From the diocesan paper of the Diocese of Madison, comes some reflections from His Excellency Most Reverend Robert Morlino about the priesthood and last week’s “Good Shepherd Sunday”.
Excerpts and with my emphases.
It takes bravery to follow Christ as priests
Thursday, May. 03, 2012
This past Sunday is often called, “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The word the Scriptures use is really not adequately translated in English as simply, “good.” The word really means, “honorable, worthy, noble,” or, “so excellent in every way that its goodness is itself beautiful.”
And, in particular, our Gospel for this past Sunday (Jn 10:11-18) points out that the shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep; he is honorable, worthy, and noble in his bravery — even laying down his own life for the sheep. And toward the end of that Gospel passage, Jesus says, “No one takes my life from me, I lay down my life, and I take it up again.”
The shepherd is indeed a brave shepherd. And so, in some ways, as the years go by, I hope that we start to call this, “Brave Shepherd Sunday,” for the bravery of the shepherd is one of the key virtues focused upon that help us to call him, “good.”
This past Sunday was also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations — it always falls on Brave Shepherd Sunday. And it is a day of prayer, in particular, for vocations to the priesthood. Of course we pray that everyone can be faithfully successful in finding his or her vocation, but we pray especially for an increase in vocations to the priesthood. The priesthood is not one vocation amid many. The vocation to be a priest is the vocation to coordinate the other vocations in the Church, to recognize, to call them forth, to help discern them, and to serve them.
The priest’s vocation is all about the fullness of the vocation of everyone else. The priest has a special call to discern and to direct those other vocations, so that the Church might be one, so that there might be one flock and one shepherd. So, the priest is as concerned about everybody else’s reception of the Grace of Christ, as his own. And, the priest has a very good motive for his concern about everyone else’s reception of God’s Grace, for Jesus Christ will hold him to account for that on Judgment Day.
The priest must do what is necessary to build unity in the flock and to call the flock to holiness, so that he himself might receive a “good account before the fearsome judgment seat of Christ,” when the time comes. It is only in doing his best for everybody else’s holiness that the priest can do the best for himself. And to do that today it takes bravery.
When we look for candidates to the priesthood and as we pray for vocations, we are looking for men who are brave in their willingness to seek holiness, to speak the truth, to lay down their lives. There is no place in the priesthood today for “wimpish-ness.” There is no place for an attitude that just wants to please people, no matter what they think and no matter what they want. Today the priest has to stand up and be brave, preaching the Truth with love. He has to be willing to be unpopular. And if it comes to it, he has to be open to martyrdom.
Our world is in such a state that even the government wants to make sure that everybody — perhaps even little girls — have access, free of charge, to artificial contraception and they call it “preventive services.” Preventive medicine is medicine that protects someone from an illness (like a vaccination against the flu). What disease does artificial contraception protect a woman from? Pregnancy? Our government would have us think that pregnancy is a disease, and that instead of finding fulfillment in her motherhood, a woman must have the absolute freedom to turn against her motherhood — as if the fruits of being a mother were a disease.
Bravery means standing up for moral truth
It’s time for all of us to be brave in admitting what the moral truth is about artificial contraception. It’s not a time to by shy, retiring, and politically correct. Sometimes people come up to me and say, “in my parish it’s not permitted to talk about that.” How sad. Where is the sign of the brave shepherd?
Read the rest there.