By FR. JEROME C. ROMANOWSKI
(Editor’s Note: Fr. Romanowski is a priest of the Diocese of Camden, N.J. He wrote the following essay to celebrate his 50 years in the priesthood.)
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We offer thanks to God for calling us to the priesthood. We remember our Lord, whose priesthood we live in and are therefore able to bring the saving waters of salvation to the world. We cannot forget the Blessed Mother of Priests and all of the priests who have helped us to attain this exalted state in the Church. Also, our parents and brothers and sisters for their prayers and support. We thank the saintly Successors of St. Peter who have ruled the Church during these troublesome times. Members of the hierarchy, those to whom we owe obedience in our Lord, also receive our thanks.
Nothing, however, compares with the perfect love our Lord has for all of us and the strength to fulfill our vocations in life. All praise to Him, who died for our sins and continues to bring His Mercy to all.
We celebrate the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The privilege of this vocation enables a man to appreciate the Pure Love that is God. The poor sinner called to be joined to our Lord’s Heart is another way of saying that he must subordinate all other interests to perfect his soul in order to give honor and glory to the Almighty. The only sermon a priest needs is the one our Lord spoke to the first priests at the Last Supper. This was the night when our salvation was won because it culminated in our Lord’s Perfect Act of Contrition for everyone when He died for our sins.
Pope Benedict XVI in his monumental work Jesus of Nazareth touches the heart and soul of every problem that ever existed and will exist in his intensive treatment of that night that gave us the Lord in the Eucharist and the supernatural gift of His Priesthood. That gift was given to ordinary men and their successors for all time, so that they may assist in leading souls to our ultimate destination, Heaven.
Benedict breaks down the 17th chapter of the Gospel According to St. John into four themes:
1) Eternal Life begins here on earth;
3) The Holy Name, and
No one has ever explained this inspired chapter 17 of John better than Pope Benedict does and he does so because he lived it side by side with St. John Paul II. Everything necessary for living perfectly is contained in that chapter 17. Because he lives it, he is able to share it with everyone. Holiness is the way to individual peace and the peace that the world cannot ever give. We are entangled with the world and the Son of God is the Great Untangler of that maze of knots. In simple terms: “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Can anyone know God? In Jesus, our Lord, it is not only possible but urgent and can happen now with a Perfect Act of Contrition. That catechism lesson told us — remember that catechism on the Sacrament of Penance that taught us that there are two sorrowful states of soul. The one that was sorrowful because we would be punished for our sins so we have to say,
“I won’t do those bad things again.” That was based on grace but the entanglement was still there. Then, the real contrition based on the love of God who made Heaven and earth. I must know Him. Pray and do penance, little actions and big actions. How? By the grace of God.
“O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee and I detest all my sins, not only because of the punishment due to them but most of all because I have offended thee my God who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.”
These words come from our deepest and profound revelation of the soul.
Pope Benedict explains that the Old Testament and the High Priestly Prayer of Our Lord stress what faith enables us to attain eternal life — recognition. I recognize him that I see in the crowd, we say. When we recognize our Lord as the Savior and God Himself we are led to eternal life and if we are recognizing this in others and in the Church we are, as we say, on the road to eternal life — but really, staying on that “road” we are experiencing eternal life now. That is the life of the priest. He must be holy, himself, when he recognizes our Lord in everything. In the spiritual life, this is called the “call to perfection.”
The spiritual life is the adventure, the only adventure that counts. It doesn’t take away the satisfaction of a job well done, but it gently reminds us that the adventure continues toward something only God can give. “You’re my everything,” goes the old tune. We can only apply that to the Almighty. Those in the cloister know that implicitly and explicitly. That is why that vocation is the one that inspires every other. We love God for Himself, not for His gifts. This is Eternal Life. This is what the priest learns and shares in every way.
When we recognize God in Nature, in Beauty, in the sacrifice of the saints, in the Cross, we know the Truth. Nothing impairs that recognition and realization more than compromising the Truth. Our Lord is Truth Personified. We want to see His Soul and we do so when we contemplate His Sacred Heart pouring out treasures of graces constantly, so that nothing can prevent us from living eternal life here on earth.
Speaking to His chosen ones, the new leaders of the New Chosen People, the Church, He speaks to the Father as His words flood the souls of His chosen ones, every human being whoever existed, exists, and will exist. “I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me, because they are thine” (John 17:9). Eternal Life, in Truth, comes from the Priesthood of our Lord as found in the sick, weak, sinful lives of those whom He has called to lead the Church.
When the priesthood is compromised, so is the Truth. Now is the time to heal that catastrophe through the Truth found in our Lord’s Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. How simple is that Truth in Three Persons in One Being, Supreme and Unerring. No compromise, only Truth: God, the Creator, God the Savior, and God the Sanctifier. That is the Truth of the Priesthood.
The Truth has been compromised by too many of us in the Church until we complement those who are popular politicians. The Church must be the force for morality without looking to the Supreme Court for any decisions about right or wrong. The Ten Commandments as interpreted by the Church are precisely what the world needs now and always.
“The purifying and sanctifying ‘truth’ is ultimately Christ Himself. They must be immersed in Him; they must, so to speak, be ‘newly robed’ in Him, and thus they come to share in His consecration, in His priestly commission, in His sacrifice” (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 90).
Moses is at burning bush and God reveals His Name. On this, it is no accident that the Holy Name Society has been the one organization that has maintained the strictest allegiance to the Almighty through the turbulent years of division within the Church. It is only through speaking His Name with reverence, the head bow, the Sign of the Cross performed with the knowledge of what one is doing and making a profession of faith while doing the sacred action made during all of the seven sacraments.
Our Lord gave a name to Simon, the Big Fisherman, calling him, forevermore, Peter the Rock of His Church. Saul became Paul, the name that immediately invokes the word “missionary.” The Successor of St. Peter takes a new name that says everything about his vocation. That name is above all names. The presence of God, really, truly, and substantially present as we bless homes and articles in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
As we reverence the saints, now St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II the Great, we pray for their help in the Name of our Lord from whom all holiness comes. We are inspired by that Name which brings His Presence into our sorrowful existence. Jesus says to all priests: “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou hast given me out of the world. Thine they were; and thou gavest them. And they have kept thy word” (John 17:6).
There is the need for unity in every society, the most basic and important — the family. The family of God, the People of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, must maintain that oneness in our Lord. The whole truth must be taught to everyone who wants to be a member of the Church. Servant of God Paul VI taught the truth in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, when he upheld the perpetual teaching of the Church concerning the goals of the great Sacrament of Matrimony.
Pope Benedict XVI teaches the purity of the Holy Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Mass in his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, which clearly expresses the unity of the Mass in the sanctification of souls through giving honor and glory to God.
Make no mistake. Know the teachings of the Church and you know the Almighty. Maintain that teaching through the Priesthood of our Lord. “That they all may be one, as thou Father, are in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; and the world may be one, as we also are one” (John 17:21-22).
The Church teaches the Truth, the Name of God, Eternal Life and Unity, Oneness, Simplicity. Never can the priesthood veer from the sacred task of our Savior and Lord.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.