The blessing cup that we bless is a communion with the Blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:16
Confreres should afford spiritual assistance to priests both in the work of their on-going formation and in promoting their pastoral zeal. They should work to encourage in them the desire of fulfilling the Church’s option for the poor. Constitutions, 15
The Congregation of the Mission responded to the urgent call of the Church and undertook the work of seminary formation. Our work, however, did not cease when those individuals were ordained. In many different ways the Congregation has reached out and offered assistance to the local clergy—preaching retreats, promoting charitable organizations, encouraging collaboration in the missions. All of these works are instruments that develop bonds of friendship between the diocesan clergy and the Little Company. The text cited above reminds us of this tradition and of the present need to strengthen those bonds, always taking into consideration the needs of the poor.
1. United by the Bond of Orders
Vatican II exhorts us to promote unity among priests—all priests—whether they be religious or diocesan. The Council puts forward the following theological foundation:
All priests, who are constituted in the rank of priesthood by the Sacrament of Orders, are bound together by an intimate sacramental brotherhood … For even though they may be assigned different duties, yet they fulfill one priestly service for people. Indeed, all priests are sent to cooperate in the same work. This is true whether the ministry they exercise be parochial or extra-parochial; whether their task be research or teaching; whether they engage in manual labor and share the lot of the workers … or whether they carry out other apostolic works or works directed towards the apostolate1.
2. Let Us Mutually Aid One Another and Collaborate in the Proclamation of the Truth
The motives mentioned in the first part of this reflection are concertized in the same document:
It is of great importance that all priests, whether diocesan or religious, should help each other, so that they might collaborate in the proclamation of the truth. Each is joined to the rest of the members of this priestly body by special bonds of apostolic charity, of ministry, and of brotherhood. From ancient times, this unity was symbolized liturgically when the priests, present at an ordination, imposed their hands, along with the bishop, on the head of those being ordained. This unity is further manifested at Eucharistic Concelebrations. Thus all priests are united with their brother priests by bonds of charity, prayer, and cooperation. In this way that unity which Christ prayed for and desired for his own disciples is made real. Finally, by this unity, the world comes to know that the Son has been sent by the Father2.
3. Unconditional Love Toward Our Brothers in Need
Charity and friendship with fellow priests should not be reduced to a simple comradely but should be directed toward enabling all to find joy in ministry and in their different pastoral works. We should be especially mindful of those priests who are troubled and experiencing difficulty in their vocation. Here it is good to reflect on the words of Vatican II:
Because of their common bond, priests ought to realize that they have an obligation towards other priests laboring under difficulties. They should offer timely help to them, even discreetly warning them when necessary. They ought always to treat with fraternal charity and compassion those who have failed in some way. They should pray earnestly to God for them and never cease to show themselves genuine brothers and friends to them3.
- Do I treat other priests with charity and respect? Am I willing to help them when I can?
- Am I willing to collaborate with other diocesan and religious priests?
- Do I seek ways to involve other priests in works that will be beneficial to the poor?
Father, you have appointed your Son Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest. Guide those you have chosen to be ministers of word and sacrament and help them to be faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have received. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.