Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacraments, Leader of the Community
Dec 31, 2007

Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacraments, Leader of the Community

Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacraments, Leader of the Community

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Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy

The Priest and the Third Christian Millennium:
Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacraments, Leader of the Community

Congregation for the Clergy


Chapter One In the Service of New Evangelization

Chapter Two Teachers of the Word

Chapter Three Ministers of the Sacraments

Chapter Four Loving Pastors of the Flock

CONCLUSION and Prayer to Mary

Vatican City, March 19, 1999
Solemnity of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church

Your Eminence,Your Excellency,

The entire Church prepares to enter the third millennium since the Incarnation of the Word in a spirit of penance, and, by the continued Apostolic solicitude of the Successor of Peter, is stimulated to an ever more lively recollection of the will of her divine Founder.

At its Plenary Assembly of 13-15 October 1998, the Congregation for the Clergy, in a spirit of intimate communion with that objective, decided to entrust the enclosed circular letter to every Ordinary, for transmission to their priests. On that occasion, the Holy Father said "The prospective of New Evangelization reaches a high point in commitment to the Great Jubilee. Here, providentially, we retrace the paths laid out in Tertio millennio adveniente, in the Directories for Priests and Permanent Deacons, in the Instruction on the collaboration of the lay faithful with the pastoral ministry of priests and in the fruits of this Plenaria. With a convinced universal application of these documents, what is expressed by the now familiar term "new evangelization" can be more easily translated into effective reality".

Bearing in mind actual circumstances, this document is designed to lead individual priests as well as presbyterates to an examination of conscience, remembering that, in concrete terms, love means fidelity. This document reiterates the teachings of the Council, and of the Popes and it refers to the other documents already mentioned by the Holy Father. These documents are fundamental for an authentic response to the demands of our time and for an effective mission of evangelization.

The questionnaires at the end of each section are intended as an aid to discerning everyday reality in the light of the teaching contained in the aforementioned documents. It is not intended that any replies should be sent to this Congregation. Priests may use them in whatever manner they find most helpful for them.

We are aware that no missionary activity can be realistically undertaken without the enthusiastic support of priests, who are the first and most valued collaborators of the Order of Bishops. This letter is also intended as a help for priests attending study days, retreats, spiritual exercises and priestly meetings being promoted in each ecclesiastical circumscription during this time of preparation for the Great Jubilee, and especially during the Jubilee Year.

May the Queen of Apostles, the bright Morning Star, guide her beloved priests, sons of her Son, into the path of effective communion, fidelity and generous, integral exercise of their indispensable ministry.

With sentiments of fraternal esteem, I remain
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect
Congregation for the Clergy

+ Csaba Ternyik
Titular Archbishop of Eminentiana , Secretary


Catholic doctrinal tradition describes the priest as teacher of the Word, minister of the Sacraments and leader of the Christian community entrusted to him. This is the point of all reflection on the identity and mission of the priest in Church. In the light of new evangelization, to which the Holy Spirit calls all the faithful through the person and authority of the Holy Father, this unchanging yet ever-new doctrine must again be reflected upon with faith and hope.

The whole Church is called to greater apostolic commitment which is both personal and communitarian, renewed and generous. Encouraged by the personal example and clear teaching of John Paul II, both pastors and faithful must but realize ever more incisively that the time has come to hasten their preparations, with renewed apostolic spirit, to cross the threshold of the 21st century and to throw open the door of history to Jesus Christ, who is our God and only Savior. Pastors and faithful in the year 2000 are called to proclaim with renewed force: "Ecce natus est nobis Salvator mundi".1

"In countries with ancient Christian roots, and occasionally in the younger Churches as well, entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. In this case what is needed is a ‘new evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization’".2 New evangelization, therefore, is firstly a maternal reaction of the Church to the weakening of the faith and obscuring of the demands of the Christian moral life in the conscience of her children. Many of the baptized live in a world indifferent to religion. While maintaining a certain faith, these practically live a form of religious and moral indifferentism, alienated from Word and Sacraments which are essential for the Christian life. There are others, although born of Christian parents and baptized, who have never received a foundation in the faith and live in practical atheism. The Church looks on all of these with love and is particularly sensitive to the pressing duty to draw these people to that ecclesial communion where, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, they rediscover Jesus Christ and the Father.

Together with new evangelization which seeks to rekindle the faith in the Christian conscience of many and cause the joyful proclamation of salvation to resound in society, the Church is also especially conscious of her perennial mission ad gentes the right/duty to carry the Gospel to a men who do not yet know Christ or participate in his salvific gifts. For the contemporary Church, Mother and Teacher, the mission ad gentes and new evangelization are inseparable aspects of her mandate to teach, sanctify and guide all men to the Father. Fervent Christians also need loving and continuous encouragement in their quest for personal holiness, to which they are called by God and by the Church. This is the true impetus of new evangelization.

All the Christian faithful, children of the Church, should be impelled by this common and pressing responsibility. In a particular way, priests have duty since they have been specially chosen, consecrated and sent to make evident the presence of Christ whose authentic representatives and messengers they become.3 It is, therefore, necessary to assist both secular and religious priests in assuming the "important pastoral responsibility of new evangelization"4 and, in the light of this commitment, to rediscover the divine call to serve that portion of God’s people entrusted to them as teachers of the Word, ministers of the Sacraments and pastors of the flock.


In the Service of New Evangelization

‘You did not choose me, no, I chose you and commissioned you to go out’ (John 15:16)

1. New Evangelization, responsibility of the entire Church

Being called and sent by the Lord have always been relevant but in contemporary historical circumstances they acquire a particular importance. The end of the 20th century, from a religious perspective, is marked by contrasting phenomena. On the one hand, intense secularization in society results in rejection of God and all reference to the transcendent, while the other is marked by the emergence of a greater religious sensitivity which seeks to satisfy the innate aspiration for God which is present in the hearts of all mankind but which sometimes fails to find satisfactory expression.

"The mission of Christ the Redeemer which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion. As the second millennium after Christ’s coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service".5 Today, this missionary task is carried out largely in the context of the new evangelization of many countries which have had long Christian traditions but in which the Christian understanding of life appears to be in decline. It is also carried out in the general context of mankind, in which not everyone has yet heard and understood the proclamation of the salvation brought by Christ.

It is a sad but evident reality that many have heard of Christ but seem to know and accept his teaching merely as a set of general ethical norms rather than as concrete life commitments. Large numbers of the baptized have abandoned following Christ and live by the tenets of relativism. In many instances, the role of the Christian faith is reduced to that of a purely cultural factor often limited to a merely private sphere and without any social relevance in individual or national life.6

After 20 centuries of Christianity there is still no shortage of wide missionary fields. All Christians should be aware that, in virtue of their baptismal priesthood (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5, 9; Rv 1:5-6, 9-10; 20:6), they are called to collaborate, in so far as their personal circumstances permit, in the new evangelizing mission which is a common ecclesial undertaking.7 Responsibility for missionary activity "is incumbent primarily on the College of Bishops presided over by its head, the Successor of Peter".8 "Priests, who are collaborators with the Bishop in virtue of the Sacrament of Orders, are called to share responsibility for the mission".9 Thus it can be said that, in a certain sense, they bear primary responsibility "for this new evangelization of the third millennium".10

Encouraged by scientific and technical advances, contemporary society has developed a profound sense of critical independence from secular and religious authority and doctrine. This situation requires thorough explanation and presentation of the Christian message of salvation which always remains a mystery. Such must be done with respect and with the power and capacity of the first evangelization, while making prudent use of all suitable methods afforded by modern technology. However, it should never be forgotten that technology is no substitute for the witness of holiness of life. The Church needs true witnesses to communicate the Gospel in every sector of society. From this derives the need for all Christians in general, and for priests in particular, to acquire a profound and proper training in philosophy and theology11 which enables them to render account for their faith and hope. Such also alerts them to the importance of presenting the faith constructively by means of personal dialogue and understanding. Proclamation of the Gospel, however, cannot be reduced to dialogue alone. The courage of the truth is, in fact, an ineluctable challenge when confronted with temptation to conform, or to seek facile popularity or personal convenience.

When evangelizing, it must be remembered that some of the traditional ideas and vocabulary of evangelization have become unintelligible to the greater part of contemporary culture. Certain contexts are impervious to the positive Christian sense of terms such as original sin and its consequences, redemption, the cross, the need for prayer, voluntary sacrifice, chastity, sobriety, obedience, humility, penance, poverty, etc. New evangelization, in fidelity to the doctrine of the faith constantly taught by the Church and with a strong sense of responsibility with regard to the vocabulary of Christian doctrine, must discover means of expressing itself to the contemporary world so as to help it rediscover the profound meaning of these Christian and human terms. In this effort, new evangelization cannot discard the established formulations of faith which have already been arrived at and which are summarized in the Creed.12

2. The necessary and indispensable role of priests

While the Pastors of the Church "know that they themselves were not established by Christ to undertake alone the whole salvific mission of the Church to the world",13 they do exercise an absolutely indispensable evangelizing role. New evangelization needs urgently to find a form for the exercise of the priestly ministry really consonant with contemporary conditions so as to render it effective and capable of adequately responding to the circumstances in which it is exercised. This, however, can only be done by constant reference to Christ, our only model, who enables us to move in contemporary conditions without losing sight of our final goal. Genuine pastoral renewal is not motivated solely by socio-cultural considerations but, more importantly, by a burning love for Christ and his Church. The end of all our efforts is the definitive Kingdom of Christ, recapitulation of all created things in him. This will only be fully achieved at the end of time but already it is present through the power of the life-giving Spirit through whom Jesus Christ constituted his body, the Church, as universal sacrament of salvation.14

Christ, head of the Church and Lord of all creation, continues his salvific work among men. The ministerial priesthood is properly located within this operative framework. In drawing all things to himself (cf. Jn 12:32), Christ desires to involve his priests in a special way. This is the divine plan (God wills that the Church and her ministers should be involved in the work of redemption) which, although evident from a doctrinal and theological perspective, can be particularly difficult for modern man to accept. Sacramental mediation and the hierarchical structure of the Church are often questioned today. The need for sacramental mediation or for the hierarchical structure of the Church as well as the reasons for them are also called into question.

As the life of Christ was consecrated to the authentic proclamation of the loving will of the Father (cf. Jn 17:4; Heb 10:7-10) so too the life of priests should be consecrated, in his name, to the same proclamation. "In word and deed" (cf. Acts 1:1) the Messiah devoted his public life to preaching with authority (cf. Mt 7:29). Such authority derived, in the first place, from his divine condition but also, in the eyes of the people, from his sincere, holy and perfect example. Likewise, the priest is obliged to complement the objective spiritual authority which is his in virtue of sacred ordination15 with a subjective authority deriving from sincerity and holiness of life,16 and that pastoral charity which manifests the love of Christ.17 Gregory the Great’s exhortation to his priests is still relevant: "The Pastor must be pure in thought, exemplary in his actions, discreet in his silence and useful in his words. He should be close to all in his compassion and, above all, dedicated to contemplation. He should be the humble ally of all who do good. In justice, he should be inflexibly opposed to the vice of sinners. He should neither neglect the interior life through exterior preoccupations nor omit provision of exterior needs through solicitude for interior good".18

In our times, as always in the Church, "heralds of the Gospel are needed who are expert in humanity, profoundly knowing the head of contemporary man, who share his joys and hopes, his fears and sorrows, and, at the same time, who are contemplatives in love with God". The Holy Father, specifically referring to the re-christianization of Europe but in terms valid everywhere, affirms that "the saints were the great evangelizers of Europe. We must pray the Lord to increase the spirit of holiness in the Church and to send saints to evangelize the contemporary world".19 Many of our contemporaries, it must not be forgotten, arrive at ideas of Christ and the Church above all through their contact with her sacred ministers. Hence the need for their authentic witness to the Gospel becomes all the more pressing since it is "a living and transparent image of Christ the priest".20

In the context of Christ’s saving action, two inseparable objectives can be highlighted: an intellectual objective, on the one hand, which seeks to teach, instruct the crowds without shepherds (cf. Mt 9:36) and move the intelligence towards conversion (cf. Mt 4:17), and, on the other, the desire to move the hearts of those who listened to him to sorrow and penance for their sins thereby opening the way to divine forgiveness. This continues to be true today: "the call to new evangelization is primarily a call to conversion"21 and when the Word of God has taught the intellect of man and moved his will to reject sin evangelizing activity attains its goal in fruitful participation in the sacraments, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. Paul VI taught that "the role of evangelization is precisely to educate people in the faith in such a way as to lead each individual Christian to live the sacraments of faithóand not to receive them passively or reluctantly".22

Evangelization consists of proclamation, witness, dialogue and service. It is based on three inseparable elements: preaching the Word, sacramental ministry and leading the faithful.23 Preaching would be senseless unless it include continuous formation of the faithful and Participation in the sacraments. Likewise, participation in the sacraments without sincere conversion of heart, full acceptance of the faith and of the principles of Christian morality is also meaningless. From a pastoral perspective, the primary action of evangelization is, logically, considered to be preaching.24 From the perspective of intentionality, however, the primary element of evangelization must be celebration of the sacraments, especially of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist.25 The integrity of the pastoral ministry of priests in the service of new evangelization is to be found, however, in a harmonious fusion of both of these functions.

Ecumenical formation of the faithful is another aspect of new evangelization of growing importance. The Second Vatican Council encouraged all the faithful "to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism" and "to esteem the truly Christian endowments of our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren."26 At the same time, however, it must be noted that "nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its genuine and certain meaning".27 Priests should ensure that ecumenism is always conducted in fidelity to the principles established by the Magisterium of the Church, avoid divisions and promote harmonious continuity.

Questionnaire on Chapter One

1. Is the need for and urgency of new evangelization really felt in our ecclesial communities and. especially among our priests?

2. Is it frequently preached? Does new evangelization feature at clergy meetings, in pastoral programmes and in continuing formation?

3. Are priests especially involved in promoting a new evangelizing mission new in its "ardour, methods and expression"28 both ad intra and ad extra in the Church?

4. Do the faithful regard the priesthood as a divine gift both for those who receive it and for, their communities, or do they regard the priesthood merely as an administrative function? Are prayers for vocations to the priesthood sufficiently encouraged as well as prayers for that generosity which responds affirmatively to a vocation?

5. In preaching the Word of God and in catechesis is the necessary proportion between instruction in the faith and sacramental practice maintained? Is the evangelizing activity of priests characterized by a complementarity between preaching and sacraments, the "munus docendi" and the "munus sanctificandi"?

6. What can be done to help priests become ministers who harmoniously build the prophetic, liturgical and charitable community which is the Church?

7, From the preparations for the Great Jubilee of 2000 do priests derive opportunities and ideas for, a realistic programme of new evangelization?


Teachers of the Word

‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation’ (Mk 16:15)

1. Priests, ministers of the Word ‘nomine Christi et nomine Ecclesiae’

A correct understanding of the pastoral ministry of the Word begins with a consideration of God’s divine Revelation in itself. "By this revelation, the invisible God (cf. Col 1: 15; 1 Tm 1: 17), from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends (cf. Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15) and moves among them in order to invite and receive them into his company".29 The proclamation of the Kingdom in Scripture not only speaks of the glory of God but also spreads that same glory by its very proclamation. The Gospel preached by the Church is not just a message but a divine and life-giving experience for those who believe, hear, receive and obey the message.

Revelation, therefore, is not limited to instruction about God who lives in inaccessible light since it also recounts the marvelous things that God does for us with his grace. The revealed Word, made present and actualized "in" and "through" the Church, is an instrument through which Christ acts in us with his Spirit. It is both judgment and grace. In hearing the Word, the actual encounter with God himself calls to the heart of man and demands a decision which is not arrived at solely through intellectual knowledge but which requires conversion of heart.

"It is the first task of priests as co-workers of the Bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all men… [so as to]… set up and increase the People of God".30 Precisely because preaching the Gospel is not merely an intellectual transmission of a message but "the power of God for the salvation of all who believe" (Rom 1:16), accomplished for all time in Christ, its proclamation in the Church requires from its heralds a supernatural basis which guarantees its authenticity and its effectiveness. The proclamation of the Gospel by the sacred ministers of the Church is, in a certain sense, a participation in the salvific character of the Word itself, not only because they speak of Christ, but because they proclaim the Gospel to their hearers with that power to call which comes from their participation in the consecration and mission of the incarnate Word of God. The words of the Lord still resound in the ears of his ministers: "Whosoever listens to you listens to me; whosoever despises you despises me" (Lk 10: 16). Together with St Paul they can testify: "the Spirit we have received is not the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit, helping us to recognize the gifts he has given us: We speak of these not in words of human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, thus interpreting spiritual things in spiritual terms" (1 Cor 2:12-13).

Proclaiming the Gospel is a ministry deriving from the sacrament of Orders and is exercised by the authority of Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all the acts of sacred ministers in the same way. In the administration of the sacraments this guarantee is assured to the extent that not even the sinful condition of a minister can impede the fruit of grace. There are many other acts in which the human qualities of the minister acquire notable importance. Those qualities can serve to promote or impede the apostolic effectiveness of Church.31 While the entire munus pastorale must be characterized by service, it is especially necessary that service characterize the minister of preaching since the salvific effectiveness of the Word becomes more operative when its minister, who is never master of the Word, increasingly becomes its servant.

Service demands a personal dedication on the part of the minister to the preached Word. Such dedication ultimately is made to God "to whom I render worship in my heart by preaching the Gospel of his Son" (Rom 1:9). The minister may not place obstacles in its path by pursuing objectives extraneous to its mission, or relying on human wisdom, or by promoting subjective experiences that can obscure the Gospel. The Word of God can never be manipulated. Rather, preachers "should firstly become personally familiar with the Word of God… and be the first "believers" in the Word, fully conscious that the words of their preaching are not their own, but those of the one who sent them".32

There is an essential relationship between personal prayer and preaching. From meditating on the Word of God in personal prayer comes that spontaneous "primacy of witness of life which discovers the power of the love of God and makes his word convincing.33 Effective preaching is another fruit of personal prayer. Such preaching is effective not only because of its speculative coherence but because it comes from a prayerful, sincere heart which is aware that sacred ministers are bound not to impart their own wisdom but the Word of God and ceaselessly to invite all to conversion and holiness".34 The preaching of Christ’s sacred ministers, to be effective, requires that it be based on their spirit of filial prayer: "sit orator antequam dictor".35

Personal prayer provides priests with support and encouragement for their sense of the ministry, their vocation in life, and for their living and apostolic faith. In personal prayer they draw daily zeal for evangelization. Once personally convinced of this, it is translated into persuasive, coherent and convincing preaching. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours thus is not simply a matter of personal piety nor is it the totality of the Church’s public prayer. It is of great pastoral use36 since it is a special opportunity to interiorize and become familiar with biblical, patristic, theological and magisterial teaching which can subsequently be returned to the People of God through preaching.

2. Towards an effective proclamation of the Word

New evangelization has to underline the importance of bringing to maturity the meaning of the baptismal vocation of the faithful, thereby bringing the faithful to an awareness that they have been called by God closely to follow Christ and personally to collaborate in the Church’s mission. "Transmitting the faith means awakening, proclaiming and deepening the Christian vocation, that is, God’s call to all men as he makes known to them the mystery of salvation…".37 The task of preaching, therefore, is to present Christ to all men because he alone, "the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling".38

New evangelization together with a vocational sense of existence go hand in hand for the Christian. This is the "good news" which must be preached to the faithful without any reductionism in what concerns its goodness and the demands which are made in accomplishing it. It must always be remembered that "the Christian is certainly bound by need and by duty to struggle with evil through many afflictions and to suffer death; but as one who has been made a partner in the paschal mystery and configured to the death of Christ, he will go forward, strengthened by hope, to the resurrection".39

New evangelization demands a zealous ministry of the Word which is complete and well-founded. It should have a clear theological, spiritual, liturgical and moral content, while bearing in mind the needs of those men and women whom it must reach. This is not to succumb to any temptation to intellectualism which could obscure rather than enlighten the intelligence of Christians; rather it requires a genuine intellectual charity through continuous patient catechesis on the fundamentals of Catholic faith and morals and on their influence on the spiritual life. Christian instruction is foremost among the spiritual works of mercy: salvation comes by knowing Christ since "there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Catechetical proclamation cannot be achieved without use of a solid theology since it requires not only presentation of revealed doctrine but also formation of the intelligence and conscience of the faithful by means of revealed doctrine so that they can authentically live the demands of their baptismal calling. New evangelization will be achieved not only in the measure that the Church as a whole and its institutions but each and every Christian live the faith authentically, thereby giving credible witness to that same faith.

Evangelizing means announcing and spreading the contents of revealed truth by every available good and congruent means (Christological and Trinitarian faith, the meaning of the dogma of creation, the eschatological truths the doctrine concerning the Church, man, the sacraments and other means of salvation). It is also important to teach people how concretely to translate these truths into life by means of spiritual and moral formation so that they become a witness to life and missionary commitment.

The task of spiritual and theological formation (and that of permanent formation of priests, deacons and the lay faithful) is both inescapable and enormous. Hence, the ministry of the Word and its ministers must be able to respond to current circumstances. While its effectiveness is essentially dependent on the help of God, it also requires the highest possible degree of human perfection. A renewed doctrinal, theological and spiritual proclamation of the Christian message, aimed primarily to enthuse and purify the conscience of the baptized, cannot be achieved through irresponsible or indolent improvisation. Less still can it be brought about if there is an unwillingness on the part of priests to assume directly their responsibilities for the proclamation of the Gospelóespecially those relating to the homiletic ministry which cannot be delegated to the non-ordained40 nor easily entrusted to those ill-prepared for its exercise.

Preaching, as always has been insisted, requires the priest to give particular attention to the importance of remote preparation. This can be concretized by such things as study and the pursuit of those things which can help the sacred ministers in their preparation. Pastoral sensitivity on the part of preachers must always be aware of the problems preoccupying the contemporary world and be able to identify possible solution for them. "Moreover, if priests are to give adequate answers to the problems discussed by people at the present time, they should be well-versed in the statements of the Church’s magisterium and especially those of the Councils and the Popes. They should also consult the best approved writers in theology"41 as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Insistence must also be placed on the importance of the permanent formation of the clergy and especially on its content which should be in accord with the Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests.42 Efforts in this regard will always reap a rich harvest. In addition to the foregoing, attention must be given to the proximate preparation needed to preach the Word of God. Apart from exceptional circumstances where nothing else is possible, humility and industry require, at the very least, a careful plan of what the priest intends to preach.

The principle source for preaching is naturally Sacred Scripture, deeply meditated in personal prayer and assimilated through study and adequate contact with suitable books.43 Pastoral experience well demonstrates the capacity of the power and eloquence of the sacred text to stir the hearts of those who hear it. The Fathers of the Church and the other great writers of the Catholic tradition teach us how to penetrate the meaning of the revealed Word and communicate it to others.44 This is far removed from any form of "biblical fundamentalism" or mutilation of the divine message. The pedagogy with which the Church reads, interprets and applies the Word of God throughout the liturgical seasons should also be a point of reference for preaching. The lives of the saints, their struggles and heroism, have always produced positive effects in the hearts of the Christian faithful who, today, have special need of the heroic example of the saints in their self-dedication to the love of God and, through God, to others. Reference to the lives of the saints has renewed significance in contemporary circumstances where the faithful are often assailed by equivocal values and doctrines. All of these are helpful for evangelization as indeed is the promotion of a sense of the love of God among the faithful, a solidarity with everyone and spirit of service and generous self-giving for others. Christian conscience comes to maturity through constant reference to charity.

The priest should also cultivate the formal aspects of preaching. We live in an information era characterized by rapid communication. We frequently hear experts and specialists on the television and radio. In a certain sense the priest (who is also a social communicator) has to compete with these when he preaches to the faithful. Hence his message must be presented in an attractive manner. His apostolic spirit should move him to acquire competence in the use of the "new pulpits" provided by modern communications and ensure that his preaching is always of a standard congruent with the preached Word. Universities today have witnessed a resurgence of interest in rhetoric. A similar interest should be aroused among priests as well as a desire to acquire a noble and dignified self-presentation and poise like that of Christ, priestly preaching should be positive, stimulating and draw men and women to the goodness, beauty and truth of God. Christians are bound to make known "the divine glory which shines on the face of Christ" (2 Cor 4:6) and present revealed truth in a captivating way. Is it not impossible to deny the strong attractive, though serene, nature of Christian existence? There is nothing to fear in this. "From the moment when, in the Paschal Mystery, she received the gift of the ultimate truth about man’s life, the Church has made her way along the path of the world proclaiming that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). It is her duty to serve humanity in different ways, but one way in particular imposes a responsibility of a quite special kind: the diaconia of service to the truth".45

Elegant accurate language, comprehensible to contemporary men and women of all social backgrounds, is always useful for preaching. Banal commonplace language should be eschewed.46 While preachers must speak from an authentic vision of faith, a vocabulary must be employed which is comprehensible in all quarters and must avoid specialized jargon or concessions to the spirit of materialism. The human "key" to effective preaching of the Word is to be found in the professionalism of the preacher who knows what he wants to say and who is always backed up by serious remote and proximate preparation. This is far removed from the improvisation of the dilettante. Attempts to obscure the entire force of truth are insidious forms of irenicism. Care should therefore be taken with the meaning of words, style and diction. Important themes should be highlighted, without ostentation, after careful reflection. A pleasant speaking voice should be cultivated. Preachers should know their objectives and have a good understanding of the existential and cultural reality of their congregations. Theories and abstract generalizations must always be avoided. Hence every preacher should know his own flock well and use an attractive style which, rather than wounding people, strikes the conscience and is not afraid to call things for what they really are.

Priests engaged in different pastoral tasks should help each other with fraternal advice on these and other matters such as the content of preaching and its theological and linguistic quality, style, the duration of homiliesówhich should always be reasonable, the proper use of the ambo, the development of an unaffected normal tone of voice and its inflection while preaching. Humility is necessary if the priest is to be helped by his brother priests and, indirectly, by the faithful who cooperate in his pastoral activities.

Questionnaire on Chapter Two

8. Do we really appreciate the real effect of the ministry of the Word on the life of our communities? Are we anxious to use this essential instrument of evangelization with the best possible professionalism?

9. Is sufficient attention given to perfecting the diverse forms of proclamation of the Word in permanent formation courses?

10. Are priests encouraged to study sound theology and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, the Doctors of the Church and of the Saints? Are positive efforts made to know and make known the great masters of Christian spirituality?

11. Is the formation of good libraries for priests, encouraged which reflect a solid doctrinal outlook?

12. Is it possible locally to access libraries available on the Internet? Are priests aware of the electronic library which has been set up by the Congregation for the Clergy (www.clerus.org)?

13. Do priests use the catechesis and teaching of the Holy Father and the various documents published by the Holy See?

14. Is there an awareness of the necessity to train people (priests, permanent deacons, religious and laity) capable of using well the means of communication which are key aspects of the evangelization of contemporary culture?


Ministers of the Sacraments

‘Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God’ (1 Cor 4: 1)

1. ‘In persona Christi Capitis

"The Church’s mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity".47 This sacramental dimension of the whole mission of the Church springs from her very nature as a reality which is "both human and divine, visible, yet endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world but as a pilgrim".48 In the context of the Church as "universal sacrament of salvation",49 in which Christ "manifests and actualizes the mystery of God’s love for men",50 the sacraments, privileged moments in communicating the divine life to man, are at the very core of priestly ministry. Priests are especially conscious of being living instruments of Christ, the Priest. Their function, in virtue of sacramental character, is that of men complying with the action of God through shared instrumental effectiveness.

Configuration to Christ in sacramental ordination places the priest at the heart of God’s people. It allows him to participate in a way proper to him, and in conformity with the whole structure of the ecclesial community, in the triple munus Christi. The priest, acting in "persona Christi Capitis", feeds the flock, the people of God, and leads them to sanctity.51 Hence the need for credible witness to the faith in all aspects of priestly life and in his respect for and celebration of the sacraments.52 The classic doctrine, repeated by the Second Vatican Council, must always be borne in mind: "while it is true that God can accomplish the work of salvation through unworthy ministers, God nevertheless, ordinarily prefers to manifest his greatness through those who are more docile to the promptings and direction of the Holy Spirit, so much so that they can say of the apostolate, thanks to their own intimate union with Christ and holiness of life: ‘it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me’" (Gal 2:20).53

Priests, in celebrating the sacraments, act as ministers of Christ and, through the Holy Spirit, participate in his priesthood in a special way.54 Hence the sacraments are moments of worship of singular importance for new evangelization. It must be recalled that they have become the only effective moments for transmitting the contents of the faith. While this is true for all the faithful it is even more true for those who, having lost the practice of the faith, occasionally participate in the liturgy for family or social reasons (baptisms, confirmations, marriages, ordinations, funerals etc.). A credible life-style on the part of priests should be complemented "with a high standard of ceremony and liturgical celebration":55 it should not seek spectacle but truly ensure that "the human is directed toward and subordinate to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, this present world to the city yet to come".56

2. Ministers of the Eucharist: core of priestly ministry

"Jesus called his Apostles ‘friends’. He also calls us friends since we share in his priesthood by virtue of the Sacrament of Orders…. Could Jesus have expressed his friendship for us in a more eloquent way than by allowing us, priests of the New Covenant, to act in his name, to act in persona Christi Capitis? This is what happens in all our priestly service, when we administer the sacraments and especially when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. We repeat the words spoken by him over the bread and wine, and, through our ministry we effect the same consecration as effected by Christ. Can there be a more complete expression of friendship than this? This is what is at the very core of our priestly ministry".57

New evangelization must also signal a new clarity about the centrality of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the entire Christian life, to the faithful.58 "No Christian community can be built up unless it grow from and hinges on to the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist"59 because "the other sacraments and indeed all ecclesial ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed toward it. For in the most Blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church".60

The Eucharist is also the object of the pastoral ministry. The faithful must participate in it if they are to draw fruit from it. While it is necessary to inculcate a "worthy, careful and fruitful" preparation for the liturgy among the laity, it is also necessary to bring them to an awareness that they are "invited and led to offer themselves, their works and all creation with Christ. For this reason the Eucharist appears as the source and summit of all preaching of the Gospel".61 From this truth many consequences follow for the pastoral ministry.

Formation of the faithful concerning the essence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar is vitally important as is the need to encourage them to participate fruitfully in the Eucharist.62 Insistence must be made on the observance of the Sunday obligation63 and on frequent, if not daily, participation in the celebration of the Mass and Holy Communion. Emphasis must be placed on the grave obligation to fulfil the spiritual and corporeal conditions governing reception of the Body of Christ especially individual sacramental confession for those conscious that they are not in a state of grace. The strength of Christian life in every particular Church and parish community depends, in large measure, on rediscovery of the great gift of the Eucharist in faith and adoration. When the link between daily life and the Eucharist is not clearly manifested in the priest’s doctrinal teaching, preaching and life, participation begins to fall into abeyance.

In this respect, the example of the priest-celebrant is fundamentally important: "celebrating the Eucharist well is an important form of primary catechesis on the Holy Sactifice".64 While this is not the immediate intention of the priest, it is important for the faithful to see him prepare well by recollecting himself before celebrating the Holy Sacrifice. They should be able to witness the love and devotion that he has for the Eucharist and, following his example, they should learn to remain, for a while, in thanksgiving after Holy Communion.

While an essential part of the Church’s work of evangelization is to teach men and women to pray to the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit, new evangelization entails the recovery and consolidation of pastoral practices which manifest belief in the real presence of Our Lord under the eucharistic species. "The priest has a mission to promote the cult of the eucharistic presence, also outside of the celebration of the Mass, thereby making of his own church a Christian ‘house of prayerí".65 The faithful should be well instructed with regard to the indispensable conditions for the reception of Holy Communion. It is important to encourage their devotion to Christ who awaits them in the tabernacle. A simple but effective form of eucharistic catechesis is the material care of everything concerned with the church and especially the altar and tabernacle: cleanliness and decor, worthy vestments and vessels, care in celebrating the liturgical ceremonies,66 genuflection etc. An atmosphere of recollection should pervade the Blessed Sacrament chapel. This is a centuries — old tradition guaranteeing that silence which facilitates dialogue with the Lord. The heart of our churches is the Blessed Sacrament chapel or the area in which the Eucharistic Christ is reserved and adored. Access to it should be evident and easily facilitated. It should be open for as much of the day as possible and it should be well decorated.

All these are signs deriving not from some form of "spiritualism" but from a well-tested theological tradition of devotion to the Blessed Eucharist. They are possible only if the priest is a man of prayer and genuinely devoted to the Holy Eucharist. Only the pastor who prays will know how to teach others to pray and bring God’s grace on those in his pastoral charge, thereby evincing conversions, more fervent resolution for life, priestly vocations and special consecration. Only the priest who has daily experience of the "conversatio in castes" and whose life is motivated by friendship with Christ can make genuine advances towards authentic and renewed evangelization.

3. Ministers of Reconciliation with God and the Church

In a world in which the sense of sin has declined67 it is most necessary to insist that lack of love for God obscures our perception of the reality of sin and evil. The initiation of conversion, not just as a momentary interior act but as a stable disposition, begins with authentic knowledge of God’s merciful love. Those who come to know and see God in this way cannot live other than in continual conversion toward him. Thus they live in a state of conversion".68 Penance is an essential constituent of the patrimony in the ecclesial life of the baptized. It is, however, marked by the hope of pardon: "you who were once excluded from mercy have now received mercy" (1 Pt 2:10).

New evangelization calls for renewed efforts to bring the faithful to the Sacrament of Penance.69 This pastoral task is absolutely indispensable. The sacrament of Penance "opens the way for everyone, especially those borne down by grave sin, individually to experience mercy, that love which is stronger than sin".70 We should never fail to encourage and promote the sacrament while striving intelligently to renew and revitalize age-old beneficial Christian traditions. As a first step, with the help of the Holy Spirit, this should bring the faithful to that conversion which leads to sincere and contrite recognition of those moral flaws or deficiencies found in everyone’s daily life. It is essential to insist upon the importance of frequent individual confession in arriving, where possible, at authentic personal spiritual direction.

Without confusing the sacramental moment with spiritual direction, priests should know how to identify opportunities to initiate spiritual dialogue outside of the celebration of the Sacrament. "Rediscovery and promotion of this practice, also during the various moments of the Sacrament of Penance, is a major benefit for the contemporary Church".71 Such leads to an awakening of the sense and effectiveness of the Sacrament and creates the conditions necessary to overcome the present crisis. Personal spiritual direction forms true apostles, capable of activating new evangelization in society. The success of the mission to re-evangelize so many of the faithful who are estranged from the Church requires a solid formation for those who have remained close to her.

New evangelization depends on an adequate number of priests; experience teaches that many respond positively to a vocation because of spiritual direction as well as the example given by priests who are interiorly and exteriorly faithful to their priestly identity. "In his pastoral work each priest will take particular care concerning vocations, encouraging prayer for vocations, doing his best in the work of catechetics and taking care of the formation of ministers. He will promote appropriate initiatives through a personal rapport with those in his care, allowing him to discover their talents and to single out the will of God for them, permitting a courageous choice in following Christ…. It is desirable that every priest be concerned with inspiring at least one priestly vocation which could thus continue the ministry".72

Giving the faithful a real possibility of coming to confession implies much dedication.73 Fixed times during which the priest is available in the confessional are warmly to be encouraged. They should be well publicized and availability on the priest’s part should not be just theoretical. Sometimes the mere fact of having to search for a confessor is sufficient to delay or postpone confession. The faithful, on the other hand, willingly approach the sacrament in places where they know confessors are available.74 Parish churches and those open for public worship should have a good, well-lit confessional chapel, suitable for hearing confessions. A regular organized schedule of confessions should be provided and implemented by the priests. In order to facilitate the faithful in their desire to approach the Sacrament care should be taken to maintain the confessionals by frequent cleaning, ensuring that they are clearly visible and by affording the possibility of using a grille to those who wish to remain anonymous.75

It is not always easy to maintain these pastoral practices, but this is no excuse to overlook their pastoral effectiveness or not to reinstitute them where they have fallen into disuse. Cooperation between the diocesan clergy and religious should be encouraged so as to ensure this pastoral priority. In the same context, recognition must be given to the daily service provided in the confessional by many older priests who are true masters of the spiritual life in the various Christian communities.

This service to the Church would, of course, be more easily accomplished when priests themselves are the first to approach the Sacrament of Penance regularly.76 Personal recourse to the Sacrament by the priest, as penitent, is an indispensable condition for a generous ministry of Reconciliation.

"All priestly existence undergoes an inexorable decline if the priest, through negligence or whatever other reason, neglects frequent recourse, inspired by genuine faith and devotion, to the Sacrament of Penance. If a priest no longer goes to confession or makes a bad confession, very quickly this will affect his priestly ministry and be noticed by the community of which he is pastor".77

"The ministry of priests is above all communion and a responsible and necessary cooperation with the Bishop’s ministry, in concern for the universal Church and for the individual particular Churches, for whose service they form with the Bishop a single presbyterate".78 The brethren in the presbyterate should always be the special object of the priest’s pastoral charity, by helping them materially and spiritually, by affording the opportunity for confession and spiritual direction, by encouraging their service, by helping them in their necessities, by offering fraternal support in their difficulties, old-age or infirmity. This is truly an area for the exercise of priestly virtue.

Pastoral prudence is a fundamental virtue for fruitful exercise of the ministry of Reconciliation. Thus when the minister imparts absolution he participates as an effective instrument in the sacramental action. His task in the penitential rites is to place the penitent before Christ, thereby facilitating an encounter of mercy with the utmost discretion. Disagreements which do not take into account the reality of sin should be avoided. Hence the confessor should have opportune knowledge.79 However, the penitential dialogue should always be imbued with that understanding which gradually leads to conversion. It should not, however, lapse into a so-called graduality of moral norms".

When the practice of confession diminishes, in some cases to the detriment of the moral life and the conscience of the faithful, the danger sometimes arises of a decline in the theological and pastoral quality of the exercise of the ministry of confession. Confessors should always pray to the Paraclete for the ability to fill this salvific moment:80 with supernatural meaning and to transform it into an authentic encounter with the all merciful and forgiving Jesus for the penitent. He should also avail himself of confession to form the conscience of the faithful correctlyóan extremely important taskóby asking, where necessary, those questions which secure the integrity of confession and the validity of the sacrament. He should help the penitent to thank God for his mercy and assist him in making a firm purpose of amendment for his conduct of the moral life. He should never fail to encourage the penitent appropriately, offering him comfort and motivating him to do works of penance which are satisfaction for his sins and which help him to grow in virtue.

Questionnaire on Chapter Three

15. The essence and saving meaning of the sacraments are invariable. Starting out from a firm conviction of this position, how can sacramental pastoral care be renewed and how can it be placed at the service of new evangelization?

16. Is our particular community a "Church of Eucharist and Penance"? Is eucharistic devotion in all its form nourished and promoted? Is the practice of personal confession facilitated and encouraged?

17. Is habitual reference made to the real, presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle and, for example, is the fruitful practice of visiting the Blessed Sacrament encouraged? Are there frequent acts of eucharistic worship? Do our Churches have an atmosphere which encourages prayer before the

The Editors