Vatican: Prayer Is Priests' 1st Priority

Key to Vocation Is Personal Relationship With Christ

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican Congregation for Clergy is reminding priests that their number one priority must be prayer.

The congregation affirmed this in a message directed to all the priests of the world, on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, which will be held May 30, feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The message was published in Italian in Saturday's edition of L'Osservatore Romano.

Signed by Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, respectively prefect and secretary of the congregation, the message encouraged contemplating the "perfect and fascinating humanity of Christ, live and acting now."

The dicastery made the invitation to give "priority to prayer above action," since effective action depends on prayer. The mission should be nourished by prayer, the message affirmed, from "the personal relationship of each one with the Lord Jesus."

The priesthood, it continued, cannot be seen as something "that can be completed 'mechanically,' perhaps with a well defined and clear pastoral program."

Instead, "the priesthood is a vocation, a path, the mode through which Christ saves us, has called us and calls us now, to live with him," the message reminded priests.

Radical holiness

This vocation has only one "adequate measure" and it is total dedication, the message affirmed.

"The very gift of priestly celibacy should be welcomed and lived in this dimension of radicalism and complete configuration with Christ," the letter stated. "Any other position regarding the reality of the relationship with him, runs the risk of being ideological.

"Including the quantity of work, sometimes extraordinarily great, which the contemporary conditions of ministry ask us to maintain, far from discouraging us should move us to take care, with even greater attention, of our priestly identity, which has an irreducibly divine root.

"In this sense, with a logic opposed to that of the world, precisely the particular conditions of our ministry should bring us to 'go all out' in our spiritual life, giving witness with greater conviction and efficiency of our exclusive belonging to the Lord."

The "place of totality par excellence" is the Eucharist, added the congregation, noting that there Jesus offers his boy and his blood, "the totality of his existence."

Eucharist

The message thus exhorted the priests to fidelity "in the daily celebration of the holy Eucharist" and the adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Priests have need of the Eucharist "like breathing, as the light of our life, as the only adequate reason for a fulfilled priestly existence."

The mission flows from the relationship with Christ. And this is linked to the need for the World Day of Prayer. "The holiness that we ask for daily, in fact, cannot be considered with an individualist, sterile and abstract connotation; rather it is, necessarily, the holiness of Christ, which is contagious for all."

The Congregation for the Clergy again encouraged priests to commend themselves to the prayer of the faithful. "Let us ask for this fundamental support," the message encouraged: "A movement of prayer that has at its center 24-hour Eucharistic adoration, so that from every corner of the world a prayer of adoration, thanksgiving, praise, petition and reparation is always being elevated to the Lord."