Friday, July 17, 2009
Completely Identified With Whom?
Somebody told me, “It’s now Year for Priests, maybe he will win this time. ” My friend is referring to a priest whom we both know who run but lost in the last local election. But it's still premature to discuss the issue for no public pronouncement yet from his end on this matter. To be fair, let us dwell on the topic in general terms. Indeed, the Catholic Church in the Philippines declared June 19, 2009 up to June 19, 2010 as Year for Priests.
To mark the 150th death anniversary of St. John Mary Vianney, on June 24, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated the Year for Priests at St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose de Mindoro likewise announced the inaguration of the Year for Priests last Wednesday through a Circular Letter issued of our Vicar Apostolic, His Excellency Antonio P. Palang, SVD,DD at the Saint Joseph the Worker Cathedral.
According to the Pope, “The aim for Year for Priests is to support each priest’s struggle towards spiritual perfection”. The Holy Father identified two conceptions of the priesthood, "which do not in fact contradict one another". On the one hand "a social-functional conception which identifies the essence of priesthood with the concept of 'service'. ... On the other hand there is a sacramental-ontological conception" which sees priestly ministry "as determined by a gift called Sacrament, granted by the Lord through the mediation of the Church".
Benedict XVI concluded by expressing the hope that "the Year for Priests may lead all the clergy to identify themselves completely with Christ…". Yes, ‘completely with Christ’ and not with somebody else including the main players in the realm of politics. There are priests who are reportedly again joining the Philippine political circus come 2010.
In my opinion, there are a lot of "right" and acceptable ways in which priests can help improve the lives of the people in his province or country. Sad to say, joining partisan politics is not and will never be one of those ways. A priest can join the “sphere” of politics (by advocating for certain socio-political issues and concerns) but not in the “arena” of politics (by joining campaigns and elections). By taking part in partisan politics, priests violate their priestly vow and will not be completely identified with Christ. Again, I am citing no particular case.
St. John Mary Vianney once said: "God is quicker to forgive than a mother to snatch her child from the fire." Perhaps that fire is from a hot "fireplace" called “arena of politics”. But God’s forgiveness is as instant and as cold as an early morning dew. Certainly, all of our priests,- active in their pastoral and administrative functions or not, need our prayers.
I am praying that the (remaining) active priests of our Vicariate heed the call of Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal : “Come now, my brother priests, let us be hot or cold for the right reasons. Hot for justice, but cold to partisan politics. Hot on giving service through faith-guided leadership, but cold to the possibility of wielding power. Let us be hot in serving God and His people, but cold to self-interest and self-serving schemes,” And nobody from their ranks may be snatched away or be tempted again by partisan politics or some political patrons.
Because by joining partisan politics come 2010 and beyond, those priests would be more identified with modern Caesars and not with Christ. And we would not easily allow that to happen. You must understand us because there's a priest inside everyone of us, laypeople...
(Official logo of the Year for Priests)