Holy priests

Some journalists, especially in the West, love to gloat over the immoral behavior, especially in sexual matters, of some Catholic priests. Without denying that there are modern versions of Fr. Salvi in Jose Rizal's novels, my reaction to these lurid reports on priestly immorality is actually to be even more convinced that the Catholic Church is divine and was instituted by God Himself. With all these scoundrels who call themselves faithful children of the Catholic Church throughout the last 21 centuries (starting with Judas himself), any other purely human institution would have been long destroyed. The very fact that the Catholic Church continues to stand strong and firm, producing countless holy men and women in varied nations and cultures, is a sign that there is divine intervention, that the promise of itsFounder guarantees forever that "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

Any really believing Catholic will not question his faith just because of the moral failings of a few Catholic priests. He knows that priests are also wounded by original sin like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, they can fall into grave errors. Our reaction when we hear of priestly scandals is to multiply our daily prayers for the holiness of priests, as the Catholics in the Cebu Archdiocese pray every day in their respective parishes. Like many other bishops from all over the world, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu is strongly convinced of the indispensable role of holy priests in nurturing the faith among the laity. I have personal knowledge of his experiences in his former diocese of Palo, Leyte, where the exemplary behavior of priests strengthened the faith of our Waray sisters and brothers. It goes without saying that it is an important duty of all of us lay people to pray constantly for the holiness of priests.

Backed up by our constant prayers, the priests themselves have an obligation to strive for personal sanctity more than any one else in the Church. A holy priest can bring thousands of souls with him to heaven. Without being presumptuous, I would like to quote here some passages from the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests of the Second Vatican Council. In this Year of Faith, it is fitting that all of us review what our Holy Mother the Church has told us about how priests can foster their own personal sanctity. Let me quote from Section 3 the said document. "In order that, in all conditions of life, they may be able to grow in union with Christ, priests besides the exercise of their conscious ministry, enjoy the common and particular means, old and new, which the Spirit never ceases to arouse in the People of God and which the Church commends and sometimes commands, for the sanctification of her members. Outstanding among all these spiritual aids are those acts by which the faithful are nourished in the Word of God at the double table of the Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist. The importance of frequent use of these for the sanctification of priests is obvious to all. The ministers of sacramental grace are intimately united to Christ, our Savior and Pastor, through the fruitful reception of the sacraments, especially sacramental Penance, in which, prepared by the daily examination of conscience, the necessary conversion of heart and love for the Father of Mercy is greatly deepened. Nourished by spiritual reading under the light of faith, they can more diligently seek signs of God's will and impulses of his grace in the various events of life, and so from day to day become more docile to the mission they have assumed in the Holy Spirit. They will always find a wonderful example of such docility in the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was led by the Holy Spirit to dedicate herself totally to the mystery of man's redemption. Let priests love and venerate with filial devotion and veneration this mother of the Eternal High Priest, Queen of Apostles and Protector of their own ministry."

In the fulfillment of their ministry with fidelity to the daily colloquy with Christ, a visit to and veneration of the Most Holy Eucharist, spiritual retreats and spiritual direction are of great worth. In many ways, but especially through mental prayer and the vocal prayers which they freely choose, priests seek and fervently pray that God will grant them the spirit of true adoration whereby they themselves, along with the people committed to them, may intimately unite themselves with Christ the Mediator to the New Testament, and so as adopted children of God may be able to call out "Abba, Father" (Rom 8: 15). In these exhortations found in a document of the Second Vatican Council, every priest has a "map of life" to holiness. He only has to have the will to carry them out, supported by the prayers of the laity and the motherly care of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They can also have recourse to St. John Mary Vianney, Patron of Priests.Inspired by the Cure of Ars, they will not hesitate to spend hours and hours every day inside the Confessional for the spiritual welfare of their parishioners. For comments, my e-mail address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.

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