On the Catholic Priesthood
"Only two means are left to save Her (the Church) amidst so much confusion: Frequent Communion and Devotion to Mary most holy, making use of every means and doing our best to practice them and having them practiced everywhere and by everybody."
"When speaking of public scandals:
Don’t be surprised at anything. People and waywardness go hand in hand. The Church has nothing to fear because even if all were to conspire to overthrow Her, the Holy Spirit would still uphold Her."
The Catholic Church rejoices and glories greatly in the charitable zeal of her clergy in preaching the gospel of Christian peace, in bringing salvation and civilization even to barbarous nations, among whom by their labors, often consecrated by the shedding of their blood, the kingdom of Christ is being daily propagated and our holy faith is winning new laurels and still greater lustre. And if your charitable offices, beloved sons, meet with envy, abuse, calumny, as only too frequently is the case, do not therefore give way to sadness, "be not weary in well-doing" (II Thess., Ill, 13). Keep before your eyes that host of great men who, following the example of the Apostles, in the midst of bitterest contumely borne for the name of Christ, "went rejoicing, blessing when they were cursed." For we are the sons and the brothers of the Saints whose names are resplendent in the book of life, whose praises the Church proclaims: "Let us not stain our glory."* Once the spirit of sacerdotal grace is restored and increased among all orders of the clergy, Our designs, under the Divine guidance, for the restoration of all else, will acquire far more efficacy.
Source: Our Priesthood, by Bruneau, Joseph (1866-1933)
The Altar and God: The Dignity of the Priesthood
The Christian priesthood differs essentially from the priesthood of the Old Law and from the ministry of the various sects. The priesthood in the Old Law descended from father to son. It was an inheritance in the tribe of Levi and in the family of Aaron. Therefore "there were many priests," as St Paul says, "because by reason of death they were not suffered to continue." The Protestant sects reject all idea of a true priesthood. To them the minister is the hired servant of the congregation. He may have great talents and be able to command a large salary, but to his people he is merely an employee, the same as the artist that plays the organ or the sexton that rings the bell. The Catholic Church teaches that with the Old Law the Levitical priesthood passed away. The priest and the sacrifice go together, and when the altar ceased to smoke in the temple court, the sons of Aaron ceased to be priests. Their priesthood was the type and figure of the priesthood of our Lord, even as their sacrifices were the type and figure of the sacrifice that was consummated on Calvary. Now, of Christ, God had said with an oath: "The Lord hath sworn, and He will not repent: Thou art a priest forever." Our Lord therefore has an everlasting priesthood, and, if an everlasting priesthood, he must have an eternal sacrifice. That sacrifice is not the offering of the blood of goats or oxen in an earthly temple and on an earthly altar, but it is the offering of His own blood in a tabernacle not made by hands, in the holy of holies of heaven itself, and on the sublime altar that ever stands in the sight of the majesty of God. In the New Testament, then, there is only one priest and only one sacrifice. That priest is Jesus Christ Himself, and that sacrifice is the Sacrifice of the Cross, which was offered once to exhaust the sins of many. But it is also written in the Scripture that Christ is a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. Now, Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of the Most High God who met Abraham and blessed him and offered up a sacrifice in bread and wine. The bloody sacrifices of the priesthood of Levi, the offerings of sheep and goats and oxen, typified the bloody death of Christ upon the Cross; the unbloody sacrifice of Melchizedek typifies the clean oblation concerning which the Prophet Malachi also spoke: "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my Name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice and there is offered to My name a clean oblation, saith the Lord of Hosts." For it is necessary that there should be sacrifice everywhere. Men are commanded by God to worship Him. The essential elements of worship are prayer and sacrifice. We do not worship God by prayer alone, but by prayer and sacrifice. Man also is composed of body and soul, not of soul alone, but of body and soul. Therefore his worship must be a sensible and external worship as well as an interior and spiritual worship. He must not only pray in his heart, but he must express his prayer in words. His sacrifice must not only be carried by the hands of angels to the altar on high, but it must lie slain before the eyes of men on earth. Now, the one sacrifice of the Christian dispensation is the death of Christ, and Christ is seated at the right hand of God's majesty, offering that one sacrifice for sin. What human eye is there so keen as to pierce the un-created glory, and behold the print of the nails; what human hand so hardy as to dare to reach out and touch that wounded side? It is evident therefore that the death of Christ must be shown to men if we are to have a sacrifice at all. And we read in the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians: "I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and, giving thanks, brake, and said: “Take ye, and eat: this is My body, which shall be delivered for you: this do ye for the commemoration of Me.” In like manner, also, the chalice, after He had supped, saying: 'This chalice is the New Testament in My blood: this do ye, as often as ye shall drink, for the commemoration of Me. For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, ye shall shew the death of the Lord, until He come." This, then, is the divine plan by which the death of Christ, the Sacrifice of the Cross, is to be perpetuated among men. The Apostles were then and there constituted priests after the order of Melchizedek. They were then and there constituted priests, not like the priests of Aaron, each offering a sacrifice of his own. They were constituted priests by being indued with the priesthood of Jesus Christ, doing what He did, changing bread into the body that was broken for us and changing wine into the blood that was poured out for us, and thus really offering in an unbloody manner the same sacrifice that He offered on the cross. Since our Lord ordered that the sacrifice of His death should be shown to men until His second coming, it was necessary that the Apostles should hand on the power that was given them. By the Sacrament of Holy Orders they provided not only for the due government of the Church, but for the perpetuation of the sacrifice. To some they give the power of the priesthood in its fullness, that is, with the faculty of creating other priests, and these we call bishops; to others they give the power of the priesthood without this privilege, and these we call simply priests. But in priest and in bishop the power of sacrifice is the same, and it is the same Mass that is offered up by the humble missionary in the log hut under the great pines of some northern wilderness as is offered up under the great dome of St. Peter's when the Pope himself stands at the altar and the silver trumpets sound. This, then, is the secret of the dignity of the Christian priest. 'He is indued with the priesthood of Jesus Christ Himself and holy men have not hesitated to say: "Sacerdos alter Christus" — The priest is another Christ. His dignity does not arise from the nobility of his birth, or from the fame of his name. His dignity does not arise from his natural talents or from his acquired learning. His dignity does not arise from the church in which he ministers or the congregation that he serves. His dignity does not arise from his eloquence, though it is his duty to preach the word of God in season and out of season. His dignity does not arise from the power to regenerate the children of God in the waters of baptism, for even the heathen may use that power. His dignity does not arise from the jurisdiction he exercises in the tribunal of penance over the mystical body of Christ, for a priest may go through life without hearing a single confession. His dignity does not arise from the long history and splendid services of the order into which he ha« been incorporated. It is true he may look back for twenty centuries and behold the Christian priesthood march like the sons of Levi at the head of the Christian host carrying the Ark of the Covenant. He may see their fame recorded in every department of human endeavor. In search of souls they have explored the trackless forests and navigated unknown rivers. To carry the word they have gone to the ends of the earth and opened up new nations to science. They have descended into the dark places of great cities to bind the wounds of the broken in spirit, to lift up the fallen, to visit them that are sick and in prison, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to harbor the harbor-less, and to bury the dead. They have braved the plague in tropic jungles or in stricken towns, not with parade and ostentation, but in the pursuit of their ordinary duty, and when the time came for them they lay down in simple dignity and died amidst their flock. They have been the pioneers of education, the foster fathers of art, and there is no department of human learning or human science in which their names do not shine. They have been great writers, great musicians, great orators, aye, even great statesmen, and some have not borne the sword in vain. Yes, it is an ancient and honorable company into which a young priest is admitted at his ordination, and henceforth he walks forever a brother of the mighty dead. Yet it is not from all or from any of these things comes the dignity with which he is crowned; it is not because of these things the people reverence him and his father's sons bow down before him. No, his dignity has only one source, and only one justification, namely, the stupendous change that was wrought in him by the imposition of hands and the grace of ordination, when he put on the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ and stood before the world another Christ: "Sacerdos alter Christus" — The priest is another Christ. This is why he did not presume to take this honor to himself, but waited to be called by God, even as Aaron was. This is why he comes to you now, not the nominee of a congregation, but sent even as the Apostles were. This is why there is between you and him this altar rail, the symbol of the everlasting barrier raised between him and the world. That is why he is clothed in the Mass vestments, the white garment that Christ wore, and the heavy cross that He carried to Calvary. That is why he stands before you as a leader of his people, and he only turns his face to you now and again, as a leader might turn to urge you on. That is why he prays in an unknown tongue to manifest to you that he, not you, is the sacrificer, and that he, not you, has power to immolate the mystic victim. That is why, with raised hands and uplifted voice, he now prepares to enter the sanctuary alone. The solemn hymn of thanksgiving is, as it were, the preface for the great mystery of the holy of hollies. He forgets the earth, he boldly faces the gates of heaven, he passes through the serried ranks of angels and archangels, of cherubim and seraphim, of principalities and powers, of thrones and dominations, and as the thunder of the heavenly hymn, "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts," moves the lintels of the temple doors, he approaches the altar of the Lamb,and he alone standing begins the solemn words of consecration. Behold, it is now no longer a man that officiates at that altar. He takes the bread and he takes the wine. Over them he speaks the words of Jesus Christ: "This is My body — this is My blood." The man has passed away. It is the High Priest Himself that speaks. "This is My body — this is My blood." "Sacerdos alter Christus" — The priest is another Christ. What mortal man could be worthy of so great dignity? It is one of the mysteries of God's dealings with mankind that He did not commit this sublime office to His holy angels, instead of to sinful men. Yet, as Christ did not choose to redeem mankind in the nature of an angel, but in the nature of a man, so He has ordained that His priests should be men, not angels. Christ became a man that we might have a high priest who can have compassion on our infirmities, tempted in all things even as we are tempted, yet without sin. So He makes men His priests that, surrounded as they are with weakness, they may have compassion on them that are ignorant and do err. It is a wonderful dignity, and would that we were worthy of it. It is something far above the strength of human nature, and therefore only to be borne by the abounding and super abounding grace of God. Catholics know this, and therefore, while to-day is a day of rejoicing, it is a day of earnest prayer and holy fear. Pour out your supplication for this Levite who, in the gladness of his youth, for the first time goes unto the altar of God. Pray that God's angels may camp around him even as they camped around the Prophet Eliseus, to protect him against the assaults of the enemy. Pray that his sacrifice may be acceptable like the sacrifice of Abel the Just, and ratified like the sacrifice of Abraham, our Patriarch, and holy like the sacrifice of the High Priest, Melchizedek. Pray that his ministry may bloom with virtue like the rod of Aaron, and that his long service may be found without flaw like the service of Samuel. May his heart be pure even as the heart of John, who was worthy to lie upon the bosom of the Lord, and may he show himself, like Paul, a minister of God in much patience, aye, even if necessary in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in prisons, in sedition, May the grace which he has received not in vain manifest itself in labor, in fastings, in watchings, in chastity, in knowledge, in long suffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God, by the armor of justice on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastised, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as needy, yet enriching many; as having nothing and possessing all. Source: Altar and Priest, 1913 Peter Christopher Yorke
The confessor is forbidden under grave penalties ever to betray by word, sign, or in any other way, what he has heard in Sacramental confession. The obligation of the seal of confession differs from all other secrets, in that it is never lawful under any circumstances to make known the least thing that has been manifested by a penitent in confession. If questioned about confessional matter, even in a court of justice, the priest must always answer that he knows nothing about it, as with perfect truth he may do, for what he knows as a confessor he knows as the Vicegerent of God, not as man.
Not only the priest, but all others, who mediately or immediately come to know anything confessed to a priest with a view to absolution, are bound by the obligation of the seal. The obligation of the seal is imposed in favor of the penitent; it is the penitent's secret, but he himself is not bound by it. It does not follow, however, that penitents may without let or hindrance talk to others about what the confessor has said to them in the confessional. They are at least bound by a natural obligation to reveal nothing which would tend in any way to injure or aggrieve the confessor. The religious obligation of keeping secret anything that is manifested in Sacramental confession is imposed by the natural, the divine, and by positive ecclesiastical law.
January: Holy Childhood
Prayer to the Holy Infant for priests
Jesus, Divine Infant, I bless and thank Your most loving Heart for the institution of the priesthood. Priests are sent by You, as You were sent by the Father. To them You entrusted the treasures of Your doctrine, of Your Law, of Your Grace, and souls themselves.
Grant me the grace to love them, to listen to them, and to let myself be guided by them in Your ways. Jesus, send good laborers into Your harvest. May priests be the salt that purifies and preserves; may they be the light of the world; may they be the city placed on the mountain. May they all be formed after Your own Heart. And in heaven may they be surrounded by a joyous throng of those they shepherded on earth. Amen.
Glory Be three times.
Infant Jesus, make me love You more and more!
Source: Cure d'Ars Prayer Group
Force of Prayer
We do not deny the force of prayer. We feel it. We acknowledge it. We grant it in all its fullness. But we have no time.
What! Christian soul; you have no time to pray!
You are naked, and blind, and deaf and weak, and have no time to pray! Your soul is naked of God's grace;
it is blind to His light; it is deaf to His whispering; it is weak and faint, and yet you have no time to pray.
If your body were naked, would you have no time, think you, to seek wherewith to clothe it?
If your eyes were blind and could be restored to sight for the asking, would you have no time to ask?
If your ears were deaf and could receive their hearing by knocking, would you have no time to knock?
Take care soul, take care. Search your heart more searchingly, and you will find that it is not time that you have not;
it is the inclination, and you have not the inclination because you have not the faith. You have time for your friends,
but because God is not on your list of friends, you have no time for Him. You have had no introduction.
You have time for your farms, for your oxen, for your household, for your secular business, nay, even for every
frivolous amusement; but for God's farm you have "no time;" for God's household you have "no time;"
for the business of God's eternity you have "no time."
Where is your faith, O naked one! O blind one! 0 deaf one! O preoccupied one! This man has had time to make
himself a judge, a lawyer, a merchant, a millionaire, and has not had time to be a Christian. All have time to take
their meals. However busy, however pressed, they find time to get them at stated hours, or failing that, they find
some other time for them. Their meals never fail them. But for their spiritual meals, no time; for their soul's
nourishment, no time. One-third of life is spent in sleep, and yet we have no time for spiritual repose.
In a word, for temporal things we have time and to spare, for spiritual things no time.
Beware; this no time drags thousands down to a miserable eternity. Correct this irregularity; in God's August Name
correct it. If you have every day a certain time set apart for sleep, for meals, for business, for amusements,
have also some time at least for prayer. I am not now speaking of morning and evening prayer. A man need
only be half a Christian to say them. I speak of a time wherein to place yourself daily at God's feet, as did the
Magdalene, there to talk with Him, to open your hearts to Him; to tell Him your wants, your hopes, your aspirations
For some short time at least be Mary, if all the rest of the time you are obliged to be Martha. "I have lifted up
my eyes to the mountain whence help shall come. He will not sleep, nor does He sleep. Who keepeth Israel."
And I do not want you to speak in set phrase from a book. Speak from your heart as to a loving father.
He bids you call Him Father. Open everything, conceal nothing; He knows everything beforehand; He waits
only for the asking; and when you ask, ask in groans and sighs. Take a lesson from the worldling.
For what does the worldling groan? For that he is miserable after so many vain efforts to be happy.
Why does he sigh? Because the pleasures and riches and honors of this life fly before him like a butterfly,
no matter how fast he runs.
During your short time of prayer (the shorter the more fervid,) do you likewise sigh and mourn as the worlding
does, but let it be for spiritual things, not temporal ones. Groan for the miserable failure through human weakness
of your efforts for spiritual advancement. Sigh for the riches and honors of Heaven; groan and sigh thus, and He
Who has said, "Ask and you shall receive," will not desert you. It is want of faith that leaves prayer so distasteful
to us. If we could catch but one glimpse of Heaven—if we could hear but one phrase of Heaven's melody—
if we could feel but one thrill of Heaven's joys, we should need no urging; our prayer would be spontaneous, gushing,
overflowing. Gold represents everything which men call precious, i.e everything “buyable”, and what is there which
cannot be bought?
It is said that even the most high toned and honorable men have their price. It may indeed take more to buy men of
coarser mold, but still they are to be bought. Now if you had promised you a mountain of this gold, which buys
everything, even to high-toned and honorable men; if this mountain was promised for the asking—or even if it were
promised you for the fetching—or even if it might be yours by force of arms, would you have no time to ask? Would
you have no time to beat up recruits, to buy ammunition, and go to the fighting? And yet what comparison between
this mountain of gold and the Heaven of eternity? Your mountain of gold, however high, however wide, however deep,
with the heavens and the earth, will pass away; but the Heaven of eternity never. And yet you would prefer the gold,
O ye of little faith, and have no time to obtain Heaven by the asking. You have not the intelligence of the tramp,
low down in the social scale as he is. Give him three pence and he will be with you on the morrow, or if he be not,
his friend will for him; and when all his friends are exhausted he will have put up a mark on your gate posts to guide
others to your bounty. You have not the instinct of the robin. Give it a crumb or a small worm and it will be with you
on the morrow and on the morrow's morrow to the end of time. Your Heavenly Father offers you treasures untold
for the asking. He asks you to ask, and you have no time, O ye of little faith! The tramp will walk miles to gain
your three pence for the asking; the robin will wait at your window by the hour for your crumb; but you have no time.
You have not the intelligence of the tramp, Christian soul. You have not the instinct of the robin, O ye of little faith.
The wisdom of the nations is crystallized in the proverb, "Where there is the will there is the way." And there is
the will, Christian soul, where there is faith.
Source: Norbertine Fathers, 1896 (page 93, Annals of St. Joseph, Volumes 8-10)
Priest and People
When we behold some masterpiece of painting, like the "Transfiguration" of Raphael, the "Last Judgment" of Michael Angelo, or the "Immaculate Conception" of Murillo; when we behold some masterpiece of sculpture, like the "David," the "Moses," the "Apollo Belvidere," or the "Laocoon Group" in the Vatican; when we stand before some masterpiece of architecture, like the "Cologne Cathedral," or "St. Peter's" in Rome; when we read the literary masterpieces left us by Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton; or when we listen to the enrapturing music of Mozart, Beethoven or Gounod, we instinctively pay homage to the men whose genius conceived and executed them. We look upon those men as almost more than human. They seem to have shared in a marvelous degree the creative power of God. And so they did. And we do right to pay them honor.
And yet, my dear brethren, the work of the humblest priest is higher, and holier, far more God-like than those works of merely human genius which the world is so ready to applaud.
You call the priest your spiritual father. And such he is in tact. For under God he is the author of your spiritual life. Through his ministrations you receive grace, the principle of supernatural life; and through his ministrations that supernatural life is nourished and perfected. Through the sacraments and the sacrifice of the Mass he infuses grace into your souls. Now grace is the gift of God the Holy Ghost; and where the Holy Ghost acts, there he is present. He unites Himself to your souls in such a way that you become like unto God. The union between your souls and God the Holy Ghost is the closest possible short of personal, hypostatic. You do not cease to be creatures, distinct from God, but you become partakers in the very nature and life of God. You are as it were recreated, born again to a new and higher life. Your souls are beautiful with the beauty of God, knowing with His wisdom, strong with His strength.—Cardinal Manning, "Internal Mission of the Holy Ghost."
Humanly speaking, when the priest dies, his name dies with him. His image survives in no visible form. Yes! But if you could only look upon the souls of them to whom he has ministered you would there behold his image reproduced. In the kingdom of souls his name never dies, and his children are ten thousand. He works not on canvas, nor in marble, but on human souls. Having before his eyes Jesus Christ, the model of human perfection, he strives to form your character after that great original. Day by day, year after year, laboriously and patiently, tenderly and lovingly, sometimes in tears, he labors to form in you a copy of the God-man. And while he works, God works with him, inspiring his thoughts, inflaming his heart, guiding his hand.
And what a work he produces! Not a painting that must fade and molder; not a marble form or granite structure that must crumble into dust; but a living image of God, destined to live forever. As long as God lives, that work shall live—a monument to the faith and hope and love of the priest.
The priest is not content to make you worthy members of civil society. He does that. He inculcates the natural virtues of industry, honesty, sobriety, patience, love of country, reverence for infancy and old age, respect for and obedience to lawful authority. His special work, however, is to make you worthy citizens of heaven. He knows that you are children of God, brethren of Christ, and that you are destined to occupy thrones in heaven. And so he labors to prepare you for your glorious destiny.
What a noble work is this! And how insignificant and transitory appear all the works of merely human genius! The work of the priest, like the souls of men on which he works, is immortal—enduring for all time and eternity.
Such is the work accomplished by the humblest priest —work done by your priests, for you and for your children. The priest is indeed your spiritual father. Yes; and you are his spiritual children. His children? Then be his children! Cherish for him all those sentiments which good children cherish for their earthly father.
The priest is of necessity a public man. In every community he is a conspicuous character, whether he will or not. He stands always in the glare of the searchlight of public opinion. All eyes are directed upon him. And those eyes are not all charitable eyes.
The young, who have never yet attempted any difficult work; the negatively good, who have never tried and therefore never failed, may sometimes think him lacking in zeal because he does not accomplish impossible things. The old are not apt to judge a priest harshly. I do not recollect ever hearing an old person criticize a priest severely. The old know from experience the weakness of their own nature, and the weakness of human nature in general, too well, to be uncharitable in judging any priest. On the other hand they are liable to think him too ambitious, too zealous, and instead of encouraging him, they almost discourage him by counseling what they call prudence, but what in reality is only timidity.
The willfully wicked, they who do not even try to lead virtuous lives, watch him with the eyes of a serpent, color his every act and move with the malice of their own hearts, and take a fiendish delight in detecting the least sin or mistake. If his conduct is above reproach, they impugn his motives. He is vain, lacks character, or he is too positive and conceited. If perchance he really does fall into sin, they raise a hue and cry over him as vultures circle screeching over the hero who falls wounded on the battlefield. Let the priest fall once, his whole life they conclude has been a sham, and he only a hypocrite! One priest falls, then all priests are hypocrites, all religion a mockery!
They will not or cannot practice virtue themselves; hence they rejoice in the fall of the innocent. The occasional lapse of the virtuous is to them a justification of their own habitual and wilful wickedness.
My dear brethren, can you imagine an occasion of more rejoicing among the devils in hell than the fall of a priest? No! Then what should you do? What should you be in regard to your priests, your spiritual fathers? Support them, encourage them, sympathize with them, shield them.
Suppose they do err! Is that an excuse for deserting them, for betraying them? No! That is the plea of every traitor who ever betrayed his country or his fellow-man. Benedict Arnold tried to excuse his treason by alleging the faults and mistakes of his superiors, by saying that men of less deserts than he—which is true—had been promoted over his head. Has the world accepted his excuse? No! Neither will it accept yours for betraying your God given leaders, your spiritual fathers.
Suppose the priest does err! Is that an excuse for your publishing his sin? Do not imitate Cham, the wicked son of Noah, who, when he saw his father intoxicated and lying naked in his tent, laughed in derision and published his shame to his brethren. Beware of following his example, lest the curse that fell on him and his posterity may fall on you and yours. Rather imitate the example of Sem and Japhet. When they heard of their father's sin and shame, they took up a cloak, and, walking backwards lest they might see, covered him. Do you in like manner, and I am sure that God who rewarded them and theirs will bless you and yours. 'Gen. 9:21-27.)
What kind of a Catholic do you most admire? What kind of a Catholic do Protestants most admire? Is it the Catholic who is always criticizing church and sisters and priests? No! The Catholic whom you admire, the Catholic whom all men admire, is the man who, when he hears his church, the sisters or the priests reviled, throws off his coat and is ready to fight!
Pray for your priests, all of them. Do not be like the little academy girl I heard about the other day. She had finished her evening prayers and was about to climb into bed when her mother said:
"Mary you forgot to say a prayer for Father L ."
"Father L ?Why, he doesn't need my prayers."
"Why not?" asked the mother.
"Because he is so good."
"How about Father Mc?"
The little girl looked at
her mother with her innocent eyes and in all charity said: "I don't
know, mama. Maybe I'd better say a prayer for him." The mother suggested
that she had better pray for both. And so do I.
Father Mc. and Father L. both need your prayers. Father L has a long road to travel before he reaches the point where I now stand. He will doubtless find ahead of him many a piece of rough road, many a quagmire, many a steep hill. Many a time his feet will bleed as he bears his cross up his hill of Calvary. He will see the bloodstained print of the Savior's feet who walked that path before him. Still he needs our prayers.
In your charity you may sometimes fancy that the priest does not need your prayers. He does need them, and he counts on them. You cannot know how much he leans on you for support. In almost every man's life there come now and then periods of depression. Overwork and worry, especially if there be added some great misfortune or sorrow, drag his soul down to the verge of despair. Strange as it may seem, buoyant, happy, sanguine natures are most prone to these seasons of melancholy. And they are truly awful. The past seems an utter failure. The present is overcast with the blackest clouds of gloom. The future is terrifying in its forebodings of disaster. * If you saw your father walking on the edge of a precipice, where a single false step would hurl him to destruction, how you would tremble for his safety! How you would pray God to keep him from harm!
For aught you know, my dear children, your spiritual father may at times be, figuratively speaking, in just that position, where a sudden gust of temptation would cause him to fall. When a feeling of loneliness and discouragement makes him almost ready to hurl himself from the height.
And it may be, that at such a time, you think of him and without ever dreaming that he needs your prayers, you pray for him, and your prayer is his salvation.
Second the efforts of your pastor. He is working for you. Encourage him. Speak kindly of him. Do not keep all your eulogies for his funeral day. Do not be like the friends of a certain poet. During life he could hardly get enough to eat. When he died they erected a costly monument over his grave. Which caused some wit of the day to say of him:
"He asked for bread; they gave him a stone."
On a certain occasion when the Israelite were engaged in battle with their enemies, Moses knelt on the mountain top and prayed for them. As long as he kept his hands upraised the people were successful. When his hands fell from weariness, the people were pressed back in defeat. Then two of his attendants ran to his side and held up his hands. The people in the plain rallied again and swept the enemy from the field. (Gen. 17:9-13.
So will it be with you. When the hands of the priest at the altar fall from discouragement or lack of support you will be defeated by your spiritual enemies. If you hold up his hands by your sympathy, your encouragement, your co-operation, you will be victorious.
St. Joseph and the Priest
Priests are advised to recite, before the celebration of Mass, some certain prayers in honor of St. Joseph. Pope Pius IX., who declared St. Joseph the Patron of the universal Church, has indulgenced them. Who does not know those beautiful anthems: O felicem virum beatum Joseph and the Virginum custos et pater, Sancte Joseph?
It is prompted by these beautiful anthems that I propose a brief sketch of a fruitful meditation.
First. St. Joseph, by divine election became the foster-father of the Infant Jesus as he was also the spouse of the Blessed Mother of God. All honors due him on account of the exalted position thus held and the privileges he enjoyed, come vividly before our mind, when we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. Pondering over them we feel inclined to asked our Lord in the Sacred Host to bless us for the sake of St. Joseph; and assurance comes to us that our humble petition will be listened to. Let us remind Jesus of what the loving foster father has done for Him in his mortal life, and feel assured that St. Joseph's advocacy will be most powerful.
Second. Who has such weighty reasons to put his trust in the prayers and intercession of St. Joseph as has the Catholic priest? What St. Joseph was to our Lord in the days of His infancy on earth, that the priest is to Jesus when ministering to Him at the altar. Helpless and in the state of utmost destitution, our Sacramental Lord craves for that kind care and solicitude which he once enjoyed at the hands of His beloved foster-father. Often the priest is in no better way of finding shelter for Jesus in the Holy Sacrament than St. Joseph was, when, after a vain search for a suitable dwelling, he, at last, betook himself to a lonely stable as a resting place for the Savior to be born. And is the priest not glad, when, to such a humble abode as he may have found, the faithful come, like the shepherds of Bethlehem and the three wise men, to adore the Lord of hosts seated on a throne void of all ornaments? St. Joseph's joy is his.
Did you ever witness the care and labor of the priest in his endeavors for the construction and embellishment of a church which was to serve as the abode of the Sacramental Lord, without being reminded of St. Joseph, who labored in the sweat of his brow for the beloved Infant? Deep is the grief and unspeakable the agony, which the faithful priest experiences, when profanation threatens the Sacred Host, or when the Holy Sacrament is snatched away by an unworthy communicant and forced into the dark dungeon of a sinner's heart, or even of a God-forsaken sacrilegious priest. Then it is, that you behold St. Joseph portrayed in his anguish of heart in his flight into Egypt, to save his beloved child from the ruthless hand of Herod and his cruel soldiers. St. Joseph was the first guardian of Jesus, but we priests have received from God the guardianship of Jesus living, but persecuted and treated contumeliously in the Blessed Sacrament.
Third. Compare, if you will, the privileges St. Joseph enjoyed, with those of the priest. Is it not as if you saw the Holy Patriarch appearing amongst us, his countenance beaming with delight as he embraced the Infant with tender affection, clasping Him to his bosom, carrying Him on his arms, leading Him by the hand, working ceaselessly for his honored charge, listening to His sweet voice? Is it not so to you, I say, when you behold the priest ministering to the King of hosts in the Holy Sacrament? O priest of God, do not envy St. Joseph, but rather congratulate yourself and break forth into transports of joy, recalling the words of the holy canticle: Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est. For, you also touch the body of the Lord; you carry Him on your heart when on your way to the sick to administer to them Holy Communion and Viaticum; you more than press Him to your bosom at Holy Communion. He obeys you with the same willingness and promptness as He did His foster-father. And were you only to listen to his holy inspirations, when communing with Him, joy and consolation would be yours, as was the sweet portion of St. Joseph in his intercourse with the Divine Infant.
Fourth. Is the office of the priest in its holiest moments not similar to that of St. Joseph? and do not the highest privileges of both blend, indeed, in a most perfect manner? If so, what is the natural inference to be drawn from such a comparison? Oh! the minister of the sanctuary should strive to imitate the most conspicuous virtues of that exalted saint. By so doing, he would ennoble his life and draw from his holy functions perennial streams of genuine happiness, and blessings abundant for himself and for those confided to his care.
But what are the most conspicuous characteristics of St. Joseph, worthy to be acquired by every priest? None other than his astounding humility and his spotless virginity. Though of little account in the estimation of the world, they were the foundation of his exalted dignity. His royal crown could not have been devoid of these two ornaments. The humility of St. Joseph and his marvelous chastity were, so to speak, the frame-work on which was to rest his dignity as the father of Jesus and the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So with the priest. Humility and chastity are the jewels of the Catholic priesthood. No priest will be honored by God, nor will he have honor before men, if he doesn't appear wrapped in the royal mantle of humanity and chastity. O priest of God, take St. Joseph for your model and flee pride and sensuality; if you do not, the royal robe of your priesthood will fall into shreds, the crown of your dignity will lose its luster and the scepter of your authority will be broken in your hands. Contemplate, admirare, imitare, Quando litas precans ad altare, Fungens Sancti Joseph opere, et beare.
Source: Annals of St. Joseph, Norbertine Fathers, 1896 Vol. 8-10
"It is not necessary", said the Curé, "to talk so much in order to pray well. We know that our good God is there in the tabernacle; we open our heart to Him; we are happy at being in His presence: that is the best sort of Prayer."
Source: The Dublin Review: A Quarterly and Critical Journal. p354