This year in our SJMV fraternity we have been making a discursive reading of the second edition of the Directory on the life and ministry of priests. This is a very valuable document which reveals the depth of the Diocesan Priesthood, and goes some way in expressing what a magnificent vocation it is.
However, I include a short piece below which is given in the text as a sort of preface to paragraph 46 of the document. In this few words is contained the inner vision of the priesthood - it is one of the finest statements which this Directory makes. Here is expressed the very core of our lives, and I am grateful to Cardinal Piacenza for ensuring that this paragraph was included in the text. These words should be writ large, for so much depends upon their lived reality:
The spirituality of the priest consists essentially in the profound relationship of friendship with Christ, because he is called “to go to Him” (cf. Mk 3:13). In this sense, in the life of the priest, Jesus will always have pre-eminence over everything. Each priest acts within a particular historical context with its manifold challenges and requirements. Precisely for this reason is the guarantee of the fecundity of his ministry rooted in a deep interior life. If the priest does not count on the primacy of grace he will not be able to respond to the challenges of histimes, and any pastoral programme is destined to failure, no matter how elaborate it may be.
The cord which tied St Edmund Campion to the hurdle, and the Corporal used by saints who were priests, for the celebration of the Mass in cells in the Tower of London (both relics are kept at Stonyhurst), are witnesses to a past, Golden Era of the priesthood. Today however, priests - in many parts of the world - are free, but it is in Christ that we find our greatest freedom and, although these words are used with reference to the priesthood they also speak, by analogy, of a much wider population. Europe today is called to an intimacy with Christ in which the various peoples of Europe can be established upon their true identity and vocation. These words speak about the true soul of Europe, by which it might know how to live and act, and how to build its life, for the good of many.