Thursday, February 4, 2010

To Priests: "You Can't Give What You Don't Have"

For the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John's Seminary in Boston invited Dominican Fr. Romanus Cessario, OP to preach to the seminarians.  Fr. Cessario is a professor of dogmatic and moral theology at St. John's, as well as an author and editor (I am a former student, though he doesn't cite that in his credentials)

The "must-read" full text of the homily can be found here...below are excerpts (my emphasis):

Study for the Catholic priest remains a contemplative act. We do not read theology books to discover the knack of doing this or that, we do not ponder divine truth so that we can acquit ourselves of professional responsibilities, we do not undertake study even to develop the high-end skills of management or technology. We study so we can pray. The study of theology and the practice of contemplative prayer flow from the one and the same act of divine faith whereby we accept the Truth about God. For the priest, contemplative study provides the inexhaustible and irreplaceable source of everything that he does. No short cuts are available. No one is exempt. The Church developed a Latin adage to capture this basic truth of priestly formation. Nemo potest dare quod non habet. You can't give what you do not have.
For the Catholic priest, especially the diocesan priest, the separation of study and prayer brings catastrophic results. No one more than the priest needs the experience of contemplative study. The reason is the Headship that the Church confides to the priest. The priest is not ordained to see about the practical details of programs and everyday activities. He is ordained to preach from the abundance of his heart. The only way that the priest's heart obtains the abundance of divine truth that the world needs so desperately is through the prayerful study of divine truth. He needs to absorb it, to penetrate it, to make it his own, like breathing in and breathing out. St. Thomas recognized that study does not come easy. Like every good action, study requires a virtuous formation to ensure that our study achieves the desired effect.

Lay people as well ought to adopt the habitus of study and spiritual reading.  Making time is half the battle...episodes of Jersey Shore may be relaxing entertainment but will not improve the quality of your life...I'm pretty certain of that.  I came across a great quote from Fr. Larry Richards (from a video on the Archdiocese of Boston "Confession site"): "If you dropped dead right now and God offered to give you 'what you love the most' for all eternity, would it be Him?"  Happy reading.

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