May 25, 2014
On this Memorial Weekend we once again celebrate the service of our nation’s military. Down through the centuries dedicated men and women have sacrificed much to safeguard the freedoms we enjoy.
Be thankful for their service. Offer a prayer for the safety of our current soldiers. We are richly blessed.
This week also marks the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I give thanks for the many blessings I have received in my service to God and the Church. I offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported me in my efforts to live out my priestly vocation. What an amazing journey!
As I have reflected on my vocation, I have found myself going back to the inspirational documents from the Vatican II Council. How are we to understand the priesthood today, specifically the relationship between the laity and the priest? Consider the wisdom and challenge presented by article 37 from The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:
“Like all the faithful, the laity have the right to receive abundant help from their pastors out of the church’s spiritual treasury, especially the word of God and the sacraments. The laity should disclose their needs and the desires to the pastors with that liberty and confidence which befits the children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. To the extent of their knowledge, competence or authority the laity are entitled, and indeed sometimes duty-bound to express their opinions on matters which concern the good of the church. Should the occasion arise this should be done through the institutions established by the church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ.
Like all the faithful, the laity should promptly accept in Christian obedience what is decided by the pastors who, as teachers and rulers of the Church, represent Christ. In this they will follow Christ’s example who, by his obedience to the point of death, opened the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God to all of humanity. Nor should they fail to commend to God in their prayers those who have been placed over them, who indeed keep watch as having to render an account of our souls, that they may do this with joy and not with grief (see Heb 13:17).
The sacred pastors, however, should recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the church. They should willingly use their prudent advice and confidently assign offices to them in the service of the church, leaving them freedom and scope for activity. Indeed, they should encourage them to take on work on their own initiative. They should with paternal love consider attentively in Christ initial moves, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity. Moreover the pastors must respect and recognize the liberty which belongs to all in the earthly city.
Many benefits for the Church are to be expected from this familiar relationship between the laity and the pastors.
The laity’s sense of their own responsibility is strengthened, their zeal is encouraged, they are more ready to add their strengths to the work of the pastors. The pastors, helped by the experience of the laity, are enabled to judge more clearly and more appropriately in spiritual and in temporal matters. Strengthened by all its members, the church can thus more effectively fullfil its mission for the life of the world.”
Wow! Even some 50 years later these teachings continue to stretch our understanding of our Catholic faith. How do we apply this wisdom to today’s Church? May God continue to bless our efforts to build the kingdom.
Easter blessings, Fr. Brian