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Letter to Seminarians
on the Occasion of the Day for the Sanctification of Priests
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

7 June 2013

Dearest Seminarians,

The Primacy of Grace in the Priestly Life

On the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we celebrate most significantly the day for the sanctification of priests and, as you are in the Seminary to respond in the most fitting way possible to your vocation, it is important for me to send you this letter, with great affection, so that you may feel involved and, as such, remember this important occasion.
We contemplate together today the origin of the divine vocation. The Holy Father has emphasised firmly the love in which those who are Priests of Christ and of the Church must participate. In his homily at his first Chrism Mass (28 March 2013), Pope Francis said "This I ask you: be shepherds, with the 'odour of the sheep'". By this striking image, the Successor of Peter invites us to have a strong and solid love for the People of God, a love which - as the same Pontiff has noted - is not fed from purely human sources, nor is it reinforced by techniques of self-persuasion. It is the personal encounter with the Lord; it is keeping alive the knowledge of having been called by Him, who gives the truly greater supernatural strength to be Priests in the image of the Good Shepherd of all, Christ Jesus. But in order to be such tomorrow, you have to prepare yourselves today. In very clear words, Pope Francis has referred to the primacy of grace in the priestly life: "It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live our priestly life going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimise the power of grace" (ibidem).

The Priestly Cross

For the disciple walking with Christ, walking in grace, means taking on with spiritual joy the weight of the priestly cross. We hear again the Holy Father teaching about this: "When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly" (Homily at the Holy Mass with the Cardinals, 14 March 2013). On the contrary, to live our ministry as a service to Christ crucified, prevents us from understanding the Church as a human organisation "a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord" (ibidem).

In the light of these first magisterial teachings of Pope Francis, I invite you to consider your life as a gift of God and, at the same time, a task which has been entrusted to you, not simply by men but - albeit by way of the necessary mediation by the Church - ultimately by the Lord himself, who has a plan for your life and for the lives of the brothers and sisters whom you will be called to serve.

The Liturgy Opens Heaven Wide Here on Earth

It is necessary to view the whole of our life in terms of a divine call, and also of a generous human response. This involves cultivating within ourselves the vocational sense, which interprets life as a continual dialogue with the Lord Jesus, risen and alive. In every age, Christ has called and continues to call men to follow him more closely by participating in his priesthood - that implies that, in every period of the history of the Church, the Lord has held a vocational dialogue with the faithful that He has chosen, so that they may be his representatives among the people of God, as well as mediators between heaven and earth, particularly in the celebration of the liturgy and the sacraments. In fact, one can say that the liturgy opens heaven wide here on earth.

Never Place Limits on the Plan that God Has for Us

On this basis, you are called through ordination - without any merit of your own - to be mediators between God and his people and to make possible the salvific encounter through the celebration of the divine mysteries. Notwithstanding your own limits, you have responded to this call with generosity and joy. It is important that you always keep alive the sense of youthfulness in your hearts: "We must live the faith with a young heart, always: a young heart, even at the age of seventy or eighty. Dear young people! With Christ, the heart never grows old" (Pope Francis, Homily for Palm Sunday, 24 March 2013, no. 3).

Interior Silence

The youthfulness of the priestly spirit, firm in its vocation, is guaranteed by prayer, that is the continually maintained attitude of interior silence which favours listening to God every day. This continual opening of the heart happens, naturally, within a stability that - once the fundamental life decisions have been taken - is capable, with the help of grace, to remain faithful to the tasks which have been solemnly accepted, right up to the end of our earthly life. However, this necessary stability does not imply closing our ear to the ongoing call of God, because the Lord, while confirming us every day in our fundamental vocation, is always at the door of our heart knocking (cf. Acts 3:30), waiting for us to open it to Him with the same generosity with which we said to him our first "fiat", imitating the availability of the Ever Virgin Mother of God (cf. Lk. 1:38). We can, therefore, never place limits on the plan that God has for us and that he will communicate to us day after day, throughout the whole of our life.

From the Heart of God into the Heart of Man

This vocational openness also represents the most certain way to live evangelical joy. It is, in fact, the Lord who will make us truly happy. Our joy does not come from mundane satisfaction, which makes us briefly happy and quickly disappears, as St. Ignatius of Loyola noted in his first spiritual discernment (cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings of 31 July, II Reading). Our joy is Christ! In the daily dialogue with Him, our spirit is reassured and continually renews our passion and our zeal for the salvation of souls.

This prayerful dimension of the priestly vocation reminds us of still more very important aspects. First among them is the fact that vocations grow not principally from a pastoral strategy, but above all through prayer. As Jesus taught: "Pray... the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Lk. 10:2). Commenting on these evangelical words, Pope Benedict XVI noted: "We cannot simply 'produce' vocations; they must come from God. This is not like other professions; we cannot simply recruit people by using the right kind of publicity or the correct type of strategy. The call which comes from the heart of God must always find its way into the heart of man" (Meeting with Priests and Permanent Deacons of Bavaria. 14 September 2006). You, dear Seminarians, have been called by the Lord, but many people spread throughout the world have supported and are supporting your response with their prayers and their sacrifices. Be grateful for this and unite yourselves to these prayers and sacrifices to support other responses to vocations. To the primacy of prayer can then be added, as a channel of this divine grace, the sound, motivated and enthusiastic vocational pastoral action on the part of the Church. With regard to this ecclesial collaboration with the divine work of giving pastors to the People of God and the Mystical Body of Christ, it is appropriate to remember briefly a few matters that mark it out, that is: respect for priestly vocations, the witness of the lives of Priests, the specific work of Seminary formators.

Nurture the Seeds of Vocations

It is first of all necessary that the Church appreciates you for your priestly vocation, considering that the Community of the disciples of Christ cannot exist without the service of the sacred ministers. From this comes the care, attention and reverence for the priesthood. Secondly, vocations are highly favoured, as can be seen from the example and the care that the priests offer them. It would be difficult for an exemplary priest not to stimulate the question in the minds of young people: could I not also be called to a wonderful and happy life like this? Particularly in this way, Priests are channels through which God makes the divine call resound in the heart of those He has chosen. Priests then will nurture the seeds of vocation that begin to spring in the souls of the young, by means of sacramental Confession, spiritual direction, preaching and pastoral enthusiasm. I am sure that many of you will be witnesses to and beneficiaries of this.

The Church Needs Priests

I would, furthermore, like to say a word about the important role of those priests to whom the Bishops entrust your formation. The Seminary formators are called to continue and to deepen the care for priestly vocations, while they provide all the required help for the necessary personal discernment of every candidate. As to this, we must remember the two principles which must guide the evaluation of vocations: the friendly welcome and the just severity. While every prejudice as well as every rigorsim should be avoided in the treatment of seminarians, on the other hand it is of the greatest importance to guard carefully against laxism and carelessness in judgment. The Church certainly needs Priests, but not any kind of Priest! The love that welcomes must therefore accompany the truth which judges with clarity whether, for a particular candidate, the signs of a vocation and the human qualities necessary for a trustworthy response to it are present. The pastoral urgency of the Church cannot be permitted to bring about haste in conferring the sacred ministry. On the contrary, where there is doubt, it is better to take the time necessary and carry out appropriate evaluations, which will not exclude the dismissal of those candidates who are not able to offer sufficient guarantees.

Keep Persevering

My dearest Seminarians, with these brief comments, I have endeavoured to redirect our spiritual attention to the immense gift and to the absolutely free mystery of our special vocation. We entrust to the intercession of our most holy Mother Mary and of St. Joseph the gifts of fidelity and of perseverance in the divine call that, by pure grace, they may be bestowed upon us and that we may seek to respond to the divine generosity, which always sends pastors for the flock with renewed apostolic zeal. Keep persevering, always remembering that we show our love in this world by our fidelity.

I remember you each day in prayer with great affection, and I implore the Lord to send down his divine benediction upon you.

Mauro Cardinal Piacenza
Prefect
Congregation for the Clergy

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In the following passage from The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena with the Eternal Father, God the Father addresses the clergy wallowing in sin. He contrasts the body of the priest with the Body of Christ. Notice how the text echoes the Reproaches (Improperia) of the Good Friday liturgy. "I did this for you . . . and you have done this in return." The focus on the wounds of Jesus and on His Precious Blood are characteristic of Saint Catherine.

The Flesh of the Priest, Anointed and Consecrated
O despicable, wretched man, not man but beast! That you should give your flesh, anointed and consecrated to Me, to prostitutes and worse! By the wounded Body of My only-begotten Son on the wood of the most holy cross, your flesh and that of the whole human race was healed of the wound Adam dealt it by his sin. O wretch! He honored you and you disgrace Him! He healed your wounds with His Blood, and more, He made you His minister, and you persecute Him with your lustful dishonorable sins! The Good Shepherd washed the little sheep clean in His Blood. But you defile those who are pure. You use your power to hurl them into the dung heap. You who ought to be a mirror of honor are a mirror of dishonor. You have yielded all your members to the works of wickedness, doing the opposite of what My Truth did for you.
The Eyes of the Priest
I allowed them to blindfold His eyes to enlighten you, and you with your lustful eyes shoot poisoned arrows into your own soul and the hearts of those you look on so miserably.
The Tongue of the Priest
I let them give Him vinegar and gall to drink, and you like a perverse beast find your pleasure in delicate foods, making a god of your belly. On your tongue are dishonorable empty words. It is your duty with that tongue to admonish your neighbors, to proclaim My word, and to say the Office with your heart as well as your tongue. But I smell nothing but filth coming from your tongue as you swear and perjure yourself as you were a swindling hoodlum, blaspheming me right and left.
The Hands of the Priest
I let them bind My Sons hands to free you and the whole of mankind from the bondage of sin, and anointed and consecrated your hands for the ministry of the Most Holy Sacrament, and you use your hands for wretched obscene touching. All the actions you express through your hands are corrupt and directed to the devil's service. O wretch! And I appointed you to such dignity so that you might serve Me alone--you and every other rational creature.

The following section is especially beautiful. The Father presents the Body of His Son as stairway leading to Himself. He speaks of the open Side of Jesus through which one sees His inmost Heart. The Heart of Jesus is a hostelry open to those who seek to taste the Father's unspeakable love.

The Feet of the Priest

I willed that my Son's feet should be nailed, and made His Body a stairway for you. I let them open His Side so that you might see His inmost Heart. I set Him like an open hostelry where you could see and taste My unspeakable love for you when you found and saw My divinity united with your humanity. There you see that I have made the Blood-- of which you are a steward for Me--to be a bath to wash away your sins. And you have made of your heart a temple for the devil! And your will, of which your feet are a symbol, you use to offer me nothing but filth and abuse. The feet of your will carry you nowhere except to the devil's haunts. So with your whole body you persecute My Son's Body by doing the opposite of what He did and what you and everyone else are bound and obligated to do.

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Painting: Regnault, Henri, Castilian Mountain Shepherd,1868, Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau

For Good Shepherd Sunday

Tomorrow, in the traditional liturgy, is Good Shepherd Sunday. How can we not pray, in a special way, for the shepherds whom Christ has set over His flock in the Church? There are stalwart shepherds, heroic in protecting the sheep, and ever-ready to go in search of the lost lamb. There are also weary shepherds, discouraged shepherds, and shepherds who have lost their way in the mist.

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in supplication for the sanctification of priests and in reparation for the sins that disfigure the Face of Christ the Priest in the eyes of the world, is at the heart of Silverstream Priory's mission in the Church. I am close to our Oblates, to our friends, and to the many others who are united with us in prayer. Some of you spend time before the Most Blessed Sacrament; others pray in their homes at different hours of the day and night. Still others offer their work and family life in union with our adoration. You may find this prayer helpful:

Lord Jesus Christ,
I adore Thee who art truly present here before me,
[or, in the tabernacles of Thy churches]
with all the love of my heart,
and with an immense sorrow for having offended Thee,
again and again, by all my sins.
Mindful of Thy priests in need,
I lift them up into the light of Thy Eucharistic Face,
and offer them to the fire of Thy Eucharistic Heart,
there to be illumined, warmed, and purified.

Draw them all to Thyself,
that Thou mayest hold them in the embrace of Thy Divine Friendship,
and, so, sanctify them unto Thy Father's glory
and for Thy Bride, the Church.
Save and preserve Thy priests under demonic attack.
Comfort those engaged in spiritual combat.
Raise those who have fallen.
Bring back those who have strayed.
Bind up the wounds of those who have been injured in their souls.

Be Thou a Good Shepherd, tender, merciful, and ever-loving
to Thy poor shepherds who have lost their way.
Let not one of them remain in darkness,
far from Thee, and forgetful of Thy Most Holy Mother.

Send Thy Holy Angels to Thy priests in danger,
in temptation, in darkness, and in despair,
and let not one of them fall prey to the wiles of the Evil One,
or remain in a state of impenitence.

Save all Thy priests, O Jesus,
for they are Thy chosen friends,
and each one is precious in Thy sight,
even when he has fallen into the worst sins against Thee,
harming souls, and bringing sorrow and shame upon Thy Church.
Save them all! Let not one of Thy beloved priests be lost,
that Thy Church may say in all truth, and with a holy joy:
"To me, O God, Thy friends are made exceedingly honourable."
Amen.

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Prayer to Saint Joseph for Priests

O glorious Saint Joseph,
who, on the word of the angel
speaking to you in the night,
put fear aside to take your Virgin Bride into your home,
show yourself today the advocate and protector of priests.
Guardian of the Infant Christ,
defend them against every attack of the enemy,
preserve them from the dangers that surround them
on every side.
Remember Herod's threats against the Child,
the anguish of the flight into Egypt by night,
and the hardships of your exile.
Stand by the accused;
stretch out your hand to those who have fallen;
comfort the fearful;
forsake not the weak;
and visit the lonely.
Let all priests know that in you
God has given them a model
of faith in the night, obedience in adversity,
chastity in tenderness, and hope in uncertainty.
You are the terror of demons
and the healer of those wounded in spiritual combat.
Come to the defence of every priest in need;
overcome evil with good.
Where there are curses, put blessings,
where harm has been done, do good.
Let there be joy for the priests of the Church,
and peace for all under your gracious protection.
Amen.

Sitting on the basket

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Catholic Schadenfreude

I grieve over the prevalence of the culture of Schadenfreude that modern technology facilitates. Schadenfreude is a kind of perverse delight taken in the weaknesses, falls from grace, or misfortunes of another. Why is there a frenzied rush, even among some Catholics, to point to the latest scandal, to comment on it, and discuss it? What is there in us that prompts us to take a morose delight in uncovering the sins of others? I often think of this wonderful story from the sayings of the Desert Fathers:

Brother, Be Careful
There was a brother who kept a woman in his cell. The other fathers decided to go and expel him from the monastery. An abba heard about this and visited the brother beforehand. The brother hid the woman in a basket, before the abba came in the door. The abba then proceeded to sit on top of the basket and converse with the brother until the other fathers came to visit. The abba ordered the other fathers to search the cell and find this woman. Not finding her, because the abba (who had a gift of seeing hidden things) was sitting on the basket containing her. The abba then chastised the fathers for falsely accusing the brother and judging him. They asked for forgiveness and left. Then the abba got off the basket and told the brother, "Brother, be careful" and left.

Interventions

There are, of course, grave situations in which one is bound, as a matter of justice or to protect the vulnerable, to intervene in the matter of another's sin, but this should always be done with the utmost discretion and respect for all concerned. In the Gospel, Our Lord provides us with a plan of intervention:

If thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. (Matthew 18:15-17)

First of all, then, one must approach the offender and speak to him privately. If this fails to touch his heart, one should repeat the intervention in the presence of two or three witnesses. Only if this also fails to move the sin-sick brother's heart, should one have recourse to the Body of the Church. Only if he hardens his heart against the Church, that is, against the Body of Christ, should he be counted as the heathen and publicans. Most importantly, all of this takes place personally and in real time, not in the media that technology has placed at our finger tips as a two-edged sword.

The Scarlet Letter

Is it not reprehensible -- especially when one has no personal, face-to-face and heart-to-heart, knowledge of the individual concerned -- to call attention to the weaknesses and sins of a man? We live still in the accusatory culture of The Scarlet Letter. Even in Catholic circles, Calvinism (or Jansenism, which is a kind of Catholic Calvinism) thrives. How different this is from the merciful culture of the Desert Fathers, so imbued with the spirit of the Gospel.

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Nothing Worse
The old men used to say, "There is nothing worse than passing judgement".
Abba Makarios
They said of Abba Makarios that he became as it is written a god upon earth, because just as God protects the world, so Abba Makarios would cover the faults that he saw as though he did not see them, and those which he heard as though he did not hear them.
If You Are Chaste
Abba Pastor said, "Judge not him who is guilty of fornication, if you are chaste, or you will break the law like him. For He who said, "Do not commit fornication," said also "Do not judge."
Abba Moses
A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you". So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug and filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, "what is this, father?" The old man said to them, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another." When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.
Where Do You Want Me to Throw Him?
One day Abba Isaac went to a monastery. He saw a brother committing a sin and he condemned him. When he returned to the desert, an angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell, and said, "I will not let you enter." But he persisted saying, "What is the matter?" And the angel replied, "God has sent me to ask you where you want to throw the guilty brother whom you have condemned." Immediately he repented and said, "I have sinned, forgive me." Then the angel said, "Get up, God has forgiven you. But from now on, be careful not to judge someone before God has done so."
Abba Poemen
A brother asked Abba Poemen, "If I see my brother sin, is it right to say nothing about it?" The old man replied, "Whenever we cover our brother's sin, God will cover ours; whenever we tell people about our brother's guilt, God will do the same about ours."

Abba Poemen said, "If I see my brother sin" -- today one may not see one's brother sin, but one can read about it, often in lurid detail. How much more, then, are we bound to cover our brother's sin and observe silence concerning his guilt.

A Favourite Story of Mine

I could bring forth saying after saying and story after story from the lives of the Desert Fathers, for theirs was a culture of mercy, marked by the meekness of the Heart of Jesus. There is, nonetheless, one final story from the Orthodox Christian East that I must share because I so love it.

Once there was a priest who got drunk on Saturday night and stayed very drunk well into Sunday morning. His intoxication notwithstanding , the poor priest rose the next day and staggering, set out for church to serve the Divine Liturgy. An Angel, sent by the Lord, stopped him in his tracks, however, and tied him to a tree, lest he go into the church, and approach the altar, and bring disgrace upon himself and upon his holy priesthood.
When his wife went into church, she saw him at the altar, serving the Divine Liturgy, and was struck by the unusual radiance and beauty of his countenance. Leaving church, after the Divine Liturgy, she was making her way home when she came upon her husband tied to a tree! "Batushka!" she said, "how is it that you are tied to this tree when I saw you, only moments ago, serving at the altar?" "Matushka!" he replied, "An Angel of the Lord stopped me on my way to church and tied me to this tree, promising to assume my likeness and replace me at the altar this morning, lest my drunkenness bring shame upon me and upon my holy priesthood." "Verily," said his wife, "I saw you at the altar, but your countenance was like that of an angel, and the beauty of it more than I ever remember seeing."

In a Vessel of Clay

The story does not recount whether or not the wife untied her husband from the tree. The meaning of the story is that, no matter how sinful a priest may be, the indelible character of the holy priesthood engraved upon his soul by the Holy Ghost is, at all times and in all circumstances, worthy of profound respect. A poor drunken priest, a vessel of clay, was deemed worthy by God of the ministrations of an Angel, for the sake of the inestimable treasure hidden within.

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Votive Mass of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Yesterday (Friday) morning we had the Votive Mass of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Humiliavit). It is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful Votive Masses in the Roman Missal. The Collect is addressed directly to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Collect
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst descend from heaven to earth from the bosom of the Father, and hast poured out thy Precious Blood for the remission of our sins: we humbly beseech thee; that at the last day we may be found acceptable in thy sight, and receive thy gracious invitation: Come ye blessed of my Father.

God Descends

The little phrase who didst descend from heaven to earth recalls the words that God, speaking out of the burning bush, addressed to Moses.

And knowing their sorrow, I am come down to deliver them. (Exodus 3:8)

God comes down. The fulfillment of this descent is, of course, the Incarnation of the Son of God. He descends from heaven into the Virgin's womb. He descends into the manger at Bethlehem. He descends into Egypt as a refugee child whose very life is threatened. He descends to Nazareth. He descends into the ordinary life of every child of Adam, and so knows hunger, thirst, weariness, sorrow, tears, loneliness, and fear. He descends into the humiliations of His bitter Passion. He descends into death. He descends into the tomb. He descends into Hades.

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In the Most Holy Sacrament

Even ascended into glory where He is enthroned at the right hand of the Father, He descends day after day to the altars of His Church, where, lest we forget the mystery of His coming down, He hides Himself beneath the appearance of a fragile piece of bread. The Most Holy Eucharist is the mystery of the humility of God, the humility of God who comes down to the point of pouring Himself out utterly. This is what Mother Mectilde de Bar calls the anéantissement of the Son of God in the adorable Sacrament of the Altar: the mystery of the All-Powerful God descending so low as to assume the appearance of bread. For love of us, sinners, and because that love compels Him to remain with us, and to nourish us with His own Body and Blood, He hides Himself and remains silent in the Most Holy Sacrament.

Lesson: Zacharias 12:10-11; 13:6-7
Thus said the Lord: I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem. And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered, saith the Lord Almighty.

The Holy Spirit

The Spirit of grace and supplications is none other than Holy Spirit, apart from whom, according to the teaching of Saint Paul, no one can say, Jesus is Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:3) The Spirit of grace and supplications, says the Apostle,

. . . helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God. (Romans 8: 26-27)

Adoration and Reparation

It is, then, the Holy Spirit -- transmitted to the Church on Calvary in the breath of Jesus Crucified, and flowing out His pierced side -- who compels some souls in every generation to abide before the Son of God, humble, hidden, and silent in the Host, in profound adoration and reparation.

"They shall look upon me whom they have pierced," says the Lord. The Holy Spirit directs the gaze of the soul to the One who, in glory and in the Sacrament of His Love, remains the Pierced One. One cannot gaze upon the Pierced One, the immolated Lamb, the Victim of the Altar, without experiencing the sweet bitterness of compunction and reparation.

A Great and Sorrowful Mystery

Seeing the fairest of the children of men, the Only-Begotten Son, wounded in His Heart, His feet, and His hands, one is compelled to ask, "What are these wounds in thine hands?" The wounds in the hands of Christ -- His hands raised in prayer, His hands extended in blessing, His hands baptizing those darkened by sin, His hands nourishing souls with the Bread of Angels, His hands anointing the sick -- these wounded hands signify His priesthood. "Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." (Zacharias 13:6). This is a great and sorrowful mystery: Christ's hands wounded in the house of His friends.

I Have Called You Friends

What did Our Lord say to His apostles, to His first priests, on the night before He suffered? "I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends." (John 15:15) Before doing anything at all -- even before preaching the Word of God and dispensing His grace in the Holy Mysteries -- priests are called to be the friends of Jesus -- not mere acquaintances, nor business associates -- but friends. The house of the friends of Jesus is the Church. It is in the Church that Jesus is wounded in His hands: wounded in His priests, and wounded by His priests. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger spoke prophetically of this in 2005 in his meditation on the ninth Station of the Way of the Cross:

Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of His Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts!How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the Priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency!

Adoration and Reparation

Yes, Christ suffers in His own Church; He is wounded in His hands, and this in the house of His friends. To souls who grieve over the suffering of Christ in His own Church, the Holy Spirit proposes the only fitting response: adoration and reparation. Adoration allows us to kiss the wounded hands of Christ; reparation allows us to press them against our own wounds and against the wounds of all His priests. "He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by His bruises we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

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Letter to Mothers of Priests and Seminarians and to all those who Exercise the Gift of Spiritual Maternity in their regard on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Mother of God

Causa nostrae Letitiae - Cause of our Joy!

Mother of God, Gate of Heaven, Cause of our Joy

The Christian People have always venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary with profound gratitude, contemplating in her the Cause of our every true Joy.

Indeed, in welcoming the Eternal Word into her immaculate womb, Mary Most Holy gave birth to the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. In Him, God himself has come to meet man, he has lifted him up from sin and he has given him eternal life; that is, a share in his very own life. By adhering to God's Will, Mary participated in a unique and unrepeatable way in the mystery of our redemption, thereby becoming the Mother of God, the Gate of Heaven and the Cause of our Joy.

Mothers of Priests

In a similar way, the entire Church looks with admiration and deep gratitude upon all mothers of priests and of those who, having received this lofty vocation, have embarked upon the path of formation. It is therefore with deep joy that I address myself to them.

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The sons whom they welcomed and educated, in fact, have been chosen by Christ from all eternity to become his "chosen friends" and living and indispensable instruments of His Presence in the world. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the lives of priests are definitively taken up by Jesus and immersed in him, such that in them it is Jesus himself who walks and works among men.

Frail Humanity, Elevated by the Power of the Holy Spirit

So great is this mystery that the priest is even called alter Christus - another Christ. His frail humanity, elevated by the power of the Holy Spirit to a new and higher union with the Person of Jesus, becomes a place of encounter with the Son of God who became incarnate, died and rose for us. For when a priest teaches the faith of the Church, it is Christ who speaks to the People through him. When he prudently guides the faithful entrusted to him, it is Christ who shepherds his sheep. And when he celebrates the Sacraments, in an eminent way the Most Holy Eucharist, it is Christ himself who through his ministers continues the work of man's salvation and makes himself truly present in the world.

Parents' Love and an Early Education in the Faith

Normally it is in the family, in the parents' love, and in an early education in the faith that a priestly vocation finds that rich and fertile soil in which availability to the will of God can take root and draw the nourishment it needs. At the same time, every vocation also represents for the family whence it comes an irrevocable change that exceeds all human parameters and calls everyone to conversion.

Having Carried in the Womb One Who Has Become Christ's Minister

Every member of a man's family and all those persons closest to him are involved in this change, which Christ brings about in the life of those whom he has chosen and called. But the participation given to mothers of priests is quite unique and special. For unique and special are the spiritual consolations which they derive from having carried in the womb one who has become Christ's minister. Indeed, every mother cannot but rejoice in seeing the life of her son not only fulfilled but also clothed with a most exceptional divine favor which embraces and transforms it for all eternity.

Every Mother of a Priest Mysteriously Becomes a "Daughter of Her Son"

If an unexpected "distance", mysteriously more radical than any other natural separation, seems to be created in relation to the life of one's son through his vocation and ordination, in reality the Church's two thousand years of experience teaches us that when a man is ordained a priest, his mother "receives" him an a completely new and unexpected way; so much so that she is called to see in the fruit of her own womb a "father" who by God's will is called to generate and accompany a multitude of brothers and sisters to eternal life. Every mother of a priest mysteriously becomes a "daughter of her son." Towards him, she may therefore also exercise a new motherhood through the discreet yet extremely efficacious and inestimably precious closeness of prayer, and by offering of her own life for the ministry of her son.

A New Fatherhood

This new "fatherhood" - for which the Seminarian is prepared, which the priest has been given, and which benefits all God's People - needs to be accompanied by assiduous prayer and personal sacrifice, in order that a priest's free adherence to the divine will may continually be renewed and strengthened, that he may never tire in the battle of faith, and that he may unite his own life ever more completely to the Sacrifice of Christ the Lord.

An Army of Praying Mothers

This work of true support, which has always been essential to the life of the Church, today seems more urgent that ever, especially in the secularized West, which awaits and stands in need of a new and radical proclamation of Christ. Mothers of priests and seminarians thus represent a true and veritable "army", which from earth offers prayers and sacrifice to heaven, and from heaven intercedes in even greater number so that every grace and blessing may be poured out upon the lives of the Church's sacred ministers.

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Spiritual Motherhood of Priests

Therefore, with all my heart I wish to encourage and offer special thanks to all mothers of priests and seminarians - and along with them to all consecrated and lay women who have received (perhaps through the invitation addressed to them during the Year of the Priest) the gift of spiritual motherhood towards those who are called to priestly ministry. By offering their lives, their prayers, their sufferings and their hardships as well as their joys for the fidelity and sanctification of God's ministers, they have come to share in a special way in the motherhood of Holy Church, whose model and fulfillment is found in the divine maternity of Mary Most Holy.

Mothers Departed This Life

Lastly, we raise a special hymn of thanks to heaven - to those mothers who, having already been called from this life, now contemplate in all its fullness the splendor of Christ's Priesthood in which their sons have become sharers, and who intercede for them in a unique and mysteriously far more efficacious manner.

Blessing

With heartfelt wishes for a New Year full of grace, I warmly impart to each and every mother a most affectionate blessing, and I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of Priests, to grant you the gift of an ever more radical identification with her, the perfect disciple and Daughter of her Son.

Mauro Cardinal Piacenza
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

[Zenit Translation by Diane Montagna]

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A Holy Priest

December 7th is the 22nd anniversary of the death of Père Louis Croset. Born at Annecy-le-Vieux in 1914, Monsieur le Chanoine Louis François CROSET was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Annecy on 7 June 1941. He exercised the sacred ministry in the diocese of Annecy from 1941 until 1952, and in the diocese of Bayonne from 1952-1990. He died on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 7 December 1990.

A Father to Many Souls

Père Croset's priestly life was marked by great suffering, by an extraordinary love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by a wonderful spiritual fruitfulness. I was privileged to be numbered among the many souls touched by his priesthood. At the end of his life Père Croset lived in a residence for elderly priests in Pau, not far from Lourdes.

At Lourdes

A number of years ago he drove me to Lourdes where, together in the February rain, we stood before the grotto and prayed this Act of Abandonment to the Blessed Virgin. Père Croset composed it sixty years ago in 1952, in a moment of intense moral suffering and darkness.

Père Croset's Act of Abandonment

O Marie, ma Reine et ma Mère,
reçois en tes mains mon Acte d'Abandon
à la volonté du Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ,
afin qu'à l'exemple de son Fils bien aimé
et par le secours de ta Tendresse,
je laisse conduire ma vie par l'Esprit-Saint
selon les mysterieux desseins de la Trinité.

O Mary, my Queen and my Mother,
receive into thy hands
my Act of Abandonment
to the will of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
so that, following the example of His beloved Son
and with the help of thy tenderness,
I may let my life be directed by the Holy Spirit
according to the mysterious designs of the Trinity.

Aide-moi à livrer sans réserve tout mon être à Dieu
dans la clarté obscure de la foi,
l'élan austère de l'Espérance
et l'étreinte crucifiante de l'Amour.

Help me to surrender without reserve
my whole being to God
in the dark brightness of Faith,
the austere élan of Hope,
and the crucifying embrace of Love.

Je veux m'enfoncer en ton Coeur Immaculé
pour y devenir l'hostie que tu donneras à Jésus,
afin qu'en son sacrifice
Il me consacre à la gloire de son Père
et à la fécondité de l'Eglise son Épouse.
Amen.

I want to hide myself within thy Immaculate Heart
to become there the host
that thou wilt give to Jesus,
so that He may consecrate me in His sacrifice
to the glory of His Father
and to the fruitfulness of His Spouse the Church.
Amen.

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The AOH

The Ancient Order of Hibernians evolved from a need in the early 1600s to protect the lives of Catholic priests who, by offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, risked death to keep the Holy Faith alive in occupied Ireland after the reign of England's King Henry VIII. When England Implemented its dreaded Penal Laws in Ireland, various societies were formed across the country to assist Catholic priests in ministering to the spiritual needs of the faithful. These groups worked to aid and comfort the people by whatever means available. Similarly, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America was founded on May 4th, 1836 at Saint James Church in New York City, to protect Catholic clergy and church property from the machinations of anti-Catholic bigotry, cloaked in the guise of American patriotism, and from the nativist prejudice against immigrants.

Homily at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock
Pilgrimage of the Ancient Order of Hibernians
In Thanksgiving for the Gift of the Priesthood
Saturday, 13 October 2012

When John Byrne rang me a few days ago, inviting me to join you here in Knock today, I could not refuse him. Like my father and my great-grandfather before me, I am a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Father McKeon Nº 7, in New Haven, Connecticut. More significantly, Our Lady of Knock herself has played a decisive role in my life since I first offered Holy Mass here, as a young priest from America over 25 years ago.

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The Icon of Knock

Knock is a kind of life-size icon, that is to say, a message deployed in images. An icon is an image through which heavenly realities are made visible on earth, and through which we, pilgrims who go mourning and weeping in this vale of tears, are given a glimpse of the radiant joys of heaven.

To Be Read from Left to Right

Knock must be read, as one would read a text, from left to right, beginning with Saint Joseph. Consider well Saint Joseph -- humble Joseph, silent Joseph, strong and brave Joseph -- and in him you will see the model of the original mission of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, that is, the protection and safeguard of priests.

Saint Joseph, Protector of Christ, Lamb and Priest

To Saint Joseph was entrusted not only the tender Lamb born of the Virgin Mary, the Lamb who, upon the altar of the Cross, would become the pure victim, the holy victim, the spotless victim, but also the Eternal High Priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews (10:7) tells us that the priesthood of Christ began at the very instant of His conception, by the power of the Holy Ghost, in His Virgin Mother's womb.

Priest From Conception

Coming into this world, that is, coming into the sanctuary of His Mother's womb, the Son, the Eternal Word made flesh, presented Himself to the Father as Priest and Victim, saying, Ecce, venio, "A body Thou has fitted to me; behold, I come to do Thy will" (Hebrews 10:5-7). There was not a moment when Christ Jesus was not a Priest: the Priest for whom all the world waited in anticipation; the desire of the everlasting hills; the Mediator who would, by His own Body, as Saint Catherine of Siena says, bridge the great chasm between earth and heaven; the Redeemer who would give back to God what belonged to God, and give to men what God had, from all eternity, prepared for them.

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Saint Joseph, Guardian of Priests

Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, was placed, from the first instant of His conception, in the care and under the protection of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph is the guardian of priests; he is the father of every man called to represent the fatherhood of God by being a living sacramental image of Him who said, "He that seeth Me seeth the Father" (John 14:9). Saint Joseph's mission has not ended. It is, I daresay, more necessary today than in those dark hours long past of Ireland's history, when the men of the Ancient Order of Hibernians took it upon themselves to be other Josephs for other priests in whom the one priesthood of Christ is prolonged through the ages, and will be prolonged until the end of time. Just as Saint Joseph cannot be understood apart from his relationship to Jesus, the Lamb of Sacrifice and the Priest who offers the Sacrifice, the Ancient Order of Hibernians cannot be understood apart from its historical relationship to the priesthood.

Mary, the Temple Fashioned by God for God

Here at Knock, Saint Joseph appeared bowing in reverence and in awe towards his Virgin Bride -- the love of his life, the joy of his heart, the light of his eyes: Mary. Our Lady appeared at Knock as the image of the Ecclesia Orans, the Church-in-Prayer. The position of her hands, the raising of her eyes, her whole being is liturgical. Mary is the living sanctuary of adoration in spirit and in truth. Her body is the temple fashioned by God for God. Her Immaculate Heart is the altar of the perfect sacrifice. Her womb is the tabernacle of the living Bread come down from heaven. And through her eyes, as through the crystal of a monstrance, one can gaze into the Eucharistic Face of Jesus.

Contemplate Our Lady of Knock

Our Lady revealed herself here at Knock as she is, indeed as she stands near the priest at the altar so often as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered. Contemplate Our Lady of Knock, and you will understand what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council meant when, fifty years ago, they summoned us to full, conscious, and actual participation in the Holy Mysteries. Our Lady of Knock is heaven's perfect, shining illustration of what it means to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on earth.

Saint John the Evangelist

After Saint Joseph and Our Lady, we come to Saint John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Here at Knock, Saint John represents the preaching Church, the teaching Church. All that Saint John preached and taught, he drew out of the Heart of Jesus, that beating Heart upon which he rested his head at the Last Supper; the Heart he saw pierced by the soldier's lance on Calvary; the Heart that he recognized in his vision on the island of Patmos in the wound of the immolated Lamb who lives forever.

The Grace of Johannization for Priests

If you would ask one grace for the priests of Ireland today, ask this -- and I will allow myself to coin a word -- ask that they may be entirely johannized by the Holy Ghost: that each priest may become for the Heart of Jesus and for the Heart of Mary another John, so as to be another John in the heart of the Church. Saint John represents the fulness of priestly holiness in intimacy with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The Sacrifice of the Lamb Renewed

And finally, we come to the altar, to the Lamb, to the Cross, and to myriads of choirs of angels singing, "Holy, Holy Holy"; but now, what is represented at Knock in image and symbol, will be given to us in reality, for the source and the summit of Knock is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is time, then, to leave the ambo for the altar in the blessed company of Saint Joseph, Our Lady, and Saint John; time for the Sacrifice of the Lamb, to whom be all glory and praise here at Knock, and from the rising of the sun to its setting, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Solace for the Sizzling

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Saint Laurence is the patron saint of those who have sizzled (or may be sizzling) on the gridirons of lust. I have long appreciated the oration in honour of Saint Laurence that the Church recommends to her priest in the daily Thanksgiving After Mass of the Roman Missal:

Grant to us, O Lord, we beseech Thee,
to extinguish within us the flames of vice,
even as Thou didst strengthen blessed Laurence
to overcome his fiery torments.
Through Christ our Lord.

Continence is a gift, not an achievement. One becomes chaste by grace, not by dint of stress and strain. Mother Church has known this all along. This, I suppose, is why she bids her priests pray daily for the angelic virtue. What I like about the official prayers for chastity (found in the Roman Missal) is that they are utterly realistic. It is assumed that one is engaged in spiritual combat. Out of weakness or weariness or a combination of both, one may at times emerge from the battle scarred and bruised.

What is the secret of chaste living? 1) You have to want it, 2) you have to ask for it, and 3) you may have to wait for it. Does not Sirach say, "Humble thy heart and endure . . . and in thy humiliation keep patience" (Eccl 2:2-4)?

It pleases God to bestow the gift of chastity through the hands of the All-Pure Mother of God. In this particular combat, the rosary is the mighty weapon of the weak. That being said, let's look at the prayers for chastity given by the Church in the Roman Missal. It is recommended that most of these find a place in the daily prayer rule of the priest.

From the Preparation for Mass

Ure igne Sancti Spiritus

Refine our hearts and affections, Lord,
in the fire of the Holy Spirit,
so that our bodies may be chaste and our hearts clean
to serve Thee according to Thy pleasure.

Rex virginum, amator castitatis

With the heavenly dew of Thy blessing,
God, King of virgins and Lover of stainless chastity,
quench the wildfire of lust in my body,
leaving all of me, body and soul, steadfast in purity.
Deaden within me the stings of desire and all lustful excitements.
Give me true, complete, and abiding chastity,
and therewith all those other gifts of Thine in which Thou truly delightest,
enabling me to offer daily sacrifice in praise of Thee
with a chaste body and clean heart.

Saint John Mary Vianney, Priest

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For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:25).

A Man Sent by God

In 1827, Ars was a remote country village eighteen miles outside of Lyons in France with nothing extraordinary about it; nothing extraordinary apart from the fact that from 1827 until 1859 -- a period of thirty-two years -- the little church of Ars was never empty. Multitudes poured into the church from before the first light of day until well into the night. "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light" (Jn 1:6-8).

The Baptist

Remarkably, the parish priest of Ars was, even by name, another John the Baptist; his full Christian name was, in fact, John Mary Baptist Vianney. Baptized John Mary, he chose the name Baptist at the time of his Confirmation on a cold snowy day in 1807. He was twenty-one years old. On that one day Cardinal Fesch, the Archbishop of Lyons, confirmed three-thousand souls. The ceremony began early in the morning and continued until after 5 o'clock in the afternoon. In the wake of the French Revolution, so many souls had been deprived of catechesis and of the sacraments, that it was not uncommon for such sacramental marathons to take place. From that day forward, John Mary Vianney signed his name John Mary Baptist, or John Baptist Mary.

The identification with the Forerunner of Our Lord was a mysterious portent of things to come. Twenty years after his Confirmation as crowds of pilgrims descended upon Ars, one might have put to them the very words of Our Lord concerning Saint John the Baptist: "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in king's houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet." (Mt 11:7-9). By the grace of the Holy Spirit, John Mary Baptist Vianney was a prophet -- but he was more than a prophet. He was a priest of Jesus Christ.

Nothing of the Showman About Him

Naturally speaking, there was nothing in the parish priest of Ars to draw crowds. He had nothing of the showman about him. He wasn't surrounded by publicists. There were no sophisticated lighting and sound systems. He wasn't, for example, anything at all like a Joel Osteen, or a Dr. Billy Graham, or even like the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. One would not have described him as handsome, although a childlike purity of heart shone in his eyes, and there was about his face something of a supernatural radiance, especially when one observed him in prayer. His clothes were more or less clean, but shabby; an old patched cassock and shoes totally unacquainted with polish. He wore his hair in the clerical fashion of the day: shoulder-length and pushed straight back. Once at a meeting of priests, a more fastidious clergyman refused to sit next to him for fear of catching something from Vianney's greenish, soiled hat.

Not the Typical Priest

Many of his brother priests found him eccentric, even odd. With raised eyebrows and knowing smiles, they murmured among themselves about his notoriously deficient seminary training, about his lack of sophistication, his very rudimentary Latin, and -- to their mind -- excessive piety and fasting. The numbers of penitents drawn to his confessional disconcerted them. Were they not better educated than the parish priest of Ars? Had not they more respectable credentials, a sense of propriety, and the ability to ally their priesthood with life's finer pleasures, those of the palate, of the eye, and of the mind? Why then were veritable caravans of souls making their way to the parish priest of Ars, and returning from him transformed, converted, repentant and joyful?

John Mary Vianney might have answered their queries with the words of Saint John the Baptist: "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:28-30).

Freely You Have Received

In these few lines one finds a portrait, not only of Saint John Mary Vianney, but of a universal, that is, a Catholic priestly holiness. The grace of the priesthood, and the charisms that, by God's gracious will, sometimes accompany it come from heaven. They are pure gift. "Every good endowment and every perfect gift," says Saint James, "is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (Jas 1:17). The priest gives what he himself has received. What were, after all, Our Lord's instructions to his first twelve priests-in-training? "Preach as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely have you received; freely give" (Mt 10:7-8).

Another Christ

The priest is another Christ: a representation of the Divine Original, invested by the Holy Spirit with a three-fold gift and power to teach, to govern, and to sanctify. The priest images Christ as Bridegroom of the Church; Christ as Head of the Mystical Body; Christ as Shepherd of the flock of God; Christ as Sower of the Seed. The priest makes Christ. present. He reveals his Face, His Heart, and His Hands. He acts in the Name and in the Person of Christ.

The priest bears within himself a mysterious sacramental imprint: the indelible character of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, that nothing and no one can erase. In heaven, the indelible character that marks the soul of the priest causes him a glorious joy beyond description; in hell, which God forbid, that same indelible character causes the priest an everlasting torment.

Oh, How Great Is the Priest

Saint John Mary Vianney was aware of the immense dignity of the priesthood. He was humble: not denying the gifts he has received, but glorifying their Giver. Listen to him preach on the priesthood:

A good shepherd, a pastor after God's heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy. Oh, how great is the priest!" he said. "If he realized what he is, he would die... God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host.

Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he said:

Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is.

Stand Up, and Kneel Down for Your Priests

It is time for all Catholics to reclaim and recover a sense of awe in the face of the priesthood. It is time for us to rediscover the beauty of the priesthood. It is time for us to stand up for our beloved priests and, even more importantly, to kneel down for them before Christ in grateful adoration and supplication.

The priesthood of Jesus Christ has, over the past decade, been dragged through the mud. The sins and weaknesses of a few -- and these cannot in any way be minimized, rationalized, or condoned: they can only be humbly confessed and mercifully forgiven. These sins and weakness have, in fact, covered the Face of Christ the Priest with filth, and caused His Bride the Church to weep tears of bitterness and shame.

Say what you will, the promises of the Lord uttered through the mouth of His prophet remain, because the Word of the Lord endures forever: "Her priests I will clothe with holiness, and her faithful will ring out their joy" (Ps 131:16).

The Priest Continues the Work of Redemption on Earth

Three years ago, in declaring a Year of the Priesthood, Pope Benedict XVI invited the whole Church to listen to the teachings of the parish priest of Ars, and to take them to heart. Here is the remedy we have been waiting for: the words of a holy priest on the priesthood:

Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love... Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth... What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods ... Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there ... The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.

A Sacerdotal Pentecost

No priest is for himself. Each and every priest is for the Church. Pray, then, and fast for priests. Beseech the Father to glorify the priesthood of His Son by a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit over the priests of the entire world. Ask boldly for a Sacerdotal Pentecost. Only by the action of the Holy Spirit will priests be "sanctified in the truth" (Jn 17:17). Only by the action of the Holy Spirit will priests recover the ardour of our first love and the zeal of the prophets and saints.

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Psalm 125: 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6
Matthew 20:20-28

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7). Another translation puts it this way: “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.” The contrast is striking: treasure held in earthen vessels. But what is the treasure? In verse 6, Saint Paul says, “It is the God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). The treasure, then, is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the Face of Christ.

An Eye-Witness of the Transfiguration

When one considers that James was an eye-witness of the Transfiguration, the deeper meaning of today’s First Reading comes into focus. While James looked on, together with Peter and with his brother John, Jesus “was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light” (Mt 17:2). The splendour of Jesus’ Face burned itself indelibly into the heart of James. Contemplating the Face of the transfigured Jesus, James was filled with “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6). This is the treasure that Saint James carried in a shell of fragile earthenware: his own human weakness.

Gethsemani

The Transfiguration reveals the treasure; the agony in the garden of Gethsemani reveals to us the fragility of the earthen vessels. To Peter, James, and John, Jesus said, “Remain here and watch with me” (Mt 26:38), but after His prayer to the Father, he found them sleeping. Again, a second time, He asked these, his intimate companions, to watch and pray, warning them of the weakness of the flesh, and again He came and “found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy” (Mt 26:43). And so it happened a third time but, by then, the hour of Jesus’ betrayal was already at hand (Mt 26:45). The radiant memory of Jesus transfigured, “the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6), was held in earthen vessels: in the hearts of men who could not watch even one hour with their Master in his agony.

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For the First Saturday of the Month

I am your Mother,
the Mother given you by my Son Jesus, from the Cross,
in the solemn hour of His Sacrifice.
And you are my son, dear to my Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart,
precious to me, and ever under the mantle of my protection.

Let me live with you
as I lived with John,
the second son of my Heart
and the model for all my priest sons down through the ages.
Speak to me simply
and with complete trust in the compassion of my maternal Heart
and in the power given to my maternal intercession.

There is nothing
that you cannot bring to me,
nothing that you cannot present to me,
nothing that you cannot offer me,
even to your very sins.
Anything given to me by My sons, I press to my Heart;
all that is impure, every vestige of sin
is consumed in the flame of love
that burns in my Immaculate Heart,
in the fire of love that is the Holy Spirit in me,
the very Fire of the Divinity.
Give to me, then, all that you would offer to my Son and to His Father.
It will be purified as gold in the furnace
because I will press it to my Heart.
Nothing impure can endure the flame of love
that burns in my Heart. Only love remains.

Give me your weaknesses,
your past sins, your daily faults,
and I will present to my Son only the love with which,
in spite of all your weaknesses,
you desire to love Him, and with Him, love the Father.

I am your Mother.
I am the Mother from whom you need hide nothing.
Even those things that you think are hidden
appear clearly to me in the pure light of the Godhead.
When I see a priest son of mine disfigured or polluted by sin,
I am moved, not to judge him but, to show him mercy
and to employ all the means at my disposal
for his full recovery from the vestiges of sin.
So many of those who struggle
against inveterate habits of sin and pernicious vices
would find themselves quickly set free from them
if they would only approach me with filial confidence
and allow me to do for them
what my maternal and merciful Heart moves me to do.

There are no limits to my intercessory power
because the Father has so ordained it.
One can never go wrong in turning to me.
No matter how complex the problem,
no matter how sordid the sin,
I am the Handmaid of the Divine Mercy,
the Refuge of Sinners,
and the Mother of all who struggle against the forces of darkness.
Come to me, then.
I can even say those comforting words
first spoken by my beloved Son:
"Come to me, and I will give you rest."

It is not enough to have some practices in my honour
in the course of the day:
I desire more, and you are called to more.
You are called to reproduce
the life of Saint John with me in the Cenacle
and at Ephesus.
If only you knew the bonds of love for Jesus,
and of obedience to the Father,
and of joy in the Holy Spirit that united John's soul to Mine.
We were the nucleus of a family of souls
that has grown wondrously through the ages:
the family of all those who, like John,
lived with me, learned from me, and allowed me
so to love them
that love for my Jesus blazed in their hearts
like a great fire,
the fire that my Son came to cast upon the earth.

From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest

Our Lady of Knock

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I am going off to Knock today, having been invited there to address a gathering of Irish priests on the subject of Eucharistic adoration. I ask the readers of Vultus Christi to support me by their prayer, asking the Holy Ghost to inspire my preaching and make it fruitful.

In the Archdeacon's Room at Knock

On the evening of February 5, 2008, whilst on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, I was privileged to pray in the room where The Venerable Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh, Parish Priest of Knock at the time of the apparition, died on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1897. The room is now used as the Oratory for the community of Daughters of Charity who conduct Saint Mary's Hostel for pilgrims. Sister Elma, the lovely Daughter of Charity then in charge of Saint Mary's Hostel, told me that, according to tradition, it was in that room that Our Lady came and conversed with the Archdeacon before his death.

A Priest Who Loved Mary

It was believed in the parish of Knock that the Archdeacon was frequently graced with visits of Our Blessed Lady. When questioned about this, the Archdeacon replied that "there were a great many other manifestations of which he would not care to speak." Archdeacon Cavanagh had a consuming desire to promote Our Lady's Cause; he habitually referred to the Blessed Virgin Mary as "The ever Immaculate Mother of God."

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Charity Toward the Poor Souls

It is not generally known that the apparition at Knock took place on the evening of the very day when Archdeacon Cavanagh had completed offering one hundred Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, without receiving any stipend from the people. Preaching at Knock in 1882, he said, "We leave all our actions at the disposal of the Blessed Virgin Mary for those holy souls who, when released from purgatory, will never forget us. They will pray constantly for us at the throne of God."

Saint Joseph and Saint John

There are particular graces reserved for priests at Knock. In Saint Joseph and Saint John who appeared there together with the Blessed Virgin, one discovers the models of a priestly holiness that is at once paternal and virginal. These are the two men destined by God from all eternity to live in a sacred intimacy with the Virgin Mary. I have the distinct impression that, at the present time, Our Lady is offering to all her priest sons the special grace of a sacred intimacy with herself.

"A rarely mentioned fact about the shrine of Knock is that the parish church is under the patronage of St. John the Baptist. That makes him a hidden but not insignificant presence at the apparitions and at the shrine today. How fitting that the Lord would choose the church of St. John the Baptist as the site for this wonderful apparition with all that it teaches. At Knock he is again acting as the precursor and herald of the Lamb of God. John the Baptist is the "friend of the Bridegroom", and therefore a friend to Christ the Bridegroom in each priest. How great will be his joy if the shrine of Knock would become a place of priestly renewal." Brother Augustine, O.F.M., Conv.

Intimacy With Mary

Could this not be the means by which Mary desires to purify, sanctify, and renew the priesthood in this age of the Church's life? In the intimacy with Our Blessed Lady represented by Saint Joseph and Saint John there is healing even for the most broken among her priest sons. For those most defiled by sin, in Mary's presence there is purity and the recovery of a spotless innocence. For those who have grown weary and lost the fervour of their youth, in Mary's company there is zeal for souls and apostolic boldness. For those who are depressed, close to Mary there is comfort, and to those who are despondent and anxious, she gives hope and peace. Finally, in the intimacy of Mary there is joy for those who fallen prey to the sadness that weakens the soul and opens it to sin.

Made Pure in the Blood of the Lamb

The Immaculate Virgin Mary presents herself to priests today as she presented herself to Saint Joseph and to Saint John. To Saint Joseph, her chaste spouse, she was the Virgin Bride, and to Saint John, the Beloved Disciple of her Son, she was a Mother. In the acceptance of this grace lies the remedy for the weaknesses and inclinations to sin that have soiled the priesthood and brought it low in the eyes of so many in recent years. The desire of Mary's Immaculate Heart is to purify the priesthood and lift it out of the infamy into which it has fallen, so as to make it shine with a wonderful holiness, and with the purity that comes from the Precious Blood of the Lamb. It is the Lamb in the apparition of Knock that casts the whole event in the light of the mysteries revealed to Saint John on Patmos.

Priests at Knock

It seems to me that Our Lady desires that Knock should become a place of pilgrimage for priests. A dimension of Knock, not yet fully developed, is that it must become a place of healing for priests, a place where Mary can restore them to purity and to holiness of life by drawing them into her company. Knock invites all priests to share their lives with Mary by opening their homes and their hearts to her, and by living every moment in her presence.

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At Home With Mary

As Virgin Bride, Mary is the image of the Church. Just as Saint Joseph took his Virgin Bride into his home, so too must every priest welcome Mary and discover in her intimacy the nuptial quality of his dedication to the Church. Just as Saint John, obeying the word of Jesus from the Cross, took Mary into his home, so too must every priest shelter her in the space that is most personal to him. The gift of sacred intimacy with the Blessed Virgin Mary, suggested by the apparition at Knock, may well be among the heavenly secrets reserved by her for this time of trial for the Church.

She will impart this gift to every priest who desires it. She will make herself known as the Virgin Bride who brought joy to Saint Joseph, and as the Mother entrusted to Saint John and to those priests in whom the Johannine grace is renewed in every age.

A Pilgrimage for Priests

It is time, I think, for priests and their bishops to go -- as priests together -- in pilgrimage to Knock. Our Lady's Merciful and Immaculate Heart waits for them there. She is ready to open a wellspring of purity, holiness, and renewal for all priests, beginning with those of Ireland. Our Lady of Knock beckons to all priests. She would have her priest sons wash themselves in the Blood of the Lamb, and unite themselves to her Son, Priest and Victim, in the mystery of His Sacrifice. Yes, Knock is for all people, but I believe that it was, from the beginning, destined to be a place of healing and of abundant graces for priests.

A Radiant Priestly Holiness

As I prayed in Archdeacon Cavanagh's room, I understood that Mary longs to show herself to all priests as Virgin Bride and Mother. In Mary's intimacy we priests will find the holiness desired by Christ for each one of us: a radiant holiness, a holiness to illumine the Church in these last days with the brightness of the Lamb. Knock invites priests to remain in adoration before Mary's Son, the Lamb Who was slain. Knock invites priests to wash themselves in His Precious Blood by seeking absolution from all their sins. Knock invites priests to follow Saint Joseph and Saint John by consecrating themselves to Mary as Virgin Bride and Mother.

No Need to Remain Alone

Our Lady of Knock, praying with uplifted hands, is the Mediatrix of All Graces. She is the New Eve given to Christ the New Adam, and given by Him, from the Cross, to all His priests, those whom He has called to continue His mission of salvation in the world. There is no need for any priest to remain alone. The Virgin Mary's Heart is open to all her priest sons, and she will not refuse, to those who ask for it, a participation in the unique grace given Saint Joseph and Saint John in the beginning.


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Men Who Specialize in Prayer

What I am about to share reflects, without any doubt, the experience of most priests. It is especially true here in Ireland where, in spite of reports of a distressing loss of faith, people still say with a touching confidence, "Will you say a prayer for me, Father?" The Catholic faithful view their priests, first of all, as intercessors, that is, as men who specialize in prayer.

Prayer the First Order of Business

Since coming to Ireland, I am more aware of what people expect of a priest: they expect him to pray, and to make prayer his first order of business. This expectation is rooted in a profound faith in the mediatorship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ stands facing the Eternal Father on behalf of all men, just as He stands before all men on behalf of the Eternal Father. To be "in Christ" -- as Saint Paul so often says -- is, in effect, to participate in His priestly mediatorship. While this participation is given to all the baptized, in the ordained priest it is heightened, confirmed, and divinely endorsed in a unique way by the indelible seal engraved in his soul. Simple Catholics understand this. Venerable Pope Pius XII writes in Mediator Dei:

In the same way, actually that baptism is the distinctive mark of all Christians, and serves to differentiate them from those who have not been cleansed in this purifying stream and consequently are not members of Christ, the sacrament of holy orders sets the priest apart from the rest of the faithful who have not received this consecration. For they alone, in answer to an inward supernatural call, have entered the august ministry, where they are assigned to service in the sanctuary and become, as it were, the instruments God uses to communicate supernatural life from on high to the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Add to this, as We have noted above, the fact that they alone have been marked with the indelible sign "conforming" them to Christ the Priest, and that their hands alone have been consecrated "in order that whatever they bless may be blessed, whatever they consecrate may become sacred and holy, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ".
Let all, then, who would live in Christ flock to their priests. By them they will be supplied with the comforts and food of the spiritual life. From them they will procure the medicine of salvation assuring their cure and happy recovery from the fatal sickness of their sins. The priest, finally, will bless their homes, consecrate their families and help them, as they breathe their last, across the threshold of eternal happiness.

Intercessor at the Altar

Nowhere does the mediatorship of the priest in Christ, the Eternal High Priest, shine forth more clearly than when he stands at the altar, with the multitude of the faithful behind him, to plead on their behalf. Just as the Eternal Father sees the priest in Christ, His Beloved Son, so too does He see all the faithful in the priest who enters the sanctuary, and ascends the altar, to bring their needs and their petitions before Him. The widespread practice of Mass "facing the people" has all but obliterated the popular and, I must say, even the clerical, awareness of this mysterious reality.

For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: ] I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the church will I praise thee. And again: I will put my trust in him. And again: Behold me and my children, whom God hath given me. (Hebrews 2:11-13)

The Divine Office

The intercession of the priest (and a fortiori of the bishop) for all the people entrusted to him -- the children whom God has given him -- attains its highest and most perfect expression when he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but it doesn't begin nor does it end there. The Church imposes upon the priest the daily recitation of the Divine Office as the single most effective means, after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of interceding for souls. No one can possibly know or describe in this world the torrents of grace that flood into parishes and dioceses in response to the liturgical prayer of the priest or bishop who recites the Divine Office faithfully and devoutly, day after day. Conversely, no one can possibly no or describe in this world the torrents of graces withheld from parishes and dioceses because a priest or bishop has stopped praying his Hours and, therefore, stopped exercising the mediatorship on behalf of the people for whom God and the Church have set him apart.

Again, consider the teaching of Venerable Pope Pius XII:

The divine Redeemer has so willed it that the priestly life begun with the supplication and sacrifice of His mortal body should continue without intermission down the ages in His Mystical Body which is the Church. That is why He established a visible priesthood to offer everywhere the clean oblation which would enable men from East to West, freed from the shackles of sin, to offer God that unconstrained and voluntary homage which their conscience dictates.
In obedience, therefore, to her Founder's behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar, where constantly the sacrifice of the cross is represented and with a single difference in the manner of its offering, renewed. She does it next by means of the sacraments, those special channels through which men are made partakers in the supernatural life. She does it, finally, by offering to God, all Good and Great, the daily tribute of her prayer of praise. "What a spectacle for heaven and earth," observes Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, "is not the Church at prayer! For centuries without interruption, from midnight to midnight, the divine psalmody of the inspired canticles is repeated on earth; there is no hour of the day that is not hallowed by its special liturgy; there is no state of human life that has not its part in the thanksgiving, praise, supplication and reparation of this common prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ which is His Church!"

Verse After Verse

For some reason, while praying the Hours of the Divine Office since my arrival in Ireland, I have had a heightened awareness of the efficacy of this prayer. In every psalm, verse after verse seems to correspond exactly to the particular needs made known to me by people who have approached me, saying, "Will you say a prayer for me, Father?" I am, moreover, aware of the struggles of certain souls, of the sufferings of others, of the concern of parents for their children, of spouses one for the other, and of those afflicted by sicknesses of the mind or body. All of these needs find expression in the psalmody of the Hours. The Psalter, taken up by the Church, and placed on the lips of her bishops, her priests, and her deacons, is the divinely inspired form of their sacerdotal intercession, and the expression of their effective participation in the mediatorship of Christ.*

*I must add that those who have received the Order of Subdeacon, as well as solemnly professed choir monks, choir nuns, canons regular, and other solemnly professed religious are, unless their Constitutions specify otherwise, bound to the daily recitation of the Hours, if not in choir, then in private.

Accountable on the Day of Judgment

The Divine Office is far more than the personal prayer of the priest, circumscribed by his human limitations, and giving voice to his own needs. It is the grand sacerdotal intercession for which he will be held accountable by God and by the souls entrusted to him on the Day of Judgment.

The Weekly Psalter

As a priest who is a monk, I am bound to honour Saint Benedict's injunction in the Holy Rule that the entire Psalter (all 150 Psalms) must be prayed over the course of one week. Increasingly, I experience this weekly repetition of the Psalter not as a burden to be acquitted, but as a privilege, and as the means appointed by God and given me by the Church to adore, to praise, to supplicate, and to make reparation.

The traditional Roman Breviary, reformed by Pope Pius X, held fast to the principle of the entire 150 Psalms being prayed over the course of a week. Only with the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours was the weekly offering of psalmody drastically reduced, to the point of distributing the 150 Psalms over four weeks instead of one. This was done primarily to accommodate the demands of priestly ministry in modern culture. The change was, I think, conditioned by Western society's obsession with tangible results, and shortsighted. The answer to stress is more prayer, not less, particularly in the life of a priest. Curiously, since the post-Conciliar reduction of the weekly obligation of liturgical prayer, the recitation of the Hours by priests as fallen off significantly. More priests were faithful to the daily obligation of the Divine Office when it was more "meaty" and substantial, than now when it has been reduced to a mere vestige of what it formerly was.

Sion's Songs

"Will you say a prayer for me, Father?" Indeed, I will. I do so seven times a day and once in the night, and I will continue to do so, making use of the all-sufficient prayer given me by the Church, the very prayer of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, encapsulated in the Psalms of Israel, "Sion's songs" in this place of exile, and in this valley of tears.

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I was ordained a priest on November 16, 1986.
Looking back over the twenty-five years of priesthood
that Our Lord has given me,
I have but one desire: to give them all back to Him.

I give them back to Him to be purified and sanctified.
I would hold each one of these twenty-five years
under the torrent of Blood and of Water that flows from His Open Side.
I would surrender each one of them to the purifying fire of the Holy Ghost.
I would give each one of these twenty-five years
to His Immaculate Mother,
the Woman to whom my whole life belongs.

One's anniversary of priesthood
-- so many years of Mass, anni di messa, the Italians rightly call it,
is a bittersweet commemoration.
Bitter, because of the sins
that have marred the beauty of it all that could have been,
and sweet, because the Mercy of God leaves no bitterness in Its wake.

I detest and regret those sins of mine
that have marred my priesthood
and disfigured the adorable Face of Jesus
in the sight of men.
I pray for tears to weep over the wrong that I have done,
and over the good that I have left undone.

This twenty-fifth anniversary of my priesthood is, in some way,
like a preview of the particular judgment that awaits me
at the hour of my death, whenever, wherever, and however it comes.
It is a searchlight leaving no corner in darkness,
no sin disguised as something that it is not.

Made bold by Saint Benedict's injunction,
"Never to despair of the mercy of God,"
I beg Jesus to repair whatever harm I may have done to souls.
I implore Him for those whom I have alienated
from the light of His Face and the embrace of His Spouse, the Church.
I beseech Him to comfort those whom I have afflicted,
to sanctify those who looked to me for holiness
and found a stumbling block instead.
I ask Him to give joy to those whom I have saddened.

I kiss His wounded feet,
I weep over them,
lay hold of them
and will not let them go
until nothing remains of the evil I have done,
until all that I so regret
is swept away, utterly dissolved, in the tide of His Blood.

What is my prayer after twenty-five years of Mass?
It is this:

"Convert Thou me entirely, O my beloved Jesus,
that I may live every moment
--up to and including the very moment of my death--
with my eyes fixed on Thine adorable Face,
and with my heart hidden
in Thy piercèd Heart.

Thou hast called me to be the priest-adorer
of Thy Eucharistic Face;
make me, I pray Thee,
what Thou hast called me to be.
Let me so love Thee and adore Thee
that I may be for Thine afflicted Heart
the consoling friend for whom Thou hast waited so long.

Leave me not alone,
never forsake me,
so that I may never leave Thee alone,
and never forsake Thee.
Fix my vagrant heart before Thy tabernacle,
--before the one where Thou art least adored and most forgotten--
that I may persevere in a watch of adoration, of reparation, and of love
before Thy Eucharistic Face.

What can I give Thee
that Thou hast not given me?
Give Thou, then, to me superabundantly
so that I may give back to Thee superabundantly.

Give Thou me, I beseech Thee,
but a spark of Thine own blazing zeal for the glory of the Father;
let it consume me entirely
as a holocaust to the praise of His glory.

Give Thou me, I beseech Thee,
a share in Thy spousal love for the Church,
Thy Bride in heaven and on earth.
Like Thee, with Thee, in Thee,
let me lay down my life for her.

Give Thou me, I beseech Thee,
Thine own Heart's filial love for Thine Immaculate Mother,
that I may love her
as Thou wouldst have me love her;
that I might serve her
with a devotion that is true, and pure, and constant.

Give Thou me, I beseech Thee, the tender compassion
with which Thou wouldst have me care for souls,
that in my care for them
they may experience the solicitude of Thy Sacred Heart.

Twenty-five years ago,
by the laying-on of hands,
Thou didst make me Thy priest forever.
Renew in my soul,
I humbly entreat Thee
the grace of that Holy Sacrament and of that blessed day.
Make me, if possible, more Thy priest today
than I have ever been before.

Ratify and confirm me
in the ineffable grace of real participation
in the Mystery of the Cross where Thou art Priest and Victim.
Burn more deeply into my soul
the indelible character of Thy priesthood,
and, in that same fire, consume and destroy
all that dims, obstructs, or impedes its glorious radiance,
so that the light of Thy sacrifice may shine before men,
and its healing power go forth from me
as it went forth from Thee,
for Thou, O merciful Saviour,
hast made me Thy priest forever.

A thousand thousand lifetimes
would be too little time
to thank Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee
for so immeasurable a gift.
Give me then, when Thou callest me to Thyself,
an eternity in which to praise Thee beyond the veil
where, for the moment,Thou art hidden
in the glory of the Father
and in the brightness of the Holy Ghost.
Amen.

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The Lamb that was slain
is worthy to receive power and divinity
and wisdom and strength and honour;
to Him be glory and empire
unto the ages of ages (Apocalypse 5:12; 1:6).
(Introit, Mass of Christ the King)

A Feast of Adoration of the Lamb

Last Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King. As I pondered the Introit of the Mass, I rediscovered the celebration of Christ the King as a feast of the adoration of the Lamb. A week earlier, on Saturday, October 22, in fact, I was in Ireland at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, where, together with the Mother of God, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist, Our Lord manifested Himself in the form of the Lamb of Sacrifice. Perhaps the grace of Knock was still stirring within my heart, because I understood, in a deeper way, that the Most Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Immolated Lamb.

A Priest's One Necessary Sermon

The Lamb who is adored in the glory of heaven is present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar here on earth. If a priest were to preach but one sermon from the day of his Ordination until his death, that one sermon could be this: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi; Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Disappear Into Adoration

The priest is but a herald. He announces the presence of the Immolated Lamb, and then annihilates himself in humble adoration. Adoration leads inexorably to self-effacement. The Lamb is exalted; the herald of the Lamb disappears. The Bridegroom shines forth in all His beauty; the friend of the Bridegroom withdraws, content to listen to the sound of his voice.

Praedicatio Prima

A priest's adoration -- be it expressed in the liturgical rites (and especially at Holy Mass) or in silence before the Blessed Sacrament -- a priest's adoration is his praedicatio prima, his primary preaching. Without the praedicatio prima of adoration, no other preaching has credibility or meaning.

Preparing for Heaven

The priest who adores does on earth what the angels and saints do in heaven. He is employed on earth in the worship of the Lamb that will be his everlasting employment, his rest, and his glory in heaven.

The Compass That Orients One's Priesthood

The priest who is not first an adorer has lost the compass that orients all the rest of his life. The priesthood is ordered to adoration, and the summit of adoration is sacrifice: the immolation of a victim to God. The loss of the spirit of adoration is the ruin of the priesthood.

Frank Duff

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Shortly before his death on 7 November 1980, layman Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, addressed a group of deacons preparing for ordination to the priesthood in Thurles, County Tipperary. He shared with them something of his own life of prayer as a lay apostle. His example is a catalyst and an inspiration for all priests. This is what he said:

Now perhaps you will forgive me for being personal. I absolutely hate it, but if I am not to talk to you to some extent out of my own background, I really have no other claim to address words to you at all. I am not a professor of religion, and I am certainly no peritus in that department. The only thing which I have to point to is considerable experience. Therefore, willy-nilly, I have to refer to it.
I have believed intensely in the spiritual order and I have never sacrificed it to the other. I have said the Divine Office since 1917 without missing a single day or a single hour, and think I could say, a single line of it. Likewise I have said daily the Rosary and the Seven Dolours. I have never missed daily Mass in that time, except in circumstances of absolute physical inability.
It is my conviction that anything useful that has come along has proceeded from that stressing of the purely supernatural. I think it meant that I was depending on the Lord and His Mother, and not on myself. I would say that one important result followed: that I was saved from vulgar pride. When there was development I was not tempted to ascribe it to my own abilities. Of course, one has to pay a price as well, the Christian price of torment and suffering. If unwilling to face up to that, avoid the priesthood.
Next we come to the question of Our Lady. She is completely indispensable.

Saint Pio, Priest and Victim

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Besides being the Ember Friday, today is the feast of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. I regret that I wasn't able to post this earlier today.

By Monsignor Arthur Burton Calkins


I. The Crisis of Identity in the Priesthood

Almost immediately after the Second Vatican Council, a terrible identity crisis of enormous proportions began to overtake the Catholic priesthood and thousands of priests left the active ministry with or without the requisite permission. Still others became genuinely confused about the nature of their priesthood. Unfortunately, the disorientation still remains in many ways. Its causes, no doubt, are quite complex and ultimately we must confess that "An enemy has done this" (Mt. 13:28).

But recognizing a Satanic onslaught against the Lord's anointed ones does not prevent us from also seeking to discover some of the immediate contributing causes of this tragic state of affairs. In this regard Father André Feuillet makes what I believe to be some very astute observations:

Some writers claim that Vatican II is itself partly responsible. As they see it, Vatican II, in its desire to act against Roman centralization and an overemphasis on papal primacy, glossed over the problem of priesthood. In any case, it certainly intended to highlight the role of the college of bishops as successors of the Apostles. Moreover, on the basis of Scripture, it proclaimed a truth that had hitherto been too often overlooked: the sharing of all the baptized in the priesthood of Christ. By these two emphases, the Council seems to have spoken as if the bishop and the people of God were the only necessary elements of a priestly Church. In so doing, it somewhat neglected the place of the simple priest (or presbyter).

He continues by quoting from a book from D. Olivier, Les deux visages du prêtre: Les chances d'une crise:

The Council indeed maintains the special character of presbyteral priesthood as differing in essence from that of the baptized. But whereas it refers to a half dozen Scriptural texts to confirm the reality of the common priesthood, it cannot adduce a single text in favor of the famous essential difference. The contrast between the two successive passages of the Constitution on the Church is striking: the first, and very welcome one, on the priesthood of the faithful, is based on Scripture, the second is nothing but a theological development based on some texts of Pius XI and Pius XII. The bishop, who continues the mission of the Apostles, easily finds in Scripture the justification for his existence. But the priest can base his own special character only on papal statements.

Father Patrick J. Dunn, writing almost twenty years after Feuillet, comments in a remarkably similar vein:

Although the Second Vatican Council emphasizes that the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood "differ from one another in essence and not only in degree" (Lumen Gentium 10), the nature of this distinction has not always been clearly perceived.

It may well be argued that subsequent documents of the magisterium have continued to make the necessary clarifications. The new Catechism of the Catholic Church, for instance, presents an appropriate elucidation with the following statement:

The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, 'each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ'. While being 'ordered one to another', they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace -- a life of faith, hope and charity, a life according to the Spirit, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.

While fully accepting the explanation proffered by the Catechism that "the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood", that "it is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians" and that it "is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church", I am inclined to believe, with Fulton Sheen and Father Feuillet, that the concept that we have already begun to explore of the ordained minister as called to be "priest and victim" provides an insight and challenge far richer and deeper which has yet to be assimilated in the postconciliar Church's teaching and praxis.

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II. Padre Pio: A Model Priest and Victim

What I would like to propose further is that God has set his own seal on this explanation in the person of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Is it not significant that even before the great disruption of priestly life in the twentieth century was underway the Lord had already chosen Francesco Forgione to illustrate in a dramatic and extraordinary way the call to embrace victimhood in order to realize fully his vocation to the priesthood? While it is true that no one should aspire to imitate the extraordinary ways of Padre Pio without an explicit call from the Lord confirmed through wise spiritual direction and the appropriate permission when necessary, I believe that the Padre's life nonetheless constitutes a model of what it means to live as "priest and victim", a model that all Christians, but priests in particular, should strive to emulate.

Interestingly, the Trappist Father Augustine McGregor already pointed to Padre Pio as a model of priestly life over twenty years ago. In his book, The Spirituality of Padre Pio, he declared:

We shall refer constantly to the priesthood of Padre Pio discovering in his life a rare model of the priestly ideal, an exemplar who revealed in a unique and simple way all the essential features of the priesthood. In short, in an age undergoing transformation in social, cultural and religious spheres we shall look for and find in Padre Pio's priesthood characteristics of permanent value, unmarked by many of today's changing values.

Even more striking, however, and totally supportive of my thesis is the testimony of Father Vincenzo Frezza with regard to the paradigmatic value of Padre Pio's priesthood. Considering how Padre Pio continually spent himself unflinchingly for souls propels him to state:

Now all of this brings us still another time to the conclusion that his vocation to the priesthood, that the fulfillment of his priestly ministry was in relation to his mission to "co-redeem." I mean that if Padre Pio had not been a priest, he could not have fulfilled his mission: priesthood and mission are identified with each other in Padre Pio. According to a poor interpretation of mine, God did not only want a new victim, but he wanted this victim to be a priest and as such placed in a priestly state like the Incarnate Word.

Here I would simply add that the last one hundred fifty years have seen the Church benefiting from what seems an unparalleled profusion of victim souls, no doubt a gift that God has given in view of the crisis which the Church is now passing through. By far almost all of these have been women and here the Lord shows us how complementary their vocation to be "co-redeemers" is to the priesthood. But, without in any way wishing to take anything away from their greatness, I would underscore with Father Frezza that in Padre Pio the Lord has done a new thing. Let us listen to him again:

Padre Pio, carrying in himself the unification of the priesthood and the mission to co-redeem, thus demonstrated that the exercise of the priestly ministry goes beyond the sacramental signs. That is, it tends to make a man "like Christ the priest" in every moment and every attitude of his existence. In simple words this means that he must become a victim, an unceasing offering. ...

Therefore, it is this state of priest-victim that colors Padre Pio's priesthood, that makes him exceptional -- I will go even further -- that makes him unique in the Church up to now. Because we meet many victim-souls in Christian spiritual history. We also know many holy priests, holy priests who took more time to say Mass and shed more tears in doing so than Padre Pio did (e.g. St. Laurence of Brindisi). We know holy priests who have made the confessional their chief ministry. We know holy priests gifted with privileged charisms. We know saints who had marked in their bodies, both in their internal and external organs, the signs of the Passion of Christ. We are astonished when faced with mystical souls who have reached the highest degree of union with God, that which we call the "mystical marriage." However, a man that summed up, that both lived and suffered all these charisms, a man that could call himself another Jesus Christ with stronger reason than that for which St. Francis was called such, up to now, only Padre Pio is such a man.

I would supplement this testimony by simply referring to the fact that Padre Pio is the first priest in the history of the Church to bear the stigmata, which, it seems, constitutes a kind of divine seal on his vocation to be a "priest-victim". Father Gerardo Di Flumeri is of the same conviction. He argues that if Padre Pio

hadn't been a priest, he would never have become a victim; priesthood and victimization in him were identical. God did not want just another victim; He wanted, instead, a new victim who was a priest, who was established in the priestly state like the Word Incarnate.8

Hence I am in full accord with Father Frezza's final conclusion in this regard: "From today on, therefore, we cannot reasonably think of imagining what a priest should be if we do not compare and contrast him with Padre Pio as the model."

III. Padre Pio's Vocation to Priest-Victimhood

Within the limits of this presentation we can only touch briefly on some of the most obvious testimony which highlights Padre Pio's vocation to priest-victimhood. Already as a young Capuchin he was beset with a host of physical afflictions which defied diagnosis. Later these would be coupled with demonic assaults.11 In the midst of all this it is to be noted that the young Pio was conscious of his calling to be a victim. There is clear evidence that he had fully embraced this vocation from at least the time of his priestly ordination on 10 August 1910 in Benevento. A remarkable confirmation of this is the fact that he had written for his own personal use the following souvenir of his priestly ordination on the day of his first solemn Mass, 14 August 1910:

O rex, dona mihi animam meam pro qua rogo et populum meum pro quo obsecro [O King, let my life be given me at my petition and my people at my request] (Esther 7:3). Souvenir of my first Mass. Jesus, my heart's desire and my life, today as I raise you up in trembling hands, in a mystery of love, may I be, with you, for the world, Way, Truth and Life, and for you a holy priest, a perfect victim. ( P. Pio, Capuchin.)

The next evidence that we shall take into consideration is that of his letter of 29 November 1910 to his spiritual director, Padre Benedetto of San Marco in Lamis:

Now, my dear Father, I want to ask your permission for something. For some time past I have felt the need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the souls in Purgatory. This desire has been growing continually in my heart so that it has now become what I would call a strong passion. I have in fact made this offering to the Lord several times, beseeching him to pour out upon me the punishments prepared for sinners and for the souls in a state of purgation, even increasing them a hundredfold for me, as long as he converts and saves sinners and quickly admits to paradise the souls in Purgatory, but I should now like to make this offering to the Lord in obedience to you. It seems to me that Jesus really wants this. I am sure that you will have no difficulty in granting me this permission.

The permission was duly communicated by Padre Benedetto in a letter of 1 December 1910. It was also evidently prior to this time that Padre Pio first experienced the marks of the stigmata. He does not give us the exact date, but confesses in his letter to Padre Benedetto of 8 September 1911 that "this phenomenon has been repeated several times for almost a year, but for some time past it had not occurred." C. Bernard Ruffin indicates that already on 7 September 1910 the young Padre, ordained less than a month, went to see his parish priest in Pietrelcina and "showed him what appeared to be puncture wounds in the middle of his hands."

In his old age Padre Pio had all but entirely forgotten about what Ruffin calls the "proto-stigmata" and then was eventually able to recall these first manifestations of the Lord's passion in his flesh. What I wish to underscore here is that almost immediately upon his priestly ordination Padre Pio had his first experience of the stigmata, eight years before the stigmatization of 20 September 1918 which would remain permanently imprinted upon him for fifty years. Obviously, the Lord who inspired the prayer of the young Capuchin on the day of his first solemn Mass found the petition an extremely pleasing one to which he would not delay in responding. This is also the conclusion of Father Gerardo Di Flumeri who comments on the petition which the newly ordained Padre Pio had written on the holy card on the day of his first solemn Mass:

We believe that the juxtaposition of the two words "priest" and "victim" clearly indicates that Padre Pio's offering of himself as a victim originates with his ordination to the priesthood. We believe, too, that his having received the gift of the "invisible" stigmata only a month later (Sept. 1910), indicates God's acceptance (Letters I:264f).

Hence we can say that Padre Pio's priesthood is sealed from the very beginning with the sign of victimhood. And, indeed, it is not only a sign that he willingly accepted, but even had asked for.

A. For Love of Jesus and for Souls

From this point onwards Padre Pio renews his self-offering as victim frequently and with great generosity. This offering simultaneously serves a twofold purpose; it is a fulfillment of Saint Paul's words "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col. 1:24) and it is also an act of reparation to the Lord himself. Here is how he describes it in a letter to his spiritual director, Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis, dated 20 September 1912:

We must hide our tears from the One who sends them, from the One who has shed tears himself and continues to shed them every day because of man's ingratitude. He chooses souls and despite my unworthiness, he has chosen mine also to help him in the tremendous task of men's salvation. The more these souls suffer without the slightest consolation, the more the sufferings of our good Jesus are alleviated.

Less than a month later he writes to Padre Agostino once again emphasizing this double objective i.e., that his victimhood is for souls and as an act of reparation to the Lord:

"Believe me, dear Father, I find happiness in my afflictions. Jesus himself wants these sufferings from me, as he needs them for souls. But I ask myself what relief can I give him by my suffering?! What a destiny! Oh, to what heights has our most sweet Jesus raised my soul!"

1. Victimhood for Sinners.

Perhaps one of the most striking testimonies about his acceptance of victimhood for sinners is the following transcription of words taken down by Padre Agostino during an ecstasy on 3 December 1911 while the young Padre Pio was having a vision of Christ badly wounded:

"My Jesus, forgive and put down that sword ... but if it must fall, let it be only on my head ... Yes, I want to be the victim ... punish me and not the others ... send me even to hell provided that I love you, and that everyone, yes everyone, be saved."

Several years later, on 17 October 1915, he writes to Father Agostino: "You exhort me to offer myself as a victim to the Lord for poor sinners. I made this offering once and I renew it several times a day." From this statement it would seem reasonable to conclude that Padre Pio's acceptance of his manifold sufferings always included intercession for sinners.

2. Victimhood as consolation to Jesus.

Secondly, there is the note of reparation or consolation offered to Jesus. Padre Pio writes of "alleviating the sufferings of our good Jesus". This is the motive for reparation found especially in the revelations of the Lord to St. Margaret Mary who tells us that he asks for the communion of reparation to his Sacred Heart on the First Friday of the month. Pope Pius XI also deals with this concept in his magisterial Encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor on the theology of reparation.

The first and obvious question that comes to mind is this: "Since Jesus is now in glory at the right hand of the Father, how can we offer him 'consolation'?" Pius XI first cited a very apposite quotation from St. Augustine: "Give me one who loves, and he will understand what I say," and then gave the following reply:

If, in view of our future sins, foreseen by him, the soul of Jesus became sad unto death, there can be no doubt that by his prevision at the same time of our acts of reparation, he was in some way comforted when "there appeared to him an angel from Heaven" (Lk. 22:43) to console that Heart of his bowed down with sorrow and anguish.

In other words, as Jesus saw the sins of the world in his agony in Gethsemane by virtue of the beatific vision, so He also saw in advance every act of consolation offered to him until the end of time. In effect, the act of reparation which we offer now he could see then.

This second dimension, too, is notably present in Padre Pio's understanding of the reason for his sufferings. Here is an instance where he develops this motivation in a meditation on the words of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, "Could you not watch one hour with me?" It is fully in line with the theology of Miserentissimus Redemptor which we have just sketched above.

O Jesus, how many generous souls wounded by this complaint have kept Thee company in the Garden, sharing Thy bitterness and Thy mortal anguish ... How many hearts in the course of the centuries have responded generously to Thy invitation ... May this multitude of souls, then, in this supreme hour be a comfort to Thee, who, better than the disciples, share with Thee the distress of Thy heart, and cooperate with Thee for their own salvation and that of others. And grant that I also may be of their number, that I also may offer Thee some relief.

Not surprisingly, even in this meditation which is oriented to consoling Jesus, a reference to cooperating in our own salvation and that of others is not lacking. The two are intertwined in Padre Pio.

B. Specific Applications of Victimhood

Without taking away from the fact that he has already offered himself as a victim for sinners, for the souls in Purgatory, and in reparation, he willingly offers his innumerable physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sufferings together with the demonic assaults which he suffers for specific intentions and persons who are particularly dear to him. Thus we find him writing to his dear Padre Benedetto that

"It grieves me very much to learn that you are unwell and I am praying the Lord for your recovery. As there is nothing else I can do for you, I offered myself some time ago to the Lord as a victim for you. Now that I know you are ill, I renew my offering to Jesus very often and with great fervour."

There are at least two other occasions when he reassures Padre Benedetto that he renews this offering frequently. He makes the same offering for his second spiritual father, Padre Agostino, with a kind of loving audacity:

"Apart from everything else, you belong to me and I have every right to bargain with Jesus even unknown to you. I have offered myself to him as a victim for you and hence my behaviour cannot but be justified. What is the use of making a sacrifice if its purpose is to be frustrated?"

Likewise he reassures Padre Agostino on another occasion that "I never cease, either, to present to Jesus the offering I once made to him for you."

He makes the offering of himself in the state of victim similarly for his Capuchin Province, and asks Padre Benedetto for permission to do the same on behalf of aspirants for the Province. He also informs Padre Benedetto that he has made an offering of himself for the intention which Pope Benedict XV had recommended to the whole Church. It is interesting to note that all of these acts of self-oblation were made before the definitive experience of the stigmata which he received on 20 September 1918 and which marked his body for fifty years.

IV. Source of Padre Pio's Priest-Victimhood: Union with Christ

Perhaps it is not inappropriate here to ask some questions about all of these acts of making himself a victim for particular individuals or intentions. How could Padre Pio offer himself totally for more than one person or intention? In a human manner of speaking, would he not lessen the amount of merit available for a particular person or intention the more he multiplied the dedications of his victimhood? How could he multiply virtually to infinity the various purposes for which he suffered? Mathematically speaking, would he not have been reducing the effects of his suffering with every new intention which he took on?

In a real sense, of course, these questions all dissolve into mystery, but a mystery which, in effect, is based upon the infinite merits won by Christ on Calvary. Padre Pio as one man, even an extraordinarily holy man, dwindles into insignificance in the face of the woes of the world and the mystery of evil. But as priest and victim, he is united with the Eternal Priest and Victim and shares in the infinity of Jesus' merits. Let us consider Padre Pio's description of an experience which took place on 16 April 1912 after a fearful assault by the enemy:

I was hardly able to get to the divine Prisoner to say Mass. When Mass was over I remained with Jesus in thanksgiving. Oh, how sweet was the colloquy with paradise that morning! It was such that, although I want to tell you all about it, I cannot. There were things which cannot be translated into human language without losing their deep and heavenly meaning. The heart of Jesus and my own -- allow me to use the expression -- were fused. No longer were two hearts beating but only one. My own heart had disappeared, as a drop of water is lost in the ocean. Jesus was its paradise, its king. My joy was so intense and deep that I could bear no more and tears of happiness poured down my cheeks. Yes, dear Father, man cannot understand that when paradise is poured into a heart, this afflicted, exiled, weak and mortal heart cannot bear it without weeping. I repeat that it was the joy that filled my heart which caused me to weep for so long.

This mystical experience which Padre Pio manages to describe as the "fusion" of his heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus helps us to begin to grasp that Padre Pio's total identification with the victimhood of Jesus made him a sharer and, in a certain sense, a dispenser of those infinite merits."

V. Padre Pio's Priest-Victimhood in the Mass

While the entire earthly life of Jesus constituted a continuous offering of himself to the Father, "nevertheless the victim state of the Lord reaches the sacrificial apex at the immolation at Calvary." In an analogous manner we way say that, while the entire priestly life of Padre Pio was lived as a victim, nevertheless his victim state reaches the sacrificial apex at the celebration of the Mass. Let us consider these statements of Padre Pio about his Mass.

"I never tire of standing so long, and could not become tired, because I am not standing, but am on the cross with Christ, suffering with Him."

"The holy Mass is a sacred union of Jesus and myself. I suffer unworthily all that was suffered by Jesus who deigned to allow me to share in His great enterprise of human redemption."

"Everything that Jesus suffered in His passion I suffer also, inadequately, as much as it is possible for a human being. And through no merit of mine but just out of His goodness.This is my only comfort, that of being associated with Jesus in the Divine Sacrifice and in the redemption of souls."

Not only did Padre Pio experience his greatest suffering during the celebration of the Mass, but it was also for him the time of his most intense intercession. As on the cross Jesus could see all of us in the beatific vision, so Padre Pio seems to have had a similar gift. According to Father Schug, the Padre once said that in this absorption in God, especially at the Consecration of the Mass, he saw everyone who had asked his prayers. He told his friends that they could always reach him when he was at the altar. He saw them, actually, in his gaze on God.

Again, once asked "Padre, are all the souls assisting at your Mass present to your spirit?", he answered "I see all my children at the altar, as in a looking glass."Indeed, because the priest is a mediator, it is his responsibility to pray for the people of God. Padre Pio took this as a solemn obligation and, even though the petitions pouring into the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo were countless, he faithfully honored every request for prayer. His intercession was -- and is still -- so powerful precisely because of his priest-victimhood. The seriousness with which he took his role as intercessor should be an admonition to every priest.

VI. Padre Pio and Priests

This brings us to a subject of capital importance: Padre Pio and priests. The Lord has confided to many victim-souls that his priests are "the apple of his eye", yet so often they are so far from fulfilling what he expects of them. Not surprisingly, very early in his state of victimhood, Padre Pio was called to make reparation for priests. Here is an account which he made to Padre Agostino, his spiritual father, on 7 April 1913.

On Friday morning [28 March 1913] while I was still in bed, Jesus appeared to me. He was in a sorry state and quite disfigured. He showed me a great multitude of priests, regular and secular, among whom were several high ecclesiastical dignitaries. Some were celebrating Mass, while others were vesting or taking off the sacred vestments. The sight of Jesus in distress was very painful to me, so I asked him why he was suffering so much. There was no reply, but his gaze turned on those priests. Shortly afterwards, as if terrified and weary of looking at them, he withdrew his gaze. Then he raised his eyes and looked at me and to my great horror I observed two tears coursing down his cheeks. He drew back from that crowd of priests with an expression of great disgust on his face and cried out: "Butchers!" Then turning to me he said: "My son, do not think that my agony lasted three hours. No, on account of the souls who have received most from me, I shall be in agony until the end of the world. During my agony, my son, nobody should sleep. My soul goes in search of a drop of human compassion but alas, I am left alone beneath the weight of indifference. The ingratitude and the sleep of my ministers makes my agony all the more grievous.
Alas, how little they correspond to my love! What afflicts me most is that they add contempt and unbelief to their indifference. Many times I have been on the point of annihilating them, had I not been held back by the Angels and by souls who are filled with love for me. Write to your (spiritual) father and tell him what you have seen and heard from me this morning. Tell him to show your letter to Father Provincial ...

In the annals of the mystics there are no few such plaints recorded as coming from the lips of our Redeemer. The ones from whom Christ looks most of all for consolation, particularly priests, are often precisely the ones who are the most indifferent to his loving plea for reparation. Tragically, some add contempt and unbelief to their indifference.

I believe that this vision which Padre Pio had in the early days of his priesthood was highly prophetic. If it was true in 1913, it can be verified, I believe, much more readily today. Indifference, contempt and unbelief have ravaged tens of thousands of priestly souls, unleashing an extraordinary tide of devastation upon the Church. Have we reached "high tide" yet? Only God knows and only he can respond. What is needed to turn the tide? More than anything else, I believe, are priest-victims.

When one considers the growing impact which the humble friar of the Gargano continues to have even twenty-seven years after his death, can one doubt that a legion of priests who willingly embraced victimhood, as he did, could change the face of the Church? I am convinced that there is no greater need facing the Church today.

VII. Padre Pio and Victims

You may say that I should be talking to priests and, no doubt, I should. But, I speak to you because you are here and because there is also a great need of victim-intercessors for the Church and for priests. Let us listen to a final excerpt from another letter which Padre Pio addressed to Padre Agostino just a short time before the previous letter:

Listen, my dear Father, to the justified complaints of our most sweet Jesus:
With what ingratitude is my love for men repaid! I should be less offended by them if I had loved them less. My Father does not want to bear with them any longer. I myself want to stop loving them, but ... (and here Jesus paused, sighed, then continued) but, alas! My heart is made to love! Weak and cowardly men make no effort to overcome temptation and indeed they take delight in their wickedness. The souls for whom I have a special predilection fail me when put to the test, the weak give way to discouragement and despair, while the strong are relaxing by degrees.
'They leave me alone by night, alone by day in the churches. They no longer care about the Sacrament of the altar. Hardly anyone ever speaks of this sacrament and even those who do, speak alas, with great indifference and coldness.
My heart is forgotten. Nobody thinks any more of my love and I am continually grieved. For many people my house has become an amusement centre. Even my ministers, whom I have loved as the apple of my eye, who ought to console my heart brimming over with sorrow, who ought to assist me in the redemption of souls -- who would believe it? -- even by my ministers I must be treated with ingratitude and slighted. I behold, my son (here he remained silent, sobs contracted his throat and he wept secretly) many people who act hypocritically and betray me by sacrilegious communions, trampling under foot the light and strength which I give them continually ...'
Jesus continues to complain. 'Dear Father, how bad I feel when I see Jesus weeping! Have you experienced this too? 'My son,' Jesus went on, 'I need victims to calm my Father's just divine anger; renew the sacrifice of your whole self and do so without any reserve.'
I have renewed the sacrifice of my life, dear Father, and if I experience some feeling of sadness, it is in the contemplation of the God of Sorrows. If you can, try to find souls who will offer themselves to the Lord as victims for sinners. Jesus will help you."

I would compare this loving complaint of Jesus to the "great revelation" of his Heart which he made to Saint Margaret Mary in 1675,47 but what I wish to underscore here is simply the immediacy, the urgency of the call which Padre Pio heard. He answered with the sacrifice of his life. Let us take to heart these final words: "If you can, try to find souls who will offer themselves to the Lord as victims for sinners. Jesus will help you."

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The Holy Father's homily on the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the Sacred Priesthood, is rich in a teaching drawn from personal experience. Here is the Holy Father's text; the subtitles and comments are my own.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Friendship of Christ

"Non iam dicam servos, sed amicos" -- "I no longer call you servants, but friends" (cf. Jn 15:15).

Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice.

Mi accoglie nella cerchia di coloro ai quali si era rivolto nel Cenacolo. Nella cerchia di coloro che Egli conosce in modo del tutto particolare e che così Lo vengono a conoscere in modo particolare.

According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. "No longer servants, but friends": at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way.

Pope Benedict XVI has the grace of receiving into his own heart the Word of God proclaimed and sung in the Sacred Liturgy. For him the words of the Sacred Liturgy are "no mere formality." In this, the Holy Father takes his place among the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and among so many mystics nourished by the Sacred Liturgy, for whom the Word of God proclaimed, repeated, prayed, and cherished by the Church becomes the sacrament of a personal communion or, as Olivier Clément, calls it l'eucharistie de l'intelligence.

In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God's family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Cenacle, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way.

I am often asked why our monastery bears the name of "Our Lady of Cenacle." Here, Pope Benedict XVI answers the question. Our monastery, and any Benedictine monastery is the home of those whom Christ knows in a very special way, and who therefore come to know Him in a very special way. The Cenacle is the home of Christ's own circle of friends, those whom He has gathered close to His Eucharistic Heart, those whom He would have live in the light of His Eucharistic Face.

He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me -- with his authority -- to be able to speak, in his name ("I" forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies his suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in his Passion he went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: "No longer servants, but friends". He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. "You are no longer servants, but friends": these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one's own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.

With the passing years, any one of us accumulates an experience of one's own frailty and of the inexhaustible goodness of God. One must pray never to become accustomed to the horror of sin, but rather to see it for what it is; at the same time one must pray never to despair of the mercy of God, as Saint Benedict says in Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule, that mercy that is revealed in the Passion of Christ and in the adorable Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

"No longer servants, but friends": this saying contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life. What is friendship? Idem velle, idem nolle -- wanting the same things, rejecting the same things: this was how it was expressed in antiquity. Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing.

When the Holy Father calls the phrase "No longer servants, but friends" the entire programme of a priestly life he is not dispensing a facile piece of pious counsel; e is, rather, defining the priesthood, first of all, not in terms of ministry, but in terms of friendship with Christ. This is critical to a correct and livable understanding of the gift of the priesthood. The priest is called first to live with Christ and for Christ, in order to live with others and for others as an icon of Christ, bringing to souls the light of His Face and the fire of His Heart.

The Lord says the same thing to us most insistently: "I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10:14). The Shepherd calls his own by name (cf. Jn 10:3). He knows me by name. I am not just some nameless being in the infinity of the universe. He knows me personally. Do I know him? The friendship that he bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by him, I try to come to know the Lord himself more and more.

The first work of the monk, and similarly of the priest, be he diocesan or religious, is to cultivate the friendship of Christ by a lifelong growth in the knowledge of His Face and of His Sacred Heart. This knowledge is acquired by daily immersion in the Word of God as dispensed by the Church in the Sacred Liturgy; by allowing one's sentiments, one's aspirations, and one's desires to be shaped and reformed by the worship of the Bride of Christ, the Church; and by periods of time given over to the company of Christ in the Sacrament of His Love.

Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself. Over and above communion of thinking and willing, the Lord mentions a third, new element: he gives his life for us (cf. Jn 15:13; 10:15). Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with you to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend.

The Holy Father's reflections here turn to prayer. He passes from addressing those listening to his homily, to addressing Christ Himself. In doing this, he situates himself in a long line of preachers for whom dialogue with Christ was in no way foreign to evangelization and catechesis of the people. I am thinking, in particular, of Saint Bernard and Saint Aelred, who so often interrupted their discourses in Chapter with burning words addressed to Jesus Himself.

Jesus' words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine. The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: "I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). The first commission to the disciples, to his friends, is that of setting out -- appointed to go out -- stepping outside oneself and towards others. Here we hear an echo of the words of the risen Lord to his disciples at the end of Matthew's Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (cf. Mt 28:19f.). The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God's kingdom. We are reminded that even God stepped outside himself, he set his glory aside in order to seek us, in order to bring us his light and his love. We want to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centredness, so that he himself can enter our world.

Union with Christ is not broken by the imperative of the mission. Just as Christ came into the world without leaving the Father's bosom, so too does the priest go forth into the world without, for an instant, leaving Jesus in whose Heart he abides and upon whose Heart he rests. Prayer without ceasing is the guarantee of a fruitful apostolate. The prayer of the heart, persevering and uninterrupted, is that by which, even in the midst of the world with its struggles and shadows, the priest remains one with Christ: body to Body, blood to Blood, soul to Soul, heart to Heart.

After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does he expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. Let us reflect for a moment on this image. For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, by day and by night. For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation. Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavours, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests? We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.

This reflection on the maturation of the grape and the qualities of a noble wine is, without a doubt, one of the most eloquent passages in this homily. "We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us."

Yet now we must ask: what sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. But let us not forget that in the Old Testament the wine expected from noble grapes is above all an image of justice, which arises from a life lived in accordance with God's law. And this is not to be dismissed as an Old Testament view that has been surpassed -- no, it still remains true. The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one's neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God's will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend.

Love is costly: it requires patience, humility, and a hundred thousand little deaths to immediate gratification and personal preference so as to rise a hundred thousand times to life in Christ and to the joy of desiring nothing apart from what His Heart desires. Is this not the essence of Saint Benedict' admonition "to prefer nothing to the love of Christ"?

Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand -- faithfulness to Christ and to his Church -- seeks a fulfillment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows. At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to him by yourselves alone -- a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day (H Ev 1:6:6 PL 76, 1097f.).

This passage illustrates the spousal nature of the priesthood, and indeed of monastic paternity. The bridegroom goes forth to call out his bride; the father goes forth to meet his son while his son is yet on the way. As a bridal soul, the priest and the monk must be content to wait upon the stirrings of the Divine Bridegroom; as a Bridegroom in the image of Christ, the priest and the monk must step out of their comfort motivated only by love for the Bride (souls) who waits to be called. As a son, the priest and the monk sets out on the journey of conversion, confident that the Father will meet him on the way; as a father, the priest and the monk go out in search of the son held back by fear, or in need of a light to guide his steps in the night.

Dear friends, perhaps I have dwelt for too long on my inner recollections of sixty years of priestly ministry. Now it is time to turn our attention to the particular task that is to be performed today.

Greetins to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and to the Delegation he has sent, to whom I express sincere thanks for their most welcome visit on the happy occasion of this feast of the holy Apostles who are Rome's patrons. I also greet the Cardinals, my brother bishops, the ambassadors and civil authorities as well as the priests, the confrères of my first Mass, religious and lay faithful. I thank all of you for your presence and your prayers.

The metropolitan archbishops appointed since the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last year are now going to receive the pallium. What does this mean? It may remind us in the first instance of Christ's easy yoke that is laid upon us (cf. Mt 11:29f.). Christ's yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore "a sweet yoke", but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love. For us, then, it is first and foremost the yoke of leading others to friendship with Christ and being available to others, caring for them as shepherds.

The archiepiscopal pallium is not without some similarity to the monastic scapular: both signify the sweet and demanding yoke of the friendship of Christ. The mature monk exercises a charismatic paternity that complements the hierarchical paternity of bishops and of their priests, and serves it humbly, more often than not in a hidden way.

This brings us to a further meaning of the pallium: it is woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb -- humanity -- me -- upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in his service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of his flock, which always remains his and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors -- it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ.

The wool of the pallium signifies the pastoral burden of the shepherd, but also his own call to became a lamb, that is to say, a victim with Christ the Victim. In moments of weakness, of disorientation, and of obscurity, one must trust that Christ the Shepherd hastens, even into the valley of the shadow of death, in search of his lambs, and especially in search of those marked by priestly anointing or consecrated by the monastic tonsure. The priest and the monk, in turn, are shepherds full of solicitude for the lost sheep of Christ: the priest by going into the darkness of the world with nought but Christ for his light; and the monk by remaining still in his cloister, like a beacon shining in the night.

Sixty years of priestly ministry -- dear friends, perhaps I have spoken for too long about this. But I felt prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I felt prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is. Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me. And all this includes the prayer that the Lord will one day welcome us in his goodness and invite us to contemplate his joy. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Christ Waits for His Priests

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I wait for my priests.
I long to see them enter my sanctuary
and approach the tabernacle of my abiding presence.

I wait for them
in the Sacrament that I left for their sakes
as the expression of my Divine Friendship for my priests,
as their consolation in loneliness,
their strength in weakness,
their sweetness in life's bitterness.

When my priests seek my company
I am moved to show them the compassionate love of my Heart.
When they draw near to me
it is because I have already drawn near to them,
set my gaze upon them,
given them my Heart's love of predilection,
and claimed them for myself
and for my Bride, the Church.

If they come in search of my Eucharistic Face,
it is because the light of my Face
has already illumined their darkness.
Some see the light of my Face
and walk in its radiance.

Others see it and turn away,
choosing darkness over my light.
Even among my priests
there are those who forsake the light of my Face
for the demon-infested darkness
that will lead to their destruction.

How I grieve over those of my priests who turn from me.
How I grieve over those of my priests
who pretend not to have seen my light
nor to have recognized my Face.
These, like Peter in his weakness,
deny having known me.

Still, I wait for them to turn to me.
My Face is, at every moment, turned towards them.
I will give them light to return to me.
I wait for them in the Sacrament of my Love.

From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of A Priest

On Holy Preaching

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Something on holy preaching for the feast of Saint Vincent Ferrer:

Preach, O messenger of the Word,
not to make a name for yourself,
but to glorify the Name of Jesus
and to make known the treasures of His Heart.

Rely not on yourself,
but on the Consoler,
the Advocate sent by Christ
according to His promise.
He who preaches in the power of the Holy Spirit
touches the hard-hearted
and draws souls to Christ's pierced side.

Dismiss all anxiety and fear;
the spawn of self-love
and of the need to win for yourself favour and acclaim.
Fear not failure,
only abandon yourself to Christ,
and He will speak through you.
He will sustain your every word
with the Spirit of Truth,
and of Light,
of Forgiveness, and of Glory.

Preach in the company of the most holy Mother of Jesus,
just as Peter, and John, and James preached in her presence,
certain of her prayer for them,
and casting themselves upon it.

Preach simply, as if in a holy conversation,
unless the grace is given you from above
to preach a hymn of praise
to the love of Christ
displayed in all His mysteries.

Pray, and you will preach well.
Prayer, by obtaining grace, perfects nature.
Prayer transforms the reluctant stammerer
into a messenger of the Most High.
Prayer brings down rays to illumine the mind,
and fire to set cold hearts ablaze.

Know that, of all your prayers,
the rosary best prepares you for holy preaching.
Being a humble prayer, it is the undoing of your pride.
The rosary purifies the heart of the residue of your sins.
It opens the intellect to the light of the Holy Spirit.
The rosary causes the preacher to enter with Mary most holy
beneath the shadow of the Holy Spirit.
Thus shall Christ come forth:
the blessed fruit of your preaching.

The true preacher of Christ
partakes of the mission of the Archangel Gabriel,
he announces the advent of the Word
and waits upon the soul's consent
and upon the Word's new birth by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Preach in this way
and you will glorify the Father.
Preach in this way
until the beauty of Christ's one Bride, His Church,
begins to shine before your eyes.

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In today's little commentary on Cardinal Piacenza's conference on Priestly Celibacy, I focus on the profound spiritual freedom that is a fruit of chastity in the celibate state, and that allows the priest to receive and to exercise the grace of spiritual fatherhood. Along the many holy priests characterized by this grace of paternity, I would point to Blessed Columba Marmion, Saint Pio da Pietrelicina, Saint Gaetano Catanoso, and Chanoine Louis Croset Again, my comments are in italics.

Liberty of Body and Soul

Another reason for Celibacy is identified out by the Pontiff in the need, connected with the Mystery, of a profound spiritual freedom. The Encyclical states: "it is that they may acquire this spiritual liberty of body and soul, and that they may be freed from temporal cares, that the Latin Church demands of her sacred ministers that they voluntarily oblige themselves to observe perfect chastity" (n.22), and he adds: "Consider again that sacred ministers do not renounce marriage solely on account of their apostolic ministry, but also by reason of their service at the altar" (n.23). In this way emerges how the Magisterium of Pius XII ties the cultic reason to that of the apostolic and missionary motivation for Celibacy in a synthesis that, far from opposing them, represents a complete unison in favour of priestly celibacy.

Spiritual Paternity

Pius XII had already stated in his Apostolic Exhortation Menti Nostrae: "by this law of celibacy the priest not only does not abdicate his paternity, but increases it immensely, for he begets not for an earthly and transitory life but for the heavenly and eternal one" (n.26).
Photo: Saint Gaetano Catanoso (1879-1963), a model of spiritual paternity for all priests.

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The Healing Power of the Father's Love

A priest cannot grow into nor can he exercise his "heavenly and eternal paternity" (Pope Pius XII) without first experiencing his own sonship in the Eternal Son and the love of the Eternal Father. For many priests, faith in the Fatherhood of God is a path to interior healing. This is especially true for those who, for one reason or another, did not grow into manhood in liberty of heart and in joy under the affirming gaze of a father. The Eternal Father desires to banish fear from the hearts of his priest-sons. God's will is that His priest-sons should "serve him without fear, in holiness and justice before Him" (Lk 1:74-75) all the days of their life.

As Jesus Was Father in the Midst of the Apostles

God would have every priest know that he is loved and surrounded by His paternal presence as Father, a presence that sustains the priest, that allows him to become in every way the man that God has always wanted him to be. Faith in the paternal presence of God allows the priest, in turn, to become a father, a father in the image of The Father, a father even as Jesus was fully father in the midst of His disciples. The disciples discovered the fatherhood of God on the face of Jesus Christ. They felt the Divine Fatherhood when they drew near to His Sacred Heart. They saw the Fatherhood of God at work in the signs of mercy and power that Jesus worked in His Father's Name.

Abandonment to the Father

It must be the same for us, priests. We are called to be living images of the Divine Paternity. The Father Himself implants in the heart of His priests the charism of a paternal love. By virtue of this grace of paternal love, the priest can bring healing to a multitude of souls held back in their spiritual development for want of the indispensable experience of a father's love. Out of that experience souls can grow in the theological virtue of hope, in confidence, trust and, ultimately, in the practice of abandonment to the Eternal Father's love and unfailing providence. There is, by the way, a little known classic on this very subject, L'abandon filial by a humble, hidden religious named Soeur Jean-Baptiste. As far as I know it is available only in French, but it merits being translated into English.

The Spiritually Fatherless

It seems to me that the Eternal Father desires, at this precise moment in the history of the Church, to renew the grace of fatherhood among His priests. It is when a priest is father that he corresponds most fully to God's designs of love upon his life. The Church, beloved Spouse of Jesus Christ, suffers because so many priests fail to live the singular grace of their supernatural paternity. Souls seek fathers and, all too often, they are sent away disappointed and abandoned to live among the vast numbers of the spiritually fatherless who mark contemporary society with a particular sadness.

Divine Fatherhood in the Souls of Priests

The Eternal Father would have each of us priests receive the graces and the supernatural energies of the Divine Fatherhood in our own souls. The more a priest lives out his paternal mission, the more will he resemble the Only-Begotten Son who said, "He that seeth me, seeth the Father also" (Jn 14:9).


The Diocesan Priest: A Religious?

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Photo: Don Andrea Sartoro (born 7 September 1945, Priverno, Italy -- died 5 February 2006) was a diocesan priest murdered in Santa Maria Church in Trabzon, Turkey where he served as a member of the Fidei Donum missionary program. At Don Santoro's funeral at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cardinal Camillo Ruini mentioned in his homily that the possible beatification process for Don Santoro may be opened after February 2011.

Cardinal Piacenza on Priestly Celibacy, Part II

The Original Religious Order

Today I continue my commentary on Cardinal Piacenza's presentation of the recent Papal Magisterium concerning Priestly Celibacy. GIven that the Cardinal draws upon Pope Pius XII's Encyclical Sacra Virginitas and, thereby, suggests a parallel between the celibacy of the diocesan priest and the chastity vowed by the religious, I thought I might present Cardinal Mercier's intuition and conviction that diocesan priests are, in fact, religious: religious belonging to the oldest Order in the Church, one founded by Our Lord Himself.

The Secular Priest

The expression "secular priest" is an unfortunate one. It somehow suggests that the diocesan priest is a man of the world, and that he is justified in taking on worldly ways: in his possessions, in his entertainment, his dress, his leisure activities, his habits of eating and drinking, his vacations, and in his way of interfacing with contemporary culture. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests

On January 31, 1994, Pope John Paul II promulgated a document prepared by the Congregation for the Clergy to encourage and guide priests in their pursuit of holiness, while setting forth certain norms of priestly conduct. The document got very little press coverage at the time. It sets the standard, as it were, for the ministry and life of diocesan priests, and deserves to be better known, studied, prayed over, and lived. You can find it here.

Living Chastely from One Mass to the Next

Chastity flourishes in a lifestyle that is courageously counter-cultural, bracing, joyfully austere, fully human, and wholly focused on the Altar, to which the priest goes and from which he comes, day after day. The priest who consciously lives from one Mass to the next will, necessarily, discover the blessed imperative of chastity, and embrace it manfully -- temptations, struggles, humiliations, and battle wounds notwithstanding.

2. Pius XII and the Encyclical Sacra Virginitas

An influential contribution is made, from the magisterial point of view, by the Encyclical Sacra Virginitas, of 25 March 1954, of the Servant of God Pius XII. Like all of the Encyclicals of that august Pontiff, it is resplendent for its clear and profound doctrinal contribution, for the wealth of its biblical, historical, theological and spiritual references, and it constitutes even today a point of reference of notable merit. 

If the Encyclical has as its formal objective, in its strict sense, not ecclesiastical celibacy but virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven, nevertheless there are many points of reflection and explicit references to the celibate condition and the Priesthood that may be found in it.

The Diocesan Priest: A Religious

I have often heard diocesan priests protest, "We are not religious!" and even more vehemently "We are not monks!" Of course, they are correct in asserting this, but only from a peculiarly canonical and legalistic perspective. The question merits some investigation.

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The saintly Désiré-Joseph Cardinal Mercier (1851-1926), Primate of Belgium and Archbishop of Malines, and one of the great hierarchs of modern times, made this long-debated and often burning argument the subject of a retreat he preached to his diocesan clergy in 1918. Cardinal Mercier's retreat conferences were published in 1934 under the title, La vie intérieure: Appel aux âmes sacerdotales. Allow me to present an excerpt from his Fourth Conference: A Prejudice. The translation from the French is my own.

My very dear confrères, this is the fourth time that I've had the joy of preaching your retreat, and I really think that I've come to know you. So long as I speak of work, pastoral activities, and generosity of soul, all goes along wonderfully: my word finds an echo in you, and I see not a single frown on your foreheads. When I speak of penitence, recollection, austerity of life, you still follow me -- less gaily perhaps -- but with good will, while nonetheless toning down my words. It's as if you were wanting to placate your consciences by saying, "Oh, yes, penance certainly, fasting, retreat; all of that is necessary, but not too much of it, because, after all, "we are not monks." And when, finally, I get to the point of talking to you seriously about poverty, religious obedience, the life of interior prayer, well then, this doesn't please a number of you. You think that I'm completely off the mark, and here's the phrase that comes to your lips, "But, really, we are, all the same, not religious!"

Cardinal Mercier addresses the argument:

What then is the direct answer to the question formulated at the beginning of this talk: Yes or No, are we (diocesan priests) religious? Those [diocesan priests] who object that they are not religious, base their argument on this consideration: that they are not in the state of religious life. They are correct. They are not professed religious belonging to the canonical state of religious perfection. But, from that affirmation, it does not follow that they are not religious It does not follow that they are not bound to the perfection of life to which religious are bound. No, a thousand times no.
First of all, not only are diocesan priests religious, but they are such in the eminent sense of the expression. They are religious, by virtue of the clerical state. They reaffirmed themselves in their vocation at each one of the steps of their successive ordinations, until, on the day of their ordination to the subdiaconate, the Church entrusted them with the public prayer par excellence, the "Holy Office," and entrusted them, on the day of their priestly ordination, with the cultic function par excellence, the liturgical celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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It's a great pity that the rite of tonsure marking entrance into the clerical state was suppressed by Pope Paul VI in Ministeria Quaedam, 1 January 1973. The rite itself was a rich source of the spirituality proper to the diocesan clergy. The use of Psalm 15, Conserva me, Domine, together with the apposite orations of the rite, deserves, even, now to be meditated and held in the heart. As for Ministeria Quaedam, I think it needs to be "critically revisited" as a dear professor of mine used to say.
Yes, my dear Confrères, you belong to the first religious Order established in the Church: your Founder is Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself; the first religious of His Order are the Apostles; their successors are the bishops and, in union with them, the priests, all the ministers of Holy Orders right down to those just admitted to the clerical state, because they make profession of wanting nothing apart from God as their heritage, and the service of God as their lifetime occupation.
You are religious, and this in a primordial way. Given this, it would be unthinkable that one of you should argue that he is not bound to a perfection that, if nothing else, at least equals that of religious in their monasteries. The truth is, on the contrary, that you are bound, by virtue of your clerical state and, even moreso, by your priesthood, to a higher perfection than theirs.
I shall not grow tired of quoting Saint Thomas Aquinas' declarations; they are so clear and so categorical:
"The monastic Orders come after the Orders of priestly ministry, they [the monastic Orders] must take them [the Orders of priestly ministry] as an example so as to elevate themselves to things of God." (2.2.q. 18, a.8)
"The fact of being committed, by the reception of Holy Orders, to the service of Christ Himself in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, imposes a stricter obligation of interior holiness than does the religious state." (Ibid.)
The first religious of our Order knew no formula of engagement apart from these general declarations: that of Saint Peter, for example, "Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee" (Jn 21:17); or this other one: "Behold, Lord, we have left all things and have followed Thee" (Mt 19:27); or these two affirmations in which Saint Paul sums up the program of his apostolic labours: "But I most glad will spend and be spent myself for your souls" (2 Cor 12:15); and "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with heavenly glory" (2 Tim 2:10).
There you have it, my dear Confrères, the pastoral profession [of vows] that we must take up again! There you have the models that we are to copy!
[Consider] . . . the formula of your initiation into the clerical state: "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my chalice; it is Thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me" (Ps 15:5). Is not this a translation of the Apostolic College's formula of total abnegation and of attachment to God alone? And you subscribe to Saint Paul's program of pastoral charity when, on the day of your priesthood, you acquiesce to this solemn warning of your bishop: "The Lord would have the ministers of His Church perfect in word and in deed, established in the twin virtue of love of God and of neighbour."
Yes, we are religious . . . we are members of the Order founded by Christ, in His apostolate, perpetuated through the ages by the episcopate and by the ministers of the different orders of the hierarchy at the service of the altar.
We are pastors, sent out by Christ for the work of the redemption and the sanctification of the world: bishops, by virtue of the principle title that is theirs, and this for life; the others, by virtue of a subordinate title, as cooperators of the bishop, united to him in the care of souls, for the duration of their mandate.
We too have solemnly made our religious profession before God and before the Church. . . . We are religious, and we are pastors: united to Christ in His religious function before the Father; united to Him as His instruments in the work of redemption.

To be continued.

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This is His Eminence, Cardinal Piacenza's first message to the priests and deacons of the Church: a text to be read and meditated. The headings and comments in italics are my own.

Message of HIs Eminence,
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza,
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
to Priests and Deacons

Dear Priests and Deacons,

At this time, when the Holy Father has graciously named me as the new Prefect, I would like to take the opportunity to convey a cordial greeting to each and every one of you.

The Eucharist Celebrated and Adored

The Year for Priests, recently brought to a conclusion, remains always before us, both in its content and in its model of sanctity, St John Mary Vianney. With regard to its content, it is to be fully assimilated into the environment of the formation of the Clergy, both in the initial and ongoing stages, especially concerning to the central place it wished to recognise of the Eucharist, celebrated and adored; with regard to the model of sanctity that was offered, the heroic participation of the Curé of Ars in the self-giving of Christ for the life of men shines forth, and that witness spurs us continually to offer ourselves to the Lord in the "fragrant sacrifice".

It is in the contemplation and adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist that each priest and deacon begins to understand the exigencies of his own personal participation in the mystery of Christ, "the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the immaculate Victim". The life of he priest and deacon becomes increasingly identified with the sacrifice of the altar, consumed by the fire of the Holy Ghost, and rising as a pleasing fragrance in the presence of the Father.

First of All, Abide in Him

Even in the face of the storm of the "worldly sea," Jesus of Nazareth repeats to his disciples, "Do not be afraid!" To the temptation of activism and of the fitful searching after solutions that are human, and all too human, He beckons us gently, "Abide in my love" (Jn 15: 9).

The temptation of activism and the fitful searching after solutions that are human, and all too human: His Eminence identifies what lies at the root of so much clerical burn-out, superficiality, and despair.

As the Holy Father Benedict XVI pointed out, "If we continue to read this Gospel passage attentively, we also find a second imperative: "abide", and "observe my commandments". "Observe" only comes second. "Abide" comes first, at the ontological level, namely that we are united with him, he has given himself to us beforehand and has already given us his love, the fruit. It is not we who must produce the abundant fruit; Christianity is not moralism, it is not we who must do all that God expects of the world but we must first of all enter this ontological mystery: God gives himself. His being, his loving, precedes our action and, in the context of his Body, in the context of being in him, being identified with him and ennobled with his Blood, we too can act with Christ" (Allocution at the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary, 12 February 2010).

It is impossible to observe the commandments of Christ without first abiding in Christ, without making one's dwelling in His open Heart. "His being, His loving," says Cardinal Piacenza, "precedes our action." This is, expressed in biblical terms, what Dom Chautard called, in his spiritual classic, The Soul of the Apostolate.

All that His Eminence says in this section concerning priests and deacons applies as well to religious women, especially to those who, by virtue of their identification with the way of life and mission of the Apostles, pour themselves out in various works.

Dear friends, it is precisely this primacy of the ontological over the ethical, of the "abiding" over the "doing" that is the guarantee, and the only guarantee possible, of the fruitfulness of our apostolate!

In Confidence and Peace

In the face of prevailing secularism and rampant relativism, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman reminds us that:

Christianity has been too often in what seemed deadly peril, that we should fear for it any new trial now. So far is certain; on the other hand, what is uncertain, and in these great contests commonly is uncertain, and what is commonly a great surprise, when it is witnessed, is the particular mode by which, in the event, Providence rescues and saves His elect inheritance. Sometimes our enemy is turned into a friend; sometimes he is despoiled of that special virulence of evil which was so threatening; sometimes he falls to pieces of himself; sometimes he does just so much as is beneficial, and then is removed. Commonly the Church has nothing more to do than to go on in her own proper duties, in confidence and peace; to stand still and to see the salvation of God" (Biglietto Speech, 12 May 1879).

A splendid quotation from Blessed John Henry Newman! What can any one of us do but go on his own proper duties, in confidence and peace? "Stand still, " says Blessed Newman, echoing the versicle sung at Tierce on Christmas Eve: V. Constantes estote. R. Videbitis auxilium Domini super vos. "Be ye steadfast. And ye shall see the help of Lord upon you." There is a hidden heroism in quiet fidelity to one's duties sustained by confidence in the Providence of God, and by the peace that is the fruit of such a confidence.

The Mother of Priests

With these sentiments of profound, radical fidelity to the Lord in the Church and in history, in the Lord of my and of your sacerdotal existence, I ask a particular remembrance in your prayers, while I assure you of my pastoral concern, entrusting each one of you to the powerful protection of Her who, by virtue of a most special title, is the Mother of Priests: the Blessed Virgin Mary.

+ Mauro Card. Piacenza
Prefect

I, for one, pledge the support of my prayers to His Eminence, Cardinal Piacenza, recommending him to the Materna and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Plus dare non potuit

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The image depicts Saint Francesco Caracciolo (1563-1608) in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Saint Francesco Caracciolo is also the patron saint of Italian cooks; our kitchen is placed under his protection.

A phrase attributed to Saint Augustine says, concerning the Most Holy Eucharist:
Deus cum esset omnipotens plus dare non potuit --
God being all-powerful could give no more than this.

Jesus wishes to conquer the heart of every priest.
He comes to His priest laden with all His gifts,
with all that can draw His priests and win their friendship.
Jesus is the first to give His Heart,
so as to be able to ask for the heart of His priest in return.
The nature of love requires that all goods be held in common,
that life be shared, day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute,
that every movement of the heart may find a response in the heart of the other.
A priest held fast in the embrace of Eucharistic Love
will tend, with all his might,
to a communion of life with Jesus,
and so, he will pray:

Thou art here for me, Lord Jesus;
and I am here for Thee.
Thou hast made Thyself all mine,
and I would make myself all Thine.
Thou art all attentive to me,
and I would be all attentive to Thee.
Thou hast turned Thy Face toward me,
and I would hold my face turned toward Thee.
Love of me has pierced Thy Heart;
would that love of Thee would pierce my heart.
Thou humblest Thyself even to seek my company;
how can I not seek Thy company
Who hast done all in Thy power to be present to me?

Persevering in Prayer

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From time to time, I present anew some of the prayers that I composed for the Spiritual Mothers of Priests and for all, men and women alike, who pray, suffer, and offer themselves for the sanctification of priests. Here are three of these prayers:

A Morning Offering

Most merciful Father,
I offer Thee the prayers, works,
joys, and sufferings of this day
by placing them in the holy and venerable hands of Jesus, the Eternal High Priest,
and by saying, as He did upon entering the world,
"Behold, I come to do Thy will" (Hebrews 10:9).

For the sake of all His priests,
and in particular for the priests
entrusted to my intercession,
I entreat Thy beloved Son to unite my offering
to the Sacrifice of the Cross,
renewed upon the altars of Thy Church
from the rising of the sun to its setting (Malachy 1:11).

Holy Father,
look upon these men chosen by Thy Son
to show forth His death until He comes (1 Cor 11:26);
keep them from the Evil One (John 17:15)
and sanctify them in the truth (John 17:17).

Bind them by a most tender love
to the Virgin Mary, their Mother
that, by her intercession,
they may be overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)
in every act of their sacred ministry;
thus may their priesthood reveal
the Face of Jesus and the merciful love of His Heart,
for the fruitfulness of His spouse, the Church.
and the praise of Thy glory. Amen.

Prayer for Priests

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who hast commanded
that the men whom Thou hast called and set apart
for the service of Thy holy altars,
should themselves be holy:
grant such holiness to your priests
that in them Thy Father may take delight,
and Thy Bride, the Church, find consolation.

Send the promised Paraclete upon them
to keep them firm in their faith
in the midst of an unbelieving world;
to keep them ardent in their love
among those that love Thee not;
to keep them pure amidst the impure;
and to keep them Thine
amidst those who are as yet not Thine
--but whom Thou, O gentle Shepherd,
didst come to seek and to save.

Through the intercession of our most gracious Lady and Queen,
Thy Mother, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin,
give them grace so to serve Thee
among all the changes and chances of this passing world
that, at the hour of their death, they may be ready
to enter in with Thee, O Eternal High Priest,
to the sanctuary not made by human hands,
where Thou livest for ever
to make intercession for us,
and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

Prayer for Vocations

Lord Jesus Christ,
Who callest to Thy service whomsoever Thou wilt,
let the light of Thy Face and the tenderness of Thy Heart
rest upon the young men of our own parishes and families.
Grant that those whom Thou hast chosen from among us
may hear Thy invitation and respond to Thy call
with generosity and courage.
For our part, we are resolved
to welcome and support priestly vocations in our midst
with gratitude, humility, and joy.
We promise to pray tirelessly
for those whom Thou hast set apart to preach Thy Word,
to offer Thy Sacrifice, and to nourish, heal, and comfort our souls.
Confident that Thou hast already heard our prayer,
we entrust the future priests among us
to the Immaculate Heart of Thy Virgin Mother
that, for each one, she may be a guiding star in the night
and, day by day, a perpetual help.
Amen.

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My friend, Msgr A.B.C., was kind enough to send me from Rome today, the text of a prayer for priests composed by the recently beatified Blessed Maria Pierina de Micheli (1890-1945). It was to Blessed Maria Pierina that Our Lord gave the scapular of His Holy Face, which later became the medal of the Holy Face distributed throughout the world. Blessed Maria Pierina died on 26 July 1945. Her liturgical memorial is celebrated on 11 September.

Prayer of Blessed Maria Pierina De Micheli for Priests


Eterno Padre,
offriamo il Santo Volto del Tuo Figlio Gesù
per le mani di Maria,
con l'intero generoso olocausto di tutte noi stesse
in riparazione di tanti peccati che si commettono,
specialmente della offese al SS. Sacramento dell'Altare.
Te lo offriamo in modo particolare
perché i Sacerdoti mostrino al mondo
con la santità della vita,
l'adorabile fisionomia del Divin Volto,
irradiando la luce della verità e dell'amore
per il trionfo della Chiesa
e la propagazione del Regno.

Eternal Father,
we offer Thee, with the hands of Mary,
the Holy Face of Jesus, Thy Son,
and the entire generous holocaust
of all that we are,
in reparation for so many sins that are committed,
and, especially, for offenses against the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
We make this offering, in a particular way,
so that Priests, by the holiness of their lives,
may show the world the adorable features of the Divine Countenance
shining with the light of truth and of love,
for the triumph of the Church,
and for the spread of the Kingdom.
Amen.

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Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the Eternal High Priest.
As Sacrificer and as Victim,
He is present and shown forth in each of His priests.
He has chosen them to be, for His Church,
the visible and acting presence of His own Priesthood.

Priests are called,
before all else,
to the most intimate and complete union with Christ.
All the holiness of a priest consists in this.
Through His priests,
Our Lord continues to make present to the world
His Life, and His Death,
His Resurrection, and Ascension.

Christ calls each of His priests to friendship with Himself.
He desires to unite their hearts to His Heart
and to be one with them
as He is one with His Father.

When the Father turns His gaze upon a priest,
He sees Christ.
When a priest acts in the Name of Jesus
and utters the words placed on His lips by the Church,
the Father sees and hears Christ.

The prayer of the priest is the prayer of Christ,
and every prayer made by a priest,
in accordance with the liturgy of the Church,
is received by the Father in Heaven
as He receives the personal, ceaseless intercession
of Christ Himself before His Face.

Our Lord would have souls love priests for His sake,
-- not with a sentimental love born of human neediness
and fruitless attachment --
but with a charity like that of the holy women disciples,
who loved Him,
in imitation of Mary, His Mother,
following in her footsteps.
Those who love the priests of Christ
with a supernatural charity,
love Christ Himself.

Love for priests
is best expressed in prayer and in sacrifice for them.
Christ's faithful need to learn, once again,
to reverence His priests,
for by showing reverence to priests,
they are, in effect, summoning them to holiness.
Reverence shown a priest is never misplaced
for Our Lord receives it as reverence shown to His own Divine Person.

Even when the priestly Face of Christ is disfigured, dishonoured,
and vilified in a particular priest,
that priest remains, nonetheless, the anointed one of the Lord.
The priest fallen on the field of spiritual combat
or deceived by the enemy and led into sin,
remains an image of Christ the Priest.
In the fallen priest, Christ shows His Face
ally bloody, tumefied, and disfigured
as He showed it to Veronica
in His most bitter Passion.

Where are the Veronicas who will minister to Christ's fallen priests?
Who will wipe their faces?
Who will show them tenderness, reverence, and compassion?
Who will console them in their humiliations,
in their sorrow, their defeat, and their abjection?
Christ searches for souls to console His priests,
-- and to console Him living in them --
and He finds so few.
His fallen priests are reviled, mocked,
and handed over to public scorn.

Even in their sinfulness,
even in their betrayal of Christ
and their crimes against His Mystical Body,
these men covered with shame
remain His chosen ones, and the privileged friends of His Sacred Heart.
If one cannot pity them and console them for their own sakes,
one can, at least, do so for the sake of Christ.

In His fallen priests
Christ sees the haggard and anxious face of Judas, His betrayer.
Our Lord loved Judas,
even after he had gone out into the night.
He loved him in Gethsemani.
He loved him after the betrayal.
He loved him even at the moment when,
despairing of His mercy,
Judas hung himself and took his own life.
There is no priest outside the pale of Christ's mercy.
There is no priest to whom Christ will not extend pardon.
There is no priest ,
even if He has betrayed his Lord,
reviled Him, scorned Him,
and abused His rights over His Immaculate Body and Precious Blood,
that the Heart of Jesus is not ready to forgive
and draw once again to Himself.

Priests do not believe half enough in Christ's love for them.
They preach His love,
but, far too often, have no experience of it.
They have no experience of it
because they flee from before His Eucharistic Face
and hardly ever remain, silent and adoring,
close to His Eucharistic Heart.

Where are the souls who will so prevail
over the terrible justice of God
that there will be nothing but divine mercy,
and forgiveness, and the most tender friendship,
for those priests who least deserve it?

Souls who offer themselves as victims for priests
are perfectly aligned with the desires and intentions of the Heart of Jesus.
With such souls He will save even the most forsaken and sinful priests.
With such souls He will search out His lost sheep,
place them upon His shoulders,
and carry them to the hospice of HIs merciful love,
that is, to His Mother's immaculate and maternal Heart.
There He will wash them,
heal them of their diseases,
nourish them with the living Bread that is His Body,
give them to drink of the chalice of His Blood,
and hold them fast in His friendship,
never again to be seduced and deceived
by their Enemy and His.

The present crisis in the priesthood
will result in a purification of the Church of Christ.
A new priesthood will emerge
shining with holiness
and inspiring awe in the souls of those
who will have eyes to see the Face of Christ
on the countenance of His priests.

Our Lord will sanctify His priests
and bring about a great change in priestly life.
Priests will become more apostolic,
more united to Our Lord in prayer,
in His victimhood,
in all His sufferings,
and in His glory.
This will come about through the intercession of His Immaculate Mother,
who loves each priest even as she loves her Jesus.
The maternal Heart of Mary ceaselessly intercedes
for her priest sons.

Spiritual mothers of priests,
priest-intercessors for priests,
fathers, brothers, and friends of priests,
join with the Blessed Virgin Mary
in pleading for them.
Our Lord will not delay in hearing His Mother's supplication,
and the world will be obliged to recognize
that the Church is the Bride of the Crucified
and that her priests are other Christs,
offering themselves with Him,
and giving life to souls.


The Despairing Priest

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When A Priest Hates His Priesthood

A priest, recently accused of stealing funds from his parish and of using it to pay for certain vices, is quoted in the news as having said that he had come "to hate his priesthood." This statement was, to my mind, more disturbing and painful than anything else in the reports of the media. How does a priest arrive at a point in his life where he hates his priesthood?

Into Despair

The priest who hates his priesthood, hates his very self, his truest self, his sacred identity. The priesthood is not a profession that one exercises, it is, rather, by virtue of the indelible character impressed upon his soul at ordination, a real identification with Christ the Eternal High Priest and Spotless Victim. Hatred for what is sacred is one of the signs of diabolical influence and activity. The devil knows the psychology of priests. Centuries of experience have given him a refined knowledge of which temptations work best in trying to bring down a priest. With his perverse intelligence, the devil can lead a priest from weakness to weakness, and vice to vice, into a state of despair and self-loathing. His ultimate goal, of course, is to cause the priest to despair of the mercy of God and, out of that despair, destroy himself. This doesn't happen overnight.

Corruption

The corruption of a priestly soul happens slowly, almost imperceptibly. Typically, it happens through one of three avenues: the lust for power, the lust for money and possessions, or the lust for sexual gratification. Although all three lusts are closely interconnected, one generally takes the lead, drawing the two others after it. Where one finds impurity, for example, one will also, in all likelihood, find ambition, greed, self-aggrandizement, and the appetite for power over persons and things.

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Pride and Anger

What triggers the initial collusion with vice? Pride, being an unreasonable appreciation of one's own worth and narcissistic perception of one's own place in the world spawns other vices. So too does anger: anger over injustices, anger over lost opportunities, failures, rejections, deeply rooted hurts, betrayals, disappointments, or abuse. Habitual sins of impurity, for example, can often be traced to unresolved anger and the refusal of forgiveness.

Envy and Greed

Envy and greed can also also trigger the collusion with vice. Another has the possessions, qualities, position, power, good looks, intelligence, or popularity that one wants. The more one becomes obsessed with what one does not have and with what another has, or appears to have, the more one suffers from a gnawing emptiness within. Out of that emptiness spirals the rage of envy. Such an enraged envy can beget any number of vices.

Gluttony and Sloth

Gluttony and sloth soften a man and dispose him to melancholy, self-pity, listlessness, and lack of energy. All or any one of these characteristics are spiritual danger signals, especially in the life of a priest. If they are not brought to the light and confessed to a spiritual father with honesty and humility, a capitulation to vice is inevitable.

Spiritual Blindness and Hardheartedness

The capitulation to vices leads to spiritual blindness and hardheartedness. The priest in this state becomes indifferent to the sins of sacrilege that defile his ascent to the altar. He no longer feels compunction for his sins. The emptiness and bitterness generated by vicious acts compels him to look for ways to deaden the salutary disgust that a soul in the state of grace feels in the face of sin.

Why Does It Happen?

How can it be that a priest, who presumably preaches the Word of God, administers the sacraments, and offers the Holy Sacrifice regularly, can descend to the point of hating his own priesthood?

1. First of all, unless certain ascetical safeguards are in place, the current living situation of many diocesan priests is intrinsically dangerous and unhealthy. Alone after an exhausting day, with nought but the computer, the television, the refrigerator, and the liquor cabinet to fill his evenings, he is accountable to no one. Diocesan priests are not called to an eremitical life. The diocesan priest needs 1) the Eucharistic context provided by the parish community, 2) the affective context provided by healthy friendships with other priests and by frequent exchanges with them, and 3) the mystical context provided by intimacy with Our Divine Lord in the Sacrament of His Love and in the Word of God, with Our Lady, the Mother of Priests and their Advocate, and with the angels and saints.

2. Every bishop is bound to see his priests regularly, to know them, and to inquire if they are offering Holy Mass daily, praying the Divine Office, expressing devotion to Our Lady through the rosary, going to confession regularly, and baring their soul to a spiritual father. A bishop who never asks these questions of his priests -- for fear of being intrusive, or because their outward appearance gives no cause for alarm, or because their administration of the parish raises no red flags -- is shirking his primary responsibility, the one upon which the very life of the diocese depends: the moral health and spiritual vitality of his clergy. An exaggerated notion of the "internal forum" has led some bishops never to broach the subject of the interior life with their priests. This is a deadly misconception.

3. When priests are not accountable to each other, the entire notion of sacerdotal brotherhood is compromised. "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:19) A priest who refuses to intervene when he sees disturbing indications that all is not well in the life of a brother priest, will be held accountable for the sins of that brother priest and for his fall from grace. Interventions require humility, gentleness, tact -- and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Interventions are difficult both for the priest intervening and for the priest being confronted, but they can be a matter of spiritual life or death.

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I have presented Father William Doyle, S.J. several times to the readers Vultus Christi. This evening I learned of a new blog dedicated to this heroic and saintly Irish priest. I heartily recommend it. There is a link to http://fatherdoyle.com/ in my sidebar.

As you take up the challenges of this hour, I ask you to remember "the rock from which you were hewn" (Is 51:1). Reflect upon the generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole, and let this provide the impetus for honest self-examination and a committed programme of ecclesial and individual renewal. It is my prayer that, assisted by the intercession of her many saints and purified through penance, the Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and the goodness of Almighty God, made manifest in his Son Jesus Christ. (Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, March 2010)


From a new blog: http://fatherdoyle.com/

"The scandalous actions of a small number of priests and religious, and the almost equally scandalous inaction of their superiors in correcting these abuses, has profoundly damaged the image of the Church and of the priesthood in Ireland and in much of the Western world.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter to the Church in Ireland, has wisely outlined the path of reform for the Church. It involves a return to the sources of our faith as well as acts of reparation and penance and a recognition of the need for holiness as the antidote to scandal in the Church. Significantly, it involves remembering the rock from which we have been hewn. We must remember, and emulate, the "generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole". These heroes of the past show us the way to renewal of the Church and the way to Christ. They present a variety of modes of behaviour, and approaches to genuine spirituality that we can adapt for our own lives.

Fr Willie Doyle SJ was one of those heroes.

Thus, the first objective of this blog is to hold up Fr Willie Doyle as a very modern and relevant model of heroic holiness from whom we can learn today."

If this blog helps further Fr Doyle's cause for beatification in some way, then that is a bonus. However, it is not formally associated with that cause, although clearly it would welcome progress in that area.

This blog aims to be a central resource on materials relating to Fr Doyle, his life and his spirituality. Readers are actively encouraged to make comments and to get involved. The aim is to keep it updated, hopefully everyday for the first year at least. These daily posts will involve snippets from the writings of Fr Doyle along with commentary where appropriate as well as other forms of commentary and links where relevant.

Preparation and Thanksgiving

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Father Paul Gunter's article (published on Zenit) must be put into the hands of every priest and, from there, pass into his heart. How many Diocesan Offices of Divine Worship will make this text available to priests? Heartfelt thanks to Father Paul for an article that, for a very long time, I have been waiting for someone to write.

The Priest's Preparation and Thanksgiving for Mass
Dom Paul Gunter, OSB


The priest depends on his union with God for the fruitfulness of his life and ministry and the people of God rely on the priest to pray for them.

Jesus Christ entrusted to his closest followers a premise for any good they would do. "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing."[1] The same Jesus, in the context of many miracles that he worked, established times to be by himself so as to spend time in prayer to his heavenly Father. For Jesus, the formal prayer of the Liturgy was supported by an inner life whose privacy bore the intimacy that nurtures personal prayer. Ecclesial and community dimensions are strengthened by that personal relationship with God which believers hope to deepen.

The search for God, which gives meaning to the lives of those who love him, serves as a daily reminder that it is, to and from Almighty God that all blessings flow. Sacred Scripture describes vividly the nourishment Jesus drew from his hidden life of prayer. "He would withdraw to deserted places and pray."[2] Similarly, there is the sense of the times of day when Jesus was particularly receptive to the stillness of prayer wherein he sought the Father's will. Such times encourage specific concentration and uninterrupted closeness. "Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer."[3] "And after he sent the crowds away, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone."[4]

The priest, conscious of his sharing in the work of Christ, strives by following Christ's example, to lead God's holy people through Christ and in the Holy Spirit to God the Father. He knows, all too well, since his own shortcomings damage the credibility of his witness, that he needs no less urgently to ask God to instill in him virtues proper to his state. Part of the homily provided in the rite of the ordination of a priest instructs the one who is to be ordained accordingly: "In the same way, you will continue the sanctifying work of Christ. Through your ministry, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect, because, united to the sacrifice of Christ it is offered through your hands in the name of the Church in an unbloody way on the altar, in the celebration of the sacred mysteries. Recognize what you are doing and imitate [him] whom you handle so that celebrating the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord, you may mortify all vices within yourself and prepare to walk in newness of life."[5]

The Priest With Jesus

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I am quite overwhelmed by the abundance and theological density of the Holy Father's homilies, discourses, and writings. It is a privilege and a grace to be united to the mens of the Holy Father and to the prayer of his heart by reading and meditating his teachings. Yesterday, in Saint Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father ordained fourteen deacons to the priesthood. The following extract, from the homily His Holiness preached, is yet another illustration of his zeal for priestly holiness in the Church.

Being in Prayer with Jesus

The Gospel that we just heard shows us a significant moment in the journey of Jesus in which he asks his disciples what people think of him and how they judge him themselves. Peter replies on behalf of the Twelve with a confession of faith, which differs substantially from the view that people have of Jesus, for he says: You are the Christ of God (cf. 9.20). Where does this act of faith come from? If we go back to the beginning of the Gospel passage, we note that Peter's confession is tied to a moment of prayer: " when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him,"(9:18). That is, the disciples are involved in Jesus' unique being and talking with the Father. And so they are allowed to see the Master in the depths of his condition as Son, they are allowed to see what others can not, by 'being with Him, "by" being with Him in prayer, comes a knowledge that goes beyond the opinions of people to reach the profound identity of Jesus, to reach the truth. Here we are given an indication for the life and mission of the priest: in prayer he is called to rediscover the new face of the Lord and always the most authentic contents of his mission. Only those who have an intimate relationship with the Lord are grasped by him, may bring him to others, can be sent out. This is the "being with him" that must always accompany the exercise of priestly ministry; it must be the central part of it, above all in difficult times when it seems that the "things to be done" should take priority.

Being on the Way of the Cross with Jesus

I wish to highlight a second element in today's Gospel. Immediately after Peter's confession, Jesus proclaims his passion and resurrection, and he follows this announcement with a lesson on the path his disciples must take, which is to follow Him, the Crucified, follow the road of the Cross. And he adds - with a paradoxical expression - that being a disciple means "losing oneself", but only in order to fully rediscover oneself (cf. Lk 9.22 to 24). What does this mean for every Christian, but especially what does it mean for a priest? Discipleship, but we can safely say: the priesthood can never be a way to achieve security in life or to gain a position in society. The man who aspires to the priesthood to enhance his personal prestige and power has misunderstood the meaning at the root of this ministry. The man who wants above all to achieve a personal ambition, achieve personal success, will always be a slave to himself and public opinion. In order to be considered, he will have to flatter; to say what people want to hear, he will have to adjust to changing fashions and opinions and thus deprive himself of the vital relationship with the truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he would praise today. A man who plans his life like this, a priest who sees his ministry in these terms, does not truly love God and others, only himself and, paradoxically, ends up losing himself. The priesthood - let us always remember - rests on the courage to say yes to another will, in the awareness, to be nurtured everyday, that our compliance with the will of God, our "immersion" in this will, does not cancel our originality, rather on the contrary, it helps us enter deeper into the truth of our being and our ministry.

Being at the Altar with Jesus

Dear ordinands, I would like propose a third thought for your consideration, closely related to the one just mentioned: the call of Jesus to "lose oneself" to take the cross, recalls the mystery we celebrate: the Eucharist. With the sacrament of Holy Orders you today are gifted to preside at the Eucharist! You are entrusted the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, you are entrusted with his Body, given his outpoured Blood. Of course, Jesus offers his sacrifice, his gift of love full and humble, to the Church his Bride, on the Cross. It was on that wood, that the Father dropped a grain of wheat on the field of the world so that in dying it would become mature fruit, the giver of life. But in God's plan, this gift of Christ is made present in the Eucharist through the sacred potestas that the Sacrament of Holy Orders bestows on you Priests. When we celebrate Holy Mass we hold in our hands the bread of Heaven, the bread of God which is Christ, the grain broken to multiply and become the true food of life for the world. It is something that can not fail to fill you with intimate wonder, vibrant joy and immense gratitude: now the love and gift of Christ crucified and glorious, pass through your hands, your voice, your heart!

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Marked by the priestly piety of the school of Bérulle, Pope Saint Pius X was singularly favourable to the invocation of Our Blessed Lady under the title of Virgo Sacerdos. Already in 1875, Blessed Pius IX had manifested his approval of the same title in a letter addressed to Msgr Oswald Van den Berghe, author of Marie et le Sacerdoce. Saint Pius X was pleased when an Italian translation of this work appeared.

When the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, founded by Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, asked for permission to invoke the Mother of God, in their chapels, as Maria Virgo Sacerdos, Saint Pius X wishing to extend the devotion to all the faithful, charged Cardinals Vanutelli and Vivès with composing a prayer that would make this Marian title better known. The prayer appeared, indulgenced by Pope Saint Pius X, on 9 May 1906.

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O Mary, Mother of Mercy,
Mother and Daughter of Him who is the Father of mercies
and the God of all consolation (1),
Dispensatrix of all the treasures of thy Son (2),
Minister of God (3),
Mother of Christ, our High Priest,
thou who art both Offerer and Altar together, (4),
Immaculate Temple of the Word of God (5),
Teacher of the Apostles and Disciples of Christ (6),
protect the Supreme Pontiff,
intercede for us and for our priests,
that Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest
may purify our consciences,
and that we may worthily, and with loving devotion,
approach His sacred banquet.

O Immaculate Virgin,
who not only hast given us Christ the heavenly bread
for the forgiveness of sins (7),
but who art thyself a most acceptable sacrifice offered unto God" (8),
and the glory of priests (9),
and who, as thy most blessed servant Saint Antoninius declares,
"without receiving the Sacrament of Order,
wert full of whatsoever in dignity and grace is given by it",
thou art therefore rightly acclaimed as "Sacerdotal Virgin" (10).
Look upon us and upon the priests of thy Son,
save us, purify us, and sanctify us,
that we may receive the ineffable treasures of the Sacraments
in a holy manner
and so deserve to obtain
the eternal salvation of our souls. Amen.

Mother of Mercy, pray for us.
Mother of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Priest, pray for us.
Queen of the Clergy, pray for us.
Mary, Sacerdotal Virgin, pray for us.

[1] Richard of Saint Laurence
[2] Saint Bernardine
[3] Saint Bernard of Busto
[4] Saint Epiphanius
[5] Abbot Ludovicus Blosius
[6] Saint Thomas of Villanova.
[7] Saint Epiphanius
[8] Saint Andrew of Crete
[9] Saint Ephrem
[10] Letter of Blessed Pope Pius IX, 25 August 1873

We grant 300 day of indulgence to one who recites this prayer with piety and devotion.

9 May 1906.
Pius P. P. X.

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HOMILY OF THE MASS OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
CELEBRATED BY HIS HOLINESS, POPE BENEDICT XVI
AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE YEAR FOR PRIESTS,
11 JUNE 2010


Grandeur and Beauty of the Priestly Ministry

Dear brothers in the priestly ministry, dear brothers and sisters, the Year for Priests which we have celebrated on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of the holy Curè of Ars, the model of priestly ministry in our world, is now coming to an end. We have let the Curé of Ars guide us to a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry. The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ's name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ's words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation - words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood - words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him.

God Entrusts Himself to Our Infirmities

The priesthood, then, is not simply "office" but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings - who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead - this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word "priesthood". That God thinks that we are capable of this; that in this way he calls men to his service and thus from within binds himself to them: this is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, and our gratitude for the fact that he entrusts himself to our infirmities; that he guides and sustains us daily. In this way we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist - and that God is indeed waiting for us to say "yes". Together with the whole Church we wanted to make clear once again that we have to ask God for this vocation. We have to beg for workers for God's harvest, and this petition to God is, at the same time, his own way of knocking on the hearts of young people who consider themselves able to do what God considers them able to do.

Not Pleasing to the Enemy

It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the "enemy"; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light - particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God's concern for our good, turns into its very opposite. We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life's dangers.

A Gift Concealed in Earthen Vessels

Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God's gift, a gift concealed in "earthen vessels" which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes his love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, his gift becomes a commitment to respond to God's courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility. The word of God, which we have sung in the Entrance Antiphon of today's liturgy, can speak to us, at this hour, of what it means to become and to be a priest: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29).

Peering Into the Heart of Jesus

We are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the liturgy we peer, as it were, into the heart of Jesus opened in death by the spear of the Roman soldier. Jesus' heart was indeed opened for us and before us - and thus God's own heart was opened. The liturgy interprets for us the language of Jesus' heart, which tells us above all that God is the shepherd of mankind, and so it reveals to us Jesus' priesthood, which is rooted deep within his heart; so too it shows us the perennial foundation and the effective criterion of all priestly ministry, which must always be anchored in the heart of Jesus and lived out from that starting-point. Today I would like to meditate especially on those texts with which the Church in prayer responds to the word of God presented in the readings. In those chants, word (Wort) and response (Antwort) interpenetrate. On the one hand, the chants are themselves drawn from the word of God, yet on the other, they are already our human response to that word, a response in which the word itself is communicated and enters into our lives.

Psalm 22, The Lord Is My Shepherd

The most important of those texts in today's liturgy is Psalm 23 (22) - "The Lord is my shepherd" - in which Israel at prayer received God's self-revelation as shepherd, and made this the guide of its own life.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want": this first verse expresses joy and gratitude for the fact that God is present to and concerned for humanity. The reading from the Book of Ezechiel begins with the same theme: "I myself will look after and tend my sheep" (Ez 34:11). God personally looks after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. God looks after me. He is not a distant God, for whom my life is worthless. The world's religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end there is only one God. But this God was distant. Evidently he had abandoned the world to other powers and forces, to other divinities. It was with these that one had to deal. The one God was good, yet aloof. He was not dangerous, nor was he very helpful. Consequently one didn't need to worry about him. He did not lord it over us. Oddly, this kind of thinking re-emerged during the Enlightenment. There was still a recognition that the world presupposes a Creator. Yet this God, after making the world, had evidently withdrawn from it. The world itself had a certain set of laws by which it ran, and God did not, could not, intervene in them. God was only a remote cause. Many perhaps did not even want God to look after them. They did not want God to get in the way. But wherever God's loving concern is perceived as getting in the way, human beings go awry. It is fine and consoling to know that there is someone who loves me and looks after me. But it is far more important that there is a God who knows me, loves me and is concerned about me.

I Know My Sheep and Mine Know Me

"I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10:14), the Church says before the Gospel with the Lord's words. God knows me, he is concerned about me. This thought should make us truly joyful. Let us allow it to penetrate the depths of our being. Then let us also realize what it means: God wants us, as priests, in one tiny moment of history, to share his concern about people. As priests, we want to be persons who share his concern for men and women, who take care of them and provide them with a concrete experience of God's concern. Whatever the field of activity entrusted to him, the priest, with the Lord, ought to be able to say: "I know my sheep and mine know me". "To know", in the idiom of sacred Scripture, never refers to merely exterior knowledge, like the knowledge of someone's telephone number. "Knowing" means being inwardly close to another person. It means loving him or her. We should strive to "know" men and women as God does and for God's sake; we should strive to walk with them along the path of friendship with God.

We Are Not Fumbling in the Dark

Let us return to our Psalm. There we read: "He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff - they comfort me" (23 [22]:3ff.). The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask and one which remains valid at every moment of one's life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd. Lord, have mercy on us too! Show us the way! From the Gospel we know this much: he is himself the way. Living with Christ, following him - this means finding the right way, so that our lives can be meaningful and so that one day we might say: "Yes, it was good to have lived". The people of Israel continue to be grateful to God because in the Commandments he pointed out the way of life. The great Psalm 119 (118) is a unique expression of joy for this fact: we are not fumbling in the dark. God has shown us the way and how to walk aright. The message of the Commandments was synthesized in the life of Jesus and became a living model. Thus we understand that these rules from God are not chains, but the way which he is pointing out to us. We can be glad for them and rejoice that in Christ they stand before us as a lived reality. He himself has made us glad. By walking with Christ, we experience the joy of Revelation, and as priests we need to communicate to others our own joy at the fact that we have been shown the right way.

If I Sink to the Nether World, You Are There

Then there is the phrase about the "darkest valley" through which the Lord leads us. Our path as individuals will one day lead us into the valley of the shadow of death, where no one can accompany us. Yet he will be there. Christ himself descended into the dark night of death. Even there he will not abandon us. Even there he will lead us. "If I sink to the nether world, you are present there", says Psalm 139 (138). Truly you are there, even in the throes of death, and hence our Responsorial Psalm can say: even there, in the darkest valley, I fear no evil. When speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life he is there. Lord, in the darkness of temptation, at the hour of dusk when all light seems to have died away, show me that you are there. Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light.

Use of the Rod

"Your rod and your staff - they comfort me": the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. Both of these are likewise part of the Church's ministry, of the priest's ministry. The Church too must use the shepherd's rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God's gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us. Even so, the rod must always become once again the shepherd's staff - a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord.

The Divine Hospitality

At the end of the Psalm we read of the table which is set, the oil which anoints the head, the cup which overflows, and dwelling in the house of the Lord. In the Psalm this is an expression first and foremost of the prospect of the festal joy of being in God's presence in the temple, of being his guest, whom he himself serves, of dwelling with him. For us, who pray this Psalm with Christ and his Body which is the Church, this prospect of hope takes on even greater breadth and depth. We see in these words a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, in which God himself makes us his guests and offers himself to us as food -as that bread and fine wine which alone can definitively sate man's hunger and thirst. How can we not rejoice that one day we will be guests at the very table of God and live in his dwelling-place? How can we not rejoice at the fact that he has commanded us: "Do this in memory of me"? How can we not rejoice that he has enabled us to set God's table for men and women, to give them his Body and his Blood, to offer them the precious gift of his very presence. Truly we can pray together, with all our heart, the words of the Psalm: "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" (Ps 23 [22]:6).

The Pierced Heart Become A Fountain

Finally, let us take a brief look at the two communion antiphons which the Church offers us in her liturgy today. First there are the words with which Saint John concludes the account of Jesus' crucifixion: "One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out" (Jn 19:34). The heart of Jesus is pierced by the spear. Once opened, it becomes a fountain: the water and the blood which stream forth recall the two fundamental sacraments by which the Church lives: Baptism and the Eucharist. From the Lord's pierced side, from his open heart, there springs the living fountain which continues to well up over the centuries and which makes the Church. The open heart is the source of a new stream of life; here John was certainly also thinking of the prophecy of Ezechiel who saw flowing forth from the new temple a torrent bestowing fruitfulness and life (Ez 47): Jesus himself is the new temple, and his open heart is the source of a stream of new life which is communicated to us in Baptism and the Eucharist.

Life-Giving Water for a Parched and Thirsty World

The liturgy of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also permits another phrase, similar to this, to be used as the communion antiphon. It is taken from the Gospel of John: Whoever is thirsty, let him come to me. And let the one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture has said: "Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water" (cf. Jn 7:37ff.) In faith we drink, so to speak, of the living water of God's Word. In this way the believer himself becomes a wellspring which gives living water to the parched earth of history. We see this in the saints. We see this in Mary, that great woman of faith and love who has become in every generation a wellspring of faith, love and life. Every Christian and every priest should become, starting from Christ, a wellspring which gives life to others. We ought to be offering life-giving water to a parched and thirst world. Lord, we thank you because for our sake you opened your heart; because in your death and in your resurrection you became the source of life. Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek. Amen.

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1. Before meeting anyone for spiritual counsel, humble yourself profoundly before God, acknowledging your inability to do the least good for souls without Him. "Separated from me," says the Lord, "you have no power to do anything" (Jn 15:5). "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" (2 Cor 4:7).

2. Offer this spiritual work as an act of love to Our Lord Who says: "Believe me, when you did it to one of the least of my brethren here, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40).

3. Efface yourself as much as possible so that Christ alone may act. You are but the humble friend and servant of the Divine Bridegroom. "The bride," that is the soul, "is for the Bridegroom; but the bridegroom's friend, who stands by and listens to Him, rejoices too, rejoices at hearing the Bridegroom's voice . . . . He must become more and more, I must become less and less" (Jn 3:29-30).

Talk and act in the name of Jesus Christ and in utter dependence on His Spirit. "If any man speak, let him speak, as one who utters oracles of God. If any man minister, let him do it by the power, which God supplies: that in all things God may be honoured through Jesus Christ" (1 P 4:11).

4. Seek not to attach souls to yourself. Beware of hidden motives of a self-serving natural order. Trusting in the grace of the Holy Spirit, orient those who come to you ad Patrem, towards the Father alone, Who reveals Himself in the Eucharistic Face and in the Heart of Jesus Christ.

5. Consecrate each and every soul who comes to you to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Mercy and Mediatrix of All Graces. Exercise your spiritual paternity in synergy with her motherhood. "And His Mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you'" (Jn 2:6).

The Fatherhood of the Priest

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The Healing Power of the Father's Love

For many priests, faith in the Fatherhood of God is a path to interior healing. This is especially true for those who, for one reason or another, did not grow into manhood in liberty of heart and in joy under the affirming gaze of a father. The Eternal Father desires to banish fear from the hearts of his priest-sons. God's will is that His priest-sons should "serve him without fear, in holiness and justice before Him" (Lk 1:74-75) all the days of their life.

As Jesus Was Father in the Midst of the Apostles

God would have every priest know that he is loved and surrounded by His paternal presence as Father, a presence that sustains the priest, that allows him to become in every way the man that God has always wanted him to be. Faith in the paternal presence of God allows the priest, in turn, to become a father, a father in the image of The Father, a father even as Jesus was fully father in the midst of His disciples. The disciples discovered the fatherhood of God on the face of Jesus Christ. They felt the Divine Fatherhood when they drew near to His Sacred Heart. They saw the Fatherhood of God at work in the signs of mercy and power that Jesus worked in His Father's Name.

Abandonment to the Father

It must be the same for us, priests. We are called to be living images of the Divine Paternity. The Father Himself implants in the heart of His priests the charism of a paternal love. By virtue of this grace of paternal love, the priest can bring healing to a multitude of souls held back in their spiritual development for want of the indispensable experience of a father's love. Out of that experience souls can grow in the theological virtue of hope, in confidence, trust and, ultimately, in the practice of abandonment to the Eternal Father's love and unfailing providence. There is, by the way, a little known classic on this very subject, L'abandon filial by a humble, hidden religious named Soeur Jean-Baptiste. As far as I know it is available only in French, but it merits being translated into English.

The Spiritually Fatherless

It seems to me that the Eternal Father desires, at this precise moment in the history of the Church, to renew the grace of fatherhood among His priests. It is when a priest is father that he corresponds most fully to God's designs of love upon his life. The Church, beloved Spouse of Jesus Christ, suffers because so many priests fail to live the singular grace of their supernatural paternity. Souls seek fathers and, all too often, they are sent away disappointed and abandoned to live among the vast numbers of the spiritually fatherless who mark contemporary society with a particular sadness.

Divine Fatherhood in the Souls of Priests

The Eternal Father would have each of us priests receive the graces and the supernatural energies of the Divine Fatherhood in our own souls. The more a priest lives out his paternal mission, the more will he resemble the Only-Begotten Son who said, "He that seeth me, seeth the Father also" (Jn 14:9).

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All Priest

In recalling the holiness of Saint Philip, it occurs to me that it was essentially this: he was all priest. He was always and everywhere a priest. His priesthood suffused his very being, making him incandescent with the fire of the Cross and of the altar. As we move toward the conclusion of the Year of the Priest, Saint Philip Neri makes his appearance to stimulate our generosity, and to show us what happens when a priest surrenders to the fire of Divine Love.

Spiritual Combat: The Seven Capital Sins

Have no illusions about priestly holiness. Like all men, priests are locked in a combat to the death with the seven capital sins: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. Priests are, if anything, subject to more subtle and more violent temptations than anyone else because they are Satan’s preferred quarry. Is the propensity to any one particular sin worse than the propensity to another? I dare not speculate about secrets of conscience. God alone probes the mind and heart.

To God All Things Are Possible

Souls called in a particular way to offer themselves for the sanctification of the clergy should entertain no illusions about the seriousness of their apostolic mission. There were, there are, and in all likelihood, there will continue to be some prideful priests, covetous priests, lustful priests, angry priests, gluttonous priests, priests who are drunkards, priests who consumed by envy, and priests who are lazy. One might be tempted then to say with the disciples, “Why then, who can be saved?’ (Mk 10:26). Listen to Our Lord’s reply. Jesus spoke it, according to Saint Mark, with His eyes fastened on the disciples. “Such things are impossible to man’s powers, but not to God’s; to God, all things are possible” (Mk 10:27).

Spiritual Maternity

Read the appeal from Rome, asking women in all states of life to become spiritual mothers to priests, and calling for a worldwide movement of adoration in a spirit of reparation and supplication for the priesthood. It is not enough to read it once and file it away. Our Lord will hold those women who consent to spiritual motherhood accountable for the sins and for the sanctity of a multitude of priests. Does this shock you? It shouldn’t. Saint Paul says, “A man’s body is all one, though it has a number of different organs; and all this multitude of organs goes to make up one body; so it is with Christ. . . . If one part is suffering, all the rest suffer with it; if one part is treated with honour, all the rest find pleasure in it. And you are Christ’s body, organs of it depending upon each other” (1 Cor 12:12, 26-27). Again, the Apostle says in another place, “Bear the burden of one another’s failings; then you will be fulfilling the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

A Contagious Joy

Speaking to priests in Warsaw four years ago, Pope Benedict XVI said, “You have been chosen from among the people, appointed to act in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Believe in the power of your priesthood!” Saint Philip Neri believed in the power of his priesthood, and from that belief flowed his outstanding characteristic: a contagious joy.

The Face of Christ

The loving gaze of Jesus is the origin, the present, and the future of every priestly vocation. Priestly devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, to His Eucharistic Face, is indispensable and it is, I would say, up to you to obtain that grace for them. This is not my personal idea. You will find it clearly expressed in the 2008 Message for the Day of Prayer for Priests, which opens with these words: “Reverend and dear Brothers in the Priesthood,
on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus let us fix the eyes of our minds and hearts with a constant loving gaze on Christ, the one Savior of our lives and of the world. Focusing on Christ means focusing on that Face which every human being, consciously or not, seeks as a satisfying response to his own insuppressible thirst for happiness. We have encountered this Face and on that day, at that moment, his Love so deeply wounded our hearts that we could no longer refrain from asking ceaselessly to be in his Presence.”

Adoration

Again, in his address to priests in Warsaw, the Holy Father enjoined them to practice Eucharistic Adoration as an antidote for the noise of the world, and to teach others to adore too. “In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful. It is a source of comfort and light particularly to those who are suffering.”

Experts in Joy

Pope Benedict XVI teaches that, “the faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life.” Saint Philip Neri was just that: an expert in the spiritual life and, precisely for that reason, he was an expert in joy.

Ineffable Joy

“You never saw Him but you learned to love Him,” says Saint Peter, “you may not see Him even now, but you believe in Him, and if you continue to believe in Him, how you will triumph! How ineffable your joy will be, and how sublime, when you reap the fruit of that faith of yours, the salvation of your souls” (1 P 1:8-9). May Saint Philip obtain for us today hearts open to the joy that no one can take from us and, with you, may he intercede for all priests that they, like him, may be experts in joy.


A Sacerdotal Pentecost

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From a Priest's Notebook

A priest shares what was given him in prayer concerning a sacerdotal Pentecost, a Pentecost of priests, a revival of priestly holiness in the Church. I translated the text from the original French. The image shows Saint John the Apostle on Pentecost.

Aujourd’hui, je crois que c’était pendant les mystères glorieux du rosaire, le Seigneur m’a parlé dune Pentecôte sacerdotale, d’une grâce obtenue par l’intercession de la Vierge Marie pour tous les prêtres de l'Église. À tous sera offerte la grâce d’une nouvelle effusion de l’Esprit Saint pour purifier le sacerdoce des impuretés qui l’ont défiguré et pour redonner au sacerdoce un éclat de sainteté tel qu’il n’a jamais eu dans Église depuis le temps des apôtres.

"Today, I think it was during the glorious mysteries of the rosary, the Lord spoke to me of a sacerdotal Pentecost, of a grace obtained by the intercession of the Virgin Mary for all the priests of the Church. To all [priests] will be offered the grace of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to purify the priesthood of the impurities that have disfigured it, and to restore to the priesthood a brightness of holiness such as the Church has never had since the times of the Apostles."

Cette Pentecôte sacerdotale se prépare déjà dans le silence et dans l’adoration du Saint Sacrement. Les prêtres qui aiment Marie et qui sont fidèles à prier leur chapelet seront les premiers à en bénéficier. Leur sacerdoce sera merveilleusement renouvelé et il leur sera donné une abondance de charismes pour vaincre le mal et guérir ceux qui sont sous l’emprise du Mauvais. Il m’est donné de comprendre que l’intercession du Pape Jean-Paul II a aussi joué un rôle en obtenant par Marie cette grâce de la Pentecôte sacerdotale.

"This sacerdotal Pentecost is being prepared already in silence and in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The priests who love Mary and who are faithful to pray her rosary will be the first ones to benefit from it. Their priesthood will be wonderfully renewed and they will be given an abundance of charisms to vanquish evil and to heal those under the sway of the Evil One. It was given me to understand that the intercession of Pope John Paul II will also have played a role in obtaining through Mary this grace of the Pentecost of Priests."

Certains prêtres refuseront cette grâce de la Pentecôte sacerdotale, soit par orgueil, soit par manque de confiance, soit par une absence de foi en la présence réelle du Christ au Saint Sacrement. Cette Pentecôte sacerdotale partira du tabernacle (ou des tabernacles du monde) comme d’un foyer ardent de charité. Les prêtres qui auront été trouvés fidèles à tenir compagnie à Jésus-Hostie se réjouiront. Ils comprendront tout de suite les merveilles qu’il voudra faire en eux et par eux. La Pentecôte sacerdotale rejoindra d’abord les prêtres qui sont de vrais fils de Marie, vivant comme Saint Jean, dans son intimité, tout près de son Cœur immaculé.

"Certain priests will refuse this grace of the sacerdotal Pentecost, out of pride, or a lack of confidence, or an absence of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. This sacerdotal Pentecost will begin from the tabernacle (or the tabernacles of the world) as from a burning hearth of charity. Priests who will have been found faithful in keeping company with Jesus the Host will rejoice. They will understand straightaway the wonders that He will want to do in them and through them. The sacerdotal Pentecost will affect first of all the priests who are true sons of Mary, living like Saint John, in her intimacy, very close to her Immaculate Heart."

Letter to a Brother Priest

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Dear Father X,

You asked me the other day to write something that would encourage you to be faithful to your daily Eucharistic adoration. Here then are a few thoughts that came to me while at prayer. I share them with you simply, as one priest to another.

When you come into Our Lord's presence to adore Him, and when you prefer Him to the countless other things that solicit your attention and make claims upon your time, Jesus is consoled and glorified. The proof of friendship is the choice of one's friend over all else. Our Lord wants you to prefer Him, to give Him time that could be given to other persons and things. In so doing, you will show Him your love and offer Him the consolation of a true friendship.

The Lord Jesus asks this preferential love of all His priests. Friendship, if it is to thrive, must be practiced. This is as true of friendship with Our Divine Lord as it is of human friendships. Jesus waits for the companionship of His priests. With them He holds His priesthood -- and His victimhood -- in common. This is what makes the friendship of His priests so precious to His Sacred Heart.

With us priests Jesus shares the purest joy of living in the presence of His Immaculate Mother and of experiencing her maternal care in all the circumstances of priestly life. Given that friendship is based on treasured things held in common, Our Lord's friendship with His priests is unlike His friendship with other souls. The more we priests come to Him and linger in His presence, the more will He share with us the secrets and the treasures reserved for us in His Sacred Heart.

We priests are sometimes fearful of finding ourselves silent and alone in Our Lord's presence. When we come to adore Him and to offer Him the consolation of our company, He doesn't require that we speak to Him; it is enough that we remain in the radiance of His Eucharistic Face, allowing our hearts to go out to His Eucharistic Heart. If you have experienced this movement -- this leap -- of the heart to His Eucharistic Heart, and I trust you have, you will know of what I speak. Words are not always necessary. The engagement of the heart, on the other hand, is indispensable.

Weariness and fatigue are no obstacle to a fruitful time of adoration. They are incidental; what matters is the desire to seek the Eucharistic Face of Jesus and to abide in His company.

For one who loves, the time in Our Lord's presence passes quickly, storing up immense treasures of merit for souls. If you are offering your adoration in reparation and intercession for our brother priests, Our Lord considers the merits of your adoration as belonging to the neediest and most broken among them. Is that not the meaning of the prayer by which we begin our adoration here at the monastery?

Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim,
behold, I kneel before Thy Eucharistic Face
on behalf of all Thy priests,
and especially those priests of Thine,
who at this moment are most in need
of Thy grace.
(N. and N.)
For them and in their place,
allow me to remain,
adoring and full of confidence,
close to Thy Open Heart,
hidden in this, the Sacrament of Thy Love.

Through the Sorrowful and Immaculate
Heart of Mary,
our Advocate and the Mediatrix of All Graces,
pour forth upon all the priests of Thy Church
that torrent of mercy that ever flows
from Thy pierced side:
to purify and heal them,
to refresh and sanctify them,
and, at the hour of their death,
to make them worthy of joining Thee
before the Father in the heavenly sanctuary
beyond the veil (Hb 6:19)
where Thou art always living
to make intercession
for us (Hb 7:25). Amen.

Father, you will not see in this life the good done to the souls of Christ's beloved priests, our brothers, by your fidelity to adoration, but in heaven it will be revealed to you, and this revelation will cause you an indescribable increase of delight in His presence.

Be the adorer of Jesus' Eucharistic Face, and draw other souls, those whom He will send you, into its radiance. Thus will your priesthood bear fruit, fruit that will last.

In lumine vultus Iesu,

Father Mark

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O glorious Saint Joseph,
who, on the word of the angel
speaking to you in the night,
put fear aside to take your Virgin Bride into your home,
show yourself today the advocate and protector of priests.
Guardian of the Infant Christ,
defend them against every attack of the enemy,
preserve them from the dangers that surround them
on every side.
Remember Herod's threats against the Child,
the anguish of the flight into Egypt by night,
and the hardships of your exile.
Stand by the accused;
stretch out your hand to those who have fallen;
comfort the fearful;
forsake not the weak;
and visit the lonely.
Let all priests know that in you
God has given them a model
of faith in the night, obedience in adversity,
chastity in tenderness, and hope in uncertainty.
You are the terror of demons
and the healer of those wounded in spiritual combat.
Come to the defence of every priest in need;
overcome evil with good.
Where there are curses, put blessings,
where harm has been done, do good.
Let there be joy for the priests of the Church,
and peace for all under your gracious protection.
Amen.

Blessed Marmion Novena: Day Nine

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Blessed Columba's Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

For those who already know of Blessed Columba Marmion's friendship and frequent spiritual exchanges with Désiré-Joseph Cardinal Mercier (1851-1926), it will come as no surprise that the Abbot of Maredsous, like the Primate of Belgium, stood in the vanguard of the mariological and liturgical movement that sought to recognize and venerate Our Blessed Lady as the Mediatrix of All Graces. Dom Marmion's reflections on the universal mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while expressed with sobriety in carefully measured theological terms, are no less compelling than those of Cardinal Mercier. Both prelates promoted and lived a filial consecration to Our Lady that expressed an entire dependence on her all-powerful maternal supplication.

The Ninth Day of the Novena
Saturday, 30 January 2010

O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.

God willed to give His Son to men only through Mary; so, likewise, He wills that all graces should come to them through Mary. As Bossuet put it very effectively: "As God once willed to give us Jesus Christ through the Blessed Virgin, and as the gifts of God are irrevocable, there will be no change in this order. It is and always will be true that, having received, through the charity of Mary, the universal principle of all grace, we shall continue to receive through her mediation the various applications of that grace in all the divers circumstances which make up the Christian life."
The Lord is therefore pleased when we invoke Our Lady as the mediatrix of His pardon and of His benefits. She is our advocate for His mercy. Her prayers and her merits constitute an intercession for us which is unceasing, so that for centuries Christian piety has proclaimed her "The all-powerful suppliant": Omnipotentia supplex.

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When we cast ourselves at the feet of Our Lady, we can say to her, "I am a priest . . . turn towards me your merciful countenance"; Mary sees in us, not only a member of the Mystical Body of her Son, but a minister of Jesus who shares in His priesthood. She sees her divine Son in us and cannot reject us; it would be to reject Jesus Himself. The priest can repeat, with even more confidence than the simple Christian, those beautiful words: "It is a thing unheard of that anyone who had recourse to thy protection and implored thy assistance was left forsaken."
When you feel that you are plunged into an abyss of misery, recall to mind the words of Saint Bernard: "When you feel the breath of temptation passing over your soul . . . invoke Mary . . . if you are troubled by the remorse of conscience, frightened by the thought of the judgment, if you are sinking into the depths of sorrow or discouragement, think of Mary: Mariam cogita."
. . . I would like to make this final point. Before drawing His last breath, Jesus entrusted His Mother to Saint John. In this moment of unique solemnity He gave His disciple a legacy which was supremely precious. And what was the reaction of the apostle, the priest to whom Jesus confided the care of His mother? As a son, "he took her for his own": Accepit eam in sua (Jn 19, 27).
Let us also take Mary for our own, as a son full of affection receives his mother; let us dwell with her, that is to say, let us associate her in our works, in our troubles, in our joys. Does she not desire, more than anyone else, to help each one of us become a holy priest and to reproduce in himself the virtues of Jesus?

V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.

Let us pray.

O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Blessed Marmion Novena: Day Eight

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Blessed Abbot Marmion's entire chapter XIV, entitled The Divine Office, in Christ, the Ideal of the Priest deserves to be studied, and meditated, and brought to prayer. I never tire of re-reading it. For this next to the last day of our novena in preparation for the anniversary of Blessed Marmion's holy death, I chose but a few paragraphs from a chapter that is, from beginning to end, pure gold.

The Eighth Day of the Novena
Friday, 29 January 2010

O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.

The primary object of the Divine Office is to praise God, to pay Him homage. But, in His goodness, the Lord allows the soul who carries out this duty in faith and love to draw from it rich fruits of sanctification.
It is beyond all doubt, as experience teaches us, that the pious recitation of the breviary has the most beneficial effects on the interior life of the priest.
The first and most striking of these is habitual union with Christ in His priesthood of eternal praise. All the glory rendered to God on earth as in heaven ascends to Him only through Jesus Christ. We proclaim this great truth every morning at that solemn moment when we conclude the Canon of the Mass: Per Ipsum et cum Ipso et in Ipso.
When we recite the Hours in communion with the whole Church, Christ, as Head of the Mystical Body and centre of the communion of saints, takes up and unites all our praise in Himself. Even the blessed in heaven must avail of His priestly mediation to sing their heavenly Sanctus: Per quem maiestatem tuam laudant angeli. How imperfect and deficient is our giving of glory! But Christ supplies for our weakness. "If you put in His hands your poor effort," says Blosius, "your lead will be changed into precious gold, your water into the finest wine."

V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.

Let us pray.

O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Blessed Marmion Novena: Day Seven

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A Book to Own and Meditate

Today's passage from the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion is taken from Union With God, Letters of Spiritual Direction. It is available here from Zaccheus Press.

Sharing in the Passion of Christ

For the friend of Christ, for the member of His Mystical Body, for one baptized into His saving death, and nourished by the adorable Mysteries of His Body and Blood, suffering is a means of union with Jesus, Priest and Victim. In His infinite wisdom, the Father has reserved for each and every member of His Son's Mystical Body a certain portion of His Passion. Our Lord Jesus Christ asks His friends, one by one, if they will allow Him to suffer in them, to complete His Passion in their flesh and in their hearts.

The Holy Spirit

With suffering comes a great anointing. He sends upon one who suffers with Him, and in whom He deigns to suffer, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, so that one may be able to suffer joyfully and in the peace of a complete submission to the designs of His Sacred Heart.

For Priests

Our Lord chooses to have need of our sufferings and asks for them, in some instances, specifically for the renewal of the priesthood in His Church, and for the spiritual regeneration of priests weakened by sin and held in various forms of bondage to evil. To these souls, Our Lord says that, by their humble participation in His Passion many priests will be healed and purified and restored to holiness.

Freely Given

He does not inflict suffering, but He humbly and meekly asks for our "Yes" to it. "Will you," He asks, "consent to this work of mine in you and through you?"

Victimhood

Blessed Dom Marmion, formed by the contemplation of Love Crucified in his daily Way of the Cross, never hesitated to invite souls who sought spiritual counsel from him, to enter into the way of victimhood and to offer themselves to the Father in the hands of Jesus, the Eternal High Priest. The sufferings involved are not extraordinary tortures; they are the sufferings of the body, of the heart, and of the soul that are woven into the fabric of every life. They are the sufferings of the husband, wife, mother, child, sick person, and priest. They are the sufferings of betrayal, abandonment, failure humiliation, weakness, helplessness, pain, and uncertainty. And they are, all of them, infinitely precious in the eyes of the Father when united to the Passion of His Beloved Son.

The Seventh Day of the Novena
Thursday, 28 January 2010

O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.

For what regards your weaknesses, your failings, the Good God permits them in order to keep you in humility and in the sense of your nothingness. God can always draw good from our miseries, and when you have been unfaithful and have failed in confidence and in abandon to His holy will, if you humble yourself deeply, you will lose nothing, but on the contrary, you will advance in virtue and in the love of God.
If everything happened you just as you could wish, if you were always in robust health, if all your exercises of devotion were performed to your satisfaction, if you had no doubts and uncertainties for the future, etc., with your character you would quickly become full of self-sufficiency and secret pride; and instead of exciting the bounty of the Father of Mercies and of drawing down His compassion on His poor weak creature, you would be an abomination in God's eyes. "Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord. You must therefore set to work. Our Lord loves you He sees into the depths of your soul, even into recesses hidden from yourself, and He knows what you need; leave Him to act, and don't try to make Our Lord follow your way of seeing things, but follow His in all simplicity.
Uncertainty, anguish, disgust are very bitter remedies necessary to the health of your soul. There is only one road that leads to Jesus, namely that of Calvary; and whosoever will not follow Jesus along upon this road must give up the thought of divine union. "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Take courage! I have as much need myself of these considerations as you have, for nature does not like sacrifice, but the reward of sacrifice namely, the love of God, is so great, that we ought to be ready to bear yet more in order to attain it.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.

Let us pray.

O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Blessed Marmion Novena: Day Six

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Tomorrow will be the sixth day of our novena seeking the intercession of Blessed Columba Marmion. I invite the readers of Vultus Christi who are joining me in this novena to publish thanks for any graces or favours received through the intercession of Blessed Abbot Marmion by leaving a comment.

The Sixth Day of the Novena
Wednesday, 27 January 2010

O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.

The priest is raised to a dignity which is, in a certain sense, divine, for Jesus Christ identifies Himself with him. His role as a mediator is the highest vocation in this world. It is worth repeating; if a priest did nothing during his whole life but offer the holy sacrifice piously every morning, or even if he were to offer it only once, he would have accomplished an act greater in the hierarchy of values than those events which convulse the world. For the effect of every Mass will endure for eternity, and nothing is eternal except the divine.

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We must orient our whole day towards the Mass, It is the central point and the sun of the day. It is, as it were, the focus from which there comes to us light, fervour, and supernatural joy. We must hope that, little by little, our priesthood will take possession of our soul and our life so that it may be said of us: "he is always a priest." That is the effect of a eucharistic life, fragrant with the perfume of the sacrifice which makes us an alter Christus.
How good it is to see a priest after long years of fidelity, living with the true spirit of the divine oblation!
There are many priests entirely dedicated to Christ and to souls who realize this ideal fully; they are the glory of the Church and the joy of the Divine Master.
If we also wish to rise to the heights of our priestly vocation, if we want it to impress its character on our whole existence so as to inflame us with love and zeal, we must prepare our souls to receive the graces of our Mass.
After years it may happen that some souls remark an habitual lack of fervour in the course of their lives. To what must we attribute this? Many reasons may be given. Remember that a radical death to sin, even to deliberate venial sin, is an indispensable condition for the definite triumph of charity in us.
Still, lack of effort to celebrate Mass every morning as well as possible is the most common explanation of a spiritual decline. In fact by the checking up of conscience which it pre-supposes and by the atmosphere with which it surrounds the sacred minister, the pious offering of the holy sacrifice affords the priest every day a providential opportunity to recollect himself, to humble himself, and to pull himself together. If we neglect this means, so well calculated to plunge us back into the supernatural current, we open the way more and more for the invasion of routine and mediocrity into our lives. On the other hand, so long as the concern to celebrate as well as possible remains in the soul, it will never be carried away in the drift.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.

Let us pray.

O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Blessed Marmion Novena: Day Five

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Saint Paul and Blessed Columba

Although I am writing this on Monday, 25 January, the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, it is intended for the fifth day of the Novena, which occurs tomorrow. Matins and Lauds, with their proper antiphons for the Conversion of Saint Paul, were glorious this morning. I had the joy of singing the very same office that Blessed Columba Marmion knew, and sang, and loved. Yes, there is joy in the hermeneutic of continuity!

Savour What You Sing

It is not enough merely to recite or read the antiphons of the Divine Office. Their unique penetrating quality, that which allows them to descend from the mind into the heart and become for us a "sacrament" of the grace of Christ, is intrinsically related to their musical treatment in the Church's liturgical books. One who recites the Office does not, of course, lose out entirely, but the difference between an Office chanted in the cantillations and melodies proper to the Roman Rite and one recited, or sung to other forms of music, is akin to the difference between reading a letter from a loved one, and holding a face-to-face conversation with him. To do this, I know of no better resource than The Gregorian Hours prepared by the Communauté Saint-Martin.

Even a diocesan priest, deacon, or layman who prays the Divine Office "privately" can benefit immensely from beginning to chant parts of it, preferably from the Antiphonale, The Gregorian Hours, or even the Liber Usualis. A first step in that direction is to recite the Office aloud, not in an easy chair, but standing, sitting, bowing, and kneeling as one would in a choral celebration. These simple means of improving the private celebration of the Hours can go a long way in making the Divine Office the principle resource of one's interior life after Holy Mass, and the privileged expression of one's desire to "bless the Lord at all times" (Psalm 33:2).

Blessed Marmion on Saint Paul

Blessed Columba Marmion was greatly devoted to the Apostle of the Nations. He knew Saint Paul's Epistles so well that the Apostle's words came to him spontaneously as he preached and wrote. For your meditation, here is a page from the chapter entitled, Sacerdos Alter Christus, in Blessed Marmion's Christ, the Ideal of the Priest.

The Fifth Day of the Novena
Tuesday, 26 January 2010

O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.

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Of all those upon whom Christ conferred the signal honour of associating them with His priesthood no one has better appreciated than Saint Paul the amplitude and the depth of this vocation.
From the moment that Christ revealed Himself to the apostle, the world and public opinion no longer meant anything to him: "I condescended not to flesh and blood" (Gal 1, 16). He knew that he was the minister, the priest, the apostle, of Christ, "predestined as such from the womb of his mother" (Gal 1, 16). He writes to the Corinthians telling them of his life, and how does he describe it? As an unbroken sequence, a wondrous chain of sufferings endured for Christ, and of labours undertaken to make known the riches of His grace: "Thrice I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned." Perils of every kind marked his days: "Perils in the cities . . . perils in the wilderness . . . perils from false brethren." Hunger and cold and all kinds of miseries were his common lot. Besides all this he bore in his heart grave solicitude for the newly founded churches; the personal difficulties of his converts found their echo in his heart: "Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is scandalized and I am not on fire?" (2 Cor 11, 25 and ff.)
Despite these many tribulations, Saint Paul was not overwhelmed. How was it that he maintained his courage? He gives us the explanation: "Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Cor 12, 9). Elsewhere he says, "But in all these things we overcome because of Him that hath loved us" (Rom 8, 37). He had attained such a degree of union with the Saviour that he could exclaim: "For to me, to live is Christ" (Phil 1, 21); and again, I live in the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and delivered Himself up for me" (Gal 2, 20). If ever a priest understood the depths of the significance of the Passion and death of Jesus and the immensity of the divine mercy, it was the great Saint Paul. He spoke of himself as "nailed to the Cross with Christ" (Gal 2, 19). Now, he who is attached to the Cross is in very truth a victim.
What was the consequence of all this? He was able to say: "And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me" (Gal 2, 20). Christ is in me; you see me act, but this zeal, these words are not from me; they are from Christ, Who inspires my whole life, because I have renounced all that I am in order to be completely His minister. By the grace of God I live by the love of Him Who has given His life for me.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.

Let us pray.

O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Blessed Marmion Novena: Day Four

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The icon of Blessed Columba Marmion was written by the hand of Brother Claude, O.S.B., monk of Mount Angel Abbey.

Blessed Columba Marmion and the Word of God

Those who had the happy privilege of hearing Blessed Columba Marmion preach were struck by the abundance of the Word of God that, stored up in his heart, came to flower spontaneously in his discourse. Dom Columba Marmion was thoroughly steeped in the Sacred Scriptures. His familiarity with the Bible came, not so much through systematic study, as through the monastic life's daily round of choral liturgical prayer. Dom Marmion heard, and received, and held in his heart, all that the Sacred Liturgy put on his lips.

His Preaching

It was often remarked that Dom Marmion's preaching had about it a certain divine anointing, a penetrating quality that touched the heart of his hearers. When questioned about this, he would attribute it to the large place that he gave to the Word of God in his preaching and spiritual conferences. He was convinced that a copious and apt use of Scripture, informed by the Sacred Liturgy, invests a priest's preaching with a supernatural efficacy and with the power to move souls.

The Fourth Day of the Novena
Monday, 25 January 2010

O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.

A priest taken up with his ministry has not much time at his disposal for supplementary study, but could he not apply himself every day to spiritual reading, to the lectio divina, as St. Benedict calls it? He will be astonished when he realizes after some time how much this daily application, even in small doses, can do to fill his intelligence with great thoughts, to warm the heart, and to maintain the soul in precious contact with the divine mysteries.
Holy Scripture, carefully read, and even learned by heart, will always be like a living fountain in the heart of the priest.
In the Eucharist the Divine Word hides Himself under the sacred species, clothed in majestic silence; in the Scriptures He communicates Himself to us under the form of human speech, which expresses itself according to the manner of our expression.
The Word of God in Himself is incomprehensible. Is He not infinite? In HIs Son the Father gives expression to all that He is and all that He knows. In the Scriptures we read only one small syllable of that incommunicable Word pronounced by the immensity of the Father. In heaven we shall contemplate this living Word, we shall be introduced into its secret, but even here on earth we must keep our intellect in a state of respectful attention to what has been revealed and to that portion of divine Wisdom which has been made known by the Holy Writings.
If you want to touch the hearts of your people, and do good, I cannot repeat to you too often the advice of Saint Paul: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly" (Col 3, 16).

V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.

Let us pray.

O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Blessed Marmion Novena: Day Three

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The photograph shows Joseph (Columba) Marmion as a seminarian at the Irish College in Rome.

Victims and Victimhood

For today's text from Blessed Columba Marmion, I chose an extract from Christ, the Ideal of the Priest, in which he presents the participation of the faithful in the offering of Christ. Many Catholics become fearful and uneasy when they hear the word "victim" or "victimhood" being applied to themselves. They misconstrue the word as somehow marking them for the most appalling mistreatment by a cruel God. The secular press and media often speak, for example, of the "victim" of a mugging, a rape, a kidnapping, or of some form of abuse. In the minds of many, this has distorted the meaning of "victim soul," a rich and theologically sound expression sometimes encountered in spiritual writings and in the lives of the saints.

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Sacrificial Offering

The theological sense of the word "victim" is a "sacrificial offering." Saint Augustine teaches that a sacrifice is anything or anyone entirely made over to God by being placed literally or symbolically on the altar. The Latin word hostia means victim in this sense; this is why we refer to the bread used in the Holy Sacrifice as the "host." The Eastern Churches call the bread for the Divine Liturgy "the Lamb."

Every Christian is called to make himself over to the Father as a sacrificial offering with Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Prayer Over the Oblations (Secret) of the Mass of Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest says this explicitly:

Haec munera, Domine, mediator noster Iesus Christus
Tibi reddat accepta;
et nos, una secum,
hostias Tibi gratas exhibeat.

May our mediator Jesus Christ, O Lord,
make these offerings acceptable to Thee;
and together with Himself
may He present us to Thee as victims.

The Third Day of the Novena
Sunday, 24 January 2010

O Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and the Son,
establish Thyself as a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts
and bear constantly upwards, like eager flames,
our thoughts, our affections, and our actions
even to the bosom of the Father.

In every Mass the supreme mystery is, beyond all doubt, the sacramental immolation of Jesus; but the offering presented by the Church comprises in its totality, with the oblation of Christ, the oblation of His members. On the altar as on the Cross, the Saviour is the one victim, holy, pure, and immaculate, but it is His will that we should be associated with Him in His offering as being His complement.
Since the time of His Ascension, Christ has never been separated from His Church. In heaven He presents Himself before the Father with His mystical body brought to its perfection: "not having spot or wrinkle" (Eph 5,27). All the elect, united with Him and amongst themselves, live of the same life of praise in the light of the Word and in the charity of the Holy Spirit.
The mystery of unity and of glorification is prepared here on earth during Mass. The union of the members with the chief is still imperfect. It is ever growing and develops in faith, but on account of their offering with Christ, the faithful participate truly in His character of victim.
What do these words mean: "character of victim?" The mean that by uniting Himself to Christ as He offers Himself, immolates Himself and gives Himself to be our food, the Christian wills to live in a state of constant and total dedication to the glory of the Father. It is thus that Jesus imparts His life in the poverty of the human heart; He makes it like to His own, entirely devoted to God and to souls.
Among the faithful who assist at Mass some are inspired to a generous gesture; carried away by the example and by the grace of Jesus, they imitate Him unreservedly; their offer their being, their thought, their actions, and accept all the troubles, the contradictions and the labours which Providence disposes for them.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Columba Marmion.
R. That our lives may be hid with Christ in God.

Let us pray.

O God, Almighty Father,
who, having called the blessed abbot Columba
to the priesthood and to the monastic way of life,
wonderfully opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
grant, in Thy goodness,
that, strengthened by his teachings
in the spirit of our adoption as Thy sons,
we may pray to Thee with a boundless confidence,
and so obtain, through his intercession,
a favourable answer
to the petitions we place before Thee.
[Express your intentions and requests.]
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Immaculata Victrix

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In the spiritual combat that is the daily experience of so many priests, nothing can take the place of a confident recourse to the Immaculate Virgin Mary. By begging Our Lord Jesus to grant His priests victory through the intervention and intercession of His Mother, we glorify His own desire to see her unique and irreplaceable role acknowledged and glorified.

O my Jesus,
save and sanctify all Thy priests!
Let not one of those whom Thou hast chosen
and anointed for Thyself be lost.
Let not the Evil One,
the sworn enemy of our souls,
overcome them,
but, rather, let Thy Immaculate Mother
crush the head of the ancient serpent,
and, by her constant intercession,
preserve Thy priests in purity and in holiness of life. Amen.

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For the Year of the Priest: a painting of Saint John Mary Vianney with his friend, Saint Peter Julian Eymard

Saint Peter Julian Eymard is one of the principal patrons of the work of the Cenacle here in Tulsa. On the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1857 Saint Peter Julian Eymard inaugurated the solemn exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament by which the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament came to life. This week's move to a leased house in Tulsa better suited to a life of prayer and hospitality, and the need for funds to build the new Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, dedicated to Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests, compel me once again to propose the following novena for those who care to make it with me from January 6-14. It would be grand if those making the novena would leave a word in the comment box letting me know it!

Some readers of Vultus Christi may recall that on October 26, 2007 I wrote:

The desire of the Heart of Jesus is that there should be priest adorers and reparators: priests who will adore for those who do not adore, priests who will make reparation for those who do not. Our Lord asks me -- and will ask other priests as well -- to remain in adoration before His Eucharistic Face, offering all the priests of the Church to His Open Heart present in the Sacrament of His Love.

This inspiration was confirmed by the splendid letter of Cardinal Hummes, published on December 7, 2007, inviting to adoration and reparation for priests.

A Daunting Proposition

The Church is blessed with any number of communities of fervent Benedictines, who glorify Our Lord according to the gifts imparted to them, but nowhere does Our Lord find a house of priest-adorers to keep Him company in the Sacrament of His Love, and to offer themselves for their brother priests. The establishment of a new monastery is a daunting proposition. I might be tempted to lose heart, were it not for Our Lord's assurance that the measure of one's weakness is the measure of the deployment of His grace.

The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God's work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: "Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)". For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. (Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas 2009)

Work for Priests

The traditional Benedictine framework and the commitment to the choral liturgy will protect the life of adoration and the work for priests: the interior work of self-oblation in all things, and the exterior works of hospitality, spiritual counsel, and availability to priests in their times of need and inner darkness.

Assent to the Divine Friendship

At the heart of this special vocation is the assent to Our Lord's Divine Friendship, the "yes" to His merciful love uttered on behalf of all priests through a prolonged daily presence in adoration before His Eucharistic Face.

Our Lord desires with an immense desire to purify, and heal, and sanctify His priests. This He does, and will do, by drawing them into the radiance of His Eucharistic Face and the warmth of His Eucharistic Heart. We priests all too easily forget that Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the Sacrament of His Love to offer us all the good things that come from friendship: companionship, conversation, joy, comfort, hospitality, strength and, above all, love.

Friends of His Heart

Our Lord is hidden in the Blessed Sacrament; His Face is veiled by the sacramental species and His Heart, too, is hidden. He is, nonetheless, really present as True God and True Man, alive, seeing all, knowing all, and burning with desire that all should come to His tabernacles but, first of all, the priests whom He has chosen to be His intimate friends, the friends of His Heart.

A priest who, in adoration, assents to the friendship of Christ, will want for nothing and will make great strides along the path of holiness. Virtue is not difficult for one who abides in the friendship of Christ. The friendship of Jesus for His priests needs to become the subject of conversations, of reflection, of study, and of preaching; more than anything else it needs to become the lived experience of every priest.

Our Lady and Saint John

A priest who abides in the friendship of Christ will accomplish great and wonderful works for souls. This is the secret of a fruitful priesthood. From her place in heaven, Our Blessed Lady is entirely devoted to keeping priests faithful to the Divine Friendship. Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, also intercedes for priests, that they might persevere in the way of friendship with Our Lord and find their joy in the love of His Heart.

The Remedy

Priests who come to adore the Eucharistic Face of Jesus will quickly discover His Heart and, in His Heart they will discover the friendship for which He created them and to which He calls them. The single greatest deficiency of the clergy is that so many priests are ignorant of the tenderness and strength and fidelity of Our Lord's friendship for them. How can this deficiency be remedied? By adoration before the Eucharistic Face of Christ. This is the raison d'être of my work in the Diocese of Tulsa. Pray, then, that the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus will reach an ever greater number of priests, until, in all the Church, the Priesthood of Christ shines with all the splendour of His own holiness.

Epiphany Novena in Honour of Saint Peter Julian Eymard
January 6 -- 14, 2010

Recited after Lauds:

Antiphon: And when they were come into the house,
they found the Child with Mary His Mother,
and fell down and adored Him.

V. Arise, shine, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come.
R. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Let us pray.

O God, who by the leading of a star,
didst manifest Thine Only-Begotten Son to the Gentiles,
mercifully grant that we,
having been led unto Him by the light of faith,
may, with grateful hearts,
ceaselessly adore Him present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,
Who is our Mighty King, our Great High Priest, and our Immaculate Victim,
and Who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

Recited after Vespers:

Antiphon: The Priests shall be holy;
for the offerings of the Lord made by fire,
and the bread of their God, they do offer,
therefore they shall be holy.

V. Pray for us, Saint Peter Julian.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, Who through the preaching and example of Saint Peter Julian Eymard,
didst renew the priesthood of Thy Church in holiness
and inflame many souls with zeal
for the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar;
we beseech Thee, through his intercession,
to gather priests of one mind and one heart,
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof,
to keep watch in adoration before the Eucharistic Face
of Thine Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ
and to abide before His Open Heart,
in reparation for those who forsake Him, hidden in the tabernacles of the world,
and in thanksgiving for the mercies that ever stream
from the Sacred Mysteries of His Body and Blood.
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

Blessed Ildefonso Schuster

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We are reading in refectory this week from Blessed Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster's magnificent work, The Sacramentary. Here is an excerpt from his presentation of the Advent Ember Days.

Prayer and Fasting for Priests and Deacons

An ancient tradition reserved the ordinations of priests and deacons to the month of December, and the faithful -- following a custom introduced by the Apostles themselves -- felt constrained to unite with the bishop in prayer and fasting, in order to call down from God an abundance of priestly gifts upon the heads of those newly chosen to serve at the altar.

The Holiness of the Clergy

In truth the highest interests of Christian people are bound up, to a great extent, with the holiness of the clergy; and since Holy Scripture teaches us that the most terrible chastisement which almighty God inflicts upon perverse nations is to give them pastors and leaders of their own kind, it is evident that the ordination of the sacred ministers is not a matter which concerns merely the bishop and his seminary, but one which is of supreme importance to the whole Catholic body.

For this reason the Acts of the Apostles record the solemn fasts and public prayers which preceded the ordination of the first seven deacons and the mission of Paul and Barnabas as Apostles to the Gentiles.

Mary, Aflame With Jesus

During this season of immediate preparation for Christmas the Church invites us to attach ourselves with special love for Mary, for it is from her that our Advent has its beginning during those nine months in which she bore Our Lord within her. What must have been the feelings of faith, of love, and of zeal which then animated the Virgin so closely united with that God who in the Scriptures is called a consuming fire? Prefigured by the burning bush of Moses, Mary, aflame with Jesus, is the model of all who love him truly.

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The Holy Face of Jesus

[On the Friday in Ember Week] the verse ad offerendum is [also] from Psalm lxxxiv: "Thou, O Lord, who hadst turned away Thy Face from us on account of our sins, mayst Thou be appeased and turn again and look upon us, and the light of Thine eyes shall restore us once more to life." Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and reveal to us now the Saviour whom Thou hast promised and in whom the patriarchs of old fell asleep full of trust and hope.

The Face of Jesus in heaven is the cause of joy to the angels, but on earth it is the token of God's pity for sinners. We say to the Father, Respice in faciem Christi tui, but let us, too, fix our own gaze on that Face, lest we lose sight of it. As the Eternal Father, when He beholds the Face of Jesus, is touched with compassion for the wretched children of Adam, so let us also show a holy reverence for that Sacred Face and for those pure eyes that look on us so tenderly; let us take care that all our actions are worthy of the ineffable sanctity of that Divine Regard.

Ember Friday in Advent

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Restore the Ember Days

For the second time this week, we celebrated a special pre-dawn Advent Mass in candlelight. Having anticipated Matins last evening, we were able to begin Holy Mass at 5:15 a.m. We are mindful that the Ember Days are devoted to prayer and fasting for the sanctification of the clergy, in preparation for the ordinations that used to take place on Ember Saturday in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The observance of the Ember Days occurs four times yearly, once in each season. I would be happy to see the full restoration of the Ember Days, with the fasting and prayer for the clergy that characterizes them in response to the crisis that continues to afflict the bishops and priests of the Church. Would that this might be a fruit of the Year of the Priesthood!

The Collect

Today, once again with a note of urgency, the Collect is addressed, not to the God the Father, but directly to Our Lord Jesus Christ. The very core of the prayer is the word, veni; the great Advent cry of the Church that we will be repeated this evening in Great O Antiphon.

Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam,
et veni:

Stir up, Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
and come:

ut, hi qui in tua pietate confidunt,
ab omni citius adversitate liberentur.

that they who trust in Thy lovingkindness
may be the more speedily freed from all adversity.

The Collect alludes to two divine attributes of Our Lord. The first is His potentia, His power; the second is His pietas, His tender devotedness to those entrusted to Him by His Father. So rich a word is pietas in the liturgical vocabulary of the Church, that one can never really do justice to all the nuances of its meaning. Pietas is the dutiful and tender devotedness of a son to his father, and of a father to his son. When we speak of the pietas of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we refer to His entire devotedness to us or, if you will, to all that is symbolized by His Sacred Heart.

"I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26)

After asking Our Lord to stir up His potentia and come, we ask that those who confide in His pietas (or in His Heart) might be delivered more speedily from all adversity, that is, from the things that fly against us as we make our way forward to greet Him at His blessed Advent. Trust in the tender devotedness of Our Lord for us is, in fact, the speediest way of being delivered from the things that come against us in daily life.

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31-37)

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One of the most effective ways of growing in trust in the pietas of Our Lord is the frequent repetition of the "little invocation" that He gave Mother Yvonne-Aimée of Malestroit in 1922. Since then, the "little invocation" has transformed the lives of people all over the world: O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy loving mercy. It is another way of saying, "O Jesus, I trust in Thy divine pietas, in the tender devotedness of Thy Heart for me." My experience is that such a prayer repeated with perseverance, and from the heart, leads to spiritual liberation and healing.

The Lesson

The prophet Isaiah presents the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the flower of the Root of Jesse upon whom rests the sevenfold gift of the Holy Ghost: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Our Lord is anointed with these gifts in superabundance. He is the Head of His Mystical Body, the Church, and from Him the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are communicated to each of His members, to perfect in them the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity infused at Holy Baptism.

The Holy Ghost is wonderfully present in the liturgy of these final days of Advent. In fact, what Isaiah announces, is illustrated and fulfilled through Mary in today's Gospel.

The Holy Gospel

This is the second great Marian Gospel of Ember Week in Advent. Energized by the Spirit of God, and bearing the Son of God hidden in her womb, Our Lady is, to use the expression of Pope John Paul II, "the first tabernacle of history." The arrival of Mary in any situation signifies and obtains for us a fresh inbreaking of the Holy Ghost. Mary's visible entrance into the house of Zachary is the "sacrament" of the Holy Spirit's invisible entrance. No sooner does the Mother of God greet her cousin Elizabeth, than she is filled with the Holy Ghost. The little Forerunner, Saint John, concealed in the womb that many thought barren, attests to the sanctifying operation of the Holy Ghost with a little leap of joy.

Spend these last days before the Nativity of the Lord in the presence of His Virgin Mother. Where Mary is, there too is the Holy Ghost with His seven gifts: gifts in no way restricted to Pentecost, gifts wonderfully suited to a happy Christmas.

Am I not here who am your Mother?

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At Clear Creek

Brother Juan Diego and I have been at Clear Creek Monastery for the past few days. I have been preaching a retreat to the Benedictine Oblate Sisters of Clear Creek; Brother Juan Diego was welcomed into the choir novitiate. The Sisters' convent, named for Mary, Queen of Angels, is directly across the road from the gateway to the monastery.

Clear Creek celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe as a minor solemnity with First Vespers, a procession after Tierce, and Solemn High Mass. At the Hours there are proper antiphons, magnificently suited to today's feast.

Our Mother of Guadalupe

I have always found immense comfort in Our Lady's words to Juan Diego:

"Do not let anything afflict you, and do not be afraid of any illness, or accident, or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Do you need anything else?" (Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego)

She Will Never Disappoint You

These words of Our Blessed Mother to Saint Juan Diego are echoed in the words attributed to Our Lord in the journal of a priest: "My Mother watches over you. She is your advocate and your perpetual help. Go to her confidently with whatever troubles you. Go to her with your doubts, your worries, and your fears. Trust in her maternal heart is never misplaced, and she will never disappoint you." To the same priest Our Lady once said, "Be prudent, but without fear, because I am your Mother. . . . Trust in my protection. Yes, I am your Mother of Perpetual Help, ever ready to come to your rescue, ever ready to provide for your needs, to deliver you from danger, and to console you in sorrow. Approach me with childlike confidence and you will never be disappointed."

The Holy Spirit and Our Lady

And again, Our Lord said, "Your union with Me will take place through My Immaculate Mother and by the gentle but continuous operations of the Holy Spirit in your soul. Together, the Holy Spirit and My Immaculate Mother put themselves at the service of souls who seek union with Me. Is not this a wonderful thing? God the Holy Spirit, the Source of Holiness in creatures and the Substantial Love by which My Father and I are eternally one, puts Himself at the service of a finite and sinful creature to bring about a union with Me that is the perfect expression in a human soul of the union of My human Soul and of My Divinity with My Father."

When I first read this, it rather astonished me. Then I recalled Our Lord's words in John 14:20-23: "In that day you shall know, that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. . . . And he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. . . . If anyone love Me, he will keep my word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make our abode with him." And again in John 17:21: "That they may all be one, as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee; that they may also be one in Us." Our union with Christ is patterned after His union with the Father and is, at the same time, the means of union with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

A Springtime of Holiness in the Church

Continuing in the same journal, I read: "And in this work of uniting a soul to Me, no one can take the place of My most pure and loving Mother. She is the Mediatrix of all graces, and just as no one can come to the Father except through Me, so too can no one come to Me except through her in whose virginal womb I took flesh. If only my Mother's role and the greatness of her work, even now, from her place in heaven, were better known! Then there would be a great springtime of holiness in My Church and, first of all, among my priests, for I have entrusted each one of them to her as to the most attentive and compassionate of mothers. All the resources of her Immaculate Heart, full of grace, are a the service of her motherhood of the souls of My priests. Priests have the right and privilege of calling upon My Mother in every need, trial, failure, and sin, confident of receiving from her help and solace, mercy and healing, comfort and peace."

The Secret of Priestly Holiness

"Too few of my priests have entered into the relationship of filial love and of spousal intimacy with My Most Holy Mother, that I desire for them, and from which their holiness will flow as from a spring. In a word, this relationship with My Most Pure Mother is the secret of priestly holiness. My priests have only to seek Mary, My Mother, and all the rest will be given them in abundance. The greatest saints knew this, but today many priestly hearts have grown dark and cold, and their relationship with My Mother, which is to be a reproduction of my own relationship with her, is almost non-existent."

For the Joy of the Church and the Glory of the Father

"The renewal of holiness in my priests will come about as I have promised, only when they become little and childlike, and consecrate themselves entirely to My Mother's Immaculate Heart. Their hearts need her Heart. That is my message today. That is what I so desire my priests to learn and to put into practice. Those who do this will quickly advance in holiness and their virtues will shine for the joy of the Church and for the glory of My Father in heaven."

Priests Who Pray

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His Eminence, Claudio Cardinal Hummes, addressed the following letter to priests for the month of December in this Year of the Priest. My own comments are in italics.

Dear Priests,

Prayer necessarily occupies a central place in the life of the priest. This is not hard to understand, since prayer fosters the disciple's intimacy with his Master, Jesus Christ. We all know that when prayer lessens, faith is weakened and the ministry loses content and meaning. The essential consequence of this is that the priest will have less joy and less happiness in his daily ministry. It is as if, following Jesus along the road, the priest, who walks along with many others, were to begin to lag behind bit by bit and so distance himself from the Master, even losing sight of him on the horizon. From that moment he will find himself lost and uncertain.

Yes, a priest who neglects prayer will become weak in faith, joyless, and uncertain of the very things that should be life giving for him. At the origin of every crisis in the life of a priest is a lack of prayer, that is, of conscious surrender to the Friendship of Christ. Nowhere can a priest experience the Friendship of Christ more effectively than in the radiance of His Eucharistic Face. Priests who pray daily, for one hour, before the Blessed Sacrament attest to the purifying, healing, and transforming effect of such prayer on their lives.

St. John Chrysostom, in a homily commenting on the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy, observes wisely: "The devil attacks the shepherd. In fact, if by killing the sheep the flock is reduced, by instead eliminating the shepherd he will destroy the entire flock." This statement makes one think about many contemporary situations. Chrysostom warns us that the lessening of the shepherds will and does make the number of the faithful and of communities decrease. Without shepherds our communities will be destroyed!

The Evil One hates the priests of Jesus Christ, and will do everything in his power to drag or push them into patterns of sin, to confuse their thinking, to corrupt their hearts, and to destroy their confidence in the Mercy of God. Who then, among priests, can be saved? The priest who takes refuge beneath the mantle of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, his Mother and his Advocate. The priest who cherishes Mary with a love that is at once filial and spousal. Mary's most precious gift to her priests is a gentle, but compelling, inclination to prayer. Saint Benedict speaks in the Holy Rule of "falling frequently to prayer." This is, I think, a distinctively Marian grace.

But here I would like above all to talk about the needfulness of prayer so that, as Chrysostom might say, the shepherds can defeat the devil and so that they are not lessened. Truly, without the vital food of prayer the priest becomes sick, the disciple does not find the strength to follow the Master, and thus dies of hunger. As a consequence his flock is scattered, and dies in its own turn.

Priests who pray generate communities that pray. A prayerful priest will generate a praying parish. Where priest and people persevere together in prayer, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is poured out in abundance, quickening the life of the Church, and causing the face of the Church to shine with joy even in the midst of great sufferings.

In fact every priest finds an essential reference point in the ecclesial community. He is a very special disciple of the Lord who called him and who, by the sacrament of Order, configured him to Himself as Head and Shepherd of the Church. Christ is the one Shepherd, but he has deigned to make the Twelve and their Successors partake in His Ministry, amongst whom Priests also participate in this sacrament, albeit in a lower grade, in such a way that they also take part in the ministry of Christ, Head and Shepherd. This carries with it an essential bond between the priest and the ecclesial community. He cannot do any less than his duty, since without a shepherd the community withers. Rather, following the example of Moses, he must be found with his arms raised to Heaven in prayer so that the people will not perish.

This paragraph causes me to think, not only of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, but also of Saint Gaetano Catanoso, and of the vast brotherhood of parish priests who, though uncanonised and unsung, prayed their flocks into a great holiness. I am reminded of the example of Father Edgar J. Farrell, whose Mass I often served as a boy; he would prepare for Holy Mass with prayer, kneeling at his prie-dieu in the sacristy, and prolong his thanksgiving after Mass. In recent years, the "Protestant" custom of greeting the faithful at the door of the church after Holy Mass has become widespread. We ought to recover, it seems to me, the paradigm of the recollected priest, intent on making his thanksgiving after Mass in the sanctuary, in view of his people. How much more fruitful would this be than the banal greeting and trivial remarks at the door of the church.

It is for this reason that the priest, if he is to remain faithful to Christ and faithful to the community, must be a man of prayer, a man who lives close to the Lord. Moreover, he needs to be strengthened by the prayer of the Church and of every Christian. Let the sheep pray for their shepherd! When the shepherd becomes aware that his life of prayer is weakening, it is time for him to turn to the Holy Spirit and to beseech like the poor of heart. The Spirit will rekindle the fire in his heart. He will rekindle the passion and the enchantment of the Lord, who is ever present and wishes to eat with him.

Surrounding every priest who prays is a community that prays for him and with him. The criticism of priests often leads to sins of rash judgment, defamation, and slander. The temptation to speak ill of a priest can become, in effect, an invitation to pray for him, to fast for him, and to represent him before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, close to His Open Heart.

We wish to pray with and for priests in this Year for Priests with perseverance and great love. To this end, the Congregation for the Clergy celebrates a Eucharistic-Marian Hour for and with priests, at 4 p.m. in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, Rome, each first Thursday of the month during the Year for Priests. Many people joyfully come to pray with us.

The Spiritual Mothers of the Diocese of Tulsa have taken a similar initiative and, in our embryonic monastery, Brother Juan Diego and I dedicate each Thursday, in a special way, to adoration and reparation for priests.

Dear Priests, the Nativity of Jesus Christ draws near. I wish to express my best and heartfelt good wishes to you for a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year 2010. The Child Jesus lying in the manger invites us to renew this closeness with him of a friend and disciple, so as to send us out again as his evangelizers.

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes

Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

[Translation distributed by the Congregation for Clergy]

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The painting is by the so-called Master of the Osservanza and dates from around 1440. Notice the lovely chasuble of the priest and the noble simplicity of the altar. The young man to the left is none other than our father among the saints, Antony of Egypt. The scene depicts his conversion. The artist has it taking place in the cathedral of Siena!

Here is another prayer for priests that one might say each day. It will be included in the prayerbook that is still in preparation.

A Daily Prayer for Priests

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who commanded
that the men whom You called and set apart
for the service of Your holy altars,
should themselves be holy:
grant such holiness to Your priests
that in them Your Father may take delight,
and Your Bride, the Church, find consolation.

Send the promised Paraclete upon them
to keep them firm in their faith
in the midst of an unbelieving world;
to keep them ardent in their love
among those that do not love You;
to keep them pure amidst the impure;
and to keep them for Yourself
amidst those who are as yet not Yours
- but whom You, O gentle Shepherd,
came to seek and to save.

Through the intercession of our most gracious Lady and Queen,
Your Mother, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin,
give them grace so to serve You
among all the changes and chances of this passing world
that, at the hour of their death, they may be ready
to enter with You, O Eternal High Priest,
into the sanctuary not made by human hands,
where You live for ever
to make intercession for us,
and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

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There is a verse in the book of Ezra that is, I think, a wonderful expression of the life and mission of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina: “The Levites, every one of whom had purified himself for the occasion, sacrificed the Passover for the rest of the exiles, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves” (Ez 6:20).

Padre Pio's life was a long and uninterrupted celebration of the Pasch of the Lord. Configured to Jesus Crucified, Priest and Victim, Padre Pio offered himself to the Father in the daily Sacrifice of the Mass. Saint Pio’s paschal immolation -- his participation in the Cross of Christ -- was for the sake of "the rest of the exiles," all of us who go mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. And it was for the sake of "his brethren": for all priests called to follow him in a life of paschal purity and victimhood,

Entrance Antiphon

MR
God forbid that I should glory
except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world is crucified to me,
and I to the world (Gal 6:14).

Collect

Almighty and eternal God,
who, by a singular grace,
allowed the priest Saint Pio
to participate in the cross of your Son,
and by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of your mercy;
grant, through his intercession that,
constantly united to the passion of Christ,
we may happily arrive at the glory of the resurrection.
Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

A Patron of Parish Priests

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Saint Gaetano Catanoso

Antiphon: Lord, when was it that we saw Thee hungry and fed Thee,
or thirsty and gave Thee drink?
When was it that we saw Thee a stranger,
and brought Thee home,
sick or in prison and came to Thee?
And the King will answer them:
Believe me, when you did it to one of the least of my brethren here,
you did it to me.

V. Pray for us, Saint Gaetano.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Stir up, O Lord, in our hearts
the spirit of adoration and reparation
that filled Saint Gaetano, Your priest,
that we, having our eyes fixed, like his,
on the Eucharistic Face of Jesus,
may live in ceaseless prayer
and in the humble service of those
most in need of compassion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

The Priest of the Holy Face of Jesus

Gaetano Catanoso was born on 14 February 1879 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy. His parents, prosperous landowners, were exemplary Christians. Gaetano was ordained a priest in 1902, and from 1904 to 1921 he served in the rural parish of Pentidattilo.

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Adorer of the Eucharistic Face

The Holy Face of Jesus illumined Father Catanoso's life. He venerated the Holy Face as depicted in the image of Veronica's Veil diffused by the Carmel of Tours in France. He began "The Holy Face" Bulletin and established a local chapter of the "Archconfraternity of the Holy Face" in 1920. "The Holy Face," he wrote, "is my life." Saint Gaetano directed anyone seeking the Face of Christ to the Most Holy Eucharist, saying, "If we wish to adore the real Face of Jesus, we can find it in the divine Eucharist where, with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of our Lord is hidden under the white veil of the Host."

A Eucharistic Parish Priest

On 2 February 1921, Father Catanoso was transferred to the large parish of Santa Maria de la Candelaria. He served there until 1940. The daily celebration of Holy Mass and Eucharistic adoration were the soul of his priesthood and the sustenance of his apostolate.

As the parish priest of Candelaria, Saint Gaetano drew people to Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar and renewed devotion to the Madonna. The plight of orphans moved him to undertake a number of charitable initiatives. He played an active role in the catechetical instruction of children and young people. Deeply moved by the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette, Father Gaetano preached against blasphemy and taught the faithful to sanctify Sundays and the feasts of the Church.

Father Catanoso was compelled to reach out to orphans and to children suffering from neglect and abuse. He sought to provide youth with Christian role models. His charity extended to the forsaken elderly and to priests who found themselves isolated and without support. In all who suffered Father Gaetano saw the Face of Christ. His ardent love for the Most Holy Eucharist found expression in the restoration of churches and abandoned tabernacles.

Servant of Priests

"The Missionary of the Holy Face" spent hours or entire days in prayer before the Tabernacle. In his parish and beyond it he promoted Eucharistic Adoration in the spirit of reparation. He set up "flying-squads" of priests willing to assist other priests by preaching and hearing confessions on special occasions. In 1915 Saint Gaetano published for the first time a "Eucharistic Holy Hour" for priests. Saint Gaetano never let a single day pass without speaking of the Holy Face of Jesus.

Victim Priest

Father Gaetano patiently accepted sickness and, in the last stage of his life, blindness, desiring to unite himself to the saving Passion of Christ. In 1929 he offered himself as a victim priest to the Heart of Jesus.

La Madonna

Saint Gaetano's devotion to the Madonna was tender and childlike. He began praying the rosary daily as a little boy and remained faithful to the practice until his death. The rosary never left his hands, becoming for him a ceaseless prayer of the heart. To all who approached him for spiritual counsel he communicated his love of the Mother of God and his confidence in her intercession.

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Spiritual Father and Founder

From 1921 to 1950 Saint Gaetano served as confessor to various religious communities and in the Reggio Calabria prison. He served as spiritual director of the Archdiocesan Seminary. Everyone called him "Father," a title not normally given parish priests in Italy. He was, in fact, a beloved spiritual father generating holiness of life in countless priests and consecrated women. Father Gaetano's simple and ardent preaching attracted sinners to the contemplation of the Holy Face of Jesus and inspired souls to imitate his life of adoration and reparation.

In 1934, Father Catanoso founded in Riparo, Reggio Calabria, the Congregation of the Sisters Veronicas of the Holy Face of Jesus. The Sisters devote themselves to Eucharistic adoration and reparation to the Holy Face, catechesis, assistance to children, youth, priests and the elderly.

Canonized Three Years Ago

Father Gaetano Catanoso died on the Thursday of Passion Week, April 4, 1963. Pope John Paul II beatified him on May 4, 1997. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him on October 23, 2005. The liturgical memorial of Saint Gaetano Catanoso was fixed on September 20, the date of his ordination to the holy priesthood.

An American Cousin

Saint Gaetano's American cousin, Justin Catanoso, wrote a book recounting his experience of having a saint in the family. Visit Justin's website here.

Ipse est sacerdos, ipse est Deus

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The lessons at Vigils this morning were extraordinarily compelling in the context of this Year of the Priest. (I use the Latin-French Lectionnaire monastique in six volumes edited by the Abbey of Solesmes. Would anyone know if a Latin-English version of the same lectionary is in preparation anywhere in the monastic world?)

First Lesson, Hosea 4:6-10
When Priests Lack Knowedge

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for their deeds. They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish harlotry.

Here is my translation of the Second Lesson:

Fulgentius Ferrandus was a sixth century deacon of Carthage renowned for his defense of the orthodox faith against the Arians.

From the Dogmatic Letter of the Deacon Ferrandus, Against the Arians
The Action of the Priest

The action of the priest is twofold: first, he intercedes in order to be heard,
and then, once heard, he gives thanks.
In his intercession he offers the sacrifice of supplication,
in his thanksgiving he offers the sacrifice of praise.
In his intercession he presents the needs of sinners,
in his thanksgiving he recounts the benefits granted with mercy to those who make reparation.
In his intercession he implores pardon for the guilty,
in his thanksgiving he desires to rejoice with those who are absolved.

And so it is with Christ:
possessing an eternal priesthood uninterrupted by death as it is among other priests,
He interceded for us in offering the sacrifice of His own body upon the cross,
and He intercedes even now for us all,
desiring that we also should become a pure sacrifice unto God.

But when Divine Mercy will have become perfected in us,
when death will have been swallowed up in victory,
once all our sorrows will have disappeared,
when, filled with all good things,
we will sin no more,
no more will we lament,
no more will we have to suffer the enemy, the devil,
but we will reign in supreme peace and felicity.
Then, it is true, Christ will no longer intercede for us,
for we will have no need to ask for anything.
Never, however, will He cease giving thanks for us,
just as, in this present day, it is by the mediation of our High Priest
that we will offer the sacrifice of praise.

Always then will Christ be the High Priest
by whose mediation we can offer the sacrifice of praise.
Always, He is lower because He is the priest.
This notwithstanding, because Christ is forever one,
He Himself is the High Priest,
and He Himself is God who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
is adored, blessed, and glorified by the faithful.
He Himself intercedes,
He Himself gives thanks,
and He Himself bestows grace.

Your Veiled Gaze Is Our Heaven

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Future Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle

The Most Reverend Edward J. Slattery, bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma, intends to establish in his diocese a monastery of Benedictine Monks (Adorers of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, O.S.B.) dedicated to adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, intercession and reparation for priests, and the spiritual support of the clergy through hospitality, days of recollection, and retreats.

In This Year of the Priesthood

The project takes on a compelling relevance in the context of this Year of the Priesthood. It is moreover a direct response to the Letter of Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, dated 7 December 2007. Will we be able to break ground for the new Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle during this Year of the Priesthood? Much depends on the generous donations of the faithful. Until now we have not been able to obtain the financial support necessary to launch this noble and worthy work.

Prayer for Priests

The connection of the project with yesterday's Feast of the Transfiguration and with Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is striking. The saint added to her name in Carmel the title, "of the Holy Face," and said upon entering the cloister, "I have come to pray for priests."

Gazing on the Holy Face

It was August 5th, 1897, the eve of the feast of the Transfiguration: the 24 year old Carmelite stricken with tuberculosis had a very special desire. She wanted an image of the Holy Face of Christ placed close to her bed. The image was brought from the choir and attached to her bed curtains. On the following September 30th,Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face died. Saint Thérèse, a Doctor of the Church, fixed her gaze on the Face of Christ disfigured by suffering, and found the transfiguration of her own suffering in its radiance.

Preparation for the Mystery of the Cross

The Holy Face of Christ was a mystery familiar to Thérèse. As a result of the good works of the Venerable Léon Dupont, the "Holy Man of Tours," devotion to the Holy Face had spread throughout France. The Carmel of Lisieux honoured the Holy Face every August 6th, forty days before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th. Every August 6th, the Carmelites exposed the image of the Holy Face in their choir and prayed before it.

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Hidden in the Secret of His Face

A year before her death on August 6, 1896, Thérèse and two novices entrusted to her consecrated themselves to the Holy Face of Jesus. They understood the mystery of the Transfiguration just as the liturgy presents it to us: as a preparation for the Mystery of the Cross.

The three young Carmelites asked Our Lord to hide them "in the secret of His Face." They were drawn by the Holy Spirit into the abjection of Christ, the Suffering Servant described in chapters 52 and 53 of the prophet Isaiah. They desired to be Veronicas, consoling Jesus in His Passion, and offering Him souls. Their prayer concluded: "O beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we will contemplate your infinite Glory, our one desire is to charm your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too so that here on earth no one can recognize us. O Jesus! Your Veiled Gaze is our Heaven!"

Lectio Divina and Eucharistic Adoration

The Transfiguration is the Human Face of God shining more brightly than the sun. Tradition gives us two privileged ways of seeking, of finding, and of contemplating the transfigured and transfiguring Face of Christ: the first is lectio divina. One who seeks the Face of Christ in the Scriptures -- the Face of the Beloved peering through the lattice of the text -- will be changed by the experience. The second way is Eucharistic adoration. One who remains silent and adoring before the Divine Host will be transfigured and healed in its radiance.

To Seek God

The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle in the Diocese of Tulsa will be a place wherein priests and deacons may go apart for one thing only: to seek God. And where is God to be found except in Christ? "The knowledge of the glory of God," says Saint Paul, "is given to us in the Face of His Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).

Yesterday's Introit is the liturgical expression of this spirituality of the Holy Face. "Thou hast said, 'Seek ye my Face.' My heart says to thee, 'Thy Face, Lord, do I seek.' Hide not thy Face from me" (Ps 27:8-9a). The Holy Spirit works in lectio divina and Eucharistic adoration to reproduce in us the traits of the Holy Face of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI has recommended that both forms of seeking the Holy Face -- lectio divina and Eucharistic adoration -- be part of one's daily rhythm of prayer.

Infinite Beauty

The Face of Christ is "the splendor before which every other light pales, and the infinite beauty which alone can fully satisfy the human heart" (Vita Consecrata, art. 16). How fitting that, in the Greek text of today's gospel, Saint Peter's cry can, in fact, be translated, "Lord, it is beautiful for us to be here" (Mk 9:5)! In the transfigured Face of Christ we discover, in the words of Saint Clare of Assisi, "Him who gave Himself totally for our love, whose beauty the sun and moon admire, whose rewards and their preciousness and greatness are without end” (Letter III to Agnes of Prague).

Become What You Contemplate

Like Moses, to whom "the Lord used to speak face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Ex 33:11), and whose "face shone because he had been talking with God" (Ex 34:29), a soul faithful to lectio divina and to Eucharistic adoration will be transformed into the image that she contemplates. We become what we contemplate. One who contemplates disfigured things becomes inwardly disfigured. One who contemplates transfigured things becomes inwardly transfigured.

The Prophet Daniel

Yesterday's lesson from the prophet Daniel showed him awestruck in the presence of the Son of Man. Like Peter, James, and John on the holy mountain, Daniel is dazzled by the raiment of the Son of Man, white as snow (Dan 7:9). Again, like Peter, James, and John who were "heavy with sleep" (Lk 9:32), Daniel falls on his face, "in a deep sleep with his face to the ground" (Dan 10:9). This is no ordinary sleep; it is rather a mysterious sleep induced by the awesome proximity of the Divine, not unlike the sleep of Adam described in Genesis. "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man” (Gen 2:21).

Fear Not, Daniel

Daniel describes what happened then. "And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees" (Dan 10:10). The touch of the hand of the Son of Man raises Daniel from his complete prostration. "And he said to me, 'O Daniel, man greatly beloved, give heed to the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.' While he was speaking this word to me, says Daniel, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, 'Fear not, Daniel'" (Dan 10:11-12).

The experience of Daniel ends with him being told to stand upright. It is a kind of resurrection. This too, the call to stand upright, to take our place with the risen Son, facing the Father, in the Holy Spirit, is part of our own transfiguration into the Victimal Priesthood of Christ. The soul transfigured stands before the Father, joyful and free, certain of being greatly beloved, and invested with the noble beauty of Christ's royal priesthood.

Holy Mass

At Holy Mass, priest, deacon, and people together ascend the mountain with Christ. In the reading of the Scriptures, Our Lord reveals His Face; and in the hearing of the Word we go, as the Vulgate puts it, "from clarity to clarity." Today, Moses and Elijah attest to Christ, the fulfillment of the Law and of the Prophets, and point to the mystery of His Exodus by way of the Cross and tomb, from the regions of darkness and of death into the very light and life of the Father.

Passing in every Mass from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice, we, like Peter, James, and John, see his glory, not with eyes of flesh, but with the eyes of faith and by the light of the Holy Spirit. We know Him really present in the bread become His Body and in the wine become His Blood and, like Peter, cry out, "Master, it is beautiful to be here" (Lk 9:33).

The altar of the Holy Sacrifice is our Mount Tabor. Over the altar resounds the voice of the Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him" (Lk 10:35). Invisibly yet truly; mystically yet really, the altar -- and all of us who from it partake of the Body and Blood of Christ -- are enveloped in the cloud of the Holy Spirit and assumed into the grand priestly prayer of Christ to the Father.

Eucharistic Transfiguration

The grace of yesterday's festival was our own Eucharistic transfiguration. Our Lord would take each of us and all of us into His hands, to become with Him, in the Holy Spirit, one single oblation to the Father. Without fear, give yourselves over, then, as victims into the wounded hands of our glorious Priest. He will consecrate you with Himself in the Holy Sacrifice. Then the Father, looking down from heaven, will recognize in each of us the Holy Face of His Son, the Beloved, for by the mystery of the Eucharist we are "being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor 3:18).

If you would like to make a contribution toward building the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, please send it to:

Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle
1132 East 21st Street
Tulsa, OK 74114

Kindly indicate that your contribution is for the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. Thank you for your generosity. May Our Lord Jesus Christ through the intercession of Saint Thérèse, make the light of His Eucharistic Face shine upon you.

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"O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests."

On this feast of Saint Ignatius Loyola, I am pleased to offer a prayer by the saintly Irish Jesuit Father William Doyle. Those familiar with Father Willie's writings will recognize straightaway his distinctive blend of manly fervour and passion for the Most Holy Eucharist.

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests.
It is both their glory and their duty to become victims,
to be burnt up for souls,
to live without ordinary joys,
to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar,
"This is my Body, this is my Blood,"
grant them to apply to themselves:
"I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified.
I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself,
but by consecration another."

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests.
I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee,
that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions,
let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist,
accessible to all yet above the rest of men.
O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today,
a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow,
and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts,
to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.

Cogitationes Cordis Ejus

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The thoughts of His Heart
are to all generations;
He will save their souls from death
and give them to eat in time of famine.
(Psalm 32:11, 19, Introit of the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).

To All Generations

The thoughts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are to all generations, touching all, excluding no one. By His death, He rescues us from death; by the mysteries of His Body and Blood, He feeds every hungry heart.

All Priests

On the threshold of this Year of the Priest, we recall that the thoughts of the Heart of Jesus embrace all priests from the first ones assembled with him in the Cenacle on the night before He suffered to those who will welcome Him when he returns in glory.

Beset by Sin and Repaired by Love

What are priests if not weak men beset by sin and repaired by love? The Heart of Jesus sends out his priests for the healing, reconciliation, and restoration of those who, like themselves, stand at every moment in need of mercy. Speaking to a priest, Our Lord said:

"There has never been in all of history a single priest whom I have not destined for a great holiness. My Heart has suffered much because so many of my chosen ones have refused my gifts and, preferring their own ways to mine, gone into the outer darkness where it is night.

My Heart burns to see my priests all ablaze with Eucharistic holiness. The altar is the source of priestly holiness. The kiss given to the altar at the beginning and end of Holy Mass means that the priest recognizes this. By kissing the altar, he makes himself vulnerable to my piercing love. By kissing the altar he opens himself unreservedly to all that I would give him and to all that I hold in the designs of my Heart for his life. The kiss to the altar signifies total abandonment to the priestly holiness that I desire and to the fulfillment of my desires in the soul of my priest.

The holiness to which I call my priests, the holiness to which I am calling you, consists in a total configuration to me as I stand before my Father in the heavenly sanctuary, beyond the veil. Every priest of mine is to be with me both priest and victim in the presence of my Father. Every priest is called to stand before the altar with pierced hands and feet, with his side wounded, and with his head crowned as my head was crowned in my passion. You needn’t fear this configuration to me; it will bring you only peace of heart, joy in the presence of my Father, and that unique intimacy with me that I have, from the night before I suffered, reserved for my priests, my chosen ones, the friends of my Heart."

My Heart Thirsts for You

Mother Marie des Douleurs, writing for priests in the 1930s,
placed these words in the Heart and mouth of Our Lord:

“I have need of this body of priests
who continually will live their Mass,
who will continue my Passion.
My immolation must go on until the end of time;
I must find priests who will hand over to me
their bodies, their souls, their whole being so that in them,
I may be the one whom nearly no one accepts to recognize,
the Crucified.
You whom I have chosen
and marked for this mission glorious above all others,
will you not understand, will you too go away?
My Heart thirsts for you.
Do you not see all the souls torn away from me?
If my priests do not continue me, I am alone and powerless.”

Priests Passionately Loved

Mother's text, like the message of Our Lord to a priest cited above, is almost frightening in its lucidity and crushing in its implications, but it is meant to inspire today in each one a more ardent prayer for all priests, chosen and passionately loved by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Blessed Edouard Poppe

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My God, I forget all fear and all mistrust.
I melt away for joy and love, whenever I lay my eyes on the Tabernacle
and, in my soul, repeat these words:
"That Host is my God, my Creator. . My Master. . . My Bridegroom!
You see me. . . You think about me. . . You love me. . ."
What else could He do? For God is love.
I may not be worthy of it, but He is love!

(Spiritual Notebook of Blessed Edouard Poppe, July 17, 1917)
The ciborium in the photo belonged to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé d'Ars.


A Young Priest for Priests

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A Holy Priest

Today is the memorial of Blessed Edouard Poppe, priest (1890-1924). The approach of The Year of the Priest makes the example of his short life particularly compelling. Born into a Belgian working family -- his father was a baker -- on December 18, 1890, the young Edouard heard Jesus calling him to the priesthood at an early age. In my own experience, this is not unusual. I have known priests who admit that they were first aware of their vocation between the ages of 3 and 7!

Children and the Eucharist

Ordained a priest on May 1, 1916, Edouard was assigned to a working class parish in Gand. Creative and enterprising, he devoted himself to the education of children in the faith. More than anything else, he worked to bring children to the Most Holy Eucharist, and the Most Holy Eucharist to children.

A More Hidden Life

At the close of World War I, Edouard's chronic poor health caused him to be named chaplain to the Sisters of Charity at Moerzeke, and to the residents of their home for the aged poor, sick, and orphans. Another priest shared his home at Moerzeke; they lived in a holy friendship, sharing the same table, praying, working, and recreating together. The two priests began a weekly hour of Eucharistic adoration on Thursday evenings; before long they were not alone before the Blessed Sacrament. Others, drawn by their example, asked to join them in adoration. The number of adorers grew until the chapel was filled to capacity.

Priestly Blessing and Daily Confession

Edouard and M. de Beukelaers, his priest-brother, blessed one another at the beginning of each day, and every evening they made their Confession one to the other, receiving from each other the grace of sacramental absolution. They referred to this as "the washing of the feet." Edouard said, "Try this daily Confession. You will feel better because of it." To a friend who objected, "But I would never know what to say!" Edouard replied, "In fact, that was my case too. It often happens that I cannot find in the actions of my day sufficient matter for confession. That's not important. The sacrament floods me with its healing power." Then, pinching his nose as if he were smelling a stench, he added, "I can always reopen the grave of my past."

Saint Thérèse and the Little Way

On September 15, 1920, after visits to Lourdes and to the tomb of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard in Paris, Edouard Poppe visited the tomb of the Venerable Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus et de la Sainte-Face at the Carmel of Lisieux in France. This contact with Saint Thérèse marked a turning-point in his life. Her "Little Way" would become his path to holiness.

Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces

Marked by the teaching of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by Cardinal Mercier's energetic initiatives in favour of the solemn definition of the dogma of Our Lady's universal mediation of graces, Edouard's priestly life was profoundly Marian. Dispensed from the recitation of the Divine Office because of his poor health, he replaced it with the devout recitation of rosary upon rosary. The liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces was for him a moment of profound spiritual joy. "Give yourselves to Mary," he said to his spiritual sons. "You will know the magnificent power of her mediation in your life. You will see how your Mother watches over you and desires your sanctification."

The Sanctification of Priests

In 1922, Edouard was named Spiritual Father to the young priests and clerics preparing for obligatory military service at Léopoldsburg. The zeal for priestly holiness that had always burned in his heart became a consuming blaze. As priest and victim, and in spiritual communion with the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus founded by the Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, Edouard Poppe made the offering of his life for the sanctification of priests. "I burn," he wrote, "for the coming of the reign of God in priestly souls. I burn, but I am so poor that I will be consumed before the coming of the desired reign."

To the Spiritual Mothers of Priests

To the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus at Berchem, called to the spiritual motherhood of priests, he wrote: "O my Sisters, if only you knew what it costs a secular priest to keep whole his ideal in the midst of his family, in the midst of his parish, in the solitude of aspirations that are misunderstood." Again he wrote, "Come, all the same, to the help of the body of the clergy; they have such good will. They are hungry and I have nothing to give them. Sisters, is there no one among you to show compassion in the face of such need, to accept the role of mediatress and mother? Your vocation attributes to you the role of Mary. I implore you, then, in the name of the entire priesthood, the mystical heart of Jesus; be generous, come to our aid."

Surrendered to Merciful Love

On the morning of June 10, 1924, Edouard Poppe, the most loved priest in Flanders, died at thirty-three years of age. His eyes were fixed on an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He had surrendered himself totally to His merciful love. "I never asked the Lord that I might live to an old age," he said, "but only that men might love Him and that priests might become holy."

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the letter Cláudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, wrote in preparation for The Year of the Priest, which will begin on June 19th.

Dear Priests,

That Priests May Be Happy and Holy

The Year for Priests, announced by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney, is drawing near. It will be inaugurated by the Holy Father on the 19th June, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. The announcement of the Year for Priests has been very warmly received, especially amongst priests themselves. Everyone wants to commit themselves with determination, sincerity and fervor so that it may be a year amply celebrated in the whole world -- in the Dioceses, parishes and in every local community -- with the warm participation of our Catholic people who undoubtedly love their priests and want to see them happy, holy and joyous in their daily apostolic labors.

The Church Is Proud of Her Priests

It must be a year that is both positive and forward looking in which the Church says to her priests above all, but also to all the Faithful and to wider society by means of the mass media, that she is proud of her priests, loves them, honors them, admires them and that she recognizes with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness of the their life. Truthfully priests are important not only for what they do but also for who they are. Sadly, it is true that at the present time some priest have been shown to have been involved in gravely problematic and unfortunate situations. It is necessary to investigate these matters, pursue judicial processes and impose penalties accordingly. However, it is also important to keep in mind that these pertain to a very small portion of the clergy. The overwhelming majority of priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated to the sacred ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity, who invest their entire existence in the fulfillment of their vocation and mission, often through great personal sacrifice, but always with an authentic love towards Jesus Christ, the Church and the people, in solidarity with the poor and the suffering. It is for this reason that the Church is proud of her priests wherever they may be found.

Days of Recollection and Spiritual Exercises

May this year be an occasion for a period of intense appreciation of the priestly identity, of the theology of the Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and in society. This will require opportunities for study, days of recollection, spiritual exercises reflecting on the Priesthood, conferences and theological seminars in our ecclesiastical faculties, scientific research and respective publications.

The Eucharist: Heart of Priestly Spirituality

The Holy Father, in announcing the Year in his allocution on the 16th March last to the Congregation for the Clergy during its Plenary Assembly, said that with this special year it is intended "to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends". For this reason it must be, in a very special way, a year of prayer by priests, with priests and for priests, a year for the renewal of the spirituality of the presbyterate and of each priest. The Eucharist is, in this perspective, at the heart of priestly spirituality. Thus Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests and the spiritual motherhood of religious women, consecrated and lay women towards priests, as previously proposed some time ago by the Congregation for the Clergy, could be further developed and would certainly bear the fruit of sanctification.

Priests in Poverty and Hardship

May it also be a year in which the concrete circumstances and the material sustenance of the clergy will be considered, since they live, at times, in situations of great poverty and hardship in many parts of the world.

Priestly Communion and Friendship

May it be a year as well of religious and of public celebration which will bring the people -- the local Catholic community -- to pray, to reflect, to celebrate, and justly to give honor to their priests. In the ecclesial community a celebration is a very cordial event which expresses and nourishes Christian joy, a joy which springs from the certainty that God loves us and celebrates with us. May it therefore be an opportunity to develop the communion and friendship between priests and the communities entrusted to their care.

Local Churches

Many other aspects and initiatives could be mentioned that could enrich the Year for Priests, but here the faithful ingenuity of the local churches is called for. Thus, it would be good for every Dioceses and each parish and local community to establish, at the earliest opportunity, an effective program for this special year. Clearly it would be important to begin the Year with some notable event. The local Churches are invited on the 19th June next, the same day on which the Holy Father will inaugurate the Year for Priests in Rome, to participate in the opening of the Year, ideally by some particular liturgical act and festivity. Let those who are able most surely come to Rome for the inauguration, to manifest their own participation in this happy initiative of the Pope.

God will undoubtedly bless with great love this undertaking; and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Clergy, will pray for each of you, dear priests.

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect, Congregation for the Clergy

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A Missionary-Monk

The Year of the Priest will begin on Friday, June 19th, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It may well spark a greater interest in models of priestly holiness. Today, for example, is the dies natalis of Father Leopoldo Pastori (1939-1996), an Italian missionary monk in Guinea-Bissau.

The Will of the Father

Born in Lodi, Italy on February 9, 1939, Leopoldo entered the PIME Fathers (Pontifical Institute for the Foreign Missions) in September 1957. On May 1, 1961, he received the clerical habit. In his photo album of pictures taken that day, Leopoldo wrote:

Come Gesù giovinetto, mi porto all' altare del Padre e con Gesù offro la mia giovinezza per fare la volontà del Padre. Non c'è cosa più bella al mondo che fare sempre e ovunque la volontà di Dio: fonte di pace e di consolazione.

"Like the young lad Jesus, I bring myself to the altar of the Father and with Jesus I offer my youth to do the will of the Father. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than always and everywhere to do the will of God: the wellspring of peace and of consolation."

To Love the Madonna and Make Her Loved

Maria! Ecco un tesoro che vengo a scoprire continuamente. La mia vestizione è stata tanto bella e felice perché mi ero preparato con la Madonna. Maria ! Se ho un desiderio forte, è quello di amare tanto e di far amare la Madonna.

"Mary! Behold a treasure that I am coming to discover continually. My vestition was so beautiful and happy because I prepared myself with the Madonna. Mary! If I have one strong desire it is this one: to love the Madonna so much, and to make her loved."

Changing Times

Leopoldo was ordained a priest on June 29, 1969. Instead of being sent straightaway to the foreign missions, he was assigned to the PIME Minor Seminary built by Blessed John XXIII in Sotto Il Monte. The ideological climate was marked by May 1968. A popular slogan among confused young clerics was, "Obedience is no longer a virtue." Leopoldo remained constant, faithful to his life of prayer and to the ascetical disciplines he had chosen for himself.

To the Missions

In 1972, Father Leopoldo went for the first time to visit the PIME missions in Guinea-Bissau. In 1974, at thirty-five years of age, he was assigned to those same missions. To his friends he wrote, "I am leaving in the name of Jesus and for love of Him; only in this why can I feel that my life is right." He devotes himself to the poor, visits the sick, and forms a local orchestra for young people. His afternoons are given to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and to reading. Father Leopoldo wrote:

Il lavoro è importantissimo, l'impegno e le attività importantissimi, necessari, ma se non c'è un'unione insistente, profonda e frequente con Gesù, soprattutto nell'Eucarestia, tutto il resto non serve a niente, finisce solo in una delusione, in mani vuote, nel cercare continuamente di seminare ma seminare a vuoto.

"Work is most important, duties and activity are most important and necessary, but if there is not an insistant, profound, and frequent union with Jesus, above all in the Eucharist, all the rest is worth nothing, it ends only in a delusion, in empty hands, trying continually to sow the seed, but sowing in a void."

Illness

In July 1977 Father Leopoldo is found to be suffering from hepatitis. He is hospitalized in the international clinic in Dakar. He accepts the solitude of his hospitalization, prays constantly, and seeks union with Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. He goes to the Benedictines in Cap-des-Biches for a month of convalescence. In March 1978 he returns to Italy to serve as rector of the seminary at Sotto Il Monte. He remains there until 1996.

Prego sempre che il Signore, dopo questo forzato "esilio", mi dia la grazia di ritornare ancora in Guinea. Il vescovo mi aspetta.

"I am always praying that the Lord, after this forced exile, will give me the grace to return again to Guinea. The bishop is waiting for me."

Silence

On September 23, 1990, Father Leopoldo receives his missionary crucifix for the second time. He returns to Guinea on December 16, 1990. He will remain there for five and a half years: the most fruitful years of his life.

Sto acclimatandomi bene in questa nuova casa, con una bellissima chiesa. Mi trovo bene. Per ora faccio la vita del missionario-monaco, attorniato da un silenzio profondo, cadenzato dal richiamo di tanti uccelli, cicale, grilli, e dai canti notturni dei villaggi vicini. . . . A poco a poco mi inserisco nel lavoro, che è soprattutto di animazione spirituale, approfondimento dei contenuti missionari alla gente.

"I am acclimatizing myself well in this new house with a most beautiful church. I am well here. For the moment I am leading the life of a missionary-monk, surrounded by a profound silence, marked by the calls of so many birds, cicadas, crickets, and by the nocturnal songs of the villages . . . . Little by little I insert myself into the work: mostly spiritual direction, the deepening of the missionary message to the people."

Father Leopoldo has deep spiritual affinities with Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, and with Blessed Charles de Jésus (de Foucauld), whom he calls, quoting Pope Paul VI, "one of the greatest missionaries of the century."

Five Hours of Prayer Daily

Prayer holds the first place in Father Leopoldo's missionary life:

Sto cercando di vivere il mio ideale: essere missionario-contemplativo per annunziare Cristo in modo credibile ("Redemptoris Missio", n. 91). Do molto tempo alla preghiera davanti all'Eucarestia, almeno cinque ore al giorno, come facevano i primi missionari del Pime. E sto provando, dato che Gesù vuole crescere e io diminuire, che la preghiera sta diventando continua, di giorno e, quando mi sveglio, di notte!

"I am seeking to live my ideal: to be a missionary-contemplative so as to announce Christ in a credible manner ("Redemptoris Missio," n. 91). I give much time to prayer before the Eucharist, at least five hours a day, as did the first PIME missionaries. And I am experiencing, given that Jesus wants to increase and wants me to decrease, that prayer is becoming continual, by day, and when I wake up, by night."

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And, for Mother's Day, another touching excerpt from E. Boyd Barrett's autobiographical A Shepherd Without Sheep:

In spite of his rebellion, his confusion of mind, his human faults, he [the renegade priest] clings to his faith and his hope in Mary. He trusts that she will somehow save him. And when moments of sorrow strike, and he sheds bitter tears over his fate, it is at the feet of his little Mother that he sheds those tears.
For seventy years I have known and loved Mary, though there was a long dark period, a score of years, when my love was weak and no spark at all in it. Many a million times I've asked Mary to help me in my last hour, and it is no small comfort to me to know, for certain, that she will do just that.
Back where memory begins, I see myself lighting an old-fashioned oil lamp before her statue in my little bedroom. It was a sweet statue of her and I knelt there as often as the thrush sings. And sometimes I had flowers for her, that my mother gave me from her garden; heliotrope, or geraniums, or red passionflower, or maybe a bright yellow rose.
Now, at the end of the day, I have another little statue in my room, the Immaculate of Lourdes. There are roses before it, almost all the year round, the loveliest roses, fresh and fair, for they never fail me on this hill. Now, with a kind of trusting pride, I can say to my little Mother: "Listen, Lady! I'm the old man who gives you flowers!"

Has No One Condemned You?

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In A Shepherd Without Sheep (Bruce Publishing, 1956), E. Boyd Barrett, who left the priesthood in stormy circumstances and, after twenty years, was reconciled, and so finished out his life in repentance and peace, writes:

I have no chapel; no altar at which to offer the holiest sacrifice; no pulpit from which to preach. There is no confessional where penitents await counsel and absolution from my lips; no baptismal font where, by the sacrament of regeneration, I may give to the Eternal Father another child. I am a priest, Christ's shepherd, but I have no sheep.
But though I have no sheep, the Prince of Shepherds is my Friend. He needs me; He is my Divine Companion. It is His will that I should be as I am. "Christ is in me," and for me that is enough.
There are others like me, in every country throughout the world, "silenced priests" living hidden lives; hidden from the world; hidden, as far as may be, in Christ. Some are my good friends. . . .
Prayers going up to heaven, in every increasing volume for faithless priests are wondrously fruitful. Many "stray shepherds" heed the call of Christ, who searches for them in the mist. When they see Him again their hearts are moved and they come back. Then there occurs what Luke (2:20) mystically foretold: "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God."

The Appropriate Response

What is the appropriate response to the media's sensationalization and amplification of the weaknesses of certain priests? In our response there should be nothing harsh, nothing that condemns, nothing swollen with the self-righteousness indignation that was "the leaven of the Pharisees" (Mt 16:6). "Let him who is without sin," says the Lord Jesus, "be the first to cast a stone at him" (Jn 8:7). Read all of John 8: 1-11, and in place of the woman caught in adultery, put the priest caught in sin.

A Resolution

If every time one heard of the moral failing of a priest, one resolved on the spot to pray and fast for him, what miracles of grace might occur? "And when He entered the house, His disciples asked Him privately, 'Why could we not cast it [the unclean spirit] out?' And He said to them, 'This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting'" (Mk 9:28-29).

If every time one heard of the moral failing of a priest, one offered a Rosary for him, or spent an hour before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, or fasted, or gave alms, or even "adopted" him spiritually by offering for him one's weaknesses, sufferings, and losses,
what graces might touch his heart?

Lord, Thou Knowest All Things

The Heart of Jesus is full of tender compassion for sinners; for His priests, His chosen and privileged friends, there is nothing He will not do to lift them when they fall, to bind up their wounds, and to restore them to wholeness. He waits for them to say but one thing, the very thing that Peter said, making reparation for his triple denial: "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee."

Where the world sees scandal, the friend of the Lamb sees an opportunity for reparation, a call to love, a summons to intercession through the Most Pure Heart of Mary. The Heart of Jesus will do the rest.

I will cure their wounds

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I am reading the Italian translation of Sacerdotes di Cristo, texts of Conchita Cabrera de Armida, selected and presented with a theological introduction by Juan Gutiérrez González, MSpS, Citta Nuova, 2008. The English translation is my own.

In fact, in my priests the Father sees Me, the only Priest worthy of offering Himself in purity, of immolating Himself efficaciously, of glorifying God as God.
Is not then this predilection of love a most tender act of the will of the Father for the good of the priests who will have represented Me and who will represent Me until the end of the ages?
What esteem do they show for their own vocation, those priests who are shallow, worldly, lukewarm and sinful in spite of their holy, admirable, and incomparable priestly vocation?
All the same there is yet time so that many of them, who until now have remained deaf to the voice of grace, might turn back on their steps, drawn by my incomparable tenderness and by my Heart, which is that of a Saviour, and come to Me. I, with my affection, will cure their wounds; with my power I will free them from the enemy, and give them relief in all their sufferings.

Our Lord to Conchita Cabrera de Armida

When a Priest Goes Astray

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Shepherds in the Mist

Not very long ago I finished reading a soul-stirring book: Shepherds in the Mist, by E. Boyd Barrett. Barrett, a Jesuit priest who went astray and then found his way back to the Church, published the odyssey of his own conversion in 1949. In telling the story of his own struggle, Father Barrett, had but one purpose: to move souls to pray for priests, especially for fallen priests, for priests wounded in spiritual combat, and for priests momentarily blinded by passion. In the Preface to his book, Father Barrett writes:

I know that you, fellow Catholics, have charity in your hearts for priests in trouble. I know that you pray for them. But you will want to know, among other things, if there is any way in which you can help them, over and above praying for them. And you will want to be encouraged to pray even more than you are praying and to sacrifice yourselves even more than you are doing for their sakes.
But, besides thinking of you, fellow Catholics of good standing, I am also thinking of our Shepherds in the mist. Some of them will read this book. There are things I want to tell them. Above all, I want to disabuse them of their fear that you have feelings of dislike and resentment against them. I want to tell them that the one burning thought in your minds is how to induce them to come home. I want to reassure them of the fact that it is not hard to come home -- to reassure them that, however rugged his exterior may seem, Peter is kind and gentle with the kindliness and gentleness of Christ.
When a son runs away from home, his mother's one thought is how to get him back again. She worries over his loneliness and sufferings. It is of the dangers that he is in that she thinks, and of the hardships he is undergoing -- not of the faults he has committed. She does not remember the wrong her son has done her by running away; but she dreams of the joy it will be for her when he returns.

Peace and Rest on the Heart of Christ

In 1948 when Father Barrett wrote his book, he was particularly concerned with the plight of priests who, like himself, left the Church and went into the night searching for happiness, wholeness, and love. After an initial period of euphoric relief, most found a gnawing discontent instead of happiness. Further fragmentation instead of wholeness. Loneliness instead of love. The world proved deceiving and its promises empty. Some, like Father Barrett, returned to full sacramental life in the Church, and found peace of heart and rest on the Heart of Christ.

In the Shadows

The past forty years have seen another kind of clerical misery: that of the priest who, while remaining in the Church and keeping up a modicum of outward conformity to what is expected of him, withdraws into a parallel universe of shadows and secrecy. Addictions and vices of all sorts flourish under cover of darkness. The heart of such a priest is painfully divided; the fissure opened by the metastatizing roots of vice exposes the heart to every kind of spiritual infection.

The Drama of Father X

The experience of Father X may help readers to understand how a priest, in spite of all the graces freely offered him, can lose his way.

Off to a Bad Start

Father X was ordained less than ten years at the time of his fall from grace. Intelligent, winning, handsome, and sincere in his youthful desire for holiness, he was "cultivated" by the superior of the religious community who recognized his gifts. He joined the community and, being the superior's protégé, enjoyed a continuous stream of privileges, gifts, opportunities, and promotions.

Late Glittering Nights

A popular guest at ecclesiastical dinner parties and worldly social engagements, Father X enjoyed the compliments and flattery lavished on him wherever he went. Late glittering nights, fine eating and drinking, and stimulating but superficial conversation began to take their toll on his relationship with God. He became addicted to compliments and flattery, and lost his need for silent adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He began excusing himself from community prayer, from community meals, and community recreation.

Satiety and Emptiness

Admirers showered him with gifts of all sorts. His room became elegantly comfortable; he acquired a taste for the costly and the chic. His magnetism, popularity, and good looks attracted to his religious community the interest of the powerful and the contributions of the wealthy. While his superior looked on approvingly, Father's life became a whirlwind as he rushed from one social or cultural event to another. Increasingly, between events, he began to experience moments of emptiness and solitude. When an illicit relationship presented itself, offering a new and higher dose of flattery, and a certain measure of relief from loneliness, Father X fell into it.

The Crash

After a few months the other party in the relationship demanded a measure of commitment that Father X was incapable of giving. Hurt and disappointed, she went public with her anger. As a result of her disclosures, Father X was ordered to withdraw from public ministry and provided with "professional" help. The underlying spiritual crisis was not, however, addressed. Without a humble surrender to the grace of Christ and to the maternal mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary how will Father X be able to reactivate the sacramental grace of his priestly ordination, and so salvage his vocation?

What Could Have Been

Looking at Father X's story one can see the real downward spiral began when he stopped praying. Had Father X gone to Confession weekly, remained faithful to daily Mass, to the Divine Office, to Eucharistic adoration, the rosary, lectio divina, and the examination of his conscience, he could have stopped the impending spiritual disaster. Had his superior not been in complicity with his worldly successes, and exercised the vigilance of a true spiritual father, he could have been spared the wreckage of his vocation. Had his brethren, instead of whispering about his absences from community exercises and gossiping about his late nights out, gone to him offering wise counsel and support, he could have been pulled back from the edge of the miry pit. Had Father X, when confronted with the temptation of an illicit relationship, gone to a spiritual father and revealed his situation with humility and complete transparency, he would have found "grace in time of need" and much pain would have spared the other party.

Father X's issues were, I think, more spiritual than affective or psychological. Will he be able to turn his life around and return to the love he had at first? This depends, I think, not only on Father X's cooperation with the unfailing grace of Christ, but also on the supplication and reparation of those who, participating in the merciful advocacy of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests, accept to abide before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus for the sake of all priests, and especially for the most needy and broken among them.

Disclaimer: Father X, even if his story resembles that of hundreds of priests, is no one priest in particular. His story is a fictional composite based on the convergence of the experiences of priests of entirely different times, places, and backgrounds.

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Canon 904: Remembering always that in the mystery of the eucharistic sacrifice the work of redemption is exercised continually, priests are to celebrate frequently; indeed, daily celebration is recommended earnestly since, even if the faithful cannot be present, it is the act of Christ and the Church in which priests fulfill their principal function.

The Work of God

A certain secular model of professionalism is pernicious when applied to the priesthood. The priesthood is a life, not a profession, and certainly not a career. While a weekly "day off" and an annual vacation are legitimate and healthy variations in the ordinary pursuits of priestly life, they do not dispense a priest from the "Work of God" -- the Divine Office -- into which the Church sets the daily offering of the Holy Sacrifice.

Desiring With A Holy Desire

The daily celebration of Holy Mass takes its place, in effect, within the living context of the daily Liturgy of the Hours to which every priest is bound (Can. 276 § 3); Canon Law also earnestly recommends daily celebration of Holy Mass (Can. 904). The priest who is faithful to the Divine Office, even on his "day off" or while on holiday, will desire with desire to complete and crown the daily round of praise with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, even if he must celebrate without the presence of the faithful. Thus will the word of Our Lord come to burn like a fire in the heart of the priest: " With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you, before I suffer" (Lk 22:15).

Trends

Certain trends holding sway over the past forty years have contributed in no small measure to a loss of attachment, among certain priests, to the daily celebration of Holy Mass. What theological suppositions and liturgical shifts of emphasis have shaped these trends or contributed to their entrenchment?

Sacrifice Offered to God

First of all, there has been a general weakening of adhesion to the essential character of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice offered to God in view of four ends: adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and supplication. This theological loss of perspective obviously goes hand in hand with the horizontalization of the priesthood to the detriment of its essential vertical (and mediatory) dimension. The priest, before being a man for others, is a man for God, a man who places himself upon the altar of the Holy Sacrifice day after day, offering himself through Christ and with Him as one victim (hostia) to the glory of the Father, out of love for the Spouse of Christ, the Church.

To the Altar

This reality is impressed upon the priest himself, and expressed to the faithful, when he alone ascends the altar, acting in the person of Christ the Head, with the body of the Church behind him, there to face God "on behalf of all and for all" (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

Facing God vs. Facing the People

When, in fact, the trend of Mass "facing the people" came to be perceived as normative, a loss of awareness of the latreutic character of the Mass ensued. While addressing the Father in the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest found himself facing the people and, in some instances, was even led to believe that he should actively look at them. In most instances, this contributed, at least subjectively, to a loss of recollection, focus, and singlehearted devotion on the part of the priest. The physical change of direction led insidiously and almost imperceptibly to to a theological change of direction. Even without formulating it consciously, a question began to hang in the very air of the sanctuary: "Is the Mass a sacrifice offered to God or a service offered to the people?" A flashback to the Protestant Reformation.

I would argue, then, that the habit of celebrating "versus populum" has contributed significantly to the disaffection of many priests for the so-called "private Mass," or celebration of Holy Mass without an assembly. This is not the only factor to be considered. Although the Ordo Missae of Pope Paul VI specifically provides for celebration without an assembly, certain elements in it de-emphasize the theocentric direction of the Mass, actual communion with the intercession of the Mother of God and of the saints, and the benefits derived from the Holy Sacrifice for both the living and the dead.

The Rites Themselves

First among these elements would be the curious structure of the Introductory Rites with the salutation of the people being given before the Rite of Penitence, Kyrie, and Gloria, that is, before the Godward direction of the celebration has been unambiguously established. In no traditional Catholic or Orthodox liturgy does the celebration open with the salutation of the people followed straightaway by a monitio addressed to them. This is, I would suggest, the first "structural defect" in the Mass of Pope Paul VI. It is one that could, however, be remedied quite easily.

In the Liturgy of Saint Gregory, the Godward movement set in motion by the Introit and by the priest's private declaration at the foot of the altar, "I will go unto the altar of God," affects the entire theological direction and spiritual climate of the celebration. The place of the salutation after the Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria, and before the Collect, has about it a "rightness" that signifies and fosters the over-arching Godward direction of the celebration even before the Liturgy of the Word.

More could be said on the subject. For today I must limit myself to what I have written thus far. The commitment of priests to the daily celebration of Holy Mass, even on days off and while traveling, will be, I think, all of a piece with the ongoing reform of the reform. What must be recovered above all is a new appreciation for the latreutic character of the Holy Sacrifice. Readers comfortable with Italian will also want to read Cantuale Antonianum on this subject. I welcome comments.

Pray much and pray well

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For the Year of the Priest


I just translated (rather quickly) a section of the splendid homily given yesterday by Pope Benedict XVI at the Ordination to the Priesthood of nineteen deacons in Saint Peter's Basilica. In my own service to my brother priests, I find that a recurring question is how best a priest can go about praying . . . praying in such a way that his life is prayer, and that prayer is his life. This is precisely the question that the Holy Father addressed yesterday. My own comments follow each section. I dedicate this little entry to my dear brother and son in Christ, Father B.J.

Prayer and Priestly Service
Here I would like to touch upon a point that is particularly close to my heart: prayer and its link to service. We saw that to be ordained priests means to enter, in a sacramental and existential way into the prayer of Christ for "His own." Out of this, for us priests, flows a particular vocation to prayer, in a strongly Christocentric sense: we are called, that is, to "abide" in Christ -- as the Evangelist John loved to repeat (cf. Jn 1, 35-39; 15, 4-10) -- and this is realized especially in prayer. Our ministry is totally bound up with this "abiding", which equals praying, and from this derives its efficacy.

There is an extraordinary density in this excerpt. First of all, the Holy Father confesses that the relationship of prayer to service (diakonìa) is particularly close to his own heart. Then, like the Johannine eagle, he rises to the heights of the mystery of priestly prayer; it is nothing other than an ongoing entrance -- or "passing into" -- the prayer of Christ for His own, for all whom the Father has given Him. "I came," He says, "that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

Pope Benedict XVI then affirms that priests have a particular vocation to prayer. "Wait just a minute," I can hear some of my brother priests saying, "I thought that monks had a particular vocation to prayer. My vocation is to ministry." (I've heard this old slogan before.) From the beginning of his pontificate Pope Benedict has sought to close the artificial gap between monastic spirituality and ministerial spirituality. The tired slogan, "We are not monks" has been used to justify slacking off in a multitude of ways. The Curé of Ars was not a monk -- he was the quintessential parish priest -- and yet his life surpassed in prayer and in austerity that of the most observant monks in their cloisters.

Let's allow the Holy Father to address the issue. The priest, before being sent forth to minister, is called to abide in Christ. Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his hymn for Lauds of Corpus Christi, has us sing:

Verbum supernum prodiens,
Nec Patris linquens dexteram,
Ad opus suum exiens,
Venit ad vitæ vesperam.

The heavenly Word proceeding forth,
Yet leaving not his Father's right side,
And going to His work on Earth,
Has reached at length life's eventide.


Just as Christ, on His mission of salvation, came into this world from the bosom of His Father, without leaving the Father's side, so too does the priest go forth on His mission from the Side of Christ, and without leaving the Side of Christ or, if you will, the tabernacle of His Sacred Heart. The priest is called to "abide" in ceaseless prayer, to go forth enveloped in prayer and to bring the sweet fragrance of his prayer wherever he goes. "But thanks be to God," says the Apostle, "who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Cor 2, 14-15).

The Priest's Daily Rule of Prayer
In such a perspective we must think of the various forms of the prayer of a priest, first of all daily Holy Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer, and constitutes the center and wellspring from which all the forms receive their "lifeblood": the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, lectio divina, the Holy Rosary, and meditation. All these expressions of prayer have their centre in the Eucharist, and together bring about in the day of the priest and in all his life the fulfillment of the word of Jesus: "I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (Jn 10, 14-15).

Concretely, how does a priest go about abiding in Christ, remaining in His Heart, just as He abides in the bosom of the Father? By persevering in prayer. "Pray constantly," says Saint Paul (1 Th 5,17). The Holy Father presents priests with a Rule of Prayer: note well that this represents the daily minimum requirement. If you are too busy to do this, you are simply too busy. If you are too tired to do this, you are simply too tired. If you have no interest in doing this, your vocation is in danger and you are cheating your people of the "fragrance of Christ" that only a priest who prays always can spread.

What is Father Everypriest's daily Rule of Prayer according to Pope Benedict XVI? Let's consider the elements of the Rule in the order in which the Holy Father presents them.

1) Daily Holy Mass. Daily. Not 6 days week, not 5, or 4 days a week, but daily. The liturgical cycle in its hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms is given us precisely to facilitate our "abiding" in Christ hour by hour, day by day, week by week, and year after year. Integral to the liturgical cycle is daily Holy Mass. The Eucharistic Sacrifice sends the divine lifeblood coursing through one's spiritual organism. Without daily Mass, the priest will succumb to spiritual anemia.

2) The Liturgy of the Hours. The Hours give rhythm and grace to daily life. They are a school of discipline (discipleship), a supernatural system of irrigation channeling grace into every moment of the day, a privileged way of offering thanks in communion with all who, "in heaven, on earth, and under the earth," confess the Name of Jesus and bend the knee before Him. A priest who loves the Divine Office will enjoy an interior life that is sane, and sound, and wholly ecclesial. Fidelity to the Divine Office refines the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, sharpens one's discernment, and imparts to everything the priest does a certain Eucharistic and doxological quality.

3) Eucharistic Adoration. Are you surprised? Eucharistic adoration has known a kind of springtime since The Year of the Eucharist (2004-2005) that was also the year of the death of Pope John Paul II and of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Two Americans known for loving their brother priests and ministering to them tirelessly -- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Father Gerald Fitzgerald of the Holy Spirit -- insisted on a daily hour before the Blessed Sacrament as a sine qua non of priestly spirituality. The priest who adores the Blessed Sacrament exposes his weaknesses and wounds to the healing radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. Moreover, he abides before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus as the representative of his people: of the sick, the poor, the bereaved, and of those locked in spiritual combat. The priest who looks to the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, and draws near to His Open Heart in the Sacrament of the Altar, will, just as the psalm says, be radiant, and he will not be put to shame.

4) Lectio Divina. Again -- a monastic thing? No, a Catholic thing. The quality of a priest's preaching is directly proportionate to his commitment to lectio divina. Neglect of lectio divina leads to mediocre preaching. Opening the Scriptures is like opening the tabernacle: therein the priest finds the "hidden manna" his soul craves. The four steps of lectio divina can be accommodated to any length of time: 1) lectio, i.e. the Word heard; 2) meditatio, i.e. the Word repeated; 3) oratio, i.e. the Word prayed; 4) contemplatio; i.e. the indwelling Word. Lectio divina cannot be occasional; it is not a random pursuit. Learn to say, "I am not available." Get over feeling guilty about taking time for God!

5) Holy Rosary. Yes, the daily Rosary. It's a spiritual lifeline that has saved many a priest from spiritual shipwreck. The brilliant and holy exegete and founder of the École biblique in Jerusalem, Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange, was observed praying fifteen mysteries of the Rosary each day, and asked, "Why, Father, do you, a great exegete, need to pray the Rosary?" "Because, " he answered, "it decapitates pride." I would add that not only does the Rosary decapitate pride; it decapitates each of the seven capital sins: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. With the passing of the years I have come to appreciate the profound wisdom of an old Dominican priest to whom I used to make my confession years ago. Invariably, after confessing my miseries, Father would ask, "Do you say the Rosary, son?" And invariably I would reply, "Yes, Father." And then he would say, "Aye, then you'll be alright." A priest who prays the Rosary daily will be alright and, almost imperceptibly, will grow in purity and humility.

6) Meditation. Meditation can mean many things, even within our Catholic tradition. It is integral to the prayerful celebration of Holy Mass and the Hours. "it nourishes Eucharistic adoration. It is the second "moment" of lectio divina. It is the soul of the Rosary. In my own experience, meditation is related to "remembering the things the Lord has done." Saint Gertrude the Great, a model of the mystical life grounded in the liturgy, used to say, "A grace remembered is a grace renewed." Understood in this sense, meditation, by recalling the mercies of the Lord in the past, infuses the present with hope, and allows the priest to go forward with a holy boldness.

Is it necessary to set a period of time apart for meditation as such? That depends on whom you ask. The Carmelite, Jesuit and Sulpician traditions would hold fast to some form of meditation as a daily exercise. The monastic tradition has, on the whole, taken a more supple approach to meditation. It is a daily practice, but one diffused in every form of prayer, including the liturgy itself. One learns to pace one's prayer, to pause, to breathe, to linger over a phrase, a word, or an image. Whether one espouses the Ignatian way or the monastic approach, meditation is an integral to every priest's daily Rule of Prayer.

The Priest Who Prays Much and Prays Well
In fact, this "knowing" and "being known" in Christ and, through Him, in the Most Holy Trinity, is nothing other than the truest and deepest reality of prayer. The priest who prays much, and who prays well, progressively becomes expropriated of himself and ever more united to Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Servant of the brethren. In conformity with Him, the priest also "gives his life" for the sheep entrusted to him. No one takes it from him; of himself he offers his life, in union with Christ the Lord, Who has the power to give His life and to take it upon again, not only for Himself, but also for His friends, bound to Him by the Sacrament of Orders. In this way the very life of Christ, Lamb and Shepherd, is communicated to the whole flock, through the mediation of consecrated ministers.

"The priest who prays much and prays well" -- what a marvelous phrase! It sums up the Holy Father's teaching on the subject. What is the fruit of praying much and praying well? A progressive, and I would add almost imperceptible, death to self and rising to newness of life in Christ Jesus, for the sake of His Spouse, the Church. The priest who prays much and prays well will, sooner or later, find himself drawn into the mystery of Christ Priest and Victim. He will learn to stand at the altar not only as the one who offers the Sacrifice, but as the one who is sacrificed, becoming one with the immolated Lamb. This is the secret of a fruitful priesthood. "Give your blood," said one of the Desert Fathers, "and receive the Spirit." Through the victimhood of the priest, the entire Body is quickened and sanctified. "And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth" (Jn 17, 19).


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Tomorrow, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In his message for this occasion Pope Benedict XVI writes:

The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: "Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really "have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 26) if it is enlivened by prayer.

The following prayer, presented both in traditional and contemporary language, is a response to the Holy Father's pressing invitation to prayer for vocations. Although written for the Spiritual Mothers of Priests of my own diocese of Tulsa, I am happy to make it available to all who might wish to use it. Pastors might want to print it in the parish bulletin for The Year of the Priest.

A Prayer for Vocations

Traditional Language

Lord Jesus Christ,
Who callest to Thy service whomsoever Thou wilt,
let the light of Thy Face and the tenderness of Thy Heart
rest upon the young men of our own parishes and families.
Grant that those whom Thou hast chosen from among us
may hear Thy invitation and respond to Thy call
with generosity and courage.
For our part, we are resolved
to welcome and support priestly vocations in our midst
with gratitude, humility, and joy.
We promise to pray tirelessly
for those whom Thou hast set apart to preach Thy Word,
to offer Thy Sacrifice, and to nourish, heal, and comfort our souls.
Confident that Thou hast already heard our prayer,
we entrust the future priests among us
to the Immaculate Heart of Thy Virgin Mother
that, for each one, she may be a guiding star in the night
and, day by day, a perpetual help.
Amen.

Contemporary Language

Lord Jesus Christ,
Who call to Your service whomsoever You will,
let the light of Your Face and the tenderness of Your Heart
rest upon the young men of our own parishes and families.
Grant that those whom You have chosen from among us
may hear Your invitation and respond to Your call
with generosity and courage.
For our part, we are resolved
to welcome and support priestly vocations in our midst
with gratitude, humility, and joy.
We promise to pray tirelessly
for those whom You have set apart to preach Your Word,
to offer Your Sacrifice, and to nourish, heal, and comfort our souls.
Confident that You have already heard our prayer,
we entrust the future priests among us
to the Immaculate Heart of Your Virgin Mother
that, for each one, she may be a guiding star in the night
and, day by day, a perpetual help.
Amen.

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Saint Catherine of Siena holds a place of singular honour among the heavenly friends and models of the Spiritual Mothers of Priests. In this passage from The Dialogue, after describing in rather vivid detail the three pillars of vice found among priests -- impurity, bloated pride, and greed -- the Eternal Father calls Saint Catherine and, with her, other souls to offer Him sorrowful and loving desires for their purification and sanctification.

I Would Conquer Them by the Strength of My Mercy
O sweetest daughter! What keeps the ground from swallowing up such ministers? What keeps My power from turning them into solid immobile statues before all the people to confound them? My mercy. I restrain Myself, that is I restrain My divine justice with mercy in an effort to conquer them by the strength of mercy. But they, obstinate demons that they are, neither see nor recognize My mercy. . . .
Serve Christ By Praying for His Priests
I have told you all this to give you more reason for bitter weeping over their blindness, over seeing them damned, and to give you a deeper knowledge of My mercy. In this mercy you can find trust and great security, offering to Me these ministers of holy Church and the whole world, and begging Me to be merciful to them. The more you offer Me sorrowful and loving desires for them, the more you will prove your love for Me. For the service neither you nor my other servants can do for Me you ought to do for them instead. Then I will let myself be constrained by the longing and tears and prayers of my servants, and will be merciful to My Bride by reforming her with good and holy shepherds.

The Bride They Hold

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The bride they hold ought to be the breviary, and the books of Holy Scripture their children. There they should take their pleasure in sharing instruction with their neighbors and in finding a holy life for themselves.
--The Eternal Father to Saint Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue

A Sunday Adoration

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I adore Thee who art present here before me.
I adore Thee with all the love of my heart.
I adore Thee humbly.
I adore Thee in faith.
I adore Thee because Thou art God ever worthy of all adoration,
and because Thou hast called me to adore Thee
in this the Sacrament of Thy Redeeming Love.

Here is Thy Blessed Passion,
here Thy immolated Flesh,
here Thy Precious Blood,
here Thy holy and glorious wounds,
here Thy pierced side,
here Thy Sacred Heart all-burning with love,
here Thy merciful priesthood exercised eternally on behalf of poor sinners,
here Thy adorable Face, so humiliated and disfigured in Thy bitter sufferings,
and now so ineffably radiant and divinely beautiful.
All of this I adore
so often as I bow low before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

I adore Thee to thank Thee, insofar as I am able,
for all the benefits that flow from this Most Holy Sacrament
and, in particular, for those graces of purity, healing, and holiness
that Thou reservest here for Thy priests.

All that Thou givest Thy priests, beloved Lord Jesus,
redounds to Thy glory, because through them, as through "other selves" of Thine,
Thou dost sanctify and speak to souls.
Through Thy priests Thou prolongest Thy saving sacrifice in the world
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof.
Through thy priests Thou givest pardon to the sinner,
healing to the sick,
hope to the despondent,
and peace to those whose hearts are troubled.
I adore Thee, too, to make reparation
for those who do not adore Thee present in this the Sacrament of Thy Love.
I adore Thee in reparation for those priests of Thine who,
though charged with the Sacred Mysteries of Thy Body and Blood,
have lost all sense of wonder, and rarely remain, freely and willingly,
before Thy Eucharistic Face, close to Thy Eucharistic Heart.

I adore Thee, O Silent Word, in reparation for the noise and lack of reverence
that so often fills Thy sanctuaries,
and for the indifference and neglect that has befallen Thee
in so many tabernacles where Thou art present, but forsaken.

I adore Thee, O Lamb of God, in reparation for my own innumerable sins
and for the sins of my brother priests,
trusting utterly in Thy boundless mercy
and in Thy readiness to restore by Thy grace whatever we have lost by sin.

I adore Thee, Radiant Splendour of the Father, because in approaching Thee,
I approach Thy Father,
and because in adoring Thee
I glorify Thy Father Who so loved the world
that He sent Thee into it,
that by Thy Sacrifice all creation might be cleansed
and all things made new.

I adore Thee, Victim and Priest,
begging Thee to unite me to Thy own oblation.
Draw me to Thy Open Heart by the action of Thy Holy Spirit,
that through Thee, and with Thee, and in Thee,
I may pass already from before this altar
where I contemplate Thee hidden beneath the sacramental veils
into the glory of Thy Kingdom
where the praise of Thy Father in the Holy Spirit is perfect and unending. Amen.

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Father Garrigou-Lagrange, professor of Dogmatic and Mystical Theology at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, wrote this in 1952:

The modern spirit of unbridled pleasure leads inevitably to destruction, as is only too evident from the past two wars. No genuine peace has resulted, precisely because men have refused to see the meaning of divine chastisements and to return to a life which is both naturally upright and Christian. And so the Holy Ghost has implanted in many souls the seeds of genuine and fruitful reparation.
In view of this widespread sterility in human endeavour many would-be reformers are asserting that what is needed is a new approach to the priestly and religious life, in order to adapt them to the needs of the modern era. So far as the religious life is concerned, they are of the opinion that its austerity ought to be mitigated since it is now out of date: time devoted to prayer should be cut down to leave more time for external activities. They would also adapt the priestly life to the spirit of the times: to them it seems no longer suitable for priests to wear a special dress or the tonsure or any outward sign of their priesthood, or even to recite the breviary--perhaps even celibacy has become outmoded--and so on.
But what is required is a careful study of the actions and ambitions of the saints, whether they were founders of Orders or excellent secular priests; and this study must be undertaken not in any mere historical or theoretical frame of mind but from a practical point of view. Neither must we neglect the perennial teaching of the Church and the Popes about the religious life and the priestly life. . . . We will then discover the real changes that have to be made, in a spirit of faith, trust in God, and self-diffusive charity.

The Very Reverend Father R. Garrigou-Langrange, O.P.
(1877-1964)
The Priest in Union with Christ, pp. 67-69
The Newman Press, 1952

Dum pendebat Filius

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Last night He sat with us at table.
His Face illumined the Upper Room
and there, just above the bread and behind the chalice,
beat His Heart of flesh.

John inclined his head;
he closed his eyes like a child secure on his mother's breast,
and listened there to the rhythm of the Love
that, mightily and sweetly, orders the sun and stars;
to the rhythm of the Love that, with every beat,
stretches upward and spirals inward to the Father;
to the rhythm of Love that meets
the pulse of every of other beating heart.

Last night, He lifted up His eyes to heaven
and, all shining with the glory of His priesthood,
said: "Father, the hour has come;
glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee" (Jn 17:1).

And to His disciples He said:
Desiderio desideravi . . .
"With desire I have desired
to eat this pasch with you before I suffer" (Lk 22:15).
"And taking bread, He gave thanks and broke,
and gave to them, saying:
'This is my body which is given for you:
do this for a commemoration of me.'
In like manner, the chalice also, after He had supped, saying:
'This is the chalice, the New Testament in my blood
which shall be shed for you'" (Lk 22:19-20).

In that moment, the Sacrifice was already accomplished.
The wood of the supper table fused with the wood of the Cross.
The Cross became His altar,
and He became the Lamb
fulfilling Abraham's prophecy on the mountain:
"God will provide himself the lamb for a holocaust, my son" (Gen 22:8).

After that moment, there was no going back.
Before it the entire cosmos held its breath
in fearful anticipation.
After it, the angels themselves sighed,
and began to breathe again their breathless praises.

Had He not said, "I came to cast fire upon the earth;
and would that it were already kindled!
I have a baptism to be baptized with;
and how I am constrained until it is accomplished" (Lk 12:49-50).
And they, paying attention to His Face
"as to a lamp shining in a dark place" (2 P 1:19),
remembered that He had said,
"Now is my soul troubled.
And what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify thy name." (Jn 12:27).

"Then a voice came from heaven,
'I have glorified it,
and I will glorify it again.'
The crowd standing by heard it
and said that it had thundered" (Jn 12:28).

But last night in the Cenacle,
with shadows winding about them like a shroud,
there was no thunder, no voice,
but only the immensity of a silence
that He -- and those closest to His Heart --
knew to be the Father's sorrowful assent.
And the betrayer, quick to do
what could no longer be delayed,
slipped out.
"And it was night" (Jn 13:30).

In the garden,
His Face was unseen,
for the eyes of His friends had grown heavy with sleep,
and there was none to meet the gaze of the Sorrowing Son
other than the Sorrowing Father
and the Consoling Angel whom He had sent
to wipe His brow,
to caress His head
and, for a moment, to hold His hand.

This the Sorrowing Mother would have done
had she been there,
but even that was denied her.
The Mother was replaced by an Angel!
The consolation that only she could have given
was given by another,
and yet He knew the difference:
though sweet, it was an angel's, not a mother's.

Weeping like Eve outside the garden,
she consented to the bitter Chalice:
"Be it done unto me as to your Word!"
Chosen for this, she elected to remain
cloistered in the Father's Will,
hidden and veiled in grief,
to drink there of the Chalice of her Son, the Priest,
and savour it, bitter against the palate of her soul,
for nought can taste a child's suffering
like a mother's palate.

Then the Angel too was gone
and the Father hid behind the veil of blood and of tears,
leaving the Son alone with His sorrow
and with His fear,
to proceed with the Sacrifice:
the priest stopping on the way to the altar
with the chalice already in his hands.

"My heart expected reproach and misery;
and I looked for one that would grieve together with me,
and there was none!
I sought for one to comfort me, and I found none" (Ps 68:21-22).

There began the disfiguration of His Face,
the humiliation of Beauty,
the descent deep into abjection.
Blood oozing from His pores
mingled with tears streaming from His eyes,
and blood and tears alike
precious in the Father's eyes,
soaked the earth beneath Him
filling the underworld and all the just there waiting
with a strange anticipation.

There followed the kiss of betrayal;
the grieving over one loved even in his sin;
the denial by Peter, His chosen rock, here soft as lead;
and that desolate liturgy crafted by iniquity:
a round of rude processions
first to Annas, and then from Annas to Caiaphas,
and then from Caiaphas to Pilate.

Pilate, unwittingly, summons the world
to gaze upon His Face:
"So Jesus came forth bearing the crown of thorns,
and the purple garment.
And he said to them, 'Behold the man'" (Jn 19:5).

The Seraphim above, hearing this utterance from far below,
turn their eyes of fire to behold the Man.
For a moment
-- if moments there be in eternity --
the ceaseless beating of their ruby wings is stilled
and all of heaven's eyes
meet the gaze of the Son of Man
and rest riveted to His Holy Face.

Hidden in the crowd is the Mother.
Now from her grief-stricken heart there rises over Pilate's words
that prayer of the psalmist
entrusted to Israel, and to her, the Daughter of Sion,
for this day, and for this hour:
"Behold, O God, our protector;
look upon the Face of your Christ!" (Ps 83:9).

Charged with the terrible timber of that chosen tree,
all the weight of the sin of the ages
presses into His flesh that He, the Lamb, might bear it away:
the crushing cruelty of my sins and yours:
pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth.

Upon Him lies the burden of every betrayal, every refusal,
every indifference, every defilement,
every blasphemy, every hardness of heart.
This is the heaviness that pushes Him three times to the ground,
grinding His Face into the dust,
that dust out of which, in the beginning, He fashioned man,
His masterpiece, His image, His joy.

Having arrived at the place of a skull
"which is called in Hebrew Golgotha" (Jn 19:17),
He stretches out His hands
to receive the nails
that will hold Him on the wood
in the position of one waiting to embrace and to be embraced,
in the gesture of the priest standing before the altar
for the Great Thanksgiving.
His feet are nailed
fixing Him to this one place at the centre of the earth,
that all who approach the Cross
might find Him there,
the One who, immobilized,
can say only, "Come to me."
"Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will refresh you" (Mt 11:27).

Here the Bridegroom finds His marriage bed,
here Priest and Victim find the altar,
here the King of Glory finds His throne.
Here the Oblation is lifted high;
here the covenant is ratified,
here the Spirit is outpoured
in the Breath of His mouth.

Those who approach His pierced feet,
He raises, by a word, to His pierced side,
repeating from the Cross
what He said last night at table:
"Drink of it, all of you;
for this is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28).
The Mother assisting at this,
the solemn once-and-for-all Mass of her Son, her Priest,
follows the bloody liturgy
with the absolute adhesion of her heart
to every gesture, every word.

The Mother sees,
the Mother understands
that the Cross is the new language of new liturgy
for a new temple.
Every alphabet devised by men
is subsumed into the Verbum Crucis,
the language of the Cross, the one language devised by God
to say all that He would say to man
through Christ, His mediating Priest;
the one language
by which man, speaking through the same Eternal Priest,
can say all that he would ever need to say to God.

For this is the Woman given to John,
to every priest of Jesus
to every disciple of Jesus:
that at the school of the Mother of Sorrows,
all might learn the language of the Cross,
the pure liturgy of sacrificial love.

"'Woman, behold thy son!'
After that He said to the disciple:
'Behold thy mother!'
And from that hour the disciple took her to his own" (jn 19: 26-27).

The language of the Cross,
transcending the Hebrew, the Latin, and the Greek
of the inscription affixed to the tree
will be the mother tongue of the Church,
the language of the saints of every age,
the language of the one Holy Sacrifice
offered in every place
from the rising of the sun to its setting (Mal 1:11).

If you would hear the Word of the Cross (1 Cor 1:18),
remain silent before it and adore.
Approach it not with many words,
but with tears,
and with one burning kiss of reparation and of love.
Plant your kiss upon His feet,
press your mouth against that wound
and wait,
wait in the stillness of the Great Sabbath,
to drink in the brightness of Pascha
from the river of life
that even now gushes from His open Heart.

Hoc Est Hodie

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Pope Benedict XVI is a master of mystagogical catechesis. This homily for the Mass of the Lord's Supper probes the words of institution and consecration of the Roman Canon, and introduces us into the richness of their mystical content. The Holy Father teaches that these words of the Sacred Liturgy shape and reshape the Church, beginning with the priest who, at the altar, utters them. Again, thank you, Most Holy Father.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today

"Qui, pridie quam pro nostra omniumque salute pateretur, hoc est hodie, accepit panem": these words we shall pray today in the Canon of the Mass. "Hoc est hodie" -- the Liturgy of Holy Thursday places the word "today" into the text of the prayer, thereby emphasizing the particular dignity of this day. It was "today" that He did this: he gave himself to us for ever in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. This "today" is first and foremost the memorial of that first Paschal event. Yet it is something more. With the Canon, we enter into this "today". Our today comes into contact with his today. He does this now. With the word "today", the Church's Liturgy wants us to give great inner attention to the mystery of this day, to the words in which it is expressed. We therefore seek to listen in a new way to the institution narrative, in the form in which the Church has formulated it, on the basis of Scripture and in contemplation of the Lord himself.

The first thing to strike us is that the institution narrative is not an independent phrase, but it starts with a relative pronoun: qui pridie. This "qui" connects the entire narrative to the preceding section of the prayer, "let it become for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your only Son, our Lord." In this way, the institution narrative is linked to the preceding prayer, to the entire Canon, and it too becomes a prayer. By no means is it merely an interpolated narrative, nor is it a case of an authoritative self-standing text that actually interrupts the prayer. It is a prayer. And only in the course of the prayer is the priestly act of consecration accomplished, which becomes transformation, transubstantiation of our gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Eucharistia

As she prays at this central moment, the Church is fully in tune with the event that took place in the Upper Room, when Jesus' action is described in the words: "gratias agens benedixit -- he gave you thanks and praise". In this expression, the Roman liturgy has made two words out of the one Hebrew word berakha, which is rendered in Greek with the two terms eucharistía and eulogía. The Lord gives thanks. When we thank, we acknowledge that a certain thing is a gift that has come from another. The Lord gives thanks, and in so doing gives back to God the bread, "fruit of the earth and work of human hands", so as to receive it anew from him. Thanksgiving becomes blessing. The offering that we have placed in God's hands returns from him blessed and transformed. The Roman liturgy rightly interprets our praying at this sacred moment by means of the words: "through him, we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice". All this lies hidden within the word "eucharistia".

The Hands and Eyes of the Lord and of His Priests

There is another aspect of the institution narrative cited in the Roman Canon on which we should reflect this evening. The praying Church gazes upon the hands and eyes of the Lord. It is as if she wants to observe him, to perceive the form of his praying and acting in that remarkable hour, she wants to encounter the figure of Jesus even, as it were, through the senses. "He took bread in his sacred hands " Let us look at those hands with which he healed men and women; the hands with which he blessed babies; the hands that he laid upon men; the hands that were nailed to the Cross and that forever bear the stigmata as signs of his readiness to die for love. Now we are commissioned to do what he did: to take bread in our hands so that through the Eucharistic Prayer it will be transformed. At our priestly ordination, our hands were anointed, so that they could become hands of blessing. Let us pray to the Lord that our hands will serve more and more to bring salvation, to bring blessing, to make his goodness present!

With Eyes and Hearts Raised Towards God

From the introduction to the Priestly Prayer of Jesus (cf. Jn 17:1), the Canon takes these words: "Looking up to heaven, to you his almighty Father " The Lord teaches us to raise our eyes, and especially our hearts. He teaches us to fix our gaze upwards, detaching it from the things of this world, to direct ourselves in prayer towards God and thus to raise ourselves. In a hymn from the Liturgy of the Hours, we ask the Lord to guard our eyes, so that they do not take in or cause to enter within us "vanitates" -- vanities, nothings, that which is merely appearance. Let us pray that no evil will enter through our eyes, falsifying and tainting our very being. But we want to pray above all for eyes that see whatever is true, radiant and good; so that they become capable of seeing God's presence in the world. Let us pray that we will look upon the world with eyes of love, with the eyes of Jesus, recognizing our brothers and sisters who need our help, who are awaiting our word and our action.

The Lord Distributes Himself

Having given thanks and praise, the Lord then breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples. Breaking the bread is the act of the father of the family who looks after his children and gives them what they need for life. But it is also the act of hospitality with which the stranger, the guest, is received within the family and is given a share in its life. Dividing (dividere), sharing (condividere) brings about unity. Through sharing, communion is created. In the broken bread, the Lord distributes himself. The gesture of breaking also alludes mysteriously to his death, to the love that extends even to death. He distributes himself, the true "bread for the life of the world" (cf. Jn 6:51). The nourishment that man needs in his deepest self is communion with God himself. Giving thanks and praise, Jesus transforms the bread, he no longer gives earthly bread, but communion with himself. This transformation, though, seeks to be the start of the transformation of the world -- into a world of resurrection, a world of God. Yes, it is about transformation -- of the new man and the new world that find their origin in the bread that is consecrated, transformed, transubstantiated.

Agape in Daily Life

We said that breaking the bread is an act of communion, an act of uniting through sharing. Thus, in the act itself, the intimate nature of the Eucharist is already indicated: it is agape, it is love made corporeal. In the word "agape", the meanings of Eucharist and love intertwine. In Jesus' act of breaking the bread, the love that is shared has attained its most radical form: Jesus allows himself to be broken as living bread. In the bread that is distributed, we recognize the mystery of the grain of wheat that dies, and so bears fruit. We recognize the new multiplication of the loaves, which derives from the dying of the grain of wheat and will continue until the end of the world. At the same time, we see that the Eucharist can never be just a liturgical action. It is complete only if the liturgical agape then becomes love in daily life. In Christian worship, the two things become one -- experiencing the Lord's love in the act of worship and fostering love for one's neighbour. At this hour, we ask the Lord for the grace to learn to live the mystery of the Eucharist ever more deeply, in such a way that the transformation of the world can begin to take place.

The Chalice and the Mystery of Nuptial Love

After the bread, Jesus takes the chalice of wine. The Roman Canon describes the chalice which the Lord gives to his disciples as "praeclarus calix" (the glorious cup), thereby alluding to Psalm 23 [22], the Psalm which speaks of God as the Good Shepherd, the strong Shepherd. There we read these words: "You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes My cup is overflowing" -- calix praeclarus. The Roman Canon interprets this passage from the Psalm as a prophecy that is fulfilled in the Eucharist: yes, the Lord does indeed prepare a banquet for us in the midst of the threats of this world, and he gives us the glorious chalice -- the chalice of great joy, of the true feast, for which we all long -- the chalice filled with the wine of his love. The chalice signifies the wedding-feast: now the "hour" has come to which the wedding-feast of Cana had mysteriously alluded. Yes indeed, the Eucharist is more than a meal, it is a wedding-feast. And this wedding is rooted in God's gift of himself even to death. In the words of Jesus at the Last Supper and in the Church's Canon, the solemn mystery of the wedding is concealed under the expression "novum Testamentum". This chalice is the new Testament -- "the new Covenant in my blood", as Saint Paul presents the words of Jesus over the chalice in today's second reading (1 Cor 11:25). The Roman Canon adds: "of the new and everlasting covenant", in order to express the indissolubility of God's nuptial bond with humanity. The reason why older translations of the Bible do not say Covenant, but Testament, lies in the fact that this is no mere contract between two parties on the same level, but it brings into play the infinite distance between God and man. What we call the new and the ancient Covenant is not an agreement between two equal parties, but simply the gift of God who bequeaths to us his love -- himself. Certainly, through this gift of his love, he transcends all distance and makes us truly his "partners" -- the nuptial mystery of love is accomplished.

Consanguinity With Jesus

In order to understand profoundly what is taking place here, we must pay even greater attention to the words of the Bible and their original meaning. Scholars tell us that in those ancient times of which the histories of Israel's forefathers speak, to "ratify a Covenant" means "to enter with others into a bond based on blood or to welcome the other into one's own covenant fellowship and thus to enter into a communion of mutual rights and obligations". In this way, a real, if non-material form of consanguinity is established. The partners become in some way "brothers of the same flesh and the same bones". The covenant brings about a fellowship that means peace (cf. ThWNT II, 105-137). Can we now form at least an idea of what happened at the hour of the Last Supper, and what has been renewed ever since, whenever we celebrate the Eucharist? God, the living God, establishes a communion of peace with us, or to put it more strongly, he creates "consanguinity" between himself and us. Through the incarnation of Jesus, through the outpouring of his blood, we have been drawn into an utterly real consanguinity with Jesus and thus with God himself. The blood of Jesus is his love, in which divine life and human life have become one. Let us pray to the Lord, that we may come to understand ever more deeply the greatness of this mystery. Let us pray that in our innermost selves its transforming power will increase, so that we truly acquire consanguinity with Jesus, so that we are filled with his peace and grow in communion with one another.

Death and Resurrection

Now, however, a further question arises. In the Upper Room, Christ gives his Body and Blood to the disciples, that is, he gives himself in the totality of his person. But can he do so? He is still physically present in their midst, he is standing in front of them! The answer is: at that hour, Jesus fulfils what he had previously proclaimed in the Good Shepherd discourse: "No one takes my life from me: I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again " (Jn 10:18). No one can take his life from him: he lays it down by his own free decision. At that hour, he anticipates the crucifixion and resurrection. What is later to be fulfilled, as it were, physically in him, he already accomplishes in anticipation, in the freedom of his love. He gives his life and he takes it again in the resurrection, so as to be able to share it for ever.

Make Us Live in Your Today

Lord, today you give us your life, you give us yourself. Enter deeply within us with your love. Make us live in your "today". Make us instruments of your peace! Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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I am in awe of the Holy Father's homilies at the Chrism Mass and at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. These are inspired words. Already he speaks to the heart of every priest. The grace of the Year of the Priest has begun to flow out of his heart. Thank you, Holy Father, thank you.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Sanctify Them in the Truth

In the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion, the Lord prayed for his disciples gathered about him. At the same time he looked ahead to the community of disciples of all centuries, "those who believe in me through their word" (Jn 17:20). In his prayer for the disciples of all time, he saw us too, and he prayed for us. Let us listen to what he asks for the Twelve and for us gathered here: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth" (17:17ff.).

I Consecrate Myself

The Lord asks for our sanctification, sanctification in truth. And he sends us forth to carry on his own mission. But in this prayer there is one word which draws our attention, and appears difficult to understand. Jesus says: "For their sake I consecrate myself". What does this mean? Is Jesus not himself "the Holy One of God", as Peter acknowledged at that decisive moment in Capharnaum (cf. Jn 6:69)? How can he now consecrate -- sanctify -- himself?

Taken From the World and Given to God

To understand this, we need first to clarify what the Bible means by the words "holy" and "consecrate -- sanctify". "Holy" -- this word describes above all God's own nature, his completely unique, divine, way of being, one which is his alone. He alone is the true and authentic Holy One, in the original sense of the word. All other holiness derives from him, is a participation in his way of being. He is purest Light, Truth and untainted Good. To consecrate something or someone means, therefore, to give that thing or person to God as his property, to take it out of the context of what is ours and to insert it in his milieu, so that it no longer belongs to our affairs, but is totally of God. Consecration is thus a taking away from the world and a giving over to the living God. The thing or person no longer belongs to us, or even to itself, but is immersed in God. Such a giving up of something in order to give it over to God, we also call a sacrifice: this thing will no longer be my property, but his property.

I Sacrifice Myself: Priest and Victim

In the Old Testament, the giving over of a person to God, his "sanctification", is identified with priestly ordination, and this also defines the essence of the priesthood: it is a transfer of ownership, a being taken out of the world and given to God. We can now see the two directions which belong to the process of sanctification-consecration. It is a departure from the milieux of worldly life -- a "being set apart" for God. But for this very reason it is not a segregation. Rather, being given over to God means being charged to represent others. The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he is available for others, for everyone. When Jesus says: "I consecrate myself", he makes himself both priest and victim. Bultmann was right to translate the phrase: "I consecrate myself" by "I sacrifice myself". Do we now see what happens when Jesus says: "I consecrate myself for them"? This is the priestly act by which Jesus -- the Man Jesus, who is one with the Son of God -- gives himself over to the Father for us. It is the expression of the fact that he is both priest and victim. I consecrate myself -- I sacrifice myself: this unfathomable word, which gives us a glimpse deep into the heart of Jesus Christ, should be the object of constantly renewed reflection. It contains the whole mystery of our redemption. It also contains the origins of the priesthood in the Church.

Into the Holiness of God

Only now can we fully understand the prayer which the Lord offered the Father for his disciples -- for us. "Sanctify them in the truth": this is the inclusion of the Apostles in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the institution of his new priesthood for the community of the faithful of all times. "Sanctify them in truth": this is the true prayer of consecration for the Apostles. The Lord prays that God himself draw them towards him, into his holiness. He prays that God take them away from themselves to make them his own property, so that, starting from him, they can carry out the priestly ministry for the world. This prayer of Jesus appears twice in slightly different forms. Both times we need to listen very carefully, in order to understand, even dimly the sublime reality that is about to be accomplished. "Sanctify them in the truth". Jesus adds: "Your word is truth". The disciples are thus drawn deep within God by being immersed in the word of God. The word of God is, so to speak, the bath which purifies them, the creative power which transforms them into God's own being.

Pervaded by the Word of God

So then, how do things stand in our own lives? Are we truly pervaded by the word of God? Is that word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking? Or is it rather the case that our thinking is constantly being shaped by all the things that others say and do? Aren't prevailing opinions the criterion by which we all too often measure ourselves? Do we not perhaps remain, when all is said and done, mired in the superficiality in which people today are generally caught up? Do we allow ourselves truly to be deeply purified by the word of God? Friedrich Nietzsche scoffed at humility and obedience as the virtues of slaves, a source of repression. He replaced them with pride and man's absolute freedom. Of course there exist caricatures of a misguided humility and a mistaken submissiveness, which we do not want to imitate. But there also exists a destructive pride and a presumption which tear every community apart and result in violence. Can we learn from Christ the correct humility which corresponds to the truth of our being, and the obedience which submits to truth, to the will of God? "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth": this word of inclusion in the priesthood lights up our lives and calls us to become ever anew disciples of that truth which is revealed in the word of God.

One With Christ the Priest

I believe that we can advance another step in the interpretation of these words. Did not Christ say of himself: "I am the truth" (cf. Jn 14:6)? Is he not himself the living Word of God, to which every other word refers? Sanctify them in the truth -- this means, then, in the deepest sense: make them one with me, Christ. Bind them to me. Draw them into me. Indeed, when all is said and done, there is only one priest of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ himself. Consequently, the priesthood of the disciples can only be a participation in the priesthood of Jesus.

The Seal Imprinted Upon Our Being

Our being priests is simply a new way of being united to Christ. In its substance, it has been bestowed on us for ever in the sacrament. But this new seal imprinted upon our being can become for us a condemnation, if our lives do not develop by entering into the truth of the Sacrament. The promises we renew today state in this regard that our will must be directed along this path: "Domino Iesu arctius coniungi et conformari, vobismetipsis abrenuntiantes". Being united to Christ calls for renunciation. It means not wanting to impose our own way and our own will, not desiring to become someone else, but abandoning ourselves to him, however and wherever he wants to use us. As Saint Paul said: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20).

In the words "I do", spoken at our priestly ordination, we made this fundamental renunciation of our desire to be independent, "self-made". But day by day this great "yes" has to be lived out in the many little "yeses" and small sacrifices. This "yes" made up of tiny steps which together make up the great "yes", can be lived out without bitterness and self-pity only if Christ is truly the center of our lives. If we enter into true closeness to him. Then indeed we experience, amid sacrifices which can at first be painful, the growing joy of friendship with him, and all the small and sometimes great signs of his love, which he is constantly showing us. "The one who loses himself, finds himself". When we dare to lose ourselves for the Lord, we come to experience the truth of these words.

Enter Into the Words Set Before Us by the Church

To be immersed in the Truth, in Christ -- part of this process is prayer, in which we exercise our friendship with him and we come to know him: his way of being, of thinking, of acting. Praying is a journey in personal communion with Christ, setting before him our daily life, our successes and failures, our struggles and our joys -- in a word, it is to stand in front of him. But if this is not to become a form of self-contemplation, it is important that we constantly learn to pray by praying with the Church. Celebrating the Eucharist means praying. We celebrate the Eucharist rightly if with our thoughts and our being we enter into the words which the Church sets before us. There we find the prayer of all generations, which accompany us along the way towards the Lord. As priests, in the Eucharistic celebration we are those who by their prayer blaze a trail for the prayer of today's Christians. If we are inwardly united to the words of prayer, if we let ourselves be guided and transformed by them, then the faithful will also enter into those words. And then all of us will become truly "one body, one spirit" in Christ.

True Love Is Costly

To be immersed in God's truth and thus in his holiness -- for us this also means to acknowledge that the truth makes demands, to stand up, in matters great and small, to the lie which in so many different ways is present in the world; accepting the struggles associated with the truth, because its inmost joy is present within us. Nor, when we talk about being sanctified in the truth, should we forget that in Jesus Christ truth and love are one. Being immersed in him means being immersed in his goodness, in true love. True love does not come cheap, it can also prove quite costly. It resists evil in order to bring men true good. If we become one with Christ, we learn to recognize him precisely in the suffering, in the poor, in the little ones of this world; then we become people who serve, who recognize our brothers and sisters in him, and in them, we encounter him.

Property of the God of Holiness

"Sanctify them in truth" -- this is the first part of what Jesus says. But then he adds: "I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth" -- that is, truly consecrated (Jn 17:19). I think that this second part has a special meaning of its own. In the world's religions there are many different ritual means of "sanctification", of the consecration of a human person. Yet all these rites can remain something merely formal. Christ asks for his disciples the true sanctification which transforms their being, their very selves; he asks that it not remain a ritual formality, but that it make them truly the "property" of the God of holiness. We could even say that Christ prayed on behalf of us for that sacrament which touches us in the depths of our being. But he also prayed that this interior transformation might be translated day by day in our lives; that in our everyday routine and our concrete daily lives we might be truly pervaded by the light of God.

Sanctify Them in the Truth

On the eve of my priestly ordination, fifty-eight years ago, I opened the Sacred Scripture, because I wanted to receive once more a word from the Lord for that day and for my future journey as a priest. My gaze fell on this passage: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth". Then I realized: the Lord is speaking about me, and he is speaking to me. This very same thing will be accomplished tomorrow in me. When all is said and done, we are not consecrated by rites, even though rites are necessary. The bath in which the Lord immerses us is himself -- the Truth in person. Priestly ordination means: being immersed in him, immersed in the Truth. I belong in a new way to him and thus to others, "that his Kingdom may come". Dear friends, in this hour of the renewal of promises, we want to pray to the Lord to make us men of truth, men of love, men of God. Let us implore him to draw us ever anew into himself, so that we may become truly priests of the New Covenant. Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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This 15th century painting of the miraculous Mass of Pope Saint Gregory the Great is in the Church of Sant'Andrea in Palermo, Sicily. Above, we see Our Lord Jesus Christ surrounded by depictions of the mysteries of His bitter Passion, all of which are made present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Below, we see Saint Gregory at the altar surrounded by his Cardinals. It appears to be the moment of the consecration. Notice the large host. Curiously, the Pope is wearing his tiara and the Cardinals their galeros. The Pope is facing outward, and there are two missals on stands placed on either side of the altar.

In preparation for this evening's Holy Mass of the Chrism and for the forthcoming Year of the Priest: A Sermon of Saint Ephrem, Syrian Deacon, on the Priesthood. Saint John Eudes chose this passage for Matins of the Office that he composed for the Feast of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ in 1652. Saint John Eudes' Mass and Office for the Feast of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ were adopted not only by his own Congregation of Jesus and Mary, who kept it on November 13th, and by the Priests of Saint Sulpice, who kept it on July 17th, but also by the Benedictines of the Blessed Sacrament, who kept it on the Thursday after the Octave of Corpus Christi. The feast fell into disuse in the middle of the nineteenth century. Only the Sulpicians kept it until the liturgical reforms of Pope Pius X.

O wondrous miracle!
O power unutterableI
O tremendous mystery of the Priesthood,
holy and spiritual mystery, worthy of reverence and blameless,
which Christ hath by His advent into the world
imparted even to those unworthy!

On bended knees, with tears and sighs,
I pray that we may look into this treasure of Priesthood;
a treasure, I say, to those who guard it with fitting holiness.
For it is indeed a matchless bright shield, a strong tower, a wall unbreakable,
a firm and stable foundation, reaching from earth to highest heavens!
What am I saying, brethren?
It even attaineth those supernal regions,
ascending without let or labor from the depths to the very heavens,
and there with incorporeal spirits, surrounded by angels,
holdeth free and familiar intercourse.

But why do I say surrounded by the Heavenly Powers except it be that it treateth
--familiarly with the very Lord and Creator of angels Himself, the Giver of Light,
asking forthwith whatsoever it will,
making petition as it were with certain seemly ease and right?

Nor do I desist, brethren, from giving praise and glory
to that profundity of dignity which the Holy Trinity hath liberally bestowed
upon us, the sons of Adam.
Thereby the world hath been saved and the creature enllghtened.
Thereby both the power of death hath been destroyed and the forces of hell spoiled;
both the curse of Adam destroyed and broken,
and the heavenly bridal chamber adorned and thrown open.
What shall I say and declare? what in the way of praise?

Forsooth, this gift of the lofty dignity of the Priesthood
hath outrun my mind and speech and all thought.
And this I think is what Saint Paul indicates when,
stricken with an amazement of mind, he exclaims:
O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways!
Flying from earth to high heaven,
it bears most swiftly to God above our requests,
praying the Lord for His servants.

O power unutterable, which hath deigned to dwell in us
through the laying on of hands of holy priests!
What great depths lie within this awful and wonderful Priesthood!
Happy the man who purely and blamelessly ministers in this dignity!

So let us know, brethren, that great and manifold, vast and boundless
is the dignity of the Priestly Office itself.
Glory be to the Sole-Begotten,
glory also to the Only Good,
Who offers this through the new and holy covenant to His disciples,
that these in turn, by the laying on of their hands upon worthy men,
may furnish an example unto us.

Therefore let us all give honor to Priests
and all pronounce those to be happy who have been adorned
by this sublime and admirable office of Priesthood,
knowing for sure that he will be loved much more by the King,
who is a lover of the King's friend.
Wherefore, let us love the priests of God,
seeing that they His friends are good
and intercede for us and the world.


Spiritual Mothers of Priests

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In Union Our Lady's Yes

On the evening of March 24th, vigil of the Annunciation of the Lord, thirty-three women of the Diocese of Tulsa, having completed their initial formation as Spiritual Mothers of Priests, made their oblation during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered by His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery in Holy Family Cathedral. An exhortation by Bishop Slattery followed the singing of the Gospel of the Annunciation. His Excellency recalled the maternal solicitude for priests exemplified by Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, the Servant of God Louise-Marguerite Claret de la Touche, and the Venerable Maria Concepción Cabrera. Then, he called the women to stand before the altar, just outside the sanctuary, where together they said:

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Holy Father (Jn 17:11), behold, I come to do Your will (Heb 10:9), placing myself, with all that I am, and all that I do, in the wounded hands of Your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Eternal Priest and immaculate Victim.

I entreat Him to unite my offering
to the Holy Sacrifice that is about to be renewed
upon the altar of this our Cathedral Church
for the sake of all thy priests,
and in particular for the priest-son
who will be entrusted to me.

Holy Father,
keep them from the Evil One (Jn 17:15)
and sanctify them in the truth (Jn 17:17)
that the love with which You have loved Your Only-Begotten Son
may be in them
and that Your Son Himself may be in them (Jn 17:26).

Bind them by a most tender love
to the Virgin Mary, Mother of all priests,
that, by her intercession, they may be
overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35)
in every act of the Sacred Ministry.
Thus, may their priesthood,
supported by my humble oblation,
reveal the Face of Jesus and His Most Sacred Heart
for Your glory
and for the joy of the whole Church.
Amen.

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The Blessed Medal

Bishop Slattery presented each woman with a blessed medal depicting a priest vested for Mass, helped by a woman -- Mother Church, Our Lady, a Spiritual Mother -- to raise a chalice made ready for to receive the Blood and the Water flowing from Our Lord's pierced side.

The medal bears, in Latin, the inscription of a text taken from the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood, and addressed to the new priest: "Receive the power to offer sacrifice unto God."

Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may you wear this medal as the outward sign of your inner likeness to her maternal Heart, which is ever full of mercy and solicitude for her Son's priests.

A Priest Son for Each Mother

Then, His Excellency handed to each Spiritual Mother an envelope containing a profile of the priest entrusted to her, indicating some of his special challenges and needs. The name of the priest was not given to his Spiritual Mother, nor will he know her name. The mission of the Spiritual Mother is essentially hidden and silent.

Take as well the burdens of the priest whom you are adopting as your son; support him with your prayers, refresh him with the joy of your charity, and do penance for his sins and failings.

The formation of this first group of Spiritual Mothers will continue on a permanent basis, and other groups of women will also be formed for this precious and efficacious way of helping priests to grow in holiness.

19 June 2009 -- 19 June 2010

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INDIZIONE DELL'ANNO SACERDOTALE: COMUNICATO UFFICIALE

COMUNICATO: INDIZIONE DELL'ANNO SACERDOTALE

The translation here is my own.

In occasione del 150° anniversario della morte del Santo Curato d'Ars, Giovanni Maria Vianney, Sua Santità ha annunciato questa mattina che, dal 19 giugno 2009 al 19 giugno del 2010, si terrà uno speciale Anno Sacerdotale, che avrà come tema: "Fedeltà di Cristo, fedeltà del sacerdote".

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, His Holiness announced this morning that, from 19 June 2009 until 19 June 2010, a special Sacerdotal Year will be held, which will have as its theme: "Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest."

Il Santo Padre lo aprirà presiedendo la celebrazione dei Vespri, il 19 giugno p.v., solennità del Sacratissimo Cuore di Gesù e Giornata di santificazione sacerdotale, alla presenza della reliquia del Curato d'Ars portata dal Vescovo di Belley-Ars; lo chiuderà, il 19 giugno del 2010, prendendo parte a un "Incontro Mondiale Sacerdotale" in Piazza San Pietro.

The Holy Father will open it by presiding at the celebration of Vespers on 19 June, solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, in the presence of the relics of the Curé of Ars brought by the Bishop of Belley-Ars; he will close it on 19 June 2010, by participating in a World Encounter of Priests in Saint Peter's Square.

Durante questo Anno giubilare Benedetto XVI proclamerà San Giovanni M. Vianney "Patrono di tutti i sacerdoti del mondo". Sarà inoltre pubblicato il "Direttorio per i Confessori e Direttori Spirituali" insieme ad una raccolta di testi del Sommo Pontefice sui temi essenziali della vita e della missione sacerdotale nell'epoca attuale.

During this Jubilee Year Benedict XVI will proclaim Saint Jean-Marie Vianney "Patron of all the priests of the world." Also to be published are a "Directory for Confessors and Spiritual Directors" together with a collection of texts of the Supreme Pontiff on the essential themes of the life and mission of priests in the present time.

La Congregazione per il Clero, d'intesa con gli Ordinari diocesani e i Superiori degli Istituti religiosi, si preoccuperà di promuovere e coordinare le varie iniziative spirituali e pastorali che saranno poste in essere per far percepire sempre più l'importanza del ruolo e della missione del sacerdote nella Chiesa e nella società contemporanea, come pure la necessità di potenziare la formazione permanente dei sacerdoti legandola a quella dei seminaristi.

The Congregation for the Clergy, in collaboration with the Ordinaries of dioceses and the Superiors of Religious Institutes, will undertake to promote and coordinate the various spiritual and pastoral initiatives that will be put in place to foster greater awareness of the role and mission of the priest in the Church and in contemporary society, as well as the necessity of realizing the permanent formation of priests, linking it to that of seminarians.

Bollettino Ufficiale Santa Sede

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VATICAN CITY, 16 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received members of the Congregation for the Clergy, who are currently celebrating their plenary assembly on the theme: "The missionary identity of priests in the Church as an intrinsic dimension of the exercise of the 'tre munera'".
 
  "The missionary dimension of a priest arises from his sacramental configuration to Christ the Head", said the Pope. This involves "total adherence to what ecclesial tradition has identified as 'apostolica vivendi forma', which consists in participation ... in that 'new way of life' which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the Apostles made their own".
 
  Benedict XVI highlighted the "indispensable struggle for moral perfection which must dwell in every truly priestly heart. In order to favour this tendency of priests towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends, I have", he said, "decided to call a special 'Year for Priests' which will run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010". This year marks "the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', Jean Marie Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock".
 
  "The ecclesial, communional, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable for any authentic mission, and this alone guarantees its spiritual effectiveness", he said.
 
  "The mission is 'ecclesial'", said the Pope, "because no-one announces or brings themselves, ... but brings Another, God Himself, to the world. God is the only wealth that, definitively, mankind wishes to find in a priest.
 
  "The mission is 'communional' because it takes place in a unity and communion which only at a secondary level possess important aspects of social visibility. ... The 'hierarchical' and 'doctrinal' dimensions emphasise the importance of ecclesiastical discipline (a term related to that of 'disciple') and of doctrinal (not just theological, initial and permanent) formation".
 
  Benedict XVI stressed the need to "have care for the formation of candidates to the priesthood", a formation that must maintain "communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity. In this context, it is important to encourage priests, especially the young generations, to a correct reading of the texts of Vatican Council II, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance".
 
  Priests must be "present, identifiable and recognisable - for their judgement of faith, personal virtues and attire - in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church's mission".
 
  "The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of priestly ministry, without which there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church. It is necessary then, to ensure that 'new structures' or pastoral organisations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to 'do without' ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry"

Of You I Ask Something More

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"So few souls remember to thank Me after receiving My Body and Blood. This is true even of my priests -- my priests, my friends, my chosen ones from whom I expect more, from whom I desire more.
Hearts have grown cold and indifferent towards Me in this the Sacrament of My Love. For many, receiving Me has become a routine action devoid of faith and with no manifestation of adoration and of love. How has My Church come to this?
I will raise up holy priests to rekindle a burning love for the Most Holy Eucharist in the hearts of my faithful. I am calling many priests to adore My Eucharistic Face and to approach My Open Heart in the Sacrament of My Love. These are the priests whom I will use to minister first to their own brothers in Holy Orders and then, through them, to vast multitudes of souls who have never understood the mysteries of My Body and Blood offered to the Father and given up for the life of the world.
It is in these few precious moments after Holy Communion that My Heart seeks to hold conversation with My friends, but so many turn away from Me to busy themselves about many things. Of you . . . I ask something more. Remain with Me for these few moments. Listen for the sound of My voice in your heart. Know that My desire is to speak to you and to listen to all that you have to tell Me. It is in these moments that I am most disposed to grant the requests made of Me in faith."

Singing Priests

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Singing Priests

Yesterday, here at the Cenacle, we held the first meeting of the Diocesan Priests' Schola Cantorum, a group of nine priests who have decided to come together weekly to study the chants of the Graduale Romanum, and to sing them at various liturgical celebrations of the Diocese of Tulsa. We will sing for the first time in Holy Family Cathedral at the Mass of Chrism during Holy Week.

Our first session began with a presentation of certain characteristics of the Lenten Propers in the Graduale Romanum, followed by some simple vocalizations (warm-up exercises). We worked on two pieces; the Introit, Dilexisti, and the hymn, O Redemptor. Given that it was the very first time the group of us had sung together, the effect was not at all displeasing. A suitably Lenten luncheon followed.

An Indispensable Element of the Roman Rite

One of things that emerged in our discussion is the spiritual value of the Propers of the Mass. (The Propers, by the way, are a constitutive element of the Mass of the Roman Rite. A Mass without them is truncated, deformed, and theologically impoverished. To replace the Propers with "something else" is, effectively, to dismantle the spiritual architecture of the Roman Rite.

As I sang through the Gradual of this morning's Mass, I was once again seized by an inner awareness of the "sacramental" potential of the Chant. Nothing conveys the Word of God as efficaciously as the Chant of the Church:

Cast the burden of thy cares upon the Lord, and He will sustain thee.
V. Still I will call upon the Lord; He will not be deaf to my appeal when many take part against me. (Psalm 54: 23. V. 17a, 18b, 19a)

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A priest said yesterday that since he began reciting daily this prayer to the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, he has received everything for which it asks. I thought it worth sharing with you, dear readers.

Holy Father John Paul,
be a father to my soul.
Pray for me, protect me, instruct me,
and guide me in the way of holiness.
Obtain for me the gift of perfect chastity,
burning love for the Eucharist,
total dedication to Christ and to the Church,
and the grace to conduct myself always and everywhere
in a manner worthy of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Mine It Is to Save

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"Of the sins cast into the fire of my Heart nothing remains -- they are completely annihilated -- not reduced to ashes -- but utterly destroyed and forgotten. Love makes me do this. When a soul laden with sin . . . comes to me with a repentant and broken heart, my Love envelopes that soul and purifies her in my Blood.
I am the Saviour. I abhor sin and its ravages in my creatures. Sin given to me ceases to exist; it is forever lost in the infinite ocean of my Mercy, but sin clung to and held close to oneself becomes a poison, a cancer that spreads, destroying the spiritual organism that I designed for holiness and for eternal beatitude.
I want my priests to give me their sins. I want all their sins because I have already paid the price for them. . . . Every sin given to me disappears, and in exchange for every sin given to me I will give a grace in return. This is the exchange I propose to souls. . . . It is enough to surrender your sins to me: in return I bestow an abundance of graces, precious graces that sanctify the soul and cause virtues to spring up where formerly there was nothing but a wasteland inhabited by the shadows of vice.
I want my priests to be the first to experience the immensity of my Mercy. I want them to be the first to experience this exchange of sin for grace, of darkness for light, of sickness for health, and of sadness for joy. Let them come to me in the Sacrament of my Mercy, and then let them seek me out daily, even hourly, in the Sacrament of my Love, the Most Holy Eucharist. There I wait for them, there they will find everything their hearts desire.
I am Jesus. Mine it is to save, to heal, to vivify, and to make lovely in the sight of my Father the souls that consent to the operations of my Mercy and to the secret action of the Holy Spirit. . . . Confidence opens the door to all the treasures of my Kingdom. To one who has confidence in my Merciful Love, I can refuse nothing."

For All the Priests of the World

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An Inspired Prayer

Yesterday, being Thursday, the day of adoration and reparation for priests, I posted a passage pertaining to the priesthood from the writings of Sister Josefa Menendez of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Today, I want to share with the readers of Vultus Christi the prayer for priests that Josefa received from Our Lord. The translation from the French is my own.

O Jesus, by Your loving Heart, I beg You to inflame with the zeal of Your Love and of Your Glory all the priests of the world, all missionaries, and all those charged with announcing Your Divine Word, so that set ablaze with a holy zeal they may rescue souls from the demon and lead them all to the shelter of Your Heart where they will be able to glorify You ceaselessly. Amen.

Fire Upon the Earth

Josefa's prayer resonates with the Magnificat Antiphon sung at First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Ignem veni mittere in terram, et quid volo nisi ut accendatur? "I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be set ablaze?" (Luke 12:49). This profound harmony with Sacred Scripture and with the liturgy of the Church is one of the indications that a particular inspiration comes from God.

Catholicity

Another favourable indication is the catholicity of the text; there is nothing narrow about it, nothing that looks towards self. The prayer embraces "all the priests of the world, all missionaries, and all those charged with announcing the Divine Word." The triple repetition of all attests to the catholic horizons opened in Josefa's soul by her intimacy with the Sacred Heart.

Zeal

Twice in her prayer Josefa uses the word zeal. The virtue of zeal is radically incompatible with sloth, pusillanimity, and lukewarmness: vices that, at certain hours, tempt every priest. She speaks of rescuing souls from the demon; like the great Saint Antony of Egypt, the little domestic sister of Poitiers had no illusions about the machinations of the Evil One and the reality of spiritual combat. The rage of the Evil One was, according to the testimony of her superiors, something Sister Josefa experienced in the most disconcerting ways.

Into the Shelter of the Sacred Heart

Josefa Menendez calls the Sacred Heart of Jesus an asile, that is to say, a safe place, a shelter. The mission of priests, as she presents it, is to lead souls into the shelter of the Sacred Heart where, says Josefa, "they will be able to glorify You ceaselessly." Once a soul has crossed the threshold of Our Lord's pierced side, everything in that soul turns to thanksgiving and praise.

Josefa Menendez: Confidence and Hope

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At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones. Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight. (John 11:25-26)

Josefa Menendez (1890-1923), a Coadjutrix Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart, is surely numbered among those little ones to whom it pleased the Father to reveal things hidden from the wise and prudent.

In many ways this "mystic in an apron" resembles Saint Faustina Kowalska. Josefa was a simple soul, docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and capable of listening to the inner voice of her Bridegroom. Our Lord spoke to Sister Josefa of his merciful love for souls and, very often, of priests and of the desires of His Sacred Heart for their holiness.

When Josefa's writings were edited in 1938, none other than Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, wrote to the Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart: "May [the publication of these pages] efficaciously contribute to develop in many souls a confidence ever more complete and loving in the infinite mercy of this Divine Heart towards poor sinners such as we all are."

For this Thursday of Adoration and Reparation for Priests, allow me to share a page or two from the writings of Josefa Menendez, together with some comments of my own:

To Them I Confide My Secrets
[Priests] live nearest me; they share in my choicest graces, and to them I confide my secrets, My desires . . . and my sufferings also. I have committed to them the care of My little children, their brothers, and through their ministry they must, directly or indirectly, guide them and transmit my teaching to them.

One of the dangers of the ecclesiastical state is the gradual concession to routine that makes a priest act like a functionary, even in carrying out the most sacred mysteries. Once a priest stops resting his head on the Heart of Jesus, he risks losing all contact with the stream of living water that he is called to transmit to souls.

When One Avoids Converse With Jesus
If these chosen souls know Me truly; they will make me known to others; if they love Me, they will make others love Me. But how can they teach their brethren if they hardly know Me themselves? I ask you: Can there be much love in the heart for One who is barely known? Or what intimate converse can be exchanged with One who is avoided . . . or in whom one has little confidence? . . .

Two things assure the fruitfulness of one's priesthood: frequent conversation with Jesus, particularly by means of daily Eucharistic adoration, and confidence in the abiding gift of His Divine Friendship.

Nothing New
This is precisely what I wish to recall to the minds of My chosen ones. Nothing new, doubtless, but they have need to reanimate their faith, their love, and their trust.

One of the indications that a charismatic locution may be authentic and trustworthy is that it announces nothing new. It is the transmission of the Eternal Word in other words. "Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever. Be not led away with various and strange doctrines." (Hebrews 13:8-9)

Let Love Triumph Over Fear
I look for greater love and confidence in the way they treat Me. Let them seek Me within their own hearts, for they know that a soul in the state of grace is the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. And there, let them consider Me as I truly am, their God, but a God of love. Let love triumph over fear, and above all let them never forget that I love them.

Nothing so paralyzes the élan of soul Godward as does fear. It is touching that Josefa has Our Lord say to His priests, "Above all let them never forget that I love them."

Miseries, Failings, and Destitution
Many are convinced that was because of this love that they were chosen, but when they are cast down at the sight of their miseries, of their faults even, then they grow sad at the thought that I love them less than before. How little such souls really know Me. They have not understood My Heart. For it is their very destitution and failings that incline My goodness towards them. And, when acknowledging their helplessness and weakness, they humble themselves and have recourse to Me trustfully, then indeed they give Me more glory than before their fault.

Was it not so with Saint Peter after his triple denial of the Lord? He humbled himself, and had recourse to Jesus trustfully, thereby giving Him more glory than before his sin. "And he said to Him: Lord, Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love thee." (John 21:17)

Confidence in Prayer
It is the same when they pray, either for themselves or for others; if they waver and doubt, they do not glorify my Heart, but they do glorify It, if they are sure that I shall give them what they ask, knowing that I refuse them nothing that is good for their souls.

Priests are called to intercessory prayer in union with the Eternal High Priest who, standing in the heavenly sanctuary before His Father, "always living to make intercession for us." (Hebrews 7:25)

The Man Who Knew the Heart of Jesus
When the Centurion came to beg Me to cure his servant, he said very humbly: "I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof" . . . and faith and trust prevailing, he added: "Say but the word, and my servant shall be healed." This man knew My Heart. He knew that I could not resist the prayer of one who trusted me absolutely. He gave me much glory, for to humility he joined confidence. Yes, this man knew my Heart, yet I made no manifestations to him as I have to My chosen ones.

It pleased our Lord to recall to Josefa episodes familiar to her from her meditation of the Gospels and from the liturgy. This too is an argument in favour of the authenticity of her special graces: they draw upon and send her back to the Word of God and to the liturgy of the Church.

Hope Obtains Innumerable Graces
Hope obtains innumerable graces for self and for others. I want this to be thoroughly understood, so that My Heart's goodness may be revealed to those poor souls who as yet do not know Me.

The priest must be, above all, a man of hope. He must hope for those who dare not hope, and trust in the goodness of the Heart of Jesus for those who have yet to discover it.

Spiritual Motherhood for Priests

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In a document from the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, addressed to all the bishops of the Church on 7 December, 2007, we read:

The vocation to be a spiritual mother for priests is largely unknown, scarcely understood and, consequently, rarely lived, notwithstanding its fundamental importance. It is a vocation that is frequently hidden, invisible to the naked eye, but meant to transmit spiritual life.

A Little Catechism on Spiritual Motherhood for Priests

1. Who can become a spiritual mother to priests?

Any mature Catholic woman, already fully engaged in the sacramental life of the Church, can discern a call to the spiritual motherhood of priests. This spiritual motherhood can be lived in any state of life; it is open to single women, married women, mothers of families, widows, grandmothers, and religious in both the active and enclosed forms of consecrated life. None of its obligations bind under pain of sin. The vocation to the spiritual motherhood of priests is also compatible with the spirituality and obligations of Benedictine Oblates and of those who belong to one or another of the Third Orders: Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Servite, etc.

2. What is spiritual maternity?

Spiritual maternity is a particular grace of the Holy Spirit by which a woman surrenders herself, body and soul, to the fruitful love of Christ, for the sake of His Bride the Church and for the glory of the Father, so that, through her offering, the particular priest entrusted to her, and all priests, may be purified, healed, and sanctified.

3. How does a woman express the grace of spiritual maternity.

A woman expresses the grace of spiritual maternity by imitating the hidden life of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, in the mystery of the Annunciation, consented to the enfleshment of the Word in her womb, and was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, so that through her, Christ, Priest and Victim, might enter the world, save it by His Sacrifice, and offer it back to the Father.

4. How does a woman live out this imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

A woman lives out this imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by embracing the Will of God in joy and in sorrow, health and infirmity, prosperity and want, companionship and solitude, light and obscurity. In a word, she sees in every event of life an opportunity to enter, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, into the sacrifice of Christ the Priest.

In this way, a woman can participate in the spiritual fecundity of the Mother of the Redeemer who, by her constant intercession, cares for the gift of life that ever flows from the open Heart of her Son, and cooperates with a mother's love in the birth and upbringing of Christ's faithful, her children.

5. How is spiritual maternity related to the Priesthood?

Spiritual maternity in favor of priests derives from the special relationship of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint John, that Jesus Himself established when, from the altar of the Cross, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, thy son!" (Jn 19:26). "Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, thy mother!'" (Jn 19:27).

While John -- representing all priests past, present, and to come -- had the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ in the unbloody renewal of His Sacrifice, Our Lady was charged with supporting all her priest-sons down through the ages by standing at their side, even as she stood by the Cross of her Son on Calvary. There, with her Immaculate Heart pierced by a sword of sorrow, she co-offered in silence the Sacrifice of her Son, Priest and Victim, and through Him, with Him, and in Him, offered herself to the Father.

6. What does this imply for a woman called to spiritual maternity
in favor of priests?


For a woman called to spiritual maternity in favor of priests, this implies a readiness to stand by all priests and, in particular, for the priest entrusted to her, in a ceaseless offering of adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and supplication. The Diocese of Tulsa is preparing a prayer book to help the spiritual mothers of priests fulfill this role.

7. What characterizes the adoration of a spiritual mother of priests?

In her adoration, a spiritual mother of priests looks to the Blessed Virgin Mary who, on August 21, 1879 at Knock in County Mayo, Ireland, manifested herself in reference to the immolated Lamb, the altar, and the Cross. The spiritual mother of priests draws near to Christ, the Eternal Priest and to the altar of His Cross so often as she participates in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She adores the Lamb of God present on the altar during the Holy Sacrifice; she adores Him hidden in the tabernacle and exposed to her gaze in the monstrance. She offers herself in adoration for the sanctification of all priests, desiring with Our Lady, to see them become, in their liturgical service and in all of life, "true adorers, who shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:23).

8. What characterizes the thanksgiving of a spiritual mother of priests?

The thanksgiving of a spiritual mother of priests is, first of all, for the Priesthood of Jesus Christ prolonged in space and in time, from the rising of the sun to its setting, by means of the gift and mystery bestowed on the apostles in the Cenacle, and perpetuated in the Church so often as a bishop, a successor of the Apostles, lays hands on a man and pronounces over him the solemn prayer of sacerdotal consecration.

The thanksgiving of a spiritual mother of priests is, also, for the sacramental ministrations and fruits of the priesthood: first of all, for the Most Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of all Christian life; then for the preaching of the Word of God, the forgiveness of sins, the healing of the sick, deliverance from evil, comfort in affliction, and shepherding along the path that leads to holiness.

9. What characterizes the reparation of a spiritual mother of priests?

The reparation of a spiritual mother of priests seeks to console the Heart of Jesus who grieves over the coldness, offenses, and betrayals of His priests, and waits for them to return to Him, for He is merciful.

The spiritual mother prays for priests who fail to pray; adores the Most Blessed Sacrament for those who do not adore; listens to the Word of God for priests who neglect it; and seeks the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for those who have forgotten that she is their Mother and Advocate. She offers herself for the spiritual restoration and resurrection of priests who have fallen into patterns of sin; for the deliverance of priests oppressed by the powers of darkness; and for the healing of souls scandalized, alienated, or wounded by the sins of priests.

10. What characterizes the supplication of a spiritual mother of priests?

The supplication (or intercession) of a spiritual mother of priests draws its inspiration, first of all, from the Priestly Prayer that Our Lord Jesus Christ offered in the Cenacle on the night before He suffered: "Father . . . keep them clear of what is evil. They do not belong to the world, as I too, do not belong to the world; keep them holy, then, through the truth; it is Thy word that is truth" (Jn 17: 16-17). In their intercession for priests, spiritual mothers will also take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul: "Nothing must make you anxious; in every need make your requests known to God, praying and beseeching Him, and giving Him thanks as well" (Phil 4:5); and in another place, "And now, brothers and sisters, let us have your prayers, that the word of the Lord may run its course triumphantly with us . . . and that we may preserved from malicious interference" (2 Thess 3:1-2).

11. Are there any obstacles to spiritual motherhood for priests?

The obstacles to spiritual maternity are the same ones that would impede any growth in holiness: willful attachment to sin, the refusal to forgive another, hardness of heart, pride, and the other "root" or capital sins. The most effective means of overcoming the obstacles to holiness are frequent confession and Holy Communion; full, conscious and zealous participation in the liturgy of the Church; devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (especially the Rosary); meditation of the Word of God; adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament; acts of penitence and mortification; and obedience to a spiritual father.

12. How does a woman go about becoming a spiritual mother to priests?

A woman who desires to become a spiritual mother to priests should ask her parish priest for the name of the priest charged by the bishop with promoting spiritual motherhood at the diocesan level. She should communicate with him and, after a suitable time of discernment and preparation, can make an act of dedication to spiritual mother on behalf of priests. The Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has developed a program to foster the formation and perseverance of women in the grace of spiritual maternity to priests.

At the School of Saint John Eudes

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Priestly Union with the Blessed Virgin Mary

Yesterday, in my entry for the feast of Saints Robert, Alberic, and Stephen, the founding abbots of Cîteaux, I alluded to the mystical espousal of Saint John Eudes to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Already as a young man, John Eudes placed a wedding band on the finger of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was a portent of things to come. As a priest, a reformer of the clergy, and an outstanding preacher, he experienced the fruitfulness that results from what one must dare to call a spousal intimacy with the Mother of God.

Saint John Eudes presents this grace as something to which all priests should aspire. To describe it he uses the French word alliance: covenant, bond, or union. Significantly, the same word is used to designate a wedding ring. I decided to translate the following passage from his Memorial on the Life of Ecclesiastics:

The Eternal Father

Consider that priests have a special alliance with the most holy Mother of God. This because, just as the Eternal Father made her participate in His divine paternity, and gave her the power to form in her womb the same Son whom He begets in His bosom, so too does He communicate to priests that same paternity, giving them power to form this same Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and in the hearts of the faithful.

The Son

As the Son made her [the Virgin Mary] His cooperator and coadjutrix (helpmate) in the work of the redemption of the world, so too does He make priests His cooperators and coadjutors in the work of saving souls.

The Holy Ghost

As the Holy Ghost, in an ineffable manner, associated her [the Virgin Mary] with Himself in the most divine of His operations, and in the masterpiece of His that is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, so too does He associate priests with Himself to bring about an extension and a continuation of this mystery in each Christian, in whom the Son of God, in some manner, incarnates Himself by means of Baptism and by the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Mediatrix of All Graces

Just as the Eternal Father gave us His Son through her [the Virgin Mary], so too does He give Him to us through His priests. Even as all the graces that come forth to us from the Heart of God pass through the hands of Mary, so too are they given us by the ministry of priests. This in such wise that, just as Mary is the treasurer of the Most Holy Trinity, priests too bear this title.

The Sacrifice of Christ

Finally, it is through her that Jesus was offered to His Father at the first and last moment of His life, when she received Him in her sacred womb, and when she accompanied Him to the sacrifice that He made of Himself on the cross; and it is by means of priests that He is immolated daily upon our altars.

Mother of the Sovereign Priest

This is why priests, being bound by so intimate an alliance and so marvelous a conformity to the Mother of the Sovereign Priest, have very particular obligations to love her, to honour her, and to clothe themselves in her virtues, in her spirit, and in her dispositions. Humble yourselves that you should find yourselves so far removed from this. Enter into the desire to tend thereto with all your heart. Offer yourselves to her, and pray her to help you mightily.

Rationabile Obsequium

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Our Holy Father gave an extraordinary catechesis yesterday on Romans 12:1. A certain Irish priest friend of mine should be very pleased! The titles are my own. Here is the text of His Holiness:

Your Bodies: A Living Sacrifice

2. The second passage about which I would like to speak today is found in the first verse of Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans. We have heard it and I repeat it once again: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship."

The Oblation of Our Selves

In these words, an apparent paradox is verified: While sacrifice demands as a norm the death of the victim, Paul makes reference to the life of the Christian. The expression "offer your bodies," united to the successive concept of sacrifice, takes on the worship nuance of "give in oblation, offer." The exhortation to "offer your bodies" refers to the whole person; in fact, in Romans 6:13, [Paul] makes the invitation to "present yourselves to God." For the rest, the explicit reference to the physical dimension of the Christian coincides with the invitation to "glorify God in your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20): It's a matter of honoring God in the most concrete daily existence, made of relational and perceptible visibility.

Living, Holy, Pleasing to God

Conduct of this type is classified by Paul as "living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." It is here where we find precisely the term "sacrifice." In prevalent use, this term forms part of a sacred context and serves to designate the throat-splitting of an animal, of which one part can be burned in honor of the gods and another part consumed by the offerers in a banquet. Paul instead applied it to the life of the Christian. In fact he classifies such a sacrifice by using three adjectives. The first -- "living" -- expresses a vitality. The second -- "holy" -- recalls the Pauline concept of a sanctity that is not linked to places or objects, but to the very person of the Christian. The third -- "pleasing to God" -- perhaps recalls the common biblical expression of a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1:13, 17; 23:18; 26:31, etc.).

Man Adores and Glorifies the Living God

Immediately afterward, Paul thus defines this new way of living: this is "your spiritual worship." Commentators of the text know well that the Greek expression (tçn logikçn latreían) is not easy to translate. The Latin Bible renders it: "rationabile obsequium." The same word "rationabile" appears in the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon: In it, we pray so that God accepts this offering as "rationabile." The traditional Italian translation, "spiritual worship," [an offering in spirit], does not reflect all the details of the Greek text, nor even of the Latin. In any case, it is not a matter of a less real worship or even a merely metaphorical one, but of a more concrete and realistic worship, a worship in which man himself in his totality, as a being gifted with reason, transforms into adoration and glorification of the living God.

In the Roman Canon

This Pauline formula, which appears again in the Roman Eucharistic prayer, is fruit of a long development of the religious experience in the centuries preceding Christ. In this experience are found theological developments of the Old Testament and currents of Greek thought. I would like to show at least certain elements of this development. The prophets and many psalms strongly criticize the bloody sacrifices of the temple. For example, Psalm 50 (49), in which it is God who speaks, says, "Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer praise as your sacrifice to God" (verses 12-14).

And in the Miserere

In the same sense, the following Psalm 51 (50), says, " for you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart" (verse 18 and following).

With Contrite Heart and Humble Spirit

In the Book of Daniel, in the times of the new destruction of the temple at the hands of the Hellenistic regime (2nd century B.C.), we find a new step in the same direction. In midst of the fire -- that is, persecution and suffering -- Azariah prays thus: "We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly" (Daniel 3:38ff).

The Acceptable Holocaust

In the destruction of the sanctuary and of worship, in this situation of being deprived of every sign of the presence of God, the believer offers as a true holocaust a contrite heart, his desire of God.

Disincarnate Worship: A Danger

We see an important development, beautiful, but with a danger. There exists a spiritualization, a moralization of worship: Worship becomes only something of the heart, of the spirit. But the body is lacking; the community is lacking. Thus is understood that Psalm 51, for example, and also the Book of Daniel, despite criticizing worship, desire the return of the time of sacrifices. But it is a matter of a renewed time, in a synthesis that still was unforeseeable, that could not yet be thought of.

The Offering of the Body

Let us return to St. Paul. He is heir to these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes glory of God, living adoration with all his being. In this sense, he says to the Romans: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Paul thus repeats what he had already indicated in Chapter 3: The time of the sacrifice of animals, sacrifices of substitution, has ended. The time of true worship has arrived. But here too arises the danger of a misunderstanding: This new worship can easily be interpreted in a moralist sense -- offering our lives we make true worship. In this way, worship with animals would be substituted by moralism: Man would do everything for himself with his moral strength. And this certainly was not the intention of St. Paul.

True Worship in Christ

But the question persists: Then how should we interpret this "reasonable spiritual worship"? Paul always supposes that we have come to be "one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), that we have died in baptism (Romans 1) and we live now with Christ, through Christ and in Christ. In this union -- and only in this way -- we can be in him and with him a "living sacrifice," to offer the "true worship." The sacrificed animals should have substituted man, the gift of self of man, and they could not. Jesus Christ, in his surrender to the Father and to us, is not a substitution, but rather really entails in himself the human being, our faults and our desire; he truly represents us, he assumes us in himself. In communion with Christ, accomplished in the faith and in the sacraments, we transform, despite our deficiencies, into living sacrifice: "True worship" is fulfilled.

Christ's True Sacrifice Made Present

This synthesis is the backdrop of the Roman Canon in which we pray that this offering be "rationabile," so that spiritual worship is accomplished. The Church knows that in the holy Eucharist, the self-gift of Christ, his true sacrifice, is made present. But the Church prays so that the celebrating community is really united to Christ, is transformed; it prays so that we ourselves come to be that which we cannot be with our efforts: offering "rationabile" that is pleasing to God. In this way the Eucharistic prayer interprets in an adequate way the words of St. Paul.

Christ: the High Priest Who Has Given Himself Up

St. Augustine clarified all of this in a marvelous way in the 10th book of his City of God. I cite only two phrase: "This is the sacrifice of the Christians: though being many we are only one body in Christ" "All of the redeemed community (civitas), that is, the congregation and the society of the saints, is offered to God through the High Priest who has given himself up" (10,6: CCL 47,27ff).

The Priestly Service of the Gospel

3. Finally, I want to leave a brief reflection on the third passage of the Letter to the Romans referring to the new worship. St. Paul says thus in Chapter 15: "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service (hierourgein) of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit" (15:15ff).

At the Center of the Priesthood

I would like to emphasize only two aspects of this marvelous text and one aspect of the unique terminology of the Pauline letters. Before all else, St. Paul interprets his missionary action among the peoples of the world to construct the universal Church as a priestly action. To announce the Gospel to unify the peoples in communion with the Risen Christ is a "priestly" action. The apostle of the Gospel is a true priest; he does what is at the center of the priesthood: prepares the true sacrifice.

Christ, Priest and Victim, Draws All Things to Himself

And then the second aspect: the goal of missionary action is -- we could say in this way -- the cosmic liturgy: that the peoples united in Christ, the world, becomes as such the glory of God "pleasing oblation, sanctified in the Holy Spirit." Here appears a dynamic aspect, the aspect of hope in the Pauline concept of worship: the self-gift of Christ implies the tendency to attract everyone to communion in his body, to unite the world. Only in communion with Christ, the model man, one with God, the world comes to be just as we all want it to be: a mirror of divine love. This dynamism is always present in Scripture; this dynamism should inspire and form our life.

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First Tuesday of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 71:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 (R. 7)
Luke 10:21-24

Bishop Slattery invited me to preach at Holy Mass in Tulsa's Cathedral of the Holy Family on the occasion of the Diocesan Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, observed annually on the First Tuesday of Advent. It was wonderful to see all the priests of the diocese and a good number of deacons assembled around our Bishop. Here is the homily I gave:

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found

Some of you, brothers, after completing your Morning Prayer today, may have glanced ahead at the Magnificat Antiphon. I, for one, did -- and I found there why we are here this evening: "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while he is near" (Is 55:6).

Saint Bernard, especially in his darker moments, used to ask himself, Bernarde, ad quid venisti? "Bernard, what are you doing here? Why have you come?" Given that it was Bernard's custom to find answers to his questions in the Scriptures, he may well have replied to himself: "You've come to seek the Lord while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near" (Is 55:66). This is why we have assembled in our cathedral this evening; to seek the Lord while He may be found and together, with one another and for one another, to call upon Him while He is near.

Times and Places Fragrant With Grace

Our Lord can, without any doubt, be sought anytime and anywhere. One can call upon Him in any place, at any moment, and out of any situation. And yet, there are times and places that are especially fragrant with His grace. There are moments when the veil hiding His Face seems less opaque, when His voice seems to strike the ear of our hearts more clearly

To call upon the Lord is to engage Him in conversation. The Church, instructed by the Holy Spirit, tells us just how we are to go about calling on the Lord. (This is an example of how the liturgy, taken just as it is given, makes all prayer extraordinarily simple. It is the indispensable primary school of prayer.) Look for a moment, if you will, at today's Collect: the prayer that pulls us together, the prayer that, from the very beginning of Mass, imparts the radical God-ward orientation without which there is no prayer.

The Collect

Using a prayer that comes from the 5th century scroll of Ravenna, we say today:

Lord God, be gracious to our supplications
and in tribulation grant us, we pray,
the help of your paternal care;
that being consoled by the presence of your Son who is to come,
we may be untainted, even now,
by the contagion of our former ways.

This prayer, with the realism that characterizes our Roman Rite, just assumes that we are in tribulation. Of course it would. These 5th century Roman prayers emerged out of real life pastoral situations, often marked by crisis, by animosities, persecutions, and weariness.

Pietas Auxilium

And then we ask for the help of God's pietas -- auxilium pietatis. Pietas is a translator's conundrum. It is God's provident, strong, reliable, paternal love. His pietas is the bedrock of what Saint Paul calls the "household of faith" (Gal 6:10). Pietas is what makes a man dutiful and tender in caring for his wife and children, a reflection of how the Father, in Christ, loves the household of the Church.

Consoled Ahead of Time

The prayer goes on to say that because the Son is coming again, we are consoled ahead of time. "That being consoled by the presence of your Son who is to come. . . ." There is consolation, brothers, even in the apparent absence of God, because waiting engenders hope, and hope is, in the uncertainties and losses of this life, the one thing that consoles us.

Old in Sin

Finally we come to point of the whole prayer: the famous ut clause: so that. "So that being consoled by the presence of your Son who is to come, we may be untainted, -- the Latin even more pointedly says unpolluted -- even now, by the contagion of our former ways." The contagious pollution of our former ways! I told you the Roman liturgy is realistic.

Sin is the great unseen pollutant. It ages us prematurely. It robs us of that joy of our youth that we go to the altar in search of, day after day. It is easy, brothers, to be reinfected by ancient patterns of sin, by the contagion of what is old. Such is the plight of the "old man" in me and in you, the decrepit man who, so often as he sins, becomes more decrepit.

The Child

The Son who is to come in the Collect is the Child of the First Reading. . "And a little Child shall lead them" (Is 11:6). We are led by One who has the Face of a little Child, a Face at once open and full of mystery. This is the image of a healthy presbyterate: men of all ages content to be led by a little Child.

The Anointed One

This same Child is the Father's anointed Priest. The Anointing poured over His head runs down even to the hem of His garment (cf. Ps 132), covering each of us, His priestly members, and steeping us in the fragrance of His sacrifice. This too is the image of a healthy presbyterate: one in which the seven gifts of the Divine Anointing are in operation: "the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. . . and the spirit of the fear of the Lord" (Is 11:2-3).

His Prayer to the Father

The Gospel brings us back to the mystery of the Child-Priest. We surprise Him in the very act of praying to His Father. So intimate is the tone of this prayer that it has been compared to the most sublime pages of the Fourth Gospel.

The Magnificat of Jesus

Saint Luke shows us the Son filled with gladness in the Holy Spirit -- this is the Magnificat of Jesus, an echo of His Mother's exultation in the first chapter of Saint Luke's Gospel. It is, at the same time, Saint Luke's transmission of the uninterrupted priestly prayer of the Heart of Jesus. It is Eucharistic --"Father, I give you thanks"-- corresponding in its own way to Chapter Seventeen of Saint John.

The Great Thanksgiving

This prayer of Jesus is, in essence, the model of the Preface of every Mass. Listen to it in a liturgical key:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
that you have hidden all this from the wise and the prudent,
and revealed it to little children.
Be it so, Lord, since this finds favour in your sight.
Therefore, with Angels and Archangels, Thrones and Dominations,
and all the warriors of the Heavenly array,
we raise a ceaseless hymn of praise, as we sing . . . .

The Delight of the Child

The Child-Priest praises the Father who has entrusted everything into His hands. None knows who the Child is, except the Father, and none knows who the Father is, except the Child, and those to whom it is the Child's delight to reveal Him. Be certain of one thing, brothers, this Child-Priest is most at ease in conversing with other children because among them He runs the least risk of being misunderstood.

Blessed Are the Eyes That See What You See

And just as in John 17 Jesus addresses His friends, His chosen disciples, so too in today's Gospel, His final words are for us priests. Although Our Lord mentions prophets and kings, He does not mention priests, and this because He is addressing His priests, those of the New Covenant. "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see; I tell you, there have been many prophets and kings who have longed to see what you see, and never saw it, to hear what you hear, and never heard it" (Lk 10:24).

The Joy of Our Youth

This is the affirmation of our priesthood. We need look nowhere else. This is the consolation of our priesthood in the face of our every experience of humiliation and weakness. This is the joy of our priesthood, joy offered by a Child. Welcome it today at the altar, brothers, and there recover, not for ourselves only, but for the sake of the whole Church, the joy of our youth.

A Prayer for Priests

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O LORD JESUS CHRIST, Who hast commanded
that the men whom Thou hast called
and set apart for the service of Thy holy altars,
should themselves be holy:
give them such holiness
that in them Thy Father may take delight
and Thy Bride, the Church, find consolation.

Send Thou upon them the promised Paraclete,
to keep them firm in their faith
in the midst of an unbelieving world;
to keep them ardent in their love
among those that love Thee not;
to keep them pure amidst the impure;
and to keep them Thine amidst those who are as yet not Thine,
but whom Thou, O gentle Shepherd,
didst come to seek and to save.

And give them grace,
through the intercession of our most gracious Lady and Queen,
Thy Mother, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin,
so to serve Thee
among all the changes and chances of this passing world,
that hereafter they may be ready
to enter in with Thee, O Eternal High Priest,
to the sanctuary not made by human hands
where Thou livest for ever to make intercession for us,
and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end. Amen.

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I am beginning today a novena to Father Lukas Etlin, O.S.B., a monk of Conception Abbey known for his tender devotion to the Mother of God and his ardent devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist. Father Lukas, born in Switzerland in 1864, died on December 16, 1927 in Stanberry, Missouri, as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Readers of Vultus Christi may want to join me in seeking the intercession of this zealous Benedictine adorer of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Prayer

O God, who didst bestow upon Thy faithful servant, Father Lukas Etlin,
a tender love for the Mother of Thy Son,
fervent devotion to the Holy Eucharist,
and apostolic charity for all,
grant us through his intercession graces and favours,
particularly . . .
so that, through manifesting Thy good pleasure in his merits
and in hastening his beatification,
the Church may be enhanced.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"22 Anni di Messa"

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Measuring Time Eucharistically

The Italian expression for one's anniversary of ordination to the priesthood is so many years "di Messa". Today I am giving thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ for 22 "years of Mass." I find the Italian way of saying it very beautiful: the life of a priest is measured eucharistically. What matters, above all else, is his time before the altar, offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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An Unexpected Gift

Yesterday, after I spoke on spiritual maternity in favour of priests to a rather large group of Catholic ladies, one of them approached me saying that she felt compelled to give me a woven image of the Blessed Virgin Mary adoring the Most Holy Eucharist that had been entrusted to her. She drove to her home to get the image and returned with it in less than a half hour. Woven in black and white silk, and beautifully framed, it was produced by the Maison Neyret Frères early in the last century. At the bottom of the picture is a single word: Adoratio.

The woven image is an interpretation of the Vierge à l'hostie painted by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in 1841. One can see the original painting in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, in Moscow.

That this particular image should be given me for the Cenacle of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus on the eve of begining my 23rd year as a priest is significant, encouraging me in my "vocation within a vocation" to adore the Blessed Sacrament on behalf of all priests everywhere.

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In Solitude and Adoration

I celebrated my 22 anni di Messa in solitude and adoration, adding at Holy Mass the orations provided "for the priest himself" on this occasion:

Collect

Almighty and merciful God,
listen graciously to my humble prayers.
Not for any deserts of my own,
but because Thy mercy knows no bounds,
Thou hast appointed me to serve Thy heavenly mysteries.
Make me a worthy minister of Thy sacred altars,
and let the words I utter
be hallowed and ratified by Thee.
Through our Lord.

Secret

By virtue of this sacrament, Lord,
wash away the sins that stain my soul,
and grant that Thy grace may render me worthy
to fulfil the duties of my priestly office.
Through our Lord.

Postcommunion

Almighty, everlasting God,
by whose will, I, a sinner,
serve at Thy sacred altars and extol the power of Thy Holy Name,
have mercy,
and through this sacramental rite forgive my sins,
making me fit to serve Thy majesty.
Through our Lord.


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Maria Sieler

Almost a year ago I wrote an entry entitled, Maria Sieler: A Life Offered for Priests. Recently I finished reading a presentation of Maria Siedler's life and mission: Un nouveau printemps pour l'Eglise, Maria Sieler: vie et mission (Éditions du Parvis, Hauteville, Suisse, 1995), by the Reverend Father Josef Fiedler, S.J. I intend, little by little, to translate excerpts from the book and make them available here. Given that tomorrow morning I will be addressing a group of Catholic women on the mission of spiritual maternity in favour of priests, I decided to translate this passage tonight:

Spiritual Mother to the Clergy

The Redeemer made me a precious but strange promise today: he put me at the disposal of His Church as "spiritual mother" to the clergy. All my sacrifices and all my sorrows, all that I have acquired in hard struggle and borne for good, all moral perfection, my extraordinary spiritual mission in conformity with my union with Jesus, all of that -- He made me understand -- constitutes a spiritual treasury for the priesthood. All my inner conquests show themselves to be, in some way, fruitful for the consecrated ones. [Maria Sieler often refers to priests as "the consecrated ones."]
All the graces of my interior life are, so to speak, the property of the clergy. Priests can draw from them: each one will obtain from the Lord that for which he implores Him; for this treasure is offered through me, in Christ, who won it in advance. . . . Just as a mother transmits her dispositions to her descendants, in the same way, my interior life and all the inherent graces -- in particular the communion established with Christ -- will be passed on, like a heritage, and will act efficaciously in the Church. . . . To back up His promise, the Saviour said to me: "I give you my Word in pledge of that." (14 July 1944)

All for Priests

A woman called to spiritual maternity in favour of priests keeps nothing for herself. All that she has received from Christ -- all that she has acquired by His grace in the way of victories over sin, virtues, and merits; all her prayers, her penances; and, above all, her confident surrender to Divine Providence in the little things of daily life -- all of these things belong no longer to her, but rather to the souls of priests.

A Kind of Dispensary

The spiritual mother of priests becomes a kind of dispensary wherein Christ places whatever remedies His priests may need in their spiritual infirmities and weaknesses. She offers her heart, in imitation of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, to Our Lord, saying, "Use me, O Lord, as Thou wilt for the healing and sanctification of Thy priests. Unite the offering of myself to Thine own Offering on the Altar of the Cross and, then, let the all the fruits of our union be dispensed to Thy priests, especially to the weakest and most wounded among them."

O Hostie rayonnante!

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On the feast of Corpus Christi, la Fête-Dieu, 1931, Mother Marie des Douleurs (1902-1983) wrote a meditation in the form of a dialogue with Jesus, the Divine Host, for her daughters. It is evident from the vocabulary she used that a strong call to Eucharistic reparation marked her life at that time: Host, High Priest, Victim, sacrileges, profanations. One detects the influence of Mother Mechtilde de Bar with whose writings she was certainly familiar.

You will remark that Mother Marie des Douleurs relates the agony of Jesus in Gethsemani to the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist that preceded it in the Cenacle. She sees the "Holy Hour" practiced on Thursday evenings as an act of Eucharistic reparation for sins of indifference, for the lack of response to the Gift of His Body and Blood, and for sacrileges and profanations.

Echoing the messages of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary at Paray-le-Monial, she hears Our Lord lament the superficiality of so many Christians, even of consecrated souls, It grieves Our Lord that so few priests offer Holy Mass without realizing that, in so doing, they hand themselves over to be immolated for souls with Himself, the Victim. Mother Marie des Douleurs alludes to the role of Saint Veronica, and hears Our Lord ask that a veil of heartfelt compassion be placed upon His Holy Face.

The last line of this brief meditation is extraordinary. The young foundress is compelled to want to place her own heart between the Heart of Jesus and sin. In effect, she prays to absorb, insofar as possible, the coldness, ugliness, indifference, and violence directed toward that Eucharistic Heart that so loves men. The translation is my own.


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High Priest and Victim

O Hostie rayonnante, notre Pontife et notre Victime, nous aurions voulu savoir vous louer, nous aurions voulu vous faire un chemin bien plus triumphal que ce chemin de fleurs. Que faut-il donc et que pouvez vous demander à nous, si petites parmi les creatures?

O radiant Host, our High Priest and our Victim, we would have wanted to know how to praise You, we would have wanted to make You a much more triumphal path than this path of flowers. What do You need, and what can You ask of us, so little among Your creatures?

I Thirst for the Love of Souls

Je demande, à chacune d'entre vous, de se livrer à moi, sans retour, sans restriction, jusqu'à vouloir continellement vous anéantir, parce que j'ai soif de l'amour des âmes et que je veux, lorsque vous serez vraiment miennes, faire de vous, de chacune de vous, des étincelles qui iront dans le monde des âmes propager l'incendie. Ne vous refusez plus à mon désir, j'ai besoin de vous, j'ai besoin de votre amour pour compenser l'indifférence. J'ai besoin de vous souffrances pour ceux qui me haïssent.

I ask that each one amongst you surrender herself to me, without having second thoughts, without restriction, until you arrive at wanting to nullify yourselves continually, because I thirst for the love of souls, and because, when you will be truly mine, I want to make you -- each one of you -- sparks that will go forth into the world of souls to set them all ablaze. Refuse my desire no longer. I need you. I need your love to make up for indifference. I need your sufferings for those who hate me.

Sins Against the Most Holy Eucharist

J'ai besoin de vous, il faut que vous soyez là près de moi pendant l'agonie où je vois distinctement quel est le petit nombre des âmes qui viendront à l'Eucharistie, où je vois chacun des sacrileges, chacune des profanations, et où mon Coeur se brise.

I need you. You must be there, close to me during the agony in which I see distinctly how few souls will come to the Eucharist, in which I see the sacrileges, and each profanation, and in which my Heart breaks.

Priests at the Altar

De quelle tristesse suis-je étreint lorsque je vois qu'au don total que je fais de moi-meme la plupart des hommes , la plupart aussi des âmes consacrées ne répondent que par des actes superficiels. Où sont les âmes eucharistiques? celles qui ne vivent que par l'Hostie, celles qui s'identifient avec mon état de Victime? Il y a si peu de prêtres qui, chaque matin, lorsqu'ils montent à l'autel, pensent qu'ils vont à l'immolation de tout leur être pour les âmes.

What sorrow holds me in its grip when I see that even the greater number of men, the greater number also of consecrated souls respond with nothing more than superficial acts to the total gift I make of myself. Where are the Eucharistic souls? Where are those who will live only by the Host, those who will identify themselves with my victimal state? There are so few priests who, each morning, when they ascend the altar, consider that they are going to be entirely immolated for souls. I ask you to suffer all of that with me; the tender compassion of your hearts will be for mine like the veil of Veronica upon my Face covered with sweat, with dust, and with blood.

Hearts Set Between the Heart of Jesus and Sin

O mon Dieu, vous êtes adorablement bon, vous nous traîtez comme vos épouses. Vous nous donnez ainsi un peu de votre souffrance. Mon Dieu, nous la recevons humblement et avec action de grIaces: c'est la part que nous avons choisie et nous ne savons plus comment nous pourrions supporter l'exil si nous ne pouvions pas, tant que nous vivrons, mettre nos coeurs entre le vôtre et le péché.

O my God, You are adorably good, You treat us as Your spouses. Thus do You give us a little of Your own suffering. My God, we receive it humbly and with thanksgiving; it is the part that we have chosen. We know not how we shall ever bear this exile, so long as we shall live, if we cannot set our hearts between Yours and sin.

Look to Him and Be Radiant

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O my beloved Jesus,
Son of the Father and His Eternal High Priest,
offering Thyself to Him perpetually in the sanctuary of heaven
and here in the Sacrament of Thy Redeeming Love,
I adore Thee.

I praise Thee that here I find Thy Eucharistic Heart,
open, ever-beating with love,
and covering with a flood of Blood and of Water
those who draw near to Thee in this Sacrament.

I praise Thee that here I behold Thy Eucharistic Face,
filling the shadows of this world with Thy deifying light,
and shining into the hearts of those who approach Thee
in faith, in hope, and in love.

I pray to Thee for Thy priests,
without whom this valley of tears would be
devoid of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar,
without the adorable mysteries of the Thy life-giving Body and Blood,
and without Thy abiding real presence in the tabernacles of the world.

Sanctify thy priests, O Jesus!
Wash them in the Blood and Water gushing at every moment
from Thy Sacred Side
Heal them in the light of Thy Eucharistic Face and,
to do this, draw them all into Thy sacramental presence.

Let thy tabernacles magnetize their souls,
and the desire to abide before Thy Eucharistic Face
hold sway over their hearts.
Let Thy Sacred Body exposed in the monstrance
exercise over them the most compelling of all attractions.

Look today upon those priests who, for whatever reason,
have forgotten the way to Thy tabernacles
and rarely, if ever, stop all else
to rest their tired bodies and still their minds
before Thy Eucharistic Face,
and to adore Thee simply because . . . Thou art there.

Save thy priests in danger of falling into sin,
and lift those who have fallen,
so that, having confessed their faults and received absolution,
they may return to Thine altar and to the joy of their youth.

Let not one of Thy priests remain outside the radiance of Thy Eucharistic Face.
Draw them all out of this world's darkness
into Thy wonderful light,
that with the psalmist they might say not once,
but again and again:
"Look to Him and be radiant
and on your faces there will be no trace of shame."
Amen.

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Are you willing to commit yourself to one hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament every Thursday in intercession and reparation for priests? The hour may be made before the tabernacle or before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Should it be impossible to make it before the Blessed Sacrament, one can, from any place, offer it in spirit before the tabernacle in the world where Our Lord is most forsaken, neglected, and forgotten.

O my beloved Jesus,
I give and consecrate to Thee this Thursday and all the Thursdays of my life,
in praise of the adorable Mystery of Thy Body and Blood,
and in thanksgiving for that of the Priesthood.

Moved by Thy Holy Spirit,
and full of confidence in the help of Thy Most Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary,
Mother of Priests,
I resolve to live each Thursday for the rest of my days here below
in adoration and in reparation for priests
and, especially, for those who do not adore Thee,
for those who are most wounded in their souls,
and for those who are exposed to the attacks of the powers of darkness.
I want to remain before Thy Eucharistic Face for them and in their place;
I want to draw near, in their name, to Thy open Heart,
ever-flowing with the Blood and the Water that purify,
heal, and sanctify all souls,
but, first of all, those of Thy priests.

Let each Thursday find me close to the Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood,
in adoration and reparation for the sake of all Thy priests.
Make me an entirely Eucharistic soul,
according to the desires of Thy Sacred Heart
and the designs of Thy merciful goodness upon my life.
I desire nothing else.
I want to love Thee more each day;
I want to be the faithful adorer of Thy Eucharistic Face
and the consoling friend of Thy Sacred Heart
hidden in the tabernacles of the world,
where it beats, wounded by love, forgotten, forsaken,
and waiting for the adoration and for the love of even one priest.
Amen.

Adoro Te

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A Sunday Adoration


I adore Thee who art present here before me.
I adore Thee with all the love of my heart.
I adore Thee humbly.
I adore Thee in faith.
I adore Thee because Thou art God ever worthy of all adoration,
and because Thou hast called me to adore Thee
in this the Sacrament of Thy Redeeming Love.

Here is Thy Blessed Passion,
here Thy immolated Flesh,
here Thy Precious Blood,
here Thy holy and glorious wounds,
here Thy pierced side,
here Thy Sacred Heart all-burning with love,
here Thy merciful priesthood exercised eternally on behalf of poor sinners,
here Thy adorable Face, so humiliated and disfigured in Thy bitter sufferings,
and now so ineffably radiant and divinely beautiful.
All of this I adore
so often as I bow low before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

I adore Thee to thank Thee, insofar as I am able,
for all the benefits that flow from this Most Holy Sacrament
and, in particular, for those graces of purity, healing, and holiness
that Thou reservest here for Thy priests.

All that Thou givest Thy priests, beloved Lord Jesus,
redounds to Thy glory, because through them, as through "other selves" of Thine,
Thou dost sanctify and speak to souls.
Through Thy priests Thou prolongest Thy saving sacrifice in the world
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof.
Through thy priests Thou givest pardon to the sinner,
healing to the sick,
hope to the despondent,
and peace to those whose hearts are troubled.

I adore Thee, too, to make reparation
for those who do not adore Thee present in this the Sacrament of Thy Love.
I adore Thee in reparation for those priests of Thine who,
though charged with the Sacred Mysteries of Thy Body and Blood,
have lost all sense of wonder, and rarely remain, freely and willingly,
before Thy Eucharistic Face, close to Thy Eucharistic Heart.

I adore Thee, O Silent Word, in reparation for the noise and lack of reverence
that so often fills Thy sanctuaries,
and for the indifference and neglect that has befallen Thee
in so many tabernacles where Thou art present, but forsaken.

I adore Thee, O Lamb of God, in reparation for my own innumerable sins
and for the sins of my brother priests,
trusting utterly in Thy boundless mercy
and in Thy readiness to restore by Thy grace whatever we have lost by sin.

I adore Thee, Radiant Splendour of the Father, because in approaching Thee,
I approach Thy Father,
and because in adoring Thee
I glorify Thy Father Who so loved the world
that He sent Thee into it,
that by Thy Sacrifice all creation might be cleansed
and all things made new.

I adore Thee, Victim and Priest,
begging Thee to unite me to Thy own oblation.
Draw me to Thy Open Heart by the action of Thy Holy Spirit,
that through Thee, and with Thee, and in Thee,
I may pass already from before this altar
where I contemplate Thee hidden beneath the sacramental veils
into the glory of Thy Kingdom
where the praise of Thy Father in the Holy Spirit is perfect and unending.
Amen.

Hidden, And So Often Left Alone

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This magnificent tabernacle door depicting the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and His Five Holy Wounds is found in Saint Stephen's Catholic Church in Skipton, North Yorkshire, England.

Lord Jesus,
I come before Thy Eucharistic Face today
by placing myself in spirit close to that tabernacle in the world
where Thou art most forsaken, most ignored, and most forgotten.

And because Thou hast asked me for my heart,
I offer it to Thee
to keep company with Thy Sacred Heart, Thy priestly and Eucharistic Heart.
I adore Thee in a spirit of reparation for all the priests of the Church,
but especially for those who never, or rarely,
pause to be still in Thy presence,
there to rest their hearts,
there to put down their burdens,
there to receive from Thee new strengths,
new lights, and new capacities to love, to pardon, and to bless.

I do not want to depart from before this tabernacle today,
wherever it may be.
I want, at every instant, to remain there prostrate in the adoration
Thou waitest to receive from Thy priests.

I unite myself to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces
and first Adorer of Thy Eucharistic Face.
By her most pure Heart, may the prayers that rise in mine
ascend even to Thine own open Heart,
hidden, and so often left alone,
alone in the Sacrament of Thy Love. Amen.

Give Us Priests Who Are On Fire

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Our friends at WorldPriest offer the following reflection on this prayer dear to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face:

Saint Thérèse's devotion to the Priesthood is to be found in all its fullness in a prayer which she used to say daily and which she learnt off by heart; this is all the more remarkable in view of her known distaste for lengthy set forms of prayer.

O Holy Father,
may the torrents of love
flowing from the sacred wounds of Thy Divine Son
bring forth priests like unto the beloved disciple John
who stood at the foot of the Cross;
priests: who as a pledge of Thine own most tender love
will lovingly give Thy Divine Son to the souls of men.

May Thy priests be faithful guardians of Thy Church,
as John was of Mary, whom he received into his house.
Taught by this loving Mother who suffered so much on Calvary,
may they display a mother's care and thoughtfulness
towards Thy children.
May they teach souls to enter into close union with Thee
through Mary who, as the Gate of Heaven,
is specially the guardian of the treasures of Thy Divine Heart.

Give us priests who are on fire, and who are true children of Mary,
priests who will give Jesus to souls
with the same tenderness and care
with which Mary carried the Little Child of Bethlehem.

Mother of sorrows and of love,
out of compassion for Thy beloved Son,
open in our hearts deep wells of love,
so that we may console Him
and give Him a generation of priests formed in thy school
and having all the tender thoughtfulness of thine own spotless love.
Amen.

Il est là!

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L'abbaye aux puces

Twenty-nine summers ago, my dear friend Père Jacob, O.P. (not yet a Friar Preacher) and I were on a kind of back-packing pilgrimage in France that allowed us to discover all sorts of holy people, places, and things. At one point we stayed in the "hôtellerie" of a certain famous monastery only to discover that the beds were inhabited by . . . fleas! I should have guessed as much when I noticed that there were cats lolling about on most of the beds and freely roaming the hallways.

One of the goals of our pilgrimage was to seek the intercession of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney at Ars. For both of us, the priesthood we so desired seemed an almost unattainable dream. We wanted Saint Jean-Marie Vianney on our side.

The Baron with the Purple Hair

We hitchhiked (in the rain) from "l'abbaye aux puces" (the Abbey of the Fleas) to Ars. At one point a shiny black sedan stopped for us; the youngish driver, being frightfully avant-garde, had a bright purple streak of hair. He was very "sympathique," and drove us right to the door of the basilica of Ars. As I extended my hand to thank him for the lift, he gave me his card. He was the Baron de R., a scion of one of Europe's most famous banking dynasties. Who would have known?

Guitars at Ars

We washed our clothes in Ars and, once liberated from the fleas, were able to make our devotions to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. Oh, one more thing -- there was a "rock" Mass going on in the basilica. Very upsetting. I looked at the Curé of Ars reclining in his glass reliquary, fully expecting him to turn over at any moment. But he didn't.

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The Preacher Belongs to the Word

The Word does not belong to the preacher; the preacher belongs to the Word. This was true of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, it was true of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, and it is true of today's saint, the holy parish priest Jean-Marie Vianney. The Curé of Ars stands in a long line of preachers possessed by the Word, and compelled to speak it without compromise.

Incendiary Preaching

Jean-Marie Vianney was not particularly eloquent; he preached in a cracked and broken voice, but his words communicated the fire of the Holy Spirit. Even the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century, the Dominican Père Lacordaire, fell silent before the charism of holy preaching in Jean Marie Vianney.

John Paul and Jean-Marie

When the Curé of Ars spoke of the Sacrament of the Altar, he glowed. He communicated to his hearers the Eucharistic fire that burned in his own heart. Twenty-two years ago, Pope John Paul II devoted his Holy Thursday Letter to Priests to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. I think that today we can read that letter as one saint talking about another. This is what Pope John Paul II said:

The Eucharist was at the very center of Saint Jean Vianney's spiritual life and pastoral work. He said: "All good works put together are not equivalent to the Sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the works of men and the Holy Mass is the work of God." It is in the Mass that the sacrifice of Calvary is made present for the Redemption of the world. Clearly, the priest must unite the daily gift of himself to the offering of the Mass: "How well a priest does, therefore, to offer himself to God in sacrifice every morning!" "Holy Communion and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are the two most efficacious actions for obtaining the conversion of hearts."

Recollection and Adoration

Thus the Mass was for John Mary Vianney the great joy and comfort of his priestly life. He took great care, despite the crowds of penitents, to spend more than a quarter of an hour in silent preparation. He celebrated with recollection, clearly expressing his adoration at the consecration and communion. He accurately remarked: "The cause of priestly laxity is not paying attention to the Mass!"

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TO THE CATHOLIC CLERGY ON PRIESTLY SANCTITY

Apostolic Exhortation Given by Pope Saint Pius X on August 4, 1908


Pope Saint Pius X wrote this Apostolic Exhortation entirely in his own hand, and addressed it to all the clergy of the Catholic Church on the occasion of his own Golden Jubilee of ordination to the priesthood. In it he set forth his own vision of priestly holiness; he revealed the paternal anguish of his heart over the crisis that, at the time of the Modernist crisis, affected so many priests. This Apostolic Exhortation is, in many ways, as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. Pope Saint Pius X recommended it to his brother bishops, saying: "We opened our heart to all sacred ministers in this document; make it your business to recall it and explain it for the benefit of the clerics for whom you are responsible."[2] The priest readers of Vultus Christi will, I think, find this Apostolic Exhortation inspiring and comforting.

He Opens His Heart to Priests

Deeply imprinted upon our mind are those dread words which the Apostle of the gentiles wrote to the Hebrews to remind them of the obedience which they owed to their superiors: They keep watch as having to render an account of your souls.[3]

These grave words apply, no doubt, to all who have authority in the Church, but they apply in a special way to us who, despite our unworthiness, by the grace of God exercise supreme power within the Church. Therefore, with unceasing solicitude, our thoughts and endeavors are constantly directed to the promotion of the well-being and growth of the flock of the Lord.

Our first and chief concern is that all who are invested with the priestly ministry should be in every way fitted for the discharge of their responsibilities. For we are fully convinced that it is here that hope lies for the welfare and progress of religious life.

Hence it is that, ever since our elevation to the office of supreme Pontiff, we have felt it a duty, notwithstanding the manifest and numerous proofs of the high quality of the clergy as a whole, to urge with all earnestness our venerable brethren the bishops of the whole catholic world, to devote themselves unceasingly and efficaciously to the formation of Christ in those who, by their calling, have the responsibility of forming Christ in others.[4]

We are well aware of the eagerness with which the episcopate have carried out this task. We know the watchful care and unwearied energy with which they seek to form the clergy in the ways of virtue, and for this we wish not so much to praise them as to render them public thanks.

Erring and Lukewarm Priests

But though it is a matter for congratulation that, as a result of the diligence of the bishops, so many priests are animated by heavenly fervor to rekindle or strengthen in their souls the flame of divine grace which they received by the imposition of hands, we must deplore the fact that there are others in different countries who do not show themselves worthy to be taken as models by the christian people who rightly look to them for a genuine model of christian virtue.[5]

It is to these priests that we wish to open our heart in this Letter; it is a father's loving heart which beats anxiously as he looks upon an ailing child. Our love for them inspires us to add our own appeal to the appeals of their own bishops. And while our appeal is intended above all to recall the erring to the right path and to spur the lukewarm to fresh endeavor, we would wish it to serve as an encouragement to others also. We point out the path which each one must strive to follow with constantly growing fervor, so that he may become truly a man of God,[6] as the Apostle so concisely expresses it, and fulfill the legitimate expectations of the Church.

We have nothing to say which you have not already heard, no doctrine to propound that is new to anyone; but we treat of matters which it is necessary for everyone to bear in mind, and God inspires us with the hope that our message will not fail to bear abundant fruit.

Put on the New Man

Our earnest appeal to you is this: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and sanctity of truth;[7] that will be the most excellent and most acceptable gift which you could offer to us on this fiftieth anniversary of our ordination.

For our own part, when we review before God with a contrite heart and in a spirit of humility[8] the years passed in the priesthood, we will feel that we are making reparation in some measure for the human frailties which we have cause to regret, by thus admonishing and exhorting you to walk worthily of God, in all things pleasing.[9]

In this exhortation, it is not your personal welfare alone that we are striving to secure, but the common welfare of catholic peoples; the one cannot be separated from the other. For the priest cannot be good or bad for himself alone; his conduct and way of life have far-reaching consequences for the people. A truly good priest is an immense gift wherever he may be.

I. THE OBLIGATION OF PRIESTLY SANCTITY

Therefore, beloved sons, we will begin this exhortation by stimulating you to that sanctity of life which the dignity of your office demands.

Anyone who exercises the priestly ministry exercises it not for himself alone, but for others. For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in the things that pertain to God.[10] Christ himself taught that lesson when he compared the priest to salt and to light, in order to show the nature of the priestly ministry. The priest then is the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Everyone knows that he fulfills this function chiefly by the teaching of christian truth; and who can be unaware that this ministry of teaching is practically useless if the priest fails to confirm by the example of his life the truths which he teaches? Those who hear him might say, insultingly it is true, but not without justification: They profess that they know God but in their works they deny him;[11] they will refuse to accept his teaching and will derive no benefit from the light of the priest.

The Model of Priests

Christ himself, the model of priests, taught first by the example of his deeds and then by his words: Jesus began to do and then to teach.[12]

Likewise, a priest who neglects his own sanctification can never be the salt of the earth; what is corrupt and contaminated is utterly incapable of preserving from corruption; where sanctity is lacking, there corruption will inevitably find its way. Hence Christ, continuing this comparison, calls such priests salt that has lost its savor, which is good for nothing any more, but to be cast out and to be trodden on by men.[13]

These truths are all the more evident inasmuch as we exercise the priestly ministry not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ. The Apostle said: Let man so consider us as the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God;[14] for Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors.[15] This is the reason that Christ has numbered us not among his servants but as his friends. I will not now call you servants; . . . but I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard from my Father I have made known to you; . . . I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bring forth fruit.[16]

Friends and Envoys of Jesus Christ

We have, therefore, to take the place of Christ: the mission which he has given to us we must fulfill with that same purpose that he intended. True friendship consists in unity of mind and will, identity of likes and dislikes; therefore, as friends of Jesus Christ, we are bound to have that mind in us which was in Jesus Christ who is holy, innocent, undefiled.[17] As his envoys, we must win the minds of men for his doctrine and his law by first observing them ourselves; sharing as we do in his power to deliver souls from the bondage of sin, we must strive by every means to avoid becoming entangled in these toils of sin.

The Hand, Mouth, and Tongue of the Priest

But it is particularly as the ministers of Jesus Christ in the great sacrifice which is constantly renewed with abiding power for the salvation of the world, that we have the duty of conforming our minds to that spirit in which he offered himself as an unspotted victim to God on the altar of the Cross. In the Old Law, though victims were only shadowy figures and symbols, sanctity of a high degree was demanded of the priest; what then of us, now that the victim is Christ himself? "How pure should not he be who shares in this sacrifice! More resplendent than the sun must be the hand that divides this Flesh, the mouth that is filled with spiritual fire, the tongue that is reddened by this Blood!"[18]

He Has Placed Heaven in My Hand

Saint Charles Borromeo gave apt expression to this thought when, in his discourses to the clergy, he declared: "If we would only bear in mind, dearly beloved brethren, the exalted character of the things that the Lord God has placed in our hands, what unbounded influence would not this have in impelling us to lead lives worthy of ecclesiastics! Has not the Lord placed everything in my hand, when he put there his only-begotten Son, coeternal and coequal with himself? In my hand he has placed all his treasures, his sacraments, his graces; he has placed there souls, than whom nothing can be dearer to him; in his love he has preferred them to himself, and redeemed them by his Blood; he has placed heaven in my hand, and it is in my power to open and close it to others . . . How, then, can I be so ungrateful for such condescension and love as to sin against him, to offend his honor, to pollute this body which is his? How can I come to defile this high dignity, this life consecrated to his service?"

Holiness of Life

It is well to speak at greater length on this holiness of life, which is the object of the unfailing solicitude of the Church. This is the purpose for which seminaries have been founded; within their walls young men who hope to be priests are trained in letters and other branches of learning, but even more important is the training in piety which they also receive there from their tender years. And then, when the Church gradually and at long intervals promotes candidates to Orders, like a watchful parent she never fails to exhort them to sanctity.

It is a source of joy to recall her words on these occasions.

When we were first enrolled in the army of the Church, she sought from us the formal declaration: The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.[19] St. Jerome tells us that with these words "the cleric is reminded that one who is the portion of the Lord, or who has the Lord as his portion, must show himself to be such a one as possesses the Lord and is possessed by him."[20]

Exemplary Chastity

How solemnly the Church addresses those who are about to be promoted sub-deacons! "You must consider repeatedly and with all attention the office which of your own volition you seek to-day . . . if you receive this Order, you cannot afterwards revoke your decision, you must remain always in the service of God and, with his help, observe chastity." And finally: "If up to now you have been negligent in relation to the Church, henceforth you must be diligent; if hitherto you have been somnolent, henceforth you must be vigilant . . . if up to now your life has been unseemly, henceforth you must be chaste; . . . Consider the ministry which is entrusted to you!" For those who are about to be raised to the diaconate, the Church prays to God through the mouth of the bishop: "May they have in abundance the pattern of every virtue, authority that is unassuming, constancy in chastity, the purity of innocence, and the observance of spiritual discipline. May thy commands shine forth through their conduct, and may the people find a saintly model in their exemplary chastity."

The Fragrance of Your Life

The admonition addressed to those who are about to be ordained priests is even more moving: "It is with great fear that one must approach this high dignity, and care must be taken that those chosen for it are recommended by heavenly wisdom, blameless life and sustained observance of justice . . . Let the fragrance of your life be a joy to the Church of Christ, so that by your preaching and example you may build up the house, that is, the family of God." Above all the Church stresses the solemn words: Imitate that which you handle, an injunction which fully agrees with the command of St. Paul: That we may present every man perfect in Jesus Christ.[21]

Avoid Even Venial Faults

Since this is the mind of the Church on the life of a priest, one cannot be surprised at the complete unanimity of the Fathers and Doctors on this matter; it might indeed be thought that they are guilty of exaggeration, but a careful examination will lead to the conclusion that they taught nothing that was not entirely true and correct. Their teaching can be summarized thus: there should be as much difference between the priest and any other upright man as there is between heaven and earth; consequently, the priest must see to it that his life is free not merely from grave faults but even from the slightest faults.[22] The Council of Trent made the teaching of these venerable men its own when it warned clerics to avoid" even venial faults which in their case would be very grave."[23] These faults are grave, not in themselves, but in relation to the one who commits them; for to him, even more than to the sacred edifice, are applicable the words: Holiness becometh thy house.[23]a

Looking Round for Pity

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Heart-broken with that shame, I pine away, looking round for pity where pity is none, for comfort where there is no comfort to be found.
They gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink.
(Psalm 68, 21, Offertory of the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus)

The Sufferings of a Love Wounded and Spurned

Our Lord, when He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, foresaw outrages and sufferings: the sufferings of a Love wounded and spurned. He still waits for a little compassion from priests, from His priests. Today more than ever, Jesus is looking for priest consolers, that is to say, priest adorers who will make reparation. To one priest He said:

I Want Priest Adorers and Reparators

I want priests who will adore for priests who do not adore, [I want] priests who will make reparation for priests who do not make reparation, not for themselves, nor for others. I want priest adorers and reparators.

All Heaven Weeps

My Father, too, is grieved by the coldness and indifference with which I who am His Beloved Son, His Eternal Priest, His Immaculate Victim ceaselessly offered in the sanctuary of heaven, am treated on earth. This comes not from strangers, but from my very own, from those whom I chose, out of love, to share in my priesthood, to abide in my presence, to nourish my people with the mysteries of my Body and Blood. All heaven weeps over the sins of my priests. For every sin there is mercy in the Blood and Water that flow from my wounded Side, but the sins of my priests call for reparation. Make reparation for your brother priests by adoring me, by remaining before my Eucharistic Face, by offering the love of your heart purified by my great mercy.

I Love My Priests

My Sacred Heart is divinely sensitive to the coldness and indifference of my priests. I ask you to make reparation to me for them. Allow me to love you as I would love each of them. Allow me to heal you, to comfort you, to sanctify you, just as I would heal, comfort, and sanctify any one of my priests. I love my priests -- but few of them believe in my love for them. You, believe in my love for you. I am your Friend. I have chosen you to be in life and in death the privileged friend of my Sacred Heart.

Console Me

I ask you to console me by remaining before my Face. I ask you to console me by staying close to my Heart, pierced for love of you and for all sinners. Be my priest adorer. Console me and make reparation for those who spurn my love, for those who mock my wounds, my Blood, my sacrifice.

Time Before My Eucharistic Face

I want you to learn to remain before my Eucharistic Face, silent, adoring, listening to me, and loving me for those who do not adore me, those who do not listen to me, those who never express their love for me in this way. If only my priests would spend time before my Eucharistic Face, I should heal them, purify them, sanctify them, and change them into apostles set all ablaze with the Living Flame that consumes my Heart in the Blessed Sacrament. But they stay away. They prefer so many other things, vain pursuits and things that leave them empty, bitter, and weary. They forget my words, "Come to me . . . and I will refresh you." My priests will be renewed in holiness and in purity when they begin to seek me out in the Sacrament of my Love.

The Desires of My Heart

How it grieves my Heart when the unique love I offer a soul is spurned, or ignored, or regarded with indifference. I tell you this so that you may make reparation to my Heart by accepting the love I have for you and by living in my friendship. Receive my gifts, my kindnesses, my attention, my mercies for the sake of those who effuse what I so desire to give them. Do this especially for my priests, your brothers. I would fill each one of my priests with my merciful love, I would take each one into the shelter of my wounded Side, I would give to each one the delights of my Divine Friendship, but so few of my priests accept what I desire to give them. They flee from before my Face. They remain at a distance from my open Heart. They keep themselves apart from me. Their lives are compartmentalized. They treat with me only when duty obliges them to do so. There is no gratuitous love, no desire to be with me for my own sake, simply because I am there in the Sacrament of my Love, waiting for the companionship and friendship of those whom I have chosen and called from among millions of souls to be my priests and to be the special friends of my Sacred Heart. Would that priests understood that they are called not only to minister to souls in my Name, but even more to cling to me, to abide in me, to live in me and for me, and by me and no other. I want you to tell priests of the desires of my Heart.

A Company of Priest-Adorers Making Reparation

Oh, how my Heart longs to raise up a company of priest-adorers who will make reparation for their brother priests by abiding before my Eucharistic Face. I will pour out the treasures of my Eucharistic Heart upon them. I want to renew the priesthood in my Church, and I will do it beginning with a few priests touched to the quick by my friendship, and drawn into the radiance of my Eucharistic Face.

I am indebted to my friend, Father Scott Bailey, C.SS.R. for this poignant image of the Eucharistic Face and Heart of Jesus.

Pope Benedict XVI to Priests

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This particular teaching of the Holy Father went straight to my heart. It is, I think, a confirmation of the service I am called to offer in the diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma: Eucharistic adoration, and the spiritual support of my brother priests and deacons.

Become Masters of Prayer

Dear brother priests, if your faith is to be strong and vigorous, as you well know, it must be nourished with assiduous prayer. Thus be models of prayer, become masters of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer, during which, after Jesus' example, you engage in a regenerating conversation with the Father.

The Most Important Time in a Priest's Life

I know it is not easy to stay faithful to this daily appointment with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life is frenetic and worries absorb us more and more. Yet we must convince ourselves: the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest's life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true priority in our life.

God is the First Priority

I know that there are many urgent things: as regards myself, an audience, a document to study, a meeting or something else. But if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord.

To the Priests, Deacons and Seminarians of Brindisi
June 15, 2008

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I am happy to share with the readers of Vultus Christi, the remarkable message that His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa published on June 22, 2008 in his diocesan newspaper, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic.

A Request Addressed to the Bishops of the World

Since the Vatican asked every bishop in the world to consider this request, you can imagine the importance it has in the mind of His Holiness. Such a world-wide effort is not easily achieved and would only be attempted for the most important of reasons!

Recovery of a Eucharistic Consciousness

The pope's request, delivered through the Congregation of the Clergy, has three interconnected aspects; but when considered as a single whole, these three aspects have a single end or purpose - the recovery of a Eucharistic consciousness in the Church.

Turning Toward the Eucharist

Pope John Paul II called this consciousness of the Eucharist our "Eucharistic imagination," and I have seen the process of recovering it referred to as a "Eucharistic
conversion of life." In spiritual theology, when we speak of a conversion of life, we generally mean a daily effort to turn toward the Lord, that is, a conscious effort made every day to orient our lives to fulfilling God's will, so that little by little, by placing God's love at the center of our lives, our senses, minds and hearts, our hands and our labor, our family life and the love which illuminates it, can all slowly begin to reflect that Divine Love.

A Eucharistic conversion of life would be much the same. It would entail a daily effort to turn toward our Eucharistic Lord, a conscious effort to place the Eucharist at the center of our lives so that little by little everything we do and think and say will reflect the sacrificial love of Jesus which we receive in Communion. Only in this way will we be able to "live and move and have our very being" in Christ's Eucharistic Heart. (cf. Acts
17:28)

Why Adoration?

I think that there may be some people for whom Adoration may be considered a salutary devotion, but still on the periphery of Church life. I fear there may even be priests for whom things like Holy Hours and extended periods of Eucharistic Adoration
are nothing more than quaint relics of a past piety or something which ought to take second place to the pursuit of social justice and the search to find the face of Jesus in the poor. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth!

Being with the Lord

Pope Benedict reminds us that "Eucharistic Adoration is an essential way of being with the Lord." When someone spends time with Our Lord in the Eucharist, he or she makes a conscious and deliberate choice to belong to Christ entirely for that period, since the believer cannot be present to Christ through the mind alone or through the senses alone. Since the believer has put aside every other activity, sacrificed every lesser good which might have been accomplished in that hour for the greater good of lingering
a time with Jesus, that person has made a very clear accounting of what in his or her life belongs by right to Christ. It is everything.

Understood in this sense, Adoration is not a "dispensable" devotion. Rather, it captures within itself the full essence of the Church's response to God's initiative in grace and expresses in a very real sense that the baptismal vocation of each Christian is to live in, with and through Christ.

Priests and Deacons as Adorers

But I should add immediately that Eucharistic Adoration expresses in a very personal way the particular vocation of those whom Christ has called to a deeper
union with Him through their ordination. Priests should find themselves drawn to Eucharistic Adoration so that they might be ever more deeply identified with
Christ the High Priest, Who lives forever before the Father that He might intercede for us.

Deacons should find themselves drawn to Adoration so that they might pattern their leadership and charity after the love of Christ, the Suffering Servant. I am convinced that those priests and deacons who begin by contemplating the love of Our Lord's Eucharistic Heart must eventually end by recalling the days of their youth, not their biological youth, but rather the youthful energy with which they first responded with
their heart's "YES!" to the invitation whispered by the Heart of Jesus.

Restoration of the Church's Ordained Priests and Servants

In this way, through Adoration, priests and deacons will be constantly rejuvenated and never grow old or weary or stiff-necked in their service of God's people.
This is why when I read the recent instruction on Eucharistic Adoration from the Holy See, I also sensed that while the Vatican talks about the recovery of the
Church's Eucharistic imagination as the end or purpose of this initiative, there is also a very real sense that this whole effort is directed in love toward the spiritual,
psychological, moral and physical restoration of the Church's ordained priests and servants.

The Eucharistic Shrine

This explains, I think, the third request made by Cardinal Hummes. The first two: that each diocese set aside specific churches or oratories to serve as Eucharistic
shrines, similar to Marian shrines; and that in each diocese a priest be appointed to the specific priestly ministry of promoting Eucharistic Adoration, are each
connected to the larger theme of Eucharistic Adoration in the Church as a whole and can be understood as steps to be taken for our recovery of that Eucharistic
imagination of which I have spoken.

Spiritual Motherhood of Priests

But the third request is different. The third request can only be understood as pertaining to the life and holiness of our priests. Becoming the spiritual mother of a priest Cardinal Hummes' third request was that bishops across the world encourage the women of their diocese to discern whether or not they have received the vocation of serving the priestly Heart of Jesus by offering themselves, their prayers and sacrifices, to be the spiritual mothers of those priests who are configured through Holy Orders to the one and eternal Priest, Jesus Christ.

A Feminine Vocation

Of that vocation, Cardinal Hummes writes: "The vocation to be a spiritual mother for priests is largely unknown, scarcely understood and consequently rarely lived,
notwithstanding its fundamental importance. It is a vocation that is frequently hidden, invisible to the naked eye, but meant to transmit spiritual life." Independent of one's age or social status, any woman who has been called by Christ can become a mother for
his priests. It would be just as possible for an unmarried woman or a widow to spiritually adopt a priest-son as it would be for the mother of a family to love another
son, spiritually given her to adopt and nurture. Nor would there be any barriers to prevent the elderly or the handicapped from fully embracing this vocation,
which is at the same time, Marian (since Our Lady is the perfect model of what it means to be united in spiritual motherhood with Jesus the Priest), Eucharistic (since the essence of their prayer and reparation for their spiritual sons will be offered in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), Ecclesial (since it is intimately connected with the sacramental life of the Church) and Feminine (since it is life-giving and nurturing).

Give Birth to a Movement of Prayer

As I reflect upon the Cardinal's letter, it seems to me that the vocation of spiritual motherhood is so intimately linked to the Eucharistic Conversion of Life of which we have spoken, that the only proper way to put it is that the Church is asking Her women to give birth to a movement of prayer, specifically Eucharistic Adoration, so that from every home there might flow constant love, adoration, thanksgiving and reparation to God on behalf of his priests, that those men who stand before the altar, stand there holy and blameless in God's sight.

Finally, a Welcome

As you will read elsewhere in this issue of the EOC, I have invited Cistercian Father Mark Kirby to come to Tulsa and help all of us - that is, help me as the Bishop, help the priests and deacons serving in our parishes, help the lay people and the religious - to implement this program of Eucharistic conversion of life by offering the witness of his own life of Adoration and reparation, his ministry of spiritual direction to priests and
deacons, and his labors to build a Cenacle of prayer and piety from which, I hope, sufficient graces will flow until the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is enthroned in every
parish, worshiped in every home and loved in every heart.

An End and a Beginning

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June 21, 2008
Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Official End of my Service as Chaplain
to the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, O.S.B.
Branford, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Luigi: A Eucharistic Saint

Saint Aloysius, Luigi to call him by his proper name, may well be the most loved Jesuit in history. Luigi contracted the plague from those whom he was nursing. He foresaw his own death and asked Our Lord that he might die within the Octave of Corpus Christi. He died, in fact, on the Octave Day of Corpus Christi with the name of Jesus on his lips. Luigi was twenty-three years old. The liturgy commemorates the Eucharistic glow surrounding Luigi’s death in today’s Communion Antiphon:

He gave them the bread of heaven:
men ate the bread of angels (Ps 77:24–35).

Into the Radiance of the Eucharist

I should like to think that this my last “official Mass” as chaplain of the Monastery of the Glorious Cross might also leave us in a kind of Eucharistic glow. Every Holy Mass does this, certainly, but I see this particular celebration, after seven years of service as chaplain to the Sisters, as marking a movement in my own life and, I would hope, in yours too, from the radiance of the Eucharist into the radiance of the Eucharist.

With Faces Unveiled

The high point of my seven years here was, without any doubt, the Year of the Eucharist proclaimed by Pope John Paul II in 2004–2005. The Year of the Eucharist was that of his death, followed by the election of Pope Benedict XVI. It was also, for all of us, I think, in one way or another, a year marked by very special graces flowing, all of them, from the adorable mystery of the Eucharist, and carrying us as on a great surging wave, back into it, again and again. Does not the psalmist say, “In Thy light we shall see light” (Ps 35:10)? And does not Saint Paul describe the Christian journey as a movement from brightness to brightness? “It is given to us,” he says, “all alike, to catch the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, with faces unveiled; and so we become transfigured into the same likeness, borrowing glory from that glory, as the Spirit of the Lord enables us” (2 Cor 3:18).

The Eucharistic Face of Christ

The contemplation of the Eucharistic Face of Christ, the adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Christ is something that, for me at least, came into focus very clearly over the past three years. I had meditated, it is true, the invocation that the Congregation [of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified] taught me thirty-three years ago — “Most Holy Face of Jesus, sub Sacramento abscondita, hidden in the Host, look upon us, and have mercy” — but I needed, as we all do, those thirty-three years of sufferings, weaknesses, sorrows, blessings, and joys, for that invocation to pass from my head into the very fibres of my heart.

My New Mission

The wonderful Providence of God has so arranged things that I find myself now preparing to enter upon a new mission, one that is explicitly Eucharistic and priestly, one that will be marked by adoration, reparation, and a full-time dedication to the spiritual needs of priests and deacons.

In the June, 8, 2008 edition of his diocesan newspaper, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery, presented something of his vision for the Eucharistic renewal of his diocese, beginning with the Eucharistic renewal of his clergy. Rather than explain this to you in my own words, allow me to share with you what Bishop Slattery wrote.

“As a living organism, the Diocese must be assessed not at the level of measurable material things, but at the level of spiritual health, that is, the level of our ever-growing intimacy with Jesus Christ. Since the spiritual life is based on love, not to advance in this dynamic relationship with God in Christ is to retreat. One either grows in Divine intimacy or retreats from it; but the spiritual life is never static.”

Spiritual Health of the Clergy

Bishop Slattery has called me to the Diocese of Tulsa to be an agent of the spiritual health of his clergy, to foster and facilitate the ever-growing intimacy of his priests and deacons with Jesus Christ. His Excellency goes on to say:

“Let me introduce an idea, which is evidently a strongly felt part of the Pope’s vision. . . . The pontiff expressed his desires . . . through the Congregation for the Clergy in a circular letter from the Prefect of that Congregation, Cláudio Cardinal Hummes. That idea, briefly put, is this: Since there is an undeniable link between - on the one hand - the holiness of our clergy, the effectiveness of their pastoral ministry and the depth of their personal commitment and – on the other hand - the centrality of prayer and Eucharistic adoration in their lives, then of all the things which are necessary for the good of the Church, nothing can be considered more important, more necessary or more vital than helping our priests and deacons grow in Divine intimacy.”

It is that last line — nothing can be considered more important, more necessary or more vital than helping our priests and deacons grow in Divine intimacy — that explains Bishop Slattery’s mandate to me. He explains:

First and Foremost An Adorer of the Eucharist

“After their ordination, priests and deacons step to the altar of sacrifice and kiss it. They embrace a life of sacrifice which opens them up and makes them vulnerable to their Master’s redeeming love and allows His Eucharistic love to flow through them to sanctify the communities they serve. As Pope Benedict said “The secret of (priestly) holiness lies precisely in the Eucharist. The priest must be first and foremost an adorer who contemplates the Eucharist.”(Sept. 18, 2005).”

Adoration in the Diocese of Tulsa

His Excellency wants to express this concretely in the life of his Diocese:

“Cardinal Hummes asked that Eucharistic adoration be fostered in every parish and Catholic institution, with priests, chaplains and directors encouraged to strengthen the practice of adoration where it is already firmly established and introduce this devotion in places where it has not been known or where it has been allowed to disappear. Cardinal Hummes would be pleased to know that the kind of Eucharistic renewal he envisions has been quietly but steadily growing in our Diocese. Already eight parishes (plus St. John Hospital – a ninth site!) offer continuous (daily or even 24-hour) adoration, and a further 32 offer weekly periods of adoration. In fact, fully 72 out of our 78 parishes and missions have some form of Eucharistic Adoration during the course of the year!”

The Eucharistic Cenacle

Bishop Slattery intends to do still more. Listen to the description of his project:

“Cardinal Hummes asked that wherever possible, specific churches or oratories be set aside by the Bishop to serve the diocese as Eucharistic shrines, similar to Marian shrines. In these shrines of adoration, the Church’s special love for the Holy Eucharist, worthily celebrated and continuously adored, can be fostered and nourished until the light of Our Eucharistic Lord transfigures the whole Diocese. I have already decided to do this, but have prayed much that Our Lord direct me to the best location of our first such Eucharistic Cenacle of Prayer.”

For the Holiness of the Clergy

His Excellency has decided then, to set aside a place, and to designate it a Cenacle of Eucharistic Adoration for Priests. Then he describes what my mission will be.

“A second recommendation made by Cardinal Hummes was that in each Diocese a priest be appointed to the specific priestly ministry of promoting Eucharistic adoration. In some ways, the ministry of this priest-servant of the Eucharist would be to coordinate this important movement throughout the Diocese; but his ministry would be much more than simply coordination and management. Dedicating himself generously to making Our Eucharistic Lord better known and more loved, this priest would live a life of personal reparation and sacrifice offered for the holiness of the clergy. I am taking Cardinal Hummes’ recommendation very seriously; but I think that in this Diocese, it would be very beneficial to add to this priest’s ministry of sacrifice, a further responsibility, that of serving as spiritual director and confessor to our priests and deacons.”

Spiritual and Material Support

I took the time — your time — today to quote Bishop Slattery at length because I want to ask you to adopt this new mission of mine, first of all spiritually, by carrying it in the secret of your own prayer, but also materially if you are able to do so. I appeal to the Sisters, and to all the women here; I ask you to respond generously to the Holy See’s request that you accept the challenge and responsibility of spiritual motherhood for priests. This means offering your prayer, your sufferings, your sacrifices for the sake of priests, for the healing of those who are spiritually wounded, and for their growth in Divine Intimacy.

Thursdays of Adoration and Reparation for Priests

I invite all of you to commit yourselves to an hour of Eucharistic adoration in a spirit of reparation and supplication for priests every Thursday. Thursday is, as you know, the beginning of the weekly rememoration of the Paschal Mystery, it recalls the “Birthday of the Chalice,” that is, the institution of the Priesthood and of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Thanksgiving

It is time now to go to the altar of the Holy Sacrifice. Today, I carry to the altar and place upon the corporal, together with the bread that will become the Body of Christ, and the wine mixed with water that will become His Precious Blood, all that has happened in the Monastery of the Glorious Cross over the past seven years and — because God is eternal — all that the future holds in store for you and for me. For all things willed and permitted by God, I will sing, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” To that, there can be but one suitable response: “It is right and just.”

I gratefully acknowledge Rorate Caeli as the source of the above image of Saint Luigi Gonzaga.

A Shepherd Speaks

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His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma speaks to his people of Divine Intimacy, the holiness of the clergy, Eucharistic adoration, the maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his plans for a Cenacle of Eucharistic Adoration for priests. Emphases in boldface are my own. The full article can be found in the June 8, 2008 edition of Eastern Oklahoma Catholic.

Assessments aren’t audits

As a living organism, the Diocese must be assessed not at the level of measurable material things, but at the level of spiritual health, that is, the level of our ever growing intimacy with Jesus Christ. Since the spiritual life is based on love, not to advance in this dynamic relationship with God in Christ is to retreat. One either grows in Divine intimacy or retreats from it; but the spiritual life is never static. Let me stress then that when we study the various homilies, talks and addresses of the Holy Father, we do so in order to better comprehend the vibrant, evangelical vision he proposes for the Church in America. We want to understand his vision so thoroughly that we will see it with our own eyes, hear it with our own ears and feel it beat - pulse for pulse - within our own Oklahoma heart. Then, with that deep understanding we hope to achieve, we will be able to look at our situation here and assess more honestly and more humbly the life of the Church in Eastern Oklahoma according to the pope’s universal vision.

Not measuring things but gauging the depth of our faith

In effect, I want you to understand that I am not proposing an evaluation of our programs, but of our vision. We are not looking to assess how effectively our programs work, but how well they reflect the Gospel we preach. We are not measuring things but gauging the depth of our faith in God and our trust in His Providence. And with that, let me introduce an idea, which is evidently a strongly felt part of the pope’s vision, but oddly enough, a part which he did not communicate to us personally while he was in Washington and New York. Instead the pontiff expressed his desires several months prior to his trip through the Congregation for the Clergy in a circular letter from the Prefect of that Congregation, Cláudio Cardinal Hummes. That idea, briefly put, is this: Since there is an undeniable link between - on the one hand - the holiness of our clergy, the effectiveness of their pastoral ministry and the depth of their personal commitment and – on the other hand - the centrality of prayer and Eucharistic adoration in their lives, then of all the things which are necessary for the good of the Church, nothing can be considered more important, more necessary or more vital than helping our priests and deacons grow in Divine intimacy.

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The holiness of priests and deacons

The holiness to which Jesus calls his priests and deaconsflows from their configuration to Christ the Priest and Christ the Servant as our Lord stands before the Father in the Kingdom of Heaven. All the baptized, including the priest and the deacon are united to Christ; but each priest and each deacon - by virtue of his ordination- is configured to Christ the High Priest or to Christ, the suffering Servant; but in either case, by their ordination these men become in a sacramental sense the ministers of Christ’s self-giving love. Thus, their growth in holiness depends upon their exercise of that ministry into which they were ordained. This is why, after their ordination, priests and deacons step to the altar of sacrifice and kiss it. They embrace a life of sacrifice which opens them up and makes them vulnerable to their Master’s redeeming love and allows His Eucharistic love to flow through them to sanctify the communities they serve. As Pope Benedict said “The secret of (priestly) holiness lies precisely in the Eucharist. The priest must be first and foremost an adorer who contemplates the Eucharist.”(Sept. 18, 2005) In order to emphasize the intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the holiness of the ordained, while at the same time exploring the special maternity of Our Blessed Lady, Cardinal Hummes asked that Eucharistic adoration be fostered in every parish and Catholic institution, with priests, chaplains and directors encouraged to strengthen the practice of adoration where it is already firmly established and introduce this devotion in places where it has not been known or where it has been allowed to disappear.

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Called to a Vocation of Holiness

"I would remind thee to fan the flame of that special grace
which God kindled in thee
when my hands were laid upon thee.
The spirit he has bestowed on us is not one that shrinks from danger;
it is a spirit of action, of love, and of discipline.
Do not blush then for the witness thou bearest to our Lord,
or for me, who am his prisoner;
share all the tribulations of the Gospel message
as God gives thee strength.
Has he not saved us, and called us to a vocation of holiness?"
(2 Timothy 1:6–9)

Monthly Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit

On May 18, 1874, the Carmelite Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (1846–1878) beheld a chalice streaming with light and a dove. From the light she heard a voice saying:

I ardently desire that priests say a Mass each month in honour of the Holy Spirit. Whoever will say it or hear it will be honoured by the Holy Spirit Himself. He will have light, he will have peace. He will cure the sick. He will awaken those who are asleep.

True Devotion to the Paraclete

In June 1877, through the intermediary of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, she sent a message to Blessed Pope Pius IX, saying:

The world and religious communities are seeking novelties in devotions, and they are neglecting true devotion to the Paraclete. That is why there is error and disunion, and why there is no peace or light. They do not invoke the light as it should be invoked, and it is this light that gives knowledge of truth. It is neglected even in seminaries. . . .

Light for Priests

Every person in the world that will invoke the Holy Spirit and have devotion to Him will not die in error. Every priest that preaches this devotion will receive light while he is speaking of it to others.

I was told that each priest in the whole world should be required to say one Mass of the Holy Spirit each month, and all those who assist at it will receive very special grace and light.

I have tried, since my own ordination twenty-two years ago, to celebrate a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit on the first available ferial day of each month. For me it is a way of following Saint Paul's injunction to the young priest Timothy: "Fan the flame of that special grace which God kindled in thee, when my hands were laid upon thee" (2 Tim 1:6). The Roman Missal contains a wealth of texts for the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

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Collect of the Votive Mass of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Eternal High Priest

O God, by whom Thine only-begotten Son has been established High and Eternal Priest, to the glory of Thy majesty and for the salvation of mankind, grant that those He has chosen as ministers and dispensers of His mysteries, may be found faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have accepted.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

The WorldPriest website features a special page on today's worldwide observance and on the Mass that will be broadcast live from the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in Ireland. Don't miss the brilliant advertising campaign materials in both English and Spanish. Heartfelt thanks to our friends at WorldPriest.

Priests

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Sursum Corda

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).

Some Proposals

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:

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“For this were we called and it is for the sake of priests that the Lord presses us to let ourselves be immolated entirely. We should have for the souls of priests . . . a burning zeal and a sort of jealousy that will spur us on to work better, to pray better, to suffer better, so that they may be more and more priestly.

We have been promoted by the Lord Himself to give birth to holiness in the souls of priests. We also, and in a super-eminent way, must become the mothers of priests. Oh! How crucial it is for this high function that we humble ourselves profoundly and put no limit to our generosity.”

Mother Marie des Douleurs (1902–1983)
Foundress of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified

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I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist. . . .

It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content. . . . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.

Blessed Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

A Priest–Icon of the Suffering Christ

The saints, all of them, are living illustrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. The saints are the masterpieces of the Divine Iconographer who, in every age, writes in souls the whole mystery of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Finger of God’s Right Hand tracing on hearts of flesh the likeness of the Heart of Jesus. In Blessed Damian of Molokai the Church sets before us a priest fashioned by the Holy Spirit in a special way into the image of the suffering Christ, “despised and rejected by man, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

Trentotto anni di messa!

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For The Reverend Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins on the 38th Anniversary of His Ordination to the Holy Priesthood:

"The Holy Spirit will honour Mary and, through Mary, the Holy Spirit will be honoured, beginning from the heart of priests. Two new glories are held in reserve for the world: the reign of the Holy Spirit through Mary and a new awareness stirred up by the Holy Spirit in the spiritual and Christian world of the sorrowful and loving years of Mary's solitude. In these two things, I too will be honoured together with my Father from whom I never separate myself, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

And so, if my priests want to make progress in virtue they must do it by means of Mary; if they want to grow in knowledge and in love for the Holy Spirit, they must become ever more hers. More and more then let them make known and glorify these years of her solitude.

There is nothing surer than to avail themselves of the Holy Spirit and of Mary for their transformation into Me and, even more, for the perfection (insofar as this is possible on earth) of the union of the members of the Church among themselves, and the perfect Unity in the Trinity that I am seeking in a thousand ways."

The text is from Sacerdoti di Cristo by Conchita Cabrera de Armida, p. 387. The translation is my own.

Focusing On That Face

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I am overwhelmed by this letter from the Congregation for the Clergy. It expresses all that I have tried to say on Vultus Christi and elsewhere. The subtitles in boldprint are my own. I will be returning to the text of the letter in order to meditate its content. I took the photo of the Altar of the Holy Face in Saint Patrick's Cathedral, New York City.

Vatican City, April 22, 2008
Here is the message published by the Congregation for Clergy for the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. The day will be celebrated May 30, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Reverend and dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

Focusing On That Face

On the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus let us fix the eyes of our minds and hearts with a constant loving gaze on Christ, the one Savior of our lives and of the world. Focusing on Christ means focusing on that Face which every human being, consciously or not, seeks as a satisfying response to his own insuppressible thirst for happiness.

Hearts Wounded By His Love

We have encountered this Face and on that day, at that moment, his Love so deeply wounded our hearts that we could no longer refrain from asking ceaselessly to be in his Presence. "In the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch" (Psalm 5).

Healed By His Flesh

The Sacred Liturgy leads us once again to contemplate the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, the origin and intimate reality of this company which is the Church: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob revealed himself in Jesus Christ. "No one could see his Glory unless first healed by the humility of his flesh.... By dust you were blinded, and by dust you are healed: flesh, then, had wounded you, flesh heals you" (St. Augustine, Commentary on the Gospel according to John, Homily, 2, 16).

Mercy That Embraces Our Limitations

Only by looking again at the perfect and fascinating humanity of Jesus Christ -- alive and active now -- who revealed himself to us and still today bends down to each one of us with his special love of total predilection, can we can let him illumine and fill the abyss of need which is our humanity, certain of Hope encountered and sure of Mercy that embraces our limitations and teaches us to forgive what we ourselves do not even manage to discern. "Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts" (Psalm 42[41]).

Immersing Ourselves in Prayer

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Last evening, in speaking to the bishops of the Church in the United States, the Holy Father called "the imitation of Christ in holiness of life" exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. Concretely, what does this mean? "Cultivating the virtues," responds the Holy Father, "and immersing ourselves in prayer. Here are his words:

Holiness of Life

Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.

Eucharistic Adoration

Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon us from every side. Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the Eucharistic celebration (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 66).

Rosary and Liturgy of the Hours

Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15). Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that the whole of our day is sanctified and it continually reminds us of the need to remain focused on doing God's work, however many pressures and distractions may arise from the task at hand.

The Gifts We Need

Thus our devotion helps us to speak and act in persona Christi, to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful in the name of Jesus, to bring his reconciliation, his healing and his love to all his beloved brothers and sisters. This radical configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd, lies at the heart of our pastoral ministry, and if we open ourselves through prayer to the power of the Spirit, he will give us the gifts we need to carry out our daunting task, so that we need never "be anxious how to speak or what to say" (Mt 10:19).

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Solemnity of the Sacred Heart

Friday, May 30, 2008, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will be the Seventh Annual World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. Pope John Paul II established the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests in 2002 and decreed that it should be observed every year on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.

Prayer Over Action

According to the Zenit news services, the April 12, 2008 Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano contained a message to the priests of the world signed by Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza of the Congregation for the Clergy. The message invites priests to give priority to "prayer over action." It calls daily celebration of Holy Mass and Eucharistic adoration the very breath and light of priestly life.

Your Response

How will your diocese, your parish, or your community observe the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests? What are you going to do? I invite the readers of Vultus Christi to leave comments sharing their initiatives and plans.

Living the "Totus Tuus"

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Totus tuus ego sum
et omnia mea Tua sunt.
Accipio te in mea omnia.
Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria.

I am all thine,
and all that I have is thine.
I receive thee into everything that is mine.
Give me thy Heart, O Mary.

About a fortnight ago, a bishop whom I hold in the highest esteem gave me a copy of Monsignor Stephen Rossetti's book, Behold Your Mother, Priests Speak About Mary. The book contains the witnesses of ten priests on the presence and grace of the Blessed Virgin Mary in their lives. Monsignor Rossetti introduces and concludes the book. While I found something worth pondering in every chapter, I was most deeply moved by the one written by Monsignor Rossetti himself. He entitled it, "She Will Crush His Head." Here are few excerpts from it:

On Spiritual Combat

"The battleground of the spirit is very real in all Christians: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mt 26:41). But I believe that the spiritual battle is particularly important and waged with a special intensity in our priests. They are configured to Christ in a most unique way, and they are directly engaged in Jesus' mission and ministry."

Casting Out Evil

"It is no accident that prayers for casting out evil, including those in Church exorcisms, often mention the Virgin Mary and Michael the Archangel, and invoke Mary's intercession with her Divine Son. The former priest-exorcist of Rome wrote: 'The power of the Rosary and devotion to the Virgin Mary [in casting out evil] are well documented."

Our Lady and Saint Michael

"It is important for us priests, who are so accustomed to helping others, to have the humility to ask for and to let ourselves receive help from others. A confessor and a spiritual director are important guides along the spiritual path. At times, a professional counselor or therapist may be needed when a difficult personal problem surfaces. And we perpetually and universally depend upon the maternal protection of Our Lady and St. Michael in our unseen struggle to walk in the way of goodness."

Visits

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This is the image of Saint Tarcisius that I brought back with from the catacombs of San Sebastiano in Rome. Back in the 1950s and early 60s, Saint Tarcisius was presented to Catholic schoolboys as a model of courageous love for the Blessed Sacrament.

Making A Visit

Terry had an excellent post recently in which in talked about something distinctively Catholic: "making a visit." Just a few generations ago this expression was current in Catholic culture. When, in passing in front of a church, one would say, "Let's make a visit," it was understood that one was proposing a visit to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Walking Downtown

As a little boy I would sometimes walk "downtown" with my (Irish) grandmother. Halfway there we would come to Saint Patrick's Church on Grand Avenue. Grandma would say, "Let's make a visit," and in we would go. On hot summer days the church was a dark, cool place. A red sanctuary lamped burned near the altar. We knew that Jesus was there. There was comfort in visiting Him in His house. Sometimes we would light a candle. After a few moments in prayer we would resume our walk. This was the kind of experience that marks a child for life.

After School

It was not uncommon for children to visit the Blessed Sacrament after school. Yes, it is true that the teaching Sisters encouraged visits, but it was something that children did freely. In the context of a family neighbourhood where nearly everyone walked to the bank, the Post Office, and the market, visits to the Blessed Sacrament were simply part of the fabric of Catholic life. Rarely were our neighbourhood churches empty. Nearly always there was someone kneeling in prayer, lighting candles, stopping at Our Lady's altar, or making the Way of the Cross. Then came the so-called "urban renewal," the destruction of so many family neighbourhoods, and the so-called "post-conciliar renewal," of which enough has been said elsewhere in the blogosphere.

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A huge thank you to Sandro Magister for providing readers with the Holy Father's six Holy Week homilies. His homily at the Mass of Chrism on Holy Thursday captivated me. My own comments are in italics.

The Essence of the Priestly Ministry

At the same time, Holy Thursday is for us an opportunity to ask ourselves again: To what did we say "yes"? What is this "being a priest of Jesus Christ"? Canon II of our missal, which was probably composed in Rome before the end of the second century, describes the essence of the priestly ministry with the words that, in the book of Deuteronomy (18:5,7), described the essence of the Old Testament priesthood: astare coram te et tibi ministrare.

Pope Benedict XVI goes to the heart of the question. What is the essence of the priestly ministry? He answers it with words drawn from the Sacred Liturgy itself: "astare coram te et tibi ministrare" — to stand before Thee and worship in Thy presence. The priest is one who faces God and waits upon Him. The priest is the eyes of the world fixed upon God, and the hands of the world lifted up in worship before Him. The priest lives his priesthood most intensely when standing before the altar.

Standing Before the Lord

Two functions, therefore, define the essence of the ministerial priesthood: in the first place, "standing before the Lord." In the book of Deuteronomy, this should be interpreted in the context of the previous dispensation, according to which the priests did not receive any portion of the Holy Land – they lived by God, and for God. They did not attend to the usual work necessary for sustaining daily life. Their profession was "to stand before the Lord" – looking to Him, living for Him. Thus, all told, the word indicated a life lived in the presence of God, and thus also a ministry in representation of others.

The priest lives by God, and for God. A young disciple of Blessed Abbot Marmion, Dom Pie de Hemptinne, O.S.B., said something similar; reflecting on his own priesthood, the young Benedictine said that he lived "by the altar, and for the altar." Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the mediatorship of the priest. The priest lives in the presence of God as the representative of all his brothers; he serves in the sanctuary on behalf of all who, in some sense, stand behind him.

To Keep the World Open to God

Just as the others cultivated the land, from which the priest also lived, so he kept the world open to God, he had to live with his gaze turned to Him. If these words are now found in the Canon of the Mass immediately after the consecration of the gifts, after the entry of the Lord among the assembly gathered in prayer, then they indicate for us the standing before the Lord who is present; it indicates, that is, the Eucharist as the center of the priestly life.

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This is brilliant. The priest is a man who "keeps the world open to God." The priest lives "with his gaze turned to God." Underlying these observations is the Holy Father's desire to see restored the traditional position of the priest during the Eucharistic Prayer. The "closed circle" of "versus populum" celebrations is, I think, directly linked to the current crisis in priestly spirituality. When the priest, standing at the altar, faces the crucifix, he offers his own body to "keep the world open to God." By not looking at the people during the Holy Mysteries, the priest exemplifies for them that, "being risen with Christ," they are called to "lift their thoughts above, where Christ now seats at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1).

One Who Watches

But even here its impact goes further. In the hymn of the liturgy of the hours that, during Lent, introduces the office of readings – the office that the monks used to pray during the hour of the nocturnal vigil before God, and for the sake of men – one of the tasks of Lent is described in the imperative: arctius perstemus in custodia – let us be watchful with greater intensity. In the tradition of Syriac monasticism, the monks were described as "those who stand on their feet"; standing on one's feet was an expression of vigilance. What was here considered as the task of the monks, we can reasonably view as being also an expression of the priestly mission, and as a correct interpretation of the words of Deuteronomy: the priest must be one who watches.

Pope Benedict XVI understands that there is no opposition between the monastic vocation and the priestly one. He goes so far as to say that "what was here considered as the task of monks, we can reasonably view as being also an expression of the priestly mission." "The priest," he says, "must be one who watches." How can we not recall the vigils of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney before the altar of the parish church of Ars, the prolonged adorations of Saint Peter Julian Eymard before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, and the passion of Saint Gaetano Catanoso (photo above) for keeping watch before the Eucharistic Face of Christ?

Last October 16th, for the feast of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, I had the privilege of being in Paray-le-Monial. While there I encountered a brother priest who shared with me something of his own experience of keeping watch in prayer during the night. This priest found in nocturnal adoration a spiritual refreshment and an intimacy with Christ that he found at no other time. The priest, like the monk, is a watchman, for the sake of the people entrusted to his care.

Standing Upright

He must stand guard before the relentless powers of evil. He must keep the world awake to God. He must be one who stands on his feet: upright in the face of the currents of the time. Upright in the truth. Upright in his commitment to goodness. Standing before the Lord must always be, in its inmost depths, also a lifting up of men to the Lord, who, in turn, lifts all of us up to the Father. And it must be a lifting up of Him, of Christ, of his word, of his truth, of his love. The priest must be upright, unwavering and ready even to suffer outrage for the sake of the Lord, as shown in the Acts of the Apostles: they "[rejoiced] that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" (5:41).

The Holy Father is lucid when it comes to the reality of spiritual combat with the powers of darkness. I find the suppression of the Short Lesson at the beginning of Compline in the reformed Liturgy of the Hours most unfortunate. It is a text that every priest needs to repeat and hear nightly: "Brethren, be sober, and watch well; the devil, who is your enemy, goes about roaring like a lion, to find his prey, but you, grounded in the faith, must face him boldly" (1 P 5:8-9).

Pope Benedict XVI dares to close the gap between the so called "monastic" and "priestly" spiritualities. The "monastic" dimension of the diocesan priesthood becomes apparent to all who take the Holy Father's teaching to heart. It was, I think, precisely the evacuation of "monastic" values from priestly spirituality that contributed in no small measure to the present crisis in priestly life and in vocations. "Listen, you that have ears, to the message the Spirit has for the churches" (Ap 2:7).

The Most Precious Blood

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One cannot enter into Holy Week without contemplating the adorable mystery of the Precious Blood. I am completely smitten by Bernini's little known depiction of the Blood of Christ. The Eternal Father contemplates the outpouring of the Blood of the Son. The Angels are awestruck by what they see. Blood pours out of the hands, and feet, and open side of the Crucified.

The Mother of Jesus, she who is the perfect image of the Church, raises her hands to receive the crimson torrent gushing from the inner sanctuary of His Sacred Heart. Beneath the Cross there is an ocean of Blood: Blood to cleanse the world of every stain of sin, of every crime, of every defilement. If you would know the value of the Precious Blood, ask the Mother of the Lamb.

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Priests and the Precious Blood

"My maternal heart yearns to lead all my priest sons into the presence of my Jesus, the Lamb by Whose Blood the world is saved and purified of sin. My priest sons must be the first to experience the healing power of the Blood of the Lamb of God. I ask all my priest sons to bear witness to the Precious Blood of Jesus. They are the ministers of His Blood. His Blood is in their hands to purify and refresh the living and the dead.

Apply It to Your Wounds

I desire that all priests should become aware of the infinite value and power of but a single drop of the Blood of my Son. . . . Adore His Precious Blood in the Sacrament of His Love. His Blood mixed with water flows ceaselessly from His Eucharistic Heart, His Heart pierced by the soldier’s lance to purify and vivify the whole Church, but in the first place, to purify and vivify His priests. When you come into His Eucharistic presence, be aware of His Precious Blood streaming from His Open Heart. Adore His Blood and apply it to your wounds and to the wounds of souls.

Purity Wherever It Flows

The Blood of my Son brings purity and healing and new life wherever it flows. Implore the power of the Precious Blood over yourself and over all priests. Whenever you are asked to intercede for souls, invoke the power of the Precious Blood over them, and present them to the Father covered with the Blood of the Lamb."

When Priests Find A Bethany

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I thank my friend Lisa for her wise and compassionate words to Sotto Voce, the Irish priest so many of us are carrying in prayer. Lisa wrote:

"Dear Father, you describe so poignantly the sorrow in your life and the weariness you feel from the service you give to the Lord and to others. You are grieving and weary - you need rest and the opportunity to grieve supported by friends who can give that tangible touch so meaningful to healing. Christ healed with touch, it is an essential human expression. Know that Christ will comfort you when you go before Him - a hour of companionship means telling him everything. And He will give you peace. Peace which family members and friends do not possess. Christ also shared time with friends - you can be friends with married couples and families - you may be suprised how willing they are to invite you into their homes and lives. Like Mary, Martha and Lazarus, there are people waiting to befriend you and support your vocation. And perhaps help you grieve all those tragic deaths you are still carrying in your heart."

Thank you, Lisa, for speaking to a brother priest out of your experience.

An Hour of Companionship

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When Fulton J. Sheen was ordained a priest, he promised Our Lord to make a Holy Hour daily before the Blessed Sacrament. He remained faithful to that promise for the entire sixty years of priest. It was during his daily Holy Hour that he learned to listen to the Heart of Jesus and accept the gift of Divine Friendship. Archbishop Sheen preached the benefit of Eucharistic adoration to all people but, first of all, to his brother priests. Here are a a few of this thoughts on the Holy Hour:

"I keep up the Holy Hour to grow more and more into His likeness... Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain.

The Holy Hour is not a devotion; it is a sharing in the work of redemption. 'Could you not watch one hour with Me?' Not for an hour of activity did He plead, but for an hour of companionship.

The purpose of the Holy Hour is to encourage deep personal encounter with Christ. The holy and glorious God is constantly inviting us to come to Him, to hold converse with Him and to ask such things as we need and to experience what a blessing there is in fellowship with Him. One of the by-products of the Holy Hour was the sensitiveness to the Eucharistic Presence of Our Divine Lord."

(Treasure in Clay, The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen)

Seeking Solace

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The reflections of an Irish Catholic priest on his experience of loneliness moved me deeply, and confirmed me in own calling to adore and intercede for my brother priests. Among other things, this brother of mine in the priesthood wrote:

On a very personal level, when I go through the front door of the house, I sense the lack of another person in the house, in my life and in my arms. My vow of celibacy asks me to refrain from being emotionally involved (and indeed sexually involved) which is not easy by any means, and certainly I can understand why some of my colleagues would seek solace in the end of a bottle.

This week, I found myself in the arms of those friends who care a lot for me, and indeed I care as much in return. I would certainly wish that I could be with their company on a more constant basis, but distance prevents this from being a reality. We hugged as they came in my door, sat down for dinner and talked, then went to the local pub for a few drinks and walked home. When we got there, we sat down for a drink or two before another hug and adjourned to our separate beds.

Bonjour, chers amis!

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Dear readers of Vultus Christi,

After a long hiatus, I am able today to connect to the internet and give you some news. I am writing from the home of Jean-Baptiste and Thérèse Garnier, friends of the Monastère Saint–Benoît in Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne. Jean–Baptiste and Thérèse have DSL, and were kind enough to invite me to their home to update Vultus Christi.

I have been in France since 12 September, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. For the first few weeks I stayed at the Monastère Saint-Benoît in Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne. After giving a conference at the General Chapter of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified at Brou-sur-Chantereine on Saturday, 29 September, I went to Subiaco, a dependence of the Monastère de l'Incarnation in Saint-Loup-sur-Aujon.

On Wednesday 3 October, the feast of Blessed Columba Marmion, I arrived at the monastery of the Benedictines du Saint-Sacrement in Craon (Mayenne) to make a personal retreat of adoration and discernment. The monastery of Craon, steeped in adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, is a blessed place indeed. My retreat there was life-changing.

The day before leaving for my retreat I received a book in the mail. I had not solicited this book, but the librarian of a certain Benedictine monastery, knowing "the interests of my heart" sent it without knowing that I was about to begin a retreat of adoration and discernment. The book, published in 1930, was La Sainte Messe, échelle de la sainteté, by Dom Eugène Vandeur (1875-1967). The evening before my retreat I opened the book at random and read:

Let me be wholly and entirely thy priest, like John, thy beloved disciple, standing at the foot of the Cross, the Tree of Life.

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I was astonished. This one sentence sums up my personal vocation and the thrust of my life for the past thirty years. There was still more. At the end of the book, I read:

O Mary, Virgin and Mother of priests,
I will place myself close to thee, today and all the days of my life,
there, in the very place where stood Saint John, the disciple whom Jesus loved,
the preferred Priest of His love;
I will remain there, with thee, facing the cross, and I will gaze upon Him,
this Jesus Crucified, the only science that a priest need know, love, and preach.
"To know only Jesus and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:29). . . .

O Mary, teach this priest of Jesus this folly of the Cross,
true Wisdom in the sight of God
and the solemn manifestation of His power.
Teach me how one passes into Jesus Crucified;
how, following the example of the Apostle,
one comes to bear in oneself the wounds of the Lord Jesus.
"I, for my part, bear in my body the wounds of the Lord Jesus" (Gal 6:17).

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Thou dost answer me, O Mother,
saying that I will learn this at the holy altar,
the mountain of myrrh and the hill of incense (Ct 4:6),
that, each morning, I will ascend with thee
to enter into the wounds of Jesus Crucified.

There is much more that I could share about this retreat, but my time is limited. The signal grace of the retreat was a call to live in adoration and reparation for all my brother priests, and to allow my soul to be "johannized," that is to say, to consent to become, by the merciful goodness of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit, another Saint John, a beloved disciple for His Heart and for the Heart of His Mother.

The desire of the Heart of Jesus is that there should be priest adorers and reparators: priests who will adore for those who do not adore, priests who will make reparation for those who do not. Our Lord asks me — and will ask other priests as well — to remain in adoration before His Eucharistic Face, offering all the priests of the Church to His Open Heart present in the Sacrament of His Love.

Our Lord asked me to consecrate every Thursday (day of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood) to this particular mission of adoration and reparation for priests.

Let each Thursday find me close to the Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood,
deep in adoration, and offering Thee the reparation Thou askest of me
in the name of all Thy priests.
Make me an entirely Eucharistic priest,
according to the desires of Thy Sacred Heart
and the designs of Thy merciful goodness upon my life.
I desire nothing else.
I want to love Thee more each day;
I want to be the faithful adorer of Thy Eucharistic Face
and the consoling friend of Thy Sacred Heart
hidden in the tabernacles of the world,
where it beats, wounded by love, forgotten, forsaken,
and waiting for the adoration and for the love of even one priest.

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. . . Having completed His sacrifice, and giving up His spirit, the side of Christ is pierced and out flowed blood and water. It is as if this heart of Christ, having spent itself totally in compassion for sinful man, has one last treasure to give in death. This is the final act, the completion of Christ’s total gift to us and to the Father.

Be sure to visit Rationabile Obsequium, the splendid new blog of a recently ordained priest whom I am privileged to count among my friends. Don't miss the homily of Father B's First Mass of Thanksgiving on the mystery of the pierced Heart of Christ. Bravo, dear Father!

Damien, A Priest Adorer

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I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist. . . .

It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content. . . . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.

Blessed Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

A Priest–Icon of the Suffering Christ

The saints, all of them, are living illustrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. The saints are the masterpieces of the Divine Iconographer who, in every age, writes in souls the whole mystery of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Finger of God’s Right Hand tracing on hearts of flesh the likeness of the Heart of Jesus. In Blessed Damian of Molokai the Church sets before us a priest fashioned by the Holy Spirit in a special way into the image of the suffering Christ, “despised and rejected by man, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

The Entire Plan of God

Father Damien could have said to his beloved people of Molokai what Saint Paul said to the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus : “You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I first came . . . I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me . . .. I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore witness . . . to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus . . .. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace . . .. I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God” (cf. Ac 20:17-27).

Eucharistic Adoration

The words are Saint Paul’s but the sentiments — all of them — are those of Blessed Father Damien of Molokai. Where did Father Damien discover “the entire plan of God” (Ac 20:27) or, as another translation has it, “the whole counsel of God”? In the contemplation of the Heart of Jesus. And where did he contemplate the Heart of Jesus? In the adoration of the Eucharist.

Knowledge of the Pierced Side of Christ

The full title of Father Damien’s religious family is a very long one but it expresses completely the charism given them: “The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.” Father Damien’s compassionate devotion to those suffering from leprosy was the fruit of his intimate knowledge of the riches hidden in the pierced Side of Christ. That knowledge came to him in long hours of adoration before the tabernacle.

Lepers Adoring the Hidden Face of Christ

It is a little known fact that Father Damien laboured to established perpetual adoration of the Eucharist among his dear lepers. In this there is something astonishingly beautiful; the sight of lepers adoring day and night the Suffering Servant who, disfigured in his Passion, became, “as one from whom men screen their faces” (Is 53:3), the “Lord of Glory” (1 Cor 2:8) whose face is "all the beauty of holy souls” (Litany of the Holy Face).

The Prayer of the Sacred Heart to the Father

It was in Eucharistic adoration that Blessed Father Damien found himself drawn into the priestly prayer of Christ given us in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John. That prayer did not end with the Last Supper in the Cenacle. It is the prayer of the risen and ascended Christ who stands all-glorious in the sanctuary of heaven, showing the Father the wound in His side, the opening made by love, never to be closed. It is the prayer of the priestly Heart of Jesus in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist. It is the prayer that, from the tabernacle, rises ceaselessly like incense before the Father. Only those who linger there know this prayer; it becomes their prayer, inhabits them, changes them, and impels them to imitate the self-giving love of the Sacred Heart.

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Thirty–Seven Years of Mass

I am dedicating this special entry to my friend Monsignor Arthur Burton Calkins on the 37th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood or, as we say in Italian, “after 37 years of Mass.” Monsignor Calkins is more familiar than anyone else I know with the writings of the Servant of God Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche. I ask her to intercede for him today.

A Find at Santa Maria in Ara Coeli

I am becoming increasingly sensitive to the little manifestations of Divine Providence — God’s “gentle leadings with bands of love” — on a daily basis. Last Saturday a dear friend invited me to visit the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli with her. After making our devotions and spending a moment before the church’s famous Santo Bambino, we stopped for a moment in the gift shop to look at its impressive display of icon reproductions. All of a sudden I was drawn to this particular image. It look vaguely familiar to me. I found the Face of Christ, the pierced Side, and the inscription, “It is mercy that I desire,” strangely compelling. I also felt that the little image was destined for my friend. She went home with it. Later that day, after some searching, I identified it as the image painted by Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche (1868–1915), one of the last century’s most notable mystics of the Sacred Heart and a spiritual advocate for priests.

The Painting

Mother Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche was fond of drawing and painting: a popular pastime in Visitation monasteries of the last century. She left a number of pictures of landscapes, animals, flowers, and still–lifes. It is, however, her inspired painting of the Merciful Jesus, that continues to touch hearts and move them to prayer.

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Father Charrier, S.J., Louise–Marguerite’s confessor, ordered her to execute the painting after she related to him a vision in which Our Lord manifested Himself revealing His wounded side. (The similarities with the experience of Saint Faustina Kowalska are striking.)

Meekness and Majesty

Louise–Marguerite painted the image at the end of 1902 and the beginning of 1903. It is unlike other pictures of the Sacred Heart dating from the same epoch. The Face of Christ resembles that of the Holy Shroud of Turin. The eyes of Christ seem to search the soul of the one meeting His gaze. Around the head of Christ the artist painted a double halo: the first represents a crown of thorns; the second, adorned with three stylized lilies, bears the inscription, Misericordiam volo, “It is mercy that I desire” (Mt 9:13).

Contemplating the image, one discovers at the same time the meekness of Jesus and His majesty. Meekness and majesty are inseparable in Him. Gesturing with His hand, Our Lord indicates His pierced Side. The opening in His tunic has, in effect, the shape of a heart.

The Sacred Side

The image represents the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy: “They shall look on Him whom they pierced” (Jn 19:37). The pierced Side of Christ reveals the infinite love of His Heart; it is the wellspring of His mercy.

Call Me Mercy

Mother Louise–Marguerite’s own writings tell of what inspired her in painting the image:
“One day, prostrate at the feet of Jesus, I was calling Him my soul’s one and only Good, the sovereign love of my heart, the infinite treasury of all riches. In the end I said to Him, ‘My Jesus, how do You want me to address you?’ And He answered, ‘Call me Mercy!’ O my sweet Mercy, O Jesus who died of love upon this Cross, grant that, brought back to you by the appeal of Your Mercy, we may live from Your love and for your love’! (Diary, Good Friday, 13 April 1900)

Priest, Temple, and Door

Notice that the image represents the majesty of the “Eternal High Priest,” of the “Divine Sacrificer” Who, from His open Side, continues to pour out “life–giving torrents of Infinite Love” upon humanity and, in particular, upon priests. The lanced pierced His right side: an evident allusion to the vision recounted in Chapter 47 of the prophet Ezekiel. Christ is, at once, the “High Priest” (Heb 4:14) and the Temple (Jn 2:21). Saving water streams out from below the right side of the Temple, and swells to become “a river” producing life in abundance wherever it flows. In this light, the wound in the Side of Christ is revealed also as “the door” (Jn 10:7) through which one enters the Holy of Holies to “obtain mercy and gind grace” (Heb 4:16).

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This Wondrous Sacrament

Sacramentum Caritatis calls the Most Holy Eucharist "this wondrous sacrament." It goes on to speak of the amazement -- the stupefaction -- that the Apostles felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during the Mystical Supper. "What wonder," writes Pope Benedict XVI, "must the Eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 1).

Eucharistic Amazement

Sacramentum Caritatis resonates with the words of Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia"

"I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic “amazement” by the present Encyclical Letter, in continuity with the Jubilee heritage which I have left to the Church in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte and its Marian crowning, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of His Body and His Blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by Him she is fed and by Him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light”. Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lk 24:31)" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 6).

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Reflections on Sacramentum Caritatis

With the approach of Maundy Thursday — the solemn commemoration of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and of the Priesthood — I feel compelled to return to the Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis in search of whatever may be helpful to me personally, and to other priests desirous of growing in the friendship of Christ.

The Priest, Friend of the Bridegroom

The theme that emerges straightaway is that of the friendship of Christ. Before all else, the priest — every priest — is The Friend of Christ or, as Saint John the Baptist puts it, “the friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn 3:29).

Amazed By the Sacrament of Charity

“1. The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of Himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman. This wondrous sacrament makes manifest that "greater" love which led Him to "lay down His life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). Jesus did indeed love them "to the end" (Jn 13:1). In those words the Evangelist introduces Christ's act of immense humility: before dying for us on the Cross, He tied a towel around himself and washed the feet of His disciples. In the same way, Jesus continues, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to love us "to the end," even to offering us his body and his blood. What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during that Supper! What wonder must the eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts!”

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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