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On Praying for Priests (Thoughts from St. Thérèse of Lisieux) ^ | November 25, 2009 | Br. Innocent Smith, O.P.

Posted on 11/24/2009 9:38:08 PM PST by Salvation

On Praying for Priests

November 25th, 2009 by Br. Innocent Smith, O.P.

One of the decisive moments in the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux was when she realized that priests could sin. As a fourteen-year-old girl, Thérèse had a great desire to enter the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux where several of her sisters were already nuns. The local bishop, despite her pleadings, was cautious about allowing such a young girl to enter religious life. Nevertheless, he encouraged her to take part in a pilgrimage to Rome to strengthen her vocation.

Near the end of her life, Thérèse reflected on the importance of this pilgrimage: “Ah! what a trip that was!” she wrote in the memoir that was later published as The Story of a Soul . “It taught me more than long years of studies; it showed me the vanity of everything that happens and that everything is affliction of spirit under the sun.” The trip also gave her a new sense of the continuity of the Church: “I trod the same soil as did the holy apostles, the soil bedewed with the blood of martyrs. And my soul grew through contact with holy things.”

Mission: Pray for Priests

The most important result of this trip, however, was the clarity that it gave St. Thérèse about the purpose of her vocation. Despite her desire to become a Carmelite, before the trip to Rome Thérèse did not understand why St. Teresa had established a special mission for Carmelites nuns to pray for priests. “Having never lived close to [priests], I was not able to understand the principle aim of the Reform of Carmel. To pray for sinners attracted me, but to pray for the souls of priests whom I believed to be as pure as crystal seemed puzzling to me.” She now came to understand the humanity of priests: “I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men.”

St. Thérèse did not despair upon discovering this aspect of the priesthood, but rather began to understand the importance of praying for priests. If even holy priests “show in their conduct their extreme need for prayers,” she wrote, “what is to be said of those who are tepid?” As Thérèse eventually came to understand the vocation of her community, “the sole purpose of our prayers and sacrifices is to be the apostle of the apostles.”

Becoming Other Christs

Ordination to the priesthood, although it bestows a special grace of the Holy Spirit that configures the priest to Christ, does not remove the human defects that a man possess before ordination. When exercising ministry in the Church, a priest acts in the power and place of the person of Christ himself, and his personal unworthiness or even sinfulness does not prevent Christ from acting in the sacraments. Nevertheless, as the Catechism forthrightly admits, “in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church” (CCC 1550).

“I understood my vocation in Italy and that’s not going too far in search of such useful knowledge,” St. Thérèse wrote. Thanks to the revelations of recent years, one no longer needs to travel to Italy to perceive the human weaknesses of priests. Our response to this, however, should not be cynicism or despair, but, like St. Thérèse, we should develop a renewed awareness of the need to pray for priests. In this Year of the Priest, we should commit ourselves to praying for priests, seminarians, and the men whom God is calling to His service.

Note: the quotations of St. Thérèse are taken from Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Third Edition , translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. (Washington: ICS Publications, 1996).

Br. Innocent, Smith, O.P. is a Dominican Friar in formation for the priesthood at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. Please visit our vocations blog at

TOPICS: Catholic; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; yearofthepriest
Year of the Priest -- Pray for priests!
1 posted on 11/24/2009 9:38:11 PM PST by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; Lady In Blue; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...
Catholic Prayer Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Prayer Ping List.

Pray for priests!

2 posted on 11/24/2009 9:40:50 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
Jesus, High Priest
Jesus. High Priest

The Year of the Priest

We thank you, God our Father, for those who have responded to your call to priestly ministry.

Accept this prayer we offer on their behalf: Fill your priests with the sure knowledge of your love.

Open their hearts to the power and consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Lead them to new depths of union with your Son.

Increase in them profound faith in the Sacraments they celebrate as they nourish, strengthen and heal us.

Lord Jesus Christ, grant that these, your priests, may inspire us to strive for holiness by the power of their example, as men of prayer who ponder your word and follow your will.

O Mary, Mother of Christ and our mother, guard with your maternal care these chosen ones, so dear to the Heart of your Son.

Intercede for our priests, that offering the Sacrifice of your Son, they may be conformed more each day to the image of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saint John Vianney, universal patron of priests, pray for us and our priests

3 posted on 11/24/2009 9:56:54 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
On Praying for Priests (Thoughts from St. Thérèse of Lisieux)
The Priesthood and the Mass
Vatican Aide: Priest Vocations Up in 20 Countries (England and Wales among them)
The Experience of ‘The Call’ (Discerning a Call to the Priesthood or Religious Life)

Priesthood Sunday - October 25, 2009
Health Care Council Letter to Priests, "A Priest at the Bedside of a Sick Person Represents Christ"
A Vocation to Be a Priest?
Do You Appreciate Your Priest? (with a touch of humor)
In India, Holy Orders

A priest’s chalice
Christ for Us: The Year for Priests [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
On Mary, Mother of Priests
Bishop Olmsted on the Devil and John Vianney
Catholic Caucus: Prayer for Our Priests (Year of the Priest)

Benedict reflects on Mary and the priesthood [Catholic Caucus]
The Priesthood — A Priceless Gift
Forming Those Who Form Priests: The Gift of Purity of Heart
Spiritual Mothers of Priests: Your Questions [Year of the Priest]
Eucharistic Season in the Year of the Priesthood

Pope's Address at Audience With New Archbishops: "Carry Deeply in Your Hearts Your Priests"
No Matter What, He Always "Acts Like a Priest" [Ecumenical]
On Priestly Identity
What Can I Do For the Year of the Priest?
The Rosary for the Year of the Priest [Catholic Caucus]

Pope Notes His Goal for Year for Priests
On the Year for Priests
Curé d'Ars: Model Priest [Year of the Priest]
ZENIT Launches Column on Priesthood

[Justin] Cardinal Rigali on the Year for Priests
Church Being Given Chance to Rediscover Priesthood [Year of the Priest]
Celebrating the Year of the Priesthood
St. John Vianney's Pastoral Plan

Year of the Priest Letter (Media immediately scrutinize its contents for controversy)
Year of the Priest [Catholic Caucus]
The Year for Priests [Catholic Caucus]
Year of the Priest Begins Friday
U.S. bishops launch website for Year for Priests

4 posted on 11/24/2009 9:59:24 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation; netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; markomalley; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; ...
In this Year of the Priest, we should commit ourselves to praying for priests, seminarians, and the men whom God is calling to His service.

Prayer and Sacrifice for Priests

by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

I would like to address the subject of the value of prayer and sacrifice for priests. If there was ever a need for the preservation and sanctity of priests, it is today. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Catholic priesthood in countries like our own is going through the most difficult ordeal in the Church’s history. We have lost well over ten thousand priests in the United States since the close of the second Vatican Council.

Countless seminaries have closed their doors, and there is confusion in many Catholic circles as to what the priesthood entails. As a result we can safely say that the welfare of the Church in our country and in many other so-called "developed" countries is at stake.

Having taught priests, lived with priests, labored for them, loved them, and suffered with them for over 30 years, there are no words that I can use that would be strong enough to state that the Catholic priesthood needs prayer and sacrifice more now since the time when Our Lord died on the Cross at Calvary.

I would like to ask a series of questions to spark an answer that could be a prayerful reflection on our own responsibility. Firstly, why the priesthood?

In a single sentence, the most important reason we need the priesthood is: without the priesthood there cannot be the Eucharist. Without the Eucharist there would be no Sacrifice of the Mass, no Holy Communion, no Real Presence of Jesus Christ on earth, where He continues His work of salvation in the world.

When I look at photographs of the cathedrals of France, Germany, and Italy, I say to myself the only reason that generations were spent building these tributes to the faith, is that those who constructed them built them in faith. This could be said of every Catholic Church, from the smallest Chapel to the Cathedral of Notre Dame or St. Peter’s in Rome. These are all, we believe, literally houses of God. The Son of God who became the Son of Mary truly dwells within them. Without the priesthood, Jesus Christ would not be on earth. That is our Catholic faith.

Why do priests need special graces from God? It is because they have extraordinary responsibilities before God. They are to be more than ordinarily holy, more generous, more zealous, and more patient. In a word, those who are responsible for Christ’s presence on earth are to be, of all people, the most Christ-like. They are to be examples of what Christ wants us to be. Look back on all of the grave crises in the Church over the centuries. Every single one of them was due to the fact that priests had failed the people of God.

As long as I live, I will never forget the retreat the late Fr. Daniel Lord gave to us scholastics before our ordination. He recalled the episode of a conversation that Pope Pius had with Fr. Edmond Walsh. Fr. Walsh was from Georgetown and he had just returned from a mission in Russia, where millions were starving because of the treachery of their Communist overlords. After the famine had abated, Fr. Walsh was told to meet with the Holy Father. Late into the night Pope and Jesuit were in conversation over the conditions of the Church of that time. The Pope asked Fr. Walsh, "What do you think are the greatest trials of the Church? Are they the persecutors, the Nero’s and Attila’s, the Communists?" The Pope answered his own question. "No, they are unfaithful priests." It is no overstretch of language to say that as the priesthood goes, so goes the Church.

In our day more than any other century, there is pressure on all of those who wish to remain faithful to Christ, such as have not ever been experienced before. The pressures that are experienced by priests carry a violence that no one but a priest can understand. One saint after another has declared that the devil’s principal target on earth is the Catholic priest. It stands to demonic reason – if the devil can deceive and delude a Catholic priest and draw him away from Christ, what happens? What happens is what we see today. Priests are subject to extraordinary temptations from the devil first, but also from the world.

Six months after being on the faculty of a state university, one of my fellow faculty members said to me, "John, you are the first priest that this university has ever had." I happened to be the first Catholic priest hired and paid by a state university to teach Catholicism. "John," he said, "we wanted to test you, especially in your chastity. You didn’t know this, but the women students on the campus found out you are genuine."

Priests need special graces from God. Why pray for priests? We should pray for priests and bishops because this has been the practice of the Church since apostolic times. It’s a matter of revealed truth. It is a divine mandate. Whatever we find, certainly in the Scriptures of the apostolic age, we believe has been revealed by God. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told Herod had James the Apostle beheaded. He then put Peter in prison. Saint Luke says, "All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed for him unremittingly." I like that adverb, unremittingly. As a priest, I beg you to pray unremittingly for Christ’s unworthy servants whom He ordained as priests.

In one of the seven letters that Saint Martin of Antioch wrote on his way to his martyrdom in Rome during the year 107 A.D., he implored the people, "Pray for me who stands in need of your charity and who stands before the mercy of God."

Why do we need to pray for priests? It is because, through prayer, we gain graces for them which otherwise they would not obtain. If we all need the help of each other and we receive the graces we need, how much more should we pray for priests from whom we have received Jesus Christ in the Eucharist – and by whom we have been so often absolved from our sins. I don’t want to even think of the state of my soul if I had not had the absolution that over the years I have received from priests. As fellow members of the Mystical Body, priests desperately need our help.

Our prayer for priests should be joined with sacrifice. In other words, our prayer should be united with the practice of patience, selfless charity and mortification. Why? Because the most effective prayer is the prayer that costs – costly prayer, otherwise known as sacrificial prayer. How powerfully before the throne of God are the sufferings of the sick, the lonely, the abandoned, the poor, and the crushed.

An ordination of the
Legionaries of Christ
Pope John Paul II in Rome

A priest’s life is supposed to be a life of sacrifice. I have told hundreds of priests, "Father, you are not only to offer the Mass, you are to live the Mass." If priests are to be truly priestly, they need to have the faithful offer their own trials and temptations to obtain from the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, the light and strength that the priesthood demands.

There is no doubt in my mind that the one grace that the priest needs above all, is to embrace the Cross. His union with Christ Crucified is his key to an effective priesthood. His power as a priest comes from the Cross, as he identifies himself with the Crucified Lord. A priest must be willing and able to have happen to him what happened to his Master in Palestine. As I’ve told many priests in the past, I am only truly and genuinely a priest as much as I am ready and willing, like Jesus Christ, to suffer for souls.

The principal cross which priests experience today is the suffering they feel with the situation of the Church. As one priest put it, "The cross is the present, the experience of right now, and not some imagined and future pain." That is why making the Way of the Cross – and I am now recommending the Stations of the Cross to others – is a most effective way of praying for priests. In making the Way of the Cross, one unites oneself with Jesus Christ, no longer suffering in His physical body, but suffering in His Mystical Body which is the Church.

I would recommend that all the faithful offer daily at least one prayer for all the priests in the Church and especially for those who have done most for them in their lives. I try to remember every day at Mass the priest who baptized me, the priest who heard my First Confession, who gave me my First Holy Communion, the bishop who ordained me, and the bishop who confirmed me. I recommend, therefore, that all the faithful, in a special way, pray for priests every day. Also, I advise the faithful to offer up some sacrifice for priests each day. I am tempted to say some little sacrifice. NO! I suggest it be the most difficult sacrifice of the day for priests.

I further recommend that when we hear about a priest who has been unfaithful to his high calling, that our first and immediate reaction should be to pray for him. I believe that we should do everything in our power to extend and propagate the apostolate of prayer and sacrifice for priests.

The Church of the future will not only survive, but thrive. However, that will occur only where and insofar as the priests have not only been faithful to their vocation, but have lived their priesthood in a living martyrdom in union with the first martyr, Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, no mere recommendation or exhortation that I make, but an imperative to pray and sacrifice for priests.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, you ordained the Apostles priests at the Last Supper to continue your mission of mercy to the end of time. We believe that every Catholic priest traces his ordination to that first ordination on Holy Thursday night. We know how much you expect of your priests and we also know how weak and human they are. Inspire us, dear Jesus, to pray and sacrifice for your priests, who are also ours, that by their faithfulness to you in this life they may bring countless souls to you in the life to come. Mary, Mother of priests, pray for priests that they may love your Divine Son unreservedly as you did, all the days of their lives. Amen.

5 posted on 11/25/2009 10:24:24 AM PST by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone" - Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer

I enjoyed this message from Father Harndon very much.

6 posted on 11/25/2009 11:27:23 AM PST by Melian ("Here's the moral of the story: Catholic witness has a cost." ~Archbishop Charles Chaput)
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