Strengthen Ye the Feeble Hands

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Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 84:8ab and 9, 10-11, 12-13 (R. Isaiah 35:4f)
Luke 5:17-26

The Promises of God

Again today, the Word of God is rich in promises for those who receive it with attention and with open hearts. First, an announcement full of hope:

Strengthen ye the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees.
Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not:
behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense:
God himself will come and will save you (Is 35: 3-4).

Then came the promises:

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,
and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as a hart,
and the tongue of the dumb shall be free:
for waters are broken out in the desert,
and streams in the wilderness (Is 35: 5-6).

How can one hear such things and not be inwardly quickened? We are all feeble, weak-kneed, fainthearted, fearful, and in need of salvation. We are all of us, in some way, blind, deaf, lame, and without the living water for which we thirst.

For Priests

These are promises, certainly, for the whole Church and for each one of us. At the same time, I seem to hear in the words of the prophet promises that are destined, first of all, for the priests of the Lord. If Jesus’ chosen instruments are to be effective in His service, if His anointed ones are to do “the works that He did and greater works than these” (cf. Jn 14:12), then it is their feeble hands that must be strengthened, their weak knees that must be confirmed, and their faint hearts that must be emboldened.

Risking Grace

I hear today’s promises in this way because the Word of God never comes to us in a void. It is uttered in a particular context made up of circumstances and events. I am profoundly moved by the ecclesial events of these past few days. It would seem that the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Solemn Opening of the Jubilee of Lourdes have released a torrent of graces in the Church. Our Lord respects, of course, our freedom. Torrents of graces can indeed pass over us, leaving us untouched and unchanged. There is a risk involved in saying, “yes” to a particular promise or grace and, sadly, there are many souls who, out of lukewarmness, or fear, or self-interest, or inertia, simply refuse the risk.

Adoration, Reparation, and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests

On December 7th, His Eminence Claudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy made public his letter entitled, “Adoration, Reparation, and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests.” The letter is available in the form of booklet. It contains 36 pages. Its content is remarkable. The letter presents a number of figures, men and women, of recent times who responded to a particular call to offer themselves for priests in adoration, reparation, and intercession. Among them figure Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, Mother Louise-Marguerite Claret de la Touche, Berthe Petit, Conchita of Mexico, and the illustrious English convert, Eliza Vaughan, the mother of six priests and four religious sisters.

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A Life Offered for Priests

I regret that certain texts of Mother Marie des Douleurs Wrotnowska (Foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, (1902–1983) were not included. Mother Marie des Douleurs is too little known in this regard. In the first years of her Congregation, she presented the oblation of its members for priests, as its particular mission within the Church. While in France I had occasion to reflect on some of her writings on this very subject dating from the early 1930s. I was astonished by the strength of what she articulated in speaking of the Sisters' vocation to become a victimal offering for priests in the hands of Christ the Eternal High Priest. And now, thanks to the spiritual biography written by Father Luc de Wouters, O.S.B., we know that at the end of her life, Mother Marie des Douleurs interpreted her own sufferings and, especially, her humiliations in weakness as a divine response to a prayer made in her youth in which she asked that the lot of fallen priests be visited upon her own head. Shortly before her death on December 10, 1983, she wrote:

In the eventide of my life, I have such a need of recollection, such a need to obey and to humble myself. I am unworthy of having been chosen to found the Congregation. I suffer being pulled between heaven and earth. The cross grows heavy. The Lord gave me as my portion the souls of guilty priests . . . my own soul disappears beneath an accumulation of iniquities! But I had asked for this humiliation! How is that the Lord was able to make use of so little a thing? His fidelity, His consuming love, this is all my life, my light, my death.

The Acceptable Time

The initiative of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy asks for worldwide commitments to Eucharistic Adoration in a spirit of reparation for priests, and to obtain for them graces of healing and of holiness. He asks that religious women accept the responsibility of spiritual motherhood for priests. His Eminence made a point of saying that the chaplains of convents and monasteries of women should appeal for a response to his initiative. I am doing what he asked: appealing to you. Now the decision is yours. Concretely, what will you do?

Do not let this moment grace pass you by. I say to you in the words of the Apostle: “And we helping do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith: In an accepted time have I heard thee; and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:1-2).

Man, Thy Sins Are Forgiven Thee

Our Lord is waiting for us to do whatever is necessary to bring before him souls in need of healing and liberation and, in the first place, the souls of priests. You may be responsible for the soul of a priest hearing — or not hearing — the words of Our Lord in today’s Gospel: “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee” (Lk 5:20). Think about it. And then act.

Note: Le Serpent et la croix, the spiritual biography of Mother Marie des Douleurs, written by Father Luc de Wouters, O.S.B., is available from Soeur Marie-Isabelle, O.S.B. at the Monastère Saint Benoît, 25330 Nans-sous-Sainte Anne, France, or from the Monastère de l'Incarnation, 1, rue du Couvent, 52210 St. Loup/Aujon, France.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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