Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Priesthood is Not a Means for Social Advancement

While in the quotes posted below, the Holy Father was talking about the stuation in Africa, I think these words are appropriate for priests in every nation and continent. I have run into some priests who seem to be more into the clothes than the ministry. They are caught up in being called "Father" and people showing them respect. It is an unfortunate situation.

The priests in Africa aften have to endure severe poverty and sometimes exploit their parishioners in order to gain better housing, food, clothing and other possessions.

While they appear to be very different situations, they have similar roots. They are both situations where the priests place themselves, their needs and desires above those of their parishioners.

We must pray for humble priests who desire to serve rather than be served.

The bishops of Malawi, in ending their "ad limina" visit, were received on September 29th by Pope Benedict XVI. In his speech to the prelates, the Pope reminded that "the exuberance with which the peoples of Africa give praise to God in their liturgical worship is known all over the world, and the Church in Malawi is no exception".

He continued saying: "Their joyful celebration expresses the great vitality of your Christian communities, and it reflects the predominance of young people in your population". The Holy Father exhorted the bishops to watch over and guide the faithful "with true fatherly care towards a deeper knowledge of their Crucified and Risen Lord, always providing them with sound catechesis in the faith" and stated his hope that the recent inauguration of the Catholic University in Malawi will contribute to this spurring the bishops "to provide it with sufficient resources and to maintain high-quality teaching in fidelity to the Church's Magisterium".

"In a world dominated by secular and materialist values, it can be hard to maintain the counter-cultural manner of life that is so necessary in the priesthood and the religious life". He said: "The clergy in your country, like those to whom they minister, sometimes find themselves in situations of want, lacking the means necessary for their 'decent support ... and the exercise of works of the apostolate and of charity.'"

The Holy Father said, "I am sure that you will do your utmost to provide for the legitimate needs of your co-workers, while at the same time warning them against excessive concern with material possessions. Help your clergy not to fall into the trap of seeing the priesthood as a means of social advancement by reminding them that 'the only legitimate ascent towards the shepherd's ministry is the Cross'(...) The formation staff in the seminaries need to teach the students that a priest is called to live for others and not for himself."

Benedict XVI also manifested his satisfaction because the teachings of the bishops of Malawi extend to matters of social interest, as can be seen in the Pentecost Pastoral Letter "Renewing Our Lives and Society with the Power of the Holy Spirit". The text "drew attention to some of the social and moral evils afflicting the nation", such as "food security is threatened not only by drought but also by inefficient and unjust management of agriculture" and "the spread of AIDS is increased by failure to remain faithful to one partner in marriage or to practise abstinence", as well as "the rights of women, children and the unborn are cynically violated by human trafficking, by domestic violence and by those who advocate abortion."

"Never cease to proclaim the truth, and insist on it, 'in season and out of season' because "the truth will set you free", the Pope said. The Holy Father asked the bishops to follow the example of the Good Shepherd who "watches over his sheep and protects them always. (,,,) I pray that they will pay heed to your counsel, so that the face of the earth may be renewed and the Spirit of God may truly maintain the unity of your nation in the bond of peace."


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