Priesthood: July 2010 Archives

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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.

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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