Pastor’s Perspective – July 17, 2022

*Year of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Detroit

This past Pentecost Sunday in June (the 4th) the Archdiocese initiated a year of prayer for vocations to the priesthood, specifically to the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Detroit.  We have a major seminary in Detroit that forms priests, but the large majority of vocations at the seminary are in formation for other dioceses or religious orders. As a diocese we are in the midst of a severe crisis in the numbers of priests. Within a few years there will be only 100 priests to serve the 200 or so parishes.  That means Families of Parishes that have four priests might only have two or at most three priests assigned to them as this all unfolds.

I myself will be entering senior status as a priest in about one year. At that time, though I will be available to help on weekends in parishes that request help, I will not have any administrative responsibilities, nor will I be assigned to a particular parish or Family of Parishes. Whether the Archdiocese will have someone to fill the assignment here remains to be seen. Over the weeks of May and June I shared my own journey in becoming and serving as a diocesan priest. I have collated those and posted them on the parish website under “News/Pastor’s Perspective/Archives.” My goal was to both share some of the challenges of that journey but also, the joy I have in being a diocesan priest, inviting families to encourage and embrace that vocation for their sons.

All of this provides some background as to why Archbishop Vigneron initiated this year of prayer for priestly vocations.  It is not to diminish the importance and vital necessity of other ecclesial vocations—lay and religious—but the Eucharistic character of parish life requires sufficient priests.  We have prayer cards for vocations at the entrances and invite you to take one and use it in your own or family’s prayer. Each week we are including a prayer for priestly vocations in our Sunday General Intercessions, and each month (usually the first Sunday of the month) we will conclude the intercessions with that prayer, asking that all pray along as it is projected onto the screen.

*U.S. Bishops’ Three-Year Focus on Renewing our Eucharistic Identity

Beginning on June 19 of this year (the Feast of Corpus Christi) and continuing through Pentecost of 2025, the United States Bishops have called for a “National Eucharistic Revival.” I do not know all that went into making that decision, but I do know the concern that many Catholics might no longer fully believe in the Real Presence played a large role. The Archdiocese of Detroit marked the beginning of this revival with a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi last month and has formed a partnership with iamhere.org to give witness to the transforming power of the Eucharist to those who have faith in Jesus’ Real Presence. There is a link to these resources on our website under “News Briefs.”

All of us who experience an awesome intimacy with Jesus, especially as we receive Eucharist, but also in times of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, have no doubt about Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist (Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, as the language of our Catholic tradition names it). It is in the depth of our bones and heart, and we would not know how to handle the challenges, responsibilities and sufferings of life without trusting in that presence.  At the same time, it is clear, when polls are taken and people are offered a stark choice between “I believe it is a symbol of Jesus’ presence” or “I believe it is literally the Body and Blood of Christ,” many Catholics choose the former.  That does not surprise me, because the question is worded awkwardly. If we mean by the word “literally” that this is the historical Jesus’ molecular flesh and bones, then clearly that is not our faith. That is why many, I believe, choose the alternative of being a symbol.

In fact, the correct theological understanding of all sacraments is that their material form is a sign/symbol which truly and really makes present a deeper reality, so that a person and community are more closely configured to Christ. Materially, Baptism is a pouring of water over a person in the name of the Trinity. But truly and really, at the deepest level, Baptism is a configuring of a person at the level of their deepest reality (their soul) to Christ, which frees a person from any sin, personal or Original, and permanently marks them and unites them to the Church as the Body of Christ. The pouring of the water and the words used are symbolic of dying to sin and rising to new life, but they are not only a symbol or merely a symbol. They make effective what they signify. In Baptism, we are freed of all sin, and we become a new creation in Christ. In a properly Catholic theological understanding, then, it is a false dichotomy to oppose “symbol” and “really/literally” to one another.

In my experience equally concerning trends are not just poll numbers on belief in the Real Presence. How often do we say we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated Bread and Wine, receive Him in Communion, and let it have so little affect in our ongoing, daily lives? How often do we think of Eucharist as something we must be worthy of (even though we pray “Lord, I am not worthy” right beforehand!), and then either absent ourselves from the Eucharist because we have an overly scrupulous understanding of serious sin or judge others as improperly worthy of receiving?

I will write more about these things in the course of the year, and you will be hearing more about this Eucharistic Revival in the weeks and months to come, as we continue to celebrate our parish’s 60th Anniversary Year. We will be inviting the whole parish to participate in a “Sixty Hours of Adoration” experience in November. In preparation for that, our October Parish Visioning and Leadership Night will be focused on how we can make our parish even more Eucharist-centered.

Fr. Buersmeyer

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