Bishop urges priests to live simply, humbly

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MANILA, March 28, 2013—The clergy would be more effective ministers to their flocks if their lives are lived with greater humility and simplicity, a Catholic bishop said.

The Church has been hurt a lot because of some priests’ arrogance and lifestyle that contrasts with their calling as ministers of Christ, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said on Holy Thursday during a Chrism Mass celebrated at St. John Evangelist Cathedral.

As ordained ministers, Villegas said, priests act in the person of Christ when they preside the sacraments and offer the Holy Mass.

“[But] what kind of priests who act in the person of Christ the head must we be? Are we really signs of Christ the head for his body the Church?” Villegas asked.

As signs of Christ the head, priests must mirror in their lives the love and care Jesus has for his body, the Church.

Explaining the analogy of the spiritual headship to that of a physical head, the prelate pointed out that whether “bald or hairy, grey or black, all heads need a body,” and “a head that has no body is dead”, in the same way “a body that has no head is dead.”

“In other words, the first duty of a good head is to remember that it is only part of a body; that cut off from the body, the head loses life. The head cannot go right while the body goes the other way,” the archbishop further explained.

He said ears and eyes have been put in the same level on the head to show that “the duty of the head is to watch with love and care.”

According to him, the strength of a good leader lies in his capacity to listen with respect and obedience to those under his care.

And this explains why the lips have been put below the eyes and ears, “because talking is the least of all our duties,” he said.

Villegas told his priests to preach through actions more than words since “the most important role of headship is watching with care and listening with love.”

When a priest has lost the capacity to listen patiently and lovingly to his flock, he is like a head without a body, the prelate said.

“If we have lost the capacity to watch lovingly and listen tenderly, to keep quiet respectfully, to stop senseless murmurings trying to sound funny, and to resist useless chatter, we have in fact beheaded the body,” said Villegas.

He urged the clergy to think with their hearts as “it is only love can save people from sin” and “only with the heart that we can see rightly.”

“See the sinner in the confessional not with the mind of canon law but with the mercy of the heart of Jesus. See the beggar at the church door not with the eyes of first impression but with love and first intuition,” he stressed.

He urged the priests to avoid the temptation of egoism by deepening their prayer life and frequenting the sacrament of confession.

Recalling the rite of ordination, Villegas said “the laying of hands over our heads continues to this day.”

He said “the good priest must always remember that his head is under the hands of the Church, under the hands of the Lord. The head must learn how to kneel. The head must know how to bow.”

He told them “humility is the only crown that the head must wear” as it is “the crown of all virtues.”

In the same way, Villegas observed, the bishop wears his miter not a crown but as the “roof of God’s power” and “we are all under it” not as bosses but servants.

“When you renew your priestly promises, promise also to be humble signs of Christ the head—always one with the body, always one with the heart, always under the power of the Lord,” the prelate said. “The sign cannot be the head itself. We must decrease so that Christ the head may increase.”  (CBCPNews)

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