The New Gasparian
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A journal dedicated to the life and mission of St. Gaspar del Bufalo, and to a life lived in response to the call and the cry of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our on-going mission is to share good news of hope and communion.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
A Work of Renewal

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned the Earthen Vessels Program here on the Blog. It is a new ministry very much related to my work with Retrouvaille. We now have an Earthen Vessels
Website. I have placed a link to Earthen Vessels on the right sidebar right under the Retrouvaille Link. Married Couples go to A Lifeline for Marriages. Priests go to A Peer Ministry for Priests.

The following is an article that appeared in Cup and Cross this past year.

Many of the priests throughout the country who have been assisting with the presentations on a Retrouvaille Weekend have often wondered if such a program could ever be tailored to the needs of the clergy and religious. Owing to an inspiration marked by a couple of Retrouvaille workers who spoke about this on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Jubilee Year, and the subsequent conversations among the priests attending the International Council Meeting in Cleveland that year, a small group formulated a plan and began working on such a program. They developed a plan for a mid-week sabbatical experience for clergy and presented the inaugural experience to a larger group of Retrouvaille priests November 5-8 at Mt. Angel Abbey near Portland, Oregon.

The new program has been named Earthen Vessels to capture the spirit of 2 Corinthians 4 calling us to carry our treasured gift in fragile, broken humanity. Although this program was begun by Retrouvaille clergy who have experience with 12-step programs, are skilled in pastoral counseling and psychology, or have assisted troubled marriages for many years, the program is very different from Retrouvaille. Although it is drawn from the Retrouvaille experience of assisting troubled relationships, it is not designed for clergy who are on the verge of abandoning ministry or who are involved in highly destructive or abusive behavior. It is a program incorporating opportunities to listen to the experience of other priests, accountability to a group to which one can belong, and willingness to share one’s own story and self with rigorous honesty. It provides priests with the chance to rediscover grace, love, community, health and holiness in their lives and work. Long range plans include developing companion programs for other religious and other ministers, but Earthen Vessels is being developed at the moment particularly for ordained priests.

Priests participating in Earthen Vessels will be invited to reflect on their experience of life and ministry in light of the pattern of the Paschal Mystery, including the movement from the joy of Palm Sunday, through the intimacy of the Lord’s supper, the agony of the cross, the silence of the tomb, the new stirrings of life that is Easter, the long process of transformation and change that leads up to the Ascension, and finally the mission experience of Pentecost. Earthen Vessels will invite priests to rigorous honesty with themselves and with each other, especially in regard to their experience of loneliness, sexuality and power. It is important to note that honesty does not mean the same thing as the revelation of information that properly belongs only in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is not about unburdening themselves over past actions or finding absolution, rather the program attempts to teach skills that make it possible for a priest to allow other priests to know him as he is: vulnerable and strong, needy and powerful, sexual and celibate. Rigorous honesty in Earthen Vessels will involve the risk of exposing one’s pain at the experience of unmet needs, as well as the passion that would drive a priest to sacrifice his life for the sake of the Gospel.

St. Gaspar was very involved in Church reform and in the renewal of the clergy. In June of 1825 he charted out for Cardinal Cristaldi his plan of action. It is hoped that St. Gaspar could say the same thing about Earthen Vessels: “Here we have the great work in behalf of the clergy that will raise them out of their inertia, elevate their spirits and their learning and restore to them the idea of the primitive church where we find the clergy joined together in order to spread the spirit of fervor and zeal for the greater glory of God.” (Letter 1171, to Cristaldi, June 20, 1825)

posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. on 8:46 AM link
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