Tonight, Cardinal Francis George announced that Fr. Robert Barron, my great intellectual hero, has been named Rector of Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake in Chicago, IL.
“As a priest of Jesus Christ I accept this responsibility with joy,” said Father Barron. “The appointment brings together many of the elements that have long been of great importance to me, namely, the priesthood, theological scholarship, pastoral care and evangelization.”
The good news is that despite the new appointment, Fr. Barron still plans to continue working with his Word on Fire ministry:
“The mission of evangelization will continue to be a priority for me, and Word on Fire is essential to this mission,” said Father Barron. “I will continue to set the ethos for the Word on Fire apostolate and provide new media content to enhance the Church’s outreach to the culture. I remain focused in my commitment to help promote the Catholicism series and study programs as indispensable tools for the new evangelization.”
The better news, however, is that Fr. Barron will be shaping the future of a whole new generation of priests.
In my book, Cardinal George couldn’t have picked a better Rector. Fr. Barron is a model priest: he loves the sacraments; he’s warm, welcoming, and very pastoral; he feeds on the Church’s rich intellectual tradition; he’s befriended the saints; he’s fundamentally evangelistic and uses all the technical tools at his disposal; and he engages the culture on it’s own terrain.
Over the years, Fr. Barron has spoken several times about the priesthood and in honor of today’s announcement, I’ve collected some of the best material.
The first is from way back in 1997, when Fr. Barron was a mere Assistant Professor at Mundelein. He did a fascinating interview with U.S. Catholic on “How to Build a Better Priest“:
“As a seminary professor, I’ve been sensing that my students are looking for a new vision of priesthood-some way to emphasize its importance without falling into clerical patterns. My research led me to these two images of the priest: priest as one who guides others into the mystery of God and priest as soul doctor.”
The rest of the article unpacks those two images and covers topics like vocations, celibacy, clericalism, and spiritual leadership.
Next, in one of his characteristic YouTube videos, Fr. Barron gives some personal reflections on “Being a Priest Today“:
“Your priesthood has a great assist in the accessibility of communications technology that men like Billy Graham or Fulton Sheen would have embraced and quickly mastered, to powerful effect. Take advantage of all of this; seize it for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus told us to preach to “all the nations,” and Vatican II specified that that the primum officium (first duty) of the priest is to proclaim the Word.
Today the average parish priest has the capacity to get the message out 24/7, all around the world. Use new media pro-actively; let the Holy Spirit guide you to the allurement of God’s people—as in Hosea 2:14—in bold and sanctifying contrast to the vast wasteland that clutters the mind and warps the soul.
Mount a website, get something on YouTube, podcast your sermons, post advice on FaceBook and tweet daily. Yes there is always the danger of superficiality, but Fulton Sheen faced that same danger fifty years ago and met it with enormous intelligence and creativity.
I really believe that now is a great time to be a priest. Some of the holiest saints have emerged during periods much like our own, fraught with difficulties and rich in opportunities. Don’t shrink from any of it, brothers. Ad multos annos!”