Pas­toral wis­dom

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LETTERS -

In the past months, while I have been en­joy­ing my pas­toral work as one of the chap­lains at Mater Dei Hos­pi­tal, I was also blessed by the com­pany of the au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of Saint John XXIII, Jour­nal of a Soul. The more I leafed through it, the more I found some price­less in­sights that re­ally healed me as a priest.

To­day I want to share with you what this great and hum­ble Pope wrote dur­ing his re­treat at Cas­tel Gan­dolfo. The en­try date is Sun­day 13 Au­gust 1961. In this en­try, Pope Ron­calli re­flected on the prac­tice of pru­dence by the Pope and the Bish­ops. Al­though he writes about the Pope and the Bish­ops, what he says ap­plies very well to us priests. He wrote thus:

“It is very im­por­tant to in­sist that that all the Bish­ops (priests) should act in the same way: May the Pope’s ex­am­ple be a les­son and an en­cour­age­ment to them all. The Bish­ops (priests) are ex­posed to the temp­ta­tion of med­dling im­mod­er­ately in mat­ters that are not their con­cern, and it is for this rea­son that the Pope (Bishop) must ad­mon­ish them not to take part in any po­lit­i­cal or con­tro­ver­sial ques­tion and not to de­clare for one sec­tion or fac­tion rather than an­other. They are to preach to all alike, and in gen­eral terms, jus­tice, char­ity, hu­mil­ity, meek­ness, gen­tle­ness and the other evan­gel­i­cal virtues, cour­te­ously de­fend­ing the rights of the Church when these are vi­o­lated or com­pro­mised.

“But at all times and es­pe­cially just now, the Bishop (priest) must ap­ply the balm of sweet­ness to the wounds of mankind. He must be­ware of mak­ing any rash judg­ment or ut­ter­ing any abu­sive words about any­one, or let­ting him­self be be­trayed into flat­tery by threats, or in any way con­nive with evil in the hope that by so do­ing he may be use­ful to some­one. His man­ner must be grave, re­served and firm, while in his re­la­tions with oth­ers he must al­ways be gen­tle and lov­ing, yet at the same time al­ways ready to point out what is good and what is evil, with the help of sa­cred doc­trine but with­out ve­he­mence.

He must, with more as­sid­u­ous and fer­vent prayer, earnestly seek to pro­mote di­vine wor­ship among the faith­ful with re­li­gious prac­tices, and fre­quent use of the sacra­ments, well taught and well ad­min­is­tered. And, above all, he must en­cour­age re­li­gious in­struc­tions be­cause this also will help to solve prob­lems of the merely tem­po­ral or­der, and do so much bet­ter than ordinary hu­man mea­sures can.”

In these en­light­en­ing para­graphs, Saint John XXIII shares with us priests his pas­toral thoughts and the care a min­is­ter of God should cul­ti­vate to­wards Christ’s flock. Pon­der­ing on these pow­er­ful re­flec­tions, it is fit­ting that we priests ask our­selves the fol­low­ing ques­tions:

First, as a priest, am I med­dling too much in po­lit­i­cal mat­ters or con­tro­ver­sial ques­tions, thus sid­ing with one sec­tion and set­ting my­self against an­other? In my ser­mons, do I con­cen­trate on the evan­gel­i­cal virtues of jus­tice, char­ity, hu­mil­ity, meek­ness, gen­tle­ness and so forth? Am I speak­ing up for the Church’s right to ex­press her vi­sion for the world and so­ci­ety? Am I ap­ply­ing the balm of sweet­ness to the wounds of peo­ple I come across? Am I alert enough not to make rush judg­ment or say abu­sive words, or not let­ting any­one de­rail my pas­toral jour­ney by his or her threats? Am I firm in liv­ing the prin­ci­ples con­cern­ing God’s love and be­ing lov­ing and gen­tle with the peo­ple I meet? Am I ready to ex­plain, with the help of God’s Word, the Church’s teach­ing with per­sua­sive gen­tle­ness? Do I pray fer­vently as a priest? Do I pro­mote the liturgy among God’s peo­ple? Do I prepare the faith­ful to re­ceive the Church’s sacra­ments by a sound cat­e­ch­esis? How much am I con­vinced of my duty to teach the faith­ful? Do I re­al­ize that the Chris­tian faith helps my fel­low Chris­tians to live their hu­man­ity to the full?

No won­der Saint John XXIII con­cluded this en­try by com­ment­ing: “This will draw down di­vine bless­ing on the peo­ple, pre­serv­ing them from many evils and re­call­ing minds that have strayed from the right path.” Fr Mario At­tard OFM Cap

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.