Local events celebrating the Year of the Priest in the Church begin ramping up this month and continue through next June. They’re a way to focus attention on priests, their growth in holiness which aids the holiness of all, and the need to support priests.
That need became crystal clear this week with the surprising news that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Scranton Bishop Joseph F. Martino, and appointed Cardinal Justin Rigali apostolic administrator of that diocese.
Bishop Martino retains many friends in this Archdiocese, having been born and raised in Philadelphia and serving here faithfully as a priest in parishes, education and administration.
The hearts of many in the Philadelphia area go out to Bishop Martino. He enjoys a spiritual closeness and bond of affection with Catholics here, even as he rests and prepares for a new chapter of his life in the Scranton Diocese. The best we can give him is a daily remembrance in prayer.
As much as the prayers for Bishop Martino are needed and welcomed, so too for Cardinal Rigali. The workload he gladly carries in our Archdiocese remains enormous, and now the cares and concerns of our brothers and sisters to the north temporarily become his as well. Add to these his service to the universal Church at the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.
Our shepherd relies on the gifts of spanine grace and the prayerful support of the faithful of this local Church. A daily petition of prayer from every Catholic should rise to God for the intentions of our Cardinal Archbishop at this time.
There is no better time for every Catholic to take the opportunity of the Year of the Priest to support all priests and, as successors to the apostles in the fullness of the priesthood, the bishops.
Support for one’s parish priests or a priest friend can range from a kind word to an offer to collaborate in service to the parish to a friendly dinner invitation. But the most powerful way is through frequent, fervent prayer to God.
Priestly ministry to the people of God (with its attendant burdens and joys) requires more than a tight-knit community of the priest and the faithful. Holy priests united with a holy people means all are living in communion bound together through prayer.
Make today in this Year of the Priest a time for recommitment to supporting our priests.