YEAR OF THE PRIEST
Pope Benedict XVI has introduced into his papacy a slight change from his predecessor. Pope John Paul II loved to declare every few years something special and nothing was more special to him than the Millenial year or Holy Year of 2000. During his twenty-three years as pope, John Paul II twice declared two special Holy Years. We used to think that he thrived on looking outside his window and seeing St. Peter’s Square full of pilgrims. His successor, our present Holy Father has a knack for calling our attention to something special every year also but he prefers the Church to meditate and think about something them rather than go on pilgrimage. We will end this coming week the “Year of St. Paul” and immediately begin to observe a “Year of the Priest.” The proximate cause of this special year is the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests and the Holy Father wants to call all the Church and in a special way today’s priests into a reflection on the priesthood. If you would like to learn more about the life of this saintly Cure d’Ars, click here for immediate transfer to Wikipedia.
Using St. John Vianney’s anniversary as a launching pad, the Holy Father is asking both priests and people to reflect on the nature and meaning of priesthood. He asks us to look inwardly to check and see if we are truly living the priestly life to which God has called us. He asks God’s people to look at their priests as men who have sacrificed much to be at the service of others. And he reminds all of us that we are here for Christ and for others.
It could be and should be a good year. God knows there is enough written and said these days negatively about priests and if one result of the Holy Father’s declaration for this special year is to encourage the Church and its ordained to pause and reflect more deeply on both the mystery and reality of the priesthood, that alone will be a great thing. I intend to use this year and its opportunities in a variety of ways which I will make known in the coming months here. For the moment, I thank Pope Benedict for thinking of a special year and I invite the reader to begin a special year of prayer for your priests.