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Fr Álvaro Corcuera´s Letter on the Year for Priests
U. S. A. | WHO WE ARE | SPIRITUALITY
"The reason behind this letter is my desire to reflect together with you on the meaning and implications for our lives of the Year for Priests."

P. Pedro Barrajón, L.C.

June 19, 2009. Rome, Italy. On June 19, 2009, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI officially inaugurated the Year for Priests, which will conclude on June 19, 2010. The Year for Priests is an occasion for both priests and lay people to reflect on the value and importance of the priesthood in the Church, and to encourage positive initiatives to support priests in their vocation and mission.

In response to this important event, Father Álvaro Corcuera, LC, has written a letter to all Regnum Christi members and friends on how we can make the most of this year to serve the Church and the priests God places on our path. Download a printable pdf version of the letter here.

We also encourage our readers to visit the new Year for Priests web site section for articles, testimonies, prayers, videos, links, and other resources to use and share.

***

REGNUM CHRISTI
MOVEMENT
_______

GENERAL DIRECTOR

June 19, 2009
Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 
To all Regnum Christi members
on the occasion of the Year for Priests, called for by Pope Benedict XVI
 
 
My very dear friends in Christ,
 
It is always my pleasure when I can send you some lines and share the joy of being a family united in Christ. This is a particularly intense time of the liturgical year, having celebrated great solemnities such as Pentecost, the Blessed Trinity and Corpus Christi. Today, we celebrate the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, which helps us greatly in our contemplation of Christ’s love for each one of us. God continues superabundantly to pour his grace into our souls, and in response we try also to live with a thankful and generous heart, humbly asking him for the gift of forming a heart like his own, using the Church’s beautiful prayer: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts more like yours.”
 
The reason behind this letter is my desire to reflect together with you on the meaning and implications for our lives of the Year for Priests that the Pope has announced, and which begins precisely today, on this solemnity of the Sacred Heart, with the motto: “Christ’s Fidelity, the Priest’s Fidelity.”
 
The circumstance that occasioned this special event is the 150th anniversary of the death of St Jean Marie Vianney, whom Benedict XVI will proclaim patron for the world’s priests. He is better known as the “Curé of Ars,” and the great accomplishment of this priest was that he utterly spent his life in the salvation of souls. When he was young, before he joined the seminary, he would say to himself, “If I were a priest I could win many souls for God.” This was his great dream. He was the pastor of the small town of Ars for over forty years. There, he dedicated himself intensely to preaching, forming his parishioners in the faith, works of charity, and above all, to
San Juan María Vianney
Lay people can gain a plenary indulgence on August 4, the feast day of St John Mary Vianney, the Curé of Ars and the patron of all priests worldwide.
celebrating the sacraments. God alone knows how many miracles and conversions took place in his confessional, where he ended up spending as many as twelve hours on a regular day.
 
The great secret of the Curé of Ars was how he loved God and kept his eyes set on heaven. This is how he encouraged a cousin of his, writing to him about heaven: “What divine happiness —looking at the good Jesus who has loved us so, and who will fill us with happiness!” And it is said that shortly before dying, he said these words: “How good God is, for when we can no longer go to him, he comes to us.” His whole life was spent “going to God” and bringing souls to him.
 
How thankful we should be to God that even today he comes into our lives, and uses the witness of many holy priests to shed his light on our path. In a mysterious way, he wished his grace to come to us through human instruments. Each one of us can ponder how it was through a priest that we received the gift of divine filiation and faith, in Baptism. Every time we seek to be reconciled with God and renew our friendship with him in Confession, it is a priest who says in Christ’s name, “I absolve you from your sins…” The priest alone, when he says words that Christ spoke in the Last Supper, has the power to make the sacrifice of the cross present in an unbloody manner, and make the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Lord. Therefore, in order to value what a priest is it is enough to ask ourselves what would happen to our life if we didn’t have priests to be our bridges to reach God. The Curé of Ars said: “The priest is something wonderful! Only in heaven will he understand what he is. If he understood on earth he would die, not out of fear but love.”
 
We who have received this vocation know that the greatness of the priesthood is a totally gratuitous gift from God. There is no merit at all on our part. On the contrary, we know that God called us even though we are weak and small like every human being. We experience the imbalance between what we are as men, fragile creatures, and what we represent, God himself! Between our own limited power and abilities, and the transcendent mission we have been entrusted. We can say with St Paul: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7).
 
Or, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, we are taken from among men and are appointed on their behalf in matters related to God (cf. Heb 5:1). In the face of this reality, Christ’s words to us in the Gospel fill us with confidence and
Easter candle
"To value what a priest is it is enough to ask ourselves what would happen to our life if we didn’t have priests to be our bridges to reach God."
greatly enlighten us: “I have called you friends… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (Jn 15:15-16). We know that our fidelity is possible because Christ is faithful and keeps his word, for his grace, help and mercy are there for us. He is our faithful Friend. Pope John Paul II told us very well: “Have confidence in Christ, the Friend, because he does not abandon us. He sustains our ministry, even when externally we do not achieve immediate success. Believe in Him; believe that He expects everything from you, just as a friend expects it from his friend” (Homily to priests and seminarians in the Cathedral at Fulda, November 17, 1980).
 
A priest must always be an open door for everyone. He must be able to listen, to treat with each person with his whole heart, giving people the time they need, loving and welcoming everyone like Christ himself. He gives not only his time but his very life, without any limit whatsoever. You can say that he is called to be a martyr in service to his neighbor. A single soul is worth all a priest’s effort. The world needs Christ. We all need him, because our life, our daily cares, our joys and our struggles have meaning only with him. That is why God wants holy priests that will help us find Christ. The Pope has called for this Year for Priests “to help priests as they strive for spiritual perfection, which is the principal contributing factor to the effectiveness of their ministry” (Speech to the members of the Congregation for the Clergy, March 16, 2009). We have here the echo of the words with which Christ invites his apostles to remain in his love, joined to the vine, and to keep his commandments so as to bear abundant fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-10). Only thus can the priest embody in his life the image of the meek and humble Good Shepherd, with whom the yoke is easy and the burden light (cf. Mt. 11:29-30). Only thus will the good of souls be the only payment he needs, not looking for anything in return, reflecting in his own life the fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit that define the Christian: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Reviewing this text as an examination of conscience provides us as Christians with the guidelines to follow the right path. They are a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is in our hearts. They are not given to us for our own benefit, but to share them unselfishly with our brothers and sisters, never tiring in doing good.
 
We might think that this call is directed exclusively to priests, but it is most certainly an opportunity for all Christians to become aware of this reality and see what we can do to help so that there will
Adoración eucarística
"First of all, and very especially, I invite the young people of Regnum Christi to organize in each locality monthly Eucharistic Hours with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, to pray for priests and vocations."
be more priests and ever holier priests. As Regnum Christi members, we interpret this initiative of the Holy Father as a desire coming from Christ himself. The Regnum Christi Movement exists “to serve the Church and her Shepherds and, from within the Church, to serve all people” (Regnum Christi Member Manual, 11). Doubtlessly, one of the most pressing needs of our beloved Church is her need for holy priests. Therefore, I would also like to put forward for your consideration some ways through which I think we can all take part in this Year for Priests, whether as individuals or in our families, parishes, or Regnum Christi centers and apostolates.
 
First of all, and very especially, I invite the young people of Regnum Christi to organize in each locality monthly Eucharistic Hours with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, to pray for priests and vocations. Let them be intimate times dedicated to prayer, reparation for the faults and sins committed, petition for forgiveness and mercy, as we do when we begin the celebration of the Mass every morning. It would be very good if you could participate as a family in this activity, since praying together is so helpful, and if you also invite other friends and acquaintances. Where possible, you can do it in a parish church so that other parishioners can also benefit from this grace and we can support the work of our pastors. Please God, we can make a tradition of this, since it will no doubt help us to live closer to the Lord and it will obtain many blessings for the entire Church.
 
This Year for Priests will also be a magnificent opportunity to showcase the appeal of the priestly vocation and to encourage young men to be open to a possible call from God. We know that the responsibility for this is not limited to bishops and priests, but that lay people too can and must be effective instruments that help individual souls hear the voice of Christ inviting them to follow him. In fact, this is already happening in the Church and in Regnum Christi. Many of you participate in our Vocation Action Circles or in the Adoration for Vocations program. Another example is the work done by our Full-time Lay Missionaries, thanks to whom God blesses some diocesan seminaries with dozens of vocations every year. Many of the young men in the Movement have participated in vocational discernment activities and are searching, with the help of their spiritual director, for God’s will for their lives. I am sure that in the context of the Year for Priests there can be an even greater increase in the number of initiatives to rouse more vocations. In the title of his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which we celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter, the Pope used words that fill us with hope: “Trust in God’s initiative and man’s response.”
 
In the points that follow, I would like to focus our attention on what we can do for those who already are priests. Regnum Christi members should be known to be a support for any priest they meet on their path through life, be he their own pastor, a priest-friend of their family, a priest of the Legion or another religious congregation or ecclesial association, or a priest in need who requires more closeness and kindness. The fundamental motivation behind this is that every priest is “another Christ,” since by the imposition of hands, his being has been profoundly identified with him, and he has the power to act not only in Christ’s name, but in persona Christi. It is Christ himself who acts through him. Therefore, when we serve a priest we serve Christ himself. 
 
1. Offer prayer and sacrifice for the sanctification of priests

In addition to the initiative proposed above, we can all increase our prayer and sacrifice for the fidelity and holiness of all priests, for we know that God hears the prayers we lift up to him with faith. This intention, which is so essentially connected to our Christian life cannot ever be absent from our prayer. This seemingly imperceptible
Confesando en las megamisiones.
action is for us priests a source of strength and countless graces from God. The Vatican Congregation for Clergy is vigorously urging this authentic prayer apostolate, promoting “spiritual adoption” by which individuals commit themselves to pray for a particular priest. It is something that religious sisters and nuns usually do, and they do help us greatly with their prayers, but lay people can also join in this way of supporting priests. I invite you also to get acquainted with the indulgences that the Holy Father has granted for this Year of the Priest through a decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary. They are special opportunities to gain graces from God.
 
In all of our prayers, over and above everything else we must pray that we priests will be men of prayer, for, as his prayer goes so goes the priest. The priest forms and defines himself in prayer. Therefore, we try to spend as much time as possible before the Tabernacle with Christ. The Mass must be the center of our day, and what sets its seal on our life. Holding Christ in our hands and receiving him in our heart is the greatest gift that we can ever receive. That is why it fills us with joy to spend time in silence, unhurriedly, to give thanks after Communion, once we have given to our brothers and sisters the food of salvation, the treasure of our life.
 
Remembering John Paul II’s letters to priests I think of how he warned us against adapting and taking on the ways of the world. He wrote: “It is prayer that shows the essential style of the priest; without prayer this style grows disfigured. Prayer helps us always to find the light that led us from the outset of our priestly vocation, and which constantly guides us even though it seems at times to be lost from sight in darkness. Prayer enables us always to be in a continual process of conversion, to remain in a state of constant straining toward God, something essential if we wish to lead others to him. Prayer helps us to believe, hope and love, even when our human weakness militates against it” (Letter to Priests, Holy Thursday of 1979, 10). 
 
2. Charity
 
Charity is the hallmark of a Christian and it is a fundamental virtue in the spirit of Regnum Christi. A priest must be a man who loves and goes about doing good; a man who understands and seeks out his brother who is fallen, sick, or alone; a man who rejoices when he sees his brothers increase while he decreases (cf. Jn 3:30). A priest also loves by making reparation to the Heart of Christ for his own sins and those of all men. He is an instrument of forgiveness through the sacrament of Confession, in which souls meet Christ; but at the same time, he knows that he is a weak man, in need of God’s mercy. How we feel the need to ask forgiveness for sins, those of the faithful and our own as priests!  We have received so much love from God that our sins fill us with greater sorrow when we have not lived up to our call, when we might have obscured the image of Christ, or when we have not lived in accordance with our priestly condition. Because of this every night we end our day in the presence of Christ crucified, praying the Miserere psalm: “Have mercy, Lord, for we have sinned” (Ps 50). The way we make reparation is by giving our life
Fr. Timothy prays in St. Peter’s square during the last days of illness of Pope John Paul II
"Prayer helps us always to find the light that led us from the outset of our priestly vocation, and which constantly guides us even though it seems at times to be lost from sight in darkness" (Pope John Paul II).
for God and for our brothers and sisters, never tiring of doing good. A priest fights with all his heart to know and experience God’s mercy so as to then pass it on to his brothers and sisters in the sacrament of Reconciliation and in his priestly ministry, seeking always to be a reflection of God’s kindness. He himself knows that this is not the result of his own efforts but that it is a gift made to him by God’s infinite love. The glory of a priest is to reach the end of his life having lived as a faithful instrument that brought many souls to heaven. Thus, the priest is a promoter of the good works of his brothers and sisters. His joy gives even greater luster to the beauty of our Christian faith and our consecration.
  
In a world that is often aggressive, charity in act and speech are quite a challenge for us. We are called in a special way to spread with objectivity the good reputation of priests, to foster a just esteem for their persons and to speak of their virtues. As Cardinal Cláudio Hummes recently said in an interview, we need to “bring priests the message that the Church loves them, respects them, admires them, and feels proud of them” (Zenit News, June 3, 2009). 
 
3. Closeness, gratitude, and friendship
  
The priest, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us this past Holy Thursday, belongs exclusively to God. His heart is set on God, and through him, open to all people. He gives himself to them, and he can also expect their sincere friendship. There are many details through which we can show our gratitude and appreciation for priests, especially those who live alone or in more difficult circumstances. It is true that the priest finds an authentic family in his Bishop and his brother priests, or in the case of religious, in his superiors and confreres, but one would hope that he would also feel accompanied and welcomed by the lay people whom God places on his path. 
 
For his part, the priest is by definition a man of gratitude. He knows he is blessed by God. He recognizes God’s loving hand in everything, and therefore he gives thanks for everything, and he arouses and instills trust in everything. How could you be a priest and not be an instrument of peace? The priest is not only able to give thanks, but he is ready to humiliate himself for the good of others and be the first to admit to his own faults, knowing that he is just an instrument. His mission is to be a bridge to God, or you could even say a mat that people walk across to get to heaven. And therefore the priest also tries to develop those very human facets that help draw souls closer to the love of Christ: respectful in his dealings, full of kindness and courteous detail, characterized by an authentic cordiality, following the Master’s example.
 
4. Availability, initiative, and obedience
 
One very concrete way of living this Year for Priests is to offer to help our priests—for example, our own pastor—to help them in whatever they need and is within our possibilities. The first expression of our availability will be our flexibility to accept their guidance, and our enthusiastic cooperation in the initiatives of the parish and diocese. Moreover, we mustn’t wait to be asked; rather, we must foster a spirit of initiative, being able to take the first step, offering to cooperate in some way to meet
Il parroco di Sferrocavallo, mons. Marco Nunzi, con una famiglia missionaria
"One very concrete way of living this Year for Priests is to offer to help our priests—for example, our own pastor—to help them in whatever they need and is within our possibilities."
the spiritual, pastoral, or material needs of the parish or the faithful.

5. Place the Regnum Christi Movement at the service of your priests
 
As we place ourselves at the service of our priests, we can also offer them the charism God has freely given us. God gave us this gift not only for our own advantage, but to serve the Church and all people. Our spirituality, our methodology, our resources for formation, our apostolates and works have to contribute to the good of the Church, and be an unconditional support for priests. We want to share it in simplicity, as a gift we received and which we want to put at the service of our brothers. 
 
I hope that these suggestions are of help to you. Talk with your section directors, take each concrete situation and apply these ideas the most suitable way to achieve the greatest possible good. In some countries, we already have centers for priests that are doing a lot of good in this regard. They are a good resource to use, and you can share your initiatives with them. Let us live this stage of our life in the Congregation and the Movement as a year of much prayer, humility, penance, and charity.
   
Before concluding, I want to thank you once again for your witness and all you do for Christ and the Church. May Mary obtain many blessings for you, and may she grant all of us the grace of knowing and loving her Son every day more.
  
Assuring you of a place in my prayers, I remain your affectionate brother in Christ,

Father Álvaro Corcuera, LC
 
 
 


PUBLICATION DATE: 2009-06-21


 
 


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