Celebrating priestly gifts  

“Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ and ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’”

These words come from the beginning of St. John Paul II’s 1992 apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, Pastores Dabo Vobis. The title comes from Jeremiah 3:15, where the Lord tells Israel, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart.” The gift of the priesthood is on my mind and heart because this coming Saturday I will ordain five men as priests for the archdiocese.

At the heart of the priesthood is the call to love Jesus Christ and to serve him and his followers in the Church. Every person receives this call with their baptism, but priests in the ministerial priesthood receive “a sacred power” through holy orders that is “no other than that of Christ” (CCC, no. 1551).

I discovered my vocation after falling away from the faith during my college years and then searching for the truth in the Eastern religions. As I worked my way back into Christianity, I was convicted by the fact that Catholics recognized Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist. A deep love for the faith had always been present in me because of my Catholic upbringing and education, but the real presence and a desire to serve others are what brought me back to the Church and then to the seminary.

Next weekend I will ordain Deacon Tomasz Strzebonski, a young Polish man who also experienced a call to love Christ by becoming a priest. For him, the journey began with feeling a void in his life while he was studying physics. Soon, it became an unquenchable thirst for deeper purpose and meaning and he enrolled in the diocesan seminary in Poland. But after two years he still felt that God was asking more of him, and he discovered that he was being called to become a missionary priest, here in the Archdiocese of Denver.

God has a plan and a particular vocation for each and every one of us that only we can fulfill, and when we open ourselves to that plan, we can find true joy, peace and happiness. This is true whether we are called to be a priest, sister, consecrated or married person.

The Church teaches that both lay people and those called to the priestly or religious life share in the priesthood of Christ. In the catechism, we read that Jesus “has made of the Church ‘a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.’ The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king” (CCC, no. 1546).

Fathers and mothers, you are called to lead your family in prayer and form them in the faith, thus participating in the priestly ministry of Christ. When you speak the truth in love to your children, neighbors, fellow parishioners and in the public square, you exercise your prophetic role. And when you justly and mercifully correct your children, structure the life of your family, or participate in bringing order to society, you carry out your kingly office.

This week I encourage you to give thanks for all those priests who have served you and brought you closer to Christ. Without their generous dedication to Christ and his Church, we would have been like sheep without a shepherd. Give thanks, too, for all parents who have faithfully lived out their baptismal priesthood. Without their tireless dedication and love, we may not have known Christ. Finally, I ask you to read the section on the sacrament of holy orders in the catechism (nos. 1536-1600) to understand more fully the gift of holy orders and the ministerial priesthood.

May we all commit ourselves anew to living out our call to be men and women after God’s own heart!

>> Ordination will begin at 10 a.m. May 16 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The liturgy will be available for live viewing online at http://archden.org/livestream.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash