The Priesthood and communal life
nedict XVI address to the Fraternity of St. Charles
Feb. 13, 2011.
This is an excerpt
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Highlighted and with [commentary] for study of the Love Crucified Community 

On this occasion, I would like to respond to two questions that our meeting suggests: what is the place of the ordained priesthood in the life of the Church? What is the place of communal life in the priestly experience?

There is placed before our eyes a truth that was reaffirmed with particular clarity from the 18th century onward and that found a significant expression in the theology of Vatican II. I refer to the fact that the Christian priesthood is not an end in itself. It was willed by Christ in function of the birth and the life of the Church. Every priest can therefore say to the faithful: "Vobiscum christianus, pro vobis sacerdos" (With you I am a Christian. For you I am a priest.). The glory and joy of the priesthood is to serve Christ and his Mystical Body. It represents a very beautiful and singular vocation in the Church, which makes Christ present because it participates in the one and eternal priesthood of Christ. The presence of priestly vocations is a sure sign of the truth and the vitality of a Christian community [We are called to be such a Christian a community]. In fact God always calls, even to the priesthood; there is no true and fecund growth in the Church without an authentic priestly presence that sustains and nourishes it. So I am grateful to all those who dedicate their energies to the formation of priests and the reform of the priestly life.

Like all of the Church, in fact, the priesthood too must continually renew itself, rediscovering in the life of Jesus the most essential forms of its own being. The different possible roads of this renewal cannot forget some elements that must not be given up. Before all else a profound education in meditation and prayer, lived as a dialogue with the risen Lord present in his Church. In the second place a study of the of theology that permits an encounter with the Christian truths in the form of a synthesis linked to the life of the person and the community: only a sapiential outlook can see the value of the force that the faith possesses to illuminate life and the world, continually leading to Christ, Creator and Savior. [To find in Jesus the most essential forms of the priesthood calls for being both Priest and Victim as He is]

Value of Communal life
"It is important for priests not to live off on their own somewhere, but to accompany one another in small communities, to support one another, and so to experience, and constantly realize afresh, their communion in service to Christ and in renunciation for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven"  ("Light of the World," San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010, p. 149). The pressing matters of this moment are before your eyes. I think, for example, of the lack of priests. Communal life is not first of all a strategy for responding to these needs. Nor is it, in itself, only a form of help in the face of the solitude and weakness of man. All of this may certainly be true but only if it is conceived and lived as a path for immersing oneself in the reality of communion. Communal life is in fact an expression of the gift of Christ that is the Church, and it is prefigured in the apostolic community from which the priesthood arose. What the priest in fact administers does not belong to him. He rather participates with his brothers in a sacramental gift that comes directly from Jesus.

Communal life thus expresses a help that Christ provides for our life, calling us, through the presence of brothers, to an ever more profound conformity to his person. Living with others means accepting the need of my own continual conversion and above all discovering the beauty of such a journey, the joy of humility, of penance, but also of conversation, of mutual forgiveness, of mutual support. "Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum" (Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity) (Psalm 133:1).

No one can assume the regenerative power of communal life without prayer, without looking to the experience and teaching of the saints -- in a particular way the Fathers of the Church -- without a sacramental life lived with fidelity. If we do not enter into the eternal dialogue of the Son with the Father in the Holy Spirit no authentic communal life is possible. It is necessary to be with Jesus so as to be able to be with others. This is the heart of our mission. In the company of Christ and of our brothers each priest can find the energy necessary to care for people, to provide for the spiritual and material needs that he meets, to teach always with new words, dictated by love, the eternal truth of the faith for which are contemporaries too thirst.

Dear brothers and friends, continue to go out to all the world to bring to everyone the communion that is born from the heart of Christ! May the experience of the Apostles with Jesus always be the light that illuminates your priestly life!


Love Crucified