Priests Challenged To Be Nurtured & Nurturing

“In this community, Christ is both received and given in a visible way as befits a Sacrament. The Church is both the gathered community of the saved and the gathering community of those who bring salvation.”

These are the words of Liam Walsh, O.P. as quoted by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Cruz, SThD, in beginning his talk on “Nurtured and Nurturing: The Priest and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist He Celebrates” during the Symposium on the Priesthood and the Gospel of Mercy last June 13, 2016 at Santuario De San Paolo, Casa Milan.

“The receiving is the most important and lasting reality of the Church as Sacrament, but the giving has a certain logical priority; the community goes out to seek its members,” he continued to quote Walsh. “The giving of Christ in the Church is made possible by a series of ministries, both of the prophetic and priestly kind, which carry an authority that comes from the Kingly Power of Christ.

“But ultimately it is the receiving of grace that builds up the community in the likeness of Christ. Without the receiving, the Church would not be the Body of Christ. It would not be His Sacrament. The giving will end when He comes again, but the receiving will last forever, ” he added. This process of receiving and giving is likewise translated to the Priesthood being nurtured and nurturing.

Fr. Cruz, currently the Rector of the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary in Guiguinto, Bulacan, declared that the priest is nurtured by the Word of God; the Body and Blood of Christ; the Communion of the Faithful; and the Brotherhood of the Presbyterium.

As official and public proclaimer of the Word of God, he said there are two prerequisites: (1) The one who speaks must be one who listens. To proclaim God’s Word is, first of all, to commit to a life of a continually nurtured listener; (2)The commitment to embody the Word in one’s life–to allow that Word to shape his decisions, values, attitudes, behavior.

“Because he is a good listener, discerner, learner, the priest is able to proclaim, to disclose God’s presence, often hidden but always ‘there’ in the ordinary events of every day,” he explained. “He is able to interpret life–its joys and hopes, pains and possibilities–in the light of God’s word of healing presence and challenging judgment. And this is the heart of a good homily.”

Everything a priest does leads to the Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Christ are present. Fr. Cruz said that, “if the priest is to create an atmosphere of reverence at the Eucharistic Celebration–for Christ’s Presence–particularly and most eminently in the Eucharistified offerings, he must be very attentive to the Lord’s Presence in his own life.”

He added that the ordained are not holier than the rest but this presence, this closeness and intimacy link them to the Lord, “Lay people do not have this link.”

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Cruz, SThD during the Symposium on the Priesthood and the Gospel of Mercy

To be continually nurtured, he explained that the priest needs to make the effort to recognize the Lord in the Eucharistic assembly before Him.

“They are not just a crowd of nameless people filling the pews but rather the Body of Christ, His living presence in flesh and blood,” he said. “A presider who sees this will treat the assembly with greater care and reverence, and he will relate to them in a different, deeper way.”

Being nurtured also means a priest must value human friendships and intimacy in his life and ministry. He said, “Unless he knows how to relish and maintain human friendships, the priest will not have the fullest capacity to truly love our Lord and those whom he loves.”

He also put emphasis on a priest’s friendship and fraternity with his bishop and brother priests as imperative. He quoted from the Directory on the Ministry and Life and Priests that such friendship is considered “a privileged place in which the priest should be able to find the means of sanctification and evangelization and of being helped to overcome the limits and weaknesses which are proper to human nature and which are particularly felt today.”

Moving on the topic of nurturing, he said that, “every priest contracts a profound and abiding relationship to the Eucharist. He is ordained to act in the Person of Christ, to preside at the Eucharistic Banquet, leading the assembly to the nurturing and sanctifying meal in which the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is actively remembered.”

A priest thus becomes nurturing as a preacher by performing a meaningful and authentic celebration and leading the Communion in the Eucharist as place of sanctification. Fr. Cruz recalled Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium when he said that he considers liturgical preaching or homily as “an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s Word, a constant source of renewal and growth.”

“Preaching, therefore, cannot be reduced ‘to the presentation of one’s own thought, to the manifestation of personal experience, to simple explanation of a psychological, sociological or humanitarian nature, nor can it excessively concentrate on rhetoric, so often found in Mass Communication,” he added from the Directory.

Using Pope John Paul II’s words, he said: “People need ‘a prophet who can credibly proclaim a Word which cannot be altered, because it has been entrusted to the Church in order to protect, penetrate and faithfully transmit it.’”

Fr. Cruz added that the Gospel must challenge people’s complacency and upset consciences. In conclusion, he cautioned, “observing all these rubrics and liturgical rules does not necessarily mean that the priest is celebrating liturgy with meaning and authenticity.”

People, he concluded, also sense a mechanical, routine, “forced” manner of celebration by a tried, drained, lethargic presider, which, though validly and licitly done, failed to inspire, encourage, strengthen or even sanctify them. (~Lulu Reclusado-Nario)