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Catholics are right to rejoice when they meet people who love God, or who simply want to do good. Those people who seek what is good are right in thinking that God is close to all, and especially close to those who love Him, but wrong in thinking that there is no need for a Church, a Priesthood or sacred rites. These have been given to us by Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, Who deserves to be obeyed, in love.
St. John Vianney's burning desire was to share the Faith and to save souls. His first preparation for his priestly task was to pray to the Lord, at the tabernacle, pleading for his flock, and also making a worthy preparation for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which he would offer for his parish as well as the whole Church.
St. John Vianney had lots of Confessions to hear, partly because he was brave enough to seek people out in their homes, and to preach about sin and Hell. He did not think it a waste of time to wait in the Confessional at the appointed time until someone came.
St. John Vianney was not a great scholar, but he loved God with all his heart, and so did all he could to write interesting and powerful homilies in order to lead people to repentance, new life, and sincere love for Christ, and for their neighbour.
St. John Vianney was not afraid to preach the truth in the pulpit, sometimes weeping as he spoke, as he described the miserable state of souls who cared nothing for God and might never arrive in Heaven.
Out of love and concern for children, St. John Vianney founded an orphanage; but he did more than that. He visited, daily, and taught the children the Catechism, so that they would become holy children, holy adults, and then Saints in Heaven.
St. John Vianney was so fervent that he was inevitably attacked by Satan, who wanted to frighten him into giving up his Ministry; but St. John knew the power of Christ, and trusted in Him. He learned to laugh at Satan, and continued to work and pray, to save souls.
What is the message given to us by those who allow children in baseball hats to stand between some priests, at the altar, during the Eucharistic prayer? It is that it is more important to make children feel involved than to allow the priests to be close to the altar, undisturbed, as they offer the Holy Sacrifice of Christ! This is a tragic piece of evidence of flawed attitudes, today, to the Mass and the Priesthood.
No-one forces anyone to water-ski; yet a special vocation requires special dedication. Just as a water-skier can grow careless, or decide to show off, or lose courage at great speed, and find himself humiliated, and reluctant to begin again, so a priest, or any disciple of Christ, can make foolish mistakes, in a freely-chosen vocation, if he is too proud to seek advice, or begins to doubt his gifts, or is afraid to begin again.
God's choice of a man for the Priesthood is forever. God does not change His mind about a man to whom He had given great gifts, at Ordination, for the sake of the Church - though a man might disqualify himself from active service for various reasons.
The Mass is at the heart of the life of a priest. A good priest is pleased to show the place where he offers the Holy Sacrifice daily on the altar; and he can be sure that all part hurts, memories, and failings can be offered up and 'burned up' in the great fire of love which is Christ's sacrificial prayer to the Father.
There are difficult decisions to make in our spiritual lives. A Protestant minister might sit and agonise about whether it's all right to ask for the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or, for example, a Catholic priest agonises over whether to persevere in the Priesthood. Prayer is essential, and trust in God and His Church.
Truthful Catholics know that there is no possibility of corporate union with a Christian group that claims to ordain people to the Priesthood and at present chooses women to receive such 'ordination' - and even proposes to make some of them to be 'Bishops'. This impossibility is obvious; although it is human nature to want to hope, when things are hopeless.
We can imagine a group of Christians in Roman times, hearing about the privileged men who are chosen to be ordained, to serve as priests in the Church - and to make Christ Really Present in the Holy Eucharist. How fervently some might have said: "Oh! I hope I'm chosen!" It is a hard life, but most men feel honoured to be called by God, though they are unworthy.
There is no doubt that our priests deserve care and respect both from their parishioners and their Bishops, as well as sufficient rest, and free time. Yet priestly life can only be renewed, where priests are dispirited or dejected, if there is also a humble, sincere, renewal of trusting prayer to Christ, and devotion to His Holy Mother Mary.
Priests must be determined to grow in holiness. Men are called by Christ so that the faithful can have a Christ amongst them where they live, and Christ made Really Present in the Blessed Sacrament because of the priest who celebrates the Mass. Amongst pure priests, God sees, here and there, however, a gloomy figure: like an empty space, symbolising a lack of charity, when a priest is in serious sin.
A priest is called to be 'another Christ'; to lead people, by his ministry, word and example, to holiness and to Heaven
Priests, especially, must not regret their state of life. We cannot avoid all suffering, in this life, but God can help us to bear it. No-one should envy people who have another vocation. Which is the greater sacrifice: doing without marriage, to become a priest, or suffering within a difficult marriage, to be faithful to the Lord's teaching? God the Father will reward all who make sacrifices for His sake, since He is just.
The priest is the man at the heart of the process of conversion. He brings good news about God's love, and the forgiveness given to repentant sinners. He brings Jesus to us: in His Word, in the Real Presence of Christ at Mass and in the tabernacle. He organises Catechesis; and he preaches, offers the Holy Sacrifice, prepares us for death, guides and helps the bereaved - and the faithful priest will be marvelously rewarded, even in this life. His greatest friend is Jesus Christ.
Celibacy is about love: Love wants to give up everything for the Beloved; and, for the priest, the Beloved is the Father Who has called him and asked him to act as His Son.
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