Start A Chapter
A chapter is the building block of the CCC. Just as Our Divine Lord said ‘where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in their midst,’ so, too, if anywhere from two to three, or five to ten or twenty or more priests and deacons gather, that can be a chapter. All you need to start a chapter is to have a place to meet and some names to invite. The goal of the chapter is to meet faithfully every month. We clergy need fraternal support. This is why Jesus called a GROUP of twelve. They spent time TOGETHER. Your Canonical annual retreat is essential but not enough. One afternoon a month is not selfish, it is important. If we neglect our spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human needs for ongoing formation, then we are not going to be able to give our people what they deserve. The need well-rounded men who can balance work and prayer, study and leisure. Making time for your spirituality will make you a better priest or deacon and help you better serve your people and your bishop. This is not EITHER/OR as Pope Benedict XVI tells us, it is BOTH/AND. We need to make and spend time with our people and with brother clergy as well as making time for ourselves and the Lord. Daily Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are the pitons we cling to each day but once a month we also need some intellectual and spiritual refreshment and nourishment just as we need an annual retreat, a day off and a vacation from time to time.
The priest that I know who have left public ministry did not just stop praying one day. They burned themselves out. Many of them saw their priesthood as activity. They DID many priestly things and were very active in the apostolates. Danger is that we can be tempted to try too hard or do too much. The work will never be done, so we cannot work until we drop. We must exercise PRUDENCE and employ BALANCE. Work and prayer (public and private). During a vocation shortage, we need to work smarter, not harder. No one HAS to join just as there are many options and alternatives the Church recognizes and endorses, nevertheless the beauty of the CCC is that it is not limited to one type of spirituality. It is not exclusively or predominantly Opus Dei, Dominican, Franciscan, Benedictine, Jesuit, et al. although it is always helpful to have a religious priest come often to give spiritual conferences and hear confessions. Priesthood is not just WHAT we do, it is also WHO we are.
No matter how far is the nearest parish or cleric, the CCC is here to help and encourage you in all areas of ongoing post-ordination formation and the Chapter is the center of all our activity. One afternoon a month commitment to common prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and the opportunity for Confession (perhaps even spiritual direction?) is not a luxury for times gone by. Once again, daily Mass and private prayer are givens. Once a month, however, we can and ought to spend time with brother priests and deacons for some payer, theological discussion, and some healthy fraternity. The CCC has no formal structure for these meetings. We just suggest you invite local clergy (priests and deacons) from your diocese and perhaps neighboring dioceses, if applicable. Have one stable place to meet once a month, usually the same day (with a few exceptions for holy days, etc.). While every priest and deacon in good standing is invited to attend a chapter meeting and/or our annual conference, membership in the CCC is never a prerequisite, only a suggestion. If someone comes occasionally, they are as welcome as the regulars.
In reality, a chapter meeting is AN AFTERNOON OF RECOLLECTION FOR LOCAL CLERGY and can be advertised as such to potential members. The CCC exists to support you, but also needs your support. INVITE your classmates and diocesan colleagues to one of our annual convocations as well as to a monthly chapter meeting. ATTEND monthly meetings, MENTION the CCC to other members of the Catholic clergy (priests, deacons and even seminarians) and PRAY for each other. MAKE TIME for your sacerdotal life.