Message for Day of Prayer for Priests 2008 and
Clergy Congregation's Letter to
Priests: August 4, 2008
"The Church Is Certain That It Can Count on You"
VATICAN CITY, JULY 17, 2008
- Here is the letter sent Tuesday by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes,
prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, to priests on the occasion of
the Aug. 4 feast of St. John Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars.
* * *
Dear brother priests,
On the occasion of the August 4 feast of St. John Marie Vianney, the
Curéé of Ars, I greet you cordially with all my heart,
and I fraternally send you this brief message.
The Church knows today that there is an urgent mission, not only “ad
gentes,” but also to those Christians living in areas and regions where
the Christian faith has been preached and established for centuries and
where ecclesial communities already exist. Within this flock, the
mission, or the missionary evangelization (Redemptoris Missio, 2), has
as its target those who are baptized but who, for different
circumstances, have not been evangelized sufficiently, or those who
have lost their initial fervour and fallen away. The postmodern culture
of contemporary society -- a relativist, secular, and agnostic culture
-- exerts a strong erosive action on the religious faith of many people.
The Church is missionary by its very nature. Jesus told us that "the
sower went out to sow" (Mt 13:3). The sower does not limit himself to
throwing the seed out of the window, but actually leaves the house. The
Church knows that it cannot remain inert or limit itself to receiving
and evangelizing those who are seeking the Faith in its churches and
communities. It is also necessary to rise up and go to where people and
families dwell, live and work. We must go to everyone: companies,
organizations, institutions and different fields of human society. In
this mission, all members of the ecclesial community are called:
pastors, religious and laity.
Moreover, the Church recognizes that priests are the great driving
force behind daily life in local communities. When priests move, the
Church moves. If this were not so, it would be very difficult to
achieve the Church’s mission.
My dear brother priests, you are the great richness, the energy, the
pastoral and missionary inspiration in the midst of the Christian
faithful, wherever they are found in community. Without your crucial
decision to "put out into the deep" for fish ("Duc in altum"), as the
Lord himself calls us, little or nothing will happen in the urgent
mission, either "ad gentes" or in the territories that have previously
been evangelized. But the Church is certain that it can count on you,
because it knows and explicitly recognizes that the overwhelming
majority of priests -- despite our weaknesses and human limitations --
are worthy priests, giving their life daily to the Kingdom of God and
loving Jesus Christ and the people entrusted to them. These are the
priests who are sanctifying themselves in their daily ministry and who
are persevering until the harvest of the Lord. Only a small minority of
priests have gravely deviated from this mission, and the Church seeks
to repair the harm that they have done. On the other hand, it rejoices
in and is proud of the immense majority of its priests, who are good
and exceedingly worthy of praise.
During this Pauline Year, and pending the Synod of Bishops on the Word
of God to be held in Rome this October, we call those who are receptive
to this urgent mission. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us, send us, and
sustain us, so that we might go forth and proclaim once again the
person of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, as well as His
I greet you again, dear brothers, remaining always at your disposal. I
pray for you all, especially for those who suffer, for the sick and for
Vatican City State, 15 July 2008
Claudio Cardinal Hummes
Emeritus Archbishop of São Paolo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2008 - Here is the message published by
the Congregation for Clergy for the World Day of Prayer for the
Sanctification of Priests. The day will be celebrated May 30, the feast
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
* * *
Reverend and dear Brothers in the Priesthood,
On the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus let us fix the eyes of
our minds and hearts with a constant loving gaze on Christ, the one
Savior of our lives and of the world. Focusing on Christ means focusing
on that Face which every human being, consciously or not, seeks as a
satisfying response to his own insuppressible thirst for happiness.
We have encountered this Face and on that day, at that moment, his
Love so deeply wounded our hearts that we could no longer refrain from
asking ceaselessly to be in his Presence. “In the morning you hear my
voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm
The Sacred Liturgy leads us once again to contemplate the Mystery
of the Incarnation of the Word, the origin and intimate reality of this
company which is the Church: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
revealed himself in Jesus Christ. “No one could see his Glory unless
first healed by the humility of his flesh.... By dust you were blinded,
and by dust you are healed: flesh, then, had wounded you, flesh heals
you“ (St. Augustine, Commentary on the Gospel according to John,
Homily, 2, 16).
Only by looking again at the perfect and fascinating humanity of
Jesus Christ -- alive and active now -- who revealed himself to us and
still today bends down to each one of us with his special love of total
predilection, can we can let him illumine and fill the abyss of need
which is our humanity, certain of Hope encountered and sure of Mercy
that embraces our limitations and teaches us to forgive what we
ourselves do not even manage to discern. “Deep calls to deep at the
thunder of your cataracts” (Psalm 42).
On the occasion of the traditional World Day of Prayer for the
Sanctification of Priests that is celebrated on the Feast of the Sacred
Heart, I would like to recall the priority of prayer over action since
it is on prayer that the effectiveness of action depends. The Church's
mission largely depends on each person's personal relationship with the
Lord Jesus and must therefore be nourished by prayer: “It is time to
reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the
growing secularism” (Benedict XVI, "Deus Caritas Est," No. 37). Let us
not tire of drawing on his Mercy, of letting him look at and medicate
the painful wounds of our sin, in order to marvel at the ever new
miracle of our redeemed humanity.
Dear confreres, we are experts of God's Mercy within us and only
by so being, his instruments in embracing wounded humanity in a way
that is ever new. “Christ does not save us from our humanity, but
through it; he does not save us from the world but came into the world
so that through him the world might be saved (cf. John 3:17)” (Benedict
XVI, Urbi et Orbi Message, Dec. 25, 2006). Finally, we are priests
through the Sacrament of Orders, the highest Act of God's Mercy and, at
the same time, of his special preference.
In the second place, with an unquenchable thirst and longing for
Christ, the most authentic dimension of our Priesthood is mendicancy,
simple and continuous prayer that is learned in silent orison. It has
always characterized the life of Saints and should be asked for
insistently. This awareness of our relationship with him is subjected
to the purification of daily testing. Every day we realize again and
again that not even we Ministers who act "in Persona Christi Capitis"
are spared this drama. We cannot live a single moment in his Presence
without a gentle longing to know him and to continue to adhere to him.
Let us not give in to the temptation to see being priests as a burden,
inevitable and impossible to delegate, henceforth assumed, which can
perhaps be carried out “mechanically” with a structured and coherent
pastoral program. Priesthood is the vocation, the path and the manner
through which Christ saves us, has called us and is calling us now to
abide with him.
The one adequate measure, with regard to our Holy Vocation, is
radicalism. This total dedication with awareness of our infidelity can
only be brought into being as a renewed and prayerful decision which
Christ subsequently implements, day after day. The actual gift of
priestly celibacy must be accepted and lived in this dimension of
radicalism and full configuration to Christ. Any other approach to the
reality of the relationship with him risks becoming ideological.
Even the great mass of work that the contemporary conditions of
the ministry sometimes impose on us, far from discouraging us must spur
us to care with even greater attention for our priestly identity which
has an incontrovertibly divine root. In this regard the particular
conditions of the ministry themselves must impel us, with a logic
opposed to that of the world, to “raise the tone” of our spiritual
life, witnessing with greater conviction and effectiveness to our
exclusive belonging to the Lord.
We are taught total dedication by the One who loved us first. “I
was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here am I,
here am I' to a nation that did not call on my name”. The place of
totality par excellence is the Eucharist since, “in the Eucharist Jesus
does not give us a ‘thing' but himself; he offers his own body and
pours out his own blood” ("Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 7).
Let us be faithful, dear confreres, to the daily Celebration of
the Most Holy Eucharist, not solely in order to fulfill a pastoral
commitment or a requirement of the community entrusted to us but
because of the absolute personal need we have of it, as of breathing,
as of light for our life, as the one satisfactory reason for a complete
In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis,"
the Holy Father reproposes to us forcefully St Augustine's affirmation:
“no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we
not to adore it” (St. Augustine, "Enarrationes in Psalmos," 98,9). We
cannot live, we cannot look at the truth about ourselves without
letting ourselves be looked at and generated by Christ in daily
Eucharistic Adoration, and the “Stabat” of Mary, “Woman of the
Eucharist”, beneath her Son's Cross, is the most significant example of
contemplation and adoration of the divine Sacrifice that has been given
Since the missionary spirit is intrinsic in the very nature of the
Church, our mission is likewise innate in the priestly identity, which
is why missionary urgency is a matter of self-awareness. Our priestly
identity is edified and renewed day after day in “conversation” with
Our Lord. An immediate consequence of our relationship with him, ever
nourished in constant prayer, is the need to share it with all those
around us. The holiness we ask for daily, in fact, cannot be conceived
according to a sterile and abstract individual acceptance but is
necessarily Christ's holiness, which is contagious for everyone: “Being
in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into his ‘being for all'; it
makes it our own way of being” (Benedict XVI, "Spe Salvi," No. 28).
Christ's “being for all” is realized for us in the Tria Munera by
which we are clothed in the very nature of the Priesthood. These Munera
which constitute the entirety of our Ministry, are not the place for
alienation or, even worse, a mere functionalist reductionism of
ourselves but rather are the truest expression of our belonging to
Christ; they are the place of our relationship with him. The People
which has been entrusted to us to be educated, sanctified and governed
is not a reality that distracts us from “our life” but the Face of
Christ that we contemplate daily, as the face of his beloved for the
bridegroom and the Church his Bride for Christ. The People entrusted to
us is the indispensable path for our holiness, in other words the path
on which Christ manifests through us the Glory of the Father.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his
neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea... those on the other
hand who send to perdition an entire people... what should they suffer
and what punishment should they receive?” (St. John Chrysostom, "De
Sacerdotio," VI, 1.498). In the face of the awareness of such a serious
task and such a great responsibility for our life and our salvation, in
which faithfulness to Christ coincides with “obedience” to the needs
dictated by the redemption of those souls, there is not even room to
doubt the grace received. We can only ask to surrender as much as
possible to his Love so that he will act through us, for either we let
Christ save the world, acting in us, or we risk betraying the very
nature of our vocation. The measure of dedication, dear confreres, is
totality, again and anew. Yes, “five loaves and two fishes” are not
many but they are all! God's Grace makes of all our littleness the
Communion that satisfies the People. Elderly and sick priests who
exercise the divine ministry daily, uniting themselves with Christ's
Passion and offering their own priestly existence for the true good of
the Church and the salvation of souls, share especially in this “total
Lastly, the Holy Mother of God remains an indispensable foundation
of the whole of priestly life. The relationship with her cannot be
resolved in pious devotional practice but is nourished by ceaseless
entrustment to the arms of the ever Virgin of the whole of our life, of
our ministry in its entirety. Mary Most Holy also leads us, like John,
to beneath the Cross of her Son and Our Lord in order to contemplate,
with her, God's infinite Love: “He who for us is Life itself descended
here and endured our death and slew it by the abundance of his Life”
(St. Augustine, "Confessiones," IV, 12).
As a condition for our redemption, for the fulfillment of our
humanity, for the Advent of the Incarnation of the Son, God the Father
chose to await a Virgin's “Fiat” to an angel's announcement. Christ
decided to entrust, so to speak, his own Life to the loving freedom of
the Mother: “She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she
presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son's sufferings
as he died on the Cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated
by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the
Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is
a mother to us in the order of grace” ("Lumen Gentium," No. 61).
Pope St Pius X said: “Every priestly vocation comes from the heart
of God but passes through the heart of a mother”. This is true with
regard to obvious biological motherhood but it is also true of the
“birth” of every form of fidelity to the Vocation of Christ. We cannot
do without a spiritual motherhood for our priestly life: let us entrust
ourselves confidently to the prayer of the whole of Holy Mother Church,
to the motherhood of the People, whose pastors we are but to whom are
entrusted our custody and holiness; let us ask for this fundamental
Dear confreres, the urgent need for “a movement of prayer, placing
24-hour continuous Eucharistic adoration at the centre so that a prayer
of adoration, thanksgiving, praise, petition and reparation will be
raised to God, incessantly and from every corner of the earth, with the
primary intention of awakening a sufficient number of holy vocations to
the priestly state and, at the same time, spiritually uniting with a
certain spiritual maternity -- at the level of the Mystical Body -- all
those who have already been called to the ministerial priesthood and
are ontologically conformed to the one High and Eternal Priest. This
movement will offer better service to Christ and his brothers -- those
who are at once ‘inside’ the Church and also ‘at the forefront’ of the
Church, standing in Christ's stead (cf. "Pastores Dabo Vobis," No. 16),
and representing him as head, shepherd and spouse of the Church”
(Letter of the Congregation of the Clergy, 8 December 2007).
A further form of spiritual motherhood has recently been outlined.
It has always silently accompanied the chosen ranks of priests in the
course of the Church's history. It is the concrete entrustment of our
ministry to a specific face, to a consecrated soul who has been called
by Christ and therefore chooses to offer herself, with the necessary
suffering and the inevitable struggles of life, to intercede for our
priestly existence, thereby dwelling in Christ's sweet presence.
This motherhood, which embodies Mary's loving face, should be
prayed for because God alone can bring it into being and sustain it. In
this regard there are plenty of wonderful examples; only think of St
Monica's beneficial tears for her son Augustine, for whom she wept
“more than mothers weep when lamenting their dead children” (St.
Augustine, "Confessions," III, 11).
Another fascinating example is that of Eliza Vaughan, who gave
birth to 13 children and entrusted them to the Lord; six of her eight
sons became priests and four of her five daughters became women
religious. Since it is impossible to be true mendicants before Christ,
marvelously concealed in the Eucharistic Mystery, without being able in
practice to ask for the effective help and prayers of those whom he
sets beside us, let us not be afraid to entrust ourselves to the
motherhoods that the Spirit will certainly bring into being for us.
St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, aware of the extreme
need of prayer for all priests, especially those who were lukewarm,
wrote in a letter to her sister Céline, “Let us live for souls,
let us be apostles, let us save above all the souls of priests.... Let
us pray and suffer for them and on the last day Jesus will be grateful”
(St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Letter 94).
Let us entrust ourselves to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin
Queen of Apostles, our sweetest Mother, let us look to Christ with her,
ceaselessly striving to be totally, radically his; this is our identity!
Let us remember the words of the Holy Curée d’Ars, Patron
of Parish Priests: “If I already had one foot in Heaven and I was told
to return to the earth to work to convert sinners, I would gladly
return. And if, to do this, it were necessary that I remain on earth
until the end of the world, always rising at midnight and suffering as
I suffer, I would consent with all my heart” (Brother Athanase,
"Procès de l’Ordinaire," p. 883).
May the Lord guide and protect each and every one, especially the
sick and those who are suffering the most, in the constant offering of
our life for love.
Cardinal Cláudio Hummes
Titular Archbishop of Victoriana
Prayers for Priests
Published by the Congregation for Clergy
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2008 - Here are three prayers published by
the Congregation for Clergy along with its message for the World Day of
Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. The day will be celebrated
May 30, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
* * *
Lord, You have called me to priestly ministry
in a particular moment of history,
as in the times of the first Apostles,
when You desire that all Christians,
and in a particular way Your priests,
might be witnesses to the wonders of God
and the strength of Your Spirit.
Allow me to be a witness to the dignity of human life,
to the grandeur of love,
and to the power of the ministry which I have received.
May my entire life be dedicated to You:
for love, only for love, and for a higher love.
May my commitment to celibacy
born of Your mission,
be a joyful and happy affirmation
and a total dedication of myself to others
in the service of Your Church.
Give me strength in my weakness,
and gratitude for my steadfastness.
Holy Mother Mary,
greatest and most wonderful mother of all time,
grant that I may entrust my life to you each day.
Mary, font of generosity and dedication,
grant that I may be joined with you
at the foot of the greatest crosses of the world,
experiencing the redeeming pain of the death of your Son,
so that I might enjoy the triumph of the Resurrection
for eternal life. Amen
* * *
A Prayer Priests Might Say on a Daily Basis
Almighty God, we pray that your grace may assist us in the
ministerial priesthood to serve you worthily and devoutly, in complete
purity, and in good conscience. And if we are unable to live our lives
with such innocence, grant that we weep bitterly over the evil we have
done. Grant that we may serve you ever fervently with a spirit of
humility, with right intention of good will. We ask this through Christ
our Lord. Amen.
O good Jesus, make me a priest after your own Heart.
Prayer to Jesus Christ
Most beloved Jesus, with a singular benevolence you have called me
from among thousands of men to follow you in the excellence of priestly
dignity. I beg you for the divine strength to rightly fulfil my
ministry. I implore you, Lord Jesus, to daily renew the grace given to
me through the imposition of the hands of the Bishop. O most powerful
doctor of souls, heal me so that I may not fall back into evil, that I
may flee from every sin, and that I may do what is pleasing in your
eyes until the hour of my death. Amen.
Prayer to implore the grace to safeguard chastity
Lord Jesus Christ, spouse of my soul, delight of my heart and my
soul, I fall on my knees before you, praying and fervently beseeching
you to allow me to persevere and grow in the true faith each day. O
sweet Jesus, grant that I may reject all impiety and that I may be a
stranger to the carnal desires and earthly concupiscence which fight
against my soul. Through your help, may I preserve my chastity
O most holy and immaculate Virgin Mary, Virgin of virgins and most
beloved Mother, purify my heart and soul each day, and obtain for me a
holy fear of the Lord and a particular distrust of my own strength.
St. Joseph, guardian of the virginity of Mary, keep my soul from
All of you holy Virgins who unceasingly follow the divine Lamb, be
solicitous to me a sinner, that I may avoid sin in thoughts, words,
actions or omissions, and that I may never be far from the most chaste
heart of Jesus. Amen.
* * *
Prayer for Priests
Lord Jesus, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
and living perpetually among us through Your Priests,
grant that the words of Your Priests may be only Your words,
that their gestures be only Your gestures,
and that their lives be a true reflection of Your life.
Grant that they may be men who speak to God on behalf of His
and speak to His people of God.
Grant that they be courageous in service,
serving the Church as she asks to be served.
Grant that they may be men who witness to eternity in our time,
travelling on the paths of history in Your steps,
and doing good for all.
Grant that they may be faithful to their commitments,
zealous in their vocation and mission,
clear mirrors of their own identity,
and living the joy of the gift they have received.
We pray that Your Holy Mother, Mary,
present throughout Your life,
may be ever present in the life of Your Priests. Amen
Letter for Year for Priests
"A Year of Prayer by Priests, With Priests and for
VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2009 - Here is the text of the letter Cardinal Cláudio
Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, wrote ahead of the Year
for Priests, which will begin June 19.
* * *
The Year for Priests, announced by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to
celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars, St.
John Mary Vianney, is drawing near. It will be inaugurated by the Holy
Father on the 19th June, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the
World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. The announcement of
the Year for Priests has been very warmly received, especially amongst
priests themselves. Everyone wants to commit themselves with determination,
sincerity and fervor so that it may be a year amply celebrated in the whole
world -- in the Dioceses, parishes and in every local community -- with the
warm participation of our Catholic people who undoubtedly love their priests
and want to see them happy, holy and joyous in their daily apostolic labors.
It must be a year that is both positive and forward looking in which the
Church says to her priests above all, but also to all the Faithful and to
wider society by means of the mass media, that she is proud of her priests,
loves them, honors them, admires them and that she recognizes with gratitude
their pastoral work and the witness of the their life. Truthfully priests
are important not only for what they do but also for who they are. Sadly, it
is true that at the present time some priest have been shown to have been
involved in gravely problematic and unfortunate situations. It is necessary
to investigate these matters, pursue judicial processes and impose penalties
accordingly. However, it is also important to keep in mind that these
pertain to a very small portion of the clergy. The overwhelming majority of
priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated to the sacred
ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity, who invest their entire
existence in the fulfillment of their vocation and mission, often through
great personal sacrifice, but always with an authentic love towards Jesus
Christ, the Church and the people, in solidarity with the poor and the
suffering. It is for this reason that the Church is proud of her priests
wherever they may be found.
May this year be an occasion for a period of intense appreciation of the
priestly identity, of the theology of the Catholic priesthood, and of the
extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the
Church and in society. This will require opportunities for study, days of
recollection, spiritual exercises reflecting on the Priesthood, conferences
and theological seminars in our ecclesiastical faculties, scientific
research and respective publications.
The Holy Father, in announcing the Year in his allocution on the 16th March
last to the Congregation for the Clergy during its Plenary Assembly, said
that with this special year it is intended “to encourage priests in this
striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of
their ministry depends”. For this reason it must be, in a very special way,
a year of prayer by priests, with priests and for priests, a year for the
renewal of the spirituality of the presbyterate and of each priest. The
Eucharist is, in this perspective, at the heart of priestly spirituality.
Thus Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests and the
spiritual motherhood of religious women, consecrated and lay women towards
priests, as previously proposed some time ago by the Congregation for the
Clergy, could be further developed and would certainly bear the fruit of
May it also be a year in which the concrete circumstances and the material
sustenance of the clergy will be considered, since they live, at times, in
situations of great poverty and hardship in many parts of the world.
May it be a year as well of religious and of public celebration which will
bring the people -- the local Catholic community -- to pray, to reflect, to
celebrate, and justly to give honor to their priests. In the ecclesial
community a celebration is a very cordial event which expresses and
nourishes Christian joy, a joy which springs from the certainty that God
loves us and celebrates with us. May it therefore be an opportunity to
develop the communion and friendship between priests and the communities
entrusted to their care.
Many other aspects and initiatives could be mentioned that could enrich the
Year for Priests, but here the faithful ingenuity of the local churches is
called for. Thus, it would be good for every Dioceses and each parish and
local community to establish, at the earliest opportunity, an effective
program for this special year. Clearly it would be important to begin the
Year with some notable event. The local Churches are invited on the 19th
June next, the same day on which the Holy Father will inaugurate the Year
for Priests in Rome, to participate in the opening of the Year, ideally by
some particular liturgical act and festivity. Let those who are able most
surely come to Rome for the inauguration, to manifest their own
participation in this happy initiative of the Pope.
God will undoubtedly bless with great love this undertaking; and the Blessed
Virgin Mary, Queen of the Clergy, will pray for each of you, dear priests.
Cardinal Cláudio Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect, Congregation for the Clergy