Roman Catholic Diocese of Chingleput

Bishop's Speaks

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last month’s issue of the Diocesan News Letter has registered for us the note on Clergy retreat. This year we have decided to have the retreat in two batches, one for the senior clerics and the second one for the junior priests. The purpose of arranging the retreats outside the diocese is twofold: First of all, we have come to know a place very conducive for making a retreat with basic amenities and easy access for all. And secondly, being away from our places of ministry is hoped to help our priests to stay away from the temptation of attending to our routines sometimes under the guise of certain emergency and of being dissipated with too many accustomed places and persons. The Gospel invitation from Jesus to his apostles is a clear indication that the ministers definitely need to take a deliberate break from their routine schedules and find time to be by themselves and to be with the Lord in solitary seclusion: (NRSV) Mark 6:31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

In this understanding, the time of clerical retreat is certainly a time of ‘rest.’ But this rest is not exclusively physical, spent in long hours of sleep and slumber. But the Code of Canon describes in clear terms the significance of annual spiritual retreat for priests by situating it in the context of their overall life of holiness. Canon 276 §1 Clerics have a special obligation to seek holiness in their lives, because they are consecrated to God by a new title through the reception of orders, and are stewards of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.

§2 In order that they can pursue this perfection:
4° they are also obliged to make spiritual retreats, in accordance with the provision of particular law.
Thus the annual retreat is meant to renew the priestly commitment of the priests and establish them in greater degree of holiness.
The Code also wants to delink such days of spiritual pursuit from other times of rest and relaxation a priest is due to have:
Canon 533 §2 Unless there is a grave reason to the contrary, the parish priest may each year be absent on holiday from his parish for a period not exceeding one month, continuous or otherwise. The days which the parish priest spends on the annual spiritual retreat are not reckoned in this period of vacation.

On March 16, 2018 the Holy Father received priests and seminarians from some 150 Pontifical Colleges and Ecclesiastical Boarding Schools of Rome. He then answered from the fullness of his heart five questions on priestly formation and spirituality. These questions were posed by representatives of four Continents (Europe, Africa, South -North America and Asia), stemming from the document Ratio fundmentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, the “Gift of the Presbyterial Vocation,” published by the Roman Dicastery for the Clergy on December 8, 2016. A priest of the Philippines posed for Asia the question on permanent formation. The Pope recommended to take care of the human, pastoral, spiritual and communal formation of the priest. The Holy Father also invited each one to examine how he lives verbal communication, how he uses his mobile phone, how he addresses temptations against chastity which will come inevitably, and how to be able to keep oneself from pride, from the attraction of money, of power and of comfort. The annual retreat is definitely this indispensable moment that will facilitate the priest to examine his life from all angles and find ways and means to rectify the limitations and re-commit himself towards greater holiness of life.
We shall pray for our priests in a special way as the two groups will be at their retreats from the 14th to the 19th October and from the 21st to the 26th October 2018 respectively.
God bless you all!

+ Most Rev. Dr. A. Neethinathan
   Bishop of Chingleput

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