John Paul II wrote this section for priests. I have no doubt it is lensed through his personal experiences and his obvious devotion to the celebration of Mass, as we’ve seen on so many occasions in his public ministry.
31. If the Eucharist is the center and summit of the Church’s life, it is likewise the center and summit of priestly ministry. For this reason, with a heart filled with gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ, I repeat that the Eucharist “is the principal and central raison d’être of the sacrament of priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist”. (Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 2: AAS 72 (1980), 115.)
If more clergy placed the Eucharist more at the center of their ministry, it would not be a lessening of their fruitfulness as ministers of the Gospel. Unfortunately, many American priests see themselves as administrators. Governors, if you will. Schools, parking lots, managers, fundraisers–sometimes more so than spiritual leaders in the sacraments.
Priests are engaged in a wide variety of pastoral activities. If we also consider the social and cultural conditions of the modern world it is easy to understand how priests face the very real risk of losing their focus amid such a great number of different tasks. The Second Vatican Council saw in pastoral charity the bond which gives unity to the priest’s life and work. This, the Council adds, “flows mainly from the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is therefore the centre and root of the whole priestly life”. (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 14.) We can understand, then, how important it is for the spiritual life of the priest, as well as for the good of the Church and the world, that priests follow the Council’s recommendation to celebrate the Eucharist daily: “for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and the Church”. (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 13; cf. Code of Canon Law 904; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches 378.) In this way priests will be able to counteract the daily tensions which lead to a lack of focus and they will find in the Eucharistic Sacrifice – the true center of their lives and ministry – the spiritual strength needed to deal with their different pastoral responsibilities. Their daily activity will thus become truly Eucharistic.
From the outside of the priesthood looking in, I don’t think a daily celebration of the Eucharist is as essential as a deeper devotion to preparing the homily and rites for Sunday. Given the vast majority of Catholics who worship on Sunday over weekdays, that really needs to be more the focus of the priest’s ministry.
That said, a daily Mass is not going to be harmful, except in the situation where it becomes rote, and the priest relies too much on some notion of “magic” to replace the application of both his intellect and his spirit to his service of the people entrusted to him.
The centrality of the Eucharist in the life and ministry of priests is the basis of its centrality in the pastoral promotion of priestly vocations. It is in the Eucharist that prayer for vocations is most closely united to the prayer of Christ the Eternal High Priest. At the same time the diligence of priests in carrying out their Eucharistic ministry, together with the conscious, active and fruitful participation of the faithful in the Eucharist, provides young men with a powerful example and incentive for responding generously to God’s call. Often it is the example of a priest’s fervent pastoral charity which the Lord uses to sow and to bring to fruition in a young man’s heart the seed of a priestly calling.
John Paul II preaches what he himself practiced. Young people watch. Impressions are given, both positive and negative. Clearly, Pope John Paul II inspired many by his own example as priest, bishop, and pope. He certainly hopes other clergy will share in this particular fruitfulness of ministry.
For you priests out there, especially, what are you seeing in this section? Anything to add?