Holy Year for Priests

By Archbishop Julian Porteous

The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi. In 2002 St John Paul II established this day as a day of prayer for the sanctification of priests. He commented, “We want today to give thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood, and to pray for the sanctification of all priests. We believe that the Merciful love of God that passes through the Heart of Jesus brought forth the great mystery of the priesthood.”

This year the Feast of the Sacred Heart will be celebrated on 24 June. In recent years I have encouraged priests to come together at Campbell Town for a Holy Hour at 3pm on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This practice has been interrupted by the COVID pandemic, but this year we are renewing the practice, and will gather at St Michael’s Church for an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

At the Chrism Mass this year I proposed to priests of the Archdiocese that we undertake a Holy Year for Priests, beginning on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, praying for the pastoral and spiritual needs of the people we serve. Christ described himself as the Good Shepherd in Chapter 10 of St John’s Gospel and he said that the Good Shepherd was prepared “to lay down his life for his sheep”. (Jn 10:14)

For Christ this meant his death on the cross, but for every priest it is a reminder that our lives are lives of sacrifice for the good of the people. It is true that the life of a priest is one of sacrifice. A priest gives over his life to serve the pastoral and spiritual needs of the people. He lives not for himself but to be an instrument of God’s saving grace for the people he serves. A priest seeks to imitate Christ who “came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many”. (Mt 20:28)

At the Chrism Mass I proposed that priests make each Friday a special penitential day and abstain from meat, and fast from food, having only one main meal, from alcohol and from television. I asked the priests to have a Holy Hour at 3pm, uniting themselves with Christ on the cross and praying particularly for the mercy of God to flow upon Tasmania.

We are all aware that our society is increasingly abandoning Christianity and that many Catholics have ceased to live a sacramental life. I am asking priests to pray for the people of Tasmania, and despite the many challenges we face “nothing is impossible to God”. (Lk 1:37)

Mentioning this in this editorial is an opportunity for all Catholics to appreciate the ministry of priests in their lives. The Church here in Tasmania is blessed with the faithful service of many wonderful priests. The ministry of the priest is often hidden and receives little public recognition. However, faithful Catholics are deeply grateful for their dedicated lives and know how much they have been helped and encouraged by priests in small and in significant ways.

It is my hope that this Holy Year for Priests will bring many graces upon the people of Tasmania and may also be a means for an increase in sanctification for the priests of the Archdiocese of Hobart.

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