One day, we're in the Jubilee Year of St. Paul, and the next, we're not. Just like that, it's over. Just like when the Jubilee Year of 2000 came to an end, suddenly, it was just another year.
That's not quite true now, though. Although we're leaving St. Paul behind, we're not really leaving him behind, and we're not entering into just another year. We're in the Year for Priests!
During the Year of St. Paul, the Catholic Church made a conscious effort to reclaim the Apostle to the Gentiles. Through the various intitiatives, conferences, Bible studies, and catechesis, Catholics have grown in the understanding and appreciation of St. Paul. What's that, you say? All of that stuff didn't happen at your parish? Well, surely you at least had a banner!
Maybe I'm being a little cheeky. Maybe the typical Catholic needed to pay careful attention (something we Catholics aren't always good at doing), or make a special effort to seek some of these things out, but at least some of us were affected, to varying degrees, by the Year of St. Paul. What we learned during this past year will stick with us. Our appetite has been whetted. And even if we are but a small fraction of the total Church, we can serve as salt to season the rest.
In closing the Pauline Year and opening the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI invoked St. Paul as "a splendid model to imitate." "St. Paul is an example of a priest who was completely identified with his ministry, conscious of posessing a priceless treasure, that is, the message of salvation, but in an 'earthen vessel.'"
The Pope concluded with a theme that I suspect we will be hearing much of during the coming year: "The priest must belong totally to Christ and totally to the Church; to the latter he is called to dedicate himself with an undivided love, like a faithful husband to his bride."