Priestly renewal, parish sanctification, global Catholic sanctification!


Recently I had the opportunity to become familiar with a newly founded priestly community, The Apostles of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, which is located in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The community of diocesan priests was given approbation by Cardinal George and operates on principles of Catholic theology and sacraments focused around prayer and Holy Eucharist. What is remarkable about the community is the hinging of the daily routine of priestly ministry around the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Unusually enough, most priests in parochial parish assignments do not have the chance or a limited opportunity to celebrate these rituals communally with other priests. For the most part, due to the increasingly acute priest shortage in the United States, more and more priests are commonly living alone in their priestly assignments. The fraternity and prayerful celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Eucharist very often mandated in our seminal formation at seminaries is abandoned once the ordained priest “hits the parish!”
The community of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim offers an opportunity for a revitalized spirit of priestly service and renewal with a different structure for living for parish priests. In addition to living in common, praying in common and taking time for spiritual renewal, this community provides the chance for inclusion of physical labor on a daily basis as well. Frankly, as a graduate of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, I remember very well the labor of the weekly work crew, where we were dispatched to rid the pastoral lawns of intrusive onion grass, with a butter knife. Honestly, I really disliked the forced work crews which were considered as part of our priestly formation. At the time, I remember thinking that we were just cheap seminarian labor as opposed to the more esoteric ideals of ministry, formation and spiritual satisfaction. However in the decades since my formational experiences, I admit a yearning for communal activities such as Morning and Evening Prayer, a celebration of daily Eucharist and the competitive fraternity of other students engaged in the same race and finish line.
What strikes me as especially important with this priestly community is the central focus on prayer and Eucharist combined with physical service. As one engaged in the secular world, married and the father of one daughter such integration of Catholic spirituality and meditative reflection is something longed for on a daily basis. Perhaps, the rhythm and motion of a parish community that is centered around a neighborhood is the biggest demise of community prayer in the Catholic Church. Even more so, the lack of a communal vitality of sanctification among all aspects of clergy, religious and laity contributes to our noncommittal to the Catholic spiritual life. In light of the reflective and pastoral directives of Benedict XVI maybe all of Christendom needs to pause and take a meditative approach to our global ministry and Catholic mission with more communal prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours and daily Eucharistic celebration.
One of the issues I constantly have regarding parish life in my diocese is that the celebration of daily Eucharist is not something one is able to conveniently participate in because of family, work and travelling conditions. Gladly, I would welcome the chance to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in community with my fellow parishioners however because of obligations of family and work it is not always possible. The constraints of time are the most pressing points that keep most Catholic parishioners away from daily Mass and prayer. Honestly as well, most of our clergy are not aware of the great pressures of daily society which is exerted on most laity. The daily commute, activities of getting children ready and off to school, obligations of work et cetera all compromise the modern Catholics ability to commit themselves to parish prayer on a daily basis. Additionally, there seems to be a considerate lack of understanding by the clergy regarding the preciousness of parishioner’s time due to all sorts of obligations and commitments. In a lot of cases, our parish priests walk across the parking lot as a commute to celebrate daily Mass. However, the working Catholic community at large is not as lucky nor a fortunate in having such a convenience.
Perhaps the most critically important factor that the Apostles of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim offer for their parish ministry is one of secular and temporal balance. Time to work, time to pray, and time to communicate with each other. If our parish priests could more consistently structure our parish schedules around these three points, perhaps daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Eucharist would become more popular.
When the opportunity to spend appropriate time in prayer, study and Eucharistic celebration is part of the life of a parochial community it seems our uniquely Catholic existence comes more completely into focus. Pastoral teams should more astutely determine the spiritual needs of a parish community based on not the conveniences of the parish priests, but the true pastoral and sacramental needs of the people.
In all, meditative and sacramental time is scarce for the average Catholic layperson in our harried 21st century Catholic Church. The development and foundation of a group like The Apostles of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim uniquely presents priestly ministry as a combination of prayer, Sacrament and community in an increasingly secularized and constrained Catholic parish world.
Learn more about the priestly community at http//:apostlesofjesuschrist.org . Pray for their success as well as the success of our entire Catholic global community.

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