A model of priestly piety or priestly prayer
Last of two series
Msgr. Nestor C. Cerbo
SJMV’s life of piety or prayer, according to SNP, had one special characteristics, namely, it was directed toward the Eucharist. The reason for his life of prayer centered on the Eucharist can be culled from what he himself said, “He is the one who has loved us much; why shouldn’t we love him in return?”
And how are we to pray before the Eucharist? SJMV replies: “You do not need many words when you pray. We believe on faith that the good and gracious God is there in the tabernacle; we open our souls to him; and feel happy that he allows us to come before him; this is the best way to pray.”
Devotion to the Eucharist fills the soul of a priest with spiritual andsupernatural strength necessary for him to carry out his apostolic
ministries. It is a beautiful example to inspire Christian people to do the same. Quoting his predecessor Pope Pius XII from his talk to the clergy of Ars, Pope John XXIII says, “A priest kneeling devotedly and reverently before the tabernacle, and pouring forth prayers to God with all his heart, is a wonderful example to the Christian people and serves as a inspiration.” SJMV had set this example which is applicable to all seasons and situations.
SNP reminds us that the principal form of Eucharistic prayer in the offering of the sacrifice of the mass. It is good to pray before the Eucharist but it is better to offer the Eucharist in the sacrifice of the mass. It is precisely that a priest becomes a priest to offer the Eucharist at the altar and when he becomes a priests the first thing he does is to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. Hence, the Eucharistic sacrifice will always be for a priest the source and origin of his holiness and apostolic fruitfulness.
To celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice, however, is not enough for a priest to do. He must live it in a very deep sense. How? SNP replies: first, the priest must immolate himself along with Christ who immolates himself in the Eucharist; and secondly, as
Jesus expiates the sins of men in the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the priest, too, must tread the lofty path of Christian asceticism to bring about the expiation of his own sins and those of his neighbors.
From the above discussion, it is clear that there is a close connection between the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice and the self-offering or selfdedication of the priest. Failure to sustain this close connection makes the priest gradually fall off from the first fervor he had when he was ordained. SJMV knew this from the life of other priests. He said, “The reason why priests are remiss in their personal lives is that they do not offer the sacrifice with attention and piety.”
Taking his cue from SJMV, Pope John XXIII invites the priests to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice with greatest possible interior and exterior devotion. For this to happen, the Pope admonishes his beloved priests to set aside a time to examine themselves on: first, how they celebrate the divine mysteries; secondly, what their dispositions of soul and external attitude are as they ascend the altar; and thirdly, what fruit they are trying to give from it.
May the priests draw from the outstanding and wonderful example of SJMV great desire and strength to dedicate themselves “from the consolation and happiness of offering the divine victim.”