From the Pastor’s Desk by Fr. Terry Kerner
A letter from your bishop can often spell trouble for a priest. Or it may ask you to take on additional pastoral responsibilities. Or it might just be a simple reminder of who we are as priests. A few days before Christmas all the priests of the Archdiocese received this letter from our chief Shepherd. I want to share it with you believing that it speaks to perhaps one of the most important charisms we, your priests, have to offer to you. May the spirit of our Archbishop’s reflection only grow and become more alive in 2024!
Dear Fathers — Dear Brothers,
During my meditation on Gaudate Sunday morning, a recurring point for me was the centrality of the gift of joy in our celebration of Christmas. (“Duh, ” you say; “It is Gaudete Sunday, after all. Didn’t you learn anything from Father Markowicz?”) My thoughts ran along this line: that joy is a gift the Lord particularly wants to give his people at Christmas since the Mystery means that we have finally received that for which our race waited for so long. And since we are the servants of their celebration, “stewards” as it were, of their Christmases, we are called to be “agents” of the joy the Father wants them to have. We do this by helping them recognize anew the gift of Christ, both the gift that is his Person and the gift that he bestows on us.
And so, I prayed that the Holy Spirit guides and sustains you in your service as agents of joy. First, because this joy is so much needed by the people we serve, by those we serve week in and week out, and especially by those we only get to serve “on occasion” (probably the ones who need it all the more, but don’t realize it). Second, because it gives our Lord glory for the joy he offers to be accepted by those he loves. Maybe go further?: It gives joy to the heart of the Lord to give this joy, for after all, he gave up the last drop of his blood to win this joy for us. And finally, it gives him joy because we fulfill the very purpose for our being priests when we cultivate in the lives of our people the joy that is the fruit of saving grace at work in their lives.
I also pray that in being agents of joy, in fostering this grace, both in your preaching and in your celebration of the Eucharist — not to mention hearing the confessions that prepare the faithful for this — you will receive joy in abundance. I am not unaware of the stresses you all feel as you try to do more with fewer resources. My prayer, then, especially, is that you will be defended from the Evil One, so clever at using the trials of our day “to steal your joy.” The “Good News of great joy to all the people” is good news for us, too. God is with us, he’s never going away, and he never stops saving us always and everywhere.
Let me conclude by inviting all of you to join me in my prayer for each of you, brother priests. And, along with thanking God ahead of time, I thank you ahead of time for these prayers.
Merry Christmas (a.k.a. “one filled with joy”)
Archbishop Allen Vigneron