Priesthood: May 2007 Archives

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).

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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