Given all the demoralizing and cranky rants about priests that float through the blogosphere, I find it more than ever necessary to point to models of priestly virtue and holiness. I am a great believer in visiting each day a gallery of heavenly heroes. Sursum corda! Hearts on high! This is one of the reasons why holy priests like Padre Leopoldo Pastori, Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Saint Gaetano Catanoso, Saint Théophane Vénard, Saint Claude La Colombière, and others, so often figure prominenty on Vultus Christi.
The Offering of Little Souls
Precious few in the Church are given the incisive and prophetic charisms of a Saint Peter Damian or of a Fra Girolamo Savonarola. All the members of Christ's Body are, however, called to a life of Eucharistic oblation: "And now, brethren, I appeal to you by God's mercies to offer up your bodies as a living sacrifice, consecrated to God and worthy of his acceptance" (Rom 12:1). Even "little souls," hidden in the humdrum activities of ordinary life, can offer themselves quietly but effectively for the sanctification of priests; for the deliverance of priests oppressed by the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil; for the refreshment of priests grown weary in their service; for the conversion of priests who may have compromised with sin.
The Sin Never Lost to My Sight
There is not a priest alive who cannot say every morning with the psalmist, "Wash me clean, cleaner yet, from my guilt, purge me of my sin, the guilt which I freely acknowledge, the sin which is never lost to my sight" (Ps 50:4). I, for one, am acutely conscious of that part of my being that is "a shell of perishable earthenware" (2 Cor 4:7). Saint Paul's words find an echo in my heart:
"We have a treasure, then, in our keeping, but its shell is of perishable earthenware; it must be God, and not anything in ourselves, that gives it its sovereign power. For ourselves, we are being hampered everywhere, yet still have room to breathe, are hard put to it, but never at a loss; persecution does not leave us unbefriended, nor crushing blows destroy us; we carry about continually in our bodies the dying state of Jesus, so that the living power of Jesus, may be manifested in our bodies too" (2 Cor 4:7-10).
The World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests that will be observed on this coming Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, invites all of us — clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful — to consider making certain resolutions. I would propose, for example:
— a hour of Eucharistic adoration every Thursday in thanksgiving, reparation, and supplication for priests.
— the Rosary offered for priests every Saturday.
— consecration and entrustment of priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
— the acceptance of illness or pain, the offering of fasting or other prudent mortifications for the deliverance of priests locked in spiritual combat.
— silence when tempted to speak ill of priests.
— readiness to offer priests a simple word of encouragement and gratitude. Avoid sentimental gushing and fawning, but be affirming of your priest's efforts to serve Christ, preach His Word, and dispense His Holy Mysteries.
— frequent prayer in reparation for the sins of priests. I recommend the following chaplet prayed on ordinary rosary beads:
At the beginning of each decade:
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Thy Beloved Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:18),
in reparation for my sins and for the sins of all priests.
On the decades:
By Thy Precious Blood, O Jesus,
purify and sanctify Thy priests.
At the conclusion of each decade:
O Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth
is named (Ephesians 3:14),
have mercy on all priests,
and wash them in the Blood of the Lamb.