Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Stumbling Block
By Fr. Lorcan Murray OP
About forty years ago, ago a young man went to see his Parish Priest, and told him that he felt he had a vocation to the priesthood. The Parish Priest (P.P.) was very happy, and chatted for a while with him about his family, his education achievements, his hobbies etc. After awhile, the young man said: “Father, I have just one little problem.” “And what is that?” asked the P.P. “I have a girl friend,” he answered. The young man took his advice and –in due course- the P.P. presided at their wedding. Thirty years, and four children, later, the wife died, and -after a reasonable period of mourning- the man (no longer young) presented himself to the now very old P.P ., and told him: “I still think I have a vocation to the priesthood.” That is the true story of a priest who is now working somewhere in Canada.

If, today, we were to give the same advice to every young man who said: “I have a girl-friend,” we could safely close down all our Seminaries and Religious Novitiates, planning to re-open them again around the year 2,032 –forty years hence! For the fact of the matter is, there are very few young men to-day who do not have a girl friend, and very few young women who do not have a boy friend. If A boy or girl in Form 4 or 5 of a Secondary School does not have a steady date, he or she is regarded by their classmates as somehow odd, if not totally crazy. I am told the same is true even of youths in Forms 1,2 and 3 (11+) in many schools. This is what we call PEER pressure, with a capital P. While it is good for youths of both sexes to mix freely and enjoy themselves in groups, it is utopian to imagine that they can fall into serious temptation, and, unfortunately, sometimes into serious sin.

If adolescents could only be persuaded that there are so many wonderful things to learn about, and experience, in God’s wonderful world, besides sex, they would grow up healthier and more mature in every way, with well-rounded personalities, as we say. But it is very difficult for them to understand this in a world which seems to be saturated in sex. St Paul advises us: “Among you (Christians) there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity; this would hardly become the saints.” (Eph. 5:3). Paul is reputed to have been bald, but I am sure he would manage to pull out his hair if he was alive to-day. Not only are these things mentioned, but they are energetically promoted in every possible way, by the mass media. Homosexuals and lesbians clamour, with marches, huge meetings, lobbying of M.P’s etc., for their rights, including the right to live together like a married men and women. Women demonstrate for their right to choose abortion for their unborn child. Condoms are now available- like sweeties and cigarettes- form slot machines.

Young people are advised-from all quarters-to have SAFE sex, which happens to be very DANGEROUS advice! As many have found out to their cost, too late. It may sound old-fashioned to repeat that God intended sex to be used ONLY in marriage-but many old-fashioned sayings still contain sound wisdom, because wisdom doesn’t change. And , if steady dating is intended to be a preparation for marriage, then it should not begin until both parties have the prospect of getting married within a reasonable time. Parents today have a much tougher time than parents in the past. But it is largely their own fault!
If they are too busy to spend TIME with their children-one of the best ways of showing, and growing in, love-they cannot complain when these same children PREFER to take advice, and example, from their peers, who Do spend a lot of time with them: If they encourage their children to spend plenty of time in front of the T.V., so that they can have the opportunity to relax in their own way, or even to get through all the work of a normal household, they can scarcely be surprised that the same children will develop attitudes very different from those the parents would wish them to have. If young people are involved in steady dating from early adolescence, it will be very difficult for them-if not well-nigh impossible –to consider the possibility of a celibate life, still less to accept the challenge of celibacy. Celibacy can have no meaning in a society where SEX is GOD! To-day we are beginning to see the devastating effects of the sexual revolution which began in the late sixties-the things St. Paul said we should not even mention are paraded before us in every possible form, and at every possible opportunity- “in season and out of season,” as Paul himself would have put it. Somebody has to apply the brakes, or steady dating will soon begin in the cradle! “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” goes the old proverb. It’s about time fathers and mothers begin to rock the cradle once again. It’s about time parents begin to take on the responsibility of satisfied just to bring them into the world. The glamour of sex among youths must be shown up for what it really is-the age old serpent whispering in their ears: “Did God really say you were not to have sex before marriage?”... “No, you will not suffer from AIDS, or the trauma of abortion, or some form of venereal disease. God knows in fact that on the day you have sex, you eyes will be open, and you will be like Gods, on top of the world.” (Adaptation of Genesis 3:1-5). When Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, but all they could see with those opened eyes was their own nakedness, their own helplessness in the face of disaster. (Gen. 3:7).

Steady dating at too early an age-which will almost inevitably lead to sexual intercourse-is the great stumbling block for many young men and women, who might otherwise consider becoming priests or religious. It is also the worst possible foundation for a happy and lasting marriage. Either way, it is you young people who are the losers.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Throughout the ages, people have struggled to understand God’s call to them. Four basic steps of discernment—becoming aware, gathering information, making a decision, and looking for confirmation of your choice—can help.
HOW DO YOU HEAR God’s call in your lives? How do you understand what you hear?

These questions have been asked throughout the ages and continue to be asked by all who seek to discern God’s presence and call in their lives. If you look at scripture, you find several examples of people struggling to understand God’s call to them.

YOU ARE LIKELY to hear God’s call several times before
you realize who is calling. Your task is to listen, to listen well,
and, once you’ve heard God’s voice, to follow it.
Consider the story of the call of Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-10). Samuel was a young boy serving in the temple when he heard a voice calling his name. He assumed this voice was that of the priest, Eli. Eventually, Eli realized that Samuel was hearing God’s voice calling to him and instructed him to respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Samuel needed Eli to tell him that the voice he heard was God’s. He didn’t recognize God’s voice on his own.

Or consider the story of Andrew and the other disciple when they were with John the Baptist. John sees Jesus walking by and points out, “Behold the Lamb of God." With that the two disciples of John follow after Jesus and become his disciples (John 1:35-40). They needed John the Baptist to point out Jesus to them. Then, they could follow and respond.

When you seek to discover God’s call in your lives you enter a time of discernment. The dictionary defines discern as: to separate, to sort out, to sift through. Discernment, then, is a time of sifting and sorting. Religious discernment is also a time to see with the eyes of your heart so that you can choose life in God. It is a time when you allow yourselves to be open to God’s will, and it is an opportunity to allow your hearts to guide your mind more than only trusting your own reasoning.

What do you hear?
While discernment has many parts, I would like to suggest four basic steps in any time of discovering one’s vocation. The first is a call to become aware. You are called to listen to God, to yourselves, and to those around you.

If you are to listen to God, then prayer is essential. You need to take time to be in conversation with God, to ask God for help and guidance. You have only to look to the life of Jesus to see the prominent place of prayer in discernment. As you read the gospels you find that before every major decision Jesus went off alone to pray. He did this prior to choosing the 12 apostles, and he spent much time in prayer as he prepared for his Passion and death.

While you need time alone, you also can find God’s voice in the voices of those around you. Your call is not for you alone. While you may grow personally and your relationship with God may develop as a result of your call, your vocation is always a call for others, a call to be of service to others, a call to pray for others.

Gail, a young woman considering religious life, says, “Without the voices of others, I know I would not be where I am today in my spiritual process. God has sent me ‘voices’ throughout my life, people that I may have only known for a short time and others whom I have known for a long while. I feel so alive and filled with love when we have spiritual talks. It is their voices echoing mine that bring light and peace into my life."
Follow the four-step process
TAKE THESE STEPS as you go through the process of discernment:

Questions to ask yourself: Has anyone ever suggested that I might want to consider being a brother, a sister, or a priest? Has someone invited me to be active in ministry? Has anyone recognized gifts and talents in me and called them forth? Do I acknowledge that these voices could be the voice of God leading me toward my vocation in life? How do I sift through all of it? How do I discern God’s voice in the midst of the cacophony around me? What do I hear? To whom am I listening? How much time do I spend in prayer? Have I asked God for assistance as I strive to listen for my vocation in life? What do others have to say to me, about me?

Questions to ask yourself: What are my gifts? Where am I best suited to serve? What motives are driving me in my choices? Where am I resisting God’s invitation?

Questions to ask yourself: What is the most loving choice I can make? What is the choice that will help me be most fully myself?

Questions to ask yourself: What happens within me? Is there peace, even in the midst of some doubts? What happens when I share my choice with other people? Do others say, “Oh, I can see you as . . . ."? How do I understand negative responses that occur within me? How do I interpret negative responses that I receive from family members or from friends? How do I listen to these guides? Do I seek to find God’s voice in the voices of those who know me and who love me? Do I take any criticism or concern as an opportunity to examine my motivations and find myself strengthened rather than weakened in my resolve?

What do you need to know?
The second step in discovering your vocation is to gather information and investigate the many options in front of you. Nicole says, “As I discern God’s call in my life, I find that the perspective and input from people who know me in a vast array of settings helps to gain deeper insight and self-knowledge. For each person whose life path has connected with my own, I have been enlightened to my weaknesses as well as uncovered some of my hidden strengths."

Discerning a call to religious life is a two-way street. It calls for mutual discernment—on the part of the individual as well as the community. Just as with marriage, entering a religious community involves two parties, and both are called to be open and honest in order to discern if God is calling someone to join this particular community or not.

During this step it can be extremely helpful to have a spiritual director, someone with whom you can share your prayer, your relationship with God, your questions, and your fears. A spiritual director can help you sort and sift and discover where God may be leading you. Jennifer recalls how her own spiritual director has helped her and challenged her in her discernment of a vocation: “My spiritual director introduced me to communities that I would not have necessarily visited and to new ways of praying and worshiping our God. He encouraged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone to truly be what God had created me to be. He has helped me to be the best ‘me’ I could be."

If you are discerning a call to a particular community, part of this step involves conversing with the community’s vocation director. “It is a real blessing to find a vocation director whose only agenda is to listen and to help you listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within you and the respective community," Hillary says. “One such vocation director I met with really helped me to probe both myself and the life which I was discerning. She never pushed me one way or the other, but through many visits and conversations, I found plenty of affirmation and encouragement to stay open to this calling."

Where is God leading you?
Discernment calls for patience on all our parts. There is usually not a quick answer to the various questions posed. You need to take time to pay attention to the Spirit’s movements within you. Eventually though, you do need to choose—to make a decision. This is the third step of discernment.

This step calls you to choose what you sense to be God’s will as you can best understand it at this moment. You can’t expect your decisions to be always right or that you will be 100 percent certain when you do make your decision. Rather, you are called simply to make the decision that you believe will lead you to become the most loving person you can be, to become the person God created you to be.

What happens now?
The fourth step of discernment follows this time of making a choice, and it is a critical step in the process. You look for confirmation of your choice. While prayer needs to be an element throughout the process, it is vital during this time. You have made a decision.

While some may support you in your choice, you may also encounter those who disagree with your decision and try to persuade you to do otherwise. At these moments it is important to pay attention to what happens within you. Do you find your choice weakening, or do you find it strengthened, even in the face of adversity? Sometimes such negative reactions actually can help strengthen your resolve.

If, however, after making a choice, you find yourself feeling more and more uneasy or even get sick physically, you may need to look more deeply again. Is this a simple case of the “jitters"? Or is your body trying to tell you that you’ve not made a good choice? Again, at such moments, the guidance of a spiritual director is imperative. A lack of confirmation may be a call to reconsider my choice. Such a time of reconsideration may, then, lead me to a different choice. Or it could simply point out some areas in which I’ll need to find extra support as I continue living out my previous decision.

Lynn is a member of a large family and has a grown son herself. She recently told her family that she is considering a call to religious life. She said, “My son was surprised. But over time he seems to be OK. My father is a good old Irishman who just couldn’t contain his pride. . . . My mother is not so happy about this at all. . . . She can’t see, as I do, that everything I’d be doing as a sister would be by choice and would make me happy; that it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. . . . I have told some of my close friends [because] I really needed to do so. . . . Most of them don’t understand it at all. But they are so supportive and see it makes me happy. Most of them have the same questions that I’ve already asked. That’s great, because it gives me a second chance to talk about my own concerns."

While discernment requires that you spend time alone in prayer and conversation with God, you also need other people to help you sort out the fruits of your prayer, to help show you the way to follow God’s call. As members of the body of Christ, you need one another to uncover your talents and abilities. You need the other members of the body to assist you on your journey and, at times, to show you the way. We are all members of a community, a family of faith. Your discernment in life, therefore, leads you naturally into that community, not away from it. God uses those around you to lead you, to guide you, to spur you into action.

Listen well
Discernment takes a lot of energy. Listening is not easy! Like Samuel, you are likely to hear God’s call several times before you realize who is calling. But, with the help of your friends, your families, and your communities of faith, you can find where God’s call is leading you. Your task is to listen, to listen well, and, once you’ve heard God’s voice, to follow it as did the disciples of John—following Jesus who asks each of you, “What are you seeking?"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Papal Homily at End of Year for Priests

"The Priesthood ... Is not Simply Office, but Sacrament"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2010 ( Here is the Vatican translation of the address delivered today by Benedict XVI at the papal Mass on the feast of the Sacred Heart that marked the end of the Year for Priests.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Priestly Ministry,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year for Priests which we have celebrated on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of the holy Curè of Ars, the model of priestly ministry in our world, is now coming to an end. We have let the Curé of Ars guide us to a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry. The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation – words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood – words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him.

The priesthood, then, is not simply "office" but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word "priesthood". That God thinks that we are capable of this; that in this way he calls men to his service and thus from within binds himself to them: this is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, and our gratitude for the fact that he entrusts himself to our infirmities; that he guides and sustains us daily. In this way we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist – and that God is indeed waiting for us to say "yes".

Together with the whole Church we wanted to make clear once again that we have to ask God for this vocation. We have to beg for workers for God’s harvest, and this petition to God is, at the same time, his own way of knocking on the hearts of young people who consider themselves able to do what God considers them able to do. It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the "enemy"; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite. We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers.

Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God’s gift, a gift concealed in "earthen vessels" which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes his love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, his gift becomes a commitment to respond to God’s courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility. The word of God, which we have sung in the Entrance Antiphon of today’s liturgy, can speak to us, at this hour, of what it means to become and to be a priest: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29).

We are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the liturgy we peer, as it were, into the heart of Jesus opened in death by the spear of the Roman soldier. Jesus’ heart was indeed opened for us and before us – and thus God’s own heart was opened. The liturgy interprets for us the language of Jesus’ heart, which tells us above all that God is the shepherd of mankind, and so it reveals to us Jesus’ priesthood, which is rooted deep within his heart; so too it shows us the perennial foundation and the effective criterion of all priestly ministry, which must always be anchored in the heart of Jesus and lived out from that starting-point.

Today I would like to meditate especially on those texts with which the Church in prayer responds to the word of God presented in the readings. In those chants, word (Wort) and response (Antwort) interpenetrate. On the one hand, the chants are themselves drawn from the word of God, yet on the other, they are already our human response to that word, a response in which the word itself is communicated and enters into our lives. The most important of those texts in today’s liturgy is Psalm 23(22) – "The Lord is my shepherd" – in which Israel at prayer received God’s self-revelation as shepherd, and made this the guide of its own life. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want": this first verse expresses joy and gratitude for the fact that God is present to and concerned for humanity. The reading from the Book of Ezechiel begins with the same theme: "I myself will look after and tend my sheep" (Ez 34:11). God personally looks after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. God looks after me. He is not a distant God, for whom my life is worthless. The world’s religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end there is only one God. But this God was distant. Evidently he had abandoned the world to other powers and forces, to other divinities. It was with these that one had to deal. The one God was good, yet aloof. He was not dangerous, nor was he very helpful. Consequently one didn’t need to worry about him. He did not lord it over us.

Oddly, this kind of thinking re-emerged during the Enlightenment. There was still a recognition that the world presupposes a Creator. Yet this God, after making the world, had evidently withdrawn from it. The world itself had a certain set of laws by which it ran, and God did not, could not, intervene in them. God was only a remote cause. Many perhaps did not even want God to look after them. They did not want God to get in the way. But wherever God’s loving concern is perceived as getting in the way, human beings go awry.

It is fine and consoling to know that there is someone who loves me and looks after me. But it is far more important that there is a God who knows me, loves me and is concerned about me. "I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10:14), the Church says before the Gospel with the Lord’s words. God knows me, he is concerned about me. This thought should make us truly joyful. Let us allow it to penetrate the depths of our being. Then let us also realize what it means: God wants us, as priests, in one tiny moment of history, to share his concern about people. As priests, we want to be persons who share his concern for men and women, who take care of them and provide them with a concrete experience of God’s concern. Whatever the field of activity entrusted to him, the priest, with the Lord, ought to be able to say: "I know my sheep and mine know me". "To know", in the idiom of sacred Scripture, never refers to merely exterior knowledge, like the knowledge of someone’s telephone number. "Knowing" means being inwardly close to another person. It means loving him or her. We should strive to "know" men and women as God does and for God’s sake; we should strive to walk with them along the path of friendship with God.

Let us return to our Psalm. There we read: "He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me" (23[22]:3ff.). The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask and one which remains valid at every moment of one’s life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd. Lord, have mercy on us too! Show us the way! From the Gospel we know this much: he is himself the way.

Living with Christ, following him – this means finding the right way, so that our lives can be meaningful and so that one day we might say: "Yes, it was good to have lived". The people of Israel continue to be grateful to God because in the Commandments he pointed out the way of life. The great Psalm 119(118) is a unique expression of joy for this fact: we are not fumbling in the dark. God has shown us the way and how to walk aright. The message of the Commandments was synthesized in the life of Jesus and became a living model. Thus we understand that these rules from God are not chains, but the way which he is pointing out to us. We can be glad for them and rejoice that in Christ they stand before us as a lived reality. He himself has made us glad. By walking with Christ, we experience the joy of Revelation, and as priests we need to communicate to others our own joy at the fact that we have been shown the right way.

Then there is the phrase about the "darkest valley" through which the Lord leads us. Our path as individuals will one day lead us into the valley of the shadow of death, where no one can accompany us. Yet he will be there. Christ himself descended into the dark night of death. Even there he will not abandon us. Even there he will lead us. "If I sink to the nether world, you are present there", says Psalm 139(138). Truly you are there, even in the throes of death, and hence our Responsorial Psalm can say: even there, in the darkest valley, I fear no evil. When speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life he is there. Lord, in the darkness of temptation, at the hour of dusk when all light seems to have died away, show me that you are there. Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light.

"Your rod and your staff – they comfort me": the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. Both of these are likewise part of the Church’s ministry, of the priest’s ministry. The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God’s gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us. Even so, the rod must always become once again the shepherd’s staff – a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord.

At the end of the Psalm we read of the table which is set, the oil which anoints the head, the cup which overflows, and dwelling in the house of the Lord. In the Psalm this is an expression first and foremost of the prospect of the festal joy of being in God’s presence in the temple, of being his guest, whom he himself serves, of dwelling with him. For us, who pray this Psalm with Christ and his Body which is the Church, this prospect of hope takes on even greater breadth and depth. We see in these words a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, in which God himself makes us his guests and offers himself to us as food –as that bread and fine wine which alone can definitively sate man’s hunger and thirst. How can we not rejoice that one day we will be guests at the very table of God and live in his dwelling-place? How can we not rejoice at the fact that he has commanded us: "Do this in memory of me"? How can we not rejoice that he has enabled us to set God’s table for men and women, to give them his Body and his Blood, to offer them the precious gift of his very presence. Truly we can pray together, with all our heart, the words of the Psalm: "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" (Ps 23[22]:6).

Finally, let us take a brief look at the two communion antiphons which the Church offers us in her liturgy today. First there are the words with which Saint John concludes the account of Jesus’ crucifixion: "One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out" (Jn 19:34). The heart of Jesus is pierced by the spear. Once opened, it becomes a fountain: the water and the blood which stream forth recall the two fundamental sacraments by which the Church lives: Baptism and the Eucharist. From the Lord’s pierced side, from his open heart, there springs the living fountain which continues to well up over the centuries and which makes the Church. The open heart is the source of a new stream of life; here John was certainly also thinking of the prophecy of Ezechiel who saw flowing forth from the new temple a torrent bestowing fruitfulness and life (Ez 47): Jesus himself is the new temple, and his open heart is the source of a stream of new life which is communicated to us in Baptism and the Eucharist.

The liturgy of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also permits another phrase, similar to this, to be used as the communion antiphon. It is taken from the Gospel of John: Whoever is thirsty, let him come to me. And let the one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture has said: "Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water" (cf. Jn 7:37ff.) In faith we drink, so to speak, of the living water of God’s Word. In this way the believer himself becomes a wellspring which gives living water to the parched earth of history. We see this in the saints. We see this in Mary, that great woman of faith and love who has become in every generation a wellspring of faith, love and life. Every Christian and every priest should become, starting from Christ, a wellspring which gives life to others. We ought to be offering life-giving water to a parched and thirst world. Lord, we thank you because for our sake you opened your heart; because in your death and in your resurrection you became the source of life. Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek. Amen.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pontiff Explains Why Society Needs Aquinas

Notes Timeliness of Saint's Moral Theology

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2010 ( The moral theology of St. Thomas Aquinas is timely even today, says Benedict XVI, who pointed to the saint's emphasis on natural law.

The Pope took up the teachings of Aquinas today, continuing his catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages
after a several-week break to focus on other themes.

He explained how Thomas managed to show the "independence of philosophy and theology and, at the same time, their reciprocal rationality."

The saint's emphasis on the dignity of human reason correlates to his teaching on nature and grace, the Holy Father illustrated. And he noted how reason, with its power, has the important potential of "discerning the natural moral law."

"Reason can recognize [this law] considering what is good to do and what is good to avoid to obtain that happiness which is in each one's heart, and which also imposes a responsibility toward others and, hence, the search for the common good," he said. "In other words, the virtues of man, theological and moral, are rooted in human nature.

"Divine grace supports, sustains and drives the ethical commitment but, on their own, according to St. Thomas, all men, believers and non-believers, are called to recognize the exigencies of human nature expressed in natural law and to be inspired in it in the formulation of positive laws, that is, those issuing from the civil and political authorities to regulate human coexistence."

Dramatic way

Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of natural law and the responsibilities it implies, saying that when these are denied, "the way is opened dramatically to ethical relativism on the individual plane and to the totalitarianism of the state on the political plane."

He cited his predecessor, Venerable John Paul II, who affirmed: "It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote."

The concept of human reason proposed by Thomas is "trustworthy," Benedict XVI affirmed: "because human reason, above all if it accepts the inspirations of the Christian faith, is a promoter of a civilization that recognizes the dignity of the person, the intangibility of his rights and the strength of his duties."

The Holy Father observed that it is "not surprising" that the doctrine about human dignity "matured in realms of thought that took up the legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas, who had a very lofty concept of the human creature."

The Bishop of Rome concluded, however, with a reminder that St. Thomas' profound thought and teaching stemmed from his "lively faith and his fervent piety.

He was a thinker and a saint, the Pope recalled, who prayed to God in ways such as this: "Grant me, I pray, a will that seeks you, a wisdom that finds you, a life that pleases you, a perseverance that waits for you with trust and a trust that in the end succeeds in possessing you."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Profile of a Dominican Priest

Friday, 13 November 2009
By Christophe Cole (Dominican Postulant)

Name: Fr Ferdinand Warner OP

Date of Ordination: June 22, 1997

Order: Order of Preachers (Dominicans)

Portfolio: Regional Prior of the Domincans

Parish Priest- St Joseph

Episcopal Vicar- Suburban Vicariate

“If I had to choose again to be a priest, I would choose again to be a priest…I really enjoy my priesthood!” These were the words of Fr Ferdinand Warner OP, fondly known to those around him as Fr Ferdi while sitting in the veranda of the St Joseph’s presbytery looking out at the beautiful view that includes the St Joseph’s river and Mt St Benedict.

Fr Ferdi, the last of seven children, hails from Cedros. He says that from a very young age, he had the desire to become a priest and therefore always involved himself in Church-based activities. This was in addition to his community life at home which is much different from community life today. “We always did things together, if we had to go home, it was to do chores and come back out.”

His Church-based activities included involvement in altar servers and youth groups within his parish. His home was a Catholic home and therefore his family went to Mass together every weekend, observed the liturgical seasons and was very involved in their parish community.

At age 16, upon completing high school, he went to his then parish priest, Fr Kevin De Loughry OP and conveyed his desire to become a priest. He was then advised that he should take some time before applying, and so he did. He worked for a while as an electrician with his older brother after attending T&TEC Trade School.

It was in November 1984 that Fr De Loughry invited him to attend a weekend hosted by Fr Rivas (now Archbishop Rivas) at the Holy Cross Priory. On Ash Wednesday of the following year, he and two other young men were invited to enter the Holy Cross priory.

They then entered what is called the postulancy programme and in September, they were in their novitiate for one year. They then made their profession in 1986. In their studentate, they studied philosophy in Puerto Rico at the University of Bayamon. This was an advantage as it gave them an opportunity to become bi-lingual. They then returned to Trinidad to the St Joseph priory, to be closer to the seminary where they continued their studies.

He says that his family and friends were always very supportive of him. He particularly recalls two friends reacting to the news by saying, “Well it’s about time!”

In 1997 he was ordained a priest and was assigned as assistant parish priest of the Santa Rosa Parish, Arima. He then served as assistant to the Master of Students. He was appointed as promoter for Justice & Peace for the order for Latin America and the Caribbean, a post for which he had a lot of passion and through which he accomplished a lot. He also was elected in the same six-year period as president of the Conference of Dominican Fathers in the Caribbean.

In 2004, he was given his current assignment as parish priest of St Joseph. He also serves as Regional Prior for the order. He loves his order and the sense of brotherhood which comes with it. It is interesting to note that he has never lived alone and doesn’t look forward to such an experience as he enjoys community life.

Fr Ferdi has never had any struggles with his vocation or with his faith; there have been challenges but nothing that could not have been overcome. He enjoys pastoral work and has had quite an exciting and fulfilling priesthood.

The Scared Heart of Jesus.

The Sarced Heart of Jesus is a very important Solemity of the to priests and to anybody thinking about becominig a priest or even a religious. This devotion is important for us because it allow us to stay foucs on our call. A call that comes from God to help us to look after God's flock. Sometimes we can lose focus on that call of God.The prophet Ezekeil {Ch. 34:11-12} says: "As a shepherd keeps all his Flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I (God) keep my sheep in view." The vocation to the priesthood is that of co-shepherd with God. This is why the great woman St. Teresa of Avila, reminds us that:"God has no hands but our hands to do his work today; God has no feet but our feet to lead others in his way; God has no voice but our voice to tell others how he died; and, God has no help but our help to lead them to his side."

Change is a word that has been procliamed from many political pupits today. Even our own resent electorial debates hear in Trinidad and Tobago was packed with the issue of change. Change in itself does not change anything. This can be so when change changes the core values of life. The celebartion of the Sarced Heart of Jesus even as we come to the close of the year of the priesthood, we have to ask ourself some serious question: What is the end of the priesthood? Many of the problems of the priesthood today can come from the fact that the focus on salvation can be less of a priority in the formation and the operations of the priesthood and religious life today.

When Dominican was in the process of puting the Order of the Preachers together he saw that the purpose of his brothers was that of "preaching and the salvation of souls". Further to this he added that: "the brothers must conduct themselves honorably and religiously as men (women) who want to obtain thier salvation and the salvation of others, following in the footsteps of the savior as evangelical men (women) speaking among themselves or thier neighbors either with God or about God."

This brings us the meaning of self-givig that puncturates the Priesthood and Religious Life today. Keeping the memory of salvation alive is our vocation. The man referred to in the Gospel of Luke 15:3-7 is the genisis of our call today. "Rejoice with me," says the Lord "I have found my sheep that was lost."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Time capsule buried at Seminary closing Mass

See you, God willing, on August 26, 2013.

That’s when the contents of a time capsule buried at the Regional Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, St Augustine will be opened.

Msgr Llanos covers the buried capsule with dirt. Looking on are Msgr Stewart and student Renee Hall.

Towards the end of a Mass to close the 2009/2010 academic year, rector Msgr Michael Stewart and vice rector Msgr Robert Llanos placed the capsule in a wooden box and plastic bag and buried it under the majestic flamboyant tree near the entrance. A plaque was placed to commemorate the occasion.

Student Renee Hall told Catholic News the capsule contains the hopes, dreams, thoughts and feelings of students for the future of the seminary, using the imagery of the ancient, mythical Greek firebird known as the Phoenix. The exercise was done on the final day of the semester.

The outdoor Mass was held near the entrance; the congregation of ancillary and administrative staff, academic faculty, laity, “Friends of the Seminary”, religious and a few priests sat under and around the tree. Main celebrant was Archbishop Donald Reece, president of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC). Fifteen priests concelebrated including Msgr Urban Peschier, one of the Seminary’s first graduates.

Transitional deacon Rev Sendric Simon of the diocese of Willemstad, Curaçao, proclaimed the Gospel. Joining him in assisting Archbishop Reece were fellow deacons Rev Curtis Meris, also from Willemstad diocese, and Rev Steve Ransome of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain.

Archbishop Reece described the closing Mass as special because it marked the beginning of the three-year temporary suspension of seminary formation for regional priests.

Due to the lack of vocations, the small number of seminarians, the difficulty in providing staff and mounting financial problems, the Regional Seminary Board took a decision in February to suspend seminary formation and to transfer its seminarians in philosophy to the Seminary of Santo Tomas, Dominican Republic.

A decision was also taken in response to the recommendation of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples, that the Regional Seminary Board transfer full authority, responsibility and accountability for the seminary to the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain.

Archbishop Reece said an unavoidably absent Seminary Board chairman Bishop Robert Kurtz of the diocese of Hamilton, Bermuda, and the other AEC bishops “all join me in thanking the Seminary community for your patience and understanding as we enter a new era in the formation of future priests for the region”.

Consecration at Seminary closing Mass.

Acknowledging the decision to suspend training has caused some level of pain “especially for those of us who had seen better days in terms of numbers and a certain esprit de corps during those halcyon years”, the archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica urged all not to give into hopelessness.

Describing it as a period of “dry martyrdom”, Archbishop Reece said “something good” must come out of these “none-too-desirable experiences”. While this period may be a disappointment and will call for adjustment, he said all concerned must be convinced that “the Lord of history, the Lord of the horizon, goes before us”.

“He never disappoints; rather, He is doing a new thing, a new underpinning for a spring time of vocations through laity formation and assertive vocation promotion in each diocese of the AEC.”

Dean of Studies Fr Eddy Bermingham, SJ later distributed six diplomas to graduates, including one to seminarian Alan Hall, who will be ordained a transitional deacon next Saturday (May 29); Rev Ransome will be ordained a diocesan priest at the same ceremony.

Giving closing remarks, Msgr Stewart thanked God for the opportunity to serve as rector for the last two years. The former Vicar General of the diocese of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines also thanked families, friends, benefactors, and the entire Seminary community - Msgr Llanos for his “friendship and support”, spiritual directors, formators, lecturers, and Dr Everard Johnston, who would have been at the seminary for 40 years next year.

Before inviting the congregation to a prepared meal, Msgr Stewart said while the seminary’s closure may be seen as an end, it was definitely the start of something new.

2013 awaits… – Raymond Syms

Priesthood 2020 and Beyond

By Fr Dwight Merrick, Diocesan Vocations Director

Discerning a vocation to priesthood today means serving the Church with a vision for 2020 and beyond. And here lies the first hurdle; up to nine years of formation! This is certainly an obstacle for many hearing “the Call”, particularly when many professions require as little as three years of study. Frankly, the priestly studies can probably be done by any adult of average intelligence, it’s the formation that usually makes or breaks an aspirant. In fact, most of those who abort priestly preparation do so not for academic reasons but due to the demands of being formed to live as a sacred person amidst an increasingly anti-God world. While we recognise that most priests are quite happy in their vocation, do we always see the role of formation in this success? Even so, many of us as priests felt like we were still ordained too early, given the expectations placed on the priest. No effort is too much to ensure that an ordained priest is given every help possible to succeed at his vocation.

The question of poverty is yet another obstacle to answering the call to priesthood. While priests belonging to the Religious Orders do take the vow of poverty and the Diocesan priests do not, it is safe to say that all priests are expected to live a life of simplicity and would not normally be interested or able to acquire great wealth. Yet, the parents of priests can be sure that their sons will be well taken care of. Ironically, it is often the priest in a family who is best positioned to assist with ailing parents when that time comes along.

Over recent years, the promise/vow of obedience has also become a challenge for young men thinking of the priesthood. Indeed, both Religious Order priests as well as the Diocesan priests promise obedience to a Superior or Ordinary (Archbishop/Bishop). Of course it’s not just obeying a person but the very idea of obeying altogether has fallen out of favour in today’s world. When many Catholics treat the very commandments of God as optional, it should be no surprise that this aspect of the spiritual life is under attack even from within the hallowed corridors of the Church.

After some 40 years since the so-called “sexual revolution”, it should be no surprise that the requirement of celibacy is being also frowned at in no little way both within and outside the Church. While celibacy is in no way a “Catholic thing” (other religious traditions also include celibacy in various ways), this priestly requirement is possibly the biggest difficulty to the Catholic young man considering the priesthood as a life choice. And how ironic; the priest who vows to be celibate, is called to proclaim a gospel of life even while not begetting children and living amidst a culture of death.

Scandals are surely a concern for many thinking about the priesthood today. While there is so much being said on the topic however, it needs to be said that the Church herself, possibly more than people realise, is also hurt very deeply whenever there is a case of a priest involved in scandalous behaviour. It is therefore the serious intention and responsibility of the Church to weed out unsuitable applicants to the priesthood. Thus the scandals of recent times have served both to dissuade unsuitable aspirants and also to increase scrutiny of those progressing through priestly formation. Then there are those whose embarrassment might lead them to ignore their call to the priesthood altogether. My response to this is, “if I were called to be a lawyer, I do not think that the reality of crooked lawyers is going to make me change my mind; there are always going to be misfits in every profession and career.” We each have a responsibility to discern God’s call on our life and then pray for the courage and faith to respond to it.

The following excerpt taken from ( I find most helpful to anyone wondering about the idea of a vocation to priesthood or Religious life.

How can I tell if I have a Vocation?

If you have a vocation there are two signs that you have found where you are supposed to be.

One is that you feel “at home” there. This is logical, since your vocation is what God meant you to be when he created you, so obviously when you are where he wants you to be you have the feeling of being made for there, which you were.

But I think it is also very important that you feel like it is just a little too much. If you don’t you are either in the wrong place or you haven’t understood what it is all about.

You see, God always calls us higher. When you are where God wants you to be you realize that you are not going to be able to do this on your own. You need his grace, it is going to cost you, you are going to have to die to yourself, you are going to have to make choices, there are things you like that are now going to have to take second, third, or forth place, or have no place at all…The second sign then is that tremor of fear. You could say it another way, you could say that you have found your call when you discover that you are really going to have to work to make it a reality. Your vocation is not something you discover and slip into comfortably and effortlessly. It is going to take all the qualities you have (both spiritual and human) and make you stretch and develop and use them, beyond what you ever thought possible. Because God wants you to be a saint, and that is the challenge of a lifetime.

Top priority: Vocations

Roman Catholic bishops in the Caribbean have pledged to give top priority to ways and means of encouraging more vocations to the religious life.
The decision was taken at the recent 54th Annual Plenary Meeting of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) held in Grenada.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting (Message from AEC bishops - May 2) the bishops announced the establishment of an ad hoc committee “to co-ordinate vocation work in the AEC…and is also a response to the present crisis in our respective dioceses”. The committee will deliver its first report to the AEC executive committee in January 2011.
Touching on the current sex scandals now rocking the Church, the communiqué stated,
“As Church leaders in the Caribbean region, in solidarity with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI and the Church Universal, we the bishops, view seriously and with sadness the various reports of clerical sexual abuse. We are ashamed of such regrettable incidents.
“As your bishops, we have established policies for dealing with sexual abuse of minors. We concur with the directives of the Holy See to comply with civil law in reporting all cases of sexual abuse of minors. We are also committed to do all in our power to facilitate the process of healing and the protection of children.”

First new Monk in 20 years.

By Vernon Khelawan
The community of the monastery at Mount St Benedict last Saturday (May 1) welcomed its first monastic profession in two decades.

Brother Lance Herbert signs his “Chart of Profession” after making his final profession as a Benedictine monk last Saturday at the Abbey Church, Mount St Benedict.
The last such profession was made by the current Abbot, John Pereira, 20 years ago.
Making his profession two Saturdays ago was Lancelot Julien Herbert, who was born in St John Village, which lies at the foot of the hill. No stranger to the monastery, Brother Lance taught carpentry and other vocational subjects for many years at the St Bede Vocational School, which was started by the late Fr Bede, one of the early Dutch monks at the Abbey.
In accepting Bro Lance into the community, where he has been training for the last five years, Abbot Pereira reminded the packed congregation at the Abbey church about the close linkages between the monastery and St John Village which were developed from its inception nearly 100 years ago.
The Abbot said Bro Lance’s profession has given the community great hope because the past 20 years had been very lean ones for the Abbey as many of the older monks and brothers had passed. New vocations remained non-existent, he added, so that Bro Lance’s profession served as a shining light in the vocations darkness.
Bro Lance was moved to tears and had to pause as he made his request for profession. He asked the Abbot, “Father, I now ask to be allowed to make profession for life in this monastic community, for the glory of God and the service of the Church.”
On the altar, Bro Lance read and later signed his Chart of Profession, following which he showed it to the entire community. He then knelt in front of the Abbot, who prayed over him the solemn blessing of a monk.
Lucille Herbert, the new monk’s mother, as well as sister Lorna and brother Leroy were present for the ceremony. Vicar General Monsignor Christian Pereira, brother of Abbot Pereira, concelebrated.
The Abbot invited the congregation to meet Bro Lance during a sharing outside the abbey church after the ceremony.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ordination of Alan Hall and Rev. Steve Ransome

This Saturday, May 29 saw the ordinations of two young men at the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain Trinidad. Those ordainded were Alan Hall and Steve Ransome. Mr. Alan Hall was ordainded to the transitional diaconate and Rev. Steve Ransome was ordainded a priest.