Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In October we will end the year dedicated to Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist, which was proclaimed by the late Pope John Paul II and carried over by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. It has been an extraordinarily grace-filled year as we have had the opportunity to reflect more profoundly on our Lord’s abiding presence in this Sacrament of the Altar.
At the end of this year, Bishop Shaheen and I, at the request of our priests, have decided to focus on Jesus Christ and his priests. Our Lord is present among us in His people – clergy, religious and laity – and in a special way, through his priests. The presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and in his ordained priests, are two sides of a profound mystery. His presence in the Eucharist is perfect and divine. His presence in the ordained priest is imperfect and human. The priesthood on earth belongs, not to angels, but to men. Therefore, the lofty and eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ is presented to the world through men who are weak and sinful, yet called by the grace of Holy Orders to serve at His altar and to minister His Mysteries (Sacraments) to the people they are called to serve. This gift, an amazing sign of God’s great trust in man, is worthy of a deeper and more profound reflection.
When participating in the ordination ceremony of a Maronite priest, who among us can remain unmoved, when the Bishop places the Eucharist on the head of the newly ordained priest and asks him to walk among the people in solemn procession? We are so moved because the human and imperfect are holding aloft, the divine and perfect Mystery of God’s love! To further reflect on this great mystery, Bishop Shaheen and I have decided to dedicate this year to our priests and to prayer, work and discernment of vocations to the priesthood. As we priests reflect on our vocation to the priesthood, we invite everyone to reflect as well, on how they live out the gift of their vocation as parents, married and single people or religious.
Recently, I was asked how I knew I was “called by God” to be a priest. Never having been completely sure I was “called,” as a young man I felt a quiet invitation from Christ to give of myself more generously to whatever He wanted of me. With the help of a priest and a friend, I decided to explore and accept the adventure of listening to this call wherever it led me. The rest is history!
In this upcoming year, dedicated to Christ and his priests, let each of us recommit to our efforts to foster and pray for vocations to the priesthood.
It is the responsibility of all of us – clergy, religious and laity – to fulfill the ministerial needs of the Church and to work for vocations. Some can pray, spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, some can invite men to consider a priestly calling, some can join the Order of Sharbel and help educate seminarians, some can serve as catechists, choir members, volunteers, NAM members, Knights of Columbus, Ladies, Men, Young Adult and Youth leaders who enable the priests to be more effective ministers.
In whatever capacity God has called us, let us focus on our own vocation and how we listen to God’s quiet voice in our lives. Let us also make a generous response to him as a starting point to foster our own calling, the true vocations of others, and the art of listening to God.
In this way, we will become even more a “listening Church” and a “generous Church”.
May the prayer of the Mother of God, Mother of priests, and Mother of all those called to witness to her son, Jesus Christ, be with us.
Sincerely yours in Christ
+ Gregory John Mansour