we see the
devastating fear people have of one another. Fear between races, religions, nations,
continents. Fear between rich and poor, North and South, East and West. Wherever this fear
rules division breeds leading to hatred, violence, destruction and war
"We need new eyes to see and new ears to hear the truth of our unity, a unity which cannot be perceived by our broken, sinful, anxious hearts. Only a heart filled with perfect love can perceive the unity of humanity. This requires divine perception. God sees his people as one, as belonging to the same family and living in the same house. God wants to share this divine perception with us. By sending the only beloved son to live and die for us all, God wants to open our eyes so that we can see that we belong together in the embrace of Gods perfect love.
"Living in the intimacy of Gods house, we gradually come to know the mysterious truth that the God who loves us with a perfect love includes all people in that love without diminishing in any way the unique quality of Gods love for each individual person."20
"Man may deprive me of possessions and honor, sickness may strip me of strength and the means of serving you but I shall never lose my hope. I shall keep it till the last moment of my life; and at that moment all the demons in Hell shall strive to tear it from me in vain
"Others may look for happiness from their wealth or their talents; others may rest on the innocence of their life or the severity of their penance, or the amount of their alms, or the fervor of their prayer. As for me, Lord, all my confidence is my confidence itself. This confidence has never deceived anyone. No one, no one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded.
"I know, alas! I know only too well that I am weak and unstable. I know what temptation can do against the strongest virtue. I have seen the stars of heaven fall, and the pillars of the firmament; but that cannot frighten me. So long as I continue to hope, I shall be sheltered from all misfortune; and I am sure of hoping always, since I hope for this unwavering hopefulness.
"Finally, I am sure I cannot hope too much in you, and that I cannot receive less than I hoped for from you. So I hope that you will hold me safe on the steepest slopes, that you will sustain me against the most furious assaults, and that you will make my weakness triumph over my most fearful enemies. I hope that you will love me always, and that I too shall love you without ceasing. To carry my hope once for all as far as it can go, I hope from you to possess you, O my Creator, in time and in eternity. Amen."21
"The concept of alienation needs to be led back to the Christian vision of reality, by recognizing in alienation a reversal of means and ends. When man does not recognize in himself and in others the value and grandeur of the human person, he effectively deprives himself of the possibility of benefiting from his humanity and of entering into that relationship of solidarity and communion with others for which God created him. Indeed, it is through the free gift of self that one truly finds oneself. This gift is made possible by the human persons essential capacity for transcendence. One cannot give oneself to a purely human plan for reality, to an abstract ideal or to a false utopia. As a person, one can give oneself to another person or to other persons, and ultimately to God, who is the author of our being and who alone can fully accept our gift. A person is alienated if he refuses to transcend himself and to live the experience of self-giving and of the formation of an authentic human community oriented towards his final destiny, which is God. A society is alienated if its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer this gift of self and to establish this solidarity between people."22
"Lord Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, we pray that in the great love and mercy of Your Sacred Heart that You attend to all the needs of Your priest-shepherds throughout the world. We ask that You draw back to Your Heart all those priests who have seriously strayed from Your path, that You rekindle the desire for holiness in the hearts of those priests who have become lukewarm, and that You continue to give Your fervent priests the desire for the highest holiness. United with Your Heart and Marys Heart, we ask that You take this petition to Your heavenly Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen".
The above prayer is taken from the prayer manual of Shepherds of Christ Associates, a facet of Shepherds of Christ Ministries. The associates are members of prayer groups which meet regularly to pray for all the needs of the entire human family, but most especially for priests. If you would like a copy, or copies, of this prayer manual, and further, if you would like information on how to begin a Shepherds of Christ prayer chapter, contact us at:
Shepherds of Christ
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
Phone (toll free): 1-888-211-3041
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.
We priests get so many things in the mail for the parish and all its ministries and ministers. I was dumfounded that there was something for the pastor, and what a good thing it is, "Shepherds of Christ"! It is like geting a mini-retreat in the mail. How good of you to do this for us! Bless you.
Sincerely in Christ and the
Fr. Guilbert Manaric
Thank you. I have just got your Shepherds of Christ Newsletter for l998, Issue Five. I was eagerly waiting for it so that I could distribute it among our clergy and seminarians. Every issue is a precious little mine of spiritual insights which helps us priests, always on the go, to stop and cherish the Spirit.
Sincerely in Christ, the Good Shepherd
Fr. Joseph M. Galdes, S.J.
Victoria, Gozo - Malta
1998, ISSUE TWO
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.