AS THE SCHOENSTATT Family all over the world prepared to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our Father and Founder, Fr. Joseph Kentenich in 2010, it was necessary to enter anew into Covenant of Love with him in appreciation of his fidelity to his priestly calling and promise to ever make his mission our own.

The theme for the one-year celebration was your priesthood is our joy. If we remember, it was the time of the explosion of abusive sex scandals by priests. It was a time many priests in the West were   afraid of identifying themselves as one. Some also left the priesthood this time including a Schoenstatt Father. For healing and consolation, one had to turn to priests who undoubtably lived out their priestly calling in fidelity and gratitude. One of those priests was Fr. Joseph Kentenich and his centenary was an occasion for joy, thanksgiving and healing. It was also the year of my ordination and I was greatly influenced by this expression and I thought as much that my priesthood will also remain a source of joy to my flock. I have never thought of myself as a priest isolated from the people of God. I have always put them into consideration in my major decisions. Right from the day of my ordination when I received the gift of chalice and paten from the people of God through the ordaining prelate, I knew that my destiny and theirs are now interwoven. My priesthood is their joy and whatever I do affects them either positively or negatively. It is my task to make them happy.

This time of the year is a season of ordination.  Many young priests will be added to the number of the clergy in the Church worldwide. It is these newly ordained priests that I want to address here. Ordination is an interesting celebration. Many people want to identify with us. Our status will change. Gifts will pour in. shortly afterwards, everybody will mind his or her business leaving us alone. The "honeymoon" (holiday) will be over and the work proper will begin. This is the time when the reality will dawn on us and we will realise that it is not rosy all the time. Sometimes it can be painful and lonely. Some priests are suffering from crisis and depression. Some regret answering the call to the altar. In all these, we cling to God most of the time for healing and consolation. On the other hand, the people of God are also there to console and encourage us in their own way. This is more effective when we are available to them and maintain a creative relationship with them to the point that the boundary walls are not corroded. When priests are doing well, the people of God are happy. It is thus our duty to make them happy by leading an authentic life.

Sometimes we also go to the extreme in making the people of God happy. We try to present an idealistic image of us before them thinking that will make them happy. When that is the case, we are running a great risk. A little boy once asked me, "why are you too short?" My simple answer (although shocked) was, "that´s how God made me." "No", he pressed further.  You are God's servant. You are his priest. It is unfair that he will make you short. Pray to him so that he will increase your size." I just told him that I will do that so that he will leave me in peace. But I was confused and lacked words. That is sometimes our dilemma as priests. Sometimes the people of God expect too much from us. Some of them believe that we are superhumans without defects and limitations. They believe that we can solve all problems, know everything and can do all things. They cannot understand that we can make mistakes or even sin. The case is worsened when we fail to correct this image and suffer to meet these lofty expectations. When we fail, it becomes disastrous and counterproductive. The truth remains that priests, like other human beings, have their limitations. Every priest has his own history and background, and it is not always golden. It is filled with success and failure, joy and pain, hope and anxiety lying side by side.

The weakness of a priest is not a scandal. It is a sign that he is human. It is not something to hide. It is something to accept and listen to, because God sometimes speaks to us through our weaknesses. Sometimes, the amount of energy and resources we spend hiding our weaknesses and sins can make repentance almost impossible. Once again, every priest is a human being. He is no superman. He can be led into temptation. He can also sin. He is not a priest because he is perfect. He is only called by God for the priestly ministry on behalf of his people. The reason for choosing him among others is only known to God who calls.  Joseph Kentenich defines a priest as Homo Dei, ex Hominibus pro Hominibus, that means a man of God, chosen from the people and sent to the people. He did not fall from the sky. He was conceived in a woman´s womb like others and like others was born of a woman. He is not an angel. He is one like us. Once a priest begins to behave like an angel, he will start having an identity crisis. So brother priests, accept that you are human beings. That is the first step to success as a priest.

Be faithful to your priestly call. Increase the happiness of the people of God but not at all cost. Prepare and preach beautiful homilies but be objective. Be jovial when with the people but be sacral while celebrating the sacrament. Always be available to them but learn to withdraw and have quiet time with yourself and your God. Be close to them but never corrode the boundary wall of relationship. In all these, virtue lies in the middle. You need only little effort to please the people. You need not be a miracle worker. Allow God to work miracle in you and through you. You need not be a Celine Dion to please the people of God. You must not be a Shakespeare. Don´t dream of being a Dangote. Just be you. Be genuine. Be faithful. Be loving. Be prayerful. You are only a vessel. Allow God himself to fill you. Don´t fill yourself. If you fill yourself, then there is no room for God to act in you.

Above all, be faithful to the rubrics. The Mass has beenthere for centuries before you were born. Don´t find it dry and try to edit the text. Say the Mass the way the Church has asked you to do it. It is always said, "do the red and say the black." The moment you begin to find the Mass dry and try to supplement, your crisis has started and if not checked, it can lead you to a disastrous situation. You don´t need to assist the Holy Spirit. He is not tired. Be open and allow the Spirit to lead you. Above all, see yourself as an instrument and put it into the consciousness of the people that you too are human being. Teach them, they will understand. When they understand you better, they will then appreciate your effort and always give glory to God for the gift of a priest like you. Dear brother priests, once again, remember that our priesthood is their joy. 

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