Priesthood: February 2009 Archives

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.

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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