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Posted April 25, 2009

Book: Missioners: Priest and People Today
Author: Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Alive Publishing, LTD. Trent, England. 2007. pp. 139

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

“We are missioners! O name, rich with the most noble and generous associations! Our work is that of the apostles. . .Unless he make himself into a sacrifice, as an apostle would, for he is unworthy to call himself a missioner. A missioner is a priest, laborious, patient, not easily discouraged, ingenious by that force of ardor which the spirit of his position enkindles to meet wants as they arise.”

Bishop William Bernard Ullathorne, the first Bishop of Birmingham, spoke these words at the first Birmingham Diocesan Synod in 1853. The idea of priest as missioner is both ancient and new. Every priest understands his calling as an invitation to be a living sacrifice for God and his people.

Throughout history there are certain themes and characteristics which are a constant in the life of the priest. The nature of his ordination, the dedication to Christ required of him, the bond of trust that exists between him and his people, the love and esteem in which he is held and the essential importance of co-operation between priest and people in the work of the Church.

Missioners, priest and people today is a reflection on these enduring themes drawn from homilies given by Archbishop Vincent Nichols over the last five years at the ordination of priests and deacons.

An Except from the Book:

To begin with the deacon and priest must heed the first phrase of Jeremiah’s summons: ‘Go now to those to whom I send you.’

His purpose in life is no longer one that the priest or deacon shapes for himself. He is called and sent. In a way which our age finds quite scandalous, the deacon and priest hand over to another crucial decisions about their lives. They promise obedience to the Lord in and through the Church. Now, like every prophet before them, they will find themselves in places not of their own choosing, and in situations they would rather avoid. This is a real testing of motive and desire. It is a genuine purifying of the heart.

The deacon and priest, indeed every disciple, now stand under a new kind of judgement. The one to whom they are accountable is the one by whom they have been sent. This is the key judgment about which they must be concerned. Their thoughts and actions are never hidden from the Lord and it is to him that they must give their account. The bar of public opinion is not important. Nor is the judgment of peers.

Yet it is so difficult not to live by and for popular affirmation. Constantly we seek the approval of those around us because that approval plays such an important part in shoring up our fragile self-esteem. Yet the one judgment which matters is not to be found there. Only slowly will our hearts attune to this new pattern of approval, encouragement and inner peace. These come from the Lord, also mediated in the Church as best as we can. This, too, is a radical purifying of the heart.

Table of Contents:

Earthenware jars

A heart wise and shrewd

A heart wise and shrewd

Consecrated in his Word

Purify my heart

Kindness and prayer

Hands of the priest

Let us begin to serve the Lord

Love and sacrifice

Rite of ordination to the priesthood

Rite of ordination to the diaconate