Thank you, priests, for your service, sacrifices

Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

On June 11, this past month, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, invited priests from all over the world to a eucharistic celebration marking the end of the Year for Priests and the designation of St. John Vianney as “Patron of All Priests.”

My first reaction to the announcement of a Year for Priests was extremely positive. Looking back on the past 12 months, I can see the many graces that have been given to priests and laity alike.

Many reasons for gratitude

Recently, I spied the following reflection from an anonymous source. It speaks so clearly of the thoughts I have and, I am confident, so many of our readers have, too.

As a way of marking the end of the Year for Priests, I ask you to read the article and think of ways you might express your own gratitude to those priests who have touched your life:

“We want to tell the faithful priests who unjustly suffer from these attacks that we’re on their side and, more importantly, remind them what Christ said: ‘Rejoice and be glad on this day, for your name is great in heaven.’

“Thank you, priests, for sacrificing the fulfillment of ‘making it in the world’ in order to give us a chance to make it in the next world. You don’t take on jobs — they are appointed to you. You put your own will at the disposal of the church, for us. We are grateful.

“Thank you for bringing our children into the church, and sustaining their souls with the sacraments.  And thank you for welcoming them into the church informally, as well.  We see them look at you like celebrities, and we’re glad the first “celebrity” they got to meet was a man of God. Thank you for patiently listening to them, for taking such joy in teasing them, and for showing them the true face of Christ: the gentle one who said, ‘Let the children come to me.’

“Thank you, priests, for presiding at our marriages, even while you yourselves live such that you can be ready to serve your people at a moment’s notice. Sometimes, married people sigh and think envious thoughts about living alone. But in the end, it’s hard for us to imagine how you do it. Thank you for risking loneliness to serve us and our families.

“Thank you, priests, for putting yourself in the unenviable position of dealing with us at our worst moments — when we’re anxious, upset, depressed, even a little out of our minds, focused on our own problems to the exclusion of all else.

“When we see the care you have to take in listening to the problems of so many kinds of people, we can’t imagine how you do it. How do you listen to angry people, whining people, weeping people, nervous people, suspicious people and clueless people? How do you listen to us?

“Thank you, priests, for sitting in empty confessionals on Saturday afternoons. You wait there, not even knowing if we’ll come, like the prodigal son’s father on the road.  Thank you for all the times we hear, ‘I absolve you from your sins,’ and feel a great burden lifted from our hearts.  This gift of God’s forgiveness brings the greatest joy back into our lives. We can give you nothing in return that even comes close to that.

“And thank you, priests, most of all, for bringing Christ himself into our lives. Where would we be without your astonishing ability to make the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ present on our altars and in our tabernacles? You are there for us every Sunday, every morning, giving us this infinite gift. Thank you.

“In the end, that’s what is so great about you: not you, in yourself, but who you bring us — Christ.

“People call from the hospital and say, ‘I need a priest.’ They point to the confessional and ask, ‘Is there a priest in there?’ They approach in the airport and ask, ‘Are you a Catholic priest?’

“When people need a priest, any priest will do, because a priest is nothing but a representative of Christ. Christ is the main actor in the consecration at Mass. It is Christ who forgives sins. It is in Christ that we are baptized.

“‘The story of my priestly vocation?’ wrote Pope John Paul II. ‘It is known above all to God. At its deepest level, every vocation to the priesthood is a great mystery; it is a gift that infinitely transcends the individual. Every priest experiences this clearly throughout the course of his life. Faced with the greatness of the gift, we sense our own inadequacy.’

“Your inadequacy is your secret weapon.

“You aren’t acting on your own behalf or through your own powers.  You are acting for Christ. And that’s why, despite all the attacks, the priesthood will prevail. We depend too much on you to ever let you go.

“Thank you, Father, for being Christ for us!”

Pray for newly ordained

On Saturday, May 29, I had the privilege of ordaining seven new priests for service to this archdiocese. The sentiments expressed above apply to these men as well.

Please pray with me that God will give them wisdom, courage and strength to be faithful to the awesome calling they have received. I invite you to be pro-active in showing your gratitude and appreciation for your parish priest.

Thanks and God bless you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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