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Posted in Archbishop Chaput's column, Weekly column from Archbishop Chaput, on January 18th, 2013

Restoring the heart of Catholic life

I think it proves God’s sense of timing that whenever the world most bitterly criticizes the Church, good men step forward to rekindle her witness.  The past decade has been difficult for Catholics from every walk of life, including priests.  But it’s not the first time in Church history, nor will it be the last, that God has used failure and suffering to restore the heart of Catholic life.  That renewal hinges in a special way on our priests.

Here in Philadelphia we’re blessed with one of the great seminaries of the United States: St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.  The men who study there for the priesthood, and those who teach them, deserve our gratitude for their dedication, joy and unselfishness.  They also need our support and prayers for the work of revivifying Catholic life that lies ahead.  So it’s a good moment to take stock of our identity as a community of faith.

As young men consider the future course of their lives this week, and the adventure of service and love that lies at the heart of the priesthood in the year ahead, let’s all of us remember in a special way to keep them in our daily prayers, and to sustain them by the witness of our own Christian discipleship.

The Church is not just a collection of individuals gathered around a sacred text. She’s a community – a community rooted both in God’s Word and in sacrament.

No matter how many other things bear good fruit for the Gospel in our day, there is no ongoing presence of Jesus Christ in the world without the Church; there is no Church without the Eucharist; and there is no Eucharist without the priest.

As a result, in every generation, we always need good priests: well-formed men of hope and courage; men who love Jesus Christ, love the Church and are eager to serve God’s people. And – equally important – we need a community of believers that will encourage these men, and support them as a family in their sacrifices.

The patron saint of parish priests is the great French “Cure of Ars,” John Vianney, who had a tremendous esteem for the priesthood.  Whenever others offered him compliments or praised his holiness, he always deflected the praise away from his own person and toward the office of the priest.

He once said that “If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. … The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

As with married life, priesthood is a serious choice in response to God’s call. It has life-changing consequences. But – again like married life – it’s not merely life-changing, but life-giving. When genuinely given over to Christ, priesthood is a life of joy, courage, freedom and fraternity; a life of fruitfulness and meaning.

And these things far outweigh its challenges.

This week, January 13-19, is the 2013 National Vocations Awareness Week.  But in reality, every week should begin and end with our prayers for more good vocations, especially to the priesthood.   In the year ahead, I ask the priests of Philadelphia, who already serve the Lord and his Church so well, to encourage the young men of their parishes to consider a priestly vocation, and to communicate the happiness they have experienced in their own priestly ministry.

I also ask the Catholic people of southeast Pennsylvania to pray daily for vocations to the priesthood.  God most easily answers our prayers when we actively seek to cooperate with his will. So I also urge parents to cultivate a love for the Church and her sacraments in their children.

I especially urge them to model their own love for the priesthood by supporting our priests in daily parish life, and by creating an environment in their homes where vocations to the priesthood are encouraged, discussed, and received by children as a great and holy personal choice.

Every Christian life is lived in communion and on mission.  The Church is an ecology of love. She is most fruitful when her members love well.

As young men consider the future course of their lives this week, and the adventure of service and love that lies at the heart of the priesthood in the year ahead, let’s all of us remember in a special way to keep them in our daily prayers, and to sustain them by the witness of our own Christian discipleship.


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8 Responses

  1. I applaud Bishop Chaput’s comments regarding National Vocations Week, January 13 through 19, 2013.

    Regarding St. Charles Seminary, the vast property and residences, in light of the pending closing of the Don Guanella School in Springfield which has served developmentally disabled men for over 40 years, it would be such a fine example of God’s love and care for these individuals to move onto the St. Charles Seminary property and make this location their permanent residence. Such an event would be a shining example of Christ’s work here in the Philadelphia Catholic community.

    By: Michael Skiendzielewski on January 17, 2013 at 11:20 am

  2. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Morton, PA has been blessed with 2 wonderful priests – Monsignor Savinski and Father Richard Smith. They are a true response to God’s calling.

    By: mary pastorius on January 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm

  3. One of my patrons showed me how incredibly important seminaries and seminarians are:

    [the] seminary is the seed plot from which should spring into the diocese ecclesiastical life and vigour. Whosoever are called to co-operate in its foundation, whether founders or contributors, whether superiors, professors or students, are doing a work for the future enlightenment of the diocese, of which only those who come after us will be able to estimate the value.

    “Ecclesiastical Discourses, Delivered on Special Occasions” by William Bernard Ullathorne, p. 148-149.


    We must pray and support our seminarians, our future priests and bishops!

    By: Adriana Martinez on January 18, 2013 at 12:34 am

  4. I think the Archbishop is being entirely realistic in that the Archdiocese cannot function with so few priests. Soon I suspect the Seminary will have to close since most of the students are from other dioceses which have already closed their seminaries.

    By: Robert on January 18, 2013 at 8:04 am

  5. Our seminarians are a shining example of dedication in adversity and I look forward to their ordinations.

    By: JimmyV on January 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

  6. We need to pray unceasingly for these seminarians. It is a mystery to me how so many unqualified men became ordained. Each day new outrages, like the Msgr. in Conn., makes faith that much more difficult for those of us trying to maintain our faith in the midst these scandals.
    Are there holy priests? (rhetorical question) These stories need to be published so as to refute the evil damage done by the scandal of bad priests – damage to the victims, their families, and those scandalized. The Church is in crisis.

    By: Tom Walsh on January 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm

  7. I would like to talk about an exemplary Priest and Pastor of SAINT Dorothy Church in Drexel Hill.He is dedicated to our community of parishoners, to our Spirituality and commited to our growth as a Catholic Community.The changes that have occured during His tenure have been phenominal too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say he has contributed to our growth as a Catholic Community in its truest sense and we definitly must pray for vocations to the priesthood for more priests like him. GOD BLESS YOU FATHER MICHAEL MURPHY

    By: Mary Lerario on January 23, 2013 at 11:32 am

  8. The following is why we need priests

    The path to the radical love burning like a bonfire for us in the heart of God starts at the Mass.

    Although Adam and Eve rejected God, ran away from home with God in paradise like foolish children and took us with them into godlessness, there was no mutuality of rejection. The most Holy Trinity did not reject us. They want us to come back home. Therefore, the most Holy Trinity impaled one of themselves, Jesus, the Son of God, while human, alive and vulnerable, on the sharp hook of salvation as live bait cast into pool of humanity to fish for the children of Adam and Eve (Matthew 4:19). They sacrificed one of themselves, willingly and with unanimous consent, to lure us out of godlessness back home to paradise where we can – if we want to – live our lives in abundant, eternal and perfect happiness with God and His family.

    Jesus successfully passed through the gauntlet of gruesome suffering – that is, through the agony in the garden, the scourging, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross and His hanging from it (i.e., the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary). And then He rose from the dead.

    What was heaven’s reaction when Jesus emerged from the gauntlet of gruesome sacrifice?

    Wow! By Jove, He did it! He made it through! He finished the grueling race. He willingly entered and exited the gauntlet with no shortcuts in between (Matthew 26:53-54). He didn’t quit. Bravo! Congratulations! Thanks be to God! It is time to strike up a song, break out the food and drink, and clap our hands in happy celebration!

    The most Holy Trinity gives us the opportunity to join in the happy celebration at the victory parties they throw for Jesus whenever a priest says a Mass. The most Holy Trinity have been throwing victory parties for Jesus for more than two thousand years in every land across the face of the earth! The number, frequency and geographic distribution of the victory parties testify to the significance of the willing sacrifice of Jesus for the children of Adam and Eve.

    To the victory party, we bring to the table bread and wine and Jesus brings to the table His body and blood. In His body and blood is the gift of divinity. At Mass, the body of the Son of God is planted in the soil of our souls and is watered by His blood. It bears fruit in this world and the next some thirty fold, some sixty and some a hundred. This mixture of divinity and humanity was first seen in the Incarnation. This mixture is seen again whenever we receive the most Holy Eucharist at Mass. At Mass, we experience the hybridization of humanity with divinity – the Incarnation in reverse. We receive the most Holy Eucharist at Mass to elevate our humanity with God’s divinity. By receiving the most Holy Eucharist, we become leavened bread. At Mass, the most Holy Trinity opens the vault of heaven and invites us to help ourselves to their most precious treasure, one of themselves, the dearly beloved Son of God, Jesus, the God who suffered, died, and rose from the dead. At Mass, the most Holy Trinity cram the wealth of God into a tiny scrap of bread and small sip of wine. Going to Mass is like going to the bank and making a withdrawal from someone else’s account whose owner is overjoyed to share his wealth with us. God established the Mass for us so we can make ourselves rich. Praise be to the gratuitous and infinite generosity of the living God!

    And then the path to the radical love burning for us in the heart of God continues backwards in time through more than two thousand years of human history to the gruesome sacrifice itself.

    Through these two hoops of contemplation – the Mass, which is a commemoration and celebration of the willing sacrifice of Jesus for us, and the willing sacrifice of Jesus itself – we must jump to get to the heart of God! When we jump through them, we discover that the nature of God is love. He passed through the gauntlet and then rose from the dead. Love enabled the former; omnipotence the latter. Hallelujah!

    By: John on March 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm

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