Today I was communing with the Lord about the urgency, promise and vision of praying for priests. In 2013 when I co-founded the international apostolate, “Foundation of Prayer for Priests,” I heard the clarion call. In response, I seriously committed myself to the mission of spiritual motherhood of priests, offering daily holy hours and rosaries for them. The initiative of the Congregation for the Clergy confirmed its urgency for the New Evangelization of future generations. Priests had long been a part of my family experiences so appreciating and praying for them was not new for me. But doing so in the context of a broader need in the Church, and for future families, added to the weight of the mission.
Since 2013, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to many countries to encourage men and women to discover the timely, profound and necessary mission of spiritual motherhood and fatherhood of souls, especially those of priests. The response of the Holy Spirit and the people of God has been overwhelmingly generous. Absent even one glossy pamphlet or professional marketing, in three years, the number of spiritual mothers and fathers, clergy and religious now spans twenty countries and thousands of members.
Yet, I was struggling about this today. I wanted my family to receive the first fruits of prayer because we are undergoing a difficulty that requires torrents of grace. I honestly questioned the Lord, “Why pray for priests first? Why not my family first?” I became hung up on who should receive the first fruits of prayer. A deeper consideration revealed that I had an attitude: The priests are the Lord’s. The family is mine. Wrong! O how tightly I want to hold onto “my” family. No! My family is the Lord’s. Priests are the Lord’s. Everything is the Lord’s.
In prayer, the Lord graciously helped to me to grasp that praying for priests first is a prayer for the salvation of all families including mine. I realized that what the Lord desires for my family is the goods of the Church, some of which, only His priests can give. When I give the first fruit of prayer for a priest, I am investing in my family; in their future encounters with priests and need for the beautiful goods of the Church.
Praying for the holiness of priests is urgent. They are called to be protectors of families. The spiritual welfare of the domestic church is entrusted to mothers and fathers but parents must draw wisdom and sacramental grace from the wellspring of the Church through the hands of her ministers, the clergy. Some priests arise from broken homes and imperfect families also. Thus, we need one another for mutual, but distinct support. Distinction is important. Men ordained to Holy Orders are ontologically changed (dealing with the nature of being); uniquely configured to be the Head of Christ’s Body, the Church.
Pope Francis has referred to the Church as a “field hospital” and this is true. Often, the process of checking into the “field hospital” requires the hard work of intercessory prayer, little and big sacrifices, and the offering of suffering. Our families suffer due to the imperfection of selfish human love, weaknesses of the flesh, and constant temptations of a relativistic world that is desensitized about sin and evil, and dangerously distracted from God.
One of the secrets of Fatima shared by Sr. Lucia to a Cardinal concerned the prophecy that Satan’s final attack would be against marriage and the family. Most of us perceive this as real and well underway. The attack is fierce because Satan’s time to test is limited. The Church must fight this good fight in defense of marriage and family. Her ministers, the priests, catechize the faithful so we effectively engage in the spiritual defense of Christian faith and culture. Priests also give us the sacraments which empower us to be courageous in faith, hope and love.
Urgency is furthermore evidenced by current news stories about the killing of priests. I recently completed a course covering healing, exorcism and deliverance at the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome. Clergy and lay professors laid out the cunning, systematic way of the occult and Satanic sects who aim to scatter the sheep by destroying the shepherds. Yes, the one third fallen angels know well the power of Priesthood and Eucharist and this is evidenced in their desired profanation of both.
Recent headlines bear evidence of increasing violence against priests:
In France: Sister Danielle was in the church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, at 9.43am local time during morning mass, when the men entered and took five hostages: the priest, two nuns and two parishioners. She fled as they killed Hamel, 85. “Everyone was shouting ‘stop, stop you don’t know what you’re doing’. They forced him to his knees; he wanted to defend himself and that’s when the drama began,” she said.
Sister Danielle said she had run out of the church while the men cut the priest’s throat. She told BFMTV, a TV news channel, that the two men filmed their attack. “They didn’t see me leave. They were busy occupied with their knives … and they were filming it. They filmed themselves preaching in Arabic in front of the altar. It was a horror. Jacques was an extraordinary priest. He was a great man, Father Jacques.”
(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/france-shock-second-isis-attack-12-days, accessed 29 May, 2017).
In Mexico: “2016 Deadliest Year for Catholic Priests in Mexico. A total of 61 attacks occurred against church members in Mexico between 1990 and 2016, according to the report published by the Catholic Media Center (Centro Católico mulitmedial), showing an alarming increase of 375 percent over that time in the number of priests who have been murdered.”
(http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/2016-deadliest-year-for-catholic-priests-in-mexico, accessed 30 May 2017.)
Popes, saints and prophets have written or spoken about a New Pentecost for the Church. Some insist that it must first begin with a “priestly Pentecost.” Last weekend I spoke at the Ave Maria University Eucharistic Marian Conference with Fr. Bill Casey. His every breath was prophetic. He spoke about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. What does this mean precisely? Father suggests that this could mean the “flowering of faith” again. Is this the promise?
Here’s the promise given to Venerable Conchita Cabrera, mother of a Jesuit Priest and spiritual mother to countless other priests.
The Holy Spirit is He who blows, and moves hearts, and lifts them from the earth, and carries them to celestial horizons, and communicates to them the thirst for the glory of God. He is the one who will give them His light and His fire from inflaming the entire earth. Thus, I want priests possessed by the Holy Spirit and forgetful of themselves, all for God, all for souls.
Let them ask for this reaction, this new Pentecost, for my Church needs holy priests through the Holy Spirit.
The world collapses, because faithful priests are lacking who would draw it out of the abyss in which it finds itself; priests of light who would illuminate the paths of goodness; pure priests who would rescue so many hearts from the mire; priests on fire who would fill up the whole universe with divine love.
Ask, cry out to heaven, offer the Word, so that all things may be restored in me, through the Holy Spirit and through Mary.”
(Venerable Concepción Carbera de Armida, “A Mis Sacerdotes”; quoted by Kathleen Beckman, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, Sophia Press, p 32)
If the priest is to remain completely available to God and His people and willing to embrace suffering, he needs perennial renewal. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as a very young priest, had this to say about the interior renewal of the priest:
We must begin by purifying ourselves before others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw closer to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hands and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. Who then is the priest? He is the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and even, greater, divinized and divinizes.” (quoted by Kathleen Beckman, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, p 15)
The vision is Eucharistic. By establishing the primacy of prayer for priests, when the first fruit of our prayer, suffering and sacrifice is offered for them, we are praying eucharistically. We sacrifice for those men who offer the perfect sacrifice at the altar. The priest uniquely prays, “This is My Body.” Priests make Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist. The table of the Lord is where the soul of the family is sanctified; where Christ’s Head and Body are blessed and bound in Trinitarian love.
I am no longer confounded about appropriating the first fruit of prayer for priests because by doing so I am interceding for the new wine and wine skins from which my family members will drink new life and healing. I grasp the urgency, promise and vision again.
Spiritually adopt a priest, and learn more about spiritual motherhood and fatherhood: www.foundationforpriests.org.
Excerpts are from: Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, available from Sophia Institute Press.
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