In his very first encyclical, Pope John Paul II, drawing on the wisdom of Holy Mother the Church from the beginning, teaches:

For the whole community of the People of God and for each member of it what is in question is not just a specific ‘ social membership’; rather, for each and every one what is essential is a particular ‘vocation’….we must see first and foremost Christ saying in a way to each member of the community: “Follow Me.” [1]


Since Christ is then calling every baptized person to follow Him we can joyfully assure ever boy and man who ask us if they are being called: Yes!
Specifically: to holy sacramental priesthood?
Discernment over time will make that clear, but our initial ‘yes’ to them, coupled with urging them to pray for clarity, will encourage them to continue to listen to the Holy Spirit who leads us to follow Christ.
Certainly some of our brothers are being called not to priesthood but to holy marriage, consecrated religious life, the lay apostolate or the consecrated state of virginity while living and working in the world.
But many more of our brothers, be they still children, youth, young adult or even older, are being called to holy priesthood.
Perhaps many more than we know because we are not consciously, publicly in fact, encouraging them to voice the call they are experiencing in their hearts.
There are those, priests and laity, some claiming because of published studies to have this nailed down as absolute fact, who for years having been pushing the notion that there is a critical shortage of vocations to the priesthood.
Frankly I think that is dangerously close to insulting the Holy Spirit.
The implication is that He is NOT calling forth generosity from among the baptized boys and men of this generation.
That is simply a lie.
There is no crisis of ‘call’.
There is an apparent crisis of ‘response’, mainly, if we be humble about it, in those countries, dioceses, parishes, where there is little in the way of orthodox catholic teaching, sacramental practice and a lack of Eucharistic adoration and true devotion to Mary.
The fundamental problem is one of holiness.
To the degree that we priests are holy, faithful to the teachings of the Church, visible in our own faith practice, and obviously devoted sons of Mary, Queen of the Clergy, to that degree those being called to priesthood will take note and be encouraged.
To the degree that our parishes are holy, our families are holy, to that degree boys and men sensing the call in their hearts will find encouragement to say a generous, indeed an heroic, yes!
We all know that someone who is obviously content, joyful, dedicated in their chosen profession/vocation, encourages the young to want to not merely imitate them but to join them in that life.
No secular profession would send dour, angry, dissatisfied, representatives on a recruitment drive.
Why do we?
It may seem a type of unfair stress but the reality is we are always recruiting, or discouraging, priestly vocations.
There’s no way around it for ours is a most public vocation.
We live in the main in rectories, which are at the very least quasi-public places.
Every sacrament we celebrate involves at least one other person {confession} and our dear people notice everything we say and do!
Even our ‘uniform’, which in humility we should always wear, renders us visible wherever we go.
Thus like Christ in whose person we are, we truly have nowhere to hide.
Not that we should ever be involved in anything we’d ‘need’ to hide for.
Thus each contact, direct through sacramental celebration, hospital visits, school visits, home visits and somewhat indirect, such as just walking around town, can be either an encouraging act of recruitment or a serious discouragement to he who senses the call of the Spirit.
How true is this when in particular we are celebrating Holy Mass!
The young in particular are extremely observant, and better informed about authentic sacramental ritual and orthodox catholic teaching than we perhaps realize.
They have, after all, grown up in an era that has made them media savvy.
They also have access to the internet and are used to a Holy Father, the world’s parish priest, who is accessible to them and to whom they listen far more intently than a lot of priests understand.
Indeed Pope John Paul II showed himself an astute encourager of vocations when he celebrated his fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination by publishing his book GIFT AND MYSTERY, in which he beautifully illustrates the reality of call and response:
The story of my priestly vocation? It is known above all to God. At its deepest level, every vocation to the priesthood is a great mystery; it is a gift which infinitely transcends the individual. Every priest experiences this clearly throughout the course of his life. Faced with the greatness of the gift, we sense our own inadequacy.
A vocation is a mystery of divine election: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.{Jn.15:16}” [2]

Our very existence as created persons is the beginning, for we priests, of this ‘mystery of divine election’.
Thus our very existence should suffice for an exhilarated heart.
All the more then should our gratitude be all the more joyous for the immense gift of Baptism and the totality of sacramental life.
Most especially for our entire Eucharistic life, from our First Holy Communion, to our first Mass celebrated when we were newly ordained, to this day’s Holy Mass and Communion!

We live in sacramental reality:
The Eucharist constitutes the culminating moment in which Jesus, in His Body given for us and in His Blood poured out for our salvation, reveals the mystery of His identity and indicates the sense of the vocation of every believer. In fact, the meaning of human life is totally contained in that Body and in that Blood, since from them life and salvation have come to us. In some ways, the very existence of the human person must be identified with them, so that this existence is fulfilled in so far as it can, in its turn, make itself a gift for others. [3]

Not only our response then, but the very gift we make of ourselves, and the very way in which we encourage vocations to the priesthood, is irrevocably Eucharistic.
Thus the example of a priest with a true love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, who celebrates Holy Mass with ritual fidelity, reverence and joy, who visibly radiates his being in persona Christi capitis giving the living Christ to his brothers and sisters in Holy Communion, becomes a true icon of the splendour and joy of priesthood to those boys and men sensing deep in their hearts the call.
As priests we know true Eucharistic piety deepens daily our own fiat.
Naturally the critical environment for the first responsive stirrings to the invitation from the Holy Spirit for a yes to the priestly vocation is the family.
A truly orthodox, faith living Catholic family is the ideal environment to nurture the future adult male’s vocation response.
How vital is our priestly support and service for families.
It is the Domestic Church which is the bedrock of the universal Church.
Look at this more closely: a faith-filled family nurtures faithful adults.
In particular, men who will enter the seminary with hearts open to formation towards sacramental ordination as priests in persona Christi capitis.
We priests do a grave injustice to Holy Mother the Church, as well as a serious disservice to men contemplating the priesthood when we are constantly telling horror stories about seminary life.
The seminary is not supposed to be either a mere college dorm, an ecclesiastical frat house any more than a pretend monastery.
Seminary is a serious experience of intellectual, moral, philosophical, theological, liturgical and spiritual formation. It is the place and time of deep encounter with the Holy Spirit who purifies a man’s soul that He might configure the man to Christ Priest. Thus seminary formation itself is a constitutive dimension of our vocation.
Seminary is the soul’s journey with the shepherds to the cave, the wise men to the home where is the Child and Mary and Joseph. Seminary is Nazareth, the Desert, the house at Bethany; it is to be in the company of the Apostles, learning from the Master Himself; it is Tabor and the Upper Room, the Garden, the Cross and sometimes the tomb, that place of utter stillness trust awaiting to be called forth, like Lazarus, to life renewed.
We are led by the star to Mary who presents Jesus to us, we adore Him with the gifts of our body, heart-love, and soul-will [Mt.2:9-11].
This stirring in our souls noted by the Holy Father as ‘divine election’ is akin to the star which guided the Magi and the seminary must be the place of encounter with the Child Christ, the Teaching Christ, Christ who heals, forgives, with Christ Priest, Christ on the Cross, Christ Risen, Christ ascended to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
The man who is now a seminarian brings the gifts of himself, body, mind, heart, and soul.
Seminary is both epiphany as encounter with Christ and a gradual inner epiphany for the man being formed.
It is to be fervently desired, as in prayed for, that the man will enter a house which is a place of profound encounter with Jesus and Mary; a place of orthodox teaching, love of the Church, loyalty to the Holy Father, liturgical fidelity, joyful chastity and absolute charity.
Seminary years should be marked by a willingness on the part of the man to enter more deeply than ever before in his life into the ‘garden enclosed’ where alone are the soul and the Trinity. There, in intimate converse and love, the Holy Spirit brings about the necessary radical conversion of heart, metanoia.
The false self, so bound by the sin of the world, by personal sin, wounded by the sins of others, perhaps uncertain about relationship with the Trinity, is taken by the Spirit into the very heart of Christ’s own kenosis that the man be emptied of all that is not of Christ.
Seminarians must begin here to take as the normal ebb and flow of daily life that we need to have our face to the ground in both a constant plea for mercy and a heart’s love-adoration of the Triune God. Equally vital is a heart which listens and learns from the wisdom, faith and fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary, having a devoted son’s confidence in her maternal love, guidance and protection.
Thus, like the Magi, the man will eagerly lay at the feet of the Child the gift of himself, and as a true disciple will embrace the cross and follow Christ, surrendering himself totally to the movement of the Holy Spirit who configures us to Christ Priest.
Lived authentically, seminary life itself is an ever more generous and joyous response to ‘divine election’.
It is a period of particular grace.
The attitudes towards self, other, Church, orthodoxy etc., developed in the seminary are the template of priestly life.
Jesus teaches us how it should all come to pass, for we are ‘scribes’ instructed by the Holy Spirit [Mt.13:52].
Naturally enough to be properly instructed presupposes a willingness to learn, that humility which admits it knows not everything!
Seminary is, after all, the place where we are to be formed as shepherds according to His own Heart:
The seminary can be seen as a place and period in life. But it is above all an educational community in progress:….to offer to those called by the Lord to serve as apostles the possibility of reliving the experience of formation which Our Lord provided for the Twelve. In fact, the Gospels present a prolonged and intimate sharing of life with Jesus as a necessary premise for the apostolic ministry. Such an experience demands of the Twelve the practice of detachment in a particularly clear and specific fashion, a detachment that in some way is demanded of all the disciples, a detachment from their roots, their usual work, from their nearest and dearest [cf.Mk.1:16-20, 10:28; Lk.9:23, 9:57-62, 14:25-27]….
In its deepest identity the seminary is called to be, in its own way, a continuation in the Church of the apostolic community gathered about Jesus, listening to His word, proceeding towards the Easter experience, awaiting the gift of the Spirit for mission…..
The seminary is, in itself, an original experience of the Church’s life……
From the human point of view, the major seminary should strive to become “a community built on deep friendship and charity, so that it can be considered a true family living in joy………
It is essential…..that the seminary should be experienced not as something external and superficial, or simply a place in which to live and study, but in an interior and profound way. It should be experienced as a community, a specifically ecclesial community, a community that relives the experience of the group of Twelve who were united to Jesus. [6]

Thus throughout our lives as priests we should be able to recall our seminary years as a period of graced formation.
Most important from those years should be our recalling of the beginning stages of a more intimate relationship with Christ.
Remembering, therefore, this precept of salvation and everything that was done for ours sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand, the second and glorious coming again…..[7]

Essential to our remembering, that we might live in the profound reality of ‘living, moving and having our being’ in the Father, with Christ, led by the Holy Spirit, this seminary formation, immersion in the Holy Gospel, is crucial and should be frequently drawn upon from a joyous memory.
Prayer – in particular intimate communion of love with the Holy Trinity – is the atmosphere we must live in for our souls as surely as we necessarily live in an oxygenated atmosphere for our very lives sake.
Prayer – especially Holy Mass, adoration, Divine Office, lectio divina, pious devotions, in particular meditative praying of the Stations of the Cross and the Holy Rosary, with Mary as our teaching guide deep into the mysteries of our redemption and faith, is not only foundational during seminary life but in our daily lives as priests.
If we have not already become men of prayer during the formative years in the seminary, immediately is a good time to begin!
Pope John Paul II, with great wisdom and joy, sadly with much misguided criticism, amplified the ranks of Saints through the canonization of priests, religious and laity from all possible vocations and nations. This in turn has led to a greater awareness of, and telling the stories of, holy ones in our midst who may, or may not, be presented someday for canonization, but whose lives bear specific witness to the joy of holiness.
The joy of self-gift, of fiat, for the sake of the Kingdom, charity towards all and for the love of God!
One such soul whose story is now being told is a particular witness to the critical importance of seminary formation and of a profound life of prayer for seminarians and priests alike.
He is also a witness to the joy of divine election and willing response to that call.
His name is Father Eugene Hamilton.
Father, on this earth, was a priest with us for barely a few hours.
In heaven, priest like us, he remains, as we shall, priest forever.
Since at every Holy Mass, at each altar, we are celebrating on earth the heavenly liturgy, he is with us still.
Any man, at least of high school age, certainly all priests, cannot fail but to be inspired, encouraged, by the example of this young priest. Even in his barely formed youth Father understood that configuration to Christ Priest means precisely that!
His story is admirably told by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. in his book: A PRIEST FOREVER.
It is a book to be highly recommended as a gift to any young man considering priesthood.
These words of Fr. Hamilton stress prayer as constitutive of our response to divine election:
The importance of prayer to me is rooted in my upbringing and life experiences. Chief among these is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is from the Eucharist that my daily prayer takes root. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours for me is an extension of that high point of prayer, the Mass. From such an appreciation comes a better understanding of Christ’s Presence in the other Sacraments as well, especially Penance. The Rosary provides an opportunity to meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life, while walking in faith with Mary…
Thus my personal prayer life has been developed with the goal of union with God, recognizing that I have been called to serve Him and His Church. My prayers motivate my thoughts, words, and deeds towards this end…..
Intellectual examination of the importance of honesty, chastity, docility, humility, charity, and prudence has translated into the application of such virtues in everyday life. All of this takes place while being grounded in prayer.
The ability to give Christian witness, especially in the area of perseverance and quiet charity, is something which stems from my trust in God. [8]
Prayer is the experience of encounter with the Divine Lover, Christ Priest. From this flows a wellspring of prayer lived: fidelity, openness to Christ in all His Sacraments, the teachings of the Church, service to Her, loving service of all our brothers and sisters with a heart which is honest, chaste, docile, humble, charitable and prudent.
It is faith lived.
Faith, noted exquisitely by Fr. Hamilton as the ever deepened experience of encountering Christ in the mysteries of our salvation, the mysteries of the Holy Rosary: ‘walking in faith’ in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
…many of us – to the grave detriment of the Church, to the great sorrow of the faithful – have forgotten who we are, have mis-learned what the priesthood is all about or have been mis-taught the realities of the holy priesthood of Jesus Christ……
…Of course many priests are faithful to the traditional ideal of the priesthood, the ideal of the priesthood as developed by the early Christians, as presented to us by…the true believers of all times, the saints who have laid down their lives century after century that priests, ordained priests, should be truly ministers of Christ’s benefits, graces and love for the people of the church and for the whole world.
Yes, saints know what a priest is. Saints have always had a total faith in the transformation which takes place in a poor sinful man at the moment when the bishop imposes hands upon him. Saints have always seen in the priest a great glory, the glory of Tabor, the glory of the risen Christ shining through the personal sinfulness of a man. We have hands of clay, feet of clay. We stumble and fall like every other human being. We commit sins, any one of the seven capital vices, including all their ramifications. True, but saints have seen in us something beyond the sinfulness, beyond the intelligence or stupidity of a man, beyond his immense weaknesses. They have seen Christ. They have crawled to priests on their knees for forgiveness. They have adored with all their might the sacrament he confected at Mass. They have given their lives for that sacrament. They have hungered and thirsted for the bread and wine which he alone can provide to feed them and strengthen them in their terrible spiritual combats, in their life of total self-giving, of sacrifice and ever increasing life….
Catherine Doherty….with all her heart says to priests, “I love you. I believe in you. Be who you are. You are Christ….I believe in priests. I always will. For I know they are Christ. Christ’s love and mercy and tenderness made visible upon earth and multiplied all over the world wherever there is a priest.”[9]

This is our divine election.
This is our vocation.
This is our joy [Mk.16:19, 20].


FOOTNOTES – Page 191 but listed as 1-9



From the earliest days of the Church until our own day many worthy writers have written on the gift and mystery of the priesthood.

Obviously I am indebted to them.



These reflections have come both from my years in parish ministry and my years living, as I do now, the hidden life of an urban hermit and servant of the poor in a local soup kitchen.
To my brother priests: in some little way I pray these words will help rekindle within you the joy of our immense vocation.
To all men and women who may read this: pray for your priests.

Fr. Arthur Joseph
1ST Sunday of Lent 2011
St. Padre Pio Hermitage




Rev. Arthur Joseph

Dear Fathers, do you realize that you are a joy to the world? ~ Catherine Doherty


The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. ~ St. Jean-Marie Vianney

Placed in the hands of Our Blessed Mother: Queen of the Clergy, and Mother of all Priests.

Dedicated to my Spiritual Father who teaches me to be son, to Phil, who teaches me to love and serve with a Dad’s heart, to Monique who teaches me to love without counting the cost.





IT IS A BRILLIANT, unusually warm, winter Sunday afternoon.
Little rivers of water were racing across the parking lot after this morning’s Mass.

The Church was packed!
The people prayerful, attentive, and when I was distributing Holy Communion their faces were radiant and I thanked God for this incredible lavishness of His Mercy which makes that I am His priest, their priest.
Given the mystery of my life as recorded in these chapters, and after the exhaustion felt when the previous chapter had been written, the First Reading of today’s Holy Mass pierced my heart with a light of understanding, causing my being to exult, how great are the ways of the Lord as He calls us through the mystery of His Son’s death and resurrection to a complete communion of love!
It was the lament of Job found in chapter seven of the Holy Book.
What struck my heart was not his lament per se but the reality of suffering, the consolation of suffering, the grace of suffering.
Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. [dq]


Once again the only claim I make with confidence is: CHRIST IS EVERYTHING!
He is faithful indeed!
Where sin abounds (our own or those committed against us), grace abounds all the more!
As I come towards the end of this half of the story [for recent events already are prompting a second book], pray encouragement for whoever may someday read it to trust completely the love and mercy, personally and intimately in your own life of the Father, the Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit, my heart has been struck by this insight from Father Hardon:
….This price that we are asked to pay for our proclamation of Christ in word and in deed is not only the price of endurance of pain. Nor is it simply the patient acceptance of criticism and rejection, or perhaps of open persecution. What we are also asked is to sacrifice what we personally like and have a natural right to enjoy. In order to confess Christ before men as He would have us do, we are invited to give up many things to which we are naturally, and legitimately, inclined……But as the beauty of Christ takes possession of our hearts, we become different men and women. Our personality is literally changed. We take on the quality of martyrs ready, if need be, to die for Christ. And we acquire a capacity for sacrifice that smiles at logic and rises above the desire for pleasure in this world in order to bring as many souls as possible to the Heart of the Saviour whom we love. [dr]
Only now as I come to the end of this work do I begin to understand what Fr. Hardon means, for only now in my life have I experience of the Beauty of Christ and all that flows from being in communion of love with Christ the Beautiful, as Beautiful on the Cross, in the beauty of complete suffering surrender to the will of the Father, as He is Beautiful in the Glory of His Holy Resurrection wherein, and this must never be forgotten, Divine Radiance pours forth from the wounds which He has within His Glorified Body.
Since we become what we contemplate, when we are suffering we should not only contemplate the wounded Christ on the Cross but the Risen Christ with wounds in glory!
As with my original account of my time with The Community, so with this second sojourn in my life with them, I do not believe in my heart much detail is needed, since their lives are not mine to write about.
Suffice to say I was reintegrated into the normal routine, though because of the extreme traumatic shock of what I had been through, some days it was very difficult for me to participate fully.
My anxiety level was very high pitched and sometimes those attacks would be so severe I could not do simple things like sit still at table and eat a meal but would flee in utter terror, not knowing why or of what I was terrified, but feeling convinced that if I did not flee I would go insane or die.
When this happened during Holy Mass it was most distressful.
When this happened during Holy Mass it was most distressful.
I was given simple jobs with the men in the bush: I’d burn the unusable branches from the trees felled for either firewood or to be cut into lumber; help sort donations, record and file books in the library.
All the while the appeal was slowly grinding its way through the system.
After some months my spiritual father, in agreement with the Bishop, felt a smaller, simpler, setting would ease the stress and so I was given assignment to a house of prayer in the west.
There I lived with simple duties in a community with three others, all of them laywomen.
I had a type of chaplain’s quarters which allowed me time for rest.
My duties were simple, daily Mass, help in the gardens, be available for sacraments.
The town was very tiny, the people wonderful and I began to heal from the trauma.
However I remained stuck in intellectual pride, that is, dealing with everything by thinking about it, figuring it out, avoiding emotion. The result was, for there is no greater pride than intellectual pride, I was not, as I thought, protecting myself from further pain, a lifelong survival skill learned in the traumas of childhood, rather what I was doing was frustrating the healing action, the purifying through suffering activity, the sanctifying fire of the Holy Spirit.
In truth, in spite of all that I had been through, I was saying to the Holy Trinity: You may come into my being, into relation with me, thus far but no further. I shall not feel, for that is to be vulnerable and being vulnerable means pain.
No more pain!
Frankly I still needed to embrace humility and the courageous strength of meekness! [Js. 4:6; 1 Cor. 8:1, 2; Mt. 11:28-30]
I knew there had to be some point to His allowing all this to have happened to me but I was so afraid it might be because of my sinful past or my failure to be a great priest that I dared not be still long enough to hear Him.
I knew a lot about God, or thought I did, certainly I was at least well informed through my studies.
But I did not know Him.
All I had to do was ask Him :’Are You real?’ and He would have shown me but to ask would have been to admit I needed Him, couldn’t handle things on my own as I had since I was a child.
Since childhood I had protected myself by never loving nor allowing myself to be loved, hence I was philanthropic but never truly charitable and the gulf between the two is immense. The former is certainly a benevolent love for mankind, but it can lead to a type of the ‘better’ being kind to the ‘lesser’ whereas true charity seeks the suffering Christ in all who suffer and sees self as a servant, that is as the lesser, with a passion for others, true love.
Because of my self-protection from true love, since abandonment and rejection seemed to always assail me when I risked love, I had no experience, non-intellectual that is, for I knew it to be a factual truth but not experiential reality, of God’s love.
To have that I would have to risk being a child, something also foreign to me, and I dared not risk being that powerless.
Indeed before going further I was praying this morning and a list, in no particular order, came into my heart of why all this had to happen to me, in a word why I needed such a grace of purifying, sanctifying, suffering, and, to be honest, why this work of the Holy Spirit I see, even ten years after the events first happened to me, is still keeping me, as it were in kindergarten, that is, I am still a mere beginner.
For the rest of my life I must be, and am willingly, in school, the school of the Holy Spirit and Our Lady.
What I would experience as the absence of Christ from my life because of what I was suffering was in fact the fulfilling in the depths of my being of what Jesus spoke of at the Last Supper — for I now understand Scripture is both universal reality, the recounting of our Redemption, and deeply, intimate in each soul, the personal experience of being redeemed:
I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the One who sent Me, and not one of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in Me; ( I had intellectual assurance but not heart/soul faith ) righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; ( having no natural sense of what it meant to be a child I had no idea at all of God as my Father, much less self as His child) condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. ( because of what I was going through, the protracted legal process, and had been through, the false accusation, trial, condemnation, I doubted in the extreme God was more powerful than evil.)
I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. ( this because of my pride rendering me unable to trust, so somehow He would have to intervene in ways which would break open my defences until I would trust.) But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. (This is the great grace of my sabbatical and is a continuation of what began in that western town, which I’ll note momentarily.) He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, (what does that Spirit hear and speak to us if not the dialogue of love between the Father and Jesus, and the communion of love they speak to us, hence, He IS the Spirit, the Communion of Love.) and will declare to you the things that are coming. (fullness of redemption, sanctification, communion of love in our own beings IF we open wide every door, every aspect of our beings to Him.) He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. (this happens must fully in the Spirit’s taking what is Christ’s, i.e. Sacraments instituted by Him, especially Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confession, for some of us Priesthood, others Sacramental Marriage, and declaring them, that is making them efficacious in our lives, sanctification being the work of the Holy Spirit and when we no longer live but Christ lives in us then truly has the Spirit glorified Christ within us!) Everything that the Father has is Mine; for this reason I told you that He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.(our Christian life is through Baptism life lived in ever more complete union and communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity.) [Jn.16:4-15]
I had repented before entering the seminary but had never opened to the emotion of true penthos, that is contrition with tears; I had learned, vowed, was faithfully obedient but had never surrendered interiorly, abandoning myself to and trusting absolutely Divine Providence; I was living chastity but was not pure of heart; I’d embraced voluntary poverty but failed to yield to kenosis/self-emptying, dispossession, especially of my own agenda; I knew how to say Mass, but not how to celebrate Mass, to preach but not proclaim the Gospel, to endure pain somewhat stoically but not to be one with the Suffering Christ, knew I was created by God but without any understanding or experience of being child of Abba, God my Father; yes I was a hardworking disciple of Christ but was not in love with Him nor given over to Him as the Tremendous Lover; intellectually I knew it was true through Baptism I was a living temple of the Holy Spirit but I was not trusting enough to be motivated only by Him, to live and move with Him; I saw conversion as what I had done when I stopped my hedonistic/atheistic way of life, not as what it is in truth, a continuous life reality of metanoia/an ever more complete, profound, change of heart; I was faithful to saying my prayers but resisted that purification which allows the Holy Spirit to make me prayer; I could meditate, that is think about the mysteries of our faith, but would not let go of my intellect long enough to be swept off my feet by the Trinity, into the depths of contemplation; I read Scripture, thought about it, but was not permeated by the Gospel to the point where I could preach the Gospel with my entire life, being, without any compromise; I was a good pastor¬/administrator but had never learned how to be a shepherd-father and thus while I was a good care-giver failed to be a humble, hidden, loving servant of His people, my people; I knew about God but did not know Him or truly believe I was known by Him; intellectually I was open about the need for some professional help to deal with the ravages of the traumatic events of my life, but failed to risk opening to the Holy Spirit so He might purge me of the bitter-roots of those events and the inner ¬vows I had made to survive life by my own wits; the Cross of Christ was something I endured, not a gift I took up, nor embraced, childlike, in-joyful-suffering following Him; being a priest was a type of contented fulfillment but because I was so proud and self-reliant I had no experience of the ineffable joy of priesthood, hence it was my identity-profession rather than my vocation-being; in a word I ‘did’ priest rather well, rather than being priest well; faced with any demand, problem, issue, pain I’d get going intellectually and solve it, indeed was often told there seemed no challenge I couldn’t deal with, which was not true, because the central challenge of trusting God, simply put, of letting go and letting God, was beyond me; each day I’d check my list made the night before, my agenda, but failed to put my face to the ground and ask: what Father is Your Holy Will for this day?
Simply put while the traumatic events of the false accusation and its immediate aftermath had cracked my defences, by the time I was in that western town I’d pretty well shored up the breeches, so that Holy Spirit was going to have to pulverize them!
It began simply enough.
We were working to rebuild a stone fence in the broiling late summer heat far from any shade and I was so into the work I failed to drink enough water.
The next morning when I went to get out of bed I collapsed onto the floor.
Within a few minutes the women had me rushed to the hospital where it was determined I’d suffered heatstroke.
Once I was well enough to travel I returned east to The Community.
The severe vertigo did not clear up however and that is how it happened, as noted in earlier chapters, I endured a series of medical tests as a tumour was suspected, and hence how I came to have the original time to begin this journey inward through the notes which form the foundation of the major part of this work.
At the same time, weakened physically by the heatstroke, my mind took advantage of my vulnerability and I entered a period of emotional panic and depression. My spiritual father, seeing this, said to me one evening I should be sure and take my medicine. I asked him what medicine was that. When he realized, for the first time since somehow it had never come up in any discussion over the years, I had never been treated medically for chronic anxiety attacks, he immediately phoned a doctor friend, who was also a Christian Therapist.
I saw this wonderful Doctor the next day and began both medicinal and talk-therapy and within a few months was much better.
Then suddenly the appeal was ruled upon and I was fully vindicated by the Judges who heard the case.
Re-called by my Bishop, assigned as a hospital chaplain it seemed all was well.
In point of fact I’d been through a type of spiritual MASH Unit experience, which is I’d responded enough in therapy and spiritual direction to be patched up and returned to the front lines.
The Holy Spirit, however, is a much more through surgeon and within a few months the anxiety attacks returned and under obedience to my spiritual father I began long term talk therapy because I had never grieved the sorrows in my life and at the same time I began spending more time in silence with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
All culminating in this sabbatical: to write, pray and paint.
Which brings me to the source of the title of this chapter: “You feel like a top…”and the single, outside of Sacred Scripture, most important source of teaching me to begin the beginning of trusting and surrendering to the Father’s love, to trusting that where sin abounds grace abounds all the more, to opening wide the door of my being to Christ and submitting, freely, joyfully, to the activity of the Holy Spirit.
I speak of a letter written in 1970 by The Servant of God Catherine Doherty entitled: PARADOXES OF THE SPIRIT.
It was my spiritual father who, in the midst of all that happened, told me to truly take this wisdom into my heart.
Ever since then, for more than a decade now, it has been a constant source of meditation.
I am only barely beginning to open up to all Catherine teaches here, but the peace and joy which is ever increasing in my life as tangible experience of the Father’s love, the love of Jesus and the Spirit’s love, makes being pulverized not so bad a grace after all!
Here I will only excerpt some lines from this tremendous teaching letter, for, as said, in this, as in so much, I am but a beginner.
….Whenever you experience inwardly any annihilation of yourself, you will feel an overpowering urge to assert yourself outwardly, to imprint yourself on life. “Look, folks, I exist! I’m here. I haven’t disappeared. I’m a person. Listen to me!” [ ds-1]
That is certainly how this writing began, until it was blessed by my spiritual father and I radically re-wrote so the emphasis, please God, is not on me but rather on how our loving Father, our loving Redeemer, our loving Sanctifier transforms abundance of our sins, and the impact of sins committed against us, into an even more lavish abundance of grace, of mercy, the communion of Love Himself.
The Holy Spirit seems to annihilate your spirit, you see; or so it will appear to you. Sheets of flames and raging wind and all types of symbols will come into your imagination. You see they are terrible, terribilis, in their power to overwhelm you. You suddenly feel like this: “Where is the Kingdom which He calls me to, which He has promised now, for today?…It is not true, what’s happening to me!…This can’t be right!….It’s too heavy…Make it go away and come gently.” [ds-2]
When Jesus allowed the disciples to travel onto the lake and be caught in the storm which raged, no doubt they experienced what Catherine describes happens in our emotions, mind, soul. We can see clearly in the Holy Gospel their fear. When Peter challenged the reality of the Lord and the Lord showed him His reality, Peter walked on water until he allowed the wind and the waves to overcome him with their terribleness. Then Peter sank, but the moment he cried out to the Lord the Lord rescued him. In that moment of rescue came the profession of faith[Mt.14:22-33].
It is we who are afraid. It is Jesus, true God, who comes to us telling us NOT to be afraid.
For over twenty years Pope John Paul II, indeed since the beginning of his pontificate, has cried out as well, beseeching us to not be afraid of God, of self, of life, of other, but to open wide the door of our being to Christ.
This call to open wide the door of our being is not just for the un-baptized, but for all Christians, not just for the laity, but for religious and priests as well.
Indeed it is the call of Love, offering love, to every human being!
Because of original sin, the first aftermath of which is fear of God and the terrifying, vain, attempt to hide from our loving Father, here we are two millennia after our Redemption and the Gift of the Holy Spirit, still so terribly fearful.
…you’re devastated inside…utterly devastated. And it is in these devastations, and in this being touched by God, then you feel dizzy. You feel like a top, because you don’t know where a top is going to end up…..Slowly, slowly you sink down to the floor because it gets harder and harder to move…Now the grace is that you are on the floor, that you haven’t turned your back to God and walked away. That’s the grace. That’s the beginning of your growth in faith: you’re there! He was on the cross, and you are on the floor. After you get up, your soul feels like a thousand sponges that have been squeezed out, but it doesn’t matter. Grace can go through inward sponges like water goes through outward ones……..[ds-3]
Catherine has written elsewhere that in God every moment is the moment of beginning again.
This moment!
I am learning each moment is grace.
A final word:
I began this work on sabbatical towards the end of the last year of the 20th century and have worked on it intermittently since then.
In the nine years since that sabbatical I was vindicated by Church and the secular courts, return to active priestly ministry, taught, gave lectures and missions in many, many places, wrote and eventually was made a pastor of several places.
Then, without warning, everything was turned upside down across the Church with scandal, across the world with 9/11 and eventually in my own life.
Currently I am working on a second book about this first decade of the 21st century in the Church, the Priesthood and my own life and ask your prayer for this new project.
Rev. Arthur Joseph
Holy Easter, 2009

56 COLOSSIANS 1: 24-29

BEFORE BEGINNING THIS night’s writing I went and walked about the town, praying the Holy Rosary for all the  sleeping workers, the sick in hospital, those in the county jail, night workers, children, passengers on the rushing night trains, people working night shifts everywhere, and especially for every priest on the face of the earth.
I walked the snow covered sidewalks, the dark alleys, deeply aware of every person, those saints unknown but to God, sinners likewise, children of the Father all, souls for whom Christ lavishly poured Himself out to the last drop, hearts to whom the Holy Spirit is seeking continually to be invited to pour Himself within, more, more, more!
The walk, the prayer, was deeply needed for I am about to write about the strangest period of my life.
I say strange, but mystery applies as well, mystery of the struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, satan and the disciples of Christ.
Once this work is completed I intend, God willing, as approved by my spiritual father, to write another book. It will be on the priesthood and therein I shall try and raise a cautionary voice that we Bishops and Priests need to get past the quagmire of reducing every evil to a social justice issue or some psychological problem and face the reality of satanic activity and use the sacramental authority we have.
What follows should illustrate what happens when priests are not properly trained to deal with evil, but rather have been trained to approach things in an overly rationalistic and intellectual, a problem-to-be-solved manner.
In literature perhaps the most famous play that offers a study in the psychology of evil, and it could be argued even contains a philosophy of evil, is Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
In Act 4, Scene 1 is found this chilling exchange:
Macbeth: How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags, What is’t you do?
All the Witches: A deed without a name.
Macbeth: I conjure you by that which you profess, Howe’er you come to know it, answer me.
Though you untie the winds and let them fight
Against the churches, though the yeasty waves
Confound and swallow navigation up,
Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down,
Though castles topple on their warder’s heads,
Though palaces and pyramids do slope
Their heads to their foundations, though the treasure
Of nature’s germens tumble all together
Even till destruction sicken, answer me
To what I ask you.
First Witch: Speak.
Second Witch: Demand.
Third Witch: We’ll answer.
First Witch: Say if thou’dst rather hear it from our mouths
Or from our masters.
Macbeth: Call’em, let me see’em.[dm]
What is telling about this passage is the reality that ordinary persons choose to dialogue with, seek the cooperation of, evil spirits. Given the era in which the play is set, the 11th Century, one could assume the women most likely would have been baptized as infants; hence it is baptized souls who have chosen the black-arts and have submitted to ‘masters’, that is, evil spirits.
Macbeth himself freely chooses to approach these witches and indeed chooses further to have them conjure up the evil spirits that he may communicate with them.
Macbeth cares not a whit that opening his being to such evil means the witches might unleash chaos through creation even so far as to unleash a ‘fight against the churches’ or to the point where the extent of chaos renders even that ‘destruction sicken’.
There are, of course, two errors, two dangers which must be avoided here.
First is to accredit to satan and his minions more power than they have, for in truth they have none more than God permits. Christ has already vanquished satan. Hence while an individual soul may surrender to satan, that is by their free will hand themselves over to him, satan can never overcome the Church, Christ’s Body on earth, for Christ has already crushed satan.
Second is to assume satan does not exist or is no longer at war against the followers of Christ.
Of the two I would suggest the latter is the more serious error and is the one most commonly found among modernist clergy and laity alike.
Modern media, while mocking the Church for her authentic teaching on the reality of sin, evil, satan, nonetheless will never hesitate to promote any book, song, tv show or movie about evil, evil spirits, or witchcraft, because such things, tragically, are money machines.
In Sacred Scripture perhaps the most familiar text on evil experienced as suffering and satan’s role therein, and the act of God permitting this, other than in the life and suffering of Christ Himself, is to be found in the Book of Job.
Job was a good and holy man, and satan challenged God that Job was good only because he was amply blessed by God.
Were he not so then he would curse God.
Job’s suffering is permitted, his experience of evil, his being attacked by satan, as a test which not only proves his goodness but enhances it.
Throughout God in His tender mercy sets a limit to what satan may do, for God will never allow us to be tested beyond our strength nor to be destroyed.
Only we can, in a sense, self-destruct through a total rejection of His mercy.
Self-destruction is, in reality, choosing eternal damnation over the salvation and eternity of love with Love Himself purchased for us by, and offered to us by Christ, through the fullness of His Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Perhaps the most astute teaching on this whole matter of the reality of spiritual warfare, of the struggle between good and evil, the mystery of human suffering, the reality of sin even after the death and resurrection of Christ, is found in the Apostolic Letter: SALVIFICI DOLORIS (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) by Pope John Paul II, issued on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 1984.
It is not my intent here to do a dissertation on this seminal document, rather to use it as a reference point, for it was to become, after the originating experience of extreme suffering as a result of an experience of evil, a source of gradual understanding of what had happened, why it had been permitted by God and how I should respond.
Sacred Scripture is a great book about suffering. It can be said that man suffers whenever he experiences any kind of evil. In the midst of what constitutes the psychological form of suffering there is always an experience of evil, which causes the individual to suffer. While it is true that suffering has a meaning as punishment when it is connected with a fault, it is not true that all suffering is a consequence of a fault and has the nature of a punishment. Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance. [dn]
A friend asked me recently if I had finished writing this story of Divine Love and Mercy, and I said that I was about to write the final chapters and was struggling with this most difficult one.
My friend then asked if that was because this writing was affecting me more than expected.
I thought for a moment and realized yes indeed it does.
The effective affect has been increase of joy as I have come to understand the absolute truth of the statement that where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.
Having set the stage then about the reality of spiritual warfare and the mystery of suffering as grace of ultimate conversion I paraphrase the words of St. Paul which form the title to this chapter: rejoicing in suffering for the sake of others and surrendering to fulfilling in my own being that portion of Christ’s suffering He offers [Col. 1: 24-29].
So I arrived in the new parish.
Unknown to me at the time I had been sent into a situation fraught with extreme spiritual and emotional danger for me.
Indeed it would have been dangerous for any priest.
It was a situation equivalent to that faced by the patron saint of parish priests, St. John Vianney.
Unlike him, however, I was not formed, nor prepared, to handle the challenges that faced me from a perspective of an intense interior life.
Rather I immediately fell into the trap which exhausts many priests and results in many priests leaving the priesthood.
I became performance oriented.
The area I was sent to was racked with problems normally encountered in dense urban areas, but because of modern highway systems and media even remote areas have become places of occult activity, covens, satanic ritual, cults, drug abuse, violence, new age activity and the rest.
Some things should have been obvious clues to me this was going to be an extremely stressful situation, such as the church building itself which was practically devoid of all Catholic symbolism.
No statues, votive lights, the Blessed Sacrament in faded brass tabernacle set to one side. Indeed the building physically, in materials and colour, resembled a subway station more than a church.
The rectory itself was in such a state of chaos I was about to report a break-in when a woman from the parish stopped by to ask for an announcement to be placed in the bulletin and informed me the place ‘ always looks like this’!
It would be several months before the promised assistant was sent by the Bishop, nonetheless, thanks to the cooperation of the people, for it is key to any parish to have the people desirous to build a worshiping, charitable community, we began to restore the interior of the church and rectory, do much needed repairs, tackle the debt, begin home visits and programs to help people return to the sacraments, or become Catholic, re-established devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and restore devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
One of my great concerns was the amount of violence in that area.
Everything, from violent domestic situations, to work-related accidents in the area factories and forest operations, to highway carnage.
One accident scene I was called to involved so many deaths and injuries that the snow was so saturated with blood my feet were soaked. Body parts were scattered everywhere. It took days before the smell of blood left me.
Then there were the many suicides, and the desecration, sometimes by burning, of churches.
Throughout the nation in the same period more and more news reports had to do with abuse of children by priests. The Bishop warned all priests to be aware some people were taking advantage of the climate to falsely accuse priests in order to win huge lawsuits, for, tragically, the very Bishops who had failed to deal rightly with actual cases of abuse where now presuming guilt everywhere and often dismissing priests and settling lawsuits without due process.
One day an elderly man from the parish came and told me of an abandoned church which had once been a place where Holy Mass had been celebrated and of his distress about its condition and would I come with him and pray there for forgiveness of those who had destroyed the building.
I went with him and was heartbroken to find the ruins filled with satanic symbols spray painted on the ruined walls.
We prayed.
I left that place feeling the ominous presence of evil shadowing me.
Sometime later, through what appeared at first as ordinary circumstances, I was required to deal with members of a powerful cult, not knowing at the outset of the meeting these persons belonged to the cult.
Once I found out, from their own frank admission, they belonged to the cult I had no option but to tell them I could not fulfill what they were requesting unless they left the cult.
This infuriated them and they said, very softly, yet coldly: “We will destroy you.”
About a week later the Bishop called to inform me he had been made aware, by an anonymous source, of a whisper campaign suggesting I was not to be trusted around children.
By this point almost two years had passed since I had been first assigned as pastor in that parish and by this time I was also a full blown workaholic with the result that television had replaced contemplation, movies and beer on my day off had replaced days of recollection, novels had replaced spiritual reading.
Externally I was doing all the right priestly things, that is I preached well, celebrated Holy Mass and the other sacraments, did home visits, spent lots of time in administration, had all sorts of programs going in the parish for married couples, the elderly, youth, groups with particular devotions, such as to the Holy Rosary were encouraged and operating, the sick were visited in hospital and so forth.
Indeed it seemed to me I had, by God’s grace, come a very long way from the atheistic and hedonistic life I had led before my conversion and eventual entrance to the seminary and that since my ordination life had been good, fulfilling.
All very true.
All very human.
All very external, for as yet I did not fully appreciate the Divine Lover is jealous, that is, He desires He alone be our true love. [Ex.43:14 & Dt. 4:24]
Rather than being devoted to an intimate relationship in love with the Tremendous Lover Himself, and from that love having a passionate love in humble service of His people, I had become enamoured of what I was ‘doing’, namely I had given priority to what ‘I’ was accomplishing as a priest and forgotten whose parish it really was.
I, through my performance addiction, was cutting myself off from Him.
Cutting ourselves off from Him is to become powerless and to forget our true love [Jn. 15:5 & Rev. 3:14-22]
It is an understandable human tendency, much like flowing water, to seek the path of least resistance.
We are all called to be saints.
Yet so rare is true saintliness that when a holy person is spotted, such as Mother Theresa, they become phenomena, when in reality what should be extraordinary would be to find a Christian who is NOT holy.
The Pharisees encountered in the Gospel, and those who followed them, we not, per se, evil people. True, some of the leaders became so and warred against Christ, but most I would argue were sincere followers of the Decalogue, seeking to observe the Covenant between the Lord God and His Chosen People.
However they too fell into the performance trap and became stuck, as it were, on the external path of least resistance.
Jesus would try and shake them out of their spiritual rigidity; their forgetting God calls us to a profound interior communion of love, not just external observance: Mt. 15: 7-9.
The human precept I was ‘teaching’ as a ‘doctrine’ was that doing sacrament is the same as being sacrament.
It is not enough, for example, to celebrate Holy Mass, to participate in Holy Mass, our entire life must be permeated by the Mass, that is by communion of love: His love for us and our love for Him manifested through love of one another, love in action, and a profound interior relationship with Him, love in contemplation.
Thus being caught up in performance and increasingly neglectful of the intimate relationship with Christ I failed to be aware of reality as noted by Pope Paul VI and referred to eloquently by Rutler in his work on St. John Vianney:
The modern age, which has seen the power of evil so gigantically displayed, is also a time of disbelief in the existence of evil. In 1972, Pope Paul VI told nations reeling from hunger, violence, indolence, and nuclear threats that evil is not an absence of good: it is a ‘living, spiritual being’ who is perverted and perverts: ‘What are the greatest needs of the Church today? Do not let our answer surprise you as being over simple or superstitious and unreal: one of the greatest needs is defence from that evil which is called the devil.’ And he publicly lamented that the smoke of satan had even entered the Church. [do]
Some of the acrid cloud of that smoke centered on the sins of some priests and all priests would find themselves choking on it.
The Bishop had warned me about the whispers.
His warning had been like that any office manger might give an employee who was the subject of office gossip.
I was so busy doing the work as a priest I never gave it much thought until one day in early winter the Bishop phoned again.
This time he was more forthcoming and said the whispers were I had touched a child inappropriately and he ordered me to cooperate with the police.
No lawyer was offered and so none was present when I was interviewed.
I had done no such thing, indeed the very notion of such things sickens, but I had been ordered by the Bishop to participate in the interview.
Once it was over, stressful as it was I had to wait a bit more than a week before I was told they were satisfied it was a lie and that was, supposedly, that.
In retrospect after that it is almost unbelievable that I could have simply resumed the ordinary rounds of priestly life.
That I did not flee to the Bishop and ask him to send the official Exorcist of the diocese to come and cleanse the parish and environs is proof of the too human way I was dealing with the shock and stress of the false accusation.
For some weeks things seemed normal, though I was in a constant state of anxiety.
Then word reached me that the whispering was more intense and that someone had gone over the heads of the police to the prosecutor and that this matter was still very much alive.
A few days later there was a knock at the rectory door very early in the morning and when I opened the door uniformed police shoved me against the wall and told me I was under arrest for suspicion of child abuse.
A couple of hours later, after once again being interviewed, fingerprinted, formally charged, all without benefit of a lawyer, I was released with a court date.
I immediately phoned the Bishop and was ordered to leave town and stay with The Community.
This I did.
Eventually I got a lawyer, out of the yellow pages.
The trial took place over several weeks, a day here, a day there.
Oddly the whole point seemed to be not the accusation, which was that I had inappropriately patted a teenage male, but rather an assault on priesthood as constant reference was made to what ‘other’ priests had done around the country and even more odd, factually more satanic, the way the lie had been told my only defence would have been to violate the seal of confession which I refused to do.
On the last day in court I emptied my pockets before entering, convinced I would be declared guilty and sent to prison.
I had been in a state of shock for weeks and in a type of spiritual darkness such that I had not a shred of trust in God being greater than the evil swirling around me and so my prayer life was in shambles.
However by a special grace I was able to make an ascent to His Divine Will before entering the court that final time.
The Judge went into a long, rambling statement that I found hard to follow but the upshot was he acquitted me of what I had been accused of.
Then he said since I was a priest it was probable there was some truth to the matter and convicted me of a misdemeanour, sentenced jail time, suspended that, put me on probation with no conditions.
Informed of this turn of events the Bishop told me to remain with The Community, hire the best lawyers, launch an appeal, since I was innocent and this conviction should not be allowed to stand.
The evil one terrorizes no one as much as he is terrified himself by Christ the Victor….[dp]


The appeal process would take three long years during which I would learn that, for all the baptized as well as for the ordained, being, and being in communion of love with Him, is the essential.
Only flowing from our being in union with Him does our doing have salvific meaning.
It is a lesson I am still learning.
I had thought, sincerely, the radical conversion of external habit and lifestyle sufficed.
I had failed to continue that interior conversion where God alone is God.
My priestly service had been effective, and that too was part of the problem.
It had been too much mine, not purely His.
All is grace!
All Sacred Scripture is filled with examples, prefiguration of His ultimate act of deliverance of us through the death and resurrection of Christ, of how our Father delivers us from evil: Noah, the escape across the desert of the Chosen People, the young men in the furnace, Susanna.
Indeed ever since my own experience I have never failed to appreciate the Scripture readings at the Easter Vigil, as with all Scripture, as not merely the telling of His mercy to the collective of the human family, but of His particular mercy in the intimate communion of love with each individual.
However it would take years for me to understand why He permitted such a profound experience of evil and such protracted suffering.