If someone had told me in 2007 that within a few years I'd be rejoicing at the news of an increasing priesthood within the Catholic ranks - I'd have asked them if they were off their meds. My new love and appreciation for priests surprises me more than probably anyone else, including my brother. (Who still can't believe I'm "into" the Traditional Latin Mass.)
Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia, noted that "the biggest bevy of new priests" came from the Archdiocese of Newark. When I checked out this remarkable archdiocese, I found Archbishop John J. Myers. While Bishop of Peoria in 1993, he penned a pastoral letter to celebrate the family. In it, Archbishop Myers referred to priests in this way:
Priests are the primary religious educators on the parish level. As "fathers brothers, pastors and teachers," they have the important task of enlightening others with the Church's teachings, about which they must be secure. According to Familiaris Consortio no. 73, "their teaching and advice must... always be in full harmony with the authentic magisterium of the Church, in such a way as to help the people of God to gain a correct sense of the faith to be subsequently applied to practical life."
Full harmony. I like the sound of that.
I also liked how Archbishop Myers was even thinking about the connection priests have to the larger family which is the Body of Christ. Too often, our priests feel isolated and I for one would like to be a part of changing the current status quo. How can we best support our priests? This is a question I will be asking of God, myself, my fellow parishioners, and of course, our priests as we head into "The Year of the Priest." Although the enemy would love to disconnect priests from understanding their role and identity within God's perfect pattern for His Church, (divide and conquer); we know that priests who resist this and have victory over obstacles and temptations will ultimately fortify the Church.
Over the years, the enemy has had a field day with the priesthood. Sexual abuse, aggressive promotion of homosexuality and female ordination, and the blurred lines between the priesthood and laity have all done damage to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The enemy, in essence, has robbed the Church of her Fatherhood.
But the tide is turning, praise be to God! Spiritually strong young men are answering the highest call to give up all in order to serve Him. Our priests need our support more than ever, especially in prayer. Long, grueling days that require a priest to meet the needs of so many people can eventually take its toll. It is an extremely emotionally draining role, not to mention the attacks one often receives not so much from outside the church - but from within.
Let us lift up our prayers already, even before Our Holy Father formally begins "The Year of the Priest," and thank God for His provision, asking Him to thoroughly equip these new priests through the power of the Holy Spirit, with everything they need to accomplish His will. God bless our priests!