Early in my adult journey of faith I had the blessing of living at Christhaven, the diocesan House of Prayer in Montana. Father Joe Oblinger, the priest who was in charge of the prayer community and retreat house, was a wise and prayerful man, committed to his faith.
It was a time of formation of faith for me and he was generous with his time and love in answering my many questions and cultivating in me a love for the Church. He was the first of many priests who had significant impact on my life of faith over the years.
I am reminded of those men by John's Gospel this Sunday, the description of the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.
The catechism tells us that those in the ordained priesthood act in persona Christi, that it is Christ himself who is present to his Church through the priest. Though they are still men, the Holy Spirit gives them authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself, Christ the Good Shepherd.
This Sunday is World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It is also a time to re-examine and deepen our commitment to support our priests, those men who lay down their lives in service of the Gospel and God's people.
CNS PHOTO | CROSIERS
'My sheep hear my voice.'
I recently came across an excellent description of the role of the laity vis-à-vis the priesthood, by way of the acronym, PRIEST:
PRAY: for God's grace, for strength, for protection from the snares of the enemy. Pray that our priests will have the gift of wisdom, will see with eyes of love, will have the mind of Christ.
RESPECT: the place they occupy in God's plan. Respect not just the office they hold but their generosity in saying "no" to other things so they might give themselves to this work. Respect them for their desire to serve God that is revealed by their "yes", for the weight of responsibility that rests on their shoulders.
INSPIRE: by the lives we lead, by our generosity, by our hunger for holiness, by our faithfulness, by our response to the call of discipleship.
ENCOURAGE: by our words, by our actions. To encourage is to "give courage" and courage is what is needed to be the public witness to the gospel of love that the priesthood embodies. Our culture of death requires a countersign.
SUPPORT: by fulfilling the responsibility of the baptized. Support by doing our share of the work, giving our share of the collection, serving in the roles we are able to do.
TRUST: Don't make every priest pay for the sins of the few. Trust the good will, the good heart, the good motives. Trust that God is at work in them to accomplish his purposes. Trust our priests enough that we encourage our sons and brothers to respond to the call.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)