Word of God Sunday

Word of God Sunday

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On the 30th of September 2019, the feast of St Jerome, Pope Francis published an "apostolic letter" under the title "Aperuit Illis" in which he invites us to mark the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time each year as "Word of God Sunday".

This was something he had already reflected on and suggested at the close of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016 (Misericordia et Misera, 7) and which he now wishes us to mark in our parishes and communities each year.

The title comes from the Latin phrase used towards the end of the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus, after the Resurrection, met the disciples in the upper room and "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45). He hopes that setting aside a particular moment each year to celebrate the Word of God in Scripture will "enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world." (AI 2)

Click below to access a page among our "Ongoing Formation" pages which will, in time, offer some reflections and resources for marking this Sunday in the coming year.


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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

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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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Ministry in a Digital World

Ministry in a Digital World

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This page offers a few suggestions to priests regarding the use of online platforms and social media. These can be useful means both for evangelisation and for pastoral engagement, but can also be fraught with dangers and pitfalls. How do we use such tools to best advantage? How do we ensure we don't lose the direct contact and involvement which is so central to our pastoral mission if we put an emphasis on the "virtual" and electronic? Is online interaction be a useful subsitute for, a complement to or a tempting distraction from traditional means of pastoral connection? How does a parish reach out beyond its regular attenders to keep in contact with others who are more tentatively or loosely connceted to the Church?


Preaching in a Digital Age

A useful article by Anthony Collamati, Richard Vosko and Alex Zenthoefer, taken from "A Handbook for Catholic Preaching" published by the U.S. Catholic Academy of Liturgy (2016).


Pope Benedict xvi - World Communications Day 2010

The spread of multimedia communications and its rich "menu of options" might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace.

Pope Benedict xvi, 2010

The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World:
New Media at the Service of the Word.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The theme of this year's World Communications Day - The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word - is meant to coincide with the Church's celebration of the Year for Priests. It focuses attention on the important and sensitive pastoral area of digital communications, in which priests can discover new possibilities for carrying out their ministry to and for the Word of God. Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level. Yet the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry.
All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of his saving grace in the sacraments. Gathered and called by the Word, the Church is the sign and instrument of the communion that God creates with all people, and every priest is called to build up this communion, in Christ and with Christ. Such is the lofty dignity and beauty of the mission of the priest, which responds in a special way to the challenge raised by the Apostle Paul: "The Scripture says, 'No one who believes in him will be put to shame ... everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:11, 13-15).
Responding adequately to this challenge amid today's cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul's exclamation: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16) The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts. Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.
The spread of multimedia communications and its rich "menu of options" might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.
Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord. Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a "soul" to the fabric of communications that makes up the "Web".
God's loving care for all people in Christ must be expressed in the digital world not simply as an artifact from the past, or a learned theory, but as something concrete, present and engaging. Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, "that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another" (Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2009).
Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today's world and presenting the religious wisdom of the past as a treasure which can inspire our efforts to live in the present with dignity while building a better future? Consecrated men and women working in the media have a special responsibility for opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord's presence, to grow in expectation and hope, and to draw near to the Word of God which offers salvation and fosters an integral human development. In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different "highways" that form "cyberspace", and show that God has his rightful place in every age, including our own. Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts, say once more: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20).
In my Message last year, I encouraged leaders in the world of communications to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the human person. This is one of the ways in which the Church is called to exercise a "diaconia of culture" on today's "digital continent". With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts, we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek; indeed, we should encourage their seeking as a first step of evangelization. A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute. Just as the prophet Isaiah envisioned a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56:7), can we not see the web as also offering a space - like the "Court of the Gentiles" of the Temple of Jerusalem - for those who have not yet come to know God?
The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual, and it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue. But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church's mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today's world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation. At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.
To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new "agorà" which the current media are opening up.
With this confidence, I invoke upon you the protection of the Mother of God and of the Holy Curè of Ars and, with affection, I impart to each of you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2010, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications.

Pope Benedict xvi, 2010

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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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