Life

A vocation to holiness

The priest, according to the magnificent definition given by St. Paul is indeed a man Ex hominibus assumptus, “taken from amongst men,” yet pro hominibus constituitur in his quae sunt ad Deum, “ordained for men in the things that appertain to God”: his office is not for human things, and things that pass away, however lofty and valuable these may seem; but for things divine and enduring. Ad Catholici Sacerdotii , Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on the Catholic Priesthood


Everyone in the Church, precisely because they are members, receive and thereby share in the common vocation to holiness. In the fullness of this title and on equal par with all other members of the Church, the lay faithful are called to holiness: “All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity”. “All of Christ’s followers are invited and bound to pursue holiness and the perfect fulfillment of their own state of life.” Christifideles Laici , Pope John Paul II on the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World.

And so I read these statements, back to back. Compare and contrast, in my English teacher terms.

Ultimately, we are all called to holiness, aren’t we? Lay people, even those of us very busy with temporal concerns. Priests, with their service, with the many demands made of each one, with their giving, with their humility, with their office for things divine and enduring.

But, as Hamlet would say, there’s the rub.

For all of us, priests and laity alike, can be so taken up with the temporal society that we forget the spiritual realm. That we forget the call to holiness.

Parish life, family life, these are each a microcosm of the greater society. We bring ourselves to our parishes, to our families, don’t we?

But the call for holiness means that though we may bring ourselves, we don’t remain ourselves. We pray, we listen to Gods call, we use our hearts and our minds to reach out, to follow Mary and her fiat..and thus leave ourselves and our problems behind, as we serve Our Lord with love and humility.

This is especially important for we lay people, in our parish work and in our family life. Do we serve out of love or for personal gratification…or worse, for a sense of power?

Over biscuits and coffee this morning, I listened to a generous hearted woman. She shared her thoughts, her concerns, about parish life.

She serves. She serves well. She serves with love. And she does not seek public acknowledgement.

The same could not be said of some others in her parish.

And how much worse is it when a priest serves his parish, not with humility and not with a servant’s heart but with a sense of his own assumed power, of jealousy, of almost political career advancement.

Harsh words indeed. Yet, if we are all called to holiness, we as lay people have a responsibility to pray and to work out our salvation, to paraphrase St Paul. But we also have a right to be assisted in this by our priests.

Now, each and every priest needs our prayers, needs our help. Each priest, too, is on a path to holiness.

But with this comes their responsibility to the faithful. For the parish is not the priest’s own, he has not the right to follow his own inclinations. He has, instead, a responsibility to follow Church teaching, to administer his duties with love and concern and as a father with correction of the faithful as needed, to not create cliques and inner circles, to not run things for his own good and his own tastes.

For temporal things are temporal, are here today and gone tomorrow. Parish priests, really, are often here today and gone tomorrow..to another parish, another obligation. The faithful remain in the parish, praying, striving for holiness, praying for priests…hopefully,with the assistance and not the hindrance of the priest.

We priests have been consecrated in the Church for this specific ministry. We are called in various ways, to contribute, wherever Providence puts us, to the formation of the community of God’s People. Our task …is to tend the flock God entrusted to us, not by constraint but willingly, not as domineering over those in our charge, but by setting them an example (cf. 1 Pt 5: 2-3). (…) This is our way of holiness, which leads us to our ultimate meeting with the “supreme shepherd” in whose hands is the “crown of glory” (1 Pt 5: 4). This is our mission at the service of the Christian people. The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community, Congregation for the Clergy, 2002.

To serve. In a vocation of holiness.

Not by domineering.

And lay people, not by seeking to take on the substance of the ordained priesthood.


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