Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday,” and it is also the Church’s annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. This morning, Pope Francis ordained nine men to the priesthood for the diocese of Rome, telling them in his homily, that they will be shepherds, and as shepherds they must remain close to the people of God.

He continued, “This is what he wants of you. Shepherds. Shepherds of the holy faithful people of God. Shepherds who go with the people of God: sometimes in front of the flock, sometimes in the middle or behind, but always there, with the people of God.”

Returning once again to the theme of “closeness” (something he has often reminded us is essential to being a good priest) he told the new priests,

“Talk to the Lord, be close to the Lord. He made himself close to us in his Son. The whole story of his Son. He has also been close to you, to each of you, on the journey of your life up to this moment. Even in the worst times of sin, he was there, nearby. Be close to the holy faithful people of God. But first of all, be close to God in prayer. A priest who does not pray will slowly extinguish the fire of the Spirit within. Remain close to God.”

He continued by speaking about how a priest should be close to his bishop (“Stay close, because in the Bishop you will have unity.”) and his brother priests as well (“Never speak badly of a brother priest. If you have something against another, be men…go there, and tell him to his face.”), and then he spoke of closeness to the People of God:

“After God, the most important closeness is to the holy faithful people of God. None of you studied to become a priest. You studied the ecclesiastical sciences, as the Church says you must do. But you were chosen, taken from the people of God … Do not forget where you came from: your family, your people … Do not lose the sense of the people of God … Priests of the people, not clerics of state!”

Perhaps now is a good time to think about the priests who have been good shepherds in your own life. Living or dead, why not offer a short prayer for them right now? And if you need a good shepherd in your life, but don’t have one, ask God, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, to bring him to you.

(Unofficial translation of the Italian text)

Image: Vatican News

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

Good Shepherds: Always with the people of God
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