Misericordia et Misera

Misericordia et Misera

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On Monday 21st November 2016, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera following the closure of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on the Solemnity of Christ the King.  In the Letter, he outlines some of his reflections on the impact of the Jubilee Year and his hopes for its ongoing legacy in the Church.  While some specific aspects of it have been widely reported in the press, it is well worth reading in its entirety, in order to join the Holy Father in his hope that "the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open" long after the "Mercy Doors" have closed in Cathedrals and churches across the world.

To read the Apostolic Letter in full, click the title here: Misericordia et Misera.

Below are a few highlights from the document in which Pope Francis makes explicit reference to the life and ministry of priests:

In the liturgy, mercy is not only repeatedly implored, but is truly received and experienced. From the beginning to the end of the Eucharistic celebration, mercy constantly appears in the dialogue between the assembly at prayer and the heart of the Father, who rejoices to bestow his merciful love...  In a word, each moment of the Eucharistic celebration refers to God’s mercy. (par. 5)

I strongly encourage that great care be given to preparing the homily and to preaching in general. A priest’s preaching will be fruitful to the extent that he himself has experienced the merciful goodness of the Lord. Communicating the certainty that God loves us is not an exercise in rhetoric, but a condition for the credibility of one’s priesthood. (par. 6)

I greatly desire that God’s word be increasingly celebrated, known and disseminated, so that the mystery of love streaming from this font of mercy may be ever better understood... It would be beneficial if every Christian community, on one Sunday of the liturgical year, could renew its efforts to make the Sacred Scriptures better known and more widely diffused. It would be a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people. Creative initiatives can help make this an opportunity for the faithful to become living vessels for the transmission of God’s word. Initiatives of this sort would certainly include the practice of lectio divina, so that the prayerful reading of the sacred text will help support and strengthen the spiritual life. (par. 7)

I invite priests once more to prepare carefully for the ministry of confession, which is a true priestly mission. I thank all of you from the heart for your ministry, and I ask you to be welcoming to all, witnesses of fatherly love whatever the gravity of the sin involved, attentive in helping penitents to reflect on the evil they have done, clear in presenting moral principles, willing to walk patiently beside the faithful on their penitential journey, far-sighted in discerning individual cases and generous in dispensing God’s forgiveness. (par. 10)

We confessors have experienced many conversions that took place before our very eyes. We feel responsible, then, for actions and words that can touch the heart of penitents and enable them to discover the closeness and tenderness of the Father who forgives. Let us not lose such occasions by acting in a way that can contradict the experience of mercy that the penitent seeks... (par. 11)

The Sacrament of Reconciliation must regain its central place in the Christian life. This requires priests capable of putting their lives at the service of the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), in such a way that, while no sincerely repentant sinner is prevented from drawing near to the love of the Father who awaits his return, everyone is afforded the opportunity of experiencing the liberating power of forgiveness. A favourable occasion for this could be the 24 Hours for the Lord, a celebration held in proximity to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. (par. 11)

I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation. (par. 12)

In all religions, the moment of death, like that of birth, is accompanied by a religious presence. As Christians, we celebrate the funeral liturgy as a hope-filled prayer for the soul of the deceased and for the consolation of those who suffer the loss of a loved one. I am convinced that our faith-filled pastoral activity should lead to a direct experience of how the liturgical signs and our prayers are an expression of the Lord’s mercy.  It is the Lord himself who offers words of hope, since nothing and no one can ever separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:35).  The priest’s sharing in this moment is an important form of pastoral care, for it represents the closeness of the Christian community at a moment of weakness, solitude, uncertainty and grief. (par. 15)

We are called to promote a culture of mercy based on the rediscovery of encounter with others, a culture in which no one looks at another with indifference or turns away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters. The works of mercy are “handcrafted”, in the sense that none of them is alike. Our hands can craft them in a thousand different ways, and even though the one God inspires them, and they are all fashioned from the same “material”, mercy itself, each one takes on a different form. (par. 20)

I had the idea that, as yet another tangible sign of this Extraordinary Holy Year, the entire Church might celebrate, on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the World Day of the Poor. This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy (cf. Mt 25:31-46). It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes (cf. Lk 16:19-21), there can be no justice or social peace. This Day will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization (cf. Mt 11:5) which can renew the face of the Church as She perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy. (par. 21)

As Pope Francis exhorts us: "Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace." (par. 18)  He makes no secret of the fact that he sees the ministry of priests as crucial to opening these gifts of God's mercy for God's people.  "This is the time of mercy."  May our reflections on the Jubilee Year now ended and on the mercy of God we experience, celebrate and share every day in priestly ministry renew us and open us to a new joy in service of the Church and of those whose lives we touch with the compassion, consolation and forgiveness of God.

yearofmercy2

 


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Archbishop Muller to the Priests of Scotland

Archbishop Muller to the Priests of Scotland

With 1 Comments, Category: Ongoing Formation, Resources and Publications,

As part of national efforts in support of the Year of Faith, the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland welcomed His Excellency Archbishop Müller,  Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Archbishop Müller spoke to the priests on the theme of "New Evangelisation".

The full text of Archbishop Müller's address is available here Archbishop Muller's Address to Priests.

Archbishop Müller also presented a letter from His Eminence Cardinal Bertone expressing the Holy Father's good wishes and his Apostolic Blessing for the Church in Scotland.

Message from Pope Francis


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National Statement on Ongoing Formation

National Statement on Ongoing Formation

With 0 Comments, Category: Ongoing Formation,

The National Statement on Ongoing Formation can be downloaded from here.

 

National-Statement-OGF

 

 

THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF SCOTLAND

NATIONAL STATEMENT ON ONGOING FORMATION

Introduction

“Permanent formation is a requirement of the priest’s own faithfulness to his ministry, to his very being. It is love for Jesus Christ and fidelity to oneself. But it is also an act of love for the People of God, at whose service the priest is placed.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis 70).

Having considered the matter at some length the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland believes that a commitment to Ongoing Formation needs to be clearly present in the lives and ministry of the priests of Scotland. Few people today would question that the environment in which a priest ministers has changed. Forty years ago many parishes were staffed by two, three or more priests. Today the priest often lives alone. Some priests have pastoral charge of two or more parishes. This increased workload may raise concerns that the pastoral ties that have traditionally supported priests with encouragement, offering them stability, sustainability and personal support, are at risk as priests offer themselves in the service of a much wider group of people. In this changing environment a commitment to Ongoing Formation is a necessary part of faithful ministry.

Ongoing Formation is not time off from the parish but a way of making ministry more faithful, more effective and more fruitful. There is always a natural tendency for priests to regard their professional Ongoing Formation as something personal and something not to be shared. However, experience has shown us the sometimes heavy price that we have to pay when priests work in isolation neither self regulating or regulated by their Ordinary.

In discussing a possible approach to Ongoing Formation it is worth noting that programmes, however well devised, do not constitute Ongoing Formation. Ongoing Formation is an attitude that must accompany pastoral service. Ministry should never be taken for granted or considered automatic.

The Content of Ongoing Formation

Initiatives in Ongoing Formation should seek to help the priest face new experience and cope with transition. Initiatives in Ongoing Formation should consider the following areas.

  • Ongoing Formation in the First Years of Ministry

The first years of priestly ministry are very important since they model practice and set a style of ministry. Newly ordained priests, like all priests, need to know in their own experience the “communitarian form” of ministry; that is that all ministry is a “collective work”. (PDV 17)

  • Ongoing Formation for Priests in Transition

Changes in appointment can have a high emotional cost and can be painful. There is the need for the priest to celebrate what has been achieved and to accept new challenges. Programmes in Ongoing Formation should support priests in transition.

  • Ongoing Formation on Becoming a Parish Priest

In assuming the role of Parish Priest the priest requires new skills particularly in the areas of communication and administration. These can be learned and should not be simply presumed.

  • Ongoing Formation After Some Years of Ministry.

As a result of his years of experience the priest at this stage of his journey can be tempted to think that he can manage on his own and that he needs no contact with anyone. Priests in this group, who form the majority of priests in Scotland, need to experience the continuing challenge of ministry.

  • Ongoing Formation and Older Priests

As a mark of gratitude for the part they continue to play in the life of the Church Pastores Dabo Vobis 77 suggests that programmes in Ongoing Formation should also make provision for older priests assuring them of the Church’s continuing care.

 

The National Statement on Ongoing Formation can be downloaded from here. National-Statement-OGF


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