LETTER TO MY BROTHERS — Words of Hope and Challenge for Priests by Stephen. J. Rossetti (Ave Maria Press, 2013, supplied by Pleroma Christian Supplies); $32.50. Reviewed
by Fr MICHAEL DOOLEY.
Stephen Rossetti is a diocesan priest in the United States who is a psychologist and has been the director of a treatment centre for priests. He has written a number of books on the priesthood, one of his best known being Why Priests Are Happy, a psychological study on the wellbeing of priests.
This latest publication of his is not a psychological survey, rather it is a meditative effort to encourage and guide priests in their vocation.
Rossetti has written short four to five page chapters which are framed as letters to his brother priests. This format makes it an easy-to-read book.
Although the author speaks of the joy of priesthood, I sensed a sombre tone throughout these
The introduction opens with the statement that these are difficult times, and going to get more
difficult. He cites a quotation from Cardinal Donald Wuerl describing a “tsunami of secularisation”. Rossetti writes of this challenge of being a priest in an increasingly secular society.
He sees a future with committed priests and laity who are increasingly a minority in society, with values and beliefs that will be ever more countercultural.
What do priests need to do in responding to this situation?
The letters emphasise that priests must first preach and live the Gospel.
In his letters, Rossetti deals with topics such as the danger of narcissism, living celibacy in
a healthy way, the relationships between bishop and priests, the importance of building relationships in ministry.
There is nothing new here, but he gives sound and solid advice that is worth hearing again.
At times I found his prose a little flowery, particularly when he lapsed into a meditation on
his own funeral. On the whole he writes simply and with faith.
This book is worthwhile spiritual reading for anyone connected to the vocation of priesthood. Rossetti has put his finger on the issue when he writes of the challenge of living as a priest in an increasingly secular society and these letters are an encouragement for the task ahead.
Fr Michael Dooley is the parish priest of Green Island and Mosgiel parishes in Dunedin diocese.