Friday, February 27, 2009

Priest as Spiritual Father

I guess there is gonna be quite a few posts in the next couple days. We're currently having a symposium at the NAC. I've discovered this word is used to describe a vague conference like retreat. Anyways, the Institute for Priestly Formation has come into town and is doing a 4 day Symposium on Spiritual Fatherhood. The keynote speaker is Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household. IPF if you don't know is a program run out of Creighton University that provides formation to diocesan seminarians, priests, and formators. They have a 10 week program that many seminarians go through each summer. I've never been myself but have always heard good things.

Anyways, on to some summary of these talks.

Deacon Keating spoke first. He said we must catch fire. That we must be holy. There is no middle road in a sense. Only by catching on fire, by knowing Christ intimately, can we manifest his love. Further he mentions the reality that we as seminarians and future priests participate in the mystery of Fatherhood even though we are not natural fathers. We don't miss out on it. We encounter it in our little children, our parish, our congregation. And we should call upon the prayers of Mary and Joseph, who both knew spiritual fatherhood so well, to guide and show us how to be spiritual fathers.

Fr. Cantalamessa (pictured above) went farther. He spoke on St. Paul's understanding of Spiritual Fatherhood. To be a father involves two important aspects. One is to give birth and the second is to help that child reach its fullness. The apostles lived in a pre-Christian world where they actually begot children through the proclamation of the Gospel. We live in a post-Christian world where we once again face a situation like the first apostles. We too must once again beget children. We must give life through new converts. We must once again preach the kerygma. He pointed to a certain painting by Munch titled "The Scream". For him, this represented the reality that society has lost its very reason for existence and death awaits us all. This scream is a certain cry that lacks any sound because life itself has been stripped of meaning. Only Jesus Christ can fill this void.

His second point was the priest must help his children reach their fullness by helping them realize as Paul says, "I no longer live but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). He says he has been to dialogues on religion, science, and philosophy and the one thing no one ever mentions in Jesus Christ. It's like they are afraid. Sartre said something to the effect that it is man who accuses himself and man who justifies himself. He does not need a savior. So the priest must teach Christ and bring his children to a surrender of self and a living in Christ which is the only real way of fulfillment.

One last thing he said that I loved. I am not pro priest facing the people for Mass or anti priest facing the people for Mass but he said that when you look out on the people as you say the words, 'This is my body' and 'This is my blood', these words become your own as well and you offer yourself to your people. You look at them and offer yourself, your life, your time, your every resource, each and every day. The Mass becomes for the priest a true moment of spiritual fatherhood.

Ok I'll stop here for now or else this post will be too long. To be continued...


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