MATERIALISM DESTROYS PRIESTS:
Bishop Socrates Villegas
on LIVING the Priesthood…
■ Accumulation, Comfort and Security
And the sickness of accumulating possessed us so quickly. Money got stuck in our hands instead of sliding to the needy. The car became a status symbol even for the newly ordained when the chrism of anointing had hardly dried.
The recreation became more sophisticated to expensive tourist sites unreached by the working class. We were no longer lacking in food; we were now choosing our food after being initiated into the palate of the filthy wealthy.
It is bad for a priest to fall in love with a woman. It is worse if he falls in love with money. Ordination gave us access to church money but that money is not ours to enjoy.
Our ordination gave us powers. In a manner of speaking, the ordained are supermen. But the awesome plan of God cannot be restored by a Church that is more concerned about power than of service, more interested in convenience than sacrifice.
A Church that is so focused on the powers of supermen clerics will hardly inspire hearts for renewal. We priests can start touching hearts again if we talk less about our powers and instead expose ourselves more to the power of Christ to change us.
When we demand integrity from public officials, can we humbly say like Saint Paul “imitate me because I imitate Christ”? In this Year of the Poor self accusation must precede prophetic denunciation of social corruption.
LET US RETURN TO THE BEAUTY OF POVERTY:
■ Signs of Simplicity
As a brother in the vocation whose mission is to bring the Good News to the poor, let us impose on ourselves strict discipline in the following areas of priestly life:
- Avoid as much as you can foreign travels and frequent recreation in expensive tourist destinations. Even if such are paid for by friends and family, it is best to decline and choose austerity and simplicity.
Rest is important but luxurious recreation is disrespectful for the poor who cannot even take a rest from their backbreaking jobs. Be more sensitive.
- High end cars and expensive vehicles smack of vainglory and luxury especially in a province like ours where there are so many who are poor who cannot afford a tricycle ride.
There is no excuse for any priest to have such high end vehicles. We need vehicles to reach the poor barangays and bring them the blessings of God. Expensive cars alienate the poor from the Church. We smell differently from the sheep.
- We need to return to the clerical attire or clerical cross in public places as a form of witnessing to the poverty of Christ. Loud colored signature shirts and pants are fashionable but we cannot let Christ glow unless we let our glamour go.
To be simple is to be great in the eyes of God. The poor priest does not need to dress sloppy. We must give dignity to our vocation
- It is a serious sin of omission for a priest not to have a regular poor person to help whether for education, health or livelihood. While it is morally acceptable to set aside some savings for future needs, it must be done with prudence.
The money spent for the poor on earth are savings in the heavenly kingdom. It is a scandal for a priest to die a rich man. We bring to heaven only what we give away on earth.
- We must be honest in reporting to the Curia the true financial condition of the parish or school. There are no fixed rates of offerings for the celebration of Masses, for confirmations, for funerals, for weddings and other sacramentals in our archdiocese as we agreed on.
- We need to re examine what we keep in our bedrooms. A priest’s room and a bachelor’s pad are exact opposites. Is the Lord our only companion in this sacred space of the rectory?
What the archdiocese forbids, the parish priest must not circumvent. We are only temporary stewards not chief executive officers. Our goal is ministry not revenue upgrade.
“The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry: the clothing you shut away belongs to the naked”
(Saint Thomas Aquinas)
- Always give alms to the poor who come to you. Do not be afraid to be fooled nor turn them away empty. Do not be afraid to pamper the beggars. They have no one to help them.
If you have to make a mistake, make a mistake in being too charitable, in being too kind. There is no excess in kindness. We cannot outdo Christ in kindness.
Credit: Fr. Raul Barcela)