The Unique Charism of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality explores the distinctive vocational grace of diocesan priests and their evangelizing of God's work, power, beauty and mystery linked from creation to eternity. Based on the experience of a Trappist monk who held to the simplicity of that life as a diocesan priest, it's both a spiritual and educational tool for priests, seminarians, church hierarchy, and laity in prospective or current church leadership positions.
From the Author
The persistent lack of guidance over the years was my motivation to write The Unique Charism of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality, a two-part book for diocesan priests and seminarians as well as lay leadership seeking to deepen their understanding of the role they play in God's plan.
This work steps out of the earthly realm and takes a fresh, appealing look at diocesan priestly vocations. Our unique calling as diocesan priests has hardly been explored. Most of the spirituality books I read about diocesan priesthood were authored by members of religious orders, clergy, sisters, brothers, and laypersons. The popes, as well as various diocesan priests, have offered us monographs over the years. This book is written foremost for diocesan priests and young men considering a vocation as a diocesan priest. However, the book is a spiritual educational tool for all religious men and women. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to Catholic institutions, specifically in the education and formation of seminarians. The book's audience includes all people who wish to deepen their Catholic faith, especially those in leadership roles.
The central thesis of The Unique Charism of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality is that we, like Jesus, walk on sacred ground. The manuscript is a creative, concrete recognition of the cosmological creational salvific and incarnational rooting of the Father's plan and carried out by diocesan priests today.
A diocesan priest's association with the sacredness of places and spaces is biblically based and rooted in the religious meanings presented in the Bible. Models for our holiness are found in the spaces of creation in Genesis, then Paradise with sin and loss, again within the space of the flood, the journeying space of Abraham, and Israel's promised freedom and resettlement. All are spatially grounded.
All existence in Jesus identifies the sacredness of space, territory, history, culture, and people's experience of the wonder of God.
The biblical authors identified God as a location Person-Being, with a localized identity, which manifested as a voice, cloud, figure, mountain, battle, journey, or temple. This connection and relationship with a geographical place were always a part of the background of Biblical encounters and personalities.
This book is based on the experience of one man who began his vocation as a Trappist monk and who held to the simplicity of that life as a diocesan priest. Admittedly, a few years have passed since I attended seminary. So, when I mention in the book that certain courses and ideas were not taught in the seminary, I apologize if that is no longer the case.
I pray the book conveys the hands-on experience gathered through the many years of counseling religious order and diocesan priests in positions I held as spiritual advisor, ombudsman for priests, and Episcopal vicar for clergy.
Blessed to send ten young men to seminary and five young women to convents, I penned the manuscript as if I were talking to those young men and women I encouraged over the years. Believing wholeheartedly in the need for continuing education for diocesan priests who are keenly aware that funding is elusive, I established an endowment to sponsor sabbaticals and spiritual education experiences for diocesan priests in my mission diocese.
The Unique Charism of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality speaks with diocesan priests and seminarians in a way that brings us as close to one another as if seated at my kitchen table for a one-on-one conversation. As I share my experience and many of the lessons learned with the reader, I hope they will find zeal or renewed zeal for their calling.
At eighteen years of age, I entered the monastery. It was 1951 when the bus dropped me off about a half-mile from the Abbey of Gethsemani. I trudged the long dirt road with my duffle bag over my shoulder and smiled as I passed through the gateway marked Pax Intranibus, meaning peace to all who enter. It was a prophetic welcome.
My time at the Abbey was a bit of heaven as I journeyed serenely, more inward with the Lord. We had few possessions at the monastery: a toothbrush and a rosary. We received some old work boots and had a small box along the wall that held work gloves, notebooks, and pencils. No one had personal possessions, and nothing extraneous.
On day one, novices received guidance in the form of Saint Benedict's instruction, which was the rule of our Religious Order and dates to the fifth century. We were also given a copy of the Constitutions of the Trappists to study.
At the monastery, I was very much in union with God. In total silence, I experienced contentment and inspiration such as I had never experienced before in my life.
Despite my contentedness, Our Lord had other plans for my life, my vocation. Forced to leave the monastery due to rheumatic fever in my third year, imagine my surprise when I later entered the diocesan priesthood and found no handbooks, no guidance available to the recently ordained. We were very much on our own.
The Unique Charism of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality draws upon my years of personal prayer, reflection, writing, and pastoring fourteen parish communities and eight missions in two historic dioceses. At times, the reader will discern that some thoughts come directly from my prayer journals over the years. I draw on my experience as a staff official under five bishops, including the roles of Vicar General, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, and ombudsman for both religious and diocesan priests. I was awarded the honorary title of Corps Colonel in recognition of fourteen years of military chaplaincy. Prayerfully, I was blessed to provide the oversight for the elevation of my 161-year-old parish, San Albino Church, to that of a Basilica. I received two levels of the title of Vatican Monsignor. Pope Benedict XVI gave me the title of Protonotary Apostolic.
More important than the recognition of any accomplishment in my life is the joyful way Christ led me to live my life in His service.
My experience is that the routines of Jesus' servant shepherding set the model for the diocesan spaces of our priesthood. Our priestly functioning has inclusivity that we have only just begun to realize.
Like Jesus, diocesan priests have circles of support on which they depend. Jesus had His disciples and followers, His Apostles, His family and close friends, and always His Father. Think of Holy Thursday. Jesus shared Passover with His Apostles, and they went out singing to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked His Apostles to pray with Him for one hour. Even Peter, James, and John could not stay awake with Jesus. In the end, Jesus was alone with His Father in the Garden.
It is much the same for priests. Parish priests have parishioners, parish councils, their bishop, fellow priests, and their close friends and family. Ultimately, like Jesus, diocesan priests find the solace they seek when they find quiet intimacy with God, our loving Father.
Just as Christ lived in a specific territory, culture, space, and place, diocesan priests are vowed and rooted in the holistic development of universal religious experience, wrapped geographically, historically, and creationally in the mystical seeking of the Trinity's divine beauty.
The Unique Charism of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality provides a prayerful study of the interrelatedness of ongoing cosmic existence with the interior spiritual visioning routines of all holiness and its communal environment. This holiness is expressed in evangelization and pastoral, devotional religiosity throughout creations' existence. Pope Francis urges protection of creation, which means respecting each of God's creatures as well as respecting the environment in which we exist. All gifts of nature deserve our reverence and respect.
Mother earth and cosmic existence support us with light, air, warmth, water, food, rest, and endless energies and interplays that we cannot comprehend. A profound ongoing cosmic reality is for us to understand humbly. It is not only in communications with our eyes, ears, sight, and gestures; it is also with music, sound, silence, and quiet that God speaks to us. Cosmic reality is the intellect of inner listening, visioning, remembering, and imagining that bring the wide-ranging word, of quiet divine presence, to us. It is not visible but profound and meant to allow us to discover God more deeply.
The entire network and intertwining of God's presence are the ways of cosmic reality and the spaces and experiences in which we live. These systems comprise a prodigious part of the underpinning of our faith discovery and experiences of the living God. God's way of communicating with us is an ongoing and endless experience of who we are and who He is.
I marvel at the messages of God that we experience. He speaks to us in smiles and whispers in the quiet of our hearts and the stillness of our souls.
The charisms of diocesan priestly spirituality are as unique as our individual calling to the priesthood. We all remember when Jesus first called to us. In my case, along with a priestly vocation, God graced me with the gift of hospitality as well as a special devotion to my fellow priests. My door is always open to my brothers. My living quarters witnessed many confessions, shared conversations, and counseling sessions over the years.
Like Jesus, diocesan priests live, work, walk, stand, kneel, and die in the space that God ordains for them. The diocesan priest reflects the...