I was speaking this afternoon with a friend who carries in his heart the needs of priests: their sanctification, their healing, and reparation for their sins. Our conversation moved me to translate two texts of Mother Marie des Douleurs Wrotnowska (1902-1983), the foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified. Mother Marie des Douleurs was not given to half-measures. She held her daughters accountable, in some way, for the falls of certain priests, and so called them to task. She wrote the first of these texts in 1932. The clergy in France were affected, at the time, by the controversy surrounding the Action Française, and also by the defection, and subsequent excommunication, of certain "modernist" priests.
There exists no vocation higher or more divine than the priestly vocation. It is a grace that cannot be measured, and we will never be able to thank the Divine Master enough for having willed that, to continue it, there should be priests among us.
We must, however, also think that if the soul of a priest is something very great and very beautiful, it is also — as are all human creatures — something that is very weak. There is nothing more irremediable, more scandalous, and more shameful than the fall of the soul of a priest into sin, and yet, there is in their nature nothing that keeps them away from this forever.
There is where our duty lies: the essential reason for our religious life, which exists only for the priesthood. We must surround priests with our continual prayer so that this prayer may be a barrier between them and the spirit of the world in which they live, and against which it is our duty to protect them.
What purity must be our own, and what supernatural spirit must be ours, in view of this very lofty task which God has given us. We were chosen to help the elect of the Lord, those who give life to the world. We will be able to fulfill this vocation only if we ourselves live purely for God, truly handed over, without falling back on ourselves. We are responsible for the sanctity of many priests; the Lord, having chosen us to help them, we must do it, and we know that the only way we can help is by sanctifying ourselves more and more each day so as to lead souls after us into the furrow of fire that ought to mark our lives in the sight of the angels.
And in 1933 Mother Marie des Douleurs wrote:
Our ministry, belonging to us, is to pray for the sanctification of priests. What are we then doing that this horrible thing of certain priests being excommunicated can happen? We are there, in spite of that, to prevent such scandals that rend the heart of our Mother the Church and the Heart of her Spouse. At least, let these terrible falls call us back to the generous fidelity that we ought to put into the least acts of our lives.
We have come together in the religious life so as to become each day more surrendered to the will of God and more stripped of ourselves, so as to be less unworthy of being offered as holocausts in reparation for such outrages. We must not allow the conviction of our responsibilities to become attenuated, nor let ourselves become drowsy and tepid while the Lord is counting on us. We ought to be such reservoirs of charity and humility for priests! Alas, while Jesus begs us, in vain, to show Him pity, the angels can sometimes, even now, see us rather sadly turned in on ourselves, occupied with our fatigues or with our imperceptible ailments.