Have you read Bishop Morlino’s column in this week’s Catholic Herald entitled It Takes Bravery to Follow Christ as Priests? In it, Bishop speaks about “Brave Shepherd Sunday” and about the necessity of the priest to do whatever is necessary in order to “call the flock to holiness.” “To do that today,” Bishop says, “takes bravery.”
“When we look for candidates to the priesthood and as we pray for vocations, we are looking for men who are brave in their willingness to seek holiness, to speak the truth, to lay down their lives. There is no place in the priesthood today for “wimpish-ness.” There is no place for an attitude that just wants to please people, no matter what they think and no matter what they want. Today the priest has to stand up and be brave, preaching the Truth with love. He has to be willing to be unpopular. And if it comes to it, he has to be open to martyrdom.”
The priest must be willing to lay down his life. He has a special obligation to do this exactly because he is a priest. Priests offer sacrifice to God; this is essential to their being. They stand in persona Christi, in the very Person of Jesus Christ, offering themselves just as Jesus did. “This is my Body,” they say.
As Bishop says, this offering has nothing to do with pleasing people; instead, it has everything to do with pleasing God, for the Lord is the One to Whom the sacrifice must be found acceptable. It requires bravery in the world to be found acceptable to God, for the mind of God and the mind of the world are fundamentally opposed to each other. St. John Vianney, the patron of priests tells us, “You cannot please both God and the world at the same time; they are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires, and their actions” and “You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God.”
We, as the laity, must pray intensely, sincerely, and sacrificially for priests. We must pray for their bravery, for their holiness, and for their fidelity. We must pray that they die priests faithful to Love Who has called them.
We too must follow their example of bravery, and as we hear from St. John, we must love not in word and speech, but in deed and truth (1 Jn 3:18). We much preach the Truth with love in our homes, in our workplaces, and with those whom we meet every day. We must be brave and unafraid in the face of opposition, hostility, and hatred toward all that we believe, for this is always disguised hatred of the One that we love. The Lord assures us that “if the world hates you, realize that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18).
We must show our love for Him through our faithfulness to our daily duties, through the little sacrifices that present themselves, through our example, and through the works that we do. As we bravely carry our cross every day, refusing to accept the petulant demands of the world, we confess our faith, witness to our hope, and profess our love.
The world will only be convinced of love when it is compelled by Love.
May we, in our little town, in our humble circumstances, with our seemingly little to give, love and pray for our priests, and give witness to Love in deed and in truth.
“My little children, reflect on these words: the Christian’s treasure is not on earth but in heaven. Our thoughts, then, ought to be directed to where our treasure is. This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love.” St. John Vianney, pray for us