This Father’s Day, remember to thank priests for their gift of spiritual fatherhood. They have dedicated their lives to taking care of us spiritually through prayer, the Sacraments, teaching, spiritual counsel, and personal witness.
A conversation I had this week with a senior priest friend provided an example of how priests exercise their spiritual paternity. He told me that the following day he planned to concelebrate the funeral Mass of a priest from our diocese, visit a person in prison, and bring Holy Communion to people in their homes who are sick. This is a typical day for many priests.
In Pastores Dabo Vobis (17), St. John Paul II wrote: “…priests have a positive and helping relationship to the laity.” I have been blessed with friendships with holy priests who have been wonderful spiritual fathers to me. They have prayed for me and with me, mentored me, and encouraged me to live as a faithful Catholic. They have guided me in my spiritual life by advising me on prayer, listening to me, and recommending good Catholic books to read. They have encouraged me to participate at daily Mass, go to frequent confession, visit the sick, assist senior priests, and use my talent in writing to serve God. They have been supportive of me in difficulties and shared my happiness when something good happens in my life.
As their spiritual daughter, I pray for them daily and support them in their vocation. I will always pray too, for my spiritual fathers who have died, who were very good to me during the time that I knew them.
I have witnessed the spiritual fatherhood of priests in many circumstances. I have accompanied a priest on visits to people in hospitals and nursing homes, and seen how he ministered to every person he met, helping them to experience God’s love.
I knew a senior priest in a nearby parish who was available for confession every day before Mass, despite very poor health, until shortly before he died last year. I know a young priest, who is the pastor of a parish, who offers adoration every day before Mass, and stays to pray with the parishioners.
I have known priests who have gone to give Anointing of the Sick to people who are dying, late at night, and in the early morning. The priests I know take their responsibilities to teach the faith seriously and have spoken of their efforts to prepare a good homily, devoting much time to it. I have come to realize that priests who are unknown to us are also our spiritual fathers because when they pray for the Church at every Mass they celebrate, they are praying for us too.
One of my spiritual fathers used to say that he was concerned that not many people pray for priests because they think they are already holy and don’t need our prayers. Although the laity are aware that not all priests are holy, they may not realize that their prayers are powerful and can bring about the conversion of sinful priests and strengthen the vocation of faithful priests.
Priests have dedicated their lives to God and to caring for the members of His church. As our spiritual fathers, they are part of our family. They need our support, and the best way we can support them is to pray for them. The spiritual paternity of priests is a gift to the Church. We can thank priests by praying for them every day.
Some Ways to Pray for Priests
- 1. Offer your Mass for all priests or a specific priest.
- 2. Pray the Rosary for priests.
- 3. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for any priests who will die that day or within the next few days.
- 4. Make a list of every priest you know and pray for each of them. If you know of any priests in your diocese who are sick or in nursing homes, include them on your prayer list.
- 5. Ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother and saints who were devoted to praying for priests; for example, Saint John Paul II, Saint Catherine of Siena, and St. Therese of Lisieux.
- 6. During Mass, pray that the priest will offer up a perfect sacrifice, pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire him to give a good homily, and when the priest prays for the clergy in the Eucharistic prayer, pray for the priests you know.
- 7. Pray daily for the souls of priests who have died and arrange to have Masses offered for them.
- 8. Let priests know you are praying for them.