With the year of St. Paul coming to a close, Pope Benedict XVI declared a "Year for Priests" on June 19.
Much like the year spent honoring and learning about Paul the Apostle, the Pope's aim in establishing this year for priests is to edify and uplift these men of God.
"The objective of this Year for Priests ... is to support that struggle of every priest 'toward spiritual perfection, on which the effectiveness of his ministry primarily depends,'" Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday at St. Peter's square, with an english translation courtesy of zenit.org. "It is to help priests first of all -- and with them all of God's people -- to rediscover and reinvigorate their awareness of the extraordinary and indispensable gift of grace that the ordained ministry is for he who receives it, for the whole Church, and for the world, which would be lost without the real presence of Christ."
Wow. Seems like we should make every year a Year for Priests.
They definitely deserve it. When your whole life is built around service to others, seems like a true day off of work is hard to come by. And to devote your life to something that requires celibacy and, in some cases, poverty, well, that discipline should be commended.
A few examples stick out. The first being St. John Vianney, to whom the Year of Priests is partially inspired by. He died 150 years ago, and reading about his life, nothing monumental and life-changing really sticks out.
Well, except for the fact that he was fiercely devoted to the people he served at the parish of Ars in France. Pope John XXIII wrote that St. John Vianney abstained "almost completely from food and from sleep, to carry out the harshest kinds of penances, and to deny himself with great strength of soul" and that he lived a life of righteousness that "burned himself up like a piece of straw being consumed on fiery coals."
No wonder the man is a saint. He sacrificed his well being and lived a vow of poverty in order to help the members of his church.
Another person that sticks out is the Rev. Jim Chern. The good father is still alive, so he's technically not a saint. But if he keeps going at this rate, maybe in 70-80 years after this mid-30s man of God dies peacefully in his sleep, he'll get that canonization (even though he's a New York Yankees fan).
Chern is the campus minister at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J., serving as a chaplain at the Newman Center to the crazy Catholic kids on campus. Like St. Vianney, nothing major sticks out on Chern's resume. But he works tirelessly for the students at Newman. Seems like every time you talk to him during the school year, Chern is always doing something. Meetings; daily Mass; counseling troubled students; putting together retreats; panel discussions; appearing on Sirius XM's The Catholic Guy each Friday.
Father is always busy with something.
That's something that isn't appreciated enough. Most people think that all a priest does is write a homily and do a few services on the weekend and during the week. But as you've seen from Chern's schedule, it's so much more than a weekend gig.
Perhaps there is a little bias on this columnist's end, as Chern is considered to be a great friend. But his tireless struggle during the school year really breathes life into Benedict's proclamation.
It's definitely a reminder that we should all thank our priests and pastors, regardless of denomination. It's men like Chern, St. Joseph's Rev. George Spangenberg, and a number of church leaders throughout Faulkner County who we look to for guidance through our ups and downs.
And that deserves our gratitude. For this year and beyond.
(Faber is an avid Boston Celtics fan and page designer for The Log Cabin Democrat. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 505-1260 or follow him at twitter.com/dustinfaber)