GLORY TO YOUR HOLY RESURRECTION O CHRIST OUR GOD, GLORY BE TO YOU!
Priestly Mission: An Apostolate of the Heart
Many years ago, in the first attempt at this site for hope in the lives of priests, we ran the start of a series urging all priests, in particular those enduring punishment for actual sins/crime as well as those falsely accused, but suffering the same fate nonetheless, to embrace a life of expiation, becoming living oblations, victim-souls, holocausts of love, of Love Himself.
In the intervening years the site underwent a couple of revisions, this being the latest.
To be honest, abandoned because I, Fr. Joseph, endured a prolonged period of discouragement within five years of struggle for vindication of innocence, which, like most falsely accused priests ended in being exiled nonetheless – for in this current climate an accusation is tantamount to automatic conviction, at least in the eyes of the institutional church!- the aforementioned series was abandoned.
Some months ago a truly faithful Catholic Layman, the webmaster of this site actually, challenged Fr. Joseph to face reality, in a word to embrace the full implication of being, irrespective of ‘official status’, or living conditions, In Persona Christi.
So, as you have already seen, the entire site has been upgraded.
Admitting I gave into discouragement, here I am, ready to walk with my suffering brothers into the mystery of unsought after suffering, to struggle to embrace the cross, to be truly one with Christ.
The Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate, taught repeatedly: In God every moment is the moment of beginning again!
Going over the struggles of the past few years and the final decision of the CDF barring me from ever again exercising ‘public’ ministry, such as in a parish, but allowing me to live as a priest, celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass [ alone in terms of the presence of another human person, of course wherever and whenever Holy Mass is celebrated the entire Heavenly Court is present] and, with spiritual direction, a good therapist and support prayers, encouragement of family, of friends as well finally coming out of discouragement [ just a first baby step on this journey], the beginning again moment is here!
Before writing this I spent time reflecting on the central lines in her offering as an oblation, of the Doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Lisieux:
In order to live one single act of perfect love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
In the great Easter Sequence we begin our joyous praise and love of the Risen Jesus Christ by crying out:
Victimae Paschali laudes immolent Christiani!- Christians, offer to the Paschal Victim sacrifice and praise!
Cross and Resurrection, suffering and joy, love and pain – these are inseparable realities of a fully alive Baptized human being and even more so are they constitutive of life of a priest.
However it has come to pass, because of our own actions/choices or the caprice of those with power over accused priests, all caught up in the maelstrom know the stark reality, in the depths of our beings, indeed as a daily challenge, of having before us the choice between blessing and curse, life and death [cf. Deut. 30:1 & 30:19].
On the very threshold of the beginning of Resurrection history, the very threshold of the beginning of the pilgrimage through history of the nascent Church, the threshold of the beginning of priestly life and service across the millennia, in the full light and joy of His Holy Resurrection the first offering, even before praise, we are called to offer is sacrifice.
This opening stanza of the Sequence echoes the cry, the supplication, we all offered at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday in company with Our Blessed Mother, herself a holocaust of love, for Love, to Love:
…..Listen to my fond request: let me share your grief….in my body bear the death of your dying SON…wounded with His every wound……
When life was unfolding as apparently it was meant to, within the rhythm of parish life, I daresay all the above prayers, words, about joy and suffering, choice, sacrifice, etc., while no doubt embraced with a sincere heart, were nonetheless sort of benign – certainly not as excruciating close and raw as any priest suffering imprisonment, abandonment, rejection, exile, banishment from ministry, reputation of good name lost, enduring poverty, illness, old age, depression, discouragement, etc., etc., now experiences as daily reality.
It may well seem we have not chosen curse, it has been thrust upon us; we have not chosen death – depression is a living death; life seems to have ended, at least the life we assumed would be ours when we were ordained; blessing? Where is that?
But, in point of fact, the choice IS ours to make, no matter what our circumstances are, in prison or not, reduced to the ‘lay’ state or not, indeed whatever our situation the choice is ours: anger, resentment, etc., etc., which is to chose curse and death – or – without counting the cost, without self-pity, denial, bargaining etc., etc., to choose to become, truly in persona Christi oblation, victim, holocaust.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit….By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit….As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love…” [cf. Jn. 15: 5-10]
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps. [cf.1Pt.2:21]