Priesthood: June 2010 Archives

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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.

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!

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]

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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).

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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