June 15 will mark the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which many associate with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
It is also a special day for those who have chosen to spiritually adopt a priest, seminarian, or bishop through a program run by the sisters of Opus Angelorum (OA), more formally referred to as the Society of Sisters of the Holy Cross. Those who have been to Assumption Grotto in Detroit, seeing "recognizable nuns", have seen the sisters of OA.
Each year, those who sign up for the spiritual adoption of priests program, receive a new card in the mail with the name of someone to pray for, and to make sacrifices for, throughout the year. Often times, it is a priest we do not know. They enclose some prayers and ideas on how to pray for the priest(s) on your list. If you have a priest in mind, or a seminarian, or discerning young man whom you want to pray for you may give them the information and they will assign him to you, perhaps along with another priest in their pool of names.
WHY PRAY FOR PRIESTS?
Along with many people who grew up in the 60's-90's, no one really talked about the need to pray for other souls. Most especially, no one ever taught me to pray for vocations, or for priests - not until someone in a Catholic forum sent me an email that read, "Hey - do you want to pray for a priest? I have a sister who is a sister there at Assumption Grotto, and she takes care of the spiritual adoption program of priests". That was the beginning. How do you decline such humble request?
That led me to ponder more about praying for priests over the last two years that I have participated. Why should I pray for priests?
Well, first of all I had to ask myself if I believed that my prayers and sacrifices could somehow help a priest. The answer was very simple. It takes faith to believe it will be so. Amen. I CAN and SHOULD pray for priests and place my trust in the Blessed Mother to manage and direct those prayers accordingly (my parish priests and OA priests who work there heavily advocate the Consecration to Jesus through Mary, whereby we do the "work" and let the Blessed Mother apply them where needed).
I probed my thoughts deeper once again: Why pray for priests?
ANGEL OF DARKNESS - STRATEGY OF DARKNESS
I believe in God. I believe God created spiritual beings - namely angels. I believe some of those angels turned on God and work very hard at using people's weaknesses to get them to do the same, through attachment to sin.
The Angel of Darkness has little need to meddle with a soul who is on a self-destructive path by his own choosing. He can win this single soul with little influence. However, if he can snare just one priest, preying on his weaknesses to get him to fall from grace, the Angel of Darkness not only wins control of this single soul, he gains access to the many with whom the priest has contact. It can lead to simple things like the bulk of a parish blowing off a little doctrine to fit their relativistic lifestyle.
One thing that leads me to accept this notion of demonic influence, is the example of many saints. The more holy they were, the greater their experience with temptations, and the Evil One himself. St. John Vianney comes to mind. More progressive people in the Church want to dismiss him as a nutcase, but the fruits of his work will not allow this. His was a life of sacrifice and for that he won many souls over to Christ often hearing confessions for 12 and 14 hours daily. His way of life proved that people respond to a priest in a confessional, but it must be aided with the kind of solid Catholic sermons that enable the faithful to probe their conscience. If they walk out, that's fine. They leave on account of their own pride, not Father's admonitions.
PRIESTS ARE NOT SAINTS!
Shocking isn't it: That the man with a Roman collar is actually human and susceptible to the effects of Original Sin? This does not excuse his behaviors because he is even more accountable than many by virtue of the knowledge he posseses. However, as many temptations as an ordinary soul may experience, how many more does a soul with the mark of the priesthood endure? It is that mark which draws fire. The Evil One sets that mark right in his cross-hairs. But, God gives priests graces to fulfill their vocation, just like a married couple is given the graces needed for theirs. However, both cases, they must be free from sin for those graces to be of full benefit.
The attacks may be subtle. Father may feel lonely and when a man feels lonely he may fall and seek it where Satan leads him. In fact, the Angel of Darkness may bring someone right to his door. Our prayers can give him strength and courage.
Father may become weary after putting in long hours - sometimes at multiple parishes, and often with people who complain without ceasing. In his weariness, he may neglect his prayers, or even be led to believe that the time is better spent on social needs. Some people have gone so far as to criticize Mother Teresa for the time she spent in prayer and not helping people. It is sad that these foolish people do not understand she would never have managed to accomplish all that she did, if it were not through the extraordinary, yet simple prayer-life she fulfilled each day, through a prolonged period of spiritual dryness. Rather than seek rest in prayer, Father may begin to seek that rest in worldly things, such as too much television. He may even begin to believe his job runs from 9:00am until 5:00pm.
Father may not see the need to get to know Our Lady, nor may he value Eucharistic Adoration. We must pray that he discovers the helpfulness of the Mother and the strength of the Son. If God could become the Word Incarnate, why then would we doubt his Divine Presence in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar? Pray that Father embraces Eucharistic and Marian Devotion. Pray a Rosary for a priest who is not praying it. Spend time in adoration for a priest who hasn't discovered the graces which spring from our Eucharistic Lord.
Priests and religious must seek comfort in God and in God alone. Our prayers can help Father to detach himself from the need for human comfort - even ordinary comfort which we all come to expect - so that he may pursue that comfort in God. That which seems humanly impossible becomes possible through grace. He will learn to recognize the opportunities the Lord presents him, to strengthen him, like gold is tested in fire. Holiness doesn't happen! It is a cooperative effort between a soul and his creator! But, grace obtained through his and our prayers can strengthen a priest's efforts and resolve.
HOLD A PRIEST UP THROUGH YOUR PRAYERS
Strengthen one priest through your prayers and sacrifices, and you will benefit hundreds of souls, if not thousands. Your prayers and sacrifices can strengthen Father to embrace the Sacrament of Penance the way few priests today emphasize in their parishes, and to teach his parish community to value it in a way that diminishes the subtle grip Satan has on his people.
Your prayers can shower other graces on your priest, such as courage to battle the worst temptations the Evil One can throw upon him. It can give him strength to perform his daily office faithfully, and the fortitude to preach the fullness of the faith without hesitation.
This says nothing of the fact that by virtue having the mark of the priesthood on his soul, he invites the cross into his daily life. He will walk the way of the cross each time he is calumniated for upholding the true faith and authentic moral code. He sacrifices popularity when he follows through with counter-cultural words and actions which are fully aligned with the Magisterium. He will have to stand like a warrior in the face of unimaginable attacks ordinary lay people can't even begin to fathom. All of it will test Father's resolve to die to self for the sake of Christ and His Church. His rewards are not of this world so we pray that he will stand as strong as the earliest Christians did in the face of physical martydom.
GREAT CONVERSIONS COME FROM PRAYER
When we think about priests with sinful pasts, whom do we think of first, if not St. Augustine? Where would he be without the prayers of his mother, St. Monica? We know St. Augustine for his great works, including his confessions. However, what if St. Augustine were living today - in the Internet age? Would fellow Catholics protest his call to be a priest based on his past life? Would the sordid details of his past life appear in the public media where people would form judgments upon him - something reserved only to God? Trial by Internet and lynchings by blog are common these days - without contemplating a little known sin called detraction. It is my prayer that priests in particular, will begin to challenge us Catholic bloggers to clear ourselves from participation of high-tech gossip.
I look at more modern day examples like that of Fr. John Corapi, SOLT and Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. Their past-lives are well documented - by themselves, as are their conversion stories. Both of them have expressed the deep need for our continued prayers because temptations never cease - not until a tired body hits the grave. While Fr. Corapi credited his mother for prayers, I could not stop thinking about how Fr. Donald Calloway lamented "those Filipino women" who always seemed to be in Church. He said that every parish needs people like that. One of them first put the idea into his head about becoming a priest.
Less known to people, would be the example of Fr. Albert Lauer, deceased. He was a victim of namby-pamby seminary days, but he woke up and went on to do what some would consider miraculous. He WAS the loose priest many of us know who was lax on things like prayer and adoration, until he discovered them.
WHAT PRIESTS DO WE PRAY FOR?
First, we need to start with our own pastor and bishop. This is true if you are in a liturgical oasis with the finest liturgy and Catholic culture a parishioner could ask for. However, it also applies to those in parishes where the liturgy is less than ideal.
While we have a right to expect a liturgy as the Church intends us to have, we must always keep in mind that many, many priests have been "schooled" by a set of people who were misguided to say the least. Charity must lead the way to change. The more impossible a case may seem, the more need there is for prayer. Through Christ, and through love, mountains can be moved. But, it takes a submission of faith and patience for things to work in God's time, not ours. Aside from those in your parish, are those you encounter. Pray for those on TV and radio who aid your understanding of the faith. Pray for those who come to your parish for retreat and missions.
If you want to go the extra step, sign up for spiritual adoption of a priest through Opus Angelorum. Take the name of some unknown priest. It's easy to pray for a priest whom you like, or for one whom has helped you. But can you give your time to pray for a priest you don't know, don't like, or for a priest who has offended you in some way? Both are needed. We need to strengthen the good ones, and convert those in need of conversion.
Chalice of Strength
More Prayers for Priests (scroll down for links to these prayers)
More on Spiritual Adoption of Priests
A FINAL NOTE
Periodically, people send me things about this priest or that bishop, or a particular theologian or scholar - things that may amount to detraction . I refuse to use my blog for that kind of thing so save yourself the work of sending me those emails. God didn't give us the Internet to spread detraction against priests and others, nor to broadcast all of the dirty liturgical laundry we can find. People would do so much more for Holy Mother Church if they just went to an adoration chapel to make an act of reparation for what they come across. Some spend more time looking for the scandal of the day than they do in actual prayer. What compels us to seek out such things with what little time we have on the Internet, if not the effects of Original Sin?
If you want to do something constructive to help the Church don't waste time seeking or spreading the next outrageous liturgical abuse or scandal. Pray! Sacrifice! Fast! Help one priest and you help hundreds if not thousands of souls. It takes an act of faith, an act of hope, and an act of charity to do so. You must believe it will help because Our Lord said to ask and we shall receive. You must have hope that through Christ, all things are possible. You must do so because it is the charitable thing to do.
Te Deum Laudamus! Home