Fr Mark over at Vultus Christi blog has a lovely post on Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, former Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. During our pilgrimage to the Exposition of the Holy Shroud of Turin last year, we visited the duomo in Milan and paid our respects at the tomb of Blessed Ildefonso. Yesterday was the Blessed Cardinal's feast day and as a Benedictine, Fr Mark's new congregation were celebrating the man, his life and his example.
I was struck by one of the Cardinal's sayings, one which is very appropriate for these times and for priests in parish ministry. He speaks about the importance of holiness. Too often those of us in parishes forget about the first item on our ministerial agenda - to form the people in holiness and prepare them for heaven. We have so many other pressing concerns - running the parish plant, administering the sacraments, visitation, getting involved in various local activities, and we tend to run around like Marthas all day, every day. And yet, as the Lord reminds us, "only one thing is necessary": holiness. Here is what Blessed Ildefonso has to say (from a talk he gave to his seminarians just a few days before he died):
"I have no memento to give you apart from an invitation to holiness. It would seem that people are no longer convinced by our preaching; but faced with holiness, they still believe, they still fall to their knees and pray. People seem to live ignorant of supernatural realities, indifferent to the problems of salvation. But when an authentic saint, living or dead passes by, all run to be there. Do not forget that the devil is not afraid of our [parish] sports fields and of our movie halls: he is afraid, on the other hand, of our holiness."
Good advice. If there is one thing we need to do now, especially here in Ireland, and that is to put the fear of God into the devil and his minions.
I am reminded of that joke which Fr Z posted on his blog: the one about the various religious and the parish priest during Vespers when the light went out:
During a Eucharistic Congress, a number of priests from different orders are gathered in a church for Vespers. While they are praying, a fuse blows and all the lights went out.The Benedictines continue praying from memory, without missing a beat.The Jesuits begin to discuss whether the blown fuse means they are dispensed from the obligation to pray Vespers.The Franciscans compose a song of praise for God’s gift of darkness.The Dominicans revisit their ongoing debate on light as a signification of the transmission of divine knowledge.The Carmelites fall into silence and slow, steady breathing.The parish priest, who is hosting the others, walks down the stairs to the basement and replaces the fuse.
I love it, and I get the point. But perhaps it might have been no harm for the parish priest to sit in the darkness for a while and keep praying, and then replace the fuse.
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PS For those of you interested in relics, Blessed Ildefonso's body was found completely incorrupt when it was exhumed as part of the beatification process. Below is a photograph of his face as found when exhumed.