Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Presbyterorum Ordinis – Part 2

In the second half of Presbyterorum Ordinis, the Vatican II Fathers offer priests deep insights into their special call to holiness, lay out the spiritual requirements of the priesthood, and offer advice to help priests live their vocation.

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in the second half of Presbyterorum Ordinis.

Chapter III – The Life of Priests

Priests' Call to Perfection

* By their ordination, priests are “configured to Christ the priest as servants of the Head” in order to “build up the Body of Christ, the Church.” They are, therefore, obliged to “seek perfection” according to their call, and they are given special grace to be “living instruments of Christ the eternal priest.”

* Priests are specially consecrated by and for God that they may service the people of God. They strive toward perfection through their ministry as they mortify themselves, listen closely to the Holy Spirit, and live in holiness.

* Sharing as they do in Christ's priesthood, prophetic office, and kingship, priests must be immersed in Sacred Scripture, which they read, study, and teach in humility and under the guidance of the Spirit. They must also imitate Christ, Whom they handle in the Eucharist; “offer themselves completely to God” and teach others to do the same; and lead the faithful in faith, hope, love, and self-sacrifice.

* Because they are often caught up in many different duties, priests run the risk of losing their internal and external harmony. To maintain that unity of internal life and external ministry, they should follow the example of Christ and entrust themselves to Him that He may always be the source of their lives of prayer and service. The Eucharist, especially, must be the center of priestly life.

Special Spiritual Requirements in the Life of the Priest

* Priests must always seek the will of God in all things. In humility, they recognize their weaknesses and offer service to others. In obedience, they maintain unity with their bishops and fellow priests and are willing to go where they are sent and sacrifice their own wills in service to God and neighbor.

* Celibacy is “a sign of pastoral charity and an incentive to it as well as being in a special way a source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world.” Celibacy allows priests to cling to Christ with “an undivided heart and dedicate themselves more freely in Him and through Him to the service of God and of men.”

* Celibacy is a gift from God, a sign of the world to come, an a symbol of the mystical marriage between Christ and the Church.” Priests should pray that God pours out this gift upon them even as they embrace it through “rules of ascetical practice.”

* Priests live in the world, but “they are not of the world.” They should, therefore, accept voluntary poverty that they may be “freed from all inordinate anxiety” and “docile to the divine voice in their daily life.” In this way, they will form proper attitudes toward earthly things, use them correctly, and “become more clearly conformed to Christ.”

Helps For the Priest's Life

* Scripture and the Eucharist are the preeminent spiritual aids that help priests foster their interior lives and grow in union with Christ. Priests should also frequently receive the sacrament of Penance, engage in spiritual reading, foster a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and pray deeply in a variety of ways.

* Study is important for priests that they may become “mature in knowledge” and be able to teach others. They should study the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, traditional spiritual classics, the teachings of the Magisterium, theology, and pastoral methods. Priests should have access to a variety of courses, libraries, congresses, centers for pastoral studies, and other aids to learning.

* Priests must receive a just wage for their work that will allow them to maintain a decent standard of living and have some left over to give to the poor. Priests should also take advantage of an annual vacation.

* Bishops should create a common fund to support “priests who suffer from sickness, ill health or old age.”

Conclusion and Exhortation

* Priesthood in the modern world offers a whole range of challenges, difficulties, and obstacles but also great joy.

* The Church cares for the world, for God loves it, and priests assume a position of leadership in providing that care.

* Priests trust in God's powerful assistance in carrying out their work. They are never alone as they cooperate in “God's saving plan” and dispense the mysteries of Christ.

The full text of Presbyterorum Ordinis is available online at the Vatican website.

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