**I would like to apologize to anyone who saw this post on 3/13/14 before 11pm. Somehow it got uploaded before it was finished, so it was literally just a skeleton outline. I apologize for the mistake. Please see the whole post, below. Thank you and God bless!!**
This is a letter to all of you Shepherds and soon-to-be-Shepherds. Please don't take offense at anything that I am about to write.
I am a 19 year old discerning female, who cares very much for priests. I care about the souls that they are shepherding, and most of all, I care that Jesus' Will is done.
Jesus called you - called YOU to be His advocate, His hands and feet, and a shepherd to His children. This is not something to take lightly. You have the most important vocation in the world. Please remember that.
LOOK THE PART
Don't be ashamed of your vocation. I challenge you to wear your clerics in public! Don't just wear them for Mass and the Sacraments. Wear them always! I remember when I was at 6 Flags with the Salesian Sisters,
(Don't believe me?)
(The scariest ride of my life. I don't do well with rides...)
THE MASSSay Mass as if it were your last. EVERY time. The Mass is something so amazing and mysterious. Please treat it as such! Every Mass, you are in the person of Christ (in persona Christi), and you call down God from Heaven to inhabit something that once was inanimate, and is now ALIVE! Think about that for a moment.
Please show the Mass some reverence. Like, a lot of reverence.
FORGIVE ME, FATHER...
Why not offer Confession more often? It can't hurt, right? Either you help some people, absolve some sins, maybe even bring someone out of mortal sin, or, if nobody shows up, you could use that time to write your homilies, or make use of that time doing my next point. Either way, you can't go wrong. Start small, then work your way up. You don't have to start right off the bat offering Confession 3 hours a day. You'd get exhausted! Start by a half hour before each week day Mass, and another half hour on Saturdays and Sundays. That can't be too bad! My spiritual director offers Confession for at least an hour each day. And the fruits are amazing!
Keep learning! Our Church has the Fullness of Truth! Why not dig into that Truth a little and increase your knowledge and understanding of God and His Bride? Read some Thomas Aquinas, or brush up on your Canon Law! Read the GIRM over again. That certainly couldn't hurt! Try pulling out encyclicals - old, new, doesn't matter! Or, if you're bold and have enough time, try to learn the Extraordinary Form, or at least learn how to say the Ordinary Form Ad Orientem! Even if you never use it, you will gain an appreciation for the Mass whichever way you do say it! (Of course, I would prefer that you learn it and use it...)
Get involved with the youth ministry programs at your parish. You are the shepherd for these children and families. Don't leave them hanging! Many families who send their children to faith formation don't attend Mass, or don't bring the kids. These children may never have seen a priest before. Heck, they might not even know that a priest is! Be a representative for Christ to the new generation. Give them an example of holiness and of willingness to follow God's Call. You can't go wrong there.
Don't hate on people who want to be a little more traditional (like myself). We all have our own spiritualities, and as long as nobody is killing anyone else over them and the rules are all being followed, we're okay. (Considering that these people are doing nothing wrong,) Don't ask parishioners to stand if they want to kneel for Communion. Don't demand that ladies take off their veils. Don't force people to hold hands at the Our Father. Be charitable and welcoming (but not too much so... Cue Michael Voris' voice "CHURCH OF NICE!!!"), and open to different spiritualities.
ENCOURAGE THERE TO BE MORE OF YOU!Talk about vocations. Encourage vocations. You don't want to be one of the 30 priests in your diocese manning 130 parishes because vocations have died down. Again, be a representative for Christ and this beautiful vocation!
HOMILIESInclude in the vast majority of your homilies: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Eucharist, and Confession. These are three HUGE tools of conversion. Why conversion? These people are already Catholic! Oh really? How many of them believe in the Real Presence? (Statistics say a whopping 30%.) How many pray the Rosary - or even know how to pray the Rosary? And how many have been to Confession in the past month? Probably not a lot (unless you've employed my 3rd point...).
DOMINE NON SUM DIGNUSRemember to remain humble. The Lord has called you not because of you, but because of HIM. Try to take to heart the prayer that we say at Mass every day, "Lord, I am not worthy..." There's a lot of truth in that. Keep that prayer in your mind and heart always.
If you're struggling with your vocation or doubting your purpose, try this:
I read something from Fr. Z (if you don't know of him, you should) and it mentioned that taking a bit of chrism and rubbing it between the palms of your hands can help remind you of your vocation. Maybe try that every once in a while.
(Here's what I'm referring to, for those of you who don't want to read the whole post)
YOU ARE A PRIEST. FOREVER.
Priests, we love you. We are praying for you. Please keep up the good work. Do not be discouraged. Jesus sees what you are doing and He loves you.
+ Pax +