Building Up the Intercessory Charism in Our Parishes Part II

Last week, I wrote about the power of an intercessory charism. This week, I want to examine why parishes should start building up intercessors in their midst to pray for the needs of parishes, local towns and cities, evangelization efforts, and apostolates. We are in a battle against “powers and principalities” who want to destroy our efforts, as well as our own sinful inclinations, which cause division and often undermine our parish efforts. Before I get into the particulars, the Lord gave me another glimpse into the power of intercession.

On Most Holy Trinity Sunday, I was outside playing fetch with my Golden Retriever puppy when a very dark storm appeared on the horizon. I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance while black clouds sped toward us. Without even thinking about it, I started praying. I prayed for protection and against any demons in the air. Yes, the enemy can work in nature. Some of the most beautiful and powerful prayers in our Church’s tradition are against demonic forces working in nature.

After praying, I took the dog inside. The storm hit a few minutes later. The wind kicked up, and the trees began to sway mightily. A steady rain started to fall, but then the storm quickly lessened. I made the comment that we had seen much worse storms, but my husband very briefly heard the telltale “train sound” that comes with tornados. This was strange because the storm was moderate for us.

The next morning, I drove three blocks from our house along the river near us and discovered that there had been a tornado. An EF1 tornado had struck a quarter of a mile away. One acre from us, large tree limbs snapped off like they were twigs. It looked like a bomb had gone off in the trees. Metal roofs had been peeled from homes and sheds like tin cans. Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt or killed in the 100 mph winds.

Our yard was completely untouched. Not even a small branch came down, and we have many trees. Our city block showed no evidence of a tornado three blocks away. One street over it was clear that a severe storm had hit. I marveled in wonder and awe at the power of God’s working through prayer. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired me to pray in the manner I did because I normally wouldn’t have thought much about the storm. Tornados are extremely rare for us because we live in a bowl surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains.

It is precisely this experience that led me to encourage one of my spiritual sons becoming a priest to pray Masses against storms. At one time, the Church knew the power it had been given by Christ the Head. Now we reduce everything to science and reason—to our own peril. The Lord wants to pour out graces and power into the world through us, but we must have supernatural faith and openness to His ways for this to happen. We must believe that He will work through prayerful intercession.

Prayer is to invite the power of God that He wants to pour out upon the world. We are powerless, but when we enter into the love of the Most Holy Trinity in prayer, He unleashes His power into the world. It is not incidental that all of this occurred on Holy Trinity Sunday. While homes down the street from me did suffer damage, I have no doubt in my mind that my willingness to listen to the Holy Spirit in that moment very well may have saved lives. This has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God’s ways, which are so much higher than our own. He wants us to intercede on behalf of others and to go to Him with our needs.

What does this mean for the Church today?

It means that in an age as dark as our own, we need to build up spiritual armies of intercessors to pray for and defend our parishes. One of the most startling trends that I have observed over the years is how little parish staffs and parish communities pray. Sadly, this includes far too many priests. This explains why so many of our parishes bear little fruit or are turned inwards to maintenance mode. Without prayer, our works are sterile or stunted. Our efforts produce little lasting fruit which is why our sacramental and RCIA programs have such high attrition rates.  

It is through prayer that we come to know the Most Holy Trinity and His will for our lives, parishes, and the whole Church. It is also how we fight against the “powers and principalities” who want to sabotage our plans. Make no mistake, the enemy seeks to thwart us every step of the way. As Our Lord warns in the Parable of the Sower, whatever is not deeply rooted will wither and die or be choked out. We should never base our successes on first fervor, which is precisely what our parishes are doing.

The work of the enemy and the frailty of sinful humanity is evidenced by the increased attacks on our parishes, priest scandals, fruitless projects or events that have little engagement, attempts by witches and Satanists to obtain consecrated hosts, men leaving the priesthood at distressing rates, low or absent vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our parishes, indifference or lukewarmness within parishes, division and power grabs, Catholic schools that have lost their true identity, and a whole host of other reasons. This is why dedicated prayer intercessors are needed to wrap our parishes and apostolates in the protecting love of the Most Holy Trinity, to fight the battles necessary on behalf of the People of God.

The Holy Spirit is quietly raising an army of intercessors within the Church. Partly, I believe, because of the decrease in religious contemplative or prayerful communities. In my diocese, most people will go their whole lives without meeting a religious priest, sister, or brother. The Lord always provides when there is greatest need. An intercessory charism is entrusted to priests, religious, and lay faithful for the sake of the Church where it is needed most.

Each parish contains people with this charism. To build up a dedicated group of prayerful intercessors, pastors and staff members need to embrace the need for this charism, seek to understand it more fully, and prayerfully discern and encourage those members of the community who have been given this charism. Charisms are gifts; they are not in competition with one another. It’s time to stop trying to control the Holy Spirit’s work in our parish communities.

Some of the ways to discern this charism is by looking for people who seem to experience spiritual warfare on behalf of others: individuals who experience prayer as a going into the breach on behalf of others, people who witness their prayers bearing tremendous fruit, individuals who experience a calling to pray in a deeper way, those who are devoted and/or consecrated to Mary, victim souls, members of the community whom others seem to go to more often for prayers, the sick and homebound, spiritual mothers and fathers of priests and seminarians, individuals deeply devoted to Eucharistic Adoration, and members who bring gifts from the Holy Spirit that are the fruit of prayer to strengthen and encourage others. There will also be overlap with other charisms since the Holy Spirit tends to give more than one charism to each person.

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph offers a free charism survey called Activate Your Baptism. This is a great resource for parishes to use in discerning this and other charisms within their communities. Unsurprisingly, my strongest charism is intercessor based on my results from the survey.

This ministry of prayer intercessor is also a perfect ministry for the sick and homebound who can unite their sufferings and prayers to Christ on behalf of the parish and apostolate. St. Teresa of Calcutta considered her intercessors to be the most important part of the fruitfulness of her work. She found intercessors who acted as “second selves” for each of the sisters in the Missionaries of Charity. In the book Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta,” she shares in a letter this intercessory mission:

I don’t know if I have told Your Grace [Archbishop Perier], but I have started with the sick a spiritual relationship. Every sister has a second self—to pray and suffer for her—and the Sisters will share her good works and prayers with her […] It makes them so happy to have to suffer for somebody—to be a Missionary of Charity—though they be blind, lame, T.B. [tuberculosis patients], crippled, having cancers. Often when I find the work very difficult—I offer the suffering of these My children and I find help comes at once.

St. Teresa of Calcutta’s suffering intercessors reveal the power Christ unleashes upon apostolates through these souls. Those called to intercession are in “spiritual relationship” with those they pray for. The charism of intercession coupled with redemptive suffering is an untapped powerhouse that the Church has abandoned in favor of our own plans. We have forgotten that our works are only efficacious through prayer and love for the Most Holy Trinity. How many people are homebound and lonely right now who could be given this life-giving mission? How many people have been given the charism of intercessory prayer who could be praying in a more effective and targeted way if they were utilized for the building up of our parishes and apostolates? Our communities would be transformed.

Now is the time to look within our parish communities for those intercessors placed there by the Holy Spirit for this essential work. There are countless people right now who have been given this gift and may not know how to put it at the service of the Church. The Holy Spirit wants to unleash the power and love of Pentecost in our communities. This begins, as the Acts of the Apostles tells us, “with prayer in union with Our Blessed Mother.” There will be no Pentecost without prayer. It’s time to go into the breach.

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash


Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate with an M.A. in Theology with an emphasis in philosophy. Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G.K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths.

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