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Vatican Official Promotes Prayer During Year for Priests
Father Matthew Gamber
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Sunday, December 13, 2009
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VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Without a daily diet of personal prayer, Catholic priests risk falling spiritually ill and endangering the well-being of the communities they serve, a top Vatican official said.

"Truly, without the vital food of prayer the priest becomes sick, the disciple does not find the strength to follow the Master, and thus dies of hunger. As a consequence his flock is scattered, and dies in its own turn," said Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, head of the Congregation for Clergy.

His comments came in the latest in a series of periodic letters published by his congregation to mark the Vatican-sponsored Year for Priests, which began in June 2009 and concludes in June 2010.

Cardinal Hummes encouraged priests to see themselves as shepherds who must always be strong to protect their flock.

He began by quoting fourth-century theologian St. John Chrysostom, who wrote, "The devil attacks the shepherd. In fact, if by killing the sheep the flock is reduced, by instead eliminating the shepherd he will destroy the entire flock."

Cardinal Hummes offered for priests the model of Moses, who was "found with his arms raised to heaven in prayer so that the people will not perish." When a priest truly prays, the cardinal said, his daily ministry will be filled with joy and happiness and he will not risk dying of spiritual hunger.

"The Spirit will rekindle the fire in his heart. He will rekindle the passion and enchantment of the Lord, who is ever present," he said.

Cardinal Hummes also encouraged Catholics to pray for their priests who he said "need to be strengthened by the prayer of the church and of every Christian." He noted that the Congregation for the Clergy sponsors a holy hour for priests at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on the first Thursday of every month.

At the December holy hour, the basilica was filled with hundreds of seminarians and priests as well as an equal number of religious and laypeople. The Family of Mary, one of the church's new movements based in Austria, sang and led the prayers and mysteries of the rosary.

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