REFLECTION: To a new priest PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 07 June 2014 11:04



I don’t know if it’s a sign of aging that every time I attend an ordination of priests, I get very moved in a strange way. All sorts of thoughts and feelings come to mind. I easily fall into waxing lyrical, sentimental, hopeful, etc., in an alternating flow.

There’s also a trace of apprehension which I try to drown out with positive thoughts. There’s always hope, no matter what. That’s what I repeat in my mind, always recalling God’s promises to all of us. I believe the good always triumphs in the end.

I suppose it’s the years in the priesthood that have made me more perceptive and nuanced regarding possible scenarios that we, priests, can find ourselves in. In a manner of speaking, my experience has enabled me to read more between the lines, to be more discerning of the drift, the implications, etc.

There’s the good and the not-so-good scenarios. My experience has enriched my appreciation of these possibilities, and have made me more aware of the many factors and elements that go into them. The happy cases are many, but the saddening ones are also growing.

In the face of all this, my reaction and evolving conviction focus on how I can be of help to my brother-priests. I feel that I cannot remain in the level of intention and theory alone. I have to dive into the pond and get dirty if need be.

And so, if I have the chance to talk to a new priest, most likely these are what I would say.

I would strongly advise him to always remember the points articulated in the manual for priests called, The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests. This has been updated lately and now contains more details more reflective of current world situation.

There the basic areas of concern are well explained, namely, what the priestly identity is, the need both to develop a working priestly spirituality and to avail of continuing formation.

Sad to say, these points appear to be known mainly in theory but hardly put into practice. The gap and inconsistency is widening. Nowadays, we can even hear voices of dissent to what have already been clearly defined.

And if there’s one thing I feel is most crucial in a priest’s life, it’s his life of prayer, his abiding effort to get in touch with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit everyday.

This can take many forms and can be done in many ways. But what I would consider very fundamental is the daily meditation of God’s word as conveyed to us in the Bible.

I would like to give special mention to the praying of the breviary. It’s a daily prayer for priests, containing beautiful psalms, readings and excerpts from Tradition, church documents and writings of saints, etc.

There the very thoughts, will, sentiments and desires of God are expressed vividly. If all of us, being image and likeness of God have to reflect these thoughts and sentiments of Christ, then we should realize how important it is know and incarnate his words.

This is especially so for priests who are the sacramental representations of Christ as head of the Church—we act “in persona Christi capitis.”

The breviary is a beautiful source of inspiration. It feeds the faith, strengthens the hope and sharpens the charity of priests. It trains the heart to feel both for God and for all men, in the different situations and predicaments we can be in.

It gives us the complete picture of our life and mission on earth. It effectively blends all the aspects of human life, from the material to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal, from the natural to the supernatural. It broadens our minds, warms our hearts, and equips and prepares us to face whatever in life.

It teaches us what to be concerned about, and how it has to be pursued. It’s never an abstract piece of literature, detached from our immediate daily realities.

Thus, we have to be most careful when we think that to be realistic, or to get real, we can withdraw from God’s word and just rely on our reason, our sciences and arts, our opinions and consensus, etc.

We need to give priority to God’s word as expressed in the breviary. It’s where we can truly get in touch with God. Otherwise, we would just feed on our own food, with more or less effective results, but fail to be nourished by the real thing.

A priest should preach God’s word, not merely his own word.