The priest is an icon of Christ. Through his visits to homes, he demonstrates Christ’s presence in the home. People today, more than at any time in the past, need to see the face of their father the priest. Visits have a sacramental character. Without the priest knowing where it is from, divine grace does its work through him. The Lord Jesus said to the tax-collector Zacchaeus,
“Make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Then He said, “Today salvation has come to this house…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:5, 9, 10).
Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is the model for the parish priest who visits and checks up on his flock. From the time He began to announce the kingdom, He would go about the cities and villages, evangelizing, teaching, and healing every illness and weakness among the people: He went into people’s homes (Lazarus, Zacchaeus) and to their workplaces (the shore, the public highway, tax-collection centers, the temple, the Samaritan woman’s well, etc…).
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When the priest visits a home, it causes the family to feel that the entire Church is checking up on them. For his own part, he is visiting “the church that is in the home” (1 Corinthians 16:19). Wouldn’t it be nice here if the priest would often make an effort on his visits (even apart from special circumstances) to bring along members of his parish council or even others from among his zealous children who volunteer to come?
In this regard, I will remind you about the establishment of the Pastoral Center for Patristic Heritage and the Center for Youth and the Family by the Archdiocese of Tripoli and Koura… They were established to train committed volunteers from the Archdiocese to contribute practically, each according to their specialization, to helping the priest and the members of his parish council check up on members of the parish, teaching them and participating in their needs and problems, as well as helping to organize their health, psychological and spiritual affairs. These two centers have yielded a large group of people and I hope that all who are zealous for their Church and their parish will get to know both centers up close, through the Archdiocese, so that there will not be any home that goes without personal attention.
Last but not least, I would like to recount to you a confession, a word of advice given to me by Patriarch Ignatius IV of thrice-blessed memory, immediately after I was consecrated as a bishop by his hand. He said, I will entrust you with this last piece of advice:
“In the past, we waited for people to come to us, but today you must go to them personally, to their homes. This is how you carry out sound and effective pastoral work.”