On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, last June 19, Pope Benedict instituted the Year for Priests. It will end on next year’s feast of the Sacred Heart, June 11, 2010. During this time, a plenary indulgence can be obtained by all truly penitent faithful who, in a church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus for the priests of the Church, or perform any good works to sanctify an mould them to His Heart. The condition for the plenary indulgence is going to Sacramental Confession and praying in accordance with the intentions of the Holy Father on the first Thursday of the month, on any other day chosen by the individual when visiting the Cathedral of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark for this purpose, and also on the closing of the Year for Priests. Those who are homebound may gain the plenary indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing the above conditions, they pray on the day concerned for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles. A partial indulgence is offered to all the faithful each time they pray five times the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be to the Father, or any other approved prayer in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life.
Why did Pope Benedict decree this year for priests and offer indulgences to those who pray for them? He sees the need for good, holy priests—priests who are faithful to their vocation. Priests need to teach only that which is true, that is authentic Catholic teaching as defined by the magisterium of the Church. They each must lead moral lives in accordance with their state in life.
The greatest suffering of the Church is the sin of its priests, Benedict XVI said as he inaugurated the Year for Priests. The year coincides with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianny (1786 – 1859), known as Cure d’Ars, whose feast day is August 4. He had great difficulty with his studies in the seminary because he had to study underground during the dangerous time of the French Revolution. He was zealous as a new priest and was instrumental in bringing countless numbers of souls from sin to Our Lord.
“The Church needs holy priests,” the Pope said in his homily during the inauguration of the Year for Priests. “[It needs] ministers to help the faithful experience the merciful love of the Lord and be convinced witnesses.” For this, he invited the faithful to pray “that the Lord inflame the heart of each priest” with the love of Jesus.
“How can one forget that nothing makes the Church—the Body of Christ—suffer more than the sins of its pastors, above all those that are ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing,’ whether because they lead [the faithful] away with their private doctrine, or because they bind [the faithful] down with the ties of sin and death,” he asked.
“The call to conversion and to take recourse to Divine Mercy also applies to us, dear priests,” Benedict XVI said to the numerous priests and bishops present. “We should also appeal, humbly and incessantly, to the heart of Jesus so that he preserves us from the terrible risk of damaging those whom we should save.” For this, the Pope affirmed, “Our mission is indispensable for the Church and for the world, which demands complete fidelity to Christ and an incessant union with him; that is to say, it demands that we constantly seek the holiness of St. John Mary Vianney.” (quotations taken from Zenit News Agency, June 19, 2009).
Prayer is powerful. Each of us will be helping the Church and the world by praying for the priests that we have and for vocations to the priesthood.