Carrying on from last week in relation to the functions of the priest, n.6 refers to priests as ‘educators in the faith’. They do so either themselves or can get help through the appointment of others to help them in that role. It speaks of the faithful being led “individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free.” Anything that is taken on should be directed to bringing the individual to Christian maturity and help them “to see what is God’s will in the important and unimportant events of life”. They should also learn that they are not looking out just for themselves but must live according to “the new law of charity”. This is what leads each individual to understand that they are called to discharge their duties in the community in a Christian manner.
After this, the bishops stressed that even though the priest has obligations to all people there are a number of groups to which they should pay special attention within the community they are called to serve: “priests have a special obligation to the poor and weak entrusted to them, for our Lord himself showed that he was united to them, and their evangelization is mentioned as a sign of messianic activity. With special diligence, attention should be given to youth and also to married people and parents. It is desirable that these join together in friendly meetings for mutual aid in leading more easily and fully and in a Christian manner a life that is often difficult. Priests should remember that all religious, both men and women, who certainly have a distinguished place in the house of the Lord, deserve special care in their spiritual progress for the good of the whole Church. Finally, and above all, priests must be solicitous for the sick and the dying, visiting them and strengthening them in the Lord.”
The emphasis in n.6 to this point looks toward particular instances and individual circumstances and dealing with those, but goes on to say that doing so cannot be removed from the importance of building up the community in the local Church and also in relation to the universal Church and it states where the centre of that community lies: “No Christian community, however, is built up unless it has its basis and centre in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist; from this, therefore, all education to the spirit of community must take its origin.”
Next week we will finish looking at n.6 as it explains the importance of the Eucharist within the Christian community and where its celebration can lead the community. It outlines different ways that the members of the Christian community react to the Eucharist and how the priest is called to approach the task of building up the community.