[ ^ ]
Chief Shepherd of the Flock
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. (Jn 10:11-151)
He hung upon a cross on a hill called Calvary. Death was near. How much Jesus had already suffered! He had been brutally scourged. Much of His sacred body was a bloody, open wound. He had been derisively crowned with thorns. In a terribly weakened condition, He carried the heavy cross to the hill of Golgotha. There He was stripped of His garments and mercilessly nailed to the cross. After all this brutal and agonizing suffering, Jesus finally died.
Truly, the Good Shepherd had laid down His life for His sheep. That magnificent Heart, overflowing with love for His Father and all of us, had beat its last in a complete and magnificent act of self-giving: When they came to Jesus, they found He was already dead, and so instead of breaking His legs one of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance. And immediately there came out blood and water. (Jn 19: 33-34).
Indeed, from the pierced Heart of Christ the Church with her sacraments was born. Two of these sacraments, the Eucharist and Baptism, are symbolized by the blood and water flowing from Christs side. The sacrament of Orders was, of course, also born from the pierced Heart of Christ. We who are priests can never adequately thank Jesus for allowing us to receive this great and most special sacrament. The best way we can try to thank Him, though, is to utilize our priesthood to the fullest.
Each day we are called to imitate Jesus in His act of Self-giving. We, too, are called to lay down our lives for the flock. Relatively few priests in the course of the Churchs history have been called to lay down their lives in physical martyrdom. All priests, though, have been and are called to lay down their lives for the flock by giving themselves in loving service according to the Fathers will.
Our act of self-giving occurs within the framework of common everydayness. We grow in Christian holiness within the framework of everyday life or we dont grow at all. This is such an obvious statement. It is one of those self-evident truths, a truth which no logical person would begin to challenge. Isnt it strange, then, that we can rather often fail to live this truth? Inexplicably, we so often seem to think that our real opportunity for growth in holinessfor self-giving in loveis not the opportunity which is everyday, but that opportunity which is in a kind of no mans land, an ethereal kind of opportunity removed from the ordinary pains and struggles and joys of everyday living, a nebulous opportunity which our hazy thinking really cannot pinpoint when we reflect upon the matter.
Our problem, then, is not that there is lacking ample opportunity for self-giving in love, for growth in holiness. Our problem rather is that we have a tendency to want different opportunities than everydayness presents.
Our task is to allow faith, hope, and love to be more vital, more operative, day-by-day, everyday. The more mature our Christian faith, hope, and love become, the more we will look upon each day as a renewed opportunity for self-giving in union with Jesus. We will increasingly come to see with a clearer vision that the opportunities for growth in priestly holiness, for growth in union with Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, are inserted deeply and firmly within the framework of everydayness. Yes, thats where they exist, and in bountiful measure.
With this issue we begin our second year of publication of Shepherds of Christ. As with all new ventures, weve had our growing pains, and yet this first year has been a source of encouragement to us. We have had sufficient feedback from you our readers to allow us to realize that publishing the Newsletter is a very worthwhile endeavor. We feel that it is a great privilege to be able to provide an aid which can help priests grow in the spiritual life.
We live in very critical times for both the Church and the world. We priests, by our very vocation, are in a most advantageous position to make an extremely significant contribution to the betterment of both Church and world. And the more we grow spiritually, the more we are able to help the Church and the world.
We thank in a special way all those who have taken the time to write, encouraging us by telling us how the Newsletter is helping them and by offering suggestions which aid us in offering a better product. We also thank all those who have helped us financially through their thoughtful donations.
This particular issue, besides being the first one of our second year of publication, is also the first one published by Shepherds of Christ Ministries as an independent movement and tax-exempt organization. Until now we have been dependent upon Our Lady of Light Foundation. We wish to thank the Foundation for its indispensable assistance in our first year of existence. Shepherds of Christ Ministries, a movement dedicated to assisting in the renewal of the spiritual life, includes this newsletter for priests, other publications (including books and a spirituality newsletter for religious sisters and brothers), and a network of prayer chapters under the title, Shepherds of Christ Associates. The main purpose of the prayer chapters is to pray for all the needs of all priests the world over.
As we head into the second year of our existence, we fervently request your prayers for all aspects of Shepherds of Christ Ministries.
The Self-giving of Jesus on Calvary is perpetuated in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the chief source of our growth in self-giving. There follow various thoughts on the Eucharist which can deepen our appreciation of this magnificent gift of Jesus to us:
One reason is that we do not speak enough of it and that we insist only on faith in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament instead of speaking about His life and His love therein in a word, instead of showing Jesus Eucharistic with the personal and special love He has for each one of us.
Another reason is our behavior, which denotes little love in us. From the way we pray, adore, and visit Him, no one would suspect the presence of Jesus Christ in our churches.
How many among the best Catholics never pay a visit of devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament to speak with Him from the Heart, to tell Him their love! They do not love our Lord in the Eucharist because they do not know Him well enough.
But if, in spite of knowing Him and His love and the sacrifices and desires of His Heart, they still do not love Him, what an insult! Yes, an insult!
For it amounts to telling Jesus Christ that He is not beautiful enough, not good enough, not lovable enough to be preferred to what they love.
After having received so many graces from this good Savior, made so many promises to love Him, and offered themselves so often to His service, such a treatment of Him is a mockery of His love.
For if they do not want to know Him too well, to see Him at close quarters, to receive Him, to have a heart-to-heart talk with Him, the reason is they are afraid of being caught by His love. They fear being unable to resist His kindness; they fear being obliged to give in, to sacrifice their heart unreservedly, and their mind and life unconditionally.
They are afraid of the love of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and they avoid Him.
They are disturbed in His presence; they are afraid of yielding. Like Pilate and Herod they avoid His presence.4
The Eucharist also reminds us of our relationship with the entire human family. Jesus died and rose for all. The Eucharistic making-present of this paschal mystery nourishes our determination to assist in the work of ongoing redemption. The light of the Eucharist points to what we should be doing. The strength of the Eucharist assists us to so act in behalf of all.
The Eucharist, then, possesses the richest capacity to help us maintain and develop our personal relationship with God, the members of the Church, and all other members of the human family. And it will do just this if we surrender to its love, its power, its beauty.
I wish to thank Fr. Valentine Young, O.F.M., for calling our attention to an ambiguous statement contained in the Jean Galot excerpt on the priestly character, which quotation appeared in the March-April, 1995 issue.
Taken by itself the passage in question can be confusing, leading one to ask whether Galot holds that the priestly character is distinct from those of Baptism and Confirmation. However, if the particular passage is taken within the context of the entire excerpt, I hope it is sufficiently clearalthough perhaps not as clear as one would likethat Galot does hold the priestly character to be distinct from those of Baptism and Confirmation. This is certainly the explicit teaching of the Churcha teaching to which I firmly adhere. If I were doing that particular issue of the Newsletter here and now, I would omit the ambiguous passage. I apologize for any confusion I may have caused.
The Eucharist is our chief source of growth in community. Each time we grow through the Eucharist we grow in the capacity to relate more deeply in love with the members of the Christian community as well as all others. Here are some reflections and comments on community:
From his recently published and best selling book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II gives us these insightful words which continue our theme on self-giving in union with Jesus:
Therefore, these two aspectsthe affirmation of the person as a person and the sincere gift of self do not exclude each otherthey mutually confirm and complete each other. Man affirms himself most completely by giving of himself. This is the fulfillment of the commandment of love. This is also the full truth about man, a truth that Christ taught us by His life, and that the tradition of Christian morality, no less than the tradition of saints and of the many heroes of love of neighbor, took up and lived out in the course of history.
If we deprive human freedom of this possibility, if man does not commit himself to becoming a gift for others, then this freedom can become dangerous. It will become freedom to do what I myself consider as good, what brings me a profit or pleasure, even a sublimated pleasure. If we cannot accept the prospect of giving ourselves as a gift, then the danger of a selfish freedom will always be present. Kant fought against this danger, and along the same line so did Max Scheler and so many after him who shared his ethics of values. But a complete expression of all this is already found in the Gospel. For this very reason, we can find in the Gospel a consistent declaration of all human rights, even those that for various reasons can make us feel uneasy.10
The Saints are ones who have achieved a self-giving in love to an outstanding degree. Their teaching is given to us as an aid in our own quest for the highest self-giving in union with Christ.
St. Ignatius of Antioch: At last I am well on the way to being a disciple. May nothing, seen or unseen, fascinate me, so that I may happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crunching of the whole body, cruel tortures inflicted by the devillet them come upon me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ.11
St. John of the Cross: What does it profit you to give God one thing if He asks for another? Consider what it is God wants and then do it.12
St. Teresa of Avila. In the following words from her classic work, The Interior Castle, Teresa is speaking of those who seek to bypass the humanity of Jesus in their prayer: How much more is it necessary not to withdraw through ones own efforts from all our good and help which is the most sacred humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot believe that these souls do so, but they just dont understand; and they will do harm to themselves and to others.13
St. Bernard: I said in the beginning: the reason for our loving God is God. I spoke the truth, for He is both prime mover of our love and final end. He is Himself our human loves occasion; He also gives the power to love, and brings desire to its consummation. He is Himself the Lovable and gives Himself to be the object of our love How kindly does He lead us in loves way, how generously He returns the love we give, how sweet He is to those who wait for Him!14
St. Francis of Assisi: Our Lord says in the Gospel, Love your enemies. A man really loves his enemy when he is not offended by the injury done to himself, but for love of God feels burning sorrow for the sin his enemy has brought on his own soul.15
We can never tell how patient or humble a person is when everything is going well with him. But when those who should cooperate with him do the exact opposite, then we can tell. A man has as much patience and humility as he has then, and no more.16
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. They are truly peacemakers who are able to preserve their peace of mind and heart for love of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite all that they suffer in this world.17
St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is characteristic of God and His Angels, when they act upon the soul, to give true happiness and spiritual joy, and to banish all the sadness and disturbances which are caused by the enemy.
It is characteristic of the evil one to fight against such happiness and consolation by proposing fallacious reasonings, subtleties, and continual deceptions.
In souls that are progressing to greater perfection, the action of the good angel is delicate, gentle, delightful. It may be compared to a drop of water penetrating a sponge.
The action of the evil spirit upon such souls is violent, noisy and disturbing. It may be compared to a drop of water falling upon a stone.
In souls that are going from bad to worse, the action of the spirits mentioned above is just the reverse. The reason for this is to be sought in the opposition or similarity of these souls to the different kinds of spirits. When the disposition is contrary to that of the spirits, they enter with noise and commotion that are easily perceived. When the disposition is similar to that of the spirits, they enter silently, as one coming into his own house when the doors are open.18
St. Benedict. The following words are from the Rule of St. Benedict. Although they directly pertain to life in the monastery, they are profitable for all, for they breathe the spirit of peace so central to Benedictine spirituality: and so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow, for as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of Gods commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.19
St. Dominic. From Various Writings on the History of the Order of Preachers we have these words concerning St. Dominic: Dominic possessed such great integrity and was so strongly motivated by divine love, that without a doubt he proved to be a bearer of honor and grace. He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animates the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.20
St. Jean Vianney. What keeps us priests back from the attainment of holiness is lack of consideration. It displeases us to withdraw our minds from outside things. We do not know what we rightly do. We have need of intimate reflection, continuous prayer and intimate union with God.21
The gift of self in Christ demands holding true to ones principles even though this is at times an unpopular stance. Fr. Phil Hamilton, a former college professor and Air Force Chaplain, and now a Pastor, has spoken to us in previous newsletters. Here are further words of his from his book, Padres Point. They remind us of the necessity of holding ones ground: I as a priest have at times been accused of coming on too strong, and thus turning people off. Some students have accused me of this, and have, therefore, not registered for any of my classes. In parish life I have experienced people getting up and walking out of my office in the middle of a discussion. This is a very infrequent happening, but still it causes me to think.
My general philosophy that I have expressed to my students and in counseling through the years is people can be tilted, but not shoved. In all my years in the priesthood I have never claimed that I have really changed anyone. I only tilt someone occasionally toward what I think is the true course to be pursued in life. It is, therefore, a traumatic experience for me to be accused of being a shover. The more literate would say I am too doctrinaire.
My mother, Aggie Murphy Hamilton, brought us kids up on the principle that God and one constitute a majority. I unreservedly believe in the teaching of Christ as presented to me through an infallible Church. I suppose such a background would influence one in presenting a rather, he always thinks he is right, doctrinaire image to the modern world where everything is up for grabs, where no one is sure of anything morally or doctrinally.
And so I have a problem relating. But so likewise does the Church, and so likewise the family. Business does not have such a problem. You cant individually fight the boss except through the courts. The state does not have the problem, because its courts can always say this is the law, and if you violate their decision, they can throw you in the slammer.
But the rest of us have the problem. How to react? When we know we are right from Church teaching, experience, or common sense, we must be true to our principles. We must have the courage and strength to say both what is true and false. To do anything else is to prostitute ones integrity for the sake of acceptance.22
These thoughts on relevancy easily follow the ideas of Fr. Hamilton.
Prayer is a most necessary means for growth in the gift of self. Here are some thoughts on prayer:
Fr. René Laurentin, one of the worlds foremost Mariologists, offers us these meaningful words concerning Mary: She was present physically throughout the life of Christboth by her mothers love and by her commitment to him. It was a communion of faith, of hope and of charity. Marys presence to her son is a model for us, since, through this mother, God becomes our brother and has given her to us as mother in order to identify us with himself We are humble children of this mother who has so profoundly adopted us in him Mary has the mission of aiding the work of our divinization in Jesus Christ. She cooperates with him in this work of God.27
Lord Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, I consecrate my priestly life to Your Heart, pierced on Calvary for love of us. From Your pierced Heart the Church was born, the Church You have called me, as a priest, to serve in a most special way. You reveal Your Heart as symbol of Your love in all its aspects, including Your most special love for me, whom You have chosen as Your priest-companion. Help me always to pour out my life in love of God and neighbor. Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You!
Dear Blessed Virgin Mary, I consecrate myself to your maternal and Immaculate Heart, this Heart which is symbol of your life of love. You are the Mother of my Savior. You are also my Mother. You love me with the most special love as this unique priest-son. In a return of love I give myself entirely to your motherly love and protection. You followed Jesus perfectly. You are His first and perfect disciple. Teach me to imitate you in the putting on of Christ. Be my motherly intercessor so that, through your Immaculate Heart, I may be guided to an ever closer union with the pierced Heart of Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, Who leads me to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests reminds us of how closely the priest is united to the Holy Spirit, of how the Holy Spirit is given to priests to lead us along the path of total self-giving: In Priestly Ordination, the priest has received the seal of the Holy Spirit which has marked him by the sacramental character in order to always be the minister of Christ and the Church. Assured of the promise that the Consoler will abide with him forever (Jn 14: 16-17), the priest knows that he will never lose the presence and the effective power of the Holy Spirit in order to exercise his ministry and live with charity his pastoral office as a total gift of self for the salvation of his own brothers.28
We thank all those who have taken the time to write to us. We very much appreciate your letters. Space limitations permit us to publish only a few of these.
Dear Fr. Ed,
From nowhere I received a copy of your newsletter. Reading it was a source of simple delight as is anything buoying up our priesthood these days. The folksy Joys of Being a Priest (by Fr. Philip Hamilton, March-April issue) brought a smile. I think of these fifty-one years with their ups and downs as something very special. As life moves quickly and relentlessly on I am sure of this: It Is Great To Be a Priest. To have spent this one life on anything less would appear to this simple soul as a great waste. Please keep the newsletter comingand thank you for the lift!
Fraternally in Christ,
Rev. Charles Mallen, C.Ss.R. Venice, Florida
It is slow in coming, but I want to add my voice to the praise your newsletter for priests must be getting. I find the material good for reflective, meditative reading and praying. Heaven knows we priests need that.
In the Heart of Christ,
Bob Harvanek, S.J. Loyola University, Chicago
Dear Fr. Ed,
Of all the stuff that comes cascading into my mailbox every day, Shepherds of Christ really stands out. To me it exemplifies one of the great strengths of Catholicismits spirituality. I use the newsletter for my prayer after Mass. It has brought me closer to God through Christ by focusing on the basics of Catholic-Christian spirituality in a way that enlightens and inspires.
Fr. Bill Zimmer Chicago, Illinois
Shepherds of Christ
Shepherds of Christ Ministries
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
Shepherds of Christ, a spirituality newsletter for priests, is published bi-monthly by Shepherds of Christ Ministries, P.O. Box 193, Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193. While distribution is free of charge to all priests in the U.S., and growing internationally, donations are still very much appreciated. Inquiries and comments are welcome, as are address changes and addresses of the newly ordained. Permission to reproduce intact is granted for non-commercial use. Editor Father Edward Carter S.J. is Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. John Weickert is President. Good Shepherd illustration is by Brother Jerome Pryor, S.J. Layout and design are by Cathy Ring. Also dedicated to the spiritual advancement of priests is a worldwide network of lay/religious prayer chapters, Shepherds of Christ Associates, headquartered at 2919 Shawhan Road, Morrow, Ohio 45152, telephone toll free 1-888-211-3041, fax 513-932-6791.