CHURCH leaders in the Philippines called on the faithful on Friday, June 19, to pray for the safety of priests who continue to serve the people amid the coronavirus pandemic
“We pray for priests. May they be safe from the coronavirus as they serve the people,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila.
He also asked the faithful to pray that priests will be true to their duty so that they may become holy.
“May our hearts be formed according to the heart of Jesus. Always burning with love even when we are hurt, discouraged and rejected,” said the prelate.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of SanCarlos also called on the faithful for prayers so that priests “may be always filled with wisdom and joy in serving the Lord … especially the unreached and underserved among us.”
The bishops made the call the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, which is also a “Day of Prayer” for the sanctification of priests as declared by then Pope John Paul II.
In Manila, Bishop Pabillo led the celebration of the Chrism Mass at the Manila Cathedral.
“I ask all the faithful who are joining this celebration to offer this Mass and make some sacrifice during the day for the sanctification of priests,” the Manila bishop said in his homily.
In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II designated a special world day of prayer for the sanctification of priests on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The celebration encourages priests to reflect upon the importance and dignity of their vocation.
In his Holy Thursday homily on April 9, Pope Francis reminded priests that in order to serve others, they must first allow themselves to be served by Christ.
The pontiff said that just like Saint Peter, priests must be willing to be washed by Christ, forgiven by Christ, and loved by Christ so that they, in turn, may be dispensers of divine forgiveness and love to others.
The Holy Father remembered courageous priests in hospital ministry who have died serving people suffering from the new coronavirus disease.
He also commended priests who serve prisoners and those ministering in remote parts of the world.
In his homily during the Chrism Mass on Friday, June 19, Bishop Pabillo talked about the tendency of people to question God when something bad happens to them, like when they get sick.
“The question is why me? Why us? Why should it happen to me or my family? This question often has the tone that this misfortune is unjustified,” said the prelate.
“But has the opposite occurred to us?” he asked.
“When we experience a promotion, a salary increase, the passing of an important exam or winning a raffle, rarely do we acknowledge that we don’t deserve this good luck,” he added.
The prelate said the Lord “did not choose us because we deserve it but it was because of His grace, love and fidelity.”
“I think we will get the same answer if we ask ourselves why did God choose me to be a priest, to have this style of life, to have a good family,” said Bishop Pabillo.
“Why did God continue to guide the Archdiocese of Manila in spite of all the shortcomings and scandals? Why did God sustain the Church?” he said.
The bishop said the message of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is “love and fidelity,” adding that one can return God’s love by following His command to “love one another.”
“The devotion to the Sacred Heart calls for reflection and reparation for our sins and the sins of others,” he said.
The bishop said it can done through prayer and penance as well as works of justice and charity.
“Part of the devotion to the Sacred Heart is to work for justice because there cannot be love and true love if there is injustice,” he said.
Usually held on Holy Thursday of the Holy Week, the Chrism Mass in the Archdiocese of Manila was postponed after the government declared a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During this Mass, priests gather in their respective diocesan cathedrals as a sign of unity with the bishop as well as the brotherhood among members of the clergy.