I'm afraid I don't quite know the original source of this picture - I obtained it from a site that tempted me to caption it 'what the liberal catholic most fears...!' So if anyone can point me to the original source, I'd be grateful.
But in any case, it does nicely symbolise a few important messages, firstly, that the priest doesn't have to walk alone, or be a soloist as the Pope puts it, and secondly that we need a tradition that acknowledges and adapts to (and I don't mean in an aggorniamento kind of way!) the contemporary environment! I want to day to focus on the first point, the networks of support that priests should have.
Now all of the things the Pope says here are of course ideals that are rarely fully realized in practice - we all know the realities of unsupportive bishops, feral nuns, and stroppy parish councils! Still, working to make ideals a reality is what christian life is all about...
Priests and bishops
The first point of support is obviously the bishop, as the Pope pointed out in his meeting with them in Cameroon:
"Dear Brothers, the Bishop and his priests are called to maintain relations of close communion, founded on the one priesthood of Christ in which they share, albeit in different degrees. The quality of the bond uniting you with the priests, your principal and irreplaceable co-workers, is of the greatest importance. If they see in their Bishop a father and a brother who loves them, listens to them and offers them comfort in their trials, who devotes particular attention to their human and material needs, they are encouraged to carry out their ministry whole-heartedly, worthily and fruitfully. The words and example of their Bishop have a key role in inspiring them to give their spiritual and sacramental life a central place in their ministry, spurring them on to discover and to live ever more deeply the particular role of the shepherd as, first and foremost, a man of prayer."
Priests and religious
Secondly, on a visit to the Oblate Sisters of St Frances of Rome, the Pope made these comments:
"In our day too, Rome needs women and of course also men but here I wish to emphasize the feminine dimension women, as I was saying, who belong wholly to God and wholly to their neighbour; women who are capable of recollection and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey their Pastors but also how to support them and encourage them with their suggestions, developed in conversation with Christ and in first-hand experience in the area of charity, assistance to the sick, to the marginalized, to minors in difficulty. This is the gift of a motherhood that is one with religious self-gift, after the model of Mary Most Holy. Let us think of the mystery of the Visitation. Immediately after conceiving the Word of God in her heart and in her flesh, Mary set out to go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary's heart is the cloister where the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time it is the crucible of a charity that is conducive to courageous gestures, as well as to a persevering and hidden sharing."
And finally, on the virtues of a parish council, during a visit to a Rome parish:
"When many people seem unable or unwilling to recognize the presence of God it is important that a pastor not be a 'soloist,' but be surrounded by believers who, along with him, are bearers of the seed of the word (of God) and help it live and grow....The council is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and the pastor -- and even more a pope [A sense of humour!] -- needs advice, needs help in making decisions. And so these (parish) councils are also a work of the Holy Spirit and a witness to the Spirit's presence in the church."...