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Brothers, let us not grow discouraged

Archbishop Wenski's message to priests on feast of St. John Vianney

Priests enter St. Mary Cathedral in 2016 for the annual chrism Mass, celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week.

Photographer: FILE

Priests enter St. Mary Cathedral in 2016 for the annual chrism Mass, celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski sent this letter to all archdiocesan priests on the feast of St. John Vianney, Aug. 4, 2020.


Last year, Pope Francis wrote a letter addressed to priests on the 160th anniversary of St. John Vianney’s entry into Eternal Life. Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. John Vianney, patron of the diocesan parish priest, on the 161st anniversary of his death. Last year in this letter, the Pope addressed the continued shame and hurt we carry because of the betrayal of some of our brothers, especially in their predation on the young. However, much of this letter can be of some inspiration to us as we carry on our pastoral ministry in the midst of the uncertainty of a global pandemic complicated by economic pain as well as growing social unrest in our cities in a highly polarized time.

“I am convinced that, to the extent that we remain faithful to God’s will, these present times of ecclesial purification will make us more joyful and humble, and prove, in the not distant future, very fruitful,” the pope wrote in this letter (which you can access by clinking on this link).

Encouraging priests to reread the 16th chapter of Ezekiel, he said, “let us not grow discouraged! The Lord is purifying his Bride and converting all of us to himself. He is letting us be put to the test in order to make us realize that without him we are simply dust. He is rescuing us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances.”

“The mission to which we are called,” he reminds us, “does not exempt us from suffering, pain and even misunderstanding. Rather, it requires us to face them squarely and to accept them, so that the Lord can transform them and conform us more closely to himself.”

He said one good test of a pastor’s heart is how he confronts suffering. Whether he ignores it or draws near in the wrong way, for example, viewing it in the abstract or thinking things such as “nothing can be done.” Such attitudes prevent priests from having the compassion they need to confront both their own wounds and the wounds of others.

He also warns us against “acedia," a “subtle and dangerous attitude,” which can infect a priest.

The Pope quoted Cardinal Tomás Spidlí who described acedia in these terms: “If we are assailed by sadness at life, at the company of others or at our own isolation, it is because we lack faith in God’s providence and his works... Sadness paralyzes our desire to persevere in our work and prayer; it makes us hard to live with... The monastic authors who treated this vice at length call it the worst enemy of the spiritual life.”

Acedia” is perhaps what most tempts us today as we continue to endure this abnormal situation brought about by the coronavirus. And so, on this Memorial of St. John Vianney, I encourage you to read again Pope Francis' 2019 letter to priests.

He offers each of us solid spiritual advice: to remain steadfast in prayer so as to find consolation and strength in God; to grow in our relationship with Jesus and to find in Mary’s Magnificat that “praise which is capable of lifting our gaze to the future and restoring hope to the present.”

“May we allow our gratitude to awaken praise and renewed enthusiasm for our ministry of anointing our brothers and sisters with hope... May we be men whose lives bear witness to the compassion and mercy that Jesus alone can bestow on us.” (Pope Francis)

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