It is First Friday.

After celebrating Holy Mass and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, for a day of adoration, before leaving I led the people, three times in honour of the Holy Trinity, in the traditional invocation of faith’s trust:

                                                   O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment Thine.

During that invocation my heart was surprised for the second time in less than a day by a procession of priests across my heart.

The first time they were in my heart was during prayer and meditation upon the Holy Eucharist last night as I prepared my notes for this reflection.

I recall saying to the Lord at the time I didn’t get the connection between these priests and what I was preparing to write about.

Again this morning I mention the same thing to Him.

The first of those priests who came into my heart was one, now long since entered into eternal rest, with whom I served when I was newly ordained and assigned to the cathedral.

This most compassionate and steadfast of priests bore in his physical being horrific scar tissue, while humbling admitting a constant struggle in his heart to forgive those who had so brutally tortured him, the SS guards in the camp where he had been held, with hundreds of other priests, many of whom we executed there.

The second priest, who these days with utter compassion serves as a chaplain for the military, carried in his heart the wounds inflicted by his barracks mates in the country where he grew up and was first a seminarian.

His country at the time was under the evil oppression of communism.

The communists, while barely tolerating the existence of the Church, liked to take men from the seminary and force them into several years of military service, ordering the other men in the barracks to attempt to break the spirit of any seminarian in their midst by whatever means they chose. Most of those means were of the kind which would truly render a man so deeply shamed and discouraged that often he would indeed have his spirit broken.

With this priest they failed: undoubtedly because of this priest’s devotion then as a seminarian and now as a priest, and trust in the protection of Our Lady of the Eucharist.

The third priest, as a child during the Second World War, was interred in this country along with his parents and thousands of others. Even though they had lived here for generations in the hysteria of war, because they were ‘ not like us ‘ and deemed a threat to national security, their property was confiscated and they were placed in camps under heavy guard.

Yet he emerged from that experience a loyal citizen still, eventually heard the call of Christ, became a Catholic, left behind an excellent career and became a priest, a priest of incredible gentleness.

The fourth priest when I first met him was in seminary a year behind me.

He was playing on the docks with a childhood friend the day Saigon fell and had but a few moments to choose to run up the gangplank of the last ship to manage to get away, or follow his friend back into the city and possible arrest and detention since he came from a military family well known for their Catholic faith.

He chooses to escape, leaving behind his family and his country.

Finally another older priest, this one also long ago called home to the Father.

He suffered much both in his childhood and in his early life as a priest. He too had tasted the horrors of war, but as a chaplain to those fighting against the Nazis.

More, he suffered from religious authority because of his unwavering advocacy for true justice for the poor and the oppressed.

Eventually he offered himself in response to a call from the Spirit and Our Blessed Mother, as a priest for a newly forming community of lay people who are dedicated to working with the poor, both the materially and the spiritually poor.

After some years in the field houses of this community he was recalled to the ‘motherhouse’ and for over twenty years served as Guestmaster for visiting priests, washing toilets, making beds, sweeping floors, until his health rendered even those simple tasks too much.

He spent the next near two decades living in a small room in the community’s infirmary, a victim soul of suffering and intercessory prayer.

He was instrumental in my own return to the practice of our faith, in particular to a return to the sacrament of reconciliation and remained my confessor for years.

In the last years of his life I had the privilege to help care for him and treasured every word he would say, most especially his constant statement that: “Once I have celebrated Holy Mass the day is complete, it is a divine day.”

These are the priests who processed across my heart as I was preparing to write about the splendour and mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

Each of them: a suffering soul.

Each of them: a priest of incredible compassion, love and courage to live and speak truth.

Each of them: a most beloved brother, some of them mentors, one of them my own confessor.

So I begged the Lord yet again: “What Lord is the connection?”

“Contemplate ground wheat, crushed grape, My broken open Heart.”

Then I began to understand a bit more deeply this mystery that, as priests, we not only celebrate and receive, not only offer but are offered.

Like Christ we too must be broken and distributed.

Like Christ Priest we as priests must have our hearts broken open.[Hos.6:6; Hb.10:5-7; Ps.51:19; Mt.22:37ff; Jn.19:34]

Christ loves us with a broken open heart.

The Church has always seen in the breaking open of His Sacred Heart the gushing forth of the sacramental life of grace.

Standing before our crucified Lord, this river of grace pouring forth, we contemplate the ultimate act of the virtue of trust in and abandonment to the loving will of the Father.

Christ’s Holy Resurrection is the glorious love-fulfillment of that trust.

Here we discover the source of our own trust and abandonment to the Father’s Holy Will for us, to His love.

Here too we are before the necessity of our own hearts being broken open in imitation of Christ priest to whom, through sacramental ordination, we are most profoundly configured by the Holy Spirit.

Once again with confidence we turn to the Holy Spirit, offering Him our hearts as surely as Christ offered His to the lance. [Jn.16:13-15]

After His Holy Resurrection Jesus comes to us, as He did to the Apostles, and finds us, often like them, doubting and struggling. He invites us in our pain and confusion to touch Him by touching His Holy Wounds that we might know He is real! [cf.Jn.20:27]


That we might believe.

It is through the locked door of our hearts, if we open to Him [Rv.3:20], into the deepest regions of our terrified hearts, that Jesus comes and it is in allowing Him to touch those deep wounds that we touch Him.

Our most tender Lord does not force Himself upon us, thus, as we read in Revelations 3:20, He comes only as far as the door of our being. There He patiently remains waiting, knocking, and seeking leave to enter.

The wonderful thing about allowing our hearts to be broken open is that henceforth there is no longer a closed and locked door ever barring His entrance!

We must allow Him to enter and touch us in the depths of our deepest wounds if we are to be healed, if we are to have abundance of life.

We can be more than a little anxious when we finally come to understand this mystery and truth that we can only truly love, in imitation of Christ, with a broken open heart.

Broken to us means something painful, like a broken bone, or promise.

We speak of marriages that have broken up, of friendships that have been broken off.

Broken things, in our consumer culture, are usually things thrown out with the trash, hence broken for many means devastating rejection or abandonment, a profound breach of trust.

Broken hurts.

Broken can mean being unlovable, or unforgiveable.

Original sin broke the original intimacy between man and God, broke the original unity between man and woman.

The result was fear and distrust.

Suddenly God, the loving one, became God the feared one.

When He came looking for His first children the response to His tender call became the first utterance of pathos and a sadness which remained unavailed until the Saviour should have His own cry become ours.[Gn.3:10; Mk.15:34]

Once again, if we yearn in the slightest to understand the wonder of our existence, the true meaning of life, the reality of our being in persona Christi, we are at the foot of the Cross.

We of hearts which must be broken open contemplating the Priest whose Heart they have torn asunder.

On the Cross Christ has taken all our fear, pain, vulnerability, loneliness, questions, tears, sins, and more than we can ever comprehend, upon Himself.

This is ultimate gift of Self.

Only if we open wide the door of our being, offer our own hearts to be broken open, will we experience the entrance of Christ into the depths of our hearts, spirits, souls wherein He shall fill us with His own light and salt us with fire that we, true priests, can then go forth and make self-gift as priest to all our brothers and sisters as salt and light [Mt.5:13,14] and truly lay down our lives, moment by moment, as gift of true love, as He has asked us: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father. [Mt.5:44, 45]

The breaking open of our hearts is in essence experience of Eucharist in the fullness of we, as priests, being both the one who offers and the oblation itself.

It is a deep configuration to Christ wherein the Sacred Liturgy becomes more than a sacred event we celebrate but a sacred reality we live in our very flesh, mind, heart, soul:

                                               Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God, broken and not dismembered, always eaten and never expended, but making holy those who receive It.

So exalts the Church in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom!

We priests must allow the Holy Spirit, in a real way, to break and distribute us to our people as surely as we break and distribute the Lamb of God to them.

In breaking open our hearts the Spirit will not dismember us, that is abuse our fear of trust, the fear of abandonment to Divine Providence as being a danger of annihilation.

Indeed the more we surrender, the more we allow the mystery of kenosis, the breaking open of our hearts which allows us to be emptied of the false and sinful self in imitation of Christ’s own self-emptying, the more we shall be filled with the utter fullness of God!

My heart believes there is a direct connection between the not uncommon resistance among priests today for the celebration of popular pious devotions such as Holy Benediction, Adoration, devotions to the Most Sacred Heart, and this fear of being, as one young priest likes to repeat: too priestly!

Translation: too clerical.

Yet St. Paul tells us that we are called to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ [Gal.6:2].

 Our people are heavily burdened and does not Eucharistic devotion ease their pain?

Is not the Sacred Heart their comfort?

And the Apostle adds that it is in bearing one another’s burdens that we fulfill the law of Christ. That law, we know, is simply: love one another. [cf.Jn.15:17]

We most likely would resist less the movement of the Holy Spirit within us to sanctify us with a broken open heart that we might truly love, if He were to break us open through some sweet mystical experience.

In reality our hearts will be broken open through struggle with faith, with God, as Jacob struggled before us [Gn.32:23-33], the reality of spiritual warfare as shown in Revelations chapter 12.

Yet when we receive Love’s wound then we enter into a depth of communion of love with the Holy Trinity where ours becomes the beloved’s own experience. [Sg. Of Sgs. 5:4]

Moment by moment too, in a manner which is quite hidden and a protection from any form of pride, we are broken open, and healed too, through the nitty-gritty of the sacred duty of each moment.

We are, after all, mere vessels of clay within which is this great treasure of our holy vocation of joy and all other sanctifying grace from sacraments received.

So we can rightfully say with the Apostle, and rejoice in its truth and be thankful for the experience[s] of being goaded by the Holy Spirit into humility! [2Cor.12:7-10]

Actually it is a protecting grace!

Jesus, with great joy, at the very beginning of His public life for our redemption, proclaims the truth of His being sent by the Spirit, the same Spirit who is active within us. [Lk.4:17-19]

Because we have free will, and thus a tendency to sin and to a persistent type of attempted self-protecting which actually is a closing of our hearts to Him, the Holy Spirit is necessarily persistent in His work of breaking us open!

That this is ultimately a gentle operation is made clear in St. Paul’s extraordinary Letter to the Romans, especially chapter 8, in particular verses 5-9, 14-17, and 26-28.

The Holy Spirit does this because of the Eucharistic reality that we are, as priests, both the ones who offer and are offered. He also does this so we in our turn, having been anointed in persona Christi, seek out the poor, the captive, the downtrodden, loving them, serving, announcing to them that since He is Risen, every year IS the year of the Lord’s favour!

Again, since we are endowed with free will Christ can only come to the door of our being and knock, begging admittance.

When we allow Him to enter it is the same as giving the Holy Spirit full consent to henceforth allow into our beings only Christ and the persons and things of Christ and to break open our hearts that all else may be removed from us, most especially our false self.

Of course we all know that as a result of our own sin-wounds and the wounds inflicted upon us by those who have sinned against us we often have hearts like something sealed in a jar or walled up in a tomb.

Ordination, as we also know only too well, is not some magic potion that suddenly renders us whole and holy.

Like all sacramental grace it demands constant cooperation for the Spirit to transform, transfigure us so we become what we are.

Christ knocks at the door of the tomb in which we have buried ourselves, or where we are held captive by some addiction or fear and He cries out to us: Come out! [cf.Jn.11]

Christ also seeks to shatter the jar of our fears and illusions.

If we but allow Him to do so, and allow the Spirit to accomplish His work within us, then we shall experience the joy of a broken open heart which becomes a wide open door through which processes the Most Holy Trinity in communion of love, filling us with the utter fullness of God. [Jn.1:16; 2Cor.4:11; Gal.2:19,20; Gal.3:27; Gal.4:6,7]

Faith is the gift whose fruit is trust. Trust is the willingness to say, and mean it no matter what our emotions may be doing at the time: “Yes, you may break me open O Holy Spirit and configure me ever more fully to Christ of the Broken Open Heart. You may empty my being of all that is not holy, set me free from what has me captive, heal my blindness which is so dark because I fear, fill in my poverty due to my sins with the Good News of Divine Mercy, free me from having been pulverized and downtrodden by the allures of the world. Declare within my deepest being the year of the Lord’s favour so that I live no longer, only Christ lives in me!”

It is to make St. Paul’s prayer, while on our knees our own! [Ep.3:14-21]

We are the stewards and ministers of the treasury of sacramental grace.

It is essential we willingly, and frequently, put our face onto the ground adoringly at the foot of the Cross, crying out in all truth: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Once we have soaked the ground with our tears, wept for our own sins and those of the whole world, we can then lift our eyes towards Him and contemplate with all the love of our broken hearts He who’s Heart they have broken open.

There, in the depths of the communion of love, we will come to understand a broken heart is both a loving and an obedient heart.

There too we will come to open ever more the depths of our heart to the ineffable reality of the Most Holy Eucharist.

                                                             ……all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it. For in the most Blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through His flesh – that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit. Thus men are invited and led to offer themselves, their works and all creation with Christ. For this reason the Eucharist appears as the source and summit of all preaching of the Gospel: catechumens are gradually led up to participation in the Eucharist, while the faithful who have already been consecrated in baptism and confirmation are fully incorporated in the Body of Christ by the reception of the Eucharist.

                                                Therefore the Eucharistic celebration is the center of the assembly of the faithful over which the priest presides. [61]

It is this reality of our sacramental consecration as priests, this sublime and central experiential truth of our communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity, which is celebrated by us as act of faith and reality, intercessory prayer and thanksgiving.

No matter how our raw humanity, our very clay-ness, may seem to weigh upon us during the sublime event of celebrating Holy Mass, we draw constant reassurance, affirmation and strength from the very Eucharistic prayer of Christ Himself, our High Priest who the night of His Passion prayed for us in particular: Jn.17:11-19.

Sometimes, it is true, because of the combination of all the preparatory things we need to, especially before Sunday Masses, weddings, funerals and other particular solemnities, and too often because of the daily celebration of Holy Mass, we can find it difficult to be truly reverential and attentive.

Celebrating the heavenly liturgy here on earth may at times be experienced as a rather blatantly human endeavour because, priest though we are, we remain men.

This can be particularly acute when, having received our Lord and God, the Divine Lover, in Holy Communion we are surrounded by a lot of activity, people, sounds, sights, and a certain pressure to quickly get about the business of bringing our Eucharistic Lord to our brothers and sisters.

Then, once they have been fed, all too quickly there can be a certain wave of restless. They want to leave. Or we want to flee. Either way we quickly move through the final prayer, sometimes followed by announcements which, if we be honest, truly have no place in the liturgy. The blessing, the recessional and greeting people as they leave.

There follows any number of things to do and before we know it we are back in the rectory.

However we need not remain stuck in such a sequence.

The ritual itself provides, indeed states, there should be time for thanksgiving. It need not be excessively long, but surely we can take a few moments to thank He who has just made such a comple As with Baptism and Confirmation it is important we remember our First Holy Communion. The first time He permeated our beings with His Eucharistic Self. Remember too the first time we celebrated Holy Mass.

Certainly we cannot, of our own effort, duplicate those first experiences, but we can beg of the Holy Spirit a renewed and ever deeper faith in and love of the One who gives Himself to us.

                                              …… Holy Communion is the most excellent means of living in Christo. Through it, the priest unites himself in the full spirit of love of the Saviour: ‘He that eateth My flesh…abideth in Me and I in him’ (John vi.57). Moreover, after Holy Communion he continues to live in the radiance of the heart of Jesus, enveloped, as it were, in the atmosphere of His love and of His grace. By remaining constantly united to the Saviour the priest makes the divine gift bear abundant fruit in his soul:  ‘He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit’ (John xv.5). [61] As with Baptism and Confirmation it is important we remember our First Holy Communion. The first time He permeated our beings with His Eucharistic Self. Remember too the first time we celebrated Holy Mass.

Certainly we cannot, of our own effort, duplicate those first experiences, but we can beg of the Holy Spirit a renewed and ever deeper faith in and love of the One who gives Himself to us.

                                              …… Holy Communion is the most excellent means of living in Christo. Through it, the priest unites himself in the full spirit of love of the Saviour: ‘He that eateth My flesh…abideth in Me and I in him’ (John vi.57). Moreover, after Holy Communion he continues to live in the radiance of the heart of Jesus, enveloped, as it were, in the atmosphere of His love and of His grace. By remaining constantly united to the Saviour the priest makes the divine gift bear abundant fruit in his soul:  ‘He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit’ (John xv.5). [61]

Our sacramental reality of being in persona Christi will fragment, indeed dissolve into a mere function unless we, like St. John the Beloved before us, nestle frequently, trustingly and lovingly, against His Most Sacred, and broken open for us, Heart.

We need this intimacy with the Divine Lover and there is no better time for this contemplative union between us than when we have received Him in the Holy Eucharist.

While such a lingering with Him may not be possible immediately after receiving Him during the liturgy or right thereafter, we should strive, and if our people know this is what we need they will respect the time we take, to be alone with Him as soon as possible.

Only through intimacy with Christ of the Wounded Heart will we ever overcome the fear of having our own hearts broken open. Only through that same intimacy will we willingly embrace the cross daily and follow Him wherever His love takes us.

                                                             The mystery of the Cross is the compendium of the beatitudes. In it are found, in unity of sorrow – the most perfect unity that exists after the unity of love in the bosom of God – the virtues and the gifts which the beatitudes produce in an incomparable and divine degree of perfection. The divine nakedness of the Cross is the consummation of detachment. The unutterable state of Jesus as victim, totally surrendered to divine justice in the sacrifice of Calvary, is the height of meekness. The immense desolation of Christ on the Cross is the depth of holy sadness of those who weep. The immortal victim is supreme justice and supreme mercy united on earth in an ineffable kiss of pain, as they are united in heaven in the divine kiss of love. The holy, unfathomable and infinite purity of the nakedness of Christ Crucified is the divine summit of purity on earth, as in heaven nakedness, divine simplicity, is infinite purity. And the sublime monument on the top of Calvary is the last word of love, both human and divine on earth.

                                                                When we contemplate Christ on the Cross with the enlightened eyes of the heart, we grasp this most profound and fundamental truth, that there are only two consummations of sanctity because there are only two unities: that of love in heaven and pain on earth. Sanctity is simplification. God is most holy because He is infinitely simple; souls are holy because they are simplified in God. In the discourse at the Last Supper, when He asked the Father for perfect holiness for His own, Christ said, ‘That they may be one, even as We are one.’  The Father and the Word are joined in the unity of the Holy Spirit, that is, in the unity of love. Souls are united in the Cross of Christ, in the unity of pain. [63]

The Holy Eucharist is communion of love.

Communion of love is Trinitarian.

“Pain”, cries out with affirmation and joy, teaches the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, “is the kiss of Christ!” [Sg. Of Sgs. 1:2; Ps. 16:11]

Holy simplicity is that freedom which is the hallmark of the children of the Father, that trust which is the hallmark of hearts which know they are beloved of Christ the Divine Lover, that obedience which is the hallmark of wills and souls totally surrendered to the movements of the Holy Spirit.

The more we allow our hearts to be broken open the more we shall truly love Christ and the things of Christ, the Church and all she asks of us in truth-teaching, fidelity to ritual and the more we shall be true humble, loving servants of our brothers and sisters.

If we are not in the depths of this communion of love with the Holy Trinity, the source and summit of which love flows from the source and summit of our sacramental life, the Holy Eucharist, then we will, inevitably, seek a substitute.

The heart cannot be without love.

Either the heart embraces the reality of Real Love Himself and the Love offered us, or the heart will accept unreality and become captive by some other.

One of the most classically manly men of the two-fisted, hard drinking, no nonsense kind of the last century, who grew up through all the wars and other chaos of that bloody time, was touched in the depths of his soul by the Little Flower and our Blessed Mother. Subsequently another woman touched his heart and to make self-gift to her it meant embracing poverty, agreeing the apostolate she founded must come first and, eventually, it meant embracing chastity as well.

All the weight of the cross, all the pain of that aspect of his vocation was mingled with much physical pain because of his heart condition.

In both senses of the phrase.

In his professional life he had been one of the toughest reporters in a very tough era when newspapers where the main source of news for most people.

He was also one of the most highly paid and famous.

In the early days of the apostolate, by then known, as it is today around the world, as Madonna House, he helped keep the little community going by writing books.

Towards the end of his life his childhood dream was fulfilled when he was ordained a priest.

To participate in any Divine Liturgy he celebrated was to see the face of a man, a priest, totally in love with Love Himself.

It was to see in the radiance of his face, the tenderness of all the movements, gestures, words which the rubrics ask of us, the intimacy, confidence, faith, hope and joy flowing from the Eucharistic love affair.

Years before, while still a layman, as noted in his book I Cover God, he was walking in the forest, chanced upon a pine tree, kissed it and tasted a drop of resin.

His heart was suddenly moved with love and his heart heard the voice of love Himself:

                                                                I have kissed you with the kiss of all My forests …but I have been much more intimate than that. I have also kissed you with the kiss of My mouth! My Son! My Word!

                                                               My Son, My Word, was and is the perfect Man. He was and is the essence of humanity, as well as the essence of divinity. My Son, My Word, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, God and Man, is placed daily on your tongue by one of My priests – even as the lifeblood, the essence, of the pine, was placed on your tongue by yourself.

                                                             You felt the pine sap. You felt its pungent, aromatic taste; its oily pleasantness; its enduring flavour. You do not, ordinarily, taste anything in the Host except the taste of bread. And this taste is neither pungent nor long lasting.

                                                           Only your soul knows the wondrous strength and sweetness in the Communion Wafer – in the Body and Blood, in the Soul and in the Divinity, of My Son, My Word.

                                                          You cannot taste Divinity!

                                                          Jesus is the essence of humanity, the essence of all the people I have put upon your earth. You are part of it, and it is part of you. The pine you tasted is a perfect tree. There is no taint in its essence. The Host you swallowed was, and is, human and divine perfection. There is no taint in it. There is no taint in Mary. There is no taint in her Son.

                                                         I am I. I am God. Out of My mouth comes the Word. The Word I utter is I. I am the Father of the Word. I am the Concord, the Love, that exists between the Voice and the Word. I am the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I am the Three-in-One, the One-in-Three. I am the Crucified. I am the Resurrection and the Life.

                                                        ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God; and the Word was God.’ ‘The Word made flesh.’ The Word I uttered is a kiss. The kiss of My mouth. The kiss of peace. The kiss of pity. The kiss of boundless mercy. The kiss of consolation. The kiss of love. The kiss spurned. The kiss betrayed by a kiss, and sold and slain. The kiss of redemption. The kiss triumphant over death. The eternal kiss of God. This is the kiss I give to free you, My slave. I am God and you are but a slave. You kneel before Me at Communion. You are My subject. Yet I am your subject too, for I come to you at your bidding! I come to you gladly. I stoop to you. I visit you. I kiss you with the kiss of My  mouth. I give you the kiss of eternal life. [64]

The Cross is the Tree soaked with the resin of His Precious Blood, poured forth from Love’s broken open Heart.

Every time we approach the altar and celebrate the Sacred Mysteries we are in Love’s embrace, in communion of love.

Let us stop resisting the invitation to be so plunged into the reality we celebrate that we fear the ever more complete breaking open of our hearts, or resist the kiss of His mouth.

The Holy Gospel reminds us that one of the reasons for the breaking open of His Heart is for the purpose of our being still in love’s contemplation of Love poured out. [Jn.19:37]

We know that it is our own sins which break open His Heart.

But He only wounds us with redemptive love.

At the beginning of this chapter I mentioned some priests who were much on my heart. Among them the eldest who had been my confessor for decades.

One year during the party we had to celebrate his birthday, and his more than fifty years as a priest, I was sitting beside him when another priest approached and said with great affection: “Well Father, just imagine all the Holy Communions you have received in your life!”

The old priest looked up.

His face was brilliant with a shimmering radiant light.

He simply smiled a smile of one who absolutely trusts he is beloved. [Jn.6:27]

When we truly love someone and that love is real and holy we yearn to be with them always, we think about them, make choices with their best interest at heart.

In a word we make a gift of ourselves to them.

Thus with each Holy Communion our hearts ever more humbly, ever more generously, ever more zealously ask the question about the ‘to do’ aspect of our being [Jn.6:28,29] and live it out precisely by being who we are!

At the heart of everything is faith.

Faith, as we know, is not only ascent to the truths of faith, but it is also a deep trust in all that the Church asks of us.

Faith does not tinker with the content of truth, nor the truth of proper sacramental form.

Faith not only believes that what we consecrate is His Real Presence, but never alters anything within the Sacred Liturgy.

Humble obedience is the external witness of faith.

When we are disobedient, even in little things, we begin to distance ourselves from that obedient intimacy with the Father which Jesus offers us in communion of love.

What should be the humble, untainted, celebration of the Heavenly Liturgy becomes pockmarked with our own egos and there is a real sadness which envelops our good people when they see an incomprehensible twisting of what should be only of and about Christ into something which becomes a paltry performance rather than a sublime celebration of the mystery of faith.

When we do such things we join interiorly at least in a type of return to our ‘former way of life’ and in a sense begin to no longer accompany Jesus in the depths of fidelity.

Who among us would ever want to hear Love Himself ask: DO YOU ALSO WANT TO LEAVE?

That question, in John 6 verse 66, speaks to the heart of our struggle to be truly humble, faithful, obedient servants of the very mysteries we celebrate.

In 1990 Cardinal Godfried Danneels, addressing himself as much to his priest sons as to his people, wrote a pastoral letter of clear truth-teaching and exquisite tenderness on the holy sacramental priesthood. It has been published in English as: Messengers of Joy.

In this great pastoral the Cardinal speaks about what can cause the heart of a priest to become emptied of joy, seek to flee the Cross, the lance, the tomb. He also addresses the reality of our being priest in the midst of the culture of death in what is seen to be the post-Christian era. In so doing he faces straight on the pain of many priests who struggle with what swirls around us, distracts or tempts us in raw contradiction of the truth alive in our hearts.

                                                           ….priests must often pass from great joy to deep sadness within a few moments. This need to shift gears, to empathize alternately with joy and sorrow, makes great demands on their hearts. It can be exhausting, but is also gives them a special serenity, a certain satisfaction. Pastoral work often means that we must stand in mid-stream, half-way between two shores. Every priest is familiar with the tension between justice and mercy, between doctrine and practice, between requirements and compassion; between what the Church teaches and what is possible to the poor believer. Some people expect priests to be rigorously orthodox, adhering literally to every detail; others expect realism, a recognition of the need to adapt and of the need for ‘inculturation.’ Priests can be trapped between liberals and conservatives. Poor St. Christopher carrying the Infant Jesus between two shores which want nothing to do with each other! [65]

Even during the celebration of the source and summit of our faith we can experience that immense stress of which the Cardinal speaks and it can drain our capacity to be fully present to the reality of who we are and with Whom we are in communion of love.

During those times when we most experience this pulverization is the moment when in fact the lance is breaking through the outer shell of our hearts and we are being wounded with love!

When all we want to do is flee, to hide, to find some place where we are not being torn at, our hearts should take comfort in the very cry spoken by our predecessor in the sacred priesthood, and share in his faith. [Jn.6:68, 69]

Since reality is we cannot love without a broken open heart reality also is that when our hearts are truly broken open we become icons of charity and icons of communion of love.

This is when we become truly what we are, shepherds, teachers, and can then form with our people, who receive Christ in Holy Communion, that community of living and humble charity which builds the civilization of love.

Then, once again across the earth, for all to see, for all to discover as the pilgrim’s path, their true home on earth, a place of refuge and hope, a house of love, will the Church, in each parish, be what She is and we priests will truly become what we are.

Thus will our people be what they are called to be through their own baptismal vocation to holiness. [Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35]

If we are to build up the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church on earth, to form true community, build the civilization of love, then it becomes necessarily urgent we priests be of one mind and heart with Holy Mother the Church, the Holy Father and have true communion of love among ourselves as bishops and priests. [1Jn.4:12]

The icon of the perfection of God’s love within us is the obvious love we have for each other.

So necessary to the full proclamation of the Gospel, and so much is this unity in charity also the essence of the lived mystery of faith we celebrate, that it forms part of Christ’s own priestly prayer to the Father on our behalf. [Jn.17:20-23]

Disunity between our hearts and the heart of the Church, the heart of the Pope; lack of love for our brothers in the holy priesthood, is the evil spawn of negativity, egoism and usually is fuelled by that most common and pernicious of priestly sins: gossip.

        Negativity and gossip are potent satanic weapons which discourage hearts from true devotion and generosity, leading to the destruction of the shepherd and the scattering of the flock.

As much damage as can be done when we fail to preach orthodox catholic teaching, mess around with the rubrics, deny that we are indeed Father, hide behind the porous veil of secular dress, nothing equates the damage done when our people see we fail to truly love one another.

There is really, in spite of the very serious others which have wounded the Church across the ages, no greater scandal than disunity among the shepherds.

Only when we live the Gospel command of love and its adherent unity, with our lives without any compromise, will our people be united in charity. [Jn.15:8-17]

Having just instituted the sacraments of the holy priesthood and the Holy Eucharist, heading with an obedient heart towards the fulfillment of the will of the Father even to having His Heart broken open on the Cross, Jesus pours out those words of life for us.

This is the detailed description of our divine election, our vocation of joy through ordination.

               Jesus here tells us completely who and why we are in persona Christi.

The Holy Eucharist can truly be called our very reason for being!

Yes, if we allow our hearts to be broken open our own hearts will become Eucharistic hearts, filled with the fire of the Spirit, the selflessness of Christ, the love of the Father.

                                                   In the resurrection of Jesus God has poured the fire of His love into the entire universe….

                                                  …If we who have been baptized with fire allow that fire to consume us, if we simply allow God in us to be God in us, then everything we touch and every person we gather into our arms and hearts will feel the risen flesh of Jesus.

                                                ….Catherine {the foundress of Madonna House Lay Apostolate} has always said, “I can endure anything between two Masses.” Jesus never asks us to endure anything without His Body and Blood….

                                               …..Between two Masses: because Jesus did not count the cost, He baptized time itself with the fire of God’s love. The time between one Eucharist and the next becomes the time of the towel and the water, the time of washing my        brothers’ and sisters’ feet. At first we do not understand, but as we wash –grudgingly counting each minute – we begin to discover that through this washing, in the very act of loving so humbly, Jesus is feeding us with His risen Body. As He makes the commonplace bright with His glory, our minds fall silent, and only our hearts can grasp what He shows us: that in loving as He loves we are offered with Him to the Father and are received with Him as the Easter bread by all those we serve.

                                                                              After the Supper with His friends, Jesus went to the garden, where He said, “My heart is breaking with sorrow” (Mk.14:34). He is risen, but to live the joy of His resurrection is to experience the heartbreak of Christ. We say, “That’s it. I’m finished. I follow the Lord and look what He has done to me.” We are not finished, however; we are just beginning, as Jesus was. As that tiny little cramp that you thought was yourself breaks open, you discover that within there is this radiant stillness of everlasting life – Jesus Himself, the Lord, with His Father and the Holy Spirit.

                                                              You discover that stillness by washing the feet of others every day. You may well see only the naked, dirty feet until, by the great tenderness of the Father, the Easter bread begins to purify your heart, and the Easter light begins to cleanse your eyes. Then you begin to see whose feet you are washing, and who is washing your feet as you wash others’. Then the time between two Masses becomes what the Mass itself is: loving sacrifice transformed by the Father’s love into perfect joy. Then the Lord’s word – “that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete”. (Jn.15:11) – is fulfilled in you because, as you let Him feed you with His love and let Him make you too the bread of love, your heart becomes what His heart is: an icon of that love that makes the sun rise on the good and the evil alike, that lets the rain fall both on the just and the unjust. [66] 




We know that through sacramental Baptism we are plunged into the sacred mystery of salvation. Through the same sacrament we become participants in the history of the Church. Through Baptism we are configured by the Holy Spirit initially, and ever more completely if we co-operate with grace throughout our lives, to Christ, crucified and raised from the dead.

Baptism initiates us into discipleship. We are not only escorted through the gateway of sacramental life, but encouraged, as it were, by the same Holy Spirit, to hunger for the fullness, source and summit of the life of grace, receiving Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Grafted as branches onto the Vine Himself we become members of His Mystical Body, members and children of Holy Mother the Church, participants in the life of the Communion of Saints, interceded for by the saints in heaven and benefiting the souls in purgatory by our prayer on their behalf.

At the same time, through Baptism, we become participants, co-workers, in Christ’s own priestly, kingly, and prophetic mission.

We become missionaries, first to our brothers and sisters in the Faith, then to all who, knowingly or not, are seeking the fullness of sacramental life, life in Christ, Christian life,  the anointed life.

Now, through Christ become true children of the Father, co-heirs with Christ, living temples of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit continues His work within all the Baptized, and within those chosen by Him to become priests, the process of our divine election.

In the context of our divine election the sacrament of Confirmation, being as it is the second of the three sacraments which indelibly seal the soul, is most worthy of our frequent meditation upon its continuous gift of the grace of fullness of the Divine Guest of the Soul and the consequent gifts and fruits which the same Holy Spirit lavishes upon us.

We alone, chosen by divine election and ordained in persona Christi, are blessed, sanctified, sealed with all three of the Holy Sacraments which indelibly mark the soul.

Marks: of holiness and beauty.

Marks: of communion of love.

Marks: of joy.

Marks: of no little responsibility to become what we are.

Haunting marks for all eternity even should we – may Christ have mercy on us – die unrepentant in the state of mortal sin.

Of course it may well be since for most of us it is many, many years since the day of our youth when we were confirmed, that the continuous reality of this sacrament is not always, nor even easily, present to our hearts.

The following may well help us recall that marvellous day when the Bishop, shepherd and father of our souls, anointed us with the Sacred Chrism, calling down the Holy Spirit who comes upon us laden with such heavenly gifts for us from the treasury of Christ’s Redemption:

   ….the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For ‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed. [57]

Completion of baptismal grace, more intimately bound to the Church, lavished with that strength which is of the Holy Spirit, affirmed in our reality of being witnesses of Christ and enjoined with the full range of joyful obligation to be evangelizers and defenders of the faith, with all our words and deeds!

It is the call to preach the Gospel with our very lives!

If we truly take this to heart, how much easier it will be as priests for us to labour joyfully, even in the heat of the day, in the vineyard of the Lord, to tirelessly tend the flock, and adhere with deep interior peace to all that Holy Mother the Church teaches and to submit with magnanimity to the demands of being called, rightly, Father; clerical dress; fidelity to rubrics.

Indeed we shall, through such little things done well, find within us that courage which has endowed the Church over the centuries with a vast cohort of sainted confessors and brave martyrs.

Further, we shall soon discover that the Spirit Himself blesses such fidelity on our part through the return of many souls to the sacraments and the conversion of countless others to the faith we proclaim with our lives.

How vital then, in light of this sacrament of Confirmation which binds us ever more closely to Holy Mother the Church, that we take deep into our hearts, and given the reality of the times grant pure intellectual ascent too as well, the Church’s own self-understanding:

                                                     …awareness of the mystery of the Church is a result of a mature and living faith. From such faith comes that ‘feel for the Church,’ which fills the Christian who has been raised in the school of the Divine Word. He has been nourished by the Grace of the Sacraments and of the ineffable inspirations of the Paraclete, has been trained in the practice of the virtues of the Gospel, has been imbued with the culture and community life of the Church, and is profoundly happy to find himself endowed with that Royal Priesthood proper to the people of God.

                                                  The mystery of the Church is not a mere object of theological knowledge; it is something to be lived, something that the faithful soul can have a kind of connatural experience of, even before arriving at a clear notion of it. Moreover, the community of the faithful can be profoundly certain of its participation in the Mystical Body of Christ when it realizes that by divine institution, the ministry of the Hierarchy of the Church is there to give it a beginning, to give it birth, to teach and sanctify and direct it. It is by means of this divine instrumentality that Christ communicates to His mystical members the marvels of His truth and of His grace, and confers to His Mystical Body as it travels its pilgrim way through time its visible structure, its sublime unity, its ability to function organically, its harmonious complexity, its spiritual beauty.

Images do not suffice to translate into meaningful language the full reality and depth of this mystery. However after dwelling on the image of the Mystical Body, which was suggested by the Apostle Paul, we should especially call to mind one suggested by Christ Himself, that of the edifice of which He is the Architect and the Builder, an edifice indeed founded on a man who of himself is weak but who was miraculously transformed by Christ into solid rock, that is, endowed with marvellous and everlasting indefectibility: ‘It is upon this rock that I will build My Church.’

                                            If we can awaken within ourselves such a strength-giving feeling for the Church and instil it in the faithful by profound and careful instruction, many of the difficulties which today trouble students of Ecclesiology, as for example, how the Church can be at once both visible and spiritual, at once free and subject to discipline, communitarian and hierarchical, already holy and yet still be sanctified, contemplative and active, and so on, will be overcome in practice and solved by those who, after being enlightened by sound teaching, experience the living reality of the Church herself. [58]

Christ loves His Bride the Church, pours Himself out for Her.

Confirmation binds us, as all Her children, more closely to Her, thus closer to Her Divine Bridegroom.

Ordination, configuring us in persona Christi, configures also in the person of He who is the Divine Bridegroom.

We are sacramentally blessed with a double grace of love for the Church.

Flowing initially from the sacrament of Confirmation for us, and for all the laity as well, this love for the Church means a deep respect and adherence to all the Church believes and teaches, celebrates and lives.

The Church is both communal and missionary by Her very nature, so we too are called upon to foster and participate in the communal, the family dimension of this pilgrimage through time as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and, to be evangelizers, missionaries, both to the de-churched and the un-churched.

True for all the Baptized, affirmed and strengthened in this mission of forming the community, the family, the civilization of love and spreading the Gospel, through the sacrament of Confirmation, how much more so does this become a sacred responsibility, and joy, for we priests in virtue of our sacramental ordination.

                                                           “It is the first task of priests as co-workers of the Bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all men…[so as to]…set up and increase the People of God.” Precisely because preaching the Gospel is not merely an intellectual transmission of a message but “the power of God for the salvation of all who believe” (Rm.1:16), accomplished for all time in Christ, its proclamation in the Church requires from its heralds a supernatural basis which guarantees its authenticity and effectiveness. The proclamation of the Gospel by the sacred ministers of the Church is, in a certain sense, a participation in the salvific character of the Word itself, not only because they speak of Christ, but because they proclaim the Gospel to their hearers with that power to call which comes from their participation in the consecration and mission of the Incarnate Word of God. The words of the Lord still resound in the ears of His ministers: “Whoever listens to you listens to Me; whoever despises you despises Me.”(Lk.10:16). Together with St. Paul they can testify: “The Spirit we have received is not the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit, helping us to recognize the gifts He has given us: we speak of these not in words of human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, thus interpreting spiritual things in spiritual terms.”(1Cor.2:12-13). [59]

In a deep and intimate way, through contemplation of the full meaning and continuous grace in our lives of the sacrament of Confirmation, we can become closer to the Divine Guest of the soul, the Holy Spirit.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, at least within the Western Church, there was a tendency to take the Holy Spirit for granted.

Some spiritual writers of the time often referred to Him as the forgotten Person of the Holy Trinity.

Here I will draw upon a classic work by the great and holy former Archbishop of Mexico, Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, whose profound work, written with deep devotion, is known in English as THE SANCTIFIER.

                                                         To the Artist of souls, sanctification and possession are the same act: for sanctification is the work of love, and love is possession.….the first relationship that the Holy Spirit has with souls is that of being the delightful Guest…..

                                                        The first gift of love is love itself, and all other gifts emanate from this supreme gift, as from their source. Therefore, the Gift of the love of God is the Holy Spirit.

                                                         The Holy Spirit brings to our souls the fruitfulness of the Father and binds us lovingly to the Son.

                                                       ….the Holy Spirit is truly the soul of our soul and the life of our life.

                                                          On the night when Jesus made us His friends, He revealed His secrets to us, and we heard from His lips the unfathomable promise that the Spirit of Truth would teach us all things. The operation of the Holy Spirit in our souls is motion. He sanctifies us by directing all our activities with the sweetness of love and the efficacy of omnipotence. He is the only One who can moves us in this way because He alone can penetrate into the hidden sanctuary of the soul, the enclosed garden, invisible to creatures.

                                                  ….in this very special movement the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in the deepest, the most intimate and most active part of our being. He constitutes Himself the immediate director of the soul, which in its full strength and freedom moves only under His inspiration. This intimate and very special movement is the work of love. It is founded on love, caused by love, and leads to love.

                                                   The Holy Spirit must be intimately united to a soul in order to move it. He moves us because He loves us……His movement is the caress of infinite love; …..the Holy Spirit moves us because in His intimate fusion with our soul, which is the work of charity, His divine movements, His holy palpitations, make themselves felt throughout the whole man, who is one with Him. [op.cit.p.60]

This IS communion of love with the Holy Trinity through intimacy with the Divine Guest of our soul!

This is our baptismal vocation in all its glory.

This is the affirmation lavished upon us in sacramental confirmation.

If, in being called upon as priest to celebrate any sacrament, and we find the celebration of that sacrament is a source of stress because it seems the people are lacking in faith or due reverence, or, if when it comes to discerning reception of sacrament we are tempted more towards abusive authoritarianism or lack of fatherly compassion: it is time to beg the Divine Guest of our soul to reanimate our own faith and charity.

If anything or anyone has become the prime object of our attention and affection, other than Christ and the things of Christ: it is time to beg the Sanctifier to renew within us His tender gifts of metanoia, kenosis and true contrition.

If our minds, hearts, souls are confused, swayed, or in bondage to any teachings which seek to overturn the treasures found in the whole deposit of faith and morals confided by Christ to the Church: it is time to beg the Spirit of Truth to renew within us all truth.

If our hearts and souls are in agony as we see Christ re-crucified in the Church, in the hearts of brother priests, in the hearts of the laity: it is time to beg the Spirit of courage and compassion to renew His strength and spirit of forgiveness within us.

If, after having laboured in the vineyard in the heat of the day, evening’s fatigue overwhelms, accedie claws at our hearts which themselves seem to have frozen over, as if we have forgotten our first love: it is time to beg the Spirit of Pentecost to renew within us our sacramental confirmation and set as afire once more.

In all these and other instances where our sinfulness and poverty seem to overcome us it is time to turn humbly to the Holy Spirit who will lavish love and comfort upon us.

The profound experience of being dedicated workers in the vineyard or the wheat field and there appearing before us no particular harvest or that the tares are choking the little shoots, this should neither surprise nor discourage us. Our Divine Lord Himself saw many leave Him when at Capernaum He first spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, He Himself saw even His chosen ones flee in the face of fear.

We priests are human beings, men, ordained men to be sure, but men still, ordained to preach the Gospel of Truth and Love with our lives without compromise in a marketplace which is a culture of death.

We are missionaries to a secular world where people are deeply fearful, wounded, and almost incapable of seeing beyond their own immediate wants.

We are baptized, confirmed, ordained men, priests in a very visible vocation at a time in history when the sheer reality of our being priest is seen by many as justification to abuse, pulverize, reject, ignore, even martyr us.

We are Fathers to children who leave home in droves with nary a backward glance, Shepherds of a flock marred by cognitive disconnect from what is actual reality, Teachers and Sanctifiers for those who have suffered a profound loss of both the sense of faith and sense of sin.

How much do we need to draw constantly on the gift of our Confirmation and its attended grace which strengths us in the faith and binds us more closely to the Church, thus to each other, for we are but a little band of brothers expected to cover with love and truth such a vast world, such an huge extended family.

The attended loneliness of such a unique vocation as a divinely elected pilgrim amongst such a vast number of pilgrims and those who do not even know the ultimate purpose of life is to pilgrim with the Church, through Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, home to our Heavenly Father, can be a real discouragement and great danger for we priests.

We need to turn always to the Holy Spirit who is alive and active, in motion, within us.

Open to Him we can cry out that indeed, while it is true we are believers [1Jn.4:16] nonetheless we need, in our own words, with our own tears, always to beg of Him: faith-MORE, hope-MORE, love-MORE, life-MORE, truth-MORE, courage-MORE, even unto martyrdom.

Through the gift of faith we shall grow in trust.

Through the gift of trust we will open wide the doors of our being to the Holy Spirit more and more.

The Consoler, Councillor, Advocate, Spirit of Truth – whom the Father constantly sends upon us in the Name of Jesus our Lord and God – will dwell within us as Jesus promises. [Jn.14:26]

As such grace unfolds within us, strengthens and renews us, we will hear more deeply in our hearts the words also from the Beloved Apostle about the grace of remaining rooted in the words of Jesus, what He teaches us, so that we remain in Jesus and with Jesus in the Father. [1Jn.2:24-27]

Confirmation is affirmation by the Holy Spirit of our call to holiness, to oneness in and with Christ, a prelude to the even deeper configuration to and intimacy with Him which is ours when, as a result of our divine election, we are ordained in persona Christi.

That too is the movement of the Holy Spirit within us.

All of this, all sacraments, are for the glory of the Father and thus of deep intimacy with the Father.

All sacraments are Trinitarian.

Our vocation of joy is Trinitarian.

                                                                   …..we might say that the ideal of the acts performed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit corresponds to the Father. The ideal is the first exemplar of the work. The Father is the beginning; the work of sanctification is a work of paternity and adoption; from the Father ‘all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its name.’ And the end of perfection is Jesus, for Jesus is the image of the Father. During the days of His mortal life He sought the ideal of His acts in the bosom of the Father. The will of the Father, which He came upon earth to accomplish, and the glory of the Father, which formed the one great desire of His soul, appear in the Holy Gospel as His supreme norms. In the most solemn moments of His life the Son lifted His profoundly understanding eyes to the Father, and seemed to gaze with all intentness and sweetness upon that ocean of light. [60-a]

The sanctifying grace within us through Confirmation is primarily the work of the Spirit Himself within us.

The Holy Spirit: urging us to imitate, to participate in, Christ’s own relationship with His Father, our Father.

The Holy Spirit: setting us ablaze with the fire of divine love.

The Holy Spirit: crying out within us Abba! Father – that we might ‘live and move and have our being’, truly, fully, in the Father.

The Holy Spirit: striving to fill us with the utter fullness of God, with Christ, Light from Light, and True Light from True Light:

                                                                    In order to teach us, this unique light has to be dispersed. It has to be adjusted to the capacity of each one of the seven gifts, as the ray is diffused in the colours of the spectrum. Only God can contain Himself in His infinite unity; in us, especially in exile, the facets of His unique beauty must appear one by one. [See note 60-b]

Once we have renewed within us, by the Holy Spirit, an appreciation for, understanding of, openness to the reality of, the sacrament of Confirmation, and by the movement of the Holy Spirit within us co-operate with all He seeks to accomplish within us through His lavishing outpouring of all His gifts, what fire shall blaze within us, what divine light shall pour forth from us!

What a passion we shall have to diligently prepare all those seeking to receive such a splendid gift in the communion of love.

With what sacred urgency shall we go forth and seek out the lost to re-evangelize them, the non-believers to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How great shall be our courage to preach only Truth, our strength to make the gift of love and forgiveness to all, in particular our enemies, how unswerving our proclamation and defense of truth, especially the truth about the sacredness of life from the womb to the tomb.

                                            In the gift of fear, He is the sovereign we revere as the Master of life and death; in fortitude, He is the omnipotent force that delivers itself into the hands of weakness; in piety, He is the Father to whom we must adhere with filial affection, extolling His glory; in counsel, He is the eternal and supreme norm of human action; in knowledge, the inexhaustible exemplar of creatures; in understanding, the supernatural end that sheds light on all knowledge. And in wisdom, He is the focal point that illumines the soul because He is the focal point of love, and because He and Wisdom, united in an embrace of love, have revealed with love’s gentleness the secret of all truth. [60-c]



In the evening as I left the rectory for a walk, praying the Rosary, I came near the main alley of this neighbourhood.

The alley runs between the abandoned warehouses and the school.

A man came walking by.

He walked as one bent over with fatigue. His clothing indicated he was probably working in one of the factories over the hill at the bottom of our street.

My heart was immediately moved to pray for him, and all men, women and children throughout the world who labour long hours, in often dehumanizing conditions, for barely enough to put food on the table.

Just as I was passing the alley down which the man had headed, I heard him call out a name, and noticed a small child running towards him.

When the child was close enough he leapt into the man’s arms, his father.

As the man lifted the small, living, joyful weight onto his shoulders I noticed he was no longer moving with heavy step of exhaustion, but walked tall, straight, as if filled with new energy. [Gal.4:6,7]

Before ordination sacramentally configures us as father, in persona Christi, we are, sacramentally in Baptism, born anew as children, sons of the Father.

Already in baptism we become participants in the priestly, kingly, prophetic mission of Christ.

Ordination impels us, with great love, to become fully missionaries to all our brothers and sisters, especially those who ‘labour and are heavy burdened.’

We priests participate in the mystery of being both children, along with all the children of God, thus brother with all our brothers and sisters, and father, shepherd, teacher, evangelist, for those same brothers and sisters.

                                                 Catholic doctrinal tradition describes the priest as teacher of the Word, minister of the sacraments and leader of the Christian community entrusted to him. This is the starting point of all reflection on the identity and mission of the priest in the Church.

                                   ….Many of the baptized live in a world indifferent to religion. While maintaining a certain faith, these practically live a form of religious and moral indifferentism, alienated from Word and sacraments which are essential for Christian life.

                                  …For the contemporary Church, Mother and Teacher, the mission ad gentes and new evangelization are inseparable aspects of her mandate to teach, sanctify and guide all men to the father.

                                     ….In a particular way, priests have this duty since they have been specially chosen, consecrated and sent to make evident the presence of Christ whose authentic representatives and messengers they become. [48]

Thus we need to be truly aware of, grateful for, that baptismal faith which makes us His children. [Gal.3:26]

We can never contemplate to exhaustion the incredible gift and reality of our baptismal faith.

Indeed if our baptismal faith is weak, uncertain, confused, tainted in anyway by the surrounding culture of death, or specious notions in theology or spirituality, then our ability to be authentic evangelizers as priests will be seriously compromised.

Long before we were ordained, indeed a necessary gateway, we were brought by the Holy Spirit into new life in Christ at our baptism. [Gal.3:27]

It is this first clothing which makes possible our later configuration to Christ in the fullness of divine election at our ordination.

Satan wages war against the followers of Christ, the children of Mary. This we know not only from Revelations chapter 12, but from life experience.

What is true for all the baptized is an even more constant experience for we priests. [Col.2:6-8]

Pope John Paul II constantly, in his writings on the priesthood, urged us to be aware of the authentic reality of the sacramental priesthood, just as he constantly urged all the baptized to be aware of the reality of baptism.

For us priests it is a call for us to be fully aware of both sacramental realities of our ‘grace in return for grace’ existence.

Thus we must strive always to be aware, with great humility, that before we are celebrants of Christ’s sacraments, we are recipients of His sacraments.

We encounter in sacrament the One whose sacraments we bring to our brothers and sisters.

It is one of the realities which make our Catholic religion the religion of glory.

                                                    The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. [49]

It is often a reality for priests that we encounter much stress around the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism because of the very loss of a sense of faith and faith practice among the people. Thus it can be difficult for us, when striving to properly catechize parents and godparents alike, to appreciate the reality of what is being asked for on behalf of the child.

It is to be prayerfully wished that instructing parents, godparents, adults seeking to be baptized will offer us the opportunity to re-discover anew the tremendous gift of grace which is our faith, our baptismal, sacramental life.

Baptism is, to be sure, being reborn in and through Christ as we are plunged into the mystery of His death and resurrection.

Baptism is also a renewal, sacramentally, of that communion of love offered us by the Holy Trinity at the moment of our creation by the loving act of God.

Indeed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where we are taught in paragraph 366 that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God “also reminds us of our creation for the purpose of this communion of love as noted in paragraph 367: “…man is ordered to a supernatural end and…his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God”.

We are called to by the Trinity, in particular through Baptism, as St. Peter reminds us, to this communion of love through grace given us by, the All-Holy One.

We are all called to holiness! [1Pt.1:15,16]

The more we accept the love of the Holy Trinity, the more we become love for others, and through love’s humble service, the holier we become.

                                    There is one characteristic common to all the Saints and holy people of the Church – a characteristic that predominates in the lives of the Apostles. It is their personal love of the Lord.

                                   ….Our Lord’s plan for each priest is a personal partnership: ‘We: Jesus and I.’ This is how He would have each priest live and act – in the first person plural. Our Lord wants to share every moment of our life, especially every moment of our ministry. He wants us to live and work in complete dependence upon Himself and His love, never forgetting, never doubting it. He wants us to think of Him always in the second person singular – not the third as many priests do. He wants us to be His friend; but He wants even more than that. He wants us to find in Him and to give to Him, all the love that human hearts can give each other. [50]

This intimate love affair begins with baptism, is re-established in confession every time we remove ourselves from this love through sin, is nourished and fortified, deepened, indeed made more passionate, every time we receive Him, glorified, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion.

The greater the depth of our meditation upon the reality of our baptism and its gift of faith, the more profound becomes our understanding of this same holy sacrament, in particular when we are blessed with the opportunity to baptize.

Indeed the preparation for and the celebration of this sacrament will no longer be an occasion when satan may attempt to seduce us into the sin of arrogance through a too narrow interpretation of the requirements expected of parents asking to have their child baptized.

We will be moved in the depths of our hearts with a fatherly patience, a shepherd’s understanding, a teacher’s truth-speaking ability to form where formation is needed, to overlook where charity should prevail.

When we know we are beloved of the True Lover, we rejoice in the mysterious reality that sacraments are not only sacred events, holy realities, but wonderful places of encounter with the Divine Beloved.

Thus we will approach teaching of the sacraments fully aware the Divine Lover seeks to encounter their very persons, no matter their apparent poverty of faith practice, and we will trust the power of the sacraments themselves.

Our people, irrespective of the sacrament they approach us for, particularly irregular or non-practicing parents seeking baptism for their child, will see in our eyes the tender expression of Christ Himself, His love for them.

This will motivate and encourage them to be willing students of faith and eager to resume faith practice.

Not as some imposed requirement, rather as their response to Love’s call.

Holy Mother the Church, in her own tender wisdom, places the renewal of our baptismal faith in the heart of the Easter Liturgy.

It is a moment we should enter with extreme gratitude and celebrate for our people with due reverence.

With our hearts full of joy at His Holy Resurrection we actually celebrate the first moment of what Scripture elsewhere refers to as the love we had ‘at first’.

For us priests it is also reliving the moment when our divine election to our vocation of joy, in persona Christi, began.

A reminder too that above all we are apostles of Love.

                                                          People need to hear at least once a week that God truly loves them, that He wants a relationship of love with them, that He cares infinitely for each one, so much that He is present to each one’s joy and each one’s sorrow, to each effort and each failure, that He loves and loves and loves and loves, that He forgives and forgives and forgives. [51]

It is when we priests doubt that truth, fail to trust His love for us, we run the risk of appearing unloving to our people and frustrating them in their desire to return to baptismal faith practice or to grow ever more in their lives of charity towards all.

Ours must be the very words of Jesus Himself, poured forth from our hearts as ardent prayer that it be so! [Jn.15:8-11]

The more we strive to become what we are through baptism the more we shall become what we are by virtue of our sacramental ordination as priests.

I do believe in the depths of my heart there is a direct connection between that priestly angst which seems at the root of so much sorrow in the priesthood today, such confusion, being vulnerable to pressure from those who would reduce priesthood to a mere function able to be ‘performed’ in most respects even by the un-ordained, and a type of forgetfulness regarding the reality of our baptism.

                                                       Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to Him who became a servant even giving Himself on the Cross (cf.Phil.2:5-8). Christ dwells by faith in the heart of every believer (cf.Eph.3:17), and thus the disciple is conformed to the Lord. This is the effect of grace, of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Having become one with Christ, the Christian becomes a member of His Body, which is the Church (cf.1Cor.12:13,27). By the work of the Spirit, Baptism radically configures the faithful to Christ in the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection; it ‘clothes him’ in Christ (cf.Gal.3:270: ‘Let us rejoice and give thanks,’ exclaims Saint Augustine speaking to the baptized, ‘for we have become Christ!’ Having died to sin, those who are baptized receive new life (cf.Rom.6:3-11): alive for God in Christ Jesus, they are called to walk by the Spirit and manifest the Spirit’s fruits in their lives (cf.Gal.5:16-25). Sharing in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the New Covenant (cf.1Cor.11:23-29), is the culmination of our assimilation to Christ, the source of ‘eternal life’ (cf.Jn.6:51-58), the source and power of that complete gift of self, which Jesus – according to the testimony handed on by Paul – commands us to commemorate in liturgy and life: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1Cor.11:26). [52]

As these truths permeate our being our hearts will become ever more filled with that Divine Fire which so burned in the Heart of Christ!

Indeed we shall feel ourselves, and yearn evermore, to be compelled to spread that fire through evangelization, baptizing the newly born or converted, seeking out the lost, and giving ourselves over fully to the missio ad gentes.

In a word: to spread His fire as He yearns. [Lk.12:49]

This is our call to holiness, to be fire spreaders, to set the world ablaze with love in return for Love.

True there will be those moments, perhaps even hours, days, weeks or more, of struggle when it may seem our hearts have grown so cold we have barely a spark to spread, but even the tiniest spark can begin an immense blaze.

So, by grace, we live faithful to the duty of the moment, our hearts open to this heartfelt plea:

                                                    ……try to walk in the way of sanctity which God has chosen for you….The pursuit of sanctity is like an interior flame, a sacred fire which we bear within us. At times this fire seems to be only a spark, but, believe me, it can be revived and become bright again. If we wish the Father, when He looks at us, to be able to say, as He said of Jesus: ‘This is My beloved Son,’ let all our efforts and all our aspirations tend towards the establishment of the reign of charity in our hearts. [53]

The real and great tragedy, the true scandal, pulverizing the priesthood today is not, per se, those abuse or heresy scandals which receive so much media attention.

They are, to be sure, serious indeed as sin certainly always is.

The great tragedy, which is fundamentally the root cause of those sins which become the perhaps more obvious, at least to the media, is our failure as priests to willingly become saints.

                                                      The saints know a truth that sin keeps secret: the human spirit is robbed of its natural dignity when it is content to be only natural. Evil claims to be natural, and this is the heart of its deceit. [54]

Baptism is both the gateway to the fullness of the rest of sacramental life and the call to holiness.

By sacramental ordination we become in persona Christi; in the person of the All Holy One.

                                            So how is it that we are not gathering our forces together to counteract the strange forces that continue to infiltrate into the Church, which arise even within the Church to manipulate the Church. There is one way in which it can be done, and only one way: the way of holiness. For this we were born: to be holy. We are given every advantage by the Church to follow the path of the Holy One who calls Himself ‘the Way.’

                                              The priest is a shepherd. He has a flock given him by God. For this he was ordained. God asks from His priests one thing: that he himself cleanse his soul, that he walk the path of the Holy One, now falling down, now bruising himself, but since the path is made by God, God is around and He will help the priest to stand up and continue walking. [55]

Flowing from our first experience of the communion of love and our baptismal commission to be witnesses to Christ, His Holy Resurrection, His Gospel of Love and Truth, of Life, comes that constant call to holiness which the Spirit Himself speaks to the depths of our being every moment of our priestly lives.

It is the call to become a living flame of love.

Jesus, the night of His Passion, having arrived at the hour when He would indeed spread divine fire and set the world ablaze, told us the time had come to ask for everything in His Name.

In the very asking and receiving will come the enhancement of our joy. [Jn.16.24]

The ancient prayer to the Holy Spirit begs Him to come and kindle again within us the fire of our first love, our true joy.

To become a living flame: that is the Gospel proclaimed by Jesus the Master. That is what He Himself is, the blazing sun who lights the whole world…..

                                                          ….. there is no secret about the nature of that fire. It is simply love. Love is the fire the Son of God came to cast on the earth….the burning passion for His Father and for us that bore Him to the cross and through it to His resurrection. Love is the fire the risen Lord pours into the hearts of all those who follow Him, those who hear His voice as well as His first friends.

                                                         This love is more than a human word or metaphor. It is the living Spirit of the living God, alive in us. It is the Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into us and makes us living flames. If we want, then, we can become living flames of love because, as Jesus has promised, His Father does not refuse the Spirit to anyone who asks. If we ask, we shall receive abundantly.

                                                        …..we are not on fire. Why not? I think that there are two reasons. The first is that we are uncertain that such extravagance is either possible or desirable. The second reason is that we are honestly not sure how to ask for the Spirit, even if we do sometimes see clearly that we can have no real joy outside the fire of His love.

                                                       In the story of the Pharisee and the publican, the Master is responding to this bewilderment of ours. He is telling us how to ask for the Holy Spirit. He is revealing to us the only fuel for the fire that He wants to set in our hearts. That fuel is humility….The Lord wants to teach us how to be humble, by telling us the truth about our own wretchedness as He reveals to us the greatest truth – the truth enfolding and encompassing every other truth – that is the mercy of His Father. [56]