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Three important priestly saints

May 25, 2012
Throughout this past week in the daily gospel readings for mass, we have been working our way through Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel, a passage known as Jesus’ great priestly prayer. Quite providentially, these readings bring us up to the feast days of three important “priestly” saints: St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. GregoryVII, and St. Philip Neri. In reflecting on the lives of these three saints, we are able to see modeled the holiness to which we are all called, as well as the three-fold office of Christ’s priesthood (Priest, Prophet and King) lived out concretely.
St. Bede the Venerable (feast day: May 25) is known as a great historian whose writings have contributed so much to the Church that he is recognized as a Doctor of the Church. His work Ecclesiastical History of the English People is regarded as the foremost source for the history of the Catholic Church in England. It is not only because of his writings, however, that the Church venerates Bede; rather, his ascetic and pious lifestyle makes him a model of virtuous living. St. Bede the Venerable captures for us Christ as priest.
St. Pope Gregory VII (feast day: May 25) is considered by many to be one of the best popes of all time. Living at a time when the Church was under the influence and pressure of emperors and their political motivations, GregoryVII reminded the Church and the world that the successor to St. Peter had responsibilities first and foremost to God, His Church and His people. In so doing he reminded the clergy of their own responsibility to live out their vows and of their call to holiness. St. Pope GregoryVII was a great pastor and administrator of the Church, which is why he models for us Christ as King.
St. Philip Neri (feast day: May 26), as a devout layman, established an apostolate that focused on personal sanctification and ensuring the good of one’s neighbour. As the apostolate began to grow and as his vision of Christians living out their faith through virtue began to be realized, St. Philip Neri himself felt the call to deeper service as a priest. With the encouragement of his own confessor, Philip Neri was ordained a priest and was soon serving the people of God as an ardent confessor with a great devotion for Eucharistic adoration. Through the work of his apostolate, St. Philip Neri was prophetic in his vision of the role of a sanctified laity within the Church and how the priest is called to lead that laity to continual conversion and deeper love for Christ. For these reasons, St. Philip Neri models for us Christ as Prophet.
As we contemplate the lives of these saints and where God may be calling us in our own life, may our prayer always be one of thanks to God for the gift of the saints and for the many gifts in our lives, as well as a prayer for our priests that God continue to give them the courage and grace necessary to live up to the office entrusted to them by Christ and the Church.
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