Presybterorum Ordinis 14: A Healthy Balance in the Priestly Life

Continuing an examination of Presybterorum Ordinis, the Vatican II document on the Life and Ministry of Priests, section 14 treats the need for balance in a priest’s life. Reiterating previous points made on adhering one’s life to Christ and the Father’s will, of the importance of the Eucharist, PO acknowledges the rushed and hectic pace of modern life. (Remember, this was the mid-60′s; wasn’t life supposed to be a bit slower then?)

Priests … involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.

In reminding us “Christ works unceasingly through the Church,” it is important to make the distinction that none of us, not even priests, are Christ. We join with Christ, the document reads, to acknowledge God’s will. Being ever-present as God’s will unfolds on earth is not part of the plan, not for a human being anyway.

Priests will find satisfaction and happiness in their ministry, but two certain steps are necessary, according to the document:

1. Priests should “examine all their works and projects to see what is the will of God-namely, to see how their endeavors compare with the goals of the Gospel mission of the Church.”

2. Lone Rangers need not apply. Unity with bishops and brother priests dictate that nobody should be “operating in a vacuum and that they work in a strong bond of union with their bishops and brother priests.”

Elaborating a bit on this last point, Presybterorum Ordinis 9 already has laid down the principle that priests work with the laity as part of their ministry:

They must work together with the lay faithful, and conduct themselves in their midst after the example of their Master … They must willingly listen to the laity, consider their wants in a fraternal spirit, recognize their experience and competence in the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be able to recognize the signs of the times.

Clearly, the same must be said for the working relationship of a priest with the laity as is said concerning the bishop and priests. Indeed, the whole thrust of PO 14 is to teach that a priest’s very happiness and satisfaction in ministry is tied in with the notion of collaboration.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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