Benedict XVI’s Letter for the Year for Priests

The Holy Father’s Letter for the Year for Priests has been issued.

I have the text and some comments on this page.

I may update that page from time to time.

Here is the first part….

Dear Brother Priests,

       On the forthcoming Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009 – a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of the clergy –, I have decided to inaugurate a “Year for Priests” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the dies natalis [Latin for "birthday", meaning the "day of that saint’s birth into heaven"] of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide.1  [His PURPOSE for the Year…] This Year, meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world, will conclude on the same Solemnity in 2010. [Here is a key to understanding Pope Benedict’s Pontificate: He want’s to strengthen the Church’s identity so that she can be effective in the public square.  That cannot be done without priests.] The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”, the saintly Curé of Ars would often say.2 This touching expression makes us reflect, first of all, with heartfelt gratitude on the immense gift which priests represent, not only for the Church, but also for humanity itself. [Priests represent this gift.]  I think of all those priests who quietly present Christ’s words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of life. How can I not pay tribute to their apostolic labours, their tireless and hidden service, their universal charity? And how can I not praise the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation as “friends of Christ”, whom he has called by name, chosen and sent?  [This is a very personal project for Pope Benedict.]

        I still treasure the memory of the first parish priest at whose side I exercised my ministry as a young priest: he left me an example of unreserved devotion to his pastoral duties, even to meeting death in the act of bringing viaticum to a gravely ill person. [Here is a note to priests who have parishes which also have assistant pastors.   The Holy Father is talking to you.  Consider what sort of man merited this praise in a papal letter.  Do you stack up?]  I also recall the countless confreres whom I have met and continue to meet, not least in my pastoral visits to different countries: men generously dedicated to the daily exercise of their priestly ministry. Yet the expression of Saint John Mary also makes us think of Christ’s pierced Heart and the crown of thorns which surrounds it. [He merges the example of the saint and the theme of the feast.] I am also led to think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister. How can we not also think of all those priests who are offended in their dignity, obstructed in their mission and persecuted, even at times to offering the supreme testimony of their own blood?

… [continued] …

Find the text and some comments on this page.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Cristero says:

    Father Z:

    What a beautiful letter!

    God bless our Holy Father, who is showing us what a Pastor of souls he is.

  2. Beautiful, I’m speechless. Ad Multos Annos Papa B

  3. Justin in Ohio says:

    Thanks Fr. Z! A beautiful letter from the Holy Father. He is exactly who the Church needs at this time in history to return us to and focus us on our foundational Truths.

    Also, I’m surprised you didn\’t publicize it, but to all the readers: Fr. Z will be a guest on the Al Kresta radio show this afternoon at 5:00 pm Eastern. Both Al Kresta and Fr. Z are at the Acton University this week. Of course, Fr. Z will talk about liturgy. I’m looking forward to listening.

  4. chironomo says:

    There is more in that letter than can possibly be confronted in a year…or two years…or five years… or even ten years! What he has encapsulated is the course of the Priestly life… in it’s entirety. Were I a Priest, I would be overwhelmed by the very nature of what I was. Many of the Priests I work with day-to-day do indeed seem “overwhelmed”, but not for that reason. The Holy Father is right to call for a renewal in commitment. I only wish that he would clearly lay out what that commitment entails. I fear that many will go about strengthening their commitment to the very things which Benedict sees as weakening the Priesthood. We must pray.

  5. Prof. Basto says:

    Excellent letter!

    Thanks be to God for the gift of Pope Benedict XVI!

    Ad multos annos, Pater Sancte!

  6. Hidden One says:


    That’s all I have that I can say.

  7. Maureen says:

    The former priest at Wright State University, Fr. Chris Rohmiller, died going out the door to say Mass on Sunday. He was a supremely pastoral priest, who was able to figure out what would really help college kids in body and soul.

    If you read the biography of Fr. McGivney, the priest who founded the Knights of Columbus, you’ll see that priests used to run themselves ragged, even before cars and modern conveniences, to take care of their flock. I’m not saying that priests should be exhausting themselves to death or anything, but I am saying that the level of heroic virtue was pretty high in those American priests of the olden days.

    Of course, it would probably also be good if parishioners had more sensitivity to each other’s needs, and it would help people feel more connected to each other as a parish, too.

    Sigh. So much love and care and admiration in the Pope’s letter, and I can only write this in response.

  8. Aelric says:

    We can pray that Ms. Sotelo reads this and for her heart and mind to be opened.

  9. Jay says:

    What a beautifully written and heartfelt letter. Pope Benedict truly understands what it means to be a priest. You could say he’s a “Priest’s priest.” May God continue to grant him health of mind and body and protect him from all harm. May Our Lady continue to intercede for all Priests, Deacons, seminarians and other discerning God’s call to the office of priest.

  10. Patrick says:

    “I weep because you don’t weep”

    This is (or was) inscribed on a confessional in the Cathedral of Dresden many years ago. I have never seen it anywhere else, but I always thought it was one of the best things that a man could see before entering the confessional.

    You really have to thank God for this Pope.

  11. Jayna says:

    “We can pray that Ms. Sotelo reads this and for her heart and mind to be opened.”

    Hear, hear!

    It is such a beautifully written letter, not to mention deeply meaningful. It has a very personal tone to it. He has certainly thrown down the gauntlet for priests this year!

  12. Mary Kay says:

    Pope Benedict is a true shepherd, guiding the flock.

  13. irishgirl says:

    Wow-what a letter!

    Our Holy Father Benedict is a true shepherd of souls!

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for being the shepherd of your online flock-and for posting this!

  14. pjsandstrom says:

    Just a small point: the ‘dies natalis’ of St. John Vianney is not till 4th August, now his feast day, even though it is 150 years since his death. Perhaps this small bit of information should not spoil the “year of Priests” but it should be corrected to be completely truthful.

  15. Mitchell NY says:

    I hope this strengthens the Priesthood and gives respect and honor back to “The Catholic Priest” who through the misdeeds of a few has been so tarnished. Tell your Priest and do things for them that make them aware of your support and love and respect for them. I imagine they are in need..All day they preach love, amongst many other things, and need to know they are loved and needed as well…Not just expected to perform certain functions. Take a moment to TELL them.

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