Archbishop Kaigama admonishes 7 newly ordained priests in Jos: A priest who stops praying is not more than an actor
Prayer is the oxygen for priestly ministry. Spiritual asphyxiation occurs with catastrophic spiritual and physical consequences when a priest stops praying or prays without proper interior stillness.
It was also observed that a priest, who stops praying or prays very little is not more than an actor, because actors tell us that their lives on stage is different from their real lives.
The president of the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria-cum the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev Ignatius A. Kaigama, disclosed this during the priestly ordination of 7 Priests to the Archdiocese of Jos, which are, Rev Benjamin Pam-Tok, Rev Peter Agwom, Rev Peter Adams, Rev John Ilonah, Rev Francis Mshelia, Rev Joseph Abu and Rev Moses Peter.
According to him, if a priest only acts out the Mass and other Sacraments and, indeed his whole priestly life, then he will be cheating himself, and so it will be a disaster to the people he serves.
The Archbishop made this declaration, while explaining further that, “today, people are searching for good priests, not those who wear elegant clerical dresses, and quoted Pope Francis’ address to the Third Worldwide Priests Retreat at Basilica of St John Lateran, Rome, Italy in June 12, 2015, where the Pope said that, “God’s people know how to recognize immediately when a priest is in love with Jesus, or when he is a functionary with a fixed schedule, attached to the letter of the law.”
He retorted that, “a priest that becomes a functionary, like a clerk, ends up neurotic, and he yells at people, mistreats them, and lacks love – either he has lost his love, or his level of love is too low – and has forgotten about how to converse about life with his Lord, that his call is a call of love.”
He said “the new priests being ordain today are to consider themselves lucky to be ordained in the ‘Year of Mercy’ and, so, we can say they are Priests of Mercy with a more special obligation to be merciful like Jesus.”
The Archbishop told them that their assignments are already clear in the reading, from Isaiah 61:1-3, which outlines their tasks to that of a call to serve the poor, the captives, widows, orphans, the sick and the prisoners, who are often forgotten by the society, and also the gospel from John 20:19-23, which invites them to be instruments of peace and forgiveness.
The second reading was taken from 1 Peter 5:1-4, which urged them to shepherd the flock which has been entrusted to them; for them not to look for a regard but with a generous heart to always be an example to their flocks.
According to him, Pope Francis said, ‘Shepherds that seek powers and riches instead of following Jesus and properly tending to their flock, will end up being loved only for their money.’
He maintained that “For us in Nigeria, it is a sad commentary on our spiritual condition when today the media speaks in terms of the ‘richest pastors’ who are defined not in terms of holiness of life, humility or service to the poor, but of their stupendous material wealth and colourful style.”
Archbishop Kaigama further urged the new priest to take their work seriously, saying that, good works earned with the best of intentions do not always attract commendation; rather sometimes they earn you nasty comments and even hostile reactions.
According to him, “It happened to Jesus; and you should be ready for unfounded rumours, gossips about you, and it will be a daily occurrence in your work,” and urged them to be always patient and forgiving when they hear such things. “And people will quote and misquote you for their personal motives, but do not be ashamed to appear as a priest; wear your cassocks, be ready to go where you are sent without preconditions or feelings or rejection.”