Have you ever considered a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wrapping up the Year for Priests

Now that the Year for Priests officially ended June 11 (check below for video of the concluding celebration in Rome — what a sea of white vestments!), it is time for us to sign off on our Priest Year News blog.

Thank you for visiting this blog within the past year. We have aimed to share with you interesting stories of priests from all over the globe — sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes humorous — so we could all learn what an amazing group of men we have leading us closer to Christ.

It is our hope that you continue to pray for the world's priests, that they may be inspired and uplifted as they continue to guide the Church's faithful. Let us end with this prayer for priests, which can be here.

Please Pray for Priests

Dear Lord, we pray that the Blessed Mother wrap her mantle around your priests and through her intercession strengthen them for their ministry.

We pray that Mary will guide your priests to follow her own words, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).

May your priests have the heart of St. Joseph, Mary’s most chaste spouse.

May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced heart inspire them to embrace all who suffer at the foot of the cross.

May your priests be holy, filled with the fire of your love seeking nothing but your greater glory and the salvation of souls.

Amen.

Saint John Vianney, pray for us.


And remember, even though the year is over, we will continue to have resources on OSV's website at www.osv.com/priestyear.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Pope and priests celebrate year's finale

Speaking to the 15,000 priests from around the world who had gathered in Rome this week, Pope Benedict XVI closed the Year for Priests with Mass in St. Peter's Square. In his homily, called on priests to remain courageous and humble, addressing the pain caused by the clergy sex abuse crisis:

"This audacity of God Who entrusts Himself to human beings (Who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in His stead) this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word 'priesthood'. ...This is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, ... we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist."


"It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the 'enemy'; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the Sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light — particularly the abuse of the little ones. ... We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey."


"Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God's gift, a gift concealed in 'earthen vessels' which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes His love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, His gift becomes a commitment to respond to God's courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility."



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hockey-loving priest prays for Blackhawks

Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers will face off in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and at least one Chicago-area priest likely will be praying overtime for a 'Hawks win. Because Chicago leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, the Blackhawks will be hoisting Lord Stanley's trophy if they beat the Flyers tonight.

Meet Father Marty Michniewicz, a Calumet City, Ill., priest who is such a big Blackhawks fan that he has adorned his rectory office in black and red, Chicago's colors. The priest was recently profiled by WLS-TV in Chicago.

Father Michniewicz, whose love of hockey extends beyond just the Blackhawks, has even incorporated the sport into his parish ministry, especially on the importance of working as a team: "It's just like a hockey team, I'll say. I'll say you need your goalies, your finesse players. They all form a team. As a parish, we all have something to offer and something to form the body of Christ, the church, the team, whatever."

Of course, Chicago and Philadelphia are both great Catholic cities. Might there be a priest in the Philadelphia area sending up prayers for a Flyers win?

Click HERE to read more of WLS-TV's story on Father Michniewicz.





Monday, June 7, 2010

Study: Priests are tech-savvy

A new study shows that priests should have no problem heeding Pope Benedict's suggestion that they use new media to reach their flocks. According to the study, worldwide, 94.7 percent of priests use the Internet daily. The Vatican-supported study, conducted by the New Media Education Lab at the Universita della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, asked 4,992 priests from 117 countries to respond to questions about how they use digital technology to do their job and about its effectiveness in spreading the Gospel.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Pope Benedict: Priesthood of Christ

During his Corpus Christi homily Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI asked the faithful to meditate on the priesthood of Christ, and its relationship to the Eucharist:

In the Eucharist, the pontiff said, "Jesus anticipated his sacrifice; not a ritual but a personal sacrifice. At the Last Supper, his acts were moved by that 'eternal spirit' with which He would subsequently give Himself up to the cross. Giving thanks and blessing, Jesus transformed the bread and wine. It is divine love that transforms: the love with which Jesus accepted in advance to give himself for us. This love is the Holy Spirit, the Sprit of the Father and of the Son, which consecrates the bread and wine and alters their substance into the Body and Blood of the Lord, making present in the sacrament the sacrifice which would be cruelly realized on the cross."


"It is divine power, the same power that created the incarnation of the Word, that transforms extreme violence and extreme injustice into a supreme act of love and justice," the pope concluded. "This is the work of the priesthood of Christ, which the Church has inherited and extends through history, in the dual form of the common priesthood of the baptized and the ordained priesthood of ministers, so as to transform the world with the love of God."



Thursday, June 3, 2010

Year for Priests finale is coming soon

Around 9,000 priests from all over the world are expected to come to Rome next week for the concluding celebrations of the Year for Priests.

As has been widely expected, Pope Benedict XVI will officially declare St. John Vianney the patron of all the world's priest. Currently, the Cure of Ars is the patron of parish priests. The pontiff will do so at a Mass on June 11, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the final day of the Year for Priests.

Click HERE for more information on the International Meeting of Priests or check out the video below:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Do priests retire?

The answer is yes, they do retire from active ministry, but many priests don't just sit back and relax in their "golden years." In the June 13 issue of OSV, writer Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller introduces readers to five priests who have not slowed down.

One, Father Jacob Mosbrucker, 73, serves on several nonprofit boards that work for social justice and fills in at parishes on the weekends.

Another, Father William Swift of Tulsa, 90, gets up at 4:30 every morning so he can be ready to celebrate the early morning Mass at a local parish.

Eidemiller also profiles two Jesuit priests, Fathers Robert McCown (pictured) and Father Thomas Jenniskens, who noted artists. And another Jesuit, Father Rodney Kissinger, who still leads retreats, including email retreats.

Click HERE to read more about these inspiring priests.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A priest's purpose: Guiding flock to God

As the Year for Priests nears its conclusion next month, Pope Benedict XVI took the opportunity at his May 26 general audience to discuss the duty of priests to shepherd their flocks closer to the Lord:

"In order to be pastors after God's heart, we need to be profoundly rooted in a living friendship with Christ (not only of our minds, but also of our freedom and will), clearly aware of the identity we received at priestly ordination, and unconditionally ready to lead our flock where the Lord wills, not in the direction which seems most convenient and easy. This requires, first and foremost, a continuous and progressive willingness to allow Christ Himself to govern the priestly lives of clergy. No-one, in fact, is truly capable of feeding the flock if they do not live in profound and authentic obedience to Christ and the Church; and the docility of the people towards their priests depends on the docility of priests towards Christ."

Check out the video below to hear more of what the pontiff said.


Welcoming new priests ... and showing potential priests the way

We wanted to point you in the direction of two stories in the June 6 issue of Our Sunday Visitor that provide a glimpse into the future of the Catholic priesthood.

First, in our In Focus section, regular contributor Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller introduces readers to eight men who are among the 440 seminarians being ordained to the priesthood this year. They are an eclectic bunch — among them are former Navy officer trained who spent time on a nuclear attack submarine, a former firefighter, and a one-time Baptist minister who acknowledges he was once "mildly anti-Catholic."

Whatever their backgrounds, these men are eager to serve the Church.

“One of the things I want to do as a priest is to go out and find people my age and younger and bring them back to the Church,” Father Paul Makar, who was ordained May 15 as a Ukrainian Catholic priest, told Eidemiller. “I know that many of our churches have a distinct lack of young people, and I want to reach out to them and tell them that we have a very rich and wonderful spiritual and liturgical tradition. I want to tell them to come home.”

Click HERE to read all eight profiles, and to see some interesting stats about the Class of 2010.

Also in the June 6 issue, Eddie O'Neill introduces readers to Quo Vadis Days, summer camp programs for young men, usually high schoolers, who are discerning a call to the priesthood.

One of best parts of the camps, Deacon Joe Altenhofen, a former camper who will be ordained a priest next month, told O'Neill, is the opportunity for the boys to get to know priests outside of their official parish duties.

“It helped me see myself as a worker in Christ in these normal settings. The priest is not one who just works in the office, or does sacramental things. It was good to see people that were like me out there and just doing ‘guy things.’”

Click HERE to read more about Quo Vadis Days.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Remembering priestly martyrs

Sometimes when we hear the word "martyr," it may be tempting to envision early Christians being thrown to the lions, but, as we know, Christians continue to be killed for their faith.

The Catholic News Service reminds us of this with a profile of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish Catholic priest who was murdered in 1984 by communist agents for his sermons defending human rights and his courage to stand up to communist oppression. Father Popieluszko will be beatified June 6 in Warsaw.

Here's what Archbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno, Poland, told CNS in the story:

"Though everyone is different and must find their own path to God, we are all called to lead a Christian life of holiness," the archbishop said. "For the whole Catholic Church, (Father Popieluszko) represents the Gospel for the normal, mundane conditions of everyday life and work, showing how we can be loyal to others and follow our consciences."

Click HERE to read the entire piece.

Today, the Catholic Church also commemorates the lives of St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions — 21 priests and three laymen — who were victims of the Mexican government's oppression of the Church. Check out the video about the martyrs below:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Priest-Homeboy founder interviewed on NPR

Jesuit Father Greg Boyle has earned praise for his efforts to curb gang violence in Los Angeles. He is the founder of Homeboy Industries, a much-admired organization that offers job-skills training for recovering gang members.

The priest recounts his efforts in a new memoir, "Tattoos on the Heart."

Unfortunately, all of the praise Homeboy has received has not translated into financial support needed to keep the operation going at full capacity, so earlier this month, Homeboy laid off 300 workers, and Father Boyle has stopped taking a paycheck.

In a 40-minute interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" program today, Father Boyle talks with show host Terry Gross about Homeboy, his memoir and his calling to help gang members.

Click HERE to listen to the interview and to read an excerpt of the book.

Seminarians honor K of C founder

Seminarians at St. Mary's in Baltimore recently honored one of the many great men who studied at the Baltimore institution — Venerable Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus.

A group of students raised money for a life-size bronze bust of the priest, who studied at St. Mary's, the country's oldest Catholic seminary, in the 1870s.

Click HERE for pictures of the statue's blessing and more information.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Entering the priesthood in troubling times

This spring and summer, 440 men are scheduled to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and become priests. What should be a joyous time has been marred somewhat by the ongoing coverage of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

The Washington Post recently published a story about seminarians at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. After six years of study, 24 will join the ranks of priests this year. Here's an excerpt from the May 14 story:

Six years ago, when most of this year's class arrived, the church was reeling from hundreds of abuse cases emerging across the United States. Now, just as they were preparing to leave for ordination, the church was once again mired in scandal.

They'd already experienced some of the far-reaching consequences of the sex abuse crisis. Getting into seminary had required a battery of psychological tests, long interviews and background checks.

"In the last six years alone, I've been fingerprinted four times," said Mick Kelly, a 32-year-old former philosophy student who will be ordained next month in the Arlington Diocese. "That's more than some criminals out there get."

After he entered the seminary, one of Kelly's friends asked him: "How can you join an institution as corrupt as the Catholic Church?"

When he began wearing a clerical black robe and white collar four years ago, he noticed the stares he'd get from people. Some would look away.

"You try not to be defensive, to explain as best you can," he said. "It hurts. The world sees these abuse cases and judges the church as a whole, all its priests and all its work by the action of these few people. But it's not the priesthood I grew up with. The one I know and love."

Click HERE to read the entire story.



Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pope entrusts world's priests to Mary

In this Month of Mary and Year for Priests, there could not be a better time for Pope Benedict XVI to consecrate all of the world's priests to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he did yesterday at Fatima, Portugal.

Here is part of what the pontiff said:

Immaculate Mother, in this place of grace, called together by the love of your Son Jesus the Eternal High Priest, we, sons in the Son and his priests, consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart, in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus, we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5) and that only through him, with him and in him, will we be instruments of salvation for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit, obtain for us the inestimable gift of transformation in Christ. Through the same power of the Spirit that overshadowed you, making you the Mother of the Saviour, help us to bring Christ your Son to birth in ourselves too. May the Church be thus renewed by priests who are holy, priests transfigured by the grace of him who makes all things new.

Click HERE to read the pontiff's entire prayer.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Testimonial: Why I chose to be a priest

Deacon John J. Eckert, who will be ordained a priest of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., early next month, wrote an account of his decision to become a priest in the June issue of The Priest magazine. Here's how he starts his piece:

Seven of us in my class at the Pontifical College Josephinum will be ordained this year. For our small class, timing has seemed to work out in our favor. During our first year of seminary, we were fortunate to experience together the monumental passing of our mutual role model, our Holy Father (for some of us the only one we had known), Pope John Paul II. Then we rejoiced together as we heard the words “ Habemus papam ,” and witnessed Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger become Pope Benedict XVI.

Last year, during the Year of St. Paul, we had an opportunely-timed class on the writings of the Apostle to the Gentiles and also had the good fortune to take a class trip to Rome where we visited inspiring Pauline sites such as the magnificent Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The most fortuitous bit of good timing for the seven of us, as well as for all men called to the Sacred Order of Presbyter this year, is to be ordained during this “Year for Priests.”

With the excitement of ordination quickly approaching and time in seminary coming to an end, it is valuable to reflect on the fundamental reasons of why I am at this point and, mainly, why I chose to say yes to this vocation. I am sure my brother deacons share with me the common experience of being asked several times during our years of formation, “Why do you want to be a priest?”


Click HERE to get the answer in the rest of his article.


Papal appreciation for priests

Pope Benedict XVI his expressed gratitude for priests during a recent visit with Belgian bishops at the Vatican and reminded the bishops of a great priestly example who came from their home country — St. Damien of Molokai, whose feast day is today.

"His greatness, lived in the total gift of himself to his leprous brothers to the point of being infected and dying, lies in his interior wealth, his constant prayer, his union with Christ, whom he saw in his brothers and who, like him, gave himself without reservations."

"In this Year for Priests, it is necessary to propose his priestly and missionary example, in particular to priests and religious. The decrease in the number of priests must not be perceived as an inevitable process," the pope told the bishops.

Click HERE to read more.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A powerful video — and a call to action

In this moving video, young Spanish-speaking Catholics — don't worry, there are subtitles! — testify to the loving sacrifice priests have made for their flocks and encourage Catholics to pray the Rosary for priests this month. H/T to the Deacon's Bench.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Illustrating the priesthood

A recently released book commemorating the Year for Priests uses 560 masterpieces from the likes of Raphael to show the importance of the Catholic priest over the centuries.

See more about "The Priest: Images of Christ through Centuries of Art" from this video from Rome Reports:

Friday, April 30, 2010

Testimonials on priests

EncouragePriests.org, a new lay outreach effort to supports priests, is seeking video and story submissions from Catholics about priests who've touched their lives.

Here are the submission requirements:

Written story submissions should be 250 words or less.

Video submissions must be 100MB or smaller and can be standard or high definition. If standard definition, video dimensions should be 480x360 if 4:3 video or 640x360 if 16:9 video. For high definition, dimensions are 1280x720 (720p) or 1920x1080 (1080p). Videos can be .WMV, .AVI, .MOV, .MP4, or .MPEG files.

Want more details? Visit the website or send an email to info@EncouragePriests.org.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Priests, seminarians step up for sisters

On May 2, a group of priests, seminarians and a deacon from the Diocese of Pittsburgh will be going the distance — 26.2 miles, to be exact — to raise money and awareness for young women who feel called to serve as women religious.

The men will race in the Pittsburgh Marathon or Marathon Relay as part of the Run For Nuns, which is a fundraiser to help the women pay off their educational debts so that they may enter religious communities.

One of the seminarians who is running, Patrick Caruso, explained his motivation for starting the Run For Nuns in a recent press release, “The world has seen many courageous witnesses to love through the lives of religious sisters such as Mother Teresa. These young women that we are trying to help out are eager to offer the same selfless service for the rest of their lives. While it could normally take years to pay off their debt, we simply want to provide the future sisters with the ability to start serving as soon as possible.”

The Run For Nuns is just one of many efforts to raise funds and awareness for vocations. Click HERE to read an OSV newsweekly piece about such efforts, including a mini-profile of Alicia Torres, one of the young women who will be helped through the Run For Nuns.

And check out this humorous Run For Nuns trailer below:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Good Shepherd Sunday insights

In honor of yesterday's Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched its new website, ForYourVocation.org. The site offers tips and prayers for men and women discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life, as well as advice and resources for their parents.

As the ForYourVocation.org homepage explains, the U.S. bishops have two goals for the site: to help individuals hear and respond to the call by God to the priesthood or consecrated life and to educate all Catholics on the importance of encouraging others through prayer and activities to promote vocations.

Also Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged young people to pray to be faithful witnesses to the Gospel. See the video below:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meet the Class of 2010

With graduation season and summer just around the corner, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is introducing Catholics to its own Class of 2010 — the men who will soon be ordained to the priesthood.

The Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has set up a special web page with a report on the Class of 2010 with all sorts of interested facts and figures about the future priests. For example, 67 percent of the ordinands report regularly praying the Rosary, while 65 percent participated in Eucharistic adoration before entering seminary.

One nifty feature on the page allows visitors to learn a little bit about many of the future priests. When visitors scroll over the pictures of an ordinand, a box pops up telling what people might be surprised to learn about him. For example, Father Christopher Fadok, O.P., writes "People might be surprised to know that I received two marriage proposals in college." Others write about their past jobs as government lawyers, music doctoral students and engineers.


Monday, April 19, 2010

A papal invitation

Pope Benedict XVI, through a letter from the Congregation of the Clergy, has invited all priests from all over the world to attend the concluding celebration of the Year for Priests, which ends June 11, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Festivities will take place June 9-11.

"The Pope wants to confirm the priests of the Church," the letter said. "Their presence in large numbers in St. Peter's Square will be a proactive and responsible way for priests to show themselves ready and unintimidated for the service of the humanity entrusted to them by Jesus Christ."

In doing so, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the congregation's head, wrote that priests could show their solidarity for the pontiff in the face of "unjust attacks" against him regarding clergy sex abuse cases.

The letter ended with the cardinal noting that the conclusion of the year should mark a new beginning for priests and their flocks:

"We, the People of God and its shepherds, want to thank the Lord for this privileged period of prayer and reflection on the priesthood. At the same time we want to be alert to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. Meanwhile we will return to the exercise of our mission in the Church and in the world with renewed joy and with the conviction that God, the Lord of history, remains with us, both in crises and in new times."

Click HERE to read the entire letter.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Speaker: Trials strengthen priesthood

Catholic News Service recently highlighted an address given by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti at the annual convention of National Federation of Priests' Councils in Houston, Texas, where he was honored with the organization's Touchstone Award.

During the April 13 speech, Msgr. Rossetti, who is a clinical associate professor of pastoral studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, told the audience that despite the negative media reports surrounding the priesthood these days, priests have a high level of job satisfaction.

"Rather than disintegrating under the pressure and stress of our day, it appears to me that our priests are becoming stronger," he said. "As the public negativity rises and the chorus of naysayers crescendos, I believe our priests and church are actually the better for it. Truly, the more the church suffers, the stronger it becomes."

Click HERE to see more of Msgr. Rossetti's comments and the results of his surveys on the priesthood.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'The Voice of the Good Shepherd'

In his papal audience today, Pope Benedict XVI began a series of talks on the role of the priesthood. In his talk, he reflected on what it means for priests to act in persona Christi. In part, he said:

"In the unwritten book that is his life, a priest is always a teacher. Not with the presumption of those who impose their own truths but with the humble and joyful sincerity of those who have found the Truth, have been grasped and transformed by it and who therefore cannot stop announcing it."

"In fact, the priesthood is not chosen by anyone for himself. It is not a way of obtaining security in life or a social position. The priesthood is the answer to the Lord's call ... to become preachers, not of a personal truth, but of His truth."


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Online support for priests

Catholics Come Home, an apostolate that aims to bring former Faithful back into the fold, is offering a sneak peek at its newest initiative, a website that offers support for priests.

You can check out a preview at EncouragePriests.org. The interactive site will launch, appropriately enough, on June 20, which is Father's Day and which also marks the conclusion of the special Year for Priests.

In a statement, Catholics Come Home founder Tom Peterson said: “It’s timely to launch this movement during the ‘Year for Priests’ as declared by Pope Benedict XVI (June 2009-June 2010), and to continue supporting the priesthood for many years to come! Our mission is to encourage priests, and promote priestly vocations through our love and prayers.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Messengers of hope and peace

As priests renew their priestly vows at the Chrism Mass this Holy Week, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized their role as messengers of hope and peace:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Haitian seminary to reopen

Great news: Haiti's seminary in Port-Au-Prince will reopen after Holy Week. That doesn't mean it won't be tough-going for the seminarians and their teachers. They will be living in tents as the seminary continues to rebuild from January's quake, which killed 30 seminarians, along with bishops, priests and religious.

“Things are now slowly returning to normal, but at the same time everyone knows there is still much work to be done. We are still at the very beginning," Archbishop Louis Kebreau of Cap-Hatien told Aid to the Church in Need.

Click HERE to read the entire story.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Using Web 2.0 to attract vocations

One U.S. diocese is using social media to reach young people and get them to think about vocations, whether to the priesthood, religious life or married life.

The Catholic News Agency has a story today about the Diocese of Columbus' Vocations Office, which recently launched a Facebook application called Face Forward Columbus.

“Our responsibility is to preach the Good News wherever people are gathered. Kids are now gathering out on cyberspace, making it the new town square. We need to be in that town square interacting.” Father Jeff Coning, vocations director for the diocese, told CNA. “Kids are now gathering out on cyberspace, making it the new town square. We need to be in that town square interacting.”

In addition to the Facebook page, the diocese has a Face Forward Columbus blog and its own Face Forward YouTube channel.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Priest who was 'Apostle of Life' dies

Pro-life supporters lost a longtime champion with the passing of Father Paul Marx, 89, at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn.

Long before the Supreme Court ruled to legalize abortion in 1973, Father Marx spoke out about the evils of abortion. He founded the group Human Life International to advocate on the side of the unborn. His work for the sanctity of life earned him the title "Apostle of Life" from Pope John Paul II.

“If we did not have Father Marx, we would not have an international pro-life movement,” Brian Clowes, a spokesman for Human Life International, told the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times.

Click HERE to read the entire story about Father Marx's remarkable life.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Archbishop: Priests can help recapture Lord's Day

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the personable and joyful leader of the Archdiocese of New York, took the opportunity in a St. Patrick's Day letter to encourage the faithful in his archdiocese to return to Sunday Mass.

In his informative, yet playful letter, the archbishop explains the history of Sunday Mass and why it is so important. He also succinctly shoots down the many excuses the faithful have for missing Sunday Mass.

The letter is not just addressed to the faithful, but to priests. In it, Archbishop Dolan points out the important role priests play in leading the faithful to honoring the Lord's Day:

In this Year for Priests, we have heard marvellous testimonies from Catholics about how much they love their priests, and how much they appreciate the hard work they do for the sake the Gospel. Too often, the priest’s work is thankless task, but in this year our priests have heard their people thunder thank you! I add my voice to that chorus of gratitude!

If we are to recapture our sense of the Lord’s Day, our priests will lead us. We often hear people tease their priests that they only work one day a week – Sunday! That’s in good fun, for parishioners know that a priest’s work in never done, but there is something to that. For Sunday is the day of our greatest work. It is the Lord’s work, and we are at our most priestly when we consecrate the Lord’s Day by leading the people in the Lord’s own sacrifice. Many priests, who prudently begin preparing their Sunday homilies early in the week, are always thinking about the next Sunday. They live from Sunday to Sunday as it were, their eyes fixed during the week on the Lord’s Day to come. Our priests need to share that sense of Sunday with their parishioners, so that the Church as a whole lives from Sunday to Sunday.

Click HERE to read the entire letter.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Year for Priests — the movie

Well, not exactly, but Catholic News Agency is reporting on a new video released in honor of the special year:

“Alter Christus,” a video on the many aspects of the priesthood, was recently released in Rome. The film focuses on the life of St. John Vianney as well as priestly identity and celibacy.

The film was released by the organization, “Home of the Mother,” its foundation, “EUK Mamie,” and in collaboration with the Congregation for the Clergy. According to Sister Maria Luisa Belmonte of Home of the Mother, the film is “centered on the life of St. John Vianney,” and “the topics covered range from the priestly identity to the Sacraments, from celibacy to the mission.”

Click HERE to read more about the production.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Priests' spiritual role comes first

So said Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk of Utrecht in the Netherlands during an address at last week's international gathering for priests in Rome.

Here are excerpts from his speech:

“I don’t want to underestimate the importance of the social role of priests, who although ‘in a certain sense are segregated in the heart of the People of God,’ yet they do not remain ‘separated from this same people or from any man’ with whom they live and for whom they work in a particular age and culture. ..."

"[Nevertheless] “we seek to train future priests and focus on their spiritual identity. Priests are exposed daily to pressure, tension and the disillusionment related to the proclamation of the Gospel in a society that is not very open to the Christian faith.”

Click HERE to see more from Catholic News Agency.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A day in the life of a parish priest

Ever wonder what it's like to be a parish priest? Father Nels Gjengdahl, a priests of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul, gives you a taste in the fun video below. Father Gjengdahl is clearly heeding Pope Benedict XVI's call to use social media. h/t to CNS Blog.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pope urges priests to promote confession

Pope Benedict XVI today spoke to young priests participating in an Apostolic Penitentiary course on confession, and urged them to follow the example of St. John Vianney, who "encouraged many penitents to come to his confessional.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Romeward bound

Our apologies to Simon & Garfunkel for playing off the title to their classic hit, but it seemed appropriate as hundreds of bishops, priests and seminarians head to Rome for a special Year for Priests international conference.

The "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of the Priesthood" theological convention takes place Thursday and Friday in Rome with priestly identity, priestly celibacy and priests and contemporary culture to be among the topics.

Click HERE to see the Congregation of the Clergy's schedule of events for the sessions, which will be presided over by Cardinal William J. Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Franc Rode of Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The Congregation of the Clergy's Cardinal Claudio Hummes will also be present.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lessons in confession

Among the many important responsibilities of priests is hearing confessions. A new Vatican course that began Monday aims to help young priests learn how to correctly administer the Sacrament of Penance.

From a Zenit article:

The major penitentiary, Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, is leading the course, in which "moral and canonical subjects will be discussed related to the ministry of penance, above all that of confession," a communiqué announced.

Complex or difficult situations in the sacrament will be addressed by Bishop Gianfranco Girotti and Jesuit Father Ivan Fucek, regent and theologian of the penitentiary, respectively. Other experts will also address the priests, illustrating "the canonical discipline and its correct application in relation to offenses and punishments and several practical aspects."

Criteria will be given "to treat some cases of conjugal and family morality and confession will be proposed as an instrument for moral education," the communiqué added. The priests will also learn how to redirect appeals to the penitentiary and about the concession and use of indulgences.

The weeklong course will end with an address by Pope Benedict XVI.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Papal preacher: Priests are ministers of New Covenant

In his first Lenten reflection at the Vatican today, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, spoke of the role of priests, saying they are ministers of the new covenant between God and humanity, through Christ and through grace.

Today's reflection is the first of three, with the theme being "Dispensers of the Mystery of God. The priest, minister of the Word and the sacraments." The remaining two reflections will take place March 12 and 16.

Check out the video below to hear more of what Father Cantalamessa had to say:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

USA Today profiles popular priest-author

Jesuit Father James Martin, the culture editor of America magazine and author of the best-seller "My Life with The Saints," is the subject of a lengthy profile in today's edition of the national newspaper. He has a new book out, "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: The Spirituality of Real Life."

In the profile, he talks about what drew him to the priesthood from a life as a business executive and what attracted him to Ignatian spirituality:

"Ignatian spirituality is intended for the widest possible audience of believers and seekers," Martin says.

He writes in The Jesuit Guide that "within the Christian tradition, all spiritualities, no matter what their origins, have the same focus — the desire for union with God, an emphasis on love and charity, and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God."

It's about making a God-centered life accessible to the doubtful as well as the devout, he says.

It's about realizing that when you are most vulnerable — sick, out of work, lonely, afraid, "God can move through your defenses, strengthen and accompany you."

And there's a radical simplicity to that, Martin says.

He says Ignatian spirituality "does not ask you to become a half-naked, twig-eating, cave-dwelling hermit. It simply invites you to live simply."

Click HERE to read the full profile.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sainthood cause for first African-American priest

Earlier this week, the Chicago archdiocese announced it was opening the canonization cause of Father Augustus Tolton, a former slave who made headlines when he was ordained in Rome in 1886, becoming the first African-American priest.

As Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, noted in announcing the opening of the cause, Father Tolton had to study in Rome because, sadly, no American seminary would accept him. Father Tolton served in Quincy, Ill., before coming to Chicago to start a parish for black Catholics. (Click HERE to read Catholic News Agency's story on Father Tolton)

In announcing the opening of Father Tolton's cause, Cardinal George wrote, "...during this Year for Priests it would be good to pray to him and to ask the Lord to send us many more priests like him." Well said.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Amazing profile of priest in Haiti

Seven weeks after an earthquake devastated Haiti, news about the Caribbean country and its inhabitants has moved off the front page, but the suffering and painful recovery process continue.

The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash brings the devastation back to the forefront in a long profile of Father Rick Frechette in the magazine's March 1 issue. Father Frechette runs the country's only free pediatric hospital and an orphanage. He also goes to the Port-au-Prince morgue every Thursday — since long before the quake — to bury the unclaimed dead, living out one of the seven corporal works of mercy of the Catholic Church.

Labash's story is very lengthy, and is accompanied by a slide show with many stunning — and sometimes quite disturbing — photographs. But it's worth reading every words of this profile of an amazing man of God, doing good works in a nearly impossible situation:

As we near Frechette’s graveyard, the rumors prove true. There’s a stack of half-plowed earth, atop which lie 30 or so naked bodies, as if a bulldozer driver started to bury them, went on a smoke break, then forgot to come back. Arms and legs jut from the half-dug earth, like some sort of Goya-esque horror, while the bodies on top of the pile are so sun-baked, their skin looks like plum pits. The maggots are feasting.

For a while, we wordlessly survey the disgrace. Then Father Rick looks up to the burning hills. “Just like hell. Isn’t it?” he says. “It always amazes me how nature aligns.” The state has been doing mass burials here since the earthquake. But even before, Frechette explains, “This whole area was known as the place of the dead. For 40 years, since the time of Papa Doc, it’s the place where they dumped the dead. It’s notorious for executions, for emptying the prisons out by bringing them all here, digging a hole, having them stand at the edge, plugging them in the head, then letting them fall right into the grave. We use the same areas to bury the dead in the right way.”

A little ways down the road, sweat-drenched men with pick-axes and shovels stand in huge holes, readying them for tomorrow’s burial. Cows graze in a field of white wooden crosses. Frechette’s had to stop using them, however, since people would steal the crosses to cook with. He’s now switched to smaller crosses made of fish-tins, hiring crossmakers from Cité Soleil. Though even that is getting too expensive with all the newly dead.

Our motorcyclists nervously call for us to leave, before the flames jump the road, and we have to ride out through a tunnel of fire. On the way back up the hill, I step in a sinkhole on a grave, and nearly go down. Father Rick laughs. He says it’s seven years bad luck to step on the dead, seven years good luck to bury them. “I could have a square-dance here,” he says, “and mathematically, I’d still be ahead of the game.”


Click HERE to read the story. h/t to the Deacon's Bench.