Issues Vol. 169‎ > ‎

Vol. 169 No. 31 • AUG 04 - 10, 2018

01 Cover

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:31 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 2, 2018, 9:36 AM ]

03 Index

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:29 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:30 AM ]

04 Official

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:28 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:29 AM ]

05 Engagements

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:27 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:27 AM ]

07 Editorial - Grace in Vessels of Clay - Fr. Anthony Charanghat

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:19 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 3, 2018, 12:40 AM ]

Pope Francis, on the World Day for the Sanctification of priests, called on all the faithful to pray for priests, that their faith may not fail and that they be witness to the holiness which their Patron, St John Marie Vianney, embodied. This is more urgent in the face of a spate of scandals and failings that have recently surfaced in the Catholic priesthood. Does priestly holiness mean to be a brilliant academician, an excellent preacher, a great administrator, a scrupulous observer of the law? Or is it a call, with the help of God, to nurture grace in the vessels of clay that they are?

It may come as a surprise to hear that priestly holiness has just as much to do with imperfection as perfection. Yes, we are called to ‘be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48). Yes, we are to share in the divine life to which we have been configured to Christ the Good Shepherd at ordination. But as we encounter God in our blessedness, so too we meet Him in our imperfections, when we face them honestly, courageously and realistically. Our path to holiness leads right through our own dysfunction, calling us to an ongoing struggle against the evil one, as Vianney was wont to.

To begin with, we must acknowledge our transgressions as the first step to spiritual transformation and growth in sanctity. Growth in holiness means coming to terms with both our high calling and darker side of our lives in unfailing prayer. It would also imply collaborating with both civil as well as canonical investigations, and being open to facing the consequences, if found guilty. This painful journey of facing the darker side is a must, in order to be credible spiritual guides to others in the path of holiness.

St Paul too had to face his own shadows that included his human weakness and murky past as a persecutor of the Church. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he reveals that for many years, he battled with 'a thorn in the flesh'. His struggle gave birth to words that give meaning and hope to all of us who struggle with our own thorns in the flesh: ‘for when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor 12:10). 'Where there is sin, there Grace still abounds' and hence the priests must ceaselessly  pray to the Lord to deliver us from evil. 

Imperfections of human nature not only lead us to know God and His mercy, but bring us into closer solidarity with the rest of humanity who struggle like we do. This familiarity with God’s mercy is especially important for priests who are charged with the awesome task of leading others to holiness. For when we are in touch with our own imperfections and learn to rely on God’s grace, we can better lead others to holiness and be an effective bridge for people who are searching for God.

The priest who is constantly aware of his flawed human nature but graced humanity, as St Vianney was, will minister more compassionately to people who share the same human struggle. He becomes less judgmental, more helpful and understanding. He helps them to repent, accept forgiveness and know God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sense, he can derive the strength of his priesthood also from the weakness that seems to threaten it.

The crisis that threatens the institution of the priesthood must not instill a sense of gloom and despair. The prayers of the whole Church should lead all priests and faithful to place their trust and supreme confidence in the Lord, who is stronger than any obstacle they face. Through the intercession of Saint John Marie Vianney, the Divine Potter will mould and shape His priests— vessels of clay to be channels of grace to shepherd His flock, according to His Divine will.

08 The Role of Parents in a Priestly Vocation - Bishop Bosco Penha

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:17 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:17 AM ]

I was 21 years old, when I heard the call to the priesthood. I had gone to make a retreat for bankers, as I was then working in the National Bank of India at Fort. I was studying for my First LL.B. examination, studying and working at the same time. In those three unforgettable days spent at the Retreat House, Bandra, I knew for certain that God was calling me to be a priest. I was shocked, stunned, as I never seriously considered this possibility. It meant a U-turn in my plans for the future. I could hardly believe it. It all seemed like a dream. I asked the Retreat Master if I could put it aside as a crazy idea, but he forbade me to do this. He advised me to follow up the inspiration systematically. I believe that every vocation to the priesthood is a mystery. Mine certainly was! And it has become more mysterious with each passing year.

I had one big hurdle, and that was my concern for my parents. Both of them were then 58 years of age. My father had already retired. My sister and I were working to stabilise the family finances. My sister was due to join the convent shortly, and here was I looking at the seminary. Who would look after our parents in their old age? We were not an affluent family. I was perplexed. I had no courage to break the news to my parents. As I was grappling with this problem, a year passed by.

My father was very keen on my entering the Indian Foreign Service, but he did not get an enthusiastic response from me. One day, he came, very angry, to the bank, showing me a notice in the newspaper about the exams for the Indian Foreign Service, and asked why I seemed so disinterested. In a moment of pressure and distress, and to calm him down, I blurted out, "I want to become a priest." He stared at me in amazement and disbelief. Then he retorted, "If you want to be a priest, why are you here? Leave the bank and join the seminary." Then he strode out of the bank.

When I shared with my parents about my concern for their future, they urged me not to let that worry me at all. My father said, "God has called you; you have to answer immediately. Don't worry about us. We will look after ourselves. After all, we gave birth to you. You didn't give birth to us." Both of them seemed happy and enthusiastic about my decision. They were, of course, naturally sad about my leaving home, but full of wonder that God had called both their children to the consecrated life. What a relief it was for me to see their reaction, and how encouraged I felt to go ahead with plans to join the seminary.


09 A Single Vocational Horizon for Priest, Religious and Lay Person - Fr. Aniceto Pereira

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:15 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:16 AM ]

The priesthood and priests are very much in the news these days, perhaps not always for the right reasons! Every time another scandal (fake or otherwise) is flashed on screens and front pages, I humbly say to myself: "But for the grace of God, there go I!" On the occasion of Vianney Sunday, let me thank everyone for the love and care that is showered on priests, and ask that you continue to pray for priests!

I was very happy to read the Instrumentum Laboris for the upcoming Synod in October 2018 on "Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment" - which puts sacerdotal ministry in a global perspective. As is the custom in recent times, the Synod Committee has taken a lot of trouble to listen to voices from far and wide on the topic, and crystallised the reflections into a working document to form the basis of the Synod discussions. One of the key insights is the need to discover a "vocational horizon" of the whole of human life, including life in the Church and the vocation of each individual, priest, lay person or consecrated religious. It is this horizon that ensures that "the different forms of Christian life… cannot be thought of or understood autonomously, but only in the reciprocity they draw and in the exchange of gifts they realize." (IL 99)

This reciprocal level of communion between the different states in the Church is very challenging, but also very inspiring. On Vianney Sunday, I, as a priest, wish to begin by renewing the gift of the special charism of my priesthood, to the lay faithful and the religious.

I am aware that as a priest, I am called to be a leader of the flock entrusted to my care (LG 10). But who can deny that leadership comes along with power that is invested in the leader in order to enable the person to accomplish the mission? And who can deny that power has the potential to corrupt? Unless priests are watchful, the power they wield can easily make them despotic. St John Vianney became effective in the confessional, precisely because this saintly person used his clerical power, not to condemn, but rather, to make reparation for the sins of his penitents!


10 Following St John Vianney! - Fr Anthony J Fernandes

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:13 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:13 AM ]

It was surely a little like the expectations for the Croatian Football team going into the World Cup, where hope is set against experience, when the Vicar General sent a man who was considered the least able of priests to the smallest and most indifferent of parishes! The young priest was left in no doubt he would find a parish in a very sorry state. The Vicar General told the young Fr Vianney, "There is not much love of God in that parish; you will bring some into it." These words were remarkably prophetic, but at face value were hardly a ringing endorsement of the young Curé's future mission. On first seeing the tiny village of Ars where he would remain for the rest of his life, we can even note a certain disappointment in his words: "How small this is." A man with so great a heart had been entrusted with the tiniest corner of the Vineyard of the Lord, with a total population of just 230 souls! In a gesture which St John Paul II would learn from him, he embraced this mission, kissing the ground as he entered his parish.

We can glimpse his courage from his prayer—a prayer that many a Parish Priest would hesitate to ask of the Lord in its totality: "Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life." God answered that prayer and gave the radical conversion of that parish, and hundreds of thousands eventually journeyed to that tiny place on earth. It must have seemed like the beginning of a "new evangelisation." Yet to understand his confidence, we would need to glimpse the scene earlier each morning to know from where such confidence flowed: kneeling before the Tabernacle, the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, where he would be found at the beginning of every day.

The opposition to Vianney was immediate; the opposition at first was indifference as he began to speak. Preaching was an enormous trial for him, and there was a pretentious yawning in the church to show a complete and casual dismissal of whatever this new priest was trying to say. But that did not discourage him, because he had inner strength. In St John XXIII's strikingly, beautiful reflection: "The lengthy prayer of a priest before the adorable Sacrament of the Altar has … an effectiveness that cannot be found elsewhere or replaced." (SNP).

As a young boy, I was inspired by my Parish Priest who would take rounds in the church premises, praying his Breviary or Rosary. I truly believe that even today, people will be truly inspired not by the eloquence of our preaching, or conscientious visiting, or imaginative projects or skillful administration, but simply by seeing us praying. But unfortunately, some of us priests have cut down our prayer time, and replaced it with more and more projects. I believe what encourages people is the very priority glimpsed in this, the reliance not upon ourselves, but upon the Lord. There, fresh heart is found!


11 The priest today - reflecting Jesus - Fr. Walter D'Souza

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:10 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:12 AM ]

Saint John Marie Vianney is well known as a saint not for his academic skills, but for his pastoral skills. The Curé of Ars, as he is called, was born on May 8, 1786, and ordained a priest on August 13, 1815, and it was on that day that his journey began—a journey of discovering the true vocation that God had entrusted to him. Saint Vianney's most profound description of the priesthood was in the statement that he made: "The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus." This statement is a two-way statement, Yes, the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus, but every priest should have in his heart the love of Jesus; only then does his priesthood have any meaning in this ever changing world.

The Vatican II decree - 'On the Ministry and Life of Priests' - exhorts the priests to remember that "in performing their office, they are never alone, but strengthened by the power of Almighty God, and believing in Christ who called them to share in His Priesthood, they should devote themselves to their ministry with complete trust, knowing that God can cause charity to grow in them." (PO 22).

Saint Vianney is an exemplar of this teaching. To see the transforming consequences of the Sacrament of Holy Orders in a man, all we need to do is to look at the life of Saint John Marie Vianney. It is in him that we see the priest's capacity to change the world. The special characteristic of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is that it enjoins the priest to make Christ present not only in his sacramental work, but also in the various forms of pastoral charities. Vianney understood the deepest mystery that God is not something abstract, but He is a God with a human face. He uses Pauline language "to catch the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, with faces unveiled, and we have become transfigured into the same likeness, borrowing glory from that glory, as the Spirit of the Lord enables us." (2 Cor 3:18)


12 God’s Vanguard in Hindi Heartland - Fr Sony joseph

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:09 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:09 AM ]

Musings from a Missionary Priest

It was the year 2000 - the Great Jubilee Year. The year was specially significant to me, as I was ordained a priest that year. I was just 28 then. In less than a month after the ordination, came my first assignment. The task was to build up a school in Gorakhpur district, and the location specified was just near Gorakhnath Temple. Today, this place is better known as the Assembly constituency represented by Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

On many accounts, it was a daunting task. First of all, it was a communally volatile area. There used to be frequent skirmishes between Hindus and Muslims living there at that time. Secondly, Gorakhpur used to be frequently affected by natural calamities. I was at a loss as to where to begin and how to move on. What bolstered my sagging confidence at that time was a verse from St Paul - "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13). Relying entirely on the power of God, I began the work. I had asked for prayers from many people.

When the heavens were stormed with prayers, blessings began to pour down heavily. The Gorakhnath Temple authorities came forward with all the support needed. In a matter of a few years, God helped the school to grow into a big institution.

An institution that is truly Catholic cannot remain oblivious to the social situations around. Nor can we refrain from proclaiming Christ and His message in ways most suited. We began by reaching out to the villages for flood relief works. God's blessings continued to pour down, and so we launched village dispensaries—a crying need of the locality. Most children were first generation learners, and required additional academic assistance. Thus, we started evening classes in villages. In an area where the number of Catholics was just a handful, and where Hindu and Muslim brethren lived in thousands, Eid and Diwali became occasions for Jesus' message to be shared with the people. The Teachers' Day celebration in the school each year began with the Gayatri Mantra and ended with a Bible reading, presenting Jesus as the 'Teacher par excellence'.


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