Reflections on Year of the Priest.pdf - Catholic Diocese of Christchurch

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Reflections on Year of the Priest.pdf - Catholic Diocese of Christchurch

REFLECTIONS ON THE YEAR OF THE PRIEST

By Father Carl Telford SM

Parish Priest, St Mary’s Parish, Christchurch

The Year for priests June 2009- June 2010,

Pope Benedict announced the Church will celebrate a special year for priests which began on

June 19 2009 coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the death of the holy Curé d'Ars, St John

Marie Vianney (1786-1859). It began in our Diocese on Friday 19 June 2009 in our Cathedral with

the Bishop and the priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful gathering in prayer. The Year of

the Priest is a chance for Catholics to recognise the "great and often unsung work" of priests,

making a contribution to the lives of people, parish communities and the Church as a whole.

The Pope inaugurated the Year of the Priest on June 19 by presiding at Vespers at St Peter's

Basilica, where the relics of the holy Curé were brought for the occasion by Bishop Guy

Bagnard of Belley-Ars, France. During the year of celebration, Pope Benedict has proclaimed

St John Marie Vianney as patron saint of all the priests of the world. [We have a link to

him in our parish since he knew the early Marists, and Mother Aubert and other French

missionaries and wished to become a Marist himself and was a member of the Marist third

order] We have now an icon of him in our Church to remind us to pray for priests this year.

It is true to say in recent years priests have been under a lot of pressure with increased

demands. The drop in the number of vocations, the increasing complexity and demands on

priests in their parishes (many priests have had to look after several parishes) and the problems

with sexual abuse has affected the priesthood a great deal. It is easy to criticise and point out the

flaws of our priests so this year is a Church-wide movement of prayer and reflection and gratitude

for the gift of priesthood. No priest, no Mass.

Priests are battling on doing wonderful and dedicated work in their parishes, but it's tough. The

Year for Priests is a great opportunity firstly for the Catholic community to acknowledge how much

they appreciate the service of their priest. It’s a chance to celebrate all the good aspects of the

priesthood. It's also a chance to be more conscious of how vital priestly ministry is for the Church.

For the priests themselves it's a chance to receive some refreshment and encouragement in their

work. So it seems a good chance to reflect on the sacrament of Orders.

Who is St John Mary Vianney?

John Mary Vianney was born in Dardilly, near Leon, in 1786. His early faith formation took place

within the context of the French Revolution, which pushed the practice of the Catholic faith

underground. The priesthood wasn't an easy path for Vianney. After finally getting his father's

permission to pursue his calling, he still needed to get caught up on his studies, as the revolution

had interrupted his education. If he wanted to be a priest, he'd have to go back to school with

children half his age to learn the basics of reading, writing, and Latin. Almost nine years later, in

1815, Vianney was ordained. He was 29. Less than three years later, in 1818, the young priest was

assigned as the assistant pastor of the church in Ars, a small country village located about 25 miles

from Lyon in eastern France. This is where he would spend the rest of his priestly life. Arriving in

Ars, the young priest noticed the loss of Christian faith and morals around him, a lingering byproduct

of the French Revolution. Father Vianney soon began to awaken the faith of his

parishioners through his preaching, but most of all by his prayer and his way of life. His notoriety as


a holy priest grew slowly, and Father Vianney soon became known as, simply, the Curé d'Ars

(priest of Ars).

By the 1830s, his popularity swelled to the extent that the holy priest became somewhat of a

prisoner in the confessional, held there by the hundreds of faithful arriving daily to the village to

see the holy curé. Between 1830 and 1845, sometimes as many as 300 people a day would pass

through Ars for a chance to confess with Father Vianney. Overwhelmed with his own sense of

unworthiness and weakness in the face of such a great mission, the holy priest tried three times to

escape, but all attempts failed. On the third attempt his parishioners actually sent out a search crew

in the middle of the night to find him and put him back in the confessional. He stayed there until the

wee hours of the morning - hearing confessions.

His own bishop even told him not to attend diocesan retreats, as Father Vianney had too many souls

to attend to in Ars. By 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached 20,000 a year, and some

100,000 in 1858. There are reports that during the last 10 years of his life, he spent as many as 18

hours a day in the confessional, and that toward the end of his life, he confessed up to 80,000

penitents a year. Father Vianney spent the last five days of his life hearing his confessions from his

deathbed. Exhausted, the Curé d'Ars died Aug. 4, 1859. He was 73. The parish priest was beatified

in 1905, and declared the patron of the priests of France that same year. He was canonized 20 years

later in 1925, and declared the patron saint of all parish priests in 1929.

What is a priest?

We call our Catholic ministers priests, and that is quite deliberate. They are linked first not to a

book or a congregation but by a permanent bond to an altar, a place of sacrifice to God. To know

what a Catholic priest is we have to know what a sacrifice is. Nowadays the word "sacrifice" is

used in many different ways. But in its Christian meaning, it means obedience and offering of the

heart to God. The will of Jesus was to do the Will of the Father. That desire consumed His every

fibre. "Greater love has no one than to lay down their life for their friends." In Jesus the Eternal

Priest and the Second Adam, His suffering and death became the instrument of our salvation. In

freedom and love Christ offered His life to the Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our

disobedience. The external bloody sacrifice of Calvary sprung from the total inner oblation of Jesus

to the Father. Everything that exists was made by God in the first place. Even a mountain of

diamonds would of itself have no value in God's eyes. Until Jesus gave us himself as the perfect gift

to God, nothing that we could offer to God was really worthy of God.

The New Covenant and the Law of love would have a new sacrifice and a new priesthood. At the

Last Supper Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In this new sacrifice the gift offered to

God would not be a mere token gift, such as a sheep or an ox or bread and wine. The gift now, for

the first time and always, would be a gift worthy of God. It would be the gift of God's own Son—a

gift of infinite value, even as God himself is infinite. In the Mass, under the appearances of bread

and wine, Jesus would daily renew the once-and-forever offering which, upon the cross, he made of

himself to God. In the Mass He would give to each of us, his baptised members, the opportunity to

unite ourselves with him in that eternal offering to God. But who would be the human priest who

would stand at the altar—the human agent whose hands and whose lips Christ would use for the

offering of himself? Who would be the human instrument to whom Christ would give the power of

making the God-Man present upon the altar, under the appearances of bread and wine? His

ministerial priests. They continue to make present the one eternal sacrifice of Calvary for us to offer

it. A priest reminds the parish that its life comes from Calvary and the inner eternal obedient love of

Jesus. A priest is a sacrament or sign that Jesus is our Obedient High Priest forever.


Holy priests is what we ask God for!

This is the Year for Priests. Why a year for Priests? Why are they being given this attention?

These are good questions. I am not a seer but my reading of the intention of Pope Benedict in

proclaiming this special year is that he is calling all priests to become holy; given over totally to the

will of the Father. We know that every priest should be holy but the Church needs reminding of

this truth. The priesthood is a call to radical holiness. There may be even a subtext in our

relativistic world that somehow that call is unrealistic or priests should just be like anyone else.

But the verdict of any true renewal in the history of the Catholic Church is that such true renewal

begins with priestly interior conversion. Holy priests mean holy parishes.

I have been reading a very interesting history of the Catholic Church. In the 9th and 10th century

there was much corruption in the Church even a few unworthy Popes. You do not want to know

about Pope John XII! But at the same time the great Abbey of Cluny was a seedbed for

holiness and renewal in the Church by encouraging Bishops and Abbots to be holy who would

in turn encourage their priests. In a similar way, by putting before us the figure of St John Mary

Vianney, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict is drawing our attention to a priest who had an imperfect

lax parish; far from God after the French Revolution and the secular French state.

Under God's grace, St John Vianney knew the first thing he must do to change the parish was to

become holy himself. He spent long hours in deep prayer before the Tabernacle. In the pulpit, St

John by his preaching of the authentic unchanging Gospel in season and out of season and by his

work in the confessional called his small obscure parish of Ars to change. The parish did change

and was converted because they had a holy priest. May there be many more! Of course in God’s

plan it is frequently the prayers of holy parishioners, especially the ill, that change the priest's

heart. We are not independent units. We are sheep and shepherd, one flock. Please join us in

praying that the priests of St Mary's may be holy and also all our priests in our Diocese

especially our dedicated Bishop.

Priests belong to the Bishop

In this Year for Priests, we continue to reflect on what a priest is. There are no sole operators as

priests. They belong by Catholic instinct to a group/Order of men who are serving the Church, all

singing off the same song sheet, so to speak. That is shown quite concretely by the fact that each of

your priests at St Mary’s offers Mass and preaches; hear confessions because they have faculties to

do so from Bishop Barry Jones. He explicitly has given each of the priests here the authority to act

in his name. So when I came to Christchurch I received a letter from Bishop [then] Cunneen saying

I could offer Mass, preach and hear confessions. A bishop can withdraw those faculties if he wishes

in extraordinary circumstances. More importantly your priests are here because the Bishop trusts

their ministry.

This link to Bishop Jones is shown quite concretely in the Mass. Just before Holy Communion, the

priest breaks the Host. He places a small piece of the Host in the Chalice. The origin of this custom

was because there had been divisions in the Catholic Church with a few priests claiming to be

independent. So over time this custom arose and it still continues at each Mass.

The local bishop would send a small piece of his Host to the priest in a parish and so when the

priest placed that small fragment of the Host from the Bishop's Mass the local congregation knew

that their priest was in communion, one mind and heart with the local bishop and so the entire

Catholic Church. No fragment, not in communion.


Another sign of this communion is that approximately every 5 or so years the Bishop comes in

visitation to our parish. He will see how the parish is running, met parishioners, especially the ill

and met with the priests, talk to the Pastoral Council, Finance Committee. Each priest is responsible

and accountable first to the local Bishop that a priest is acting in every way as the Bishop wants.

This does not mean we are machines. We are still individuals. But part of being Catholic is that we

are part of a greater group, the Body of Christ.

What is the heart of the Catholic priesthood?

In this Year for Priests, it is good to reflect on the priesthood as understood by the Catholic Church.

Especially since Vatican II, there has been great thought and discussion on what the ministerial

priesthood is? There have been some incorrect answers to these questions. Truthful or false answers

to this question have very significant capacity for good or for harm. Pope John Paul spent much

time during his 26 years as Pontiff to clarify and teach clearly the essence of Catholic priesthood.

Remarkable how after such clear teaching all around us there are still confused and confusing

voices on what a priest is even among Catholics.

In my own journey as a priest, I can see that one of the great graces I received was listening to a

series of talks on the priesthood from Fr John Weaver sm, one of our Marist seminary lecturers [a

former curate here at St Mary's]. It was just after the 1971 Synod on Priesthood. Fr Weaver, a clear

thinker, explained that the essence of the priesthood was found in that the ministerial priest is a

sacramental sign of Christ the Head and Bridegroom of the Church. Let us unpack that definition.

First, all of us by our baptism are sacramental signs of Christ, not just priests. It is Christ in the

sacrament of Matrimony strengthening and guiding a couple. It is Christ in a parent teaching their

child the sign of the Cross. It is Christ in our St Vincent de Paul Conference visiting our sick and

poor. Christ is present in many ways. We have the dignity of doing His work. But not all do the

same work or are signs of the completely same reality. What is specific and unique to a priest is a

God-given sign or sacrament of Christ the Head and foot-washing Shepherd of the Flock. Christ the

Head is present in the priest to serve His flock. The priest's real authority is to build up and tend the

flock. That means a priest must lead and guide as a good shepherd. He must repel wolves. He

receives a special grace to do that. The priest does not do all the work of Christ in the Church but a

priest does serve to unite and build up the gifts of the Church and parish. He unites. He is a force for

goodness and beauty. He is to be fertile and give life hence his celibacy and name as spiritual father.

A priest is married to God's people. You have married priests at St Mary's and they are married to

you!

A priest belongs totally to Christ.

Pope Benedict explained on 24 June 2009 during the Wednesday General Audience why he has

asked the Church to celebrate this Year for Priests. He said "it was a chance to look at a poor

peasant who became a humble parish priest and carried out his pastoral life in a small village of

Ars." The Pope is reminding us that you do not need perfect circumstances to become holy;

ordinary life is the seed bed for greatness if we use the grace of the particular circumstances in

which we are placed by God's Providence. Living in the present moment, right here, is the place to

begin. St John Vianney must have wondered why the Bishop sent him to such a poor obscure parish

full of unbelieving parishioners. Yet God transformed that place because St John determined to

became holy by living a life of prayer and penance. So St John Vianney was the instrument God

used to transform Ars. God uses human instruments in His Work.


The Pope says that in that place St John became totally one with Christ. St John Vianney used to

say:" If we had faith, we would see God hidden in a priest like a light behind a glass or like wine

mixed with water." Christ is the light; Christ is the wine. The priest is only the glass or water but so

close to him is the Presence and Power of Christ the High Priest, Bridegroom of the Church. Since

Christ is so close the Pope said that a priest must strive for spiritual perfection on which, above all,

the effectiveness of their ministry depends.

The Pope said: "This Year for Priests is to help priests and people to rediscover and to reinforce

their knowledge of the extraordinary, indispensable gift of Grace which the ordained minister

represents for those who have received it, for the whole Church and the world which would be

lost without the Real Presence of Christ." The Pope is keen we rediscover that a priest is not just a

worker, No for the Catholic Church a priest is someone whose very existence is determined by a

gift granted by the Lord. He says: "A priest is in Christ, for Christ and with Christ, at the service of

humankind." A priest is someone whose whole life is caught up in the mystery of Christ. It is not a

part-time job but a call to participate in the very mystery of Christ's dying and rising. A priest is a

sacrament, a symbol or sign of the Risen Christ, His Priesthood present." We carry our treasure in

frail vessels." The Pope is reminding us of the treasure the human vessel contains. We need your

prayers. Thank you for your loving support in so many ways.

Do not secularize the priest and clericalise the laity!

In the stirring times we have lived in, many parishioners will remember the respect priests were

shown; for example standing when a priest came into the room, kissing his hands after ordination.

Then it seemed after Vatican II the pendulum swung in the other direction;" Do not call me,

Father"; wearing lay clothes, being one of the boys; talk of training seminarians in a secular

atmosphere. In an effort to highlight the role of the laity, some downplayed the unique role of the

priest in our Catholic Church. So priests were afraid to be different and for example there was talk

of a pastoral council in a parish being a mere matter of democracy with the priest having just one

vote. We see one sign of that confusing change in that there are now few vocations. Who wants to

be a priest and make a total gift of one's life and show absolute dedication to a life that no one is

sure what it is about, if it is just the same as a layperson?

Of course one missing component is that a similar process has happened also to lifelong and faithful

marriage. I suggest the same negative reductionistic attitude is at work in downplaying marriage: "It

is just a piece of paper."! So we have seen the huge increase in de facto relationships. But neither

the priesthood nor marriage are mere human creations. We did not invent them. They are gifts from

God. No, both are holy grace bearing sacraments which come from the will of Christ Himself. He is

their author and source. The Church does not invent marriage or priesthood. Both come designed by

Christ in their inner reality which the Church will guard. At the end of the world we will have no

need of sacraments. Then we will see the reality. Until then we only "see" the human sign or

symbol which contains within it the faith God reality. So strictly we can only understand what a

priest is [and marriage] if we have faith, and the teaching of Christ's Church to explain what they

are. It is a little like looking at a parcel wrapped up. We can not know what the parcel contains.

Only the person who wrapped it up knows. Sacraments are faith realities, not just sociological

realities able to be grasped by human reason alone.

So when you hear someone talking about what priest is, ask them. Is that what the Catholic Church

teaches? Only she knows what the essence of Catholic priesthood is.


Priests are ordained to offer Mass

There have been priests for 2000 years and during that time, there have been a great variety of

ministries they have carried out: eg some Jesuits are nuclear scientists or astronomers; others

Benedictines are farmers. But one common feature is that the heart of their life as a priest is the

Mass. I never cease to be amazed as I proclaim at Mass those awesome words: “This is my Body...

This is my Blood." That is the centre of my day. As I say those words the past, present and future

are intermingled.

I reflect on the past: Our Lord said those words in the Upper Room at the Last Supper in

Jerusalem and asked us to do this in His memory. He was saying quite freely and deliberately: I am

giving my total self to God in loving obedience which He did in fact in great suffering on that hill of

Mt Calvary. Those words are first said to God the Father. I am yours totally. He was the Lamb the

new Passover offering so we would be set free from sin. It was His real Body and Precious Blood,

not a dream or an idea but a real human in a real moment in history. So each Mass is touching the

power of the Last Supper and Calvary, these real events. We become present to their power to save

us and the world and bless especially the souls in purgatory.

I reflect on the present: as I say those words, “This is my Body..."it is Jesus in me right now that is

saying them in full truth. I am only the microphone but His is the voice and words. He is present. I

am the little pencil in His hand to do a work that only God can do. We gather as Mass not to see the

priest but Our Lord, the High Priest is in truth saying those words. Our Lord is speaking to His own

people, this congregation: I am giving myself to you as I give myself to the Father. We all

eavesdrop in the loving dialogue of Our Lord and His Father. It is happening at every Mass.

I reflect on the future: One day in the happiness of heaven we will see with unveiled faces the

total giving of Jesus to the Father and the Holy Spirit of love radiating from this love. We will see

Our Lady full of grace and all the angels and saints in perfect tune with the spousal giving of Our

Lord. There will be no disharmony or division. But now we have a foretaste of the Banquet of the

Lamb and His Wedding Feast. We touch it and long for its completion in us. It is complete in Christ

and His saints. Every Mass is a pledge of the glory that is to come.

Why I am a priest

I was reflecting on the Year for Priests and thought of giving a personal testimony and asking the

other priests in the Pastoral Team in following bulletins to do the same. I was born and bred in

Christchurch. My late parents Bridie and Arthur are known to some older parishioners here. I am so

grateful to them for the Catholic home they provided that enabled my vocation to grow. I was in

fact born in this parish at Calvary Hospital in Bealey Ave but brought up in Our Lady of Fatima

parish in Innes Rd. There was a real spirit of prayer in the parish which was cultivated by Fr Bill

O'Mahoney our PP. He also had a great love for Our Lady. I went to the primary school run by the

Holy Faith Sisters. It was a wonderful and happy school; the Sisters were excellent capable

teachers. In Standard 6 a number of secondary school scholarships were won by Fatima even

beating St Mary's Primary School!

I was an altar server and that gave me a initial sense of the Mass. At the end of my 5th Form I went

to Rotorua for a Catholic Youth Training Camp. That event transformed my life. I knew for the

first time in a special way that Christ was really present in the Mass, His Greatest Presence and so

when I returned to Christchurch I began to go to daily Mass, receive daily Holy Communion and to

pray. I knew that there was a real blessing to pray in the presence of Christ in the Blessed


Sacrament. I understood in my heart that God was calling me to give my life to Him forever. So

after looking at different orders [I even thought of the monastery! at Kopua after reading Thomas

Merton Elected Silence] I was inspired by the goodness and joy of the Marists who taught me at St

Bedes. Something in their Marist spirit attracted me. But I remember my PP Monsignor Gordon

Daly as very supportive of me going to the Marists. So I left St Bede's and went in February 1971

with 19 others to the Marist Seminary at Greenmeadows in Hawke's Bay. It was 7 years of praying

and testing and reflecting until I knew for sure in 1977 that God wanted me to be a Marist priest. So

I was ordained in my home parish of Fatima in July 1978, 31 years ago. I am so grateful that God

called me to be your priest. What a privilege.

Finally I am sure that my call is ultimately not anything I have done but the result of the prayers of

many dedicated faithfilled people; my family especially my parents, the Carmelites especially Sister

Catherine of Christ and Sister Veronica and Sister Eucharia of the Holy Faith Sisters along with

many others I will never know of until the end of time.

Why I Am A Priest

Last Friday morning I was walking through The Palms Shopping Mall on my way to the bank. I

was a little early for an appointment I had so did a little window shopping. As I ambled along I was

hailed by a young lady who was promoting new organic skin-care products (‘Attitude’ for those

interested) and of course fell into the trap of having some new cleansing agents and moisturiser

applied. In the course of our conversation the young lady asked what I did, and I answered I was a

Catholic priest. Her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “Oh wow, do you like it?” I answered in the

affirmative, however driving home I found myself asking the question, “What is the ‘it’ I like?” It’s

somewhat crazy because I have never answered that question in anything other than the affirmative;

however trying to elucidate the ‘it’ in words is not easy.

I know for me my priesthood is not about power, is not about authority, and is not about prestige. It

is not about better than, it is not about holier than. As Fr Michael Buckley SJ once asked a group of

young men preparing for ordination “Are you ‘weak’ enough to be ordained?” The question was not

about physical weakness, rather as priest I need to be in touch with my failures and insufficiencies

as much as my successes; “that is, because he himself has been through temptation he is able to help

others who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18), then I am able to minister to and with the broken Body of

Christ, celebrated in the Word proclaimed, the Bread broken, and the body gathered in worship.

Together we are the Body of Christ, the Church, and together we are charged with bringing about

the Kingdom of God. As an ordained minister among this body I have select responsibilities in

order that this Kingdom is preached and lived.

The majority of my years in ministry have been in offering retreats and spiritual direction to women

and men throughout New Zealand and the Pacific. It is a privilege to journey with others and

experience the unfolding of the unfathomable mystery of God in a person’s life. God as ‘surprised’

on many occasions, and continues to do so! To those women and men (and not too few children,

also!) I give thanks for allowing me that privilege.

- Fr Gerard Whiteford SM.


Why I Became a Priest

In the middle of 1952 during my 5 th form year (year 11) at St Patrick’s College Silverstream, my

Rector Fr Frank Durning SM, asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a priest. Yes I replied

and that was the catalyst that set me on my journey. As a result of my saying yes a scholarship to

pay school fees for my final two years became available and was a big help with three in the family

at boarding school. What had prompted my answer to the Rector’s question? A number of factors

were involved. Obviously parents were involved. I was the eldest of five children, two years three

months between the lot of us. The three youngest were triplets and the death of Michael at 4 years

10 months was a factor in my thinking. With so many children of a young age my grandmother

lived with us and her walking to church rain, hail or sun influenced me. Other influences were the

Sisters of Mercy, first at Kumara where I began my schooling then at Loreto in Papanui where I

spent my final four years of primary as a boarder. From there it was to St Pat’s Silverstream and I

came under the influence of the Marist Fathers. Both there and in the parish of Nelson their

example was very evident. When I decided at the end of secondary schooling I was called to

become a priest what prompted me to choose Marist over Diocesan? Obviously priests who taught

me and looked after the parish were my main examples, but I wanted to live in a community and

also become a teacher, so in 1955 I headed to Greenmeadows to begin seven years of training along

with five other ex Silverstreamers. Unconsciously the example of Bishop John Cunneen and Sister

Mary Gordon, both first cousins, had some impact on my choice to try for the priesthood. A crucifix

I won as a prize for senior Christian Doctrine at Loreto in 1949 sits at the head of my bed. It serves

as a constant reminder of the Scripture passage ‘to take up my cross daily if I want to follow

Christ” My total laryngectomy in March 2007 serves as a recent cross I have to bear. Since then I

have not been able to say a public Mass, officiate at weddings, funerals and baptisms. However

despite my disability I have been available for Reconciliation. In this Year of the Priest the Curé

Ars serves as an inspiration. Twice I have been to Ars, seen his confessional, said Mass in the

Church, visited his presbytery. We are all sinners and his example in the confessional, although not

for sixteen hours a day, inspires me to bring mercy to those who come to St. Mary’s. In addition he

was member of the Marist 3 rd Order and over my ten years at St Mary’s, I have been their Chaplain.

For just on forty eight years I have been a priest. For much of that time I was teaching in our

Colleges, Silverstream, St John’s Hastings and St Bedes. Since 2000 parish work has been my

ministry here at St Mary’s. For me dispensing God’s mercy has been paramount. With the help of

Jesus and Mary, His Mother, may it long continue to be so because it is a vocation I am very happy

in.

A Journey - Why I become a Priest

- Fr Peter Blake SM

I certainly cannot answer the question why I became a priest. And, I am pretty sure,

no one else can either. All I can do is give some hints as to what happened. I did not have a lifelong

ambition to be a priest. Quite the opposite, I was sure that what I wanted after the wonderful

schooling given me here in the parish school and at St. Bede’s College, was to study science at

Canterbury University.

Like thirty or so others, I was an eager altar boy at St. Mary’s, ready for frosts and early 6:30 a.m.

Masses, skilled at stoking up the incense for funerals and keen to serve at weddings, one of a

long line of torch-bearers for Sunday night devotions, under the watchful eyes of Graham Shaw,

Michael Wills, John Manning, Brian Maloney and many other senior servers, startling and


powerful in their scarlet soutanes. I do remember one occasion, standard four or five, kneeling in

the old church before Our Lady’s statue and saying one single “Hail Mary,” and offering my future

to our Blessed Mother. I suspect that that was an important moment of the journey to priesthood.

The good teaching I received and the evident friendship among the Fathers who taught me at St.

Bede’s I found refreshing and appealing. And it did raise issues as to my future. In my final year at

St. Bede’s, I approached Fr. Paddy Butler: “Father, I wonder if I should become a priest?” “Good

idea! I think you should become a Jesuit!” “Oh no, I don’t want to be a Jesuit, I just want to be a

plain old Marist like you!”

Letters and interviews, seminary prospectus, a black hat and tie, the over-night ferry crossing and

the long train journey to Napier soon followed. On the train, we met a smartly dressed young Maori,

who is now Fr. Hemi Hekiera, SM. He told us, a group of four from Christchurch, that a lucky fling

on the races earned him enough to buy all his gear for the seminary.

The seven seminary years, which seemed so daunting at the beginning, soon passed, although

during all that time I was never sure that I “would make it” as routine weekly letters kept warning

the family. By grace and God’s good providence, on a beautifully sunny Christchurch day in winter,

Dunedin’s Bishop Kavanagh ordained me in the Cathedral with big group, some of whom are still

working in the diocese.

Since that day, I have never doubted that I should be a priest and I have found joy and peace in

being a priest but as to “why I became a priest,” only God’s provident wisdom holds the key to that.

May be one day, God will let me know the answer.

Priests offer Mass for you, for the dead and for the Church

- Paul A. Williamson, S.M.

We continue these reflections on the Year for Priests. Priests are ordained to celebrate Mass for the

Church and for you. It is not about his personal wishes or needs but about the priest's main work: to

impart the treasure of the Sacrifice of the Mass to the entire Church. A priest is not there for his

own sake but to reopen the source of salvation for the Church and the entire world. A parish priest

is strictly obliged by the Canon law of the Church to offer Mass each Sunday for his parishioners.

Also a priest is obliged to pray his Breviary or Divine Office or the Prayer of the Church every day

for the Church. This prayer mainly the Psalms from the Old Testament is the priest joining that

ceaseless all powerful prayer of Christ and His saints and angels offered before the Father in

heaven.

A priest is a means of this infinitely powerful prayer in heaven being received and working on earth

especially for you for whom the priest is ordained to serve first by his praying. But the most

powerful prayer a priest prays is the Mass. One very ancient way of the priest enabling God's Holy

people to share in the Mass is for the lay faithful to ask a priest to offer the Mass for a special

intention e.g. anniversary of the death of a parent, grave illness.. As a sign of this, the layperson

gives a Mass stipend to the priest to offer the Mass which the priest is strictly obliged to offer for

that specific intention.

How to give a Mass stipend. The custom is to write on an white envelope" Please offer Mass for

this intention....[ and name it...]" and enclose $5 in the envelope and give the envelope to the

priest. Please write down the intention. Believe me it is much easier than asking the priest by word

of mouth after Mass, a busy time, to offer this Mass and he has no written record next day and

cannot remember. Also the money is not the main point. We do not pay for the Mass. This has been

an ancient custom to help to pay for the wine and breads used in the Mass and other basic


equirements that make a parish run. That money for Mass stipends goes from this parish to

missionaries. So let us continue this beautiful custom of having Masses offered especially for our

precious dead. When did you last have a Mass offered for your deceased parents? I remember my

deceased parents at every Mass.

A priest is a pastor or shepherd for all

This Year for priests is a chance to make explicit what we know is part of our parish; priests work

in this parish of St Mary's. You might say but I know that. Believe me we live in confused times

when there is much confusion about what is the precise ministry of an ordained priest. Hence these

reflections! A priest is centred on the Mass but also he is a shepherd or pastor. We usually do not

use the word pastor in our Catholic Church but we used it hundreds of years before there were any

Protestant churches! St Augustine a Catholic bishop was using it in the year 396. A pastor is the

shepherding aspect of the priest's call; gathering, guarding, protecting and nourishing. A priest

is to gather the flock into unity through the work of the Holy Spirit using a priest. Hence Bishop

Jones has given his priests a necessary share in his authority. A priest seeks to make sure that the

various works in the parish e.g. St Vincent de Paul, Catholic Women's League, Legion of Mary all

work for the good of the parish. Just as the priest is accountable to the Bishop and the Bishop to the

Pope so in a parish we are united because we wish to keep our hearts and minds in the peace of

Christ. Disunity hinders God's work. The Devil hates a united parish.

So a priest works to promote unity e.g. visiting speakers who will give a deeper unity; being

available to all parishioners not just a small select group. A priest is for the rich and the poor, for

the sick and the healthy, for the young and the old, for the disabled and the talented. This is a big

call and no priest gets it totally right but his call is to be the priest to all people. Thank you for your

patience with us! Just as in a similar way not every priest is our cup of tea but as Catholics we

accept a priest sent to our parish by the Bishop because of Christ in the priest. That is called faith. It

might be a packaging we do not like but the inside gift is the same for each priest. In the Protestant

tradition people have gone to a Church founded by a pastor/ preacher they like. But as Catholics our

shepherd is Christ using a frail human instrument-me. It might sound a small difference but there is

a long history of faith and respect that keeps Catholics year after year coming to Mass at the same

parish. They know the truth of Jesus's words. I am the good shepherd. My sheep know me and I

know them.

The beauty and attraction of a holy priest

This week the National Icon of St John Mary Vianney that is on pilgrimage will be at St Mary's

for the 5.30pm Mass this Sunday after leaving our Catholic Cathedral at 1pm. It is a tangible sign

that all our 6 NZ Dioceses are united in prayer and also in union with the entire Church in this Year

for priests. It is said of St John Vianney that "the mere sight of him called the crowds back to

thoughts of salvation." [Blessed John XIII.] What happened there? God's grace was glowing from

him. St John was authentic; the very call to all priests from Pope Benedict for this Year for priests.

[I was always struck in a similar way by the witness for example of Monsignor Tom Liddy or Fr

Gerry Creagh of this diocese; these two men in their own way shining with goodness.

The beauty and power of the priesthood is a faith fact. It is given. The Catholic Church did not

invent the priesthood but receives it from Christ. We can however obscure its power and Godgiven

dignity as we can obscure the power and dignity of our baptism, confirmation or matrimony.


St John Vianney is a priest who attracts and practically pushes priests to the heights of priestly life.

We can be discouraged and overwhelmed today by the secular relativistic atmosphere. So to offer

the antidote to a faith toxic world, the Church this year does not offer an idea or a new theory or get

in a advertising firm but offers the lived example of a holy priest. St John Vianney did not live in

ideal world when all was well. In an obscure parish, after the grave disorders of the French

Revolution, he was called a stupid and incompetent priest. But St John did not feel sorry for

himself or wait for a better time or place. He sought God first and prayed and prayed and fasted

and fasted and above all lived close to the heart of Jesus. Ars was converted. St John Vianney

loved his people so much that he laid down his life for them with sometimes 18 hours a day in the

confessional! There is essentially we cannot put into practice today [except perhaps the 18 hours!]:

prayer and fasting and pastoral love are not out of date. Please pray for your priests and thank you

for the way you already pray for us.

St John Vianney a poor man on fire with Christ

St John Vianney was a priest on fire with Christ's love. This love drove him to sacrifice himself in

prayer and fasting for the conversion of his parish. "He was hard on himself but gentle with

others." In an extraordinary call given to very few, St John Vianney lived on very little food, a few

potatoes and with not much sleep. He lived so modestly and humbly. He did not just talk about it.

But he carried out penances that might sound strange to us today. The Devil tried to burn his bed

and attacked him and screamed at him during the night. Most of us are not called to those particular

penances but we are called to the same spirit of self-denial and especially priests.

It is not all about us. St John knew he had to fight fire with fire. There is no overcoming sin without

a crucifixion. We follow a Crucified Lord and St John Vianney was configured to this Christ. There

is no saving souls lazing in an armchair or living as a glutton. Some even think that St John

Vianney is irrelevant today but he is no more irrelevant than the 40 days of Jesus is the wilderness

are irrelevant or Christ crucified! The world mocks holiness but ordinary good people recognise it

instantly.

At the heart of his living as a priest was his choice of living like the poor Christ: St John Vianney

was free of greed and avarice and rich in God. He was so aware of the riches of Christ that he

treated with contempt what the world thinks as success or wealth and as a snare and deception. My

guess if he was alive today he would have some direct words for us living in a culture obsessed with

money.

St John Vianney was a poor man but rich in God. He had realised early on as a priest that greed

for money or a wealthy parish was a temptation and trap. He was never greedy for money or

material possessions. He always cared for the poor. Beggars [before Social Welfare] were received

at his door with love. St John was happy to give away what he had. He said:" My secret is easy. It

can be summed up in these few words: give everything away and keep nothing for yourself." It is

true that if we are greedy we never have enough and it is also true that if we are generous we always

have enough. [ Try it!]

St John Vianney, a holy chaste priest

As we listen to the readings this 29th Sunday we get a perfect portrait of a holy priest like St John

Mary Vianney. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah mentions the Suffering Servant who will


help to free the people from their sin by taking suffering upon himself. God had a work for St John

to do in Ars and in His providence an indispensible work; firstly helping the parishioners to repent

and turn from sin. The penance of the Cure of Ars was not about being a self indulgent or self

centred "how good I am or how better I am than you" but rather came from the heart of a true

priest who needed to do penance for his parishioners. May we have many similar priests!

In the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer tells us that Jesus was tested in

every way yet without sin. St John Vianney was indeed tested and went through many trials to

become a priest. Even when he was famous throughout France his assistant priest sent to help him

was a real trial since the curate thought he knew better than St John on how to run the parish!

The Gospel reminds us that Christ came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a

ransom for others. That is an exact picture of St John Vianney. One aspect of this priestly life was

the chastity of St John Vianney. His face shone with angelic goodness. He was not just a paid

employee on a contract to serve as priest in Ars. He was married to the parishioners. He was their

spiritual father. Just as a responsible father is up during the night heating up the bottle in the

microwave or changing the nappies or taking an unsettled baby for a ride in the pram so a chaste

priest is attentive or caught up in loving his parishioners even to 18 hours in the Confessional every

day. St John's heart was on fire with chaste love for his parishioners. There was a great strength

about the preaching and words of St John Vianney. He was single hearted; nothing but Christ's love

reigned in him. He said:" A soul adorned with the virtue of chastity cannot help loving others; for

it has discovered the source and font of love -God." Not that St John Vianney was niave about sins

of unchastity since he heard many, many confessions. He knew the evil and great peril of sexual

sins. But he was even more aware of God's mercy. He said:" The works of penance abound in such

delights and joys that once they have been tasted, nothing will ever again root them out of the

soul... Only the first steps are difficult for those who eagerly choose this path of chastity." This

holy chaste priest St John Vianney has a vital message for us, with every best wish.

St John Vianney an obedient man

First, there have been newspaper reports about the Catholic Church's openness to Anglicans being

received into the full communion with the Church; there is talk of over 300,000 Anglicans,

unhappy with some trends in parts of the Anglican Communion, being received as entire

parishes/dioceses. This does not seem the case anywhere in NZ but certainly in places like the USA

there are such parishes/dioceses wanting to be received. We pray for them and for grace to have the

courage needed to leave what they know and love and set out in faith. Pope Benedict is welcoming

with open arms these our separated brothers and sisters in the one common baptism.

Continuing our reflections on the Year for priests, a reflection on the obedience of St John

Vianney. An external observer to the Catholic Church might think that the laity are like sheep

obeying their priests! How little they know! In fact the stricter obligation on the priest is to obey.

The priest is first of all obliged to seek the will of God and obey it in all things. There must be no

public face and private differing view. Authentic priestly life is all of a piece. Only the person who

can first obey should have authority. Hence 7 years of training in obedience in a seminary and a

time of testing with the bishop asking: will this man be obedient? Then once ordained the priest

must obey explicitly with love and humility the Pope and his own bishop. There are no sole

operators as priests. A priest on his ordination day pledges to be a man of obedience. It is the air he

breathes so the contradiction or public scandal of the disobedient priest or one not in full

communion with the Pope or bishop.

St John Vianney did not want to be parish priest in Ars. His own choice was to retire and become a

hermit but his bishop wished him to remain. So in complete obedience St John Vianney did the


duties of his office as priest before his own personal wishes. He did was he was told to do.

Finally a worldly person might have thought that as a holy priest, St John might have thought that

God would inspire him directly but a humble truly holy person is always marked by this sign; if

God is close to him or her they listen to those God in heaven has given us as shepherds and guides

on earth." My sheep know my voice."

In the bulletin front on the Year for priests, a little while ago, I invited parishioners to contribute

memories of a priest who touched their lives. Chris Watkins, a parishioner, pays this tribute to a

priest he remembers with gratitude:

"This is a tribute to the priest who brought me, under God's grace, into the Faith 27 years ago. Fr

George Marinovich was my parish priest in Auckland. He was a gentle gracious Croatian whom

some parishioners considered 'old school." But l came to appreciate more and more his simplicity

of faith and clear teaching. I also liked his directness and sharp intellect. Even before I had any

inclination to subscribe to what I had once, in the arrogance of youth, described as the "antiquated

beliefs” of Catholicism, I was impressed with this warm and joy-filled priest, one of the surest signs

of the Holy Spirit I subsequently found. When my wife and I moved into the parish of Point

Chevalier he called around and asked if he could bless both of us. Surprisingly, despite my

agnostic stance at the time, I made no objections to his friendly overtures. Later when I went

through a crisis in my life several years later he was the one person I approached for spiritual

counsel. He became my confidante and eventually, he received me into the Church. I in turn

became his 'right hand ' man as he put it. We shared many personal insights into the Scripture and

he even loaned me his personal pilgrimage journals to read, particularly the one recording his return

to Croatia where he visited Medjugorje. He was extremely proud the Blessed Mother has chosen his

beloved homeland! He loved Our Lady, the Rosary and all the traditions, devotions and especially

the Liturgy of the Church. He was honoured by the Bishop with the rank of Monsignor but he

attached no importance to this distinction although he did relish the robes and regalia he wore on

official occasions. He was a humble man.

If there was one thing Fr Marinovich delighted in above all, apart from celebrating daily Mass, it

was to bless his “spiritual children." Even those who called at the presbytery door for a handout,

atheist or street kid, the only condition he made to receive help was that they let him bless them

first. His favourite saying was:" Angels go with you." I thank God for putting this priest in my

path. Monsignor George Marinovich was called home to the House of the Father on 16 October,

1993. May he rest in peace."

Thank you, Chris, for sharing this tribute to a priest who served faithfully.

A good shepherd lays down his life for his flock

St John Vianney was a good shepherd. In the messy times after the French Revolution, to a tiny

parish, still suffering from the loss of Christian faith and morals, St John Vianney was sent by God.

He was told before he went to Ars: "You will find the love of God in that parish; stir it up in

yourself. "He dealt with his flock by calling them by name, protecting them from dangers and

gently but firmly looking after them. He was a tireless worker for God striving to make the village

return to its roots of the Catholic culture: eg feast days, Sunday a day of rest, suitable

entertainments, care for the poor. Catholicism is not just a private affair between me and God but

always when healthy it brings people to share the same way of life. It therefore involves leaving

secular godless ways and helping the Gospel take bones and flesh in our real lives and homes and


parish.

He once said about the office of the priest without realising he was drawing his own portrait:" Good

Shepherd! O shepherd who lives up to the commands and desires of Jesus Christ completely!

This is the greatest blessing that a kind and gracious God can send to a parish." St John Vianney

was very aware of the privilege it was to be a shepherd. In fact he was so humble and so aware of

the importance of working to bring souls to Christ that he was fearful of his office as parish priest: "

My friends, you have no idea of how fearful a thing it is for a priest to be snatched away from the

care of souls to appear before the judgment seat of God." Not a truth often mentioned today!

St John Vianney often wished to leave Ars to go to pray and make proper expiation for what he

called his miserable life but obedience alone kept him in Ars [and the parishioners refused to let

him leave!] But while he stayed at Ars he said: "My God, make the sheep entrusted to me come

back to a good way of life. For all my life I am prepared to endure anything that pleases you..... if

I had known when I came to the parish of Ars what I would have to suffer, the fear of it would

certainly have killed me" This special Year for Priests is an opportunity for all of us in the parish to

pray that all priests be good shepherds and to thank God for the many many priests who are good

shepherds. St John Vianney pray for priests.

____________________________

St John Vianney was a good shepherd who guarded the sheep of his flock. He took that duty as their

parish priest seriously but not with any sense of self importance. If God is first in a humble person’s

heart then the self becomes less and less important. If we serve God a great freedom comes. The

opinions of others matter less and less. He knew that the best way he could shepherd this flock was

to suffer for them. This was not self pity or being a living martyr. Love has an open heart, not

hardened or cynical. Parents know this: nappies, sleepless nights, dealing with troubled adolescents

not growing up, children’s marriage breakup and care for troubled grandchildren etc. So St John

Vianney put up with all sorts of calumnies [lies], prejudices and opposition to his work in Ars. One

sign of a true prophet is that he is not universally welcomed. The servant is not greater than the

Master. St John Vianney endured the sharp discomforts and annoyances of mind and body that

came from 30 years of hearing Confessions with almost no interruption eg foolish penitents,

unrepentant ones, the heat and the cold. There was little time to rest. The work was never finished.

He said to a priest who found his work was bearing no fruit:" You have offered humble prayers to

God, you have wept, you have groaned, you have sighed. Have you added fasts, vigils, sleeping on

the floor, castigation of your body? Until you have done all of these, do not think that you have

tried everything." What drove this penitential spirit was a love for souls and the wish for them to be

free from sin and its slavery. Only faith, a sense of eternity, a real sense of what it cost Jesus to

suffer and die to set us free from sin and a deep humility lead St John Vianney to look at his parish

in this way. Today we tend to excuse people and say blithely well sin does not really matter, we are

all going to heaven. Sin in the modern mind is not real since we foolishly say: "People are addicted

or not free; some childhood trauma made them do it!" St John Vianney was not so naive. He took

the evil of deliberate sin and its slavery more seriously. Choices last and even unto Hell. In God’s

plan he was a vital part of God’s plan for the lives of his parishioners. St John Vianney also knew

the freedom and deep joy of God's grace a free gift to us. To set free and set on fire with God’s

love. Love looks at the world with eyes of truth and truthful compassion, not with credulous eyes.

____________________________

St John Vianney was a academic failure in the seminary. He was considered stupid and not suitable

to be a priest because of his lack of intelligence. Yes, there is a certain basic intelligence required by


the Church to be a priest [despite the jokes!] But what St John lacked in human intelligence he was

more than compensated in a divine wisdom that God gave him. His Bishop said of him:" I do not

know if he is learned; but a heavenly light shines in him."

In a paradoxical way this lack of intelligence meant that he had to work even harder to prepare his

sermons to preach. [In fact while not able to pass exams, St John Vianney was blessed with a

clear mind and sound judgment.] God blessed his efforts in a way he would never have imagined.

It was a reproach to those priests who were more able that their learning was largely underutilized.

He spent all night preparing them in the early days as a priest. He never gave up preparing his

sermons. In fact his sermons are preserved. The presbytery has a volume of them. They are full of

ideas and images that are very apt to the congregation of peasants listening to him. He had no

natural gifts as a speaker but the beautiful soul of the Cure d'Ars is reflected in the charm of his

sermons. His preaching of Christ and his knowledge of Christ crucified was at the heart of his

preaching. He was never negative or harping. He preferred to show the beauties of virtue rather

than the ugliness of vice. Also he was a thorough catechist, Sunday after Sunday explaining the

Catechism.

It is said that at the end of his life in old age when his voice was too weak to be heard, the sparkle

and gleam of his eyes, his tears, his sighs of divine love, his hatred of sin was enough to convict

those who listened or rather those who watched him to a better way of life. How marvellous. It is

another proof that it is often not what we say but the way we say it that convinces people. Our nonverbal

language shouts more than our words. Let us pray for all priests that they will preach Christ

today.

St John Vianney was a good shepherd. In the messy times after the French Revolution, to a tiny

parish, still suffering from the loss of Christian faith and morals, St John Vianney was sent by God.

He was told before he went to Ars: “You will find the love of God in that parish; stir it up in

yourself.” He dealt with his flock by calling them by name, protecting them from dangers and

gently but firmly looking after them. He was a tireless worker for God striving to make the village

return to its roots of the Catholic culture: eg feast days, Sunday a day of rest, suitable

entertainments, care for the poor. Catholicism is not just a private affair between me and God but

always when healthy it brings people to share the same way of life. It therefore involves leaving

secular godless ways and helping the Gospel take bones and flesh in our real lives and homes and

parish.

He once said about the office of the priest without realising he was drawing his own portrait: "Good

Shepherd! O shepherd who lives up to the commands and desires of Jesus Christ completely! This

is the greatest blessing that a kind and gracious God can send to a parish." St John Vianney was

very aware of the privilege it was to be a shepherd. In fact he was so humble and so aware of the

importance of working to bring souls to Christ that he was fearful of his office as parish priest: "My


friends, you have no idea of how fearful a thing it is for a priest to be snatched away from the care

of souls to appear before the judgment seat of God." Not a truth often mentioned today!

St John Vianney often wished to leave Ars to go to pray and make proper expiation for what he

called his miserable life but obedience alone kept him in Ars [and the parishioners refused to let

him leave!] But while he stayed at Ars he said: "My God, make the sheep entrusted to me come

back to a good way of life. For all my life I am prepared to endure anything that pleases you..... if I

had known when I came to the parish of Ars what I would have to suffer, the fear of it would

certainly have killed me" This special Year for Priests is an opportunity for all of us in the parish to

pray that all priests be good shepherds and to thank God for the many many priests who are good

shepherds. St John Vianney pray for priests.

St John Vianney was a good shepherd who guarded the sheep of his flock. He took that duty as their

parish priest seriously but not with any sense of self importance. If God is first in a humble person’s

heart then the self becomes less and less important.If we serve God a great freedom comes. The

opinions of others matter less and less. He knew that the best way he could shepherd this flock was

to suffer for them. This was not self pity or being a living martyr. Love has an open heart, not

hardened or cynical. Parents know this: nappies, sleepless nights, dealing with troubled adolescents

not growing up, children’s marriage breakup and care for troubled grandchildren etc. So St John

Vianney put up with all sorts of calumnies [lies], prejudices and opposition to his work in Ars. One

sign of a true prophet is that he is not universally welcomed. The servant is not greater than the

Master. St John Vianney endured the sharp discomforts and annoyances of mind and body that

came from 30 years of hearing Confessions with almost no interruption eg foolish penitents,

unrepentant ones, the heat and the cold. There was little time to rest. The work was never finished.

He said to a priest who found his work was bearing no fruit:" You have offered humble prayers

to God, you have wept, you have groaned, you have sighed. Have you added fasts, vigils, sleeping

on the floor, castigation of your body? Until you have done all of these, do not think that you have

tired everything." What drove this penitential spirit was a love for souls and the wish for them to be

free from sin and its slavery. Only faith, a sense of eternity, a real sense of what it cost Jesus to

suffer and die to set us free from sin and a deep humility lead St John Vianney to look at his parish

in this way. Today we tend to excuse people and say blithely well sin does not really matter, we are

all going to heaven. Sin in the modern mind is not real since we foolishly say: "People are addicted

or not free; some childhood trauma made them do it!" St John Vianney was not so naive. He took

the evil of deliberate sin and its slavery more seriously. Choices last and even unto Hell. In God’s

plan he was a vital part of God’s plan for the lives of his parishioners. St John Vianney also knew

the freedom and deep joy of God's grace a free gift to us. To set free and set on fire with God’s

love. Love looks at the world with eyes of truth and truthful compassion, not with credulous eyes.

With every best wish, Fr Carl Telford sm

St John Vianney was a academic failure in the seminary. He was considered stupid and not

suitable to be a priest because of his lack of intelligence. Yes, there is a certain basic intelligence

required by the Church to be a priest [ despite the jokes!] But what St John lacked in human

intelligence he was more than compensated in a divine wisdom that God gave him. His Bishop said

of him:" I do not know if he is learned; but a heavenly light shines in him."

In a paradoxical way this lack of intelligence meant that he had to work even harder to prepare

his sermons to preach. [ In fact while not able to pass exams, St John Vianney was blessed with a


clear mind and sound judgment.] God blessed his efforts in a way he would never have imagined. It

was a reproach to those priests who were more able that their learning was largely underutilized. He

spent all night preparing them in the early days as a priest. He never gave us preparing his sermons.

In fact his sermons are preserved. The presbytery has a volume of them. They are full of ideas and

images that are very apt to the congregation of peasants listening to him. He had no natural gifts as

a speaker but the beautiful soul of the Cure d'Ars is reflected in the charm of his sermons. His

preaching of Christ and his knowledge of Christ crucified was at the heart of his preaching. He was

never negative or harping. He preferred to show the beauties of virtue rather than the ugliness of

vice. Also he was a thorough catechist, Sunday after Sunday explaining the Catechism.

It is said that at the end of his life in old age when his voice was too weak to be heard, the

sparkle and gleam of his eyes, his tears, his sighs of divine love, his hatred of sin was enough to

convict those who listened or rather those who watched him to a better way of life. How

marvellous. It is another proof that it is often not what we say but the way we say it that convinces

people. Our non-verbal language shouts more than our words. Let us pray for all priests that they

will preach Christ today, with every best wish, Fr Carl Telford sm

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