February 17, 2010 // Uncategorized

Priests and laity together: One priestly people

By Linda Furge and Father Larry Kramer

Opening/closing song: “Song of the Body of Christ” (Gather Comprehensive No. 727); “All Are Welcome” (No. 753)

Opening prayer:
Prayer for Priests
Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the gift of our priests. Through them, we experience Your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for Your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of Your kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of Your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.
— www.catholicdaughters.org

Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Priests:
His example naturally leads me to point out that there are sectors of cooperation which need to be opened ever more fully to the lay faithful. Priests and laity together make up the one priestly people and in virtue of their ministry priests live in the midst of the lay faithful, “that they may lead everyone to the unity of charity, ‘loving one another with mutual affection; and outdoing one another in sharing honor.’” — Rom 12:10

Father Larry Kramer, pastor, St. Paul of the Cross, Columbia City:
The master teacher Benedict XVI in his letter to priests for the Year for Priests shared some details about the life of the heavenly patron of all priests, St. Jean Vianney, the “Cure of Ars.” They centered around his work as a genuine pastor, not an isolated mystic. Vianney organized help for the poor of that impoverished sector of rural France and developed programs of spiritual development for the lay leadership in his parish. 

Some time earlier in a part of Italy where the love of God had also been lacking, St. Paul of the Cross anticipated our modern Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, Christ Renews His Parish and similar movements by using lay people in key positions as witness speakers and spiritual mentors (the original and still the main role of godparents) in an era when that was rare.

Today as a pastor I find myself in a similar position, but as a facilitator rather than an innovator. Even if there were nothing called a “priest shortage,” it has always been true that the priest cannot be everything that people need. People need the example and encouragement of people like themselves if they are to grow in the knowledge and love of God and God’s people. I try to find such people and help them put their God-given talents to work for the kingdom of God. I find that in doing this I receive their help in understanding my own role with them and their value to one another in Christ.

Called and gifted
Father Kramer echoes — and lives out — what the U.S. Bishops recognized in Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium: That lay men and women in secular and consecrated life and men in ordained ministry are called to an ongoing dialogue as they take up their baptismal call to holiness, to community, to mission and ministry, and to adult Christian maturity. In “Lumen Gentium,” we learn that, “The forms and tasks of life are many, but holiness is one — that sanctity which is cultivated by all who act under God’s Spirit.” — No. 41. It is through community, ministry and maturity that individuals and groups advance in understanding of their primary Catholic Christian vocation, that of holiness, of  “ever intimate union with Christ.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church,  No. 2014 

Challenged to respond
We are asked to respond to these four calls:
• Through committed relationships of marriage and family and the concrete realities of life. 
• Through generous service and conscious stewardship of resources.
• Through participation in a “new evangelization,” sharing the Good News of the Gospel with others with new ardor, new methods and new expressions.
• Through Christian witness within the family, within our faith communities and within the life of society.

Our call to holiness through community, ministry and Christian maturity comes from living a life filled with God’s Holy Spirit, living in a spirit of love, joy, peace and courage. Our responses, both lay and ordained, to the call to holiness are a gift to the Church and to the world.

As the U.S. Bishops conclude in Called and Gifted: “When we embrace our lives, with all their unresolved, mysterious ways, then we are led into the divine embrace of the Mystery that lies as the heart of life. We realize we are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful.

“It is at this juncture, perhaps more than any other, that the ordained and lay members of the Church can sustain each other in the path of fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ. The laity and the ordained need to pray for one another and offer mutual support. (Our) pastoral ministry can be more effective if we become true collaborators, mindful of our weaknesses, but grateful for our gifts. Collaboration challenges us to understand that we are, in reality, joined in Christ’s body, that we are not separate but interdependent.”  — Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium, “A Prayer,” page 24, © 1995, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, D.C.

Reflection questions
• In what ways do you believe you “know” God in ordinary life?
• What are the most important elements of parish life that foster community for you?
• In what areas of your life are you responding to the call to ministry?
• As an adult Catholic, how do you keep growing and maturing in faith — spiritually and intellectually?

Closing prayer
God of love and mercy, You call us to be Your people; You gift us with Your abundant grace. Make us a holy people, radiating the fullness of Your love. Form us into a community, a people who care, expressing Your compassion. Remind us day after day of our baptismal call to serve, with joy and courage. Teach us how to grow in wisdom and grace and joy in Your presence. Through Jesus in your Spirit, we make this prayer. Amen.
—  Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium, “A Prayer,” page v, © 1995, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, D.C.

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