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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Many Thanks to Our Catholic Priests!

by Edwin Rodrigues of Chandigarh, India
who can be found at @EdwinEd1667 on Twitter

In God’s perfect plan, nothing happens by
Pope Francis blessing the people
chance. Very often we talk of co-incidences but in recent times, I have come to believe that they really are God-incidences. 

The Ordination of a Priest is a mystery that even a priest cannot fully comprehend. Thank you Lord, for blessing us with Rev. Fr. Stephen Fernandes and Rev. Fr. Freddie Achan, my parish priests at Christ The King Cathedral, Chandigarh. 

God willed them to be here ...nourishing us with the Bread of Life, forgiving our sins, healing the sick, teaching  the faith, marrying our daughters and sons, burying our parents. 

It was ordained by God that these two ministers of His Word would carry out specific tasks which only they could perform. Without a priest, there is no Eucharist.

No priest, no Eucharist
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Fr. Stephen since 1977, when I was a young boy in St John's school Chandigarh. He has been blessed with a friendly demeanour and down-to-earth humility, which he uses to disguise his dignified office as priest. I can safely say on behalf of most of my class-mates that he made it very easy for us to go to confession. Every first Friday, he came to our school, absolved us of our sins, counselled us and offered Holy Mass.

Fr. Freddie, the first priestly vocation originating in Chandigarh, was also mentored by Fr. Stephen.  Earlier this year,  Fr Freddie shared his vivid memory of his own first confession with Fr. Stephen in 1980. He felt completely at ease. 

Fr Stephen is a gardener. He has a great love for the beauty of nature. It appears that Fr. Freddie's vocation -- nourished by his first
absolution --  is the fruit of Fr. Stephen's 
loving pastoral care.   The seed was planted by God Himself from all eternity but the germination, nourishment and blossoming of the  tree of priesthood occurred under Fr. Stephen's watchful eye. 

Pope Saint John Paul II also nurtured the tree of priesthood. Fr Freddie, who was sent to Rome for further studies, had the privilege of meeting and being in the presence of the great pope on numerous occasions. Fr. Freddie personally witnessed how devoted and eager Pope John Paul II was at encountering Jesus in the Sacrament of Mercy. If such a saintly pope could go for confession daily, how much more does a sinner like me stand in need of doing the same!

Fr Stephen’s posting at Chandigarh accounts for more than half the span of his life and it’ll be difficult for him to take up his cross (of a transfer) and follow Jesus. But when Jesus calls, there’s no power that can totally foil His plan. There can be stumbling blocks permitted by God but He gives sufficient grace to convert them into stepping stones for greater things. 

Fr Stephen will be a fisher of men at St. Joseph's Seminary at Kauli in Punjab. For the harvest in His Vineyard is plenty but the labourers are few! Jesus has called Fr. Freddie to Bhurewala, Haryana in the mission station he occupied in his earlier days as a priest. Both priests have carried out their duties here in Chandigarh zealously in season and out of season, whether convenient or inconvenient. Their work will bear much fruit in God’s own time even if we fail to recognize it. 

Most of the good things that priests do go unnoticed and we take them for granted. Do we really pray for them? Do we pray often
Pope Francis kisses a baby
and make sacrifices for them, who through their hands offer the One Sacrifice of Jesus Himself in every Holy Mass? 

If we don’t, we need to begin now. It’s the least we can do in return for the gift of our salvation nourished by the sacraments. Offering the Holy Rosary for all priests is a sure way of obtaining God’s protection. We pray for the intercession of Mother Mary, who leads us to her Son. He in turn shows us the Way to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Even Mother Mary and the Angels cannot
take bread and wine and turn them into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Only a Catholic Priest can do that. 

Most of us come to Mass and go home without really appreciating the fact that what has taken place on the Altar is a re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary. He died and rose once and for all, to restore our broken relationship with the Father, with Jesus Himself and the Holy Spirit. 

There is one important distinction: The sacrifice on the cross was bloody, while the sacrifice of the altar is an unbloody sacrifice.
Bottom line:  because of priests, we can have a foretaste of heaven right here on earth wherever a priest offers the Mass.

“Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is.” (St John Marie Vianney)

The job of every Priest is a thankless one. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: “All men are ready to pass judgment on the priest as if he was not being clothed with flesh, or one who inherited a human nature.” 

“O Priest, who are you?
You are not from yourself, because you are from nothing.
You are not directed to yourself, because you are a mediator for men.
You are not wed to yourself, because you are the spouse of The Church.
You are not your own, because you are the servant of all.
You are not yourself, because you are “God” [when playing the role of Jesus in the Sacraments].
Thus, you are nothing and yet everything.”
(St. Norbert)

27th June 2010.

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