Poverty is a topic which is mostly discussed among priests as a social justice issue and  most priests do have a genuine love, awareness of and care for the poor.
Certainly in my work in a soup kitchen I see the generosity of parishes, led by their pastors, in donating food and clothing, and as well volunteering time, day in and day out, to serve the poor.
Granted priests come less often than their parishioners, given the daily duties of parish priests, but often enough to show true service of the poor.
I once served with a pastor who every Christmas eve in the years I was with him, before the Midnight Mass, would invite me to join him as we went first to a supermarket to buy everything for a family to have a great Christmas meal.
We would then drive to the home of a poor family, quietly leave the boxes of food and toys for the children by the door and then slip away unnoticed.
I am confident in saying that many priests are very skilled at being generous without being noticed.
However when it comes to personally being poor, this is perhaps the greater challenge as evangelical poverty, particularly vowed poverty, is, even in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, often presented as primarily part of the commitment of those in religious orders.
Un-chosen poverty, the poverty which inflicts real hardship and suffering on millions of human beings through hunger, disease, thirst, homelessness, the grinding poverty of drug addicts, the mentally ill who have no support system and end up living on the streets, often means a life of squalor, anger, violence, despair.
No wonder Christendom, from the Pope to the un-poor people of his day, was shaken to the core by the radial poverty of St. Francis, the Poverello.
In our day Mother Teresa in her own life lived a similar poverty, and the Sisters, Priests and Brothers, the Volunteers who continue her work, live likewise.
Jean Vanier and those who live in the various l’Arche homes around the world likewise have chosen a life of service and within it a real poverty as well.
While the very reality of our prime duties in our vocation of joy as priests necessitates proper food, clothing, housing and certain material things to enable us to be servants of the poor, servants of everyone, I believe we can as priests live more simply, yes even a real poverty.
This means, of course, a radical examination of conscious, a brutally honest look at how we live, what we possess, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to truly discern is this or that a real need, or a whimsical want.
                                                                           He who loves God consciously in his heart is known by God (cf. 1 Cor. 8:3), for to the degree that he receives the love of God consciously in his soul, he truly enters into God’s love. From that time on such a man never loses an intense longing for the illumination of spiritual knowledge, until he senses its strength in his bones and no longer knows himself, but is completely transformed by the love of God. He is both present in this life and not present in it; still dwelling in the body, he yet departs from it, as through love he ceaselessly journeys towards God in his soul. His heart now burns constantly with the fire of love and clings to God with an irresistible longing, since he has once and for all transcended self-love in his love for God. As St. Paul writes: ‘If we go out of ourselves, it is because of God; if we are restrained, it is for your sake’ 9 2 Cor. 5: 130. ~St. Diadochos of Photiki [108] 
We are all familiar with the cautionary words of St. Peter, prayed in the Divine Office of Night Prayer, wherein he warns us about the devouring evil one.
We live in a culture, a time in history, where the primary economic engine is no longer a response to basic human needs of food, shelter, clothing, but unbridled consumption.
It is not when ordinary people reduce their spending on necessities that there ensues a slowdown in the economy, rather it occurs when people, the ubiquitous ‘consumer’, reduce what is with no little irony referred to as ‘discretionary spending’ – in other words spending large on things which are not needed but wanted!
St. Paul reminds us of the immense love of Jesus who gave up all for our sake [2 Cor.8:9] to enrich us through His own poverty.
By divine election we are ordained in persona Christi – the Poor Man.
While it is an obvious statement to note that as parish priests we are not vowed to poverty, are not called to the same ascetical life, or rather the same degree, as monastics, for example, nonetheless if we truly long for spiritual illumination, for communion and union of love with the Holy Trinity, then we need to examine the extent or paucity of asceticism in our daily lives.
Every human being, most especially the baptized who follow Christ, is targeted by the devil and his minions, not because they care a whit about us, but because they hate Christ. [cf. Rev.12]
We know painfully the universal public damage done by media reports of the crimes and sins of some priests and the personal harm done to the victims of such sin.
All the more urgent then, I believe, for all priests to take more seriously the ascetical aspects of the call to holiness and to become real fighters in spiritual warfare.
I also know the greater the ascetical aspect of our lives, the greater freedom of the lived Beatitude of the poor in spirit, the greater the joy!
                                                                                  Of the demons opposing us in the practice of the ascetic life, there are three groups who fight on the front line: those entrusted with the appetites of gluttony, those who suggest avaricious thoughts, and those who incite us to seek the esteem of men.  All the other demons follow behind and in their turn attack those already wounded by the first three groups. For one does not fall into the power of the demon of unchastity, unless one has first fallen because of gluttony; nor is one’s anger aroused unless one is fighting for food or material possessions or the esteem of men.  And one does not escape the demon of dejection, unless one no longer experiences suffering when deprived of these things. Nor will one escape pride, the first offspring of the devil, unless one has banished avarice, the root of all evil, since poverty makes a man humble, according to Solomon ( cf. Prov. 10:4. LXX). In short, no one can fall into the power of any demon, unless he had been wounded by those of the front line. That is why the devil suggested these three thoughts to the Saviour: first he exhorted Him to turn stones into bread; then he promised Him the whole world, if Christ would fall down and worship him; and thirdly he said that, if our Lord would listen to him, He would be glorified and suffer nothing in falling from the pinnacle of the temple. But our Lord, having shown Himself superior to these temptations, commanded the devil to ‘get behind Him’. In this way He teaches us that it is not possible to drive away the devil, unless we scornfully reject these three thoughts (cf. Matt. 4: 1-10). ~Evagrios The Solitary [109]
Once more in our vocation of joy in persona Christi we are also in the person of Christ the One who is the prime target of diabolical assault and we cannot afford to let our guard down even for a nano-second!
While not mandating vowed poverty for parish priests the Second Vatican Council is very clear when urging priests to embrace voluntary poverty, noting in part that: 
                                                                  …Let priests be thankful for everything that the Heavenly Father has given them towards a proper standard of living. However they ought to judge everything they meet in the light of faith, so that they will be guided towards the right use of things in accordance with God’s will and will reject anything that is prejudicial to their mission.
                                                                ….priests are invited to embrace voluntary poverty. By it they become more clearly conformed to Christ………….[110]
The essence, as we know, of true poverty in imitation of Christ is a state of heart, a matter of trust, absolute confidence in Divine Providence [cf. Lk.11 & 12:13-34]
Certainly as Scripture makes clear in passages we all are familiar with, the worker is worthy of a just wage, and if we wish to eat, we should work – so material poverty is a relatively simple, dare I say easy, poverty – especially since, normally, the diocese, the parish, sees to our remuneration, housing, food, medical care and provision for our shelter and care in old age.
However these days for many priests none of that is a sure thing, given the litigious culture in which we live. 
Without objecting for one second to legitimate claims and just settlements, several dioceses as a result have been forced into bankruptcy, in many parts of the world dioceses and parishes simply do not have the financial resources to adequately care for their priests and depend upon the generosity of wealthier parts of the Church throughout the world – so perhaps if we each were willing to live more simply we would have more to share with our brothers who have even less.
Before leaving the matter of material poverty there is in our day a new and growing group of brother priests for whom material poverty is thrust upon them suddenly, devastatingly, and, frankly, we and our bishops should be ashamed of our responsibility for such outrageous injustice – I speak of priests rightly or falsely accused of abuse who find themselves suddenly removed from public ministry, from their homes, from real financial support.
In my work and correspondence with priests caught up in the current, let us be honest about ALL its components, crisis and scandal, there is a definite pattern of both local bishops and the Vatican moving very quickly to dismiss, to punish, without due process and without any spirit of reconciliation and charity.
No argument here that justice demands those who commit crime and sin be held accountable and that their victims be granted true justice, therefore all the various forms of material, emotional, spiritual support needed, for as long as it is needed.
However it does seem as Church, or rather those with ‘power’ in the Church, we have become increasingly harsh, unjust, and uncharitable towards priest-sinners and that an attitude which is punitive and dismissive is spreading, with dire consequences for ordained human beings.
 The continued increase of suicide among  the ranks of accused and dismissed priests, priests reduced to abject poverty should give us all pause and by the grace of God move us towards a re-think, seriously, of how we are treating such men, our brothers, and what message this sends to the whole world about how seriously we take our being in persona Christi, the One who welcomed sinners, sat with sinners, ate with sinners, visited them, yes while granting forgiveness calling to conversion, to be sure, and much conversion is needed within our ranks, but so is compassion.
Bluntly it seems to me here, as sadly frequently happens in our personal lives but sometimes also within the corporate reality of parish, diocese, wider church, when we take our gaze off of Jesus we begin to sink into turbulent waters.
Yet if our gaze remains on Jesus then:
                                                                                   This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of His truth and His compassion for all men. [111]
There is the deeper reality of poverty to which we are all called, all the baptized and we priests in particular: true poverty of the poor in spirit, the limitless depths of the first Beatitude.
The challenge here is to embrace a type of real fear of vulnerability, exemplified in the reaction and response of the Rich Young Man of the Gospel [cf. Mk. 10:17-31].
We tend, I suspect, to be more aware of the reaction – the man’s sense of being imprisoned by his possessions and terrified to be dispossessed and vulnerable, poor – than of the response of Jesus who gazes upon the man and love’s him.
Jesus is always gazing upon and loving us. His love is dynamic, providential, and unconditional.
Christ gazes not merely upon us.
The eyes of the Poor Christ pierce with the fire of His compassionate love into the depths of our being in every moment, a gaze which invites to communion of love, inviting us to be poor like Him, to trust the Father as He does, to empty and pour ourselves out as He does.
Jesus invites us to embrace as He did the ultimate poverty of complete vulnerability: powerlessness – as He embraced it in the Garden, before Pilate, in His Passion, on the Cross unto death.
There are many ways we can voluntarily enter into the absolute poverty and powerlessness of Christ if we are willing, like Jesus, to ourselves be humble and meek of heart [cf. Mt. 11: 28-30].
                                                                         Poverty’s middle name is “surrender”, total surrender to God. When we surrender we have nothing left, and when we have nothing we are poor. [112]
It is when we forget, or flee from, or are ashamed of, discouraged by, our utter poverty that we begin to seek comfort and affirmation in the ‘riches’ of the world, material things, persons, in a word become vulnerable to the lies and enticements of satan.
Humility is the key.
Total kenosis, total surrender, and total oneness with Christ the Poor One.
                                                              …………..we must accept, joyfully and serenely, the knowledge that, as a Church, we are becoming increasingly poor. This is true in financial terms, in terms of staffing, in terms of our impact on public life and the media…..
                                                                       But here is our hope: a poorer Church is not necessarily impoverished in the quality of its love and devotion to God and to humanity……Perhaps this poverty will make priests more aware of the essential values of our priesthood: the mystery of our vocation; the power of our ordination and of our mission; faith in the irresistible power of the gospel proclaimed in all its purity, without rhetorical and artificial embellishments; faith in the quiet power of the sacraments; the prestige of a more spiritual authority.
                                                                    …………Poverty is as old as the Church herself. It is congenital. The story of Jesus in Bethlehem, after all, and led to Calvary. The manger and the cross have remained at the heart of the Church to this day. Poverty did not prevent the shepherds and the magi from coming to see Christ. And no sooner did Jesus die on the Cross than ‘He gathered all things to Himself’: the centurion, the fearful notables Nicodemus and Joseph. If a grain of wheat dies, ‘it produces many grains’ (Jn.12:24).
                                                         ………..This is the naked truth of the gospels: only a faith that is poor can be solid ground on which to stand. No other supports will sustain us through the cold winters of this world. There is no alternative. Poverty will not take our joy from us; it will increase it. We priests are ready to contribute to this joy (see 2 Co.1:20). We want to be messengers of joy! [113]


I once served in a parish where the pastor, before most celebrations of the Sacrament of Marriage, would stand before the crucifix in the sacristy and mutter under his breath: “O Most Holy Trinity forgive me for what I am about to do!”
Now admittedly in those days we had begun to experience that most couples who came for Marriage Preparation courses were already living together, rarely, if ever, participated in Sunday Mass, had rather vague responses about openness to children and resisted most urgings to get their lives in right order with grace.
Of all the sacraments we celebrate, though strictly speaking primarily with this sacrament we are witnesses, the Sacrament of Marriage can be more often occasion of priestly distress of heart rather than experience of shared holy joy with the new spouses.
Here, truly, we need a simple act of faith and trust in the power of the sacrament, praying that eventually the new spouses will cooperate fully with grace.
Here too we need to be extremely compassionate and avoid a too narrow interpretation of things lest we break the bruised reeds and the future spouses leave with anger and bitterness in their hearts.
To trust the power of sacrament, not merely in the immediate of celebration, but in the ongoing sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit will bring us peace and joy of heart.
To the extent we strive in our own lives to be faithful spouses of the Divine Bridegroom in the first instance, and of the Church in the second, within the reality of such deep fidelity to chastity we radiate spousal and parental, disciple and friend, love and joy in and with Christ for God’s People, to that extent our faith praxis will reach out, like the Good Shepherd and while not all couples will necessarily put things in right order before the wedding, many will strive to do so as they grow in marriage and parenthood.
The challenge is to remain present to them as much after their wedding as during the preparation time leading up to it.
                                                                        The picture of the true priest, as Gregory understands and describes him, is the man ‘who, dying to all passions of the flesh, already lives spiritually; who has no thought for the propriety of the world; who has no fear of adversity; who desires only internal things; who does not permit himself to desire what belongs to others but is liberal of his own; who is all bowels of compassion and inclines to forgiveness, but in forgiveness never swerves unduly from the perfection of righteousness; who never commits unlawful actions, but deplores as though they were his own the unlawful actions of others; who with all affection of heart compassionates the weakness of others, and rejoices in the prosperity of his neighbour as his own profit; who in all his doings so renders himself as a model for others as to have nothing whereof to be ashamed, at least, as regards his external actions; who studies so to live that he may be able to water the parched hearts of his neighbours with the waters of doctrine; who knows through the use of prayer and through his own experience that he can obtain from the Lord what he asks’. [Reg.Past.1, 10]  [99]
Such is the dynamic of communion of love with Jesus we are called to radiate upon those who come for sacramental marriage and those already married who strive to live it out and come seeking our wisdom and support.
When husbands, wives, fathers, mothers come to us they should find that we are, in imitation of and oneness with Jesus, ourselves truly models of holy spousehood and parenthood, while at the same time having our own hearts open to learn from and be encouraged in our own vocation by the witness of Christ’s Faithful Lay People.
In the above, as in all things, especially in our own day when not only Holy Marriage and Family Life is under such attack but also the God created reality of our being authentically and distinctly male and female in His image, our witness as priests MUST BE as real men.
Any diminishment of manhood in our person, speech, actions, attitude is both a betrayal of authentic priesthood, of our own personhood and of the people, especially married people and families, we are ordained to serve.
We have come, by God’s grace, in our era through the gift of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, such staunch and unwavering defenders of life and family as Pope’s Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, to recognize, and thus are called ourselves to serve, strengthen, defend, marriage and family as the reality of the “domestic church.’
True the “domestic church”, like ourselves, lives within a cultural environment which because of the sheer scope and weight of the culture of death and its darkness surrounding us, we may at times feel a type of imprisonment, a sort of gulag without razor wire,  hemming us in with relentless media and other anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-Life hatred, thus perhaps we need reflect upon and draw wisdom, hope, strength, consolation from, and assure God’s People it is our prayer too for them, St. Paul’s powerful cry to the Philippians uniting imprisonment with fidelity until the day of Christ. [cf. Phil. 1: 3-11]
As priests our love for the Bride of Christ, the Church, is rooted both in Her being our Mother the Church through baptism and in a sense our bride too as we are ordained in persona Christi.
If our fidelity to Her is authentic and visible in praxis then we shall be icons of fidelity to all those united in Holy Marriage and if we are seen as pouring ourselves out, like Jesus, in self-gift to others then spouses shall do the same for each other, for their children, for their neighbour.
Thus we should ask for the grace, no matter what temptations, doubts, struggles, battles afflict us in our struggle to be faithful, to always remember our love for Christ, for the Church, for the domestic church, continuing to make ours St. Paul’s prayerful plea and commitment as servant [cf. Phil. 1:25-30].
Perhaps we do not have the precise oratorical skills of St. Paul but if we speak with love, serve with love, preach and teach with love then our people will see within us the very same love and zeal which animated the Apostle as we too encourage fidelity to Christ [cf. Phil. 2].
While we are servants, consolers, called also to strengthen the domestic church, we can also look to the domestic church as a model and source of inspiration to enhance our own dedication to the gift and mystery of priesthood.
Both the vocation to Holy Marriage, building up the civilization of love through family life, and priesthood, are fundamentally vocations of the complete gift of self to other[s], containing within them the constant sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Sadly it is also true that spouses/parents who refuse or are stingy with self-gift to other[s], like priests who refuse complete self-gift, will little by little become dis-enamoured: to the point of divorce and in our case abandonment of priesthood.
Thus, for we priests, it is critical that frequently during the examination of conscience in Night Prayer we look at our devotion to Church, Mother and Bride, and to the Domestic Church.
                                                                        ………..Jesus Himself, the Good Shepherd, calls ‘His sheep one by one’ with a voice well known to them [Jn. 10: 3-4]. By His example He has set the first canon of pastoral care: knowledge of the people and friendly relations with them. In the Church, a community vision of pastoral ministry must be in harmony with this personal pastoral care. Indeed, in building up the Church the pastor always moves from a personal to a community dimension. In relating to individuals and communities, the priest cares for all ‘eximia humanitate.’ He can never be the servant of an ideology or of a faction. He is obliged to treat men ‘not according to what may please me, but according to the demands of Christian doctrine and life.’
                                                               ………………New evangelization requires that the priest make his authentic presence evident in the community. They should realize that the ministers of Jesus Christ are present and available to all. Thus their amicable insertion into the community is always important. In this context it is easy to see the significance and pastoral role of the discipline concerning clerical garb, to which the priest should always conform, since it is a public proclamation of his limitless dedication to the brethren and to the faithful in his service to Jesus Christ. THE MORE SOCIETY IS MARKED BY SECULARIZATION, THE GREATER THE NEED FOR SIGNS. [100]
When we are living out the above, we shall note something wonderful happening in the lives of our brothers and sisters who are called to live the splendid vocation of Holy Marriage.
More and more we shall see them forming their families into the authentic fullness of the domestic church and thereby enhancing not only the splendour of the Universal Church with increased holiness but also bringing about the true civilization of love, the greater proclamation and expanse of the Gospel of Life, which in turn will little by little transform the culture of death into a communion of charity, all this because our people will become what they are, salt and light!
Also the richer the soil of the domestic church, of family life, the greater the seeds shall sprout in the hearts of the young who, becoming mature men, will say YES in their turn to divine election, to the vocation of joy:
                                                                       Vocations are usually born in families where love and self-denial are the fabric of daily life. They are the fruit of the kind of overabundant justice which goes beyond the bare minimum demanded by the Commandments, producing a family life which is in accordance with the new law, the law of the Beatitudes and of the Sermon on the Mount.
                                                                    …………..Above all in these homes there is prayer, sharing and giving, and hospitality is practiced without undue concern for the future, in a spirit of trust that ‘our Father in heaven knows what we need.’
                                                             In these homes the parents – in the secret of their hearts, sometimes unbeknownst to each other – pray and keep their hearts open to the call that God may address to their children. [101]
Wherever I have been a pastor I have made sure that I do my best, and if I have assistants that they likewise make every effort, to visit at least three families a week, with particular attention to the poorest and least popular families.
At the same time, given my trust in the power of both the intercessory prayer, and the example of the lived fidelity of the domestic church, I encouraged families to adopt priests, that is to make a specific effort to take not just the priests in the parish, but priests far and wide, all priests within the Church, in person or in their hearts and prayer, into the deep, splendid example of their own vocation as spouses and parents, as elders and children, thus encouraging priests, through prayer, to be faithful to our own vocation.
Through a regular presence to the spouses-parents, in particular, we shall find ample occasion to exercise our priestly, fatherly, shepherd’s munus regendi in a manner that is courageous, truth-speaking, loving service.
To the degree that family life is healed, that married life is re-evangelized to be what it truly is, a splendid witness vocation of self-gift in imitation of Christ the Bridegroom in His loving care of His Bride the Church and Her children, to that degree the parish community, itself a family, and the very society and culture in which the family and parish live, will also increasingly be healed and restored to Christ.
Certainly on those family visits sooner or later the whole gambit of moral and other faith and societal issues will be brought forward for discussion and here, perhaps even more intensely than experienced in the pulpit, we may well find ourselves fearful of being disliked or of becoming unpopular because of the forthrightness of our shepherd’s and fatherly truth-speaking.
However this should be seen by us as yet another graced moment for re-evangelization, for ‘strengthening the brethren’ and such moments should be approached with generous charity, compassion, patience towards the family and also within ourselves a profound confidence that here we are truly being given moments to act in persona Christi exactly as Jesus did when He visited families while revealing the love of the Father here on earth, giving hope, bringing truth and healing, forgiveness and always, love.
                                                                      Beloved priest sons, by vocation you are the counsellors and spiritual guides of individual persons and families. We now turn to you with confidence. Your first task…is to expound the Church’s teaching on marriage without ambiguity. Be the first to give, in the exercise of your ministry, the example of a loyal internal and external obedience to the teaching authority of the Church. That obedience, as you know well, obliges not only because of the reasons adduced, but rather because of the light of the Holy Spirit, which is given in a particular way to the pastors of the Church in order that they may illustrate the truth.
                                                             ……………..In their difficulties, may married couples always find in the words and in the heart of a priest, the echo of the voice and the love of the Redeemer.
                                                            Speak with confidence, beloved Sons, secure with the conviction that the Holy Spirit of God, while assisting the Magisterium in proposing true doctrine, enlightens internally the hearts of the faithful and invites them to give their assent. Instruct married couples to have frequent recourse in a spirit of great faith to the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, and never let them be discouraged by their weakness. [102]
Love and truth are inseparable.
In our authentic love for married couples, for families, indeed for everyone, while it is appropriate to develop holy friendships this must always be within the context of, and tempered by our being in persona Christi, that is their fathers, shepherds, servants and so we must avoid seeking from them that type of mere human affirmation and comfort which would distort the necessary boundaries of such friendships.
Our goal should be to, with them, enter more deeply into the joy which flows from friendships rooted in Christ.
As Fathers and Shepherds we are especially, in union with the domestic church, to be the prime defenders of human life, of the human person from conception to ‘natural’ death.
                                                                       The mystery of the Resurrection and of Pentecost is proclaimed and lived by the Church, which has inherited and which carries on the witness of the Apostles about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ….In the name of the Resurrection of Christ the Church proclaims life, which manifested itself beyond the limits of death, the life which is stronger than death. At the same time, she proclaims Him who gives this life: the Spirit, the Giver of life; she proclaims Him and cooperates with Him in giving life. For ‘although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness,’ the righteousness accomplished by the crucified and rise Christ. And in the name of Christ’s Resurrection the Church serves the life that comes from God Himself, in close union with and humble service to the Spirit. [103]
We priests MUST be visible in the struggle to defend human life, the human person, from the womb to the tomb, and be willingly present – even at the cost of our own lives should that be necessary like our brother priest St. Maxmillian Kolbe – to protect the family, indeed any human being, in union with Christ laying down our lives for our friends.
Yes even enemies, in this sense, are friends.
It also is the urgency of charity we be in solidarity with those whose earthly pilgrimage is nearing completion through the reality of old age and thus all the elderly, particularly the abandoned and our elderly brother priests, who in particular deserve the comfort of our presence.
Thus they should from us, but also at our urging from their own families and the parish family in general, should experience an affection and presence which gives true dignity to their old age, showing them and all the elderly, true reverence, respect, genuine love.
                                                            One of the ways we can do this is to courageously proclaim the truth that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person….[104]
We should likewise be vigilant about the care and dignity of family members of any age who are physically or mentally handicapped – in a word defending life and family means always being solicitous of the wellbeing of all the vulnerable.
Among unmarried women, but also not infrequently among women who are both married and already have children, the murder of pre-born children is a harsh reality.
However as authentic fathers and shepherds, when women who have chosen to abort a child[ren], touched by grace directly, approach us to unburden their aching hearts and souls, these words of Pope John Paul II should animate our compassionate, truth-speaking, hope-giving, response and way of being their servants:
                                                                 I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give into discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and to His mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life. [105]
Perhaps occasionally as priests we find ourselves experiencing a real difficulty in sustaining a true appreciation of, and perspective upon, this splendid vocation of Holy Marriage and the reality of the Domestic-church.
This may come about when a sudden fear of rejection takes hold if we actually proclaim, in season and out, the truth about the sacredness of human life, openness to the gift of new life, the sanctity and earthly permanence of the sacramental marriage union between the spouses with each other and between the spouses in their oneness with Christ.
Of course if our own oneness with Christ, our own ascent to truth are weak then we shall most likely be hesitant in boldly, yet always with real charity and compassion, proclaiming truth.
Finally it may be that neither of the above applies so much as hesitancy, because we erroneously see ourselves as ‘single, unmarried men’, rather than who we really are in persona Christi and the reality as such of our own spousal relationship with the Church.
Part of our regular prayer life then should be persistent, albeit humble and trusting, begging of the Holy Spirit, and asking the intercessory companionship of all the great female and male mystics of the ages, to teach us and form deep within us the reality of communion of love with Christ to the ultimate fulfillment of complete union, referred more frequently in the past than today, as: Mystical Marriage.
In Chapter 14 of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, the Evangelist presents to us two aspects of the wedding banquet: in verses 7-14 is the self-gift teaching about true humble loving service, about humility itself; in verses 15-24 while we may tend to focus more on those who refused the call, the actual import is of the call of the Divine Bridegroom to come to the wedding feast, our wedding feast!
It is here too we find an even deeper invitation from Christ beyond attendance/participation when in verse 10, using the term which He will later solemnize the night of the Holy Eucharist when He calls us “Friend!”, bids us to come higher.
 In opening wide the doors of our being to Him [Rv.3:20], we embark ever more profoundly on the journey inward to the deepest regions of the Garden Enclosed for fullness of communion of love dialogue, while going ever higher to the height of the mystical marriage bed, His Cross.
It is also an invitation to come higher, to Tabor and Transfiguration, that is entering fully into cooperation with the Holy Spirit who ever more sanctifies us and unites us to Jesus until, like the Apostle, we too will know we no longer live but Christ lives in us!
                                                              …..When souls become filled with God in ineffable plenitude, the life of Jesus fills souls with His treasures and increases in them through a wonderful fecundity.
                                                            To become a saint is to become Jesus; it is to conceive Jesus in our soul and to cause Him to grow therein. But Jesus cannot be enclosed in the narrow confines of a human heart. When He dwells there, He diffuses Himself, like a resplendent light, a delicate perfume, a penetrating sound, thus reaching even the limits of the world.
                                                            When a soul becomes Jesus, she in her turn conceives Him in other souls, and infuses Him into other hearts. Her glory is to disseminate the light of heaven, the glory of the Father, as the sun in the midst of the firmament sheds the glory of its light in all directions. [106]
We enter willingly, with immense yearning, fidelity, humility, mystical marriage, fullness of communion of love with Jesus, never for our own glory or comfort.
 We enter so as to more and more fulfill the priestly, prophetic, missionary dimensions of both our baptismal and priestly consecration.
We are one with Jesus for the salvation of souls and specifically in defense and support of the entire deposit of wisdom and truth rooted in Sacramental Marriage, of the Gospel of Life, of the Family, of the Domestic-Church, thus, like Jesus, we too are here NOT to be served but to serve, not primarily to receive but to make self-gift to other, that is to Jesus, Jesus as He presents Himself to us in the person of husbands, wives, children, widowed persons, the elderly, the sick, the unmarried, the lonely, the poor – in a word as He presents Himself to us in every human being, friend and enemy.
The quintessential Old Testament text referenced by the mystics, and meditated upon as template for communion of love, mystical marriage with Jesus, is the Song of Songs, a treasure trove for among others St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and the original Scripture and their commentaries remain part of the Church’s treasury always at our disposal:
                                                                             The power and tenacity of love is great, for love captures and binds God Himself. Happy is the loving soul, since she possesses God for her prisoner, and He is surrendered to all her desires. God is such that those who act with love and friendship toward Him will make Him do all they desire, but if they act otherwise there is no speaking to Him nor power with Him, even if they go to extremes. Yet by love they bind Him with one hair.
                                                                        Knowing this, and knowing how far beyond her merits it was that He should have favoured her with such sublime love and the rich tokens of virtues and gifts, she attributes all to Him in the following stanza:
                                                            When You looked at me
                                                            Your eyes imprinted Your grace upon me;
                                                            For this You loved me ardently;
                                                            And thus my eyes deserved
                                                            To adore what they beheld in You.  [107]
The more profound and complete our union in communion of love with Jesus, the more we will restore all things to Christ, the more souls we will re-evangelize, the more we shall accomplish the missio ad gentes.
The more intense will be joy rising up within us!



                                                                       The complete Christ is the Christ united to the concourse of the faithful who will live for ever; the complete love of Christ is the love of the Heart of Jesus, united to the love of millions of Christians who will love with Him and in Him to the end of time. This is the great masterpiece Divine Love has accomplished. This alone has succeeded in quenching the infinite love-thirst which Christ had for His Father.

                                                                       Of me then, Jesus asks alike my body and heart, my mind and my will. He asks everything of me. Himself He has given wholly to me. He has given me His flesh, His blood, His life. Now in return He asks mine of me. “Allow Me to live in the place of the self in you; allow Me to substitute Myself for you,” He says to me; “For through you and in you I would yet love the Father to the limit of love.” [87]

A few years ago, in the middle of the night, a call came into the rectory where I was living.

The call was from a Catholic ER nurse in the city hospital.

She was desperately trying to find a priest who would come and anoint a young husband and father, seriously injured in a car crash.

I went immediately to the hospital, anointed the young man, comforted his wife, was present when he died and prayed both the prayers for the dying and then for the deceased.

Afterwards the nurse took me aside and confided she had called the nearest parish first but the priest who answered the phone had said: “We don’t respond outside of office hours.”

Some months later I was asked to help hear confessions in another parish where they were having a “healing” mission.

What happened there I found deeply troubling – lay people where mimicking the actions of priests when we celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, using oil and making the Sign of the Cross on the people who came to them, on hands and forehead.

This after the very clear instruction from the Vatican:

                                                                    In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that they are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the oil of the sick or any other oil. [88]

As with all sacraments there is a direct connection between our faith in the sacraments as encounters with our loving Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, in which we participate as recipients and also as celebrants, and the care with which we protect the integrity of the sacred – or not.

We need also to be careful of the way we use language, for words are powerful.

Hence to speak of a ‘healing’ Mass as some extra particular celebration of Holy Mass is erroneous, for every Holy Mass heals.

It is understandable the hunger of people for physical, psychological, spiritual healing – but to confuse the power of the specific Sacrament as being somehow of lessor important than certain para-liturgies such as mentioned above speaks of a lack of faith and trust both in the Sacrament of Anointing and in the very sacred power which is ours in persona Christi.

We need to rediscover, heed and be generous with the Church’s own appreciation of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, as articulated, for example, by the Second Vatican Council:

                                                                         “Anointing of the Sick,” is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly arrived. [89]

The Catechism extends this to include: “….just prior to a serious operation….” [90]

I may be too generous here but having worked with people suffering eating disorders and other serious mental health issues, addicts, people suffering with HIV, etc., etc., I prefer a charitable lavishness with the sacrament, trusting that whoever asks be anointed.

I apply the same when it comes to the matter of time of death.

This I learned from my own bishop who ordained me, now long gone to his eternal reward.

He was truly pastoral and once asked me to attend a rooming house where the police were waiting.

A man had died a few days before and the elderly couple who owned the home did not want the body moved until the man had received ‘the last rites.’

The Bishop said: “Go and under your breath say softly first: ‘If there is life within you then I….’, and the old couple will be at peace.”

Sometimes the needs of the living ask of us what God in His love fully understands and undoubtedly appreciates! [cf. Canon 1005]

Not only when I am travelling on the busy highways where, as we all know serious crashes are unfortunately all too common, but also when just walking around the city, I keep the Holy Oil with me, for at any time we may come upon someone, for example, collapsed on the sidewalk who may be in need of the sacrament.

Simply put as priests we should always be ready to respond to all souls at all times whatever their need.

I believe we priests should accept and understand we are serving Jesus, the Church, the human family, in a time of war, the war which has raged across all of human history, but is perhaps more intense in our own day: spiritual warfare.

Sometimes the casualties in this war are because of actions of we human beings who often act recklessly, sometimes because of the direct, albeit limited as we know from the Book of Job, actions of the devil and his minions – always we priests must be ready!

One winter’s night I was traveling along a narrow highway in a severe snowstorm.

Usually I would not drive under such conditions but it was critical to get a lay missionary to the airport some hundred miles to the south as she was going to a country where the window of opportunity to enter was limited.

Missing the flight meant it would be months, perhaps years, before the proper visa would be granted again.

So there I was cautiously driving through the storm when coming around a tight bend in the road numerous lights were flashing.

We had come upon a terrible crash involving so many vehicles and deceased and seriously injured people, as the first officer who approached the car asking for help told me, all available ambulances, from the nearest city itself an hour away, had been called to the scene.

I got a small stole kept for such emergencies out of the glove box, and as I stepped out of the car, telling my passenger who had already gone pale never having witnessed such a scene to stay put as there was nothing she could do, got the oil from my pocket.

Bodies were strewn about, some dismembered, all deceased, so I simply anointed and absolved with the ‘if there is life within you’ formula.

So many crashed vehicles, so many dead, near a dozen already rushed to hospital among the living, of which only two were uninjured, a man and his little girl, the wife and mother having perished.

The police already knew the lead car had been speeding and crashed into a van from the opposite direction triggering the pile up.

The father and child were in the back of a cruiser and I spent some time comforting them, then turned my attention to the officers and once that was done, my feet soaked as much with blood as wet snow, returned to my car where my passenger was in tears and we spent the rest of the trip praying for the dead and injured. [Mk.6:6-13]

I tell the above simply to underline part of our call must be our readiness at any moment to be present to, with our people whatever their need is.

If we have fallen into some type of 9-5 functional mentality, see priesthood as some sort of job, well then we won’t keep, for example, the Oil on our person.

Who among us priests would ever want to be the one who ‘passed by’?  [Lk. 10:29-27]

His people, our people, are mainly good, sincere people doing their best to love one another, care for their families, be good citizens yet at the same time, as Jesus Himself points out [Mk.6:30-34; Mt.9:35-37] they often act as if sheep without a shepherd, experiencing confusion and fear, especially in these days of such extensive global anxiety fed by a media which reports more on the state of terrorism, economy, climate, disaster, than on giving priority to stories about human kindness, goodness, efforts for peacemaking.

I see a direct connection between the anxieties of the human family and an attitude among priests which fails to see our vocation in persona Christi as one of total availability and as true shepherd, guarding by effective use of all the Sacraments and our priestly intercessory power of prayer and fasting to confront evil, that is to be good fighters in spiritual warfare.

St. Jude speaks directly to this responsibility of ours to be engaged in the struggle for the salvation of souls in union with Jesus, powerfully, among other things, urging us to save our brothers and sisters by ‘snatching them out of the fire.’ [Jude 17-25]

Nothing that concerns the salvation of souls should be outside of our willingness to serve.

                                                                          Precisely because it is a humble reflection on the zeal of Christ Himself, the devotedness of the priest for others can know no limits; its field lies wherever men are to be saved. Like God Himself, the priest wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For this reason the office of priest was summed up by St. Ambrose when he wrote that “it belongs to the priestly office to do harm to no one and to be desirous of helping everyone; to accomplish this can only come from God.”

                                                                      The apostolate of the priest is to the great and the lowly, to the powerful and the weak. It is his duty to adapt himself to the particular needs of each soul. “Let them mount the heights,” wrote St. Augustine, addressing himself to priests, “that they may lift up the great; let them come down into the depths in order to feed the little ones.”

                                                                      St. John Chrysostom declares: “No matter how insignificant or lowly may be the one who appeals to us, no matter how hard and painful may be what he asks, still if he needs our help, then all the difficulties should seem light and easy to bear. God showed us that the soul is worthy of every care and attention when He did not even spare His own Son. [91]

I am well aware of the attitude many priests have, indeed I admit sometimes I reacted the same way, towards those who seem always to be demanding ‘healing Masses’ or to be prayed over, delivered, anointed, have ever new devotions to Mary or some Saint, who even if given all that are never ‘healed/delivered/satisfied’, yet these are the very anawim who flocked to Jesus.

Sure in the vast crowds clamouring for more bread or a new king or more miracles, there were also those who quietly – not necessarily because they had greater faith, trust, maturity or were less wounded, sinful – followed Jesus, accepting whatever He offered without ‘needing’ more.

We, for we priests too are of the sheepfold, we His flock come in all shapes, sizes, colour, maturity, and lack thereof, simplicity and complexity, sinfulness and holiness.

Why do we expect the composition of our parishes, of the human race today, indeed of the priesthood itself, to be any different?

I believe we priests need to spend less time concerned about the composition of our parishes, the make-up of the population of the Church and the world, even of our own ranks, and leaving all that in Our Lady’s hands to sort out, become more adept at combatting real evil, the evil one and his destructive hordes, in a word being true priest-fighters and true vessels of compassion.

We suffer, our people suffer, all people suffer and within the expansive variety of suffering we must never forget, nor deny, evil is afoot for the diabolical hyena preys on those weakened by physical and emotional 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. The purpose of penance is to overcome evil. [92]

I remember when this powerful teaching from Pope John Paul came out and the resistance, some of it rather harsh, to any suggestions of the connection between sin, suffering, punishment, repentance, conversion, intercession as being a rather pre-Vatican II, outmoded, almost medieval approach, understandable if regrettable because of the Holy Father’s Polish background!

O Lord sometimes we priests can be rather arrogant, Lord have mercy!

Granted no human being wants to suffer and it can be difficult at times to dispassionately look at the cause, trigger of the why of some suffering we endure.

However what the Holy Father is challenging us to do is not to spend time trying to figure out how we came to be suffering, but rather what will we do with our suffering?

This applies to those who suffer who come to us for healing, for hope.

If, except when absolutely necessary in order to serve them all the more, when we are approached by so and so, yet again, and their hypochondria or other emotional wounds are self-evident, it is wrong for us to dismiss them out of hand, or deny their request for anointing or to be prayed over.

 It is a golden opportunity to engage them in conversation, urge them to embrace their suffering in union with Jesus for the salvation of souls, an end to abortion, for peace – the needs of the human family are vast!

Our vocation of joy is to serve and our joy will be the greater the less we judge and simply wash feet!

Our hearts then should be filled with the same generosity of heart as St. Paul who constantly prayed for those he served, always eager for their growth in holiness. [1Thess.3:9-13]

The entire baptized community in particular, but truly every human being, dwells in the reality of spiritual warfare.

As priests we should, we must, be in the forefront of the battle.

We live in extremely dangerous and often confusing times.

To be blasé about, ignore or worse deny the reality of satan, evil, sin and the devastating consequences for souls, while perhaps understandable among those of no or weak faith, should cause immense concern when priests have such an attitude.

Perhaps it is not comfortable to ask, but we need to ask ourselves: do I take seriously the threat satan poses to the souls of every human being? To my own?

Satan, as we know, does not only entice to sin individuals and entire peoples, but also, when he fails to seduce with evil will seek to entrap by some other means, such as discouragement, those who struggle to be faithful and virtuous.

                                                                 The devil hates God, but as he cannot reach Him in Himself, he turns against His creatures, and especially against His privileged creature, the priest, the living image of Christ.

                                                                    By our vocation, by the mission and duties which it prescribes for us, we, priests, are especially exposed to the attacks and the cunning of these enemies. [93]

When we cut back on accessibility to confession, anointing, daily Mass, fail to arrange easy access to the Blessed Sacrament for adoration, cut back on home, school, hospital visits, prefer tv or internet to contemplation and lectio divina, when we allow the media and other enemies of Jesus and His Church to form our attitudes then we are clearly being wounded in the war.

In the ‘outer’ world we know how terrorism works with its sneak attacks, i.e.ds., disinformation and other ruses all designed to dispirit whole populations, to create a climate of constant fear.

We know too that in that world governments and their security forces can only protect the population through constant vigilance.

Much like the Cure d’Ars, a good priest, a real fighter in this warfare, worn out and discouraged, came one day, in Russia, to a holy Abbot seeking help:

                                                                         “My parish, Father Abbot, is large,” the Pastor said, “and we have no sects here, but people are indifferent. They rarely come to church. I do not see any reason to celebrate frequently in an empty church.” “Father,” the distressed Abbot answered, “if your parishioners neglect their important duties, you, their pastor, must never neglect yours. The temple of God is never empty. Since it was consecrated it has its own guardian angel. If your people neglect their duties, their guardian angels do not. They fill the temple. When you celebrate, the angels concelebrate with you. You must celebrate regularly, and pray God to convert your people to prayer and penance. The Lord will order their guardian angels to persuade them to come. You are responsible for your own soul and those of your flock. You must realize that.” [94]

Discouragement and anxiety are among satan’s most powerful weapons because they wear us down by degrees.

We rarely wake up one morning suddenly discouraged, rather progressively over time, especially if we have been feeding on negative thoughts, neglect of interior silence, contemplation, fidelity to the Divine Office, daily Mass, etc., interior grumbling becomes anger becomes discouragement and the spiral can continue into deep inner darkness.

We then are vulnerable to not simply neglect of the good but to choose sin.

We have been wounded, perhaps not mortally, wounded nonetheless.

                                                                      Those who are trying to lead a spiritual life have to carry on a most skilful and difficult mental warfare, a spiritual warfare, every moment throughout life; it is necessary that the soul should have every moment a clear eye, able to watch and notice the entrance into the heart of thoughts sent by the evil one, and to repel them. The hearts of such men must always burn with faith, humility and love; for otherwise the subtlety of the devil finds an easy access to them, which is followed by a decline, or even by an entire loss, of belief, and afterwards by every possible evil, difficult to wash away, even by tears. [95]

Among the texts in the New Testament which place before us this reality of spiritual warfare and of demonic activity in the lives of all human beings, particularly the baptized and priests are: Jesus in the desert, in the garden, the cautionary words found in the teachings of St. Peter and Revelations: Mt.4: 1ff; Mk. 1:12ff; Lk.4:1ff; 22:39ff; 1Pt.5:6-11; Rev.12].

Both in the desert and in the garden in particular, Jesus is engaged in the most intense aspects of spiritual warfare.

 The Gospels are replete with encounters between Jesus and evil spirits, for St. Luke points out in his conclusion to the battle in the desert that satan only left Jesus alone for ‘a time’, Lk.4:13.

It can happen that at times we feel as broadsided by the evil one as any soldier stepping on a landmine, sometimes with spiritual consequences akin to those inflicted upon the hapless soldier – or innocent villagers simply on their way to work the fields or go to market – for we must never forget our willingness to be engaged in struggles against the evil one is for all souls and their protection and salvation.

What Jesus took upon Himself and experienced in the Garden, and His prayer, should be ours, and if we can we should willingly spend entire nights in such vigil and intercessory prayer. [Lk.22:39-46]

Our call is to be one with Jesus in all aspects of His life and ministry, which means also in the desert, in the garden, engaged in the battle with satan – without fear: Christ Himself is the Victor and He is with us in the struggle and He engages the enemy in front of us, for us.

Christ was alone in the desert, His disciples failed to keep vigil and fell asleep in the garden.

We are never alone in the desert; let us beg the grace to be vigilant, side by side with Jesus in the garden.

The more we strive to be faithful as priests in persona Christi, the more the evil one will hound us [Rev.12.] but it has always been thus [1Pt. 5:1-] so we should call upon the assistance and protection of all our brother priests in heaven and then continue the struggle with deep peace and intimate confidence in Jesus.

In these days of scepticism, relativism, scientism and the myriad of other isms, when it comes to the reality of spiritual warfare and the activities of the evil one, we can do well to heed this wisdom from a brother priest:

                                                                                    Science insists that the New Testament’s “possessed” were simply insane; the age did not recognize their symptoms and therefore held demons responsible for them. In this respect it concludes, Jesus was a man of His time. True, the external manifestations then were probably similar to the symptoms recorded by specialists in our clinics today; but what is behind those symptoms no psychiatrist can tell. When the Lord commanded an evil spirit in one who is mentally ill, He worked from an approach that no modern doctor can share. Evil does not function so that one can say this or that is unnatural, therefore demonic. Neither the supernatural nor the unnatural in Christian life makes its appearance by stepping into some gap in the natural order. Everything is also ‘natural’; the chain of nature events never breaks. Everything is the result of something else – but it is precisely here, in natural cause and effect that satan works as well as God. Therefore, when Jesus addressed the demon in a sick man, He did so because He knew that ‘something else’ lay at the bottom of the psychosis. [96]

Nowadays every variation of human physical, psychological, spiritual life is simultaneously justified, explained, excused as one having been ‘born that way; my choice; its genetic; I’m addicted; I have…..[name the flavour of the month]’: in other words we increasingly eliminate any responsibility for the ‘something else’ and therefore enable the evil one, more and more, to, in a sense supply, or at least motivate, the ‘something else’.

The culture of darkness and death, of relativism and of ‘my rights’ trumping responsibility is part of the ‘something else’ which animates the horrific crimes and sins which cast their poisonous fog into the depths of countless lives, countless souls, from abortion to euthanasia, from child abuse to violence against women, into the dank places where terrorism is planned, where human trafficking unfolds.

Wherever evil lurks, there is the battlefield.

In a sense the evil one ‘hides’ in plain sight in the culture of death.

                                                                             Because of this hidden deceit and the fraudulent methods the devil uses, all who do not cleave to the name of Christ and the Holy Spirit – that is the Spirit of truth, knowledge, understanding, and divine guidance – easily fall prey to the devil’s wiles and do his work quite unawares. Instead of rightly perceiving the works of the evil one, they see them simply as the way of the world or the prevailing customs or the natural product of human nature or perhaps the result of sickness, chance, unintentional errors, or rash speech or action. These are the threads the devil cleverly weaves together till they invisibly encircle the mind, gradually and fiendishly shutting out the lights that bring discernment between truth and falsehood. They close in upon the conscience, stifling it till it slowly and almost imperceptibly loses its sensitivity to truth. Finally these perceptions penetrate so deeply that they enslave not only the mind, but even the body itself, and in the end the law of sin occupies a person’s very being and controls the mind, tongue, conscience, body and behaviour. [97]

Yesterday I was visiting a dear brother priest and as is our custom, from time to time, we prayed over each other, absolved each other and anointed each other.

He has a serious and chronic lung condition which at times brings him to the brink of death.

I too have a chronic, but much less serious, medical condition and we both are wearied by the warfare, so the reality of shared sacramental and priestly blessing is essential.

Since we began doing this for each other we have both noticed a reduction in stress, improvement in physical, emotional, spiritual health, renewed commitment and joy.

Sometimes it does please Jesus to heal, to deliver, instantly [Mt.8:1-4]; sometimes to do so, as it were, progressively [Mk.8:22-26]; to grant forgiveness of sin and then to heal [Mt.9:1-8]; always there is communion of love: by glance, by word [Jn.4:4-42; Lk.9:37-43] but always all ultimately is to reveal the glory of the Father, which is His love for us [Jn.9], and to do as Jesus did/does is not only to be fully engaged in spiritual warfare, it is to love, it is to spread the fire of hope and compassion [Lk.10:25-37].

Here, the final word to a great priest of compassion, a true fighter:

                                                                         In the Book of Revelation, the ‘great portent’ of the ‘woman’ [12:1] is accompanied by ‘another portent which appeared in heaven’: ‘a great red dragon’ [Rv.12:3], which represents satan, the personal power of evil, as well as all the powers of evil at work in history and opposing the Church’s mission.

                                                                 Here too Mary sheds light on the community of believers. The hostility of the powers of evil is, in fact, an insidious opposition which, before affecting the disciples of Jesus, is directed against His Mother. To save the life of her Son from those who fear Him as a dangerous threat, Mary has to flee with Joseph and the Child into Egypt [cf. Mt.2:13-15].

                                                                   Mary thus helps the Church to realize that life is always at the center of a great struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. The dragon wishes to devour ‘the child brought forth’ [cf. Rv.12:4], a figure of Christ, whom Mary brought forth ‘in the fullness of time’ [Gal.4:4] and whom the Church must unceasingly offer to people in every age. But in a way that child is also a figure of every person, every child, especially every helpless baby whose life is threatened, because – as the Council reminds us – ‘by His Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every person.’ It is precisely ‘in the flesh’ of every person that Christ continues to reveal Himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ. This is the fascinating but revealing truth which Christ reveals to us and which His Church continues to untiringly proclaim: ‘Whoever receives one such child in My Name receives Me.’ [Mt.18:5]; “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of My brethren, you did it to Me’[Mt.25:40]. [98]