Tag Archives: Jesus



                                    Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani.

So do we cry out in the ancient Paschal Hymn glorifying and giving thanks for the Risen Lord Jesus.

Even in the full fire and light of His Holy Resurrection we refer to Him as ‘victim’, for He is indeed the victim-oblation to the Father for us.

We also each Easter renew our Baptismal Promises, the active remembering of our having been plunged through the holy waters into the depths of the mystery of His oblation-death and brought forth in the fire-light of His Holy Resurrection.

The extending months into years at times between writing on the mystery of not merely by virtue of ordination in persona Christi, but actively heart to heart seeking union with Christ as victim-soul, as oblation with Him, is because I am in all this a mere beginner.

Hence the whole mysterious process and struggle to hand myself fully over to Him is part of the reason for the gaps in writing – for I will often flee this union more than surrender to and cooperate with it.

This because when all is said and done this is all more about Jesus the Beloved than about any one of us and kenosis, real death to self, is never easy!

The older I get the more profoundly aware I am in my personal life that time is short.

However given the persistent thickening of the darkness of the culture of death, the seeming constant increase of civil wars and revolutions, of extreme weather, hunger, the intense pressure to de-Christianize the whole world, through assault on Holy Marriage, the constant murderous evil of abortion, I sense historically, salvation history-wise, time is short, very short indeed.

None of the baptized, most especially and urgently we priests, can afford any longer to be neo-Ladoceans and wallow in lukewarmness. [cf. Rev. 3:14-22]

How urgently we must beg the grace to, and cooperate with the grace to, rediscover our first love.

Along with the above pain in the world of nations, the human family, the lives of real persons, there is also these days immense suffering within the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, of which we are members and as the Apostle reminds us when one member suffers, the whole body suffers. [cf. 1 Cor. 12:26]

From the so-called Vati-leaks wherein the Holy Father himself has been betrayed, to the immense suffering caused by clerical sin against the innocents, compounded by the defensive stance of the Church resulting in thousands of priests denied due process, many being falsely accused yet tossed under the bus, the persistent tragedy of priests committing suicide, the impact of all this on the faith and sense of place in the Church of many of the laity: we enter the Year of Faith called for by the Holy Father as a Church battered, bruised, sinful, of dwindling adherents, desperately in need collectively and individually of profound metanoia and kenosis.

Like Rachel weeping for her children the Church is – or should be and so should all priests be – weeping for Her children.

Christ too weeps, in the Garden and on the Cross and He asks anew in the Garden if anyone will keep vigil with Him.

I speak now of every priest – yes all of us: guilty priests in prison, falsely accused priests suspended, active priests, priests struggling, elderly, infirm, isolated, hidden, hermit priests, monastic priests, yes all of us, need truly to become victim-oblations, victim-souls, in union with Christ Victim for the Church, for the Priesthood, for the entire human family.


Granted while I have no precise record of how long the research, mediation, prayer takes for each chapter, I can assure you when it comes to this topic, this reality and grace of our joyous vocation, it has taken a rather long time to be ready to put these reflections on paper.
Two things have dogged me for weeks.
One: a memory, which, until celebrating Holy Mass in the hermitage this morning, seemed unconnected to our vow of obedience.
The other: three gardens, while clearly connected, began through meditation, day in and day out, to make more and more sense.
The memory is almost thirty years old now and is offered here NOT to draw attention to myself, but rather to highlight the lavishness of, as St. John reminds us [Jn. 1: 16], God’s love ever animating, ever sustaining, ever affirming us.
I had been assigned as pastor to a remote rural parish, so run down both in terms of the faith praxis of the deeply divided membership and the physical state of rectory, church, vestments, etc., that a series of priests had gone down in flames before me: one had a massive coronary and died, another had a complete mental breakdown, another fled, my immediate predecessor was so burned out my first assignment was to remove him, which only led to more division.
After six months I was so disheartened I not only had decided to walk away from the parish but from priesthood as well.
The joy which had burned in me for almost two years since the moment of ordination in persona Christi, had soured.
                                                                    A thing is wisest when it is most fully itself, when it tastes most like itself, in keeping with its nature. It is “foolish” when it forgets to be what it is, when it no longer has its proper flavour, as when salt loses its strength, or when oil becomes rancid, or when wine turns to vinegar. [123]
Not as excuse but simple statement of fact: I was in such emotional, spiritual turmoil, so exhausted by the stress of discouragement, I had completely forgotten who I was, had lost my ‘proper flavour’, in a sense had allowed the chrism to become rancid, the joyous wine of priesthood had become vinegar of bitterness.
I was just about done packing a few things, having decided to abandon most of my possessions, such was the urgency to flee.
A slight spring morning breeze was coming through the open window of my study, but even its freshness was stale to me – however the open window also allowed the sound of a pickup truck, speeding across the gravel parking lot towards the rectory, to enter and irritate me.
The sound of booted feet rushing up the steps and along the wooden veranda, sound of fist pounding on the wooden door with the simultaneous ringing of the doorbell – inside my entire being screamed: “GO AWAY!” – well, to be honest, the words were more raw.
There was no stopping the pounding, the bell ringing, the now accompanying shout of one word, over and over: “FATHER! FATHER! FATHER!”
My being shuddered for, mixed in with the seething and contradictory emotions within me, a visual image from some long ago seen documentary –or perhaps of some movie: the scene is of the rail cars favoured by the Nazis, of shabbily dressed, thin, terrified adults pressed against the bars, knowing they are trapped yet peering out as if straining to see or imagine or conjure up a real human face, a saviour.
A small boy, perhaps five or so years old, running along the platform after the departing train, yelling over and over, with the pathos of the entire human family ever since the gates of the original garden slammed shut, the waters of the flood began to rise, each one’s inheritance wasted, and hunger gnaws: ‘ABBA! ABBA! ABBA!’– the most powerful of names Jesus gives to us and which we, in our fear, slavishly translate with the distant word ‘father’, but which in truth is: DADDY!
No ‘father’, no one with power in the sense of control over others, in the sense of ability to withdraw what is most hungered for by a son, a daughter – love, no, no, no – such a creature was not called for – but ‘daddy’ was: the compassionate embrace hungered for by the prodigal child was being begged for.
From whence came the grace to move, frankly to love enough and forget myself enough to answer the door?
                                                                    Only in heaven is it known how some are called to lay down their lives for others in a special way. In silence and hiddenness, many have consecrated their entire lives as a sacrifice for priests. [124]
When I opened the door immediately the elderly farmer, who had arrived with such urgency, quickly told me his father-in-law was dying, a man away from the sacraments for his entire adult life.
Would I come? Would I try and get the dying man to accept Christ before death?
Still in turmoil, still determined to leave, nonetheless I did as I was asked and, after getting the Blessed Sacrament and the ritual, got into my car and followed the old farmer, down one country road after another, into regions of the parish unknown to me, finally stopping behind his truck and following on foot along a path in the woods, an even less obvious one through a swamp.
We emerged from the swamp.
 Amazingly when I looked down my shoes, which should have been mud caked, my pants, which should have been wet, were neither, but such was my de-salted state I missed what was obvious.
The house was ramshackle. A hovel, really.
As I stepped across the threshold, into what seemed thick darkness after the brilliant sunlight reflecting from the dried grass of the field we had just crossed, I remember for the first time in my life, admittedly sotto voce, saying: “Peace to this house.”
Suddenly a silhouette began rising, shakily, from a chair, and a cracking voice began uttering halting words as the silhouette, edging forward into the small frame of sunlight from the still open door, formed the appearance of the dying man and my heart was sliced open by words as sharp as a scalpel incising deep into putrid flesh that poison might drain away – yet the words were uttered with the same childlike sound of the boy running after the escaping train: “I am not worthy that the priest of the Lord should enter my house.”
The old man simultaneously bowed as he spoke, took my hands, and kissed them.
                                                                          If a man has a great love within him, it’s as if this love gives him wings, and he endures life’s problems more easily, because he himself is in that light, which is faith: to be loved by God and to let oneself be loved by God in Christ Jesus. This act of allowing ourselves to be loved is the light that helps us to carry our daily burden. And holiness is not our work, our difficult work, but rather it is precisely this “openness”: Open the windows of the soul so that the light of God can enter, do not forget God because it is precisely in opening oneself to His light that strength is found, as well as the joy of the redeemed. 125]
Thus: the memory.
Now: the three gardens.
At the outset: because we are in the first instance endowed, at the moment God breathes breath of life within us, with an immortal soul, we have within us an enclosed garden, that intimate place within the depths of our being where, if we willingly, attentively listen – and respond – unfolds constant dialogue, communion of love, with the Most Holy Trinity for, in the second instance, we are baptized, are members of Christ’s own body, children of the Father, temples of the Holy Spirit, and thirdly, for we priests in persona Christi, intimacy with Abba is profound!
Therefore whatever I say about the three gardens is not said as if looking back to some historical event, or even forward to some anticipated after death fulfillment, but is a journey inward, a realization that, not just in a sense, but in reality, the fundamentals, in the deepest sense of constitutive aspects of lived experience, in Him, with Him, through Him, for Him, form the reality of pilgrimage from the moment of our being created to the moment of having crossed the threshold of death where we enter the true life for which we have been created: eternity of communion of love.
Within the first two chapters of Genesis there unfolds, as we know, one beautiful movement, action, gift of tangible love flowing, one after the other, like a rivulet of sparkling water begun high in the mountains, as the spring sun caresses ice and snow into light catching droplets, which gather and race together towards the valley below, along the way becoming a mighty river – only this dance culminates in the ultimate act of Divine-creative love: the human person, male and female, in the very image of God, who is Love!
The human person, the man and the woman, placed with such tenderness in the Garden, gifted with abilities we mostly take for granted: sight, touch, hearing, mobility, creativity, imagination, memory, will – to name a few obvious ones – also have, as we do, two extraordinarily generous gifts at the very core of our beings: free will and the capacity for self-gift as communion of love with other.
God, if I might use the expression, leaves nothing to chance. The man and the woman are so tenderly placed in the Garden upon their creation that neither experiences any want or lack of anything, nor because of Divine tenderness, loneliness, that is the absence of proximity and relationship with one like myself.
Granted I am stating here what we all know, but in the context of our vow of obedience, of the foundational importance of joyful, constant, living of the freely embraced gift of the virtue of an obedient heart and will, it does seem we need to meditate upon and seek to enter ever more fully, the depths of the critical – and by Adam and Eve initially, and still in the lives of virtually every human being, save in the life of the singular non-Incarnate person: Our Blessed Mother – reality of the antithesis of yes, of fiat: freely chosen, willed, acted disobedience.
Love Himself makes only one request, which contains within it, millennia before the Incarnate One, the Risen One, Himself asks it thrice [cf. Jn. 21:15-17] the one thing every father, every mother, every husband, every wife, every child, every friend, needs to know, uttered in word, yes, articulated in action: “Do you love me?”
The question is presented as acceptance of obedience, one which, if not embraced as act of love in return for love, will have dire and irrevocable, until Jesus, consequences [cf. Gen. 2: 16, 17].
Given the immensity of gifts from which to choose, the, for us in our day perhaps virtually incomprehensible lack of need, pain, disorder, etc., the stark reality is that being asked to forgo, in the midst of such plenitude, peace, security, love, joy, intimacy with other and with the Divine, one little thing – but such is the power of temptation, such is the impact of doubt………..
So comes along the primary disobedient one, the disrupter and liar, the tempter and the first sin, the first act of disobedience takes root and by the time we come to the second garden, the cumulative weight of every single act of disobedience – of sin – from this original one [cf. Gn. 3: 1-7] to the last one that shall every be willed, chosen, enacted until the end of time, will be taken on by one person, by the Second Adam, as St. Paul names Him.
There is a direct connection between what happens in the first garden and what Jesus endures in the desert, to be sure, however there is also a telling of Jesus in one of His Parables, of what really has happened in the first garden.
I refer to the parable of the Prodigal Son [Lk. 15:11-32].
In one act of disobedience all of humanity is present, distancing itself from the love given by Love Himself, by Abba, wandering off to places and people unknown, who devour, destroy, abandon, reject, humiliate.
Ultimately every sin is primarily a selfish act of disobedience, a refusal to love in return for love, a resounding NO: to the simple ask: “Do you love me?”
Today, as I continue to write these reflections, I point out that being now retired from parish responsibilities and living the hermitical life, leaving the hermitage a couple of days each week to serve the poor in a soup kitchen, I treasure the time to put down on paper what has flowed from the decades of parochial service.
That said, today in the Byzantine Liturgy is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son!
Having read and reflected upon the classic writings on obedience, from the Fathers of the Church, Latin and Greek, the teachings of the Desert Fathers, the men and women saints who reflected upon abandonment to Divine Providence, trust, fidelity, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Catechism of the Catholic Church –  listed not to brag about reading but simply to make the point of having gone to the classic treasury of insights into the vow and virtue of obedience – because, as mentioned when it came to write this memory, the gardens kept coming to my heart.
 In the end I have drawn directly from only two works: THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON, by Henri Nouwen, and , THE MYSTERY OF EASTER by Raniero Cantalamessa.
At the outset of this work I inserted two quotations: 
                                                             Dear Fathers, do you realize that you are a joy to the world? [From the Servant of God Catherine Doherty]
                                                     The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. [From the Cure d’Ars, St. Jean-Marie Vianney.]
Our being a joy to the world is not automatic, that is, simply because we are priests – it does mean our countenance, the way we move, especially when celebrating Holy Mass for example, the tone of our voice, these must radiate joy, and if we are truly living the depths of holy obedience, joy will radiate from us.
Likewise it is to the degree our own intimacy of communion of love with Jesus in the depths of Holy Obedience, in Him, with Him, through Him, to the Holy Will of the Father by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and His sustaining us, that the fire of our love, the love of His Heart, will gush forth from us upon everyone we meet.
At its simplest, yet not without sincere effort, indeed at times great struggle, external obedience for we priests is a simple as “praying the black, doing the red” – in other words assenting to, proclaiming, all the Church believes and teaches, thus having interior obedience as well.
What I am reflecting upon here is much deeper than mere external and interior adherence to, fidelity within our vow of obedience, and yes in a sense even deeper than the depths of the virtue itself.
Here: obedience as absolute oneness with the obedience of Jesus, thus ever more full intimacy with the Father through total cooperation with the Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself cooperates with Him.
Thus the gardens of obedience: the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden of the Resurrection, which by the action of the Holy Spirit forms the enclosed garden within us. 
We turn once more then to the antitheses of Jesus’ obedience, surrender to, cooperation with the Holy Will of the Father, namely the prodigal disobedience of the collective human family, from Adam to the last person who shall live on earth, and the particular prodigal stance of each one of us.
The two are inseparable.
The first definitive sign of hope, of the possibility of a return to the Father, the first historical act, history here being primarily what we understand as salvation history, which indeed all human history is weaved within, is itself accepted gift, affirmed response to the Divine query about love, given as both free will choice in the affirmative and becomes at the same time the first of innumerable acts of love – I speak here of Our Blessed Mother and her FIAT!
We look to Mary and imitate Mary as we journey into the depths of the gardens of obedience – Mary who points to Jesus, urging us to follow His lead, His word to us – Mary who becomes our Mother at the foot of the Cross, in particular becoming Mother of Her Priest Sons – Mary who is constantly with us, teaching, guiding, protecting, and above all, loving.
In the same instant, historically speaking since obviously the obedience within the Godhead existed already, the moment of His Holy Incarnation, He Himself then, becomes not the second but rather the definitive, not sign but actuation of hope, first step of the journey of return.
It is essential then if we are to truly understand the implications of our vow of obedience, the virtue of obedience in its fullness, we come to understand, by embracing all its elements, the reality of the Prodigal Son as Adam and every human being, as ourselves to be sure, as embraced and taken on by Jesus.
Only then will we be able, holding the hand of Our Blessed Mother and guided by the Holy Spirit, to enter the Gardens of Obedience, which are gardens of joy, the immense, sweet, perfumed suffering, the fire-joy of being on the Cross with Him, taking up our cross, His Cross, each day and being one with Him in the fullness of our election, our unquenchable joy in persona Christi!
While here I will draw on the insights of Fr. Nouwen I do not intend to do a commentary on the entire book, best read and meditated upon individually.
Throughout the Holy Gospel Jesus is constantly calling to us, inviting us to follow Him, trust Him, be His disciples, forget self, take up our cross, to love everyone, including our enemies, to pray, to enter the secrecy of our room, itself symbolic of the garden enclosed and therein commune with the Father.
Nouwen early on zeros in on the abiding invitation:
                                                                         Yes, God dwells in my innermost being, but how could I accept Jesus’ call: “Make your home in Me as I make mine in you”? The invitation is clear and unambiguous. To make my home where God made His, this is the great spiritual challenge. [126]
Original disobedience results in being cast out of the original dwelling place with God on earth and we have been, the human family and each person, across the wide expanse of the earth, of millennia of history, the even greater expanse of our inner beings, wandering, fleeing actually.
                                                                   With my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and passions, I was constantly away from the place where God had chosen to make home. Coming home and staying there where God dwells, listening to the voice of truth and love, that was, indeed, the journey I most feared because I knew that God was a jealous lover who wanted every part of me all the time. When would I be ready to accept that kind of love? [127]
We know from Genesis that the first impact of the original disobedience was fear and the attempt by the human person to hide from God.
Absolute obedience is the foundation of that true love which casts out all fear.
Hence, once more, into our room, door closed, into the secrecy of the garden enclosed and:
                                                                    I have to kneel before the Father, and put my ear against His chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully and very gently what I hear. [128]
This is key! 
What Nouwen is pointing to here is the essence of the proclaiming dimension of our priestly vocation – we must give the people God, that is speak only what we hear the Father say to us – obedience is this intimacy of listening and heeding, this joy of being through obedience freed from the dangerous temptation to preach self, or some agenda or anything that is not of God!
                                                                       I know now that I have to speak from eternity into time, from the lasting joy into the passing realities of our short existence in this world, from the house of love into the houses of fear, from God’s abode into the dwellings of human beings. [129]
In a very real sense all that I have written so far on these pages, from the first chapter until now, all other aspects of our priestly commitment, all liturgies, prayer, lectio divina, study, struggle, everything is preparatory prelude for enabling us to enter the joyous gardens of obedience, from whence we go forth to proclaim Him and to bring to every human being all that they long for.
As Jesus before us again and again and again withdrawing to lonely places to commune with the Father where we….
                                                             ………..are called to enter the inner sanctuary of [our] own being where God has chosen to dwell. The only way to that place is prayer, unceasing prayer. Many struggle and much pain can clear the way, but I am certain that only unceasing prayer can let me enter it. [130]
Since every sin, from the original to the last, my own sins, unfolds as a process of considering, then choosing, then willing, then acting ultimately disobedience, that is a refusal to love in return for Love Himself, for the Holy Trinity does not ‘give love’ as in offering a quantitative something, rather His love is the giving of His very self and so my refusal by word/act of disobedience is a refusal both to accept Him and to love Him.
Therefore, the entire human race, every individual and…
                                                                             I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found……………It’s almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God’s love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent. [131]
If we priests are in such a flight mode, preoccupied with such a search for love where it cannot be found, we shall be joyless.
Indeed we shall become lost, virtually invisible within the mass of wandering, lost humanity, no longer a living flame beacon light, no longer giving off the sweet perfume of Jesus but adding the stench of our own confusion to the fog of daily life.
                                                                             The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world. [132]
Yes and the more entangled we become in the manipulations and power games of the institutional church, local chancery politics, parish divisions.
Likewise the reality of every human-prodigal-being, that is of everyone, their flight, their fears, their disobedience, their sin, their struggle, their hunger to be beloved – all this is ours, for we are His and in His persona, thus the only place for us to dwell where God dwells is within Jesus, within the gardens of obedience.
I must stop running away.
We priests must stop running away.
Our footsteps must be in the via dolorosa footsteps of Jesus for the only way of return, for us, for every prodigal, is to follow Jesus to the Cross, through the tomb – but we as priests MUST be the visible, obedient followers, and people will pick up the scent of the sweet perfume of Christ and come looking for Him and will notice the luminous joy of we priest- cross-carrying followers of Jesus and they will follow too – in our footsteps, yes through our very hearts and lived example, directly to Jesus!
We know that our culture is obsessed with notoriety/celebrity, neither of which should be confused with honour. 
Likewise our culture is obsessed with scandal and tears down the fame bestowed faster even than it bestows celebrity.
Any objective look at media reports on, for example, Pope John Paul II over the years of his pontificate will see this process of elevation and disdain repeat itself time and again.
How then are we to measure ourselves in humility and truth? 
Most of us, of course, will not have our self-image directly determined by media, but more directly our self-image will be impacted by parishioners, brother priests – though in a more general sense, of course, we are naturally impacted by the persistent assault against the priesthood in the media.
So how then are we to have a humble and balanced self-image?
We should take our measure in the light of Christ, which is standing before Him in the beauty of His Holy Incarnation, following the example of His life, loving and serving in imitation of Him and His humble, meek, courageous, generous Heart.
Most especially we take out measure in light of our willingness to embrace in our own lives oneness with Him in His passion, remembering through holy baptism we are also united with Him in His Holy Resurrection.
Thus before drawing from Fr. Cantalamessa’s words it is important to be clear: is my understanding of Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection primarily that He did all for ‘everybody’ – or do I truly appreciate the personal, intimate aspect of His sacrifice and self-gift.
In other words: Jesus was born, lived, suffered, died, rose from the dead, for ME!
This intimate reality, if embraced, specifically if Jesus is embraced, my entire being opened to Him, life then becomes joy: joy in suffering, joy in every aspect of life.
As I continue this writing we have crossed the threshold into Holy Lent, beautifully referenced by Fr. Thomas Hopko as “the Lenten Spring,” the title of his book on this particular season.
Some of his words are a prelude to the reflections, to follow, from Fr. Cantalamessa.
                                                                     Joy is at the heart of everything in the Christian life, and Great Lent is no exception…..
                                                                      Life is a clash of loves. A person either loves God, and so, with God, everyone and everything – for it is impossible to love God and not to love all that God has created – or a person loves himself….sinfully…to live exclusively for oneself….
                                                                   ….repentance means change. It means a turning of one’s mind and heart to God. ….It means violent action in the deepest and most hidden parts of the human spirit. [133]
We shall see in His obedience in the Garden of Agony, Jesus embraced the fullness of the ‘violent action in the deepest and most hidden’ reality in every human soul, in all of creation.
Indeed, the more I struggle in my almost seventy years of life as a human being, a man, a priest, to truly follow Jesus, to truly live in imitating His own humble, meek, obedient Heart, His very self, the more I am convinced the fundamental reality of obedience is oneness with Jesus in the Garden of His Agony, the Garden of Obedience, hence:
                                                              The Gethsemane experience reaches its climax and resolution in those words of Jesus: “But not what I will but what You will” (Mark 14:36). [134]
When Jesus speaks the “I” here we should all rejoice for while, clearly, each human being must exercise our own freedom, declare and strive to live out ‘fiat’, obviously we cannot do so on our own and so, each time we pray the “Thy will be done” in the Our Father, each time we strive to be obedient, in little and great things, it is within this and every ascent to the will of the Father in Jesus’ life.
When we are faithful to all the Church believes and teaches, for example, we are truly in imitation of Jesus, to be sure.
However this fiat of Jesus in the Garden, this consent of His will to what is unfolding in the Garden, will unfold in cascade to the last drop in the remainder of His Passion and ultimately in His surrender to the Father through surrender to death
FIAT is His willingly embracing the weight and price of every human sin, and consequence thereof, from the previous millennia of human history, that of the immediate moment in history and all of history until the end of chronological time.
We are here also in a Trinitarian moment:
                                                                            The “I” is the Word, speaking…on behalf of the free human will which he assumed; the “you”, on the other hand, is the Trinitarian will which the Word has in common with the Father. In Jesus, the Word (God) humanly obeys the Father! [135]
Each time we embrace obedience, each time we are with Jesus in the Garden of Obedience, we too are in a Trinitarian communion of love moment, for it is our willingness to be one with Jesus the Obedient that opens the door of our being to the action and grace of the Holy Spirit who enables our word of yes and our action, our living out of yes to the Father.
Here, in particular as we are in persona Christi, we participate in the great work of the salvation of souls.
Yes one alone is Redeemer, but it pleases Him that we should participate with Him, most especially through the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, therefore light is shone on the critical act of obedience to the rubrics for if, even in a minor way, we allow disobedience to enter we contradict the very sacrifice we are celebrating.
                                                                          …in Gethsemane, when Jesus says, ‘Father….your will be done’ (Matt 26:42), he utters the fiat of the redemption…..It was here precisely….that grace and freedom kissed and the human and divine Passovers coincided. He who had to fight, that is, human nature, encountered Him who could overcome, that is, God, and victory was the result. [136]
Yes obedience can be experienced as an immense weight, a huge struggle, which if we resist the weight and the struggle can become a serious disorder and a haemorrhaging of joy from our lives: however if embraced then little by little the Holy Spirit will fill us with the very grace of holy freedom and joy!
Indeed we will become filled with that particular joy which comes from being other centered, from laying down our lives, with love, for other – first and foremost for the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and because of the love of the Trinity for us our love from them, our return of love, becomes love of other.
                                                                        …In the mysterious passing-over from that “I” to that “you” is contained the true, definitive, and universal paschal exodus of the human race. This is the crossing of the true Red Sea; a crossing between two shores which are very close together but between which runs an abyss; for we are speaking here about passing from the human will to the divine will, from rebellion to obedience. Following Jesus in this exodus means passing from the old “I” to the new “I”, from “me” to other people; from this world to the Father. [137]
Emotionally, yes even in the depths of our souls, we may well be fearful of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us into the depths of the Garden of Obedience, for we well know it is to consent to being lead into the depths of Jesus’ agony.
It is way too easy to reduce obedience, or even to see obedience as primarily, follow rules, rubrics, orders from the Pope or the Bishop.
In a sense that is kindergarten obedience!
True, we cannot claim to be obedient, to be living out “Your will, not mine”, if we are slack in being obedient on that level, indeed the struggle to be externally obedient is constitutive of our openness to being led into the depths of Jesus’ obedience in the Garden, on the Cross, yes in the Tomb.
Certainly we can maintain certain functionality as priests if we are obedient in the above sense and it is virtuous.
Will we find true joy in that?
I recall during World Youth Day 2002 it seemed very popular for the youth to wear a wrist band with: WWJD. 
Indeed what would Jesus do?
There were pundits in the media, sadly some of them priests and religious sisters, who mocked this as being simplistic, or worse ‘conservative’!
However it seems to me WWJD should be engraved, especially, on every priestly heart and be constantly in our awareness:
                                                                                    There is no moment, no action, in a believer’s life that cannot be transformed into an act of loving obedience to the Father…..ask ourselves: What does the Lord want me to do in this moment, in these circumstances? We know this was what Jesus himself did, so that he could say: “I always do what is pleasing to him”(John 8:29); “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me”(John 4:34)
                                                                   The great joy we human creatures can give God is to share the destiny of Jesus, “Servant of God,” by pushing our own will-to-obey to the very limits, even obeying in the most utter darkness as Jesus did in Gethsemane. Servants of Jesus Christ – those who put their lives totally at God’s disposal in Jesus – by virtue of doing so become, like Jesus, the object of the Father’s satisfaction. The words once uttered by the Father about Jesus become words uttered for them, above all, those words said to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased”(Mark 1:11). [138]
What greater joy can there be than to know we are beloved of the Father, of Abba/Daddy who is joyfully pleased with us!
The Garden of Obedience is the threshold we must ‘pass-over’ with Jesus to oneness with Him throughout every aspect of His Passion, every step of His Via Dolorosa, every moment on His being placed on the paten of the Cross, into the fullness of His handing Himself over to the Father, into the deep silence, the awaiting in the tomb.
The cross is both place of ultimate priestly union with Jesus and doorway to the mysteries of our faith.
It is not a door which can be pushed against, rather it is a door which opens the more we remain still on the cross with Jesus.
No easy task and one beyond our own ability – hence prayer, prayer, prayer, the constant begging of the Holy Spirit for ‘grace in return for grace’!
In a sense the Cross is also the door, the threshold into the mystery of the tomb, the mystery of the obedience of Jesus even in death, the mystery of awaiting on the ‘time’ of the Father.
This is the third garden of obedience and the garden which, if you will, makes sense of the other two for without the Garden of the Resurrection [cf. Jn. 19:41] the Garden of Paradise would forever remain closed, i.e., the gates of the heavenly paradise would be forever shut; without the Garden of the Resurrection in a sense the Garden of His Agony- Obedience would simply remain an historical account of one man’s pre-arrest, torture, trail, execution.
To paraphrase St. Paul, if Jesus is NOT risen, then everything I have written here, indeed everything we priests have preached across the millennia, is bogus!
Perhaps we do not meditate enough, do not proclaim solemnly enough the great cry at the core of every Holy Mass when we declare, and call forth the proclamation of faith: 
We proclaim Your death, O Lord and profess Your Resurrection until You come again.
We live in the ‘is-ness’ of His Holy Resurrection, a truth however we cannot proclaim unless it is a reality we live, a reality for which:
                                                                  …we need a special grace to talk about Christ’s resurrection…….[139]
This is a grace we should beg for daily for this proclamation is foundational to the purpose of our priestly lives.
Everything flows from and towards proclaiming CHRIST IS RISEN!
We love one another, we love our enemies, we pray for our persecutors, we live the missio ad gentes, we go in search of the lost sheep, we build hospitals, schools, nursing homes, care for the poor, the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, indeed we get up in the morning, pray, struggle, celebrate sacraments, especially Holy Mass, celebrate popular pious devotions, – in a word all we are and all we do is, must be, proclamation of, witness to, celebration of His Holy Resurrection.
The very existence of all creation, its purpose and destiny, all human history, and most particular the very existence of human beings, of you and I, all flows, unfolds because He is risen.
When St. John tells us [cf. Jn. 1:1ff.]He was in the beginning, that He dwelt among us –  He still dwells among us until the end of time precisely because He is risen and therefore is really present with us in the Holy Eucharist, in Church, Priesthood and in the mystery of whatever we do for one another, to one another is rooted in the “I was…” teaching [cf. Mt. 25:31-46] – St. John also testifies to seeing His glory [v.14] and so we find ourselves once more in the Garden of the Resurrection for in truth the womb of Our Blessed Mother, the Manger, the Tomb, and yes each Tabernacle in which He dwells, each priest in persona Christi, each baptized man, woman, child – thus all creation, all history is inseparable from Him [cf. Col. 3:11].
                                                                All the “astounding things” that God has done find their fulfillment and more than fulfillment in this astounding thing: the resurrection of Christ. The Risen One entered the upper room “when the doors were locked”; today too he passes through locked doors………….
                                                             Nothing could have stopped its being Easter again this year; nothing will stop its being Easter a year from now, and so on until he returns. [140]


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]



When, the night before He died, Christ instituted the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood, in both instances He took ordinary matter to be transubstantiated in the reality of the former, and in a somewhat similar manner also changed into a new reality as regards the latter.

Let us, my brothers, stand in awe before this ineffable yet real dual fulfillment of His Divine Promise. [Jn.14:18; Mt.28:20]

Let us stand in awe before the mystery of wheat ground to flour, fired in the oven, placed upon the altar, with the mystery of grape crushed and bled that it too might be placed upon the altar, and of a man, purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit to be poured out as a libation for the Lord’s work in the heat of the day, in the depths of the vineyard.

What earth has given, human hands have made, becomes the bread and drink of eternal life by the power of the Holy Spirit at the command of a man of the earth, himself transformed by the same Spirit!

Indeed through ordination in persona Christi we men become priests are the living icon of His promise not to leave us orphans, and, through our sacramental celebrations, bring about the fulfillment of His promise to be with us until the end of the age.

We are living icons of His promise.

Dwelling in the reality of such superabundance of mercy the most natural place for we priests to be is with our face to the ground in constant adoration and supplication for mercy.

It is also a reality that it often is our experience satan has a particular hatred for us and appears to be permitted to beat upon us constantly. This can be especially our experience when we truly struggle to be among those who, though warred against remain faithful. [Rv.12:17]

Certainly when satan is making a frontal assault on the Church and the priesthood he will attack the truth about the Virginity of Mary, the Incarnation, Resurrection and Real Presence.

When we priests waffle on any of those truths we become participants in the attack on the Church and upon our own divine election.

It is a type of Judas work we become engaged in.

Then, of course, even if we are not experiencing suffering because of assaults directly on the Church, priesthood or the content of faith, we have our own sins and wounds to contend with and satan uses these as a means of discouragement and lassitude so that in the end either we quit the priesthood altogether or at the very least our people do not receive the dedicated service they need and deserve.

Conscious of all the mundane and sacred, all of the mercy and struggle, the nitty-gritty reality and even more real abundance of grace, which our vocation of joy in persona Christi contains, one of our own brother priests, the Apostle Paul, stresses the mystery it is within we, the clay vessels, the great treasure of His Priesthood is poured, lavished, so that, like Jesus, we in our turn are willingly poured out for others. [ 2Cor.4]

 This is the reality of what has been poured into us as superabundance of mercy in the sacrament of Holy Orders and becomes the reality of our lives in Christ and for the salvation of souls.                                                               The only question that should concern us, therefore, is that of fidelity to our identity, a fidelity which should be renewed each day, because identity is truth: truth of being from which derives the truth of action, the truth of our pastoral ministry. [79]

Who among us, with the passage of time from that original fire of the early period immediately following our ordination, has not had to confront the re-appearance in our being of the earthiness of our humanity, the fact we do indeed carry this inestimable treasure of mercy in the earthen vessel we are?

Yet even when that reality of our frailness as human beings is most pressing against us we do well to recall that when we struggle to be what we are, in persona Christi, the People of God will, most of them at any rate, trust the reality of priesthood:

                                                                             They should glow in the gravity of their character, the sanctity of their life, and the praise of their wholesome doctrine. [80]

We ARE in persona Christi.

This IS our joy – and our cross.

These two realities are far from being mutually exclusive.

They ARE stupendous realities of sanctifying and actual grace in the reality of our daily life! [1Pt.1:3-9; 13-16]

The day of our ordination, prostrated cruciform, surrendered by grace, we in fact were accenting to being nailed to the Cross, with and for Jesus, for the salvation of souls.

With the passage of time it may be that we are less and less inclined, for a variety of reasons/struggle, to wear proper clerical clothing, to be called Father, or perhaps we are simply so worn out by our labours, spiritual warfare we seek at the end of the ‘working’ day – though we are always priest so we are never NOT priest – tempted to revert to an attitude of ‘me, myself and I’.

This is why, when we begin to pray Night Prayer, and the daily examination of conscience, indeed of our consciousness of being always in persona Christi, it is essential we pose to our hearts the question: why would I ever for a single moment NOT want to be priest?

                                                               From our birth to our death, we walk on the journey toward Jerusalem. Season to season we advance, often in conformity and comfort, often in turmoil and pain. Along the way no one is blind to the labour….We tend to create habits of living that provide us with what we need to survive. But we are also searching……searching for peace. It is a journey toward Jerusalem.

                                                             …………..In our journey, we often forget God and are distracted. Or, if we seek beyond God, we find ourselves in the midst of loss. [81]

Rather than look exclusively outside of the reality of sacramental priesthood for the source of assaults on our own person and the priesthood in general, we need to consider first our own state of faith, or lack thereof, and if we have, or not, true fraternal love for our brother priests.

What St. Paul exalted about the people he served we should not only do likewise but do so in particular about each other as priests, encouraging and affirming one another, rather than indulging in hyper criticism and gossip; indeed tirelessly encouraging one another to endure courageously and generously the heat of the day, because we are impassioned with love of Jesus and His own love for our people, our brothers, for every human being. [1 Thess. 2: 19, 20]

If men, young and old, are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to embrace with a generous self-gift yes their own call to divine election as priests, perhaps one reason may be that they do not see us radiating a genuine love for one another and a true passion for each other’s joy in priesthood and for each other’s eternal salvation.

If there is uncertainty about faith praxis among our people, hesitancy to say yes to the call to priestly vocation, we need to examine our conscience and see if we radiate joy, fraternal affection, mutual support, or not.

Every crisis of faith is also essentially a crisis of trust.

Do we truly trust all Christ has revealed about Himself as Priest is real, true?

Do we allow this reality and truth to permeate our entire being, will, mind, imagination, heart, soul?

If we do, certainly always asking that in our deep faith Jesus help our unbelief, then flowing from such faith truth will permeate our being, our lives, and in truth the true acceptance, reverence, trust in, and love for, the reality of our brothers being in persona Christi, just as we are.

                                                               Jesus stands before us and asks, as He once did the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Today much confusion surrounds this question……

                                                             …..for ourselves, whether everything stands firm or falls is related to our faith in Jesus of Nazareth. “But you,” and Jesus is now questioning us, “who do you say that I am?” We know how Simon Peter answered Him…..”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”….This is Christ’s identity, and this identity is behind your own….Christ ardently longed to share His one priesthood with men.

                                 …..thanks to you priests, Christ is always sacramentally present in His Church….You act “in the Name and Person of Christ”….It is you who authoritatively proclaim the Gospel. Christ speaks through you: as a result “Christ proclaims Christ.” Who offers the Eucharist? You, but not alone: through you it is Christ who acts: “He is the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered Himself on the Cross”….Who imparts sacramentally absolution for sins committed? You priests, but not alone: it is Christ who forgives them through you. You are the “stewards of the mysteries of God” [1Cor.4:1]! [82]

Beloved brothers, let us stand in contemplation, awe, joy before the mysterious reality into which we are ordained!

                                                          Dear friends, in fulfillment of the Petrine ‘munus’, I intend to strengthen your faith in the identity of Christ and in your own identity as ‘other Christ’s’. Take a holy pride in being ‘called’, and be especially humble before so great a dignity, in the awareness of your human weakness.

                                                          Thanks be to you priests, who like a lantern illumine those who come to you, and for whom, like salt, you give life its savour. Thank you for what you do and above all for what you are. With deep feeling, I would like to thank all those priests who, in fidelity to their own identity and mission, continue to suffer in most varied situations. Thank you for your toil, thank you for your efforts, thank you for your strength, thank you for your tears, thank you for your smile. Thank God for your being there.

                                                          …………However, my thanks above all becomes a “Te Deum” for the gift of the priesthood and an exhortation to you to become more and more in the world but less and less of the world, so that you can always show yourselves for what you are to everyone, with humble pride and the proper external sign: it is the sign of unceasing, ageless service, because it is inscribed in your ‘being’.

                                                            With tender affection I entrust each of you to the Virgin, given to us in an extraordinary way as Mother of the Eternal Priest. For each of you I place in her clasped hands a humble request for perseverance and for the commitment to leave as a legacy to your brethren at least one who will continue that unique priesthood that lives and springs form love within us. [83]

My prayer, beloved brothers, is that we will allow this tender word from Pope John Paul II, a word from the Holy Spirit, to burn within us as a fire purifying our hearts, minds, intellects, imaginations, emotions, body, souls, of all the dross which challenges our true identity that we might participate with renewed commitment and joy, generosity and joy, selflessness and joy in the personal and missionary reality of being in persona Christi.

Some twenty years before, in his first Letter to Priests, Pope John Paul II showed us the deep connection between the reality of being in persona Christi, and in relationship with the Most Holy Theotokos, urging us to truly place ourselves in her care:

                                                                   Dear brothers, at the beginning of my ministry I entrust all of you to the Mother of Christ, who in a special way is our Mother: Mother of priests……………..All of us………through priestly ordination have in a certain sense a prior right to see her as our Mother. And so I desire that all of you, together with me, should find in Mary the Mother of the priesthood which we have received from Christ. I also desire that you should entrust your priesthood to her in a special way. Allow me to do it myself, entrusting to the Mother of Christ each one of you – without any exception – in a solemn, and at the same time simple and humble way. And I ask each of you, dear brothers, to do it yourselves, in the way dictated to you by your own heart, especially by your love for Christ the priest, and also by your own weakness, which goes hand in hand with your desire for service and holiness. I ask you to do this. [84]

Central as well to this sacred ‘gift and mystery’ of sacramental ordination is our participation, and desire for ever deeper union, with Jesus in His own intimate, filial, loving relationship with the Father. [Mt.11: 25-27; Jn. 17:20-23]

We are meant to be in union with, communion with, in filial love of, and yes to rest in and be obedient, all as Jesus was/ is, with the Father, opening wide the doors of our being so that His Incarnate Word permeates our being: through baptism and ordination, to be sure; in praxis through fidelity in being and becoming more and more who we are; through fidelity in all our contemplation and action, which are inseparable; fidelity of ‘ora et labora’.

This continuous communion of love, of restful, attentive, childlike trusting, obedient intimate confidence – our filial relationship with the Father as created, baptized beings, as redeemed souls, in persona Christi, is activated by, motivated by, enflamed by, if we cooperate with Him, the Most Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier and Divine Guest of our being.

All so that, ultimately, generously, we lavish this love of the Father Himself, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit, upon every man, woman, child on the face of the earth, directly to those we know, encounter, directly to those who live upon earth in this moment, and upon all the Holy Souls in our prayer for them.

This means too we embrace the continuing, purifying, vivifying, sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit. [Hb. 4:10-16]

This action of continuous formation by the Holy Spirit within us of ever deeper communion with the Father, in, through Jesus, underscores the fact we must have no other love greater in our hearts, occupying our minds, imaginations, longing, energy, than the love of the Father within us and our love of Him. [1Jn.2:15-17]

The Holy Gospel is replete with specific moments of intimate encounter and communion of love between Jesus and the Father, of dialogue and prayer, of listening and acting according to the Holy Will of the Father – in particular we find this in the great Priestly Prayer of Jesus in the Holy Gospel according to St. John.

The foundational aspect of this loving relationship between Jesus and the Father is witnessed by Jesus’ filial obedience to the Father, the articulation in His active life of the depths of the communion of love expressed in Jesus’ self-gift to the Father and self-gift to us from all eternity and visible from the moment of His Holy Incarnation through His public life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and all accessible to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The more we open the doors of our being and willingly participate in our own self-gift to the Father, to others, in imitation of and union with Jesus Christ Priest, the greater our joy will be.

This is childlike trust!

To attempt, as priests, any other way of being and living means being engulfed in an aloneness and loneliness that will destroy our vocation.

As it was for Jesus on earth, absolutely now that He is seated at the right hand of the Father, so it will be for us if we abandon ourselves to the Father with absolute love and trust. [Jn.16:33]

When Christ Priest proclaims the ultimate prayer of trust in the love of the Father, that is in the Father Himself, we have the template of our own relationship with and prayer to the Father, the template of priestly openness to the Father’s love and in this oneness with Jesus Himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is found ultimate communion of love with the Holy Trinity.

Here too is the template of our consecration in truth and the grace of priestly fraternity.

Given that in God there are only graced moments of encounter with Him, and in Him every one of those moments is, if we open wide the doors of our being to Him, to communion of love, then each moment is also a moment of beginning again.

Thus as I compose these lines I do so after First Vespers of Passion/Palm Sunday – this IS the moment-week of our redemption, our encounter in intimate confidence with the Priest who redeems us, the week of the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Priesthood, of priestly filial and fraternal love, with our Bishop and each other, solemnly renewed in our recommitment to the gift and mystery, the sacredness and fidelity of ordination in the Mass of Sacred Chrism.

With Christ Priest we place ourselves in each holy moment of Holy Week, template of every moment of every week, face to the ground with and in Jesus, in the Garden with a share in His passionate anticipation of the mission of redemption being accomplished on the altar of the Cross, where we are with Him, for the salvation of souls, every human being.

This IS our passion, our joy, our life, our gift, our mystery!

As we know, once Jesus had instituted the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacramental Priesthood, according to St. John at the same time pouring out His love in His extraordinary words after washing our feet, pouring this Love-truth into our beings, He then spoke once more, communed once more, with the Father, pray-pleading for everyone, for we priests in particular, in words which should set us afire anew, words which should form a critical aspect of our meditative life, inflaming too our hearts with love for one another, for all our brothers and sisters, friends and yes for our enemies.  [Jn.17:11-26]

This great and urgent cry of Christ, His Priestly prayer to the Father immediately before He begins His ascent to the altar of the Cross through His agony in the Garden, finds an eloquent echo in words of the Second Vatican Council:

                                                                    The fact of the matter is that Christ, in order ceaselessly to do the same will of His Father in the world through the Church, is working through His ministers and therefore remains always the principle and source of the unity of their life. Therefore priests will achieve the unity of their life by joining themselves with Christ in the recognition of the Father’s will and in the gift of themselves to the flock entrusted to them. In this way, by adopting the role of the good shepherd they will find in the practice of pastoral charity itself the bond of priestly perfection will reduce to unity their life and activity. Now this pastoral charity flows especially from the Eucharistic sacrifice. This sacrifice is therefore the center and root of the whole life of the priest, so that the priestly soul strives to make its own what is enacted on the altar of sacrifice. But this cannot be achieved except through priests themselves penetrating ever more intimately through prayer into the mystery of Christ.

                                                              ……………Faithfulness to Christ cannot be separated from faithfulness to His Church. Hence pastoral charity demands that priests, if they are not to run in vain, should always work within the bond of union with the bishops and their fellow priests. If they act in this manner, priests will find unity of life in the unity of the Church’s own mission. In this way they will be united with their Lord and through Him with the Father in the Holy Spirit, and can be filled with consolation and exceedingly abound with joy. [85]

There it is once more, beloved brothers!

This time from the mouth of the Holy Spirit through the Fathers of the Council!

Thus, if we seek to be ‘brothers dwelling in unity’, with the Holy Trinity, yes and with each other, then we shall “…exceedingly abound with JOY!”

Joy IS our vocation and, as proclaimed during Benediction, the source of our joy is Jesus in the Holy Eucharist which ‘contains within itself all delight’!

                                                             There is something very special between us and Christ. He looked at us, and we followed Him: He wounded us in the innermost depths of our souls, and we have never healed from this wound. We live in constant yearning for Him. His words and His actions, His death and His resurrection are constantly before our eyes. The scriptures, the events of our daily lives – everything speaks to us of Him.

                                                            This is why we are particularly drawn to the poor and the helpless, to the sick and the very young. In their cry, so often stifled, we hear the hidden voice of the poor Christ, who lives in them. There are times when we resist, and our hearts grow hard: but we can find no rest until we have responded to this cry. [86]                                         



 One of the passages in the Holy Gospel which, in a certain sense, has always intrigued my heart, and been an occasion of constant meditation is where Jesus is asked about the location of where He ‘stays’. [Jn.1:39]

 “Where do you live?”, is a question we quickly become used to asking and being asked from the time we are little children.

The answer, in a real manner, defines much about the person who answers and gives us clues to where they and we stand in relation to each other.

The question posed to Jesus is pretty ordinary.

Since His Holy Resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of the Father and through the marvel of the Blessed Sacrament we know where Jesus is staying: with us!

The tragedy is when we forget He also ‘stays’ in every sacrament and within our own being through sacramental grace.

Jesus’ response is, of course, more than allowing a certain transfer of information to reassure His future apostles of certain trustworthiness.

It is an invitation to intimacy.

The sacrament of Reconciliation is also a place where Jesus stays, to which He constantly invites us, for it is the place of encounter at the well, on the road of return.

Our people dwell in the midst of the culture of death with its attendant loss of a sense of sin and personal responsibility for their free will choices. They often are either fearful of, confused about, or simply have no experience of confession as necessary grace.

This lack of the experience of Divine Mercy in the sacrament of penance is frequently because we priests rarely make the sacrament available at times, a length of time, best suited to our people.

Once again we are face to face with the ravages of a crisis of faith.

However we need to be humble and admit the truth which is that the real crisis of faith is not that of our people but is our own.

When Jesus, from the heart of the confessional, is calling out to us, inviting us to come and see where He is staying, do we accept?

There is an ancient Orthodox prayer which is upon my heart as I write.

It is a prayer which serves as a starting point to stirring ourselves awake that we might accept His invitation to repent of our sins in the place where Divine Mercy dwells.

                                                                   O Master Christ God, who has healed my passions through Your Passion, and has cured my wounds through Your wounds, grant me, who has sinned greatly against You, tears of compunction.

                                                                 Transform my body with the fragrance of Your life-giving Body, and sweeten my soul with Your Precious Blood from the bitterness with which the evil one has fed me.

                                                                 Lift up my downcast mind to You, and take it out of the abyss of perdition, for of my own I have no repentance, no compunction, and none of the consoling tears which uplift Your children to their inheritance.

                                                                 My mind has been darkened through earthly passions, I cannot lift my eyes and look up to You in pain.

                                                                I cannot even warm myself with tears of love for You.

                                                                But, O Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, Treasury of good things, give to me true and complete repentance and a faithful heart with which to seek You alone; grant Your grace to me, and renew within me Your Holy likeness and image.

                                                                 I have fled from and forsaken You – I beg You not to abandon me.  Come out and look for me; lead me to Your pasture and count me among the sheep of Your flock whom You have chosen. Nourish me with them on the grass of Your Holy Mysteries, through the intercessions of Your most pure and holy Mother Mary, my Mother, and all Your saints. Amen.

It is of the essence of our being in persona Christi that we be living icons and dispensers of His mercy. Indeed being so, nothing should be more important. [Acts 20:24]

After the faithful and pious celebration of the source and summit of our faith at the altar of Divine Love, where else can we more truly bear witness ‘to the gospel of God’s grace’, than in the confessional?

Fidelity to being present in the confessional, when often times no one comes to avail themselves of Divine Mercy, is itself a laying down of our life for our friends.

It is also a joy.

                                                           There is nothing which belongs more to Church and there is nothing Jesus Christ wanted more closely reserved for its shepherds than the dispensation of the sacraments He instituted. [67]

Implicit in this is our willingness to be, since He already is, lavish in our dispensation of the sacraments.

This means a willingness on our part to be, frankly, tireless and available.

Recently a priest told me that, over and above various other reasons for preferring to use the Third Rite (and it should be noted here he has no posted times in the bulletin for individual confessions, ever) he does so because “It’s more realistic than the one on one stuff.”

However after some further discussion he told me the real reason: he simply can’t bear the weight of people’s sins.

Well who can!

Is it not true we can barely survive the weight of our own?

When we forget who we really are in persona Christi is when we fall into the disorder of functionality and a prideful, erroneous, assumption that we ‘do’ what we do.

It is the Holy Spirit who ‘does’ what we ‘do’.

It is a mystery that it pleases the Holy Trinity to place the immense treasure of sacramental priesthood with all the power and authority of the sacrament into our hands and hearts of clay and stone. But that is what it pleases the Trinity to do, confiding to us the full power to celebrate each sacrament in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, in persona Christi, for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.

When we stay with Jesus in the sacred place of the confessional of course we are simultaneously staying with Him in the sacred place of the Garden.

We will experience with Him the weight of sin, human misery, people’s self-deception.

For priests part of our divine election, a precious aspect of our vocation of joy, is accepting from the hands of Christ the Cross of the burden borne by our brothers and sisters. [Gal.6: 1, 2]

In the celebration of the holy sacrament of Reconciliation we do take the burden of our brothers and sisters. Precisely as we do that, with ‘a gentle spirit’ Christ is with us. Indeed the moment we take up our Cross each day, which is also the cross borne by our brothers and sisters; Jesus comes along, like the Cyrene, though in our case Jesus bears the greater weight.

                                                                  Through ordination, in an ontological sense, you are Christ’s witnesses in the service of the Word and the sacraments; you are likewise the real testimony of Christ the one Priest. At the moment of your ordination you received a new mode of being. You are marked by the priestly character, which is a real, indelible, spiritual sign. This character does not separate you from humanity; on the contrary, it places you in the midst, so that you can devote yourselves to its service. Indeed, the priestly character inserts you into the priesthood of Christ, who is ‘the key, the center and the goal of all human history’ (Guadium et spes, n.10), ‘the alpha and the omega’ (ibid.,n.45) of visible and invisible realities.

                                                                 Dear friends, how could the saving waters of Redemption flow to all generations if it were not for you? The clarity and certainty of your identity give rise to an awareness of your absolute indispensability in the Church and in the world.

                                                                Through you the Good Shepherd continues to teach, to sanctify, to guide and to love all the peoples of every culture, every continent and every age. For this reason you alone enjoy the title of pastor and, since there is no salvation except in Christ and since He must be proclaimed to the ends of the earth, it is impossible to cross the threshold of the third millennium without making the pastoral care of vocations a priority. If the world cannot do without Christ, it also cannot do without His priests. [68]

Thus, beloved brothers, it is a truth that when we stay with Christ in the confessional we will encounter those souls, some of tender years, others already in the full enthusiastic energy of youth, and some of mature life experience, who sense within themselves the call of divine election.

Moved by the Holy Spirit our Christ-like priestly hearts will see beyond the blackness of a soul burdened with sin to the generous heart seeking to follow Christ in the sacramental priesthood.

Likewise, whatever the vocation in life already being lived, or being discerned, even refused, we will always dispense love and its inseparable companion, truth, conscious that we ourselves are but poor and weak sinners always in need of His mercy.

Sacramental confession is, of course, more than just the sacred event of absolution from sin.

It is a willing response to sanctifying grace, the call of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ into the desert, there to be alone with Him in the vast expanses of the garden enclosed of our soul where we will surrender to an ever more complete metanoia and absolute kenosis.

Today mostly because of the immense evil of abortion, all forms of violence and hatred, expressed horrifically in terrorism, we are waist deep in the blood of our brothers and sisters.

How is it possible that we priests in the face of such deliberate evil, the attendant confusion about the sacred dignity of the human person, the ravages of loneliness, the demeaning slow death of homelessness, the excruciatingly slow death by starvation, the thousands of men, women and children who must till the soil in fields strewn with landmines, which tear their limbs and steal their beauty, how, given the other innumerable sins committed by brother against brother, sister against sister, how, given the constant blasphemy in countless films and tv shows of His Holy Name, how, before families ripped asunder by divorce, adultery, domestic violence, abuse, how, when the tears of our people cascade like rivers in flood, how, when we look in the mirror and see the face of a sinner staring back at us, how, my beloved brothers, can we doubt the absolute necessity of sacramental confession and the utter urgency that we willingly pour out our lives celebrating this treasure of Divine Mercy?

That is why we must enter emptiness, kenosis.

Christ emptied Himself for our salvation.

We must follow Him into this mystery that we might become what we are.

It is the process of being alone with Jesus in the desert – the place of solitude, aloneness with Him.

The deeper we enter this inner desert the more urgently will our conscience motivate our hearts to enter the desert of the confessional, first as contrite penitents, then as merciful confessors.

After the Holy Eucharist, no other sacrament is more powerful a means of configuring us with that depth of holiness which will fulfill within us our baptismal vocation to be saints.

                                                            Repentance is but a second victory of faith and is itself a new testimony…..

                                                            The Lord teaches that the return of a penitent to the bosom of Christ is equal in its power and honour and pleasure of having a whole sheepfold (a whole Church). [69a]

Our hearts should eagerly desire that every one of our people might be that returning penitent.

In fact, the more we ourselves experience the joy of entering the bosom of Christ through our own sincere sacramental repentance, the more eagerly indeed shall we seek out the lost sheep through being constantly available to them in the confessional, the celebration of the sacrament of Divine Mercy.

                                                           It is the richness of heaven that has been poured out with the Blood of Christ into our hearts. [69b]

Sin reduces us, as we well know, emotionally, sometimes physically, always spiritually, to the level of poverty, heartache, lonely isolation from the community, from communion of love with the Holy Trinity, as experienced by the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the ten lepers, the paralytic lowered through the roof, the man by the pool, the publican at the rear of the temple, the woman washing His feet, the traveler beaten and tossed in the ditch and the prodigal son.

It is into all of our sins and the consequences of all our sinning, into the depths of all that sickness, loneliness, darkness and fear, that broken poverty, those gaping wounds, that He seeks, through the sacrament of confession, to pour the ‘richness of heaven’, the healing wine and oil of His Blood.

                                                             The wonderful power of Christ as God who redeems and loves even to death can by no means be conceived or experienced except in the person of a sinner who is cast on the ground and repudiated by all people!

                                                           Without the sinner we are able neither to comprehend the love of Christ, nor to measure its depth, nor can it show itself in an action which reveals the superlative quality of the divine love. Divine love appears at its most dignified in our sight when we come to know it in its condescension to us while we are fallen into a state of misery. [69c]

Thus we must truthfully as priests ask of our hearts: Do I love sinners with Christ’s own passionate love? When they come to the fountain of mercy in holy confession, do I give them His compassionate, truthful, tender understanding and wisdom? More, am I aware in the core of my being that while, in confession, I may hear accounts of many sins and much evil, I am the sinner?

In his Holy Rule St. Benedict urges all his monks to receive every guest as Christ.

Our hearts must never forget that Christ comes as a guest, in the holy place of the confessional, in the guise of a penitent.

Indeed remembering His invitation to His beloved flock to come to Him with all that wearies and burdens them, finding within Him the true rest they yearn for; do we make of the confessional a sacramental place of rest, comfort, that secure inn where their wounds are bathed with the oil of kindness, the wine of absolution?

Every penitent is poor, hungry for mercy, and all of us sinners are truly ignorant of the actual reality of sin. If we were not even a single venial sin would be such a burden on our souls so crushing we might fall into despair.

Thus it is mercifully true that:

                                                                  Whosoever is poor, hungry, sinful, fallen or ignorant is the guest of Christ. [69d]

If we have any difficulty, or hesitancy, to appreciate that truth it may well be because we fail to recognize the description of our true selves in those words. This failure undoubtedly is rooted in the irregularity of being ourselves penitents who trustingly enter the inn of the confessional, the refuge of sinners, the hospice of the beaten up and wounded pilgrim.

                                                              It is to offer freedom to captives that Christ came, pursuing them to the hidden places of darkness, but if you have not yet felt the captivity of sin or if you are not aware of its darkness or have not been awakened by its smothering horror, how then can you cry out from the depths? If you do not cry in alarm, how then is the Saviour to hear your voice and how is He to know your place?

                                                               Christ came to give sight to the blind. If you have not discovered the blindness of your heart and have not felt deprived of the divine light, but have tried to open the eyes of others while you yourself were blind, how is He to endow you with sight and where is He to give you the light?

                                                              The essence of repentance is an awareness of sin, a cry of the pain of crime, certitude of the absence of light. [69e]

Traveling some years ago in a remote region of the country I visited a friend of a friend at the latter’s request. My own friend was greatly concerned about the way his friend was living, the consequence for their immortal soul.

The person I visited appreciated his friend’s concern and was forthright in conversation about the way they were living.

While showing me around their city they mentioned how the previous Easter, around the time when the Vigil would have been over, the local Bishop came into the bar where this man with many other people was drinking.

This Bishop simply went around and gently reminded those members of his flock that Christ is Risen!

The man telling me the story was still visibly moved by that event and said he knew that someday, but not yet, he would return to the sacraments for the memory of the Bishop being so gentle and inviting remained strong.

Our words and actions of truth-speaking love will obviously not always result in immediate conversions. But seed well sown will eventually, because of the tender care of the Divine Gardener, bear fruit.

                                                                          Conversion by its very nature is the condition for that union with God which reaches its greatest expression in the Eucharist. Our union with Christ in the Eucharist presupposes, in turn, that our hearts are set on conversion, that they are pure. This is indeed an important part of our preaching to the people. In my encyclical I endeavoured to express it in these words:

                                                                      “The Christ who calls to the Eucharistic banquet is always the same Christ who exhorts us to penance and repeats His ‘repent’. Without this constant and ever-renewed endeavour for conversion, partaking of the Eucharist would lack its full redeeming effectiveness…”(RH20).

                                                                     In the face of a widespread phenomenon of our time, namely, that many of our people who are among the great numbers who receive Communion make little use of confession, we must emphasize Christ’s basic call to conversion. We must also stress that the personal encounter with the forgiving Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a divine means which keeps alive, in our hearts and in our communities, a consciousness of sin in its perennial and tragic reality, and which actually brings forth, by the action of Jesus and the power of His Spirit, fruits of conversion in justice and holiness of life. By this sacrament we are renewed in fervour, strengthened in our resolves and buoyed up by divine encouragement. [70]

If, however, we are, as we should be, concerned about the disparity between frequent Communion and infrequent confession by our people, we need to look into our own hearts and see if we witness to the necessity of true repentance by the example of our own contrite hearts.

As mentioned in the very title of this chapter, metanoia and kenosis are aspects of the ‘grace in return for grace’ of this great sacrament of Divine Mercy.

                                                                     The first care of the Cure of Ars was to teach the faithful to desire repentance. He stressed the beauty of God’s forgiveness. Was not all his priestly life and all his strength dedicated to the conversion of sinners? And it was above all in the confessional that God’s mercy manifested itself. So he did not wish to get rid of the penitents who came…For him this was undoubtedly the greatest of his mortifications, a form of martyrdom…he himself suffered from  the sins confessed and even more from the lack of repentance: “I weep because you do not weep.” [71]

Tears: the ancient holy ones in the early centuries of the life of the Church considered tears to be a type of second baptism and the most precious gift of the Holy Spirit.

Tears: the gift of weeping copiously with the zeal of penthos over our own sins, crying from the core of our being over the sins of the world, sobbing in unity with the Weeping One Himself.

                                                          This is the moment in our lives, in our Christian lives, in which we must arise and be inflamed with ‘the zeal for our Father’s house.’ We have the Advocate in us, the Wind that fans this flame that the Scriptures talk about.

                                                          It is time, yes, it is indeed time. I feel like imploring, like weeping, like crying out, like doing a thousand things that men do when they feel close to despair, except that I can’t come close to despair because I live in  hope.

                                                                 But I am human, and so I cry out, and I think that lay people cry out with me. Do you hear us? It’s not enough to speak softly anymore. We have to cry. So, filled with hope, yet not far away from despair, I howl. [72]

So writes the Servant of God Catherine Doherty of her great passionate love for the Church, for priests, and of her willingness in the depths of her own being and prayer to weep, cry, howl for the conversion and protection of the Church, as repentance for herself and all sinners, in particular for priests.

All this cleaved to the heart of the weeping Christ.

If the laity howls in agony over the re-crucifixion of Christ, especially in the Church, can we priests weep less? [Jb.16:20;  Ps.6:7; 39:13; 42:3,4;  Is.16:9; 25:8; 38:5;  Mal.2:13; Mk.14:34; Lk.6:21;7:38;19:41;22:61,62; Jn.11:33; 11:35; 20:11; 20:13; Acts 20:19; 20:31; Rm.12:15; 2Cor.2:4; 2Tim.1:3-5; Jas.4:9; Hb.5:7; 12:17; Rv. 21:4; 22.20]

As priests we in particular, in Christ, through Christ, by the action and teaching of the Holy Spirit, keep watch with, weep with, Christ for the Church, each other, our own particular flock, and for the entire world.

Our tears must be co-mingled with His tears as we have our face on the ground beside and with Him in the Garden, on the Cross.

While normally not, though frankly at the same time in may be a salutary example if come upon inadvertently by the laity, when there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, nonetheless frequently in church before the Tabernacle, we should be prostrate, face to the ground in adoration and tears.

In particular, in our own room before a crucifix or icon, we should be face to the ground in vigil during the night when satan is on the prowl, when the violent, the thieving, the desperate, the lonely, the distraught, the homeless, the hungry are most in chaos, turmoil, danger and grief.

The confessional, which can be a place of solitude where it often seems we wait in vain for penitents to arrive, is also a good place to shed copious tears in prayer and from such intercession we will build the place to which they will come: a priestly heart which is a wellspring of compassion.

                                                                  The solicitude of every good shepherd is that all people “may have life and have it to the full”, so that none of them may be lost, but should have eternal life. Let us endeavour to make this solicitude penetrate deeply into our souls; let us strive to live it. May it characterize our personality, and be at the foundation of our priestly identity. [73]

This solicitude for all people, burning in our hearts, must be Christ’s own solicitude.

Likewise is should be akin to that of our father in faith Abraham. In our intercessory prayer we too should argue with God, pleading that He spare the city of this world, or at least reduce His anger. [cf.Gn.18:22-32]

To be sure this passionate desire that all might be saved finds its most eloquent and efficacious articulation in the celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the primary cry for forgiveness and restoration in Christ.

The sacrament of Reconciliation is also a prayer of intercession: particularly when we truly pray for those confessing their sins and take upon ourselves the greater portion of their penance, as Christ Himself has done for every human being in His Passion.

The passion of our solicitude is also expressed through fasting, vigils and tears.

                                                                  The soul is dead through sin. It requires sadness, weeping, tears, mourning and bitter moaning over the iniquity which has cast it down to perdition. Howl, weep and moan and bring it back to God. [74a]

Jesus assures us in the Beatitudes that all this weeping and moaning is blessed and promises that the fruit of true contrition and compunction is joy!

Weeping through the gift of tears from the Holy Spirit is not an emotional sadness of unavailed grief. Rather tears are gifts of hope, trust and gratitude as much as a gift of true repentance. Indeed weeping over our own sins and those of the world is an act of sublime faith and true trust in Divine Mercy.

Tears shed on behalf of our brothers and sisters become a selfless act of pure charity.

                                                                     To advance in virtues, as well as to escape sin, compunction is still needed. A brother asked Saint Anthony, ‘What should I do about my sins?’ The saint replied, ‘Whoever seeks deliverance from sins will find it in tears and weeping, and whoever wishes to advance in building up virtue will do so through weeping and tears.’ As examples he went on to cite King Hezekiah, Saint Peter and Mary Magdalen who, ‘after washing the Saviour’s feet with her tears, deserved to hear that she had chosen the better part.’ In the sayings of the Fathers, it is to Abba Poemen that the same brother addresses his question, and the reply is the same, except that the scriptural quotations are summed up in a short sentence: ‘Weeping is the way the Scriptures and our Fathers give us, when they say, “Weep!” Truly, there is no other way than this.’ Abba Moses proposes the same formula: ‘Through tears we acquire virtues, just as through tears we obtain pardon for sins. [74b]

It may perhaps strike you my brothers as a bit odd that I should be extolling the gift of tears as an important and necessary grace for true repentance, and for powerful effective intercessory prayer, yet I do so with a great sense of urgency given the unrelenting holocaust of abortion, the pervasive hatred which feeds terrorism, the deep anxiety, loneliness, confusion which wounds the hearts of so many of our brothers and sisters.

In a word the urgency to be constantly, we priests especially, crying out for Divine Mercy and the grace of repentance, metanoia, kenosis, for the entire priesthood, for the whole human family.

It is a matter of urgent yearning for the salvation of souls.

                                                                  Those who go to God have a great struggle, first exhaustion and then ineffable joy. Those who wish to light a fire get smoke in their eyes and shed tears; then they obtain the desired result. We too must light the divine fire with tears and hardship. The more one aspires to the love of God, the more one will value this ‘work’. [74c]

Perhaps it is not, really, that we fear tears, or have not pleaded with the Holy Spirit to grant us this vital gift.

Perhaps it is simply we do not know how to weep.

                                                                            You have no tears? Buy tears from the poor. You have no sadness? Call the poor to moan with you. If your heart is hard and has neither sadness nor tears, with alms invite the needy to weep with you. The exercise of pity is a great thing; it procures tears for approaching God. [74d]

My heart is convinced, beloved brothers, if we spent less time re-telling tales of clerical scandals, gossiped less about our brothers, were less critical of our bishops, less negative about the laity and instead wept more, the re-crucifixion of Christ in the Church, in the world, would cease; there would be less priest-scandals, fewer of our brothers would abandon their divine election, we’d be blessed with truly holy and orthodox shepherds and our people would return, in droves, to the sacraments. [Ja.1:21, 26; 2:12, 13; 3:1, 2, 5]

We know very well the power of words.

Indeed our vocation of joy being in persona Christi capitis means we constantly are using ultimate sacred words in the celebration of sacrament.

How powerful the words: I absolve you!

Yes, we can utter words of mercy, of consecration, blessing.

Words: to give comfort, hope, love, truth.

We even have the power to use words of deliverance, exorcism.

How then is it that would ever casually utter unholy words?

Commenting on the reality of “sobornost”, a Russian word which means unity – unity on the most profound level of oneness of mind and heart – the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, teaches:

….the only time we can really have sobornost is when we are in communion with one another. But a human being has great difficulty in establishing communion, first, within himself, and secondly, with others.

                                                        This being so, whence comes that ‘key’ which will open our hearts to the other…the answer is quite evident…The roots of that word communicate lie in our communion with God. Do we realize what takes place within the depths of our souls when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ? He told us that, unless we partake of this communion, we would have no place in the Kingdom of God.

                                                      …..when the Kingdom of God comes to us in its fullness, the first thing that will happen…is that every word that we have thought, spoken, or whispered in the night, or in the most secret chambers of our hearts, will be revealed to everyone else. Why will it be revealed at that time? Why should it be revealed at all? Because the Kingdom of God cannot exist without this deep sharing between one another.

                                                      When we approach the table of the Lord and receive from Our Lord’s own hands (for the hands of the priest are, at that moment, His hands) His Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity, we have truly communicated with Him; we have been absorbed in Him; we have become one with Him. Then, when we move away from that table and return to our place in the congregation, we must become lovers incarnate, just as He has become incarnated for love of us, and for our brothers and sisters.

This love must lead us to communication with others because we have just been in communication with God…..[75]

Clearly the holier our communication outside of the confessional the more holy shall be our communication of love, truth, mercy, within the confessional.

As within everything else in our vocation of divine election, as holds true for all the baptized as well, we are surrounded by examples of the sacred possibility of it all!

I speak here of our participation in the supportive mystery, and ministry, of the Communion of Saints.

                                                               Following in Christ’s steps, those who believe in Him have always tried to help one another along the path which leads to the heavenly Father, through prayer, the exchange of spiritual goods and penitential expiation. The more they have been immersed in the fervour of love, the more they have imitated Christ in His sufferings. They have carried their crosses to make expiation for their own sins and the sins of others. They were convinced that they could help their brothers to obtain salvation from God who is the Father of mercies. This is the very ancient dogma called the Communion of Saints. It means that the life of each individual son of God is joined in Christ and through Christ by a wonderful link to the life of all his other Christian brethren. Together they form the supernatural unity of Christ’s Mystical Body so that, as it were, a single mystical person is formed. [76]

When we refrain from using Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon, or use it reluctantly so long as we can skip over the Saints names; when we are disinclined to celebrate the Mass of a particular saint unless that one is a formal feast or obligatory memorial; when we visit our people in their homes, in hospital, places of work and so forth, or visit the schools, without calling upon the Guardian Angels and Patron Saints of those we are about to visit, or sit in the confessional for hours without penitents coming, yet not calling upon our Guardian Angel, Patron Saint, all blessed priests in heaven to join together to seek the lost and bring them to sacrament – in what reality are we living?

If we are in intimate communion, dare I say a daily working relationship, with the Angels and Saints, and then we shall find communicated to us by them a profound sense of place and experience of reality, namely, that we are living in the midst of truth.

Actual reality is, in the main, invisible to the naked eye of the body, ineffable to the intellect while being simplicity itself to the heart. [Phil.4:4-9]

When we read the lives of the saints it is striking, from the time of the great holy men and women of the desert to the present, of the importance saints gave in their lives to both the sacrament of reconciliation and to spiritual direction.

Oftentimes the term ‘confessor’ meant both the priest to whom one went for sacramental mercy and for spiritual guidance.

The spiritual giants, such as the Fathers of the Desert, in the area of sacred teaching/guiding of souls were not always ordained priests. In more recent history holy ones such as St. Theresa of Avila and St. Therese, the Little Flower, Bl. Dom Columba Marmion, Archbishop Martinez, Startez Silouan, Elder Zosima, and the Servant of God Catherine Doherty, priests and laity, have either been spiritual directors in particular or their writings have, and do, serve as resources for souls seeking to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Often times when I address priests on the importance of our being available as spiritual directors/spiritual fathers, the initial reaction is a complaint that they do not feel adequate to the task and anyway there is hardly the time to spend giving direction.

Frankly the majority of what occupies us administratively can always be done well, if not often times better, by the laity.

As to the issue of not being up to being a spiritual director, even more than specific training in the seminary or through a particular institute, assuming always these places of formation are in accord with the Magisterium, is the essential formation which we will receive if we ourselves are directed by a spiritual father, a master of the interior life.

                                                                     Without confusing the sacramental moment with spiritual direction, priests should know how to identify opportunities to initiate spiritual dialogue outside of the celebration of the sacrament. “Rediscovery and promotion of this practice, also during the various moments of the sacrament of Penance, is a major benefit for the contemporary Church.” Such leads to an awakening of the sense and effectiveness of the sacrament and creates the conditions necessary to overcome the present crisis. Personal spiritual direction forms true apostles, capable of activating new evangelization in society. The success of the mission to re-evangelize so many of the faithful who are estranged from the Church requires a solid formation for those who have remained close to her.

                                                              New evangelization depends on an adequate number of priests; experience teaches that many respond positively to a vocation because of spiritual direction, as well as the example given by priests who are interiorly and exteriorly faithful to their priestly identity. [77]

                                                       ….through the Fathers of the Church God has made it clear to us that we need spiritual direction….St. John of the Cross has said that “only a fool directs himself”. Especially should people dedicated to God seek direction. Through this grace they realize their poverty and their weakness. We need a spiritual guide on the narrow road that leads to heaven. The devil delights in placing confusing signposts on our way, especially at our major crossroads….

                                                      ….That holy man, that priest, must know the state of your whole self mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

                                                      ….The great Spiritual Director, Christ, who stands behind your spiritual director, already begins to bless you. Often without your realizing it, He gives the beginning of answers, and places a great peace in your soul…because you have recognized your dependence upon the priest He has given to direct you.

                                                       Through spiritual direction, you have taken the greatest precaution a human being can take against pride. Pride is the greatest enemy of a Christian, the one sure guide to hell. Pride is the devil’s daughter, or perhaps even the essence of the devil himself. It was pride that made him hurl into the endless heavens his terrible, challenging cry to God: “Non serviam!”

                                                       I know that there are some among you who, strangely enough, still question deep down in your souls the need of spiritual direction. Due to spiritual sloth, you do not see the need for communicating the state of your soul to that other Christ. He is the person whom you have chosen with the grace of God to lead your soul to the green hills of the Lord, to that sanctity and life of perfection that you have promised solemnly when you made your promise before the Blessed Sacrament. But to question the need of a spiritual director is to question God, the Church, and the popes themselves. [78]

If at no other moment in our lives as priests, certainly in the sacrament of reconciliation we ourselves, like the laity, must enter into that faith which perceives, embraces, lives reality.

Namely, in confession we must trust that our brother is indeed priest like us in persona Christi.

The same holds true in spiritual direction.

Can we really expect the laity to return to regular confession, to the place where the Merciful Christ dwells, if we are never there on our knees as true penitents, soaking the floor with our tears? [Mt.18:3; Mk.2:5; Lk.13:3; Jn.8:31,21; Jn.20:22,23]





Most likely every human being at some point in life, perhaps even frequently for long periods of time, feels deep within that God has forgotten us.

Our cry is never unheeded and always there will be those moments of sweetness when God who is Love speaks tenderly to the depths of our being, assuring us He is so close, keeps us so close, our very name is written upon the palm of His hand. [Is.49:14-16]

The name which He has written upon the palm of His hand is our real name. [Rv.2:17]

It is easy for our hearts to see Jesus in the Garden, in the intimate prayer for every soul offered by Him to the Father, raising His hands in the gesture of orans, and seeing on the palms of those Sacred Hands our true name.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the truth about our real name, ‘the name one receives for eternity’, in paragraphs 2156 to 2159.

They are a beautiful source of meditation.

We, in the mystery of our divine election to this vocation of joy which is ours, receive not strictly speaking a new name but a defining indicator of our sacramental identity as shepherd and servant: Father!

We become priest and henceforth from the day of our ordination, thanks in large measure to the tender prayers of our people, with the intercessory help of Our Blessed Mother, and the lavishness of grace, struggle each day to truly become what we are.

A young priest came to speak with me the other day.

To use his own words he was ‘totally fragmented’.

He felt like bits and pieces of his self were scattered everywhere. The comfortable, secure, sense of wholeness, and budding holiness, of ‘completeness’, as he described it, had left him.

There were those days, weeks perhaps, immediately following his ordination when, as he said, ‘it seemed all was right with the world.’

Now all he seemed to experience each day was a relentless barrage of demands, criticisms from the laity, bad temper from the pastor, distractions in prayer, itself experienced as a burden, doubts about his vocation, and much, much more.

He ended with those words which most priests at some early juncture of our lives have been heard to utter: “Who knew being a priest contained so much suffering!”

Perhaps all of us are initially surprised to discover ordination is not some magic potion which removes the clay from our feet, the passions from our flesh, the distractions from our imaginations, and the need for approval from our emotional life.

Yet if we kneel beside and with Christ in the Garden, putting our face to the ground beside and with Him in offering to the Father, we would not be so surprised.

Jesus Christ, High Priest, is the One who offers.

Jesus Christ, High Priest, is the One who is offered.

So it is for we who are sacramentally in persona Christi.

The canticle from tonight’s Evening Prayer still sings in my heart as I compose these pages.

It is a canticle which consoles the heart of every priest if we would but take it to heart, for truly Jesus suffered not only for the collective ‘you’ St. Peter speaks of, but for the personal ‘you’, the ‘I’ and so ‘I’ am the one healed by His wounds. [1 Pt. 2:21-24]

This too is an example of divine intimacy with the entire human family, in particular for the baptized, even more deeply for priests.

We will frequently have great difficulty understanding and embracing the sacramental reality of being in persona Christi, as the one offering and being offered, if we are seduced by the modern relativism which leads to gross errors regarding the essential truth about the necessity of the sacramental priesthood for the entire human family: for the salvation of souls.

                                              Christ’s priesthood flowed from the paschal mystery. Our priesthood is not ours but His. We must therefore draw the most profound truth about life from Christ’s death and resurrection. “May He make us an everlasting gift pleasing to You.” (3rd Eucharistic Prayer): that is how we speak to the Creator, our Father, in the name of Christ and “in persona Christi”, and at the same time in the name of every creature. Because of its own meaning the priesthood will always contain within itself a profound “hermeneutics” of the mystery of the world and above all the “mystery of man”. Any world which sought to delete the priesthood from its structures would deny its own self, and above all would destroy human nature in its most essential aspect. [41]

We well know it is not only the secular world, the culture of darkness which seeks ‘to delete the priesthood from its structures’. There are those dioceses, parishes, religious communities which, sometimes openly, often under the guise of enhancing the role of the laity, are essentially deleting the sacramental priesthood from their structures.

Even many priests are caught up in this progressive deletion of their very own divine election.

This progressive deletion of the sacramental priesthood from life accounts in no small measure for the paradox of those who claim to be catholic while advocating the so-called ‘right to choose’ abortion, acceptance of homosexual practice, inter-communion without the prior true union of faith, etc.

It is even in seemingly small things, such as the refusal to wear proper clerical dress, or be called by our proper title of Father, that we become complicit in the process of deleting the sacramental priesthood from human life and become participants in the destruction of ‘human nature in its most essential aspect’. [Mk. 6:34]

The Good Shepherd, in whose person we are by ordination, instructs us to enter into intimacy with, Himself: ultimate experience of learning the depths of priesthood. [Mt.11:29]

We need to beg for the grace to be purified of the modernist notion of priesthood, which has prevailed since the late 1960’s. 

It is a notion which claims adherence to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, though in reality betrays a total ignorance of the Council’s document on the priesthood and the subsequent teachings of Pope Paul VI, and most particularly, Pope John Paul II.

Indeed it denies over two millennia of orthodox teaching and tradition.

This modernist notion of the priesthood is based on a minimalist, and very limited, functionality and decries any attempts to adhere to a specific priestly spirituality.

It is a reductionist notion bandied about under the guise of enhancing the role of the laity in the life of the Church, but actually detracts from the laity’s vocation by a type of co-option into that which is reserved for the ordained priest alone.

The result is a progressive diminishment of both the lay and priestly vocations.

Returning to the story of that young priest who came to speak with me, what became clear was he was in a particular diocese where the bishop and majority of the priests were completely in bondage to the modernist, minimalist ideas of priesthood.

The Holy Spirit calls us to surrender to the yoke, meekness and humility of the Sacred Heart, the Priestly Heart.

A brother priest likes to repeat: “We must serve the Church as the Church wishes to be served.”

This is more than a deep spirit of obedience. It is a true spirit of humility.

Holy Mother the Church wishes first and foremost for we priests to serve her as true priests, true shepherds of the flock, in the full reality of our being in persona Christi.

In that, we shall, no matter the depths of our suffering or the intensity of the struggle to be faithful, experience the true joy of our vocation, a joy which will come to completeness within the core of our very being, a real participation in the joy of the Baptist. [Jn.3:29, 30]

The simplest way for us to decrease, so Christ increases in every human heart we serve, is for us to set aside personal notions of what priesthood ought to be and surrender, joyfully, to being hidden in the reality of what priesthood is, set forth by Holy Mother the Church as was given to Her by Christ Priest Himself.

What can it be that lurks behind these modernist notions about sacramental priesthood which defy the teaching of the Church and the absolute reality of the sacrament itself?


Sin expressed in our hearts as lack of faith, pride, and refusal to trust in the communion of love offered us by the Holy Trinity.

Sin, expressed as arrogance, anger, greed, and lust, and if not through sexual sin, certainly through other means of gratification.

In my interviews with laity, young, old, professional, working in factories, offices, on farms, believers and non-believers alike, I was struck by the common answer to my question: what most disturbed them about priests today?

I had expected they would address the issue of sexual scandal, extremes of so-called liberal or con Instead the most common issues which disturbed them were: priestly arrogance, refusal to be seen in clerical clothing, to be addressed as Father and a lifestyle deemed to be ‘high on the hog’?

Each priest has to look into his own heart to see clearly the root causes of his own sin, and confess the sins he commits.

Each priest has to embrace the reality that we are ‘vessels of clay’, and cry out constantly: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

                                          Sin creates a proclivity to sin; it engenders vice by the repetition of the same acts. This results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgement of good and evil. Thus sin tends to reproduce itself and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root. Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called ‘capital’ because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia. [42]

The final stress in his suffering the young priest referred to spoke about was the pain caused him by the mouths of his brother priests. They had labeled him as rigid, conservative, ‘clerical’ in the most demeaning sense.

What struck my heart was that this young priest was orthodox in his faith, dressed in clerics, insisted he be called Father, was devoted to Our Blessed Mother, believed the truth about and was devoted to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, was loyal to the Holy Father, etc.

All those things deemed to be too ‘clerical’ by the modernists and minimalists.

That there was some rigidity about him was also true. Yet the rigidity was as much a defense against the disdain of his brother priests as it was to any degree a wound in his personality.

In my experience the fodder for clerical gossip, that most pernicious and destructive of priestly sins, is the individual priest’s bondage to one or more of the capital sins.

True, as vessels of clay, we will be constantly in the battle between sin and virtue, between truth-teaching and the struggle to live what we teach.

This is the reality of spiritual warfare within which each priest SHOULD be a good fighter.

It is when we, not just our people, have a cognitive disconnect which we fail to struggle to overcome that we become those who seek to delete the priesthood from humanity.

Disunity among the shepherds leaves the flock vulnerable to the wolves, for, obviously, if the shepherds are at war among themselves, who is there to guard the flock?

Satan is not only a liar and the father of lies; he is also the great distractor.

Perhaps he cannot distract us from Christ through our committing mortal sin. He certainly will attempt to distract us from Christ by enticing us into committing venial sins until our will is so weakened we do indeed turn completely away from Christ through mortal sin.

Anything: to disrupt the unity among us, which should be the hallmark of our love for one another.

Anything: to keep us from decreasing so Christ may increase.

There is a beautiful passage from St. Paul which is a template for daily meditation, an encouragement for us to struggle to become what we are, and to love our brothers in the priesthood: Col.3:1-11.

Christ IS everything!

When that young priest had finished speaking what came to my heart was pretty clear: he had if not forgotten, because of the stress and suffering he was enduring, at least was having difficulty trusting who he truly was in persona Christi.

The modernists attempt to delete the priesthood from humanity most ardently does so by a denial of the vital importance of our sacramental priesthood as a real presence in the lives of all our brothers and sisters.

The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, in her book DEAR FATHER, pours forth from her own heart, on behalf of the laity, her passionate love for priests, her faith in the reality of sacramental priesthood.

Catherine speaks to the reality of joy in an entire chapter, posing a basic question to our hearts:

                                            Do you realize that you are a joy to the world? [43]

To which I would add this question: Do I strive to be a joy to my brother priests?

Catherine connects our capacity to trust the joy we are to others with our willingness to be and move rooted in the virtue of faith. Thus, towards the end of the chapter where she teaches on joy, Catherine recounts the healing of a sick child, whose mother accredited his healing to the prayers of a priest.

Catherine then concludes with words which have seared my heart when I would hear her speak, such words sear my heart still whenever I read them:

                                              I am almost afraid to say the next sentence, but I have to say it because it’s the truth: Do you have that kind of faith? Have you really looked at yourself and understood who you are? Oh, you might be Tom, Dick or Harry. You might be fat, thin, old or young. You can look in a mirror until the mirror falls down, but you will not see in a mirror who you really are. It’s when your eyes are turned to the heart of Christ, which is your real mirror, that you will see that you are another Christ, with all His powers, amongst them the power of giving hope, joy, faith and love. [44]

It is our sacramental duty to exercise lavishly ‘the power of giving hope, joy, faith and love’ to all our people.

However if we are to avoid in anyway deleting the priesthood from humanity we must also exercise lavishly our power to love one another as brothers in the priesthood. We too need hope, joy, faith and love in our lives. Who better to be vessels of such grace to a priest than a brother priest?

Again and again we cry out all day long, in the reality of ‘praying always’: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Thus we beg the Holy Spirit to purify us of any and all things, choices, attitudes, sins which cause us to seek anywhere other than Christ the ‘everything’ our hearts have been created for.

It is a matter of embracing the cross, a willingness to be an offering, a victim, in imitation of Christ.

                                                       The priest is alter Christus and, like his divine Master, he must be a victim immolated to the glory of God, and delivered up for the salvation of souls…This is our program of sanctity…If we share in His priestly dignity, is it not right that we should take part in His oblation?….These, then, are our orders of the day: to follow Jesus in the absolute consecration of His life to the glory of the Father and to the salvation of  the world…We also at the altar present to God the whole course of our life, accepting it, loving it, dedicating it in the spirit of love to the cause of God and to the salvation of souls. Thus, by daily imitation of the offering of Jesus, it will be granted to us to enter, little by little, into the mysterious intimacy of the soul of the divine Master. [45]

Many, many years ago, when in fact I was a non-believer, I happened to be visiting a friend who worked in a charity hospital. One day my friend asked if I would go with them while they dropped off a message to their former pastor.

The pastor was a middle-aged priest who lived in the hospital.

I assumed he was living there as the chaplain.

In fact, and this really took me aback, he was living there permanently as a patient. He has been permanently disabled, in the physical sense, as a result of a car accident. The accident had occurred some ten years before the day I met him.

I understand now that this priest sensed immediately when I entered his hospital room, which was actually a ward and not a private room, that I was both uncomfortable in the presence of a priest and in the presence of a disabled person.

However he did not say anything directly to me until my friend and I were leaving.

At that point he said, with as I recall a true tenderness in his voice:

“A priest is not per se what a man does. Priest is who I am. I am a priest forever. Every priest is both the one who offers and the offering. It has pleased God to allow me truly to be a victim-priest. Life truly is beautiful and my life, well, it’s a real joy.”

Few of us are asked to embrace the mystery of being ‘ a victim immolated to the glory of God and delivered up for the salvation of souls’ to the extent of that particular brother of ours.

But the truth remains each of us is asked by the Holy Trinity, through the nitty-gritty reality of the duty of the moment of being priest, to embrace with joy being victim, oblation.

Mainly we are asked to be so in a manner which appears externally to be very ordinary, as the life of a priest goes, indeed. It is a blessed hiddenness which is a divine protection. In that ordinariness however we must strive for the ‘I’ to decrease so Christ increases.

Suffering then in all its dimensions should be a cherished companion of every priest.

For the young priest who came to speak with me that was my one word for him: become what you are.

Some of us will be asked to embrace even outrageously seeming, at least to the eyes of the world, perhaps even to our own emotions, immense depths of suffering. We may be invited to embrace immolation for the ‘glory of God and the salvation of souls’ a union with Christ in the mystery, for example, of the Tenth Station or the Eighth Beatitude.

We should not be afraid.

Christ is everything.

He is with us.

Any suffering we are invited to embrace is suffering for the salvation of souls, including our own.

It is part of the joy of our divine election to be one with Him in the vineyard during the heat of the day, in the Garden, on the Cross, even in the Tomb.

Christ’s love towards men was so great that not only was he willing to endure the most cruel sufferings for our salvation and an atrocious death on the Cross, but also He wished to nourish us eternally in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood…having loved His own beloved He loved them to the end…He instituted permanently His priesthood in the Catholic Church. He decreed that the same sacrifice He performed is…to remain until the consummation of the world. He decreed that it be renewed and take place daily by the ministry of the priesthood……

                                                       In the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated by priests, the same life-giving Victim is offered up……No unworthiness or wickedness on the part of those offering it can ever defile this oblation. [46]

While we can be consoled by the truth that the effectiveness of what we celebrate does not depend on our state of holiness, or generosity, even our willingness, or lack thereof, to be a true victim, nonetheless how much more wonderful is it IF we strive, truly, to be full, complete, holy, willing oblation when we offer Holy Mass.

It is a matter of participating in the communion of love.

It is Christ’s love of the Father, and for us and for our salvation, which drives Him towards His Passion and Death.

The same love should drive us to ever more become what we are, in persona Christi, filled with the same passion for the Father and for the salvation of souls.

Such a passion fuels the fire of joy which burns within us as we love the Blessed Trinity, one another, and all our brothers and sisters, friends and enemies.

                                                      ….the Gospel insists especially on renouncing self, on accepting the Cross. Many were the crosses which presented themselves to the Cure of Ars in the course of his ministry: calumny on the part of the people, being misunderstood by an assistant priest or other confreres, contradictions, and also a mysterious struggle against the powers of hell, and sometimes even the temptation to despair in the midst of spiritual darkness. Nonetheless he did not content himself with just accepting these trials without complaining:  he went beyond them by mortification, imposing on himself continual fasts and many other rugged practices in order ‘to  reduce his body to servitude’, as Saint Paul says. But what we must see clearly in this penance, which our age unhappily has little taste for, are his motives: love of God and the conversion of sinners. Thus he asks a discouraged fellow priest: ‘You have prayed…, you have wept…, but have you fasted, have you kept vigil…?’ Here we are close to the warning of Jesus to the Apostles: ‘But this kind is cast out only by prayer and fasting. In a word, John Mary Vianney sanctified himself so as to be more able to sanctify others…..

                                                 Dear brother priests, let us not be afraid of this very personal commitment – marked by asceticism and inspired by love – which God asks of us for the proper exercise of our Priesthood…. ‘It seems…that in the difficulties of today God wishes to teach us more deeply the value, the importance and the central place of the Cross of Jesus Christ.’ In the priest, Christ relives His Passion, for the sake of souls. Let us give thanks to God who thus permits us to share in the Redemption, in our hearts and in our flesh! [47]



There is a cry and deep sorrow at the very center of our world. A sorrow: born of confusion, and abandonment. The cry is wrenched from the hearts of adults but is rooted in the hearts of children.

Someday a wise anthropologist, or someone versed in the human sciences, will do an in depth study of our culture of death and make the connection between the origins of this cry and deep sorrow. Perhaps then we will have a better understanding of the complexities of human intercourse which resulted in the 20th century being so soaked on every page of its history with the blood of the innocent. Perhaps then we will be able to come to grips with a generation or more of fatherless men, of boys growing up, in the words of Susan Faludi in her work: STIFFED, growing up in “…a culture that has them by the throat.”
The following statement is not offered in the remotest as an excuse for evil, simply as an observation: put an adult whose own experience of being fathered, being authentically masculine, was that of being father deprived, in close proximity to a child likewise starved for affirmation and completion as a male and you have a situation ready made for legions of demons to create the evil of abuse.
Place such an adult in any relationship and likewise chaos will result through domestic abuse, divorce, child abandonment, promiscuity, homosexuality, addictions of all kinds.
My purpose here is not to attempt to address the all too well known scandals among the clergy, the bitter attitudes towards men in general and priests in particular of some women, religious and laity alike, nor to debate with those whose particular agenda of chaos co-operates in things like the promotion of homosexual and abortion agendas. {Interesting how frequently those issues find companionship.}
Rather it is to suggest we have a model of manhood and an intercessor for all fatherless adults and children alike in good Saint Joseph.
To the point he is the model of priestly manhood and fatherhood.
Given the simple reality that many men entering the seminary these days do so without their virginity intact we must do everything possible to enable them to have their virginity restored to them through a deep healing of memories, the transformation of their inner selves, and a true openness to, acceptance of, that most manly of virtues: chastity.
Chastity: as a charism of our divine election.
Chastity: as a living witness to the Kingdom.
Chastity: too as the purifying of our hearts that we may be true fathers to all whom we serve.
                                                 The spiritual formation of one who is called to live celibacy should pay particular attention to the future priest so that he may know, appreciate, love and live celibacy according to its true nature and according to its real purposes, that is for evangelical, spiritual and pastoral motives………priestly celibacy….is profoundly connected with ordination, whereby a man takes on the likeness of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd and Spouse of the Church, and therefore as a choice of a greater and undivided love for Christ and His Church, as a full and joyful availability of his heart for pastoral ministry…the priest…as he witnesses to the evangelical value of virginity…will be able to aid Christian spouses to live fully the ‘great sacrament’ of the love of Christ the Bridegroom for His Spouse the Church, just as his own faithfulness to celibacy will help them to be faithful to each other as husband and wife. [30]
Such a clear teaching and invitation is based on the assumption that it is a whole man, a real man, a person comfortable in his skin as a man, who embraces the chaste life of our divine election.
In our culture, however, we have seen a progressive denigration of that which the Father has created man: that is the human person, in the God created beauty and dignity of an equality of person which flowers in the diversity of some persons being created male and some persons being created female.
Not here the place to explore any further the sheer idiotic stance of those who pretend there is anything right in debasing either gender, much less in those futile and sacrilegious continuing efforts, in particular, to un-male or un-female children to the point of making adults who are so totally confused about gender they no longer even know they are persons.
Here is the place for affirmation of our manhood taken on by the Holy Spirit at ordination and restored to us in the sacrament as consecrated manhood: priesthood.
Each person, each male his maleness and each female her femaleness, sanctified at Baptism.
We priests have our maleness consecrated at ordination.
Therefore we cannot participate in any impurity of thought, word, deed, action, in heterosexual or homosexual activity, participation in any cause which diminishes the human person, especially not in any form of exploitation of the young or the vulnerable, nor in any cause which advocates the denigration of any human person. Rather as true fathers we are to be the prime protectors of every human person from the moment of their conception until natural death.
We are irrevocably and indisputably the protectors of the domestic church, proclaimers of the Gospel of Life, defenders of the human person, especially in those stages of life – it’s very beginning and natural end, its childhood and old age, its times of sickness or weakness – when life is most vulnerable.
To do less is to betray our male personhood and the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Bl. Pope John Paul II placed before all men, and for priests most necessarily, Saint Joseph as a model of true manhood, true fidelity to all that is most holy in masculinity.
Saint Joseph is a powerful intercessor for us as we seek to be whole and holy as male persons, mature men with childlike hearts as priests who are at one and the same time son of the Father, father to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, brother to all the children of the Father, through the activity of the Holy Spirit within us by our sacramental ordination, in persona Christi capitis.
Commenting on the visit of the Angel to St. Joseph [Mt.1:20, 21] Pope John Paul notes:
                                                       The divine messenger introduces Joseph to the mystery of Mary’s motherhood. [31a]
It follows quite simply then none is better than Joseph to introduce we priests to, and teach us about, Our Blessed Mother, Queen of the Clergy, than this model of manhood. Indeed since St. Joseph is also the Universal Protector of the Church, who better to enliven in our priestly hearts a profound love, respect, and devoted service to, Holy Mother the Church?
                                                  It is to Joseph, then, that the messenger turns, entrusting to him the responsibilities of an earthly father with regard to Mary’s son…he became a unique guardian of the mystery…Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery….Joseph’s way of faith… was totally determined by the same mystery of which he, together with Mary, had been the first guardian. [31b]
This is our vocation, to be protectors of the sacred as well as ministers of sacrament.
This requires we be real men, holy men, and fatherly men. Men capable of a husband’s and father’s, of a whole, holy man’s strength, courage, tenderness, love, wisdom, and generosity to provide for and protect those confided to our care by the same Heavenly Father who confided the Child and His Mother to the care of St. Joseph.
Our priestly vocation is an entrustment by the Most Holy Trinity, to our care, of countless immortal souls.
Our work is the salvation of souls.
                                                        Saint Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. [31c]
That is an absolute truth which we should keep within our hearts as a template of our priestly lives.
We have been ordained to serve the person and mission of Christ with the fatherly care of our own hearts: Christ in the Church, Christ in all our brothers and sisters, in particular those whose material or spiritual lives are marked by such suffering they are deemed poor.
Being father, exercising holy fatherhood, is constitutive of our divine election.
Reluctance to being addressed as Father is a serious denial of sacramental reality and a gross lack of humility.
                                                       Joseph showed Jesus ‘by a special gift from heaven, all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude that a Father’s heart can know.’ [31d]
Thus we are to love all those whom we serve.
Besides being a model of manly fortitude, solicitude, fatherhood and as a husband for us, St. Joseph is also a model of all the virtues, in particular chastity, humility, fidelity and absolute trust in Divine Providence, all essential in the life of a priest.
                                                      The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. It was from this interior life that ‘ very singular commands and consolations came, bringing him also the logic and strength that belong to simple and clear souls, and giving him the power of making great decisions – such as the decision to put his liberty immediately at the disposition of the divine designs, to make over to them also his legitimate human calling, his conjugal happiness, to accept the conditions, the responsibility and the burden of a family, but, through an incomparable original love, to renounce that natural conjugal love that is the foundation and nourishment of the family.’
                                                       This submission to God, this readiness of will to dedicate oneself to all that serves Him, is really nothing less than that exercise of devotion which constitutes one expression of the virtue of religion. [31e]
Saint Joseph in all his manhood is the model for priests!
Fidelity is the day to day, moment by moment, willingness to give ourselves as gift.
This exercise of devotion, which is an expression of the virtue of religion, is predicated on joyful acceptance of reality: our vocation of joy is the vocation of communion of love with the Blessed Trinity.
Once again, naturally enough, we come face to face with a simple fact: we need faith!
Faith is a gift. 
This we know.
Increase of faith is a gift we must ask for.
The faithful St. Joseph will intercede on our behalf for a constant increase in this gift of faith if we, man to man, ask him.
Our joy in seeking Christ alone is that we might do all that which is pleasing to Him, the Father, the Holy Spirit, never forgetting the key to rejoicing the heart of God is faith! [Hb.11:6]
Because of the pulverization of our true understanding of self as a male person and living out of that gift, a pulverization inflicted upon us by the culture of death, we too, even as adult men, can be burdened by the sorrow(s) so common among our brothers, the widowers, grandfathers, fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers, sons: Christ’s faithful laymen in the world.
There seems to be, frankly, to a very dangerous degree – dangerous for the faith, the Church, for the vulnerable, especially for the unborn and those weak in anyway, for women and children in particular – such a lack of mature holy manliness among bishops and priests in our day that perhaps this is why a bishop and priest like Bl. Pope John Paul II was seen as such a sign of contradiction.
When bishops and priests surrender their vocation as men, as fathers, to the demands of those persons, mostly women but also many wounded men, who demand what amounts to a weak, indecisive, veritable androgynous presbyterate, truly when the Lord looks down upon our world His Sacred Heart must bleed again and He must again cry out to the Father: “Father, have pity on Your flock, for they are wandering about, sheep without shepherds, children without fathers!”
                                                  In our contemporary confusion we often overlook the meaning of Christ’s Incarnation for sexuality and gender. Human nature is sexual, and so the assumption of human nature by God would necessarily involve gender as well. Jesus’ gender expresses His identity and His mission. Jesus Christ was, and is, and will always be human. And His maleness is not an accident of history; it has important purpose in God’s plan.
                                                  The entrance of Jesus Christ into the human scene draws upon the Old Testament Image of God as a faithful, forgiving bridegroom and makes it concrete…..Men themselves are called to imitate Him precisely as a man…..Christ teaches us how to be men, good sons of the heavenly Father. A man has only to look upon Christ to see himself as God intends. [32]
                                                   On the mountain of the Transfiguration, God speaks from the cloud, as He had done on Sinai. But now He says: ‘This is my Beloved Son; listen to Him’ (Mk.9:7). He commands us to listen to His Son, because ‘no one knows the Father except the son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him’ (Mt.11:27). And so we learn that the true name of God is FATHER! The name which is beyond all other names Abba! (cf.Gal.4:6) [33]
Perhaps no other area has been such a deep cesspool of anti-Christ distortion of truth, denial of the truth about self and priesthood, refusal to humbly accept the truth than the area of debate, no now longer possible without engaging in lie and disobedience if prompting the matter, than the issue of women and the sacrament of orders.                                                       
The cognitive dissonance common among the laity, leading many to be cafeteria Catholics, finds its counterpart among those priests and religious who, regardless of the simple truth it is NOT within the competence of the Church to do so, insist the sacrament of orders be attempted upon women. 
Love and truth are inseparable.
Love is never interested in self.
Love is always servant of the other.
                                                                 Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to His Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches…..Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition…reminded…[us]…of the position of the Catholic Church: “She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the examples recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing His Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing men only; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for His Church.”….the Church “does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination”…Christ’s way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to His time….”…in giving the Church her fundamental constitution, her theological anthropology – thereafter always followed by the Church’s tradition – Christ established things in this way.”….”In calling men only as His Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, He emphasized the dignity and vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time.” In fact the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles attest that this call was made in accordance with God’s eternal plan; Christ choose those whom He willed (cf.Mk.3:13-14; Jn.6:70), and He did so in union with the Father, “through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2), after having spent the night in prayer (cf.Lk.6:12)…the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the  mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lessor dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe…………
                                             …..in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf.Lk.22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. [34]
As regards that last paragraph, the solemn definitive word of Peter, we priests, especially if we have been pulverized into saying or doing anything to the contrary  must beg for the grace of love’s truth speaking courage and the grace to take deeply into our hearts this definitive teaching of the Holy Father:
                                                            With divine and Catholic faith is to be believed everything contained in the word of God, written and in Tradition, that is to say, in the unique deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and proposed as divinely revealed, whether by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by her ordinary and universal magisterium, or which is manifested in the common adherence of the faithful under the guidance of the sacred magisterium: all these are to be held and any teachings to the contrary are to be avoided.
                                                          Each and everything concerning faith and morals which is definitively taught by the magisterium of the Church must be firmly embraced and held, that is, whatever is needed to defend and explain the same deposit of faith in a faithful and holy manner; therefore whoever refuses to accept such definitive propositions is opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church. [Canon 750 as amended in 1998 by the document Ad Tuendam Fidem]
As we seek to enter ever more deeply into communion of love with the Blessed Trinity, to become ever more engaged in our consecration as men endowed with the virtue of religion, sons of the Father, priests in persona Christi capitis, shepherds, fathers, teachers led by the Holy Spirit, we must enter more fully into union with Christ the man, the obedient son of the Father.
It is to journey, with steadfastness and honour, the pilgrim’s way.
Fidelity to our reality of being male persons, in the whole and holy authentic truth of this reality; fidelity to being and willing to be called that which we are, Father; fidelity to only teaching, shepherding only by, truth and truth-speaking in love; fidelity to being, often, pulverized by a culture of death which in general, and often in particular from both lay and religious women who carry the burden of much pain which is reality based, and much which is rooted in the culture of lies, as a willingness to be vessels of compassion, all this is fidelity to being in persona Christi.
Sometimes true love means uttering a simple truth word: no!
No, even though your pain is real and immense and perhaps makes it very difficult indeed, beloved sister and daughter, to understand equality of person does not mean sameness of sacramental vocation, I will not pretend to love you by telling you lies about contraception, abortion or sacrament.
No, even though your pain is real and immense and perhaps my truth-speaking will become the excuse you seek to leave the Church, no I will not pretend to love you by telling a lie such as ‘definitive’ teaching means only until the ‘next’ pope…for there is never, in reality, a ‘next’ pope, simply another priest is called to be Peter.
No, even though your pain is real and immense and perhaps my truth-speaking by simply being a male person is experienced by you as the reawakening of every hurt ever inflicted upon you in reality, or upon your sisters throughout history, and made worse by those whose agenda often distorts the truth of such things, I will not pretend to love you by telling the lie of denial about my gender, nor about the sacramental reality of priesthood which makes me, even more than by being a human male person, even more than through baptism, your brother and thus you my beloved sister, and, as priest you my beloved daughter and I your father-shepherd, teacher and servant.
                                                      The example of dedicated clerics is the best inspiration for the faithful….It is better to have a few ministers who are upright and effective than many who labor in vain to build up the Church. [35]
                                                      ….by presenting the word of truth properly and by preaching not themselves but Christ crucified, they should clearly proclaim in their preaching the tenets and precepts of our most holy religion in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Fathers. [36]
Love costs.
It costs the life of Love Himself upon the Cross.
Can we priests love anyone any less?
In the Litany of Saint Joseph, after praising him, as most just, chaste, etc., and most faithful, among the other titles listed is: terror of demons.
The holy man noted earlier in the Litany as being strong, obedient and faithful, is also the terror of demons.
When we, as true holy men, as priests, are by grace also strong, obedient and faithful we too shall be a source of terror for demons, in particular those demons of the culture of death.
Likewise when the Litany notes that St. Joseph is the mirror of patience, guardian of virgins, pillar of families, solace of the wretched, hope of the sick and, as patron a comfort to the dying, are not all these manly virtues also aspects of our divine election, our priestly vocation of service?
To become ever more completely that which we are, by gender, baptism and ordination, we must, like St. Joseph the good and just man before us, constantly be attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit within our beings. 
The Sanctifier at work within us, calling us to ever more complete abandonment to Divine Providence, ever deeper metanoia, that total kenosis where nothing remains in or about us but Christ.
Though not mentioned specifically in the Litany as one of his titles St. Joseph, like every saint, can be turned to as patron of joy!
A significant aspect of interior joy, itself a virtue and gift of the Holy Spirit, is the joy of repentance, of confessing our failure to be faithful and, through the actual grace of each duty of the moment, and when needed, the sanctifying grace of absolution in the sacrament of confession, beginning in Him each moment, again and again and again.
Even the secular world is full of expressions about it ‘taking a real man to admit he’s made a mistake’ etc., how much more then is it a reality of manhood to come to Christ for forgiveness.
It is at one and the same time to be a man, like St. Joseph, of courage and humility.
Indeed there is a direct connection between the frequency, or not, of our being priest-penitents and the frequency, or not, of our being available, like our patron St. John Marie Vianney, examples such as St. Padre Pio, for all those seeking sacramental absolution.
In the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, in chapter 15, we discover three remarkable teachings from Jesus where He reveals again the Father’s utter love for us, how He welcomes with joy those who return to Him.
We return to the Father because Christ has found us.
We return most fully through the reality of sacramental absolution – through being on our knees as one admitting our need of God and of Divine Mercy.
There is no greater antidote to the arrogance of the culture of death, nor to the, even among we priests, cognitive disconnect between orthodox teaching and the way we tend to do things, than to open wide the doors, of our being, in particular through sacramental confession, to Jesus’ own words imploring us to always be one with Him. [Jn4:5]
The fidelity of which St. Joseph is our patron and model was not for him, nor is it for we priests, primarily a matter of ‘doing’ what needs be done, as important as that is.
Fidelity of the true and sacred kind, which implies explicitly the nitty-gritty doing well of the duty of the moment, is first of all a matter of ‘being’: being totally trusting of, and abandoned to, the love and will of the Father for us.
It is impossible to do that act of abandonment without humility and it is well-nigh impossible to be humble without admittance, like the man at the back of the temple, that I am a sinner constantly in need of Divine Mercy.
Thus when Jesus speaks about the reality of what transpires when a sinner opens wide the doors of their being to repentance and forgiveness, He is also teaching about fidelity. [cf.Lk.15]
There is no doubt in my heart about the direct connection between the apparent joylessness in the lives of so many priests and the lack of priests being truly repentant and going humbly to a brother priest for sacramental confession and absolution.
My heart also suspects far fewer of our good Catholic people would abandon their Catholic faith in search of the so-called evangelical experience if they were granted more joy in their lives through being able to receive sacramental absolution.
Indeed we will never turn things around when it comes to men saying yes to divine election, to re-evangelizing the fallen away, evangelizing those not yet in the fullness of true faith, unless we rediscover the importance and reality of sacramental confession, absolution, in a word unless we repent.
Fidelity must always begin with repentance.
We are not always faithful.
We need to not only admit this to ourselves but to confess this in sacramental confession.
Even if our infidelity is ‘venial’ it remains an aspect of our hearts to which we refuse the gift of mentanoia, a door of our being we keep shut to Christ.
If our infidelity involves mortal sin then, of course, there is no option but sacramental absolution.
Here, through the treasure of St. Joseph as our patron and model of holy manhood we also imitate him in the mystery of holy fatherhood in our vocation of joy as priests.
There is within the exercise of our sacramental authority to absolve from sin, and to deliver from demons for which we should be an absolute terror, another truth on fatherhood:
                                                        As the steward of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest fulfills the command given by Christ to the Apostles after His Resurrection: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn.20:22-23). The priest is the witness and instrument of divine mercy! How important in his life is the ministry of the confessional! It is in the confessional that his spiritual fatherhood is realized in the fullest way. It is in the confessional that every priest becomes a witness of the great miracles which divine mercy works in souls which receive the grace of conversion. It is necessary, however, that every priest at the service of his brothers and sisters in the confessional should experience this same divine mercy by going regularly to confession himself and by receiving spiritual direction.
                                                  As a steward of God’s mysteries, the priest is a special witness to the Invisible in the world. For he is a steward of invisible and priceless treasures belonging to the spiritual and supernatural order. [37]
Saint Joseph is the patron of the interior life, having lived and served the person and mission of Christ with fidelity, courage, strength, obedience, selflessness and humility.
While being the teacher of Christ in the ways of a man’s life on earth St. Joseph was undoubtedly also a ‘student’ at the feet of the Master, learning communion of love with the Father.
This is the essence of spiritual direction for us as priests: to learn what we must teach.
To learn: that we are beloved that we might love.
To learn: truth that we might be truth-speakers.
Recently a brother priest described to me within him a growing hunger to be truly faithful. He begged me to pray he be granted the grace of perseverance.
I was deeply moved.
This priest is my senior by many decades in age and many decades, over sixty, of service to the Church and Her children. He is exemplary in his faith, courage, humility, selflessness, manhood as brother and father.
He is a true priest.
Yet here he was humbly revealing his heart to me, a heart acutely aware fidelity is a grace given, never presumed. A heart fully aware we are indeed but weak vessels of clay, always in need of repentance, always in each moment needing to begin again in Him.
Another reality which struck my heart as I listened to this good and humble priest was his clear awareness we have not been created primarily, nor ordained primarily, to do great things but rather to rejoice we are greatly beloved and to greatly love.
We are called first to be faithful to Someone.
It is through fidelity to the One who loves us so we are urged on by grace to be faithful in all else.
                                                        The response to the divine call is an answer of love to the love which Christ has shown us so sublimely. This response is included in the mystery of that special love for souls who have accepted His most urgent appeals. With a divine force, grace increases the longings of love. And love, when it is genuine, is all-embracing, stable and lasting, an irresistible spur to all forms of heroism. [38]
We know it is through the grace of divine election that we have been called.
Through ordination we have been consecrated.
The desire to be always filled with the grace of ever more complete self-gift to the Church and to all people as servants and heralds of the Gospel is itself the ever more ardent yearning, the ‘longings of love’ which within us become that ‘irresistible spur to all forms of heroism’.
Fidelity is heroic, for spouses, parents, religious, priests.
Fidelity is heroic especially in our day when we witness to the Gospel of Life in the darkness of the culture of death.
Fidelity is that manly heroic courage lived at a time when both as men and as priests we are pulverized from all sides, often simply because we are men, because we are priests.
Here too we turn to the good Saint Joseph as our model and patron, for he carried within his very being the history of a pulverized people, a history marked by deliverance as well. 
In his own life St. Joseph suffered much but was also faithful to his vocation of being both spouse and protector of his wife Mary and foster-father and protector of the Child Jesus.
We men who are priests are likewise called to embrace, with courage, the mystery of suffering, the blessedness of suffering. Likewise are we called to be faithful to our spouse the Church and to be Her protector, protectors of all that is sacred. We too are called to be father and protector of the Child Jesus: Christ who comes to us as every man, woman and child on the face of the earth.
No human being should be an orphan of our priestly, fatherly, manly hearts.
Because the reality of our very existence, essence of being, is that we are beloved of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, fidelity is our response to this communion of love, to love Himself.
We need constantly to remember, in the depths of our being and by the way we live and move and have our being in Him, that we are greatly loved and therefore, with joy, is our vocation to love greatly.
Through the intercession of St. Joseph we will be granted the grace to always remember it is in and through Christ that we are in relationship with the Father; our lives are for being in relationship with Christ, seeking and doing only the things of Christ; the Spirit is always at work within us to sanctify us and through us to sanctify all those whose lives we touch, most especially through the celebration of Holy Mass and the sacrament of Reconciliation. [Jn.14:26]
We are in relationship through our very creation by Him, in the inexhaustible reality of baptism, that lavish outpouring of the Holy Spirit configuring us to Christ in His death and resurrection, and for us priests in the incomprehensible reality of intimacy through sacramental ordination in persona Christi capitis!
Our relationship is communion of love with Infinite of Infinite Love Himself! [Jn. 1:29, 36]
St. John also notes Jesus is in motion, coming toward, as He does within us, towards us, every moment of our life. [ibid: 29, 26]
How the heart of St. Joseph must naturally have pounded with the pride of a father every time he saw Jesus coming towards him and how the soul of Joseph must have leapt with joy every time he saw Jesus coming towards him.
Jesus comes towards us in every moment of our lives too.
Likewise St. Joseph must have watched Jesus every time He walked by, that is, contemplate Jesus moving about in every moment of his life.
Jesus walks about in every moment of our lives too, thus every moment is a moment of contemplation in love.
So overtaken by the beauty of Christ, the holy allure if you will of Christ, the fire of His love radiating from His Holy Face, those eyes revealing the love of the Father that His disciples couldn’t bear being separated from Him and cried out to know where He dwelt. [ibid: 38]
Should not our manly, priestly hearts likewise yearn to ask Him that question which is simply the cry of a heart yearning to be in communion of love?
Love’s invitation to intimacy is given, inviting us to ‘come and see.’
Always Love gives us freedom.
We are free to follow Him, or not.
Yet the essence of fidelity is to choose to always be inclined towards Christ, to follow Him; being always with Christ wherever He is in the moment.
Where is Christ in this moment?
Awaiting us precisely, where the Father wills us to be.
The place where Jesus dwells is there.
It is to be one with Him in that place He invites us to when He says: ‘come and you will see.’
Only when we follow Him, as St. Joseph did, into the reality, mystery, grace, of each moment, through fidelity to what the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty rightly named: the duty of the moment -–will we dwell truly, live and move and have our being completely, in Him, with Him, through Him, for Him!
Then all that we hunger for, seek, do, will be in accord with the fullness of our baptismal and priestly vocation.
Then, like our model and patron St. Joseph, will we be true whole and holy men.
Then, in the reality of being in persona Christi, will we know joy! [Jn.4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 14:9-11]
Fidelity is being in relationship with the Father in the place, manner, of Christ’s own relationship with the Father.
While this is true for all the baptized, its particular emphasis in our priestly lives is precisely rooted in the reality of our being consecrated by sacrament in persona Christi.
Our divine election assures us of the needed sanctifying grace of fidelity, in Christ to the Father by the action of the Holy Spirit.
Our fidelity is within the reality of communion of love with the Holy Trinity.
As the courageous and humble man chosen to be the earthly father-protector of the Child and His Mother, we too must strive to be faithful in the reality of every moment wherein Christ is always ‘walking towards us’:
                                                      …..you are always and everywhere the bearers of your particular vocation; you are the bearers of the grace of Christ, the eternal Priest, and bearers of the charism of the Good Shepherd. And this you can never forget; this you can never renounce; this you must put into practice at every moment, in every place and in every way. [39]
It is when we choose, or attempt to, as it were, deny for the purpose of some form of self-indulgence or lack of truth-speaking courage, to be unmanly that we at the same time choose to forget who we are as priests.
This is when fidelity itself becomes unbearable.
The first aspect of fidelity which suffers frequently is our being visible, hence the roman collar goes; then proper ritual fidelity, followed by a less and less willingness to remain steadfast in the confessional, all the while our interior life unravels.
Ultimately, unless we repent, unless through the grace of conversion in the sacrament of reconciliation where we fall on our knees confident in the gift of Divine Mercy through absolution and the grace of every moment in Him being the moment of beginning again, all will be lost.
Saint Joseph, even before the Angel was sent to affirm the choice of his heart, a selfless, manly, loving choice, was faithful. [cf. Mt.1: 18ff.]
St. Joseph was the first ‘steward’ of the Treasury of Grace Who dwells among us into the world!
                                                      As a steward of these treasures, the priest is always in special contact with the holiness of God…..in the priesthood a man is as it were raised up to the sphere of this holiness…At the same time, the priest experiences daily and continually the descent of God’s holiness upon man….[40]
This is the greater truth, the greater reality.
Though we may live at a time when we are pulverized by the culture of anger, blame and death which surrounds us, pulverized because we are male, because we are priest, it is a little thing to suffer for and with Christ.
St. Joseph suffered and remained faithful and chose the path of love, before he was ever consoled by the angel.
Dare we be less of a man than Joseph?
Dare we love less?
St. Joseph is our dear heavenly companion, our heavenly brother, patron, protector, model of all the manly virtues essential to priestly fidelity. He also is a living witness to the joy of complete self-gift which is also the reality of our priestly vocation. [Jn.15:12, 13]



A few years ago one morning I had an experience which penetrated deep into my heart. It was one of those particular moments of grace we all experience.

A sort of gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to notice the implications of a particular routine we have fallen into without much reflection. But a routine which overtime has come to have an effect upon us which has, little by little, altered the depth of our intimacy with the Holy Trinity.

That morning, as usual, upon rising I had prayed briefly and then, like a reflex action, turned on the tv for the morning news.

Once I’d caught the main items I proceeded down to the rectory kitchen to make some coffee.

In that particular rectory this meant passing by the suites of the other priests assigned to this large and busy parish.

Once I’d caught the main items I proceeded down to the rectory kitchen to make some coffee.

In that particular rectory this meant passing by the suites of the other priests assigned to this large and busy parish.

I noticed, clearly this particular morning rather than that usual ‘notice’ of familiar sounds where we don’t actually ‘take note’, each of the other priests had their tv on.

What came into my heart was this sudden question from the Lord: “Why do you linger before the tv at the dawn of each day, yet are so briefly with Me?”

I protested of course, in my heart, that I was before Him, first thing each morning!

“True you utter prayer to Me, but almost in passing, on your way to hear what the world has to say.”

It was true.

I did pray first thing each morning. But not with real attentiveness, passion, thought, wonderment, desire, or intimacy.

What a shock when I began to figure out the hours spent in front of the television compared to the actual amount of time spent in His Eucharistic Presence in quiet intimacy, or ardent petition on behalf of souls.

One of the teachings often repeated by Archbishop Joseph Raya in his homilies and writings is: WE BECOME WHAT WE CONTEMPLATE.

If I am contemplating for longer periods, in front of the television for example, the images and ideas of the world, this will necessarily have a profound effect upon my entire being.

It certainly will affect my prayer life, which is my relationship with the Holy Trinity.

Obviously it will also impact my relationship with self and others, including the way I view the Church and Her teachings.

Indeed how often do we hear ourselves or others expressing attitudes towards the Holy Father, for example, clearly formed by the influence of the media, rather than by actually having read the official text of some papal teaching.

Perhaps we need to take a close look at which magazines, types of music, web-sites predominate in our lives.

What are we contemplating? [Rm.8:5-9]

Television news reports and programs present to us specific points of view, ways of living, attitudes towards Jesus and the things of Jesus: God, the human person, morality, Church, Pope, ourselves.

Almost exclusively the ideas and attitudes presented are only those concerns of the flesh that are, indeed, ‘hostility toward God.’

If I spend more time each day contemplating what appears on television then I am spending much more time in communion with the ‘concerns of the flesh’, than I am in communion of love with the Blessed Trinity.

If I spend more time each day contemplating before the television screen, or listening to particular kinds of music, visiting particular sites on the web, reading books and magazines of similar ilk, all of this predominating in my life rather than contemplation of, in communion with, Christ and the things of Christ, then I will find my entire prayer life is profoundly wounded, my relationship with Holy Mother the Church, my dwelling within the depths of the very Gospel I am ordained to proclaim, all weakened, perhaps bleeding away until within I am as dry as dust.

The world did not consecrate us, give us life, and configure us to Christ.

Why then do we surrender so much of ourselves to the multi-channel, internet, universe of flesh and concerns of the flesh? [Rm.12: 1, 2]

Sometimes we can stand before such words and find ourselves exhausted, perhaps even a little angry.

It can seem in our priestly lives that there is a type of no escape, no rest from ‘spiritual’ things.

Nor from the constant ‘goad’ of the Holy Spirit.

At such moments, difficult as it may seem, maybe even weighing upon us like the proverbial straw on the back of the camel, truly our hearts should choose to rejoice: what a Divine Lover we have who pursues us so! [1Cor.2:10ff.]

One of the striking things about the letters of St. Paul, rarely focused upon by commentaries, is the depth and passion of his intimate relationship with Christ, and through Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

More than the theological, moral and even liturgical teachings in the letters of St. Paul, this passion, this intimacy, this communion of love between him and the Holy Trinity, is striking, and should encourage us all to likewise allow ourselves to be pursued!

The person, or thing, which has the greatest influence on us is the one with whom we spent the greatest amount of our time. Spending it actually with them, or preoccupied with the idea of them.

Again, as Archbishop Raya teaches: WE BECOME WHAT WE CONTEMPLATE.

Contemplation of Christ and the things of Christ should then be more necessary to us than food and water. In reality contemplation of Christ and the things of Christ is just that necessary, and more.

Indeed, if we are not nourished by the Trinity through prayer we shall starve, or seek different nourishment, and, become what we eat. [Mic.6:14; Lk. 12:34]

When a brother priest comes to me expressing difficulty accepting anything about Christ and the things of Christ, and truly everything about who we are and what we do is encompassed in ‘Christ and the things of Christ’, I always ask about his prayer life.

We know a marriage cannot last if it is devoid of intimacy, if any other person or thing preoccupies either of the spouses more than their beloved.

So it is with us and Jesus.

So it is with us and the Father.

So it is with us and the Holy Spirit.

So it us with us, for everything should flow from our communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity. [Ep.4:17-24]

Without a deep, constant, consistent, prayer life we will falter.

We will become disenchanted, discouraged, seek in an unholy manner, in unholy pursuits, unholy places, consolation and affirmation in persons and things other than Christ and the things of Christ.

We will lose child-likeness, purity of heart and hope.

The dialogue of prayer is not only the intimate dialogue of communion of love but it is also the daily means of purification from the dust and dirt, confused thinking, of that ‘hostility towards God’ which is the hallmark of the world. It is inevitable, even though we are not ‘of the world’ that since we proclaim the Gospel in the world, we have a constant need to be purified again and again and again. [1Pt.1:13-16]

We must trust, and constantly beg the help of, the Holy Spirit who comes. [Rm.8:26, 27]

As priests we are asked to trust that one way the Holy Spirit fulfills this interior groaning within us is through our praying as Holy Mother the Church mandates us to. First and foremost this entails the prayerful, faith-filled daily celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Secondly, as of great importance for our own and the salvation of all souls, the needs of the Church and in particular of the souls we are responsible for, is the daily faith-filled celebration of the universal prayer of consecrated souls in the Church, the Divine Office, commonly called the Liturgy of the Hours.

What a wonderful phrase that is, the Liturgy of the Hours! It reminds us that at every hour, in every time zone and country on the face of the earth, the Church is at prayer.

Ours is a vital voice co-mingled with the entire choir of the Church at prayer.

Never to be diminished either in their importance as a means of our becoming authentically what we contemplate, those forms of prayer and meditation commonly referred to as ‘pious/popular devotions’.

Pope Pius VI connects learning and holiness as two aspects of our divine election we should strive to excel at:

A man who is going to be a priest should excel in holiness and learning. For God rejects as priests those who have rejected knowledge and only the man who unites moral piety with the pursuit of knowledge can be a suitable worker in the Lord’s harvest. [10]

Fidelity to popular devotions such as the Stations of the Cross, the Holy Rosary, the Litanies, all of which can both be prayed alone but even more profitably be celebrated with our people, opens the door of our being to incredible teachings, the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, from the Holy Spirit.

At the same time such a contemplative approach quiets the mind and enhances our ability to transfer from our intellects to our hearts what we study through meditative reading of Sacred Scripture, the classic works of the Fathers of the Church, Fathers of the Desert, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Documents of Vatican II and the other Councils, Papal teachings, the writings from across the millennia of those orthodox holy men and women, priests, religious, laity, who have poured their holiness and wisdom through writings into the vast treasury of the Church for our use as means of becoming more and more who we truly are.

Wisdom and knowledge themselves become ever more profoundly within our beings aspects of the joy of our vocation!

Wisdom and knowledge, as we know, are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Through our prayer life, our sacramental life, contemplation of Christ and the things of Christ, the Holy Spirit constantly imparts to us more and more, and forms us more fully according to these same gifts of wisdom and knowledge. [Sir.24:1-3; 18-21]

When we pray with faith, and faithfully pray, the Liturgy of the Hours, each day at the appropriate hour, we find Holy Mother the Church has placed before us this encounter with Wisdom. While this is reality in each of the Hours it is perhaps most striking within the Office of Readings.

Pope Pius IX reminds us that:

….priests are the best examples of piety and God’s worship, and people tend generally to be of the same quality as their priests. [11]

Therefore for we priests a true life of prayer is not an option, and certainly never to be considered as a mere duty, but is in fact an essential instrument of proclaiming the Gospel with our lives, being that necessary and salutary example of piety to our people. We are called to lives that are not only prayer filled in private but to lives which are visibly prayer filled before the eyes of our people, and within praying with our people. Thus as true as it is that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is our central communal act of worship and prayer we do a great disservice to the virtue of piety and to the piety of our people if we fail to pray with them through popular devotions, such as Benediction, Litanies, the Stations, the Holy Rosary, as well as urging them to participate communally in the Liturgy of the Hours.

…..nothing instructs others more in piety and the service of God than the lives and example of those who have dedicated themselves to the divine ministry. [12]

Given our propensity in this generation to exaggerate individuality and a curious approach to ‘my’ rights, it is not surprising that we often have a type of knee jerk reaction to anything that appears to us as an imposition. Hence it is quite possible: expect perhaps for those covering marriage law, most priests would not turn to the Code of Canon Law as a source of inspiration, comfort, or spiritual sustenance. Yet there are within those paragraphs delineating the laws of the Church some quite exquisite treasures which bear serious meditation.

Thus, for example, the following is truly a beautiful invitation to frequent concelebrating not only of Holy Mass but of the Liturgy of the Hours, and even of ‘pious’ devotions with our brother priests:

Since they all work toward one end, the building up of the Body of Christ, clerics are to be united among themselves by the bond of brotherhood and of prayer….[Canon 275:1]

In leading their lives clerics are especially bound to pursue holiness because they are consecrated to God….they are to nourish their spiritual life from the two-fold table of Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist….to fulfill the liturgy of the hours daily….conscientious in devoting time regularly to mental prayer, in approaching the sacrament of penance frequently, in cultivating special devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, and in using other common and particular means for their sanctification. [Canon 276:1; 2.2; 2.3; 2.5]

Within the same section of the Code referring to our splendid divine election we are likewise encouraged to grow in wisdom and knowledge, to:

….continue to pursue sacred studies…to strive after solid doctrine which is based upon Sacred Scripture, handed down by their predecessors and commonly accepted by the Church and which is contained especially in the documents of the councils and of the Roman Pontiffs; they are to avoid profane novelties and pseudo-science……to attend pastoral lectures…opportunities to acquire a fuller knowledge of the sacred sciences and pastoral methods…..to pursue a knowledge of the other sciences…as such knowledge contributes to the exercise of their pastoral ministry. [Canon 279]

There is no doubt, with what can be experienced at times as virtually relentless demands upon us, that the Liturgy of the Hours can be experienced as a burden. No doubt we all know priests, perhaps even such thoughts have wandered across our own minds, who consider the Liturgy of the Hours, and pious devotions, as anachronisms from before Vatican II best left within monastery walls or the lives of simple lay folk.

If we give into such a lies of the evil one we will experience profound interior dryness of soul, loneliness of heart, and a mind closed to the gifts of wisdom and knowledge.

Here, as in so many aspects of our vocation, we need to be very meek and humble of heart, in imitation of Christ who submitted Himself to the will of the Father in all things. We need through such humility of heart to willingly trust the wisdom of Holy Mother the Church, articulated for us most clearly in our day in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Code of Canon Law and most tenderly in the annual Holy Thursday Letters to his brother priests from Pope John Paul II wherein he always called us to a deeper life of prayer, closer union with Our Blessed Mother Mary.

Approached and fulfilled with an open heart the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as pious devotions, become a critical experience of our daily lives of prayer and fidelity to our vocation of joy. Indeed the Liturgy of the Hours in particular becomes like a sweet oasis in the desert, cool shade in the depths of the Lord’s vineyard where we labour devotedly in the heat of the day, a wellspring of cool water to slake the thirst of our hearts for communion of love!

The document of the Second Vatican Council on the Sacred Liturgy has an entire chapter, chapter IV, dedicated to teaching upon this treasure of the Liturgy of the Hours. It invites a careful The divine office, in keeping with ancient Christian tradition, is so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God….it is the public prayer of the Church…a source of piety and nourishment for personal prayer….[13]

The Council’s document on the Life of Priests also notes:

By their fulfillment of the Divine Office priests themselves should extend to the different hours of the day the praise and thanksgiving they offer in the celebration of the Eucharist. By the Office they pray to God in the name of the Church for the whole people entrusted to them and in fact for the whole world. [14]

In our culture, which is so prone to emphasize doing over being, we priests can fall into that very mind-set which so hobbles the world. It is when we have become so hobbled ourselves that our attitude towards daily celebration of Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, time spent in adoration and pious devotions, closeness to Our Blessed Mother, all falter and we begin to spend more and more time in front of the television or surfing the net rather than contemplating Sacred Scripture, engaged in mental prayer, reading and studying books which enhance the interior life and our pastoral ministry.

Soon there is such an ache in our hearts, such a hunger in our minds and imaginations for communion of love, affirmation of being, for hope, that we find ourselves looking everywhere rather than to Christ and the things of Christ.

We become what we contemplate, and if we contemplate that which no-thing, emptiness, is, ultimately, ever more acute emptiness, becomes our lot.

Indeed, if we be honest, once such a source of comfort, and inspiration, as the Liturgy of the Hours goes, the rest of our life of prayer and sacred study quickly follows. For the dam has been breached, the deep pool of faith and joy, that reservoir containing the true treasure of our hearts, begins to empty out and our whole attitude towards God, Church, orthodoxy, vocation, others, self, quickly sours.

It is a simple undeniable reality, the less we pray the less time we find we actually have to DO all the stuff we believe we need to do, are supposed to do, even if we remain rather sincerely devoted to all that our divine election implies and demands of us.

Even more wonderfully is the far greater reality that the more we pray the greater the expanse of time to BE who we are, priest!

Within that grace of expanded time there is then all the time we could ever need through being priest to ‘do’ the work assigned to us in the vineyard of the Lord.

Our pastoral activity demands that we should be close to people and all their problems…it also demands that we be close to all these problems ‘in a priestly way’. Only then, in the sphere of all those problems, do we remain ourselves. Therefore if we are really of assistance in those human problems…we keep our identity and are really faithful to our vocation….Our brethren in the faith, and unbelievers too, expect us always to be able to show them this perspective, to become real witnesses to it, to be dispensers of grace, to be servants of the word of God. THEY EXPECT US TO BE MEN OF PRAYER. [15]

Several years ago I was made aware of the situation of a young priest who served in a remote area.

He was greatly discouraged, filled with frustration, felt his vocation slipping away.

His being hungered to participate in unity of prayer with all his brothers, for the whole Church and the whole world, for his own spiritual sustenance, but he could not.

He was, truly, interiorly starving to death.

The problem was very basic, and tragically in our day not that uncommon.

There was so little respect for the wisdom of the Church when it comes in particular to the priest’s life of prayer, in the seminary that he had attended, none of the students were taught how to prayer the Liturgy of the Hours, in a word no one had shown him the basic process of knowing what ‘day’ in the liturgical year and how to find the right place in the breviary.

The priest who brought this story to my attention described how, once he took the time to show the younger priest the basic ‘mechanics’ of the breviary the young priest embraced the Divine Office with all the energy of a starving man offered food!

Within a short time the discouragement had left him, the joy of his vocation, our common divine election, had returned.

Our struggles, as men and as priests, in this 21st century are fundamentally no different than they were for the Apostles or any of our brothers who have preceded us in this splendid vocation across the millennia.

Fundamentally all struggles, all temptations, all sins, are rooted in idolatry, that is in a crisis of true faith, true trust.

Much of our restlessness, a significant amount of the exhaustion we experience, certainly a high degree of the struggle, definitely our propensity to sin, venially to be sure, mortally, as horrific as that is having the same root cause, comes back to the raw result experienced by that young priest.

Though in his case not because he was refusing to pray.

What excuse have we easily accepted in our own hearts to manufacture as an attempt to stifle the goading of the Holy Spirit?

Long before the Second Vatican Council, long before the very public angst in the lives of so many priests today, another priest wrote on the truths of our divine election.

His clear and tender words aren’t as well read in seminaries or rectories in our day, perhaps because of this tendency of moderns to disparage anything deemed out of date.

Nonetheless his words return their tender wisdom, encouragement, truth about the treasury of grace which is the Liturgy of the Hours:

…this prayer can only rise to heaven if it passes through our lips and through our heart……..you know the words of Christ, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart…..and with thy whole mind’ (Matt.xxii.37). He did not say ‘with thy heart, with thy mind, but with thy whole heart’: ex tota corde. This word totus, repeated like this, is a true expression of devotion; devotion is love carried to its highest point…..

…We have the charge of souls. The priest who recites his breviary with fidelity and devotion will often find that he is helped in a surprising way by the Lord in the works which he undertakes for His glory…..if you recite the breviary without rushing it, the phrases of Holy Scripture which you pronounce will finally become, as it were, part of yourself. You will find the ensemble of the texts of the Old and New Testaments…a treasure-chamber filled with graces and light. These illuminations will enlighten your faith in the mysteries of Christ, of the Church, and even in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Finally, the Office, well-recited, is a source of great joy for the priest. Why? Because the breviary makes him live every day in the hope and in the possession of the supernatural goods which God has given to His Church. The liturgy is filled with that fathomless joy conferred on the Spouse of Christ by the divine benefits which have been

showered on her. The priest who recites this prayer in a worthy fashion shares in the current of joy which vivifies the holy city….[16]

Among the ‘supernatural goods’ which God has given to His Church to dispense, taking from Her storehouse goods which are ‘ever old and ever new’ are the sacramentals: everything from particular blessings to Holy Water, from scapulars and medals to holy foods such as the Eastern tradition of Prosphora, to rosaries and chatkies and other types of Christian prayer ropes and chaplets, blessed candles, icons, statutes, and as well all those blessings, all the grace which comes to souls through prayerful celebration of popular devotions, Benediction, recitation of Litanies, the Stations of the Cross, use of blessed candles, events like the crowning of statutes of Mary in schools and homes and an appreciation and proper use of those prayers which are indulged as well as that most ancient and important devotion, the pilgrimage.

I do believe in my heart there is a direct connection between emphasis on doing over being, crisis of faith, neglect of the Liturgy of the Hours, and related weakness in the spiritual life of a priest, and the continuous despoiling of our church interiors, paucity of celebrating Benediction and other popular devotions, decreased quality of preaching, neglect in our own lives of our availability for the sacrament of penance, dissent towards Church teaching, poverty of homilies, shortage of men saying yes to the call of divine election and the empty pews which surely haunt us every time we approach the altar to celebrate Holy Mass.

Personally I have never encountered a lay person who has asked for the despoiling of a parish church through the cessation of popular devotions and the removal of sacred images, hiding of the tabernacle, virtual shutting down of the confessionals.

We priests have no right, before God, Holy Mother the Church and her children, to destroy either the external patrimony nor deny access to any of the sacraments, sacramentals, or popular devotions approved by the Church for the sanctification of the children of our Father.

We must honour, and be faithful to, with meek, humble, and, when needed, contrite hearts what Holy Mother the Church deems necessary and appropriate for the people, and do so with a witness of trust and piety, trust in the efficacy of each sacrament, the sacramentals and devotions, and a pious heart obvious to all.

When it comes to the external patrimony of the Church, as well as to the treasure of millennia of prayer and sacramental life, we need to have a clear understanding when we are about to stripe anything away of just what it is we are touching, why we are about to destroy, remove, tamper with or cease it, to whom we shall be held, open-hearted, meditative reading.

accountable, and do we really have any business doing this at all, and just which ‘spirit’ is urging us on.

Margaret Visser in her book THE GEOMETRY OF LOVE, illustrates eloquently what the subtitle describes as ‘space, time, mystery and meaning in an ordinary church.’

One of a church’s main purposes is to call to mind, to make people remember. To begin with, a church sets out to cause self-recollection. Every church does its best ….to help each person recall the mystical experience that he or she has known. Everyone has had some such experience. There are moments in life when – to use the language of a building – the door swings open. The door shuts again, sooner rather than later. But we have seen, even if only through a crack, the light behind it….

Now a church…knows perfectly well that it cannot induce in anyone a mystical experience. What it does is acknowledge such experience as any of its visitors has had, as explicitly as it can. A church is a recognition, in stone and wood and brick, of spiritual awakenings. It nods, to each individual person. If the building has been created within a particular cultural and religious tradition, it constitutes a collective memory of spiritual insights, of thousands of mystical moments. A church reminds us of what we have known. And it tells us that the possibility of the door swinging open again remains. [17]

The reality is before we tamper with such holy memory, such space of sacred recall, such time and means of renewed encounter with the Holy Trinity, we must remember it has been our ancestors in the faith, by the work of their hands, the sweat of their brow, the spilling of their blood, all turned into participation in the sacramental and Gospel life, as well as turned into ‘bricks and mortar’ that has paid for the patrimony of the Church, and passed on the life of faith, and the devotional life, from one generation to the next across the millennia.

Perhaps not all of the images, statues, stained glass, furnishings, etc., have been, or even are, all that ascetically precise as seems to be the preferred minimalist approach to sacred space today.

One wonders though, given our heavenly Father’s obvious prolific approach in filling the world with colour, flowers, snowflakes and people if perhaps He truly wants His house to be sparse, even stingy, of beauty, devotion, and people.

Is it not so in far too many of our parish churches today, in the life of our parishes, that the structures are increasingly empty, cold, devoid of classic Catholic devotions, sacred symbols, sounds and, yes, smells; places where the Blessed Sacrament is shoved off into some corner as if It were an awkward embarrassment?

Yet for all the noise that has been made, and keeps being made, that this is what ‘the church’ wants and what is ‘best’ for the people as a means of ‘returning the focus’ on Christ…where are the people?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the power of sacred images:

Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that the Scriptures communicate by words. Image and word illuminate each other. [para.1160]

In this ‘house of God’ the truth and harmony of the signs that make it up should show Christ to be present and active in this place. [para.1181]

When we tamper with the things under consideration here we interfere with that mutual illumination of ‘image and word’ and disrupt the ‘truth and harmony of the signs’. [Mt.6:23]

Pope John Paul II, the great teacher of the realities of the dignity of the human person, the need for God, the truth about our divine election and evangelization, taught:

…..the utilization in catechetical instruction of valid elements in popular piety. I have in mind devotions practiced by the faithful in certain regions with moving fervour and purity of intention, even if the faith underlying them needs to be purified or rectified in many aspects. I have in mind certain easily understood prayers that many simple people are fond of repeating. I have in mind certain acts of piety practiced with a sincere desire to do penance or to please the Lord. Underlying most of these prayers and practices, besides the elements that should be discarded, there are other elements which, if they were properly used, could serve very well to help people advance towards knowledge of the mystery of Christ, His redeeming Cross and Resurrection, the activity of the Spirit in each Christian and in the Church, the mystery of the hereafter, the evangelical virtues to be practiced, the presence of the Christian in the world, etc. [18]

We need to look deep into our hearts at our own attitude towards sacred images, popular devotions, sacramentals, sacred space, etc. We need to examine closely the connection between deep personal faith, or lack thereof, and the way we approach the patrimony, both exterior as regards sacred space and that interior sacred space, the hearts of our people, and be truthful about how we are enhancing or diminishing the beauty, the sacred beauty, of both.

Are we illuminators or extinguishers of the light?

Certainly gutting church interiors and ceasing popular devotions, another form of interior gutting, is perhaps less demanding than a careful catechesis.

However the basic human need for sacred space, symbols and popular devotions, i.e., communal prayer, will not go unsatisfied. If it is not being met where it should be for our Catholic people, hunger will force them to go elsewhere.

A man whose vocation is to Holy Marriage, thus to being both husband and father, understands, as does his spouse, the woman who, joined to him in sacramental mutual self-gifting enters into fullness of being woman, knows along with him they cannot be fully present to each other, nor to their children, if they are hobbled by a 9 to 5 mentality or a compulsion to refurnish the house and change the parameters of family communication every time the whim strikes them!

Parents, obviously, are called by their vocation, as they are in the first instance as spouses, to be so twenty-four-seven, as contemporary lingo expresses it.

Indeed they are called to be both spouses and parents so long as they live, not just in the formative years of their children.

In point of fact, their vocation is not to raise children, per se, but rather to enable their children to become, wholly, holy, adults.

Love does such things.

Parents are intended to raise their children in the fullness of baptismal life, passing onto them the Tradition and traditions of our faith, thus becoming the living domestic church.

Love does such things.

Ours too is a complete vocation.

We too must do what love does.

When we refuse to be designated as Father, or to wear proper clerical dress, and not some tiny cross on the collar of some a la mode shirt or jacket, we are refusing the complete gift of self to other which every love relationship that is authentic and holy necessarily requires. Further we are negating our divine election as shepherd, teacher and father of the People of God.

It is a refusal to serve.

Love never refuses.

Love does not refuse to do little things well, such as humbling ourselves by wearing the black suit and roman collar so we are always a visible witness to the Gospel, equally important so we can always be found and sought out by any of our brothers and sisters.

Love does not refuse to be called Father since reality is we are in persona Christi capitis, the living icon of The Father.

Nor does love refuse to be immersed, both personally and communally with the people, in a life of constant prayer, adoration and popular piety.

Love does not tamper either with Tradition nor those traditional images, furnishings, spaces, songs, etc., which enable people to draw ever closer to Christ, and through Him to the Father, led by the Spirit throughout their lives to ever greater heights of charity.

Certainly if as priests we have difficulty, if not an outright reluctance, perhaps even a type of anxiety, about giving our people orthodox Gospel and Church teaching, drawn from Tradition, the Fathers, the Councils, in particular Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the papal teachings, we may well need to examine objectively the depth of our life of prayer, devotions, lectio divina and spiritual reading.

It is a matter of the depth, or shallowness, of our communion of love with each Person of the Blessed Trinity. [Ep.1:3-14]

Part of the sheer joy of lectio divina, and of all authentic spiritual reading, is that we can never plumb the absolute depths to the last precious drop of grace to be found therein.

The Holy Spirit Himself, when we open wide the doors of our being to His guidance, brings forth from the treasury of Sacred Scripture especially, and of orthodox spiritual reading, ever new illumination of truth.

The Holy Spirit always does this in accord with what He Himself gifts to Holy Mother the Church, to us, the assurance of the reliability and charism of the Magisterium.

The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particularly in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ. [19a]

In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them. [19b]

This is such a key and tender truth about what actually happens when we are immersed in the ocean of truth in Sacred Scripture, in the meditative act of lectio divina.

It IS THE FATHER who comes to us in those moments more than it is we ‘doing’ the reading.

Such reading is thus primarily a time of receptivity.

It is time for LISTENING!

…such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigour, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life. [19c]

Scripture verifies in the most perfect way the words: ‘The Word of God is living and active’ {Heb.4:12}’, and ‘is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified’ {Acts 20:32; cf. 1Th.2:13}. [19d]

When I was a boy growing up at ocean’s edge, we’d often go at low tide and meander through caves which became exposed at low water.

These caves seemed endless to us.

In our boyish minds there were always further adventures awaiting us the deeper we would go into those caves.

True, the incoming tide would determine how far we went on a given day.

But even as we left, we knew we could return.

The older and more experts we grew, the further, the deeper we were able to explore.

And enjoy!

In our day, many, and not always for their sanctification, explore the endless expanse of the internet.

When we are children it is appropriate, even a necessary part of growth towards adult self-discipline and confidence, to explore both actual spaces and the space of our imaginations. Because of our youth and inexperience, wandering into places of peril is not unexpected, and, provided there is no serious harm done, should be easily forgiven by our parents.

But we, as priests, are no longer mere children and must draw upon and exercise the Spirit’s gift of prudence. [1Cor.13:11]

We have access to the fullness of sacramental grace, to the fullness of His Word. [Ep.4:14-16]

All that is said about lectio divina can be applied, to the extent of its use by the Holy Spirit as an instrument of grace, to authentic spiritual reading.

The spouse of the Incarnate Word, which is the Church, is taught by the Holy Spirit. She strives to reach day by day a more profound understanding of the sacred Scriptures, in order to provide her children with food from the divine word…..This nourishment enlightens the mind, strengthens the will and fires the hearts of men with love of God. [19e]

One of the very ancient sacred images for the Self-gifting of Christ, as classic example of image illuminating truth, is that of the pelican immolating herself that she might feed her starving brood.

While this image was common in both stained glass and mosaic when I was a boy it is not one I find easily in churches today.

Always shown as a symbol of Christ’s Eucharistic Self-sacrifice, the pelican, as in the ancient legend pre-dating the Christian era yet adopted as a Christian image, is shown tearing her breast open that her starving children might feed and live.

We can apply this image also to Holy Mother the Church.

We can apply it to ourselves as well.

As priests this self-immolation, this self-gift, in imitation of and precisely because we are configured to Christ, are in persona Christi, is our life, our being, our joy!

But if our hearts are empty, when we rip them open, or rather allow the Holy Spirit to break them open, what will there be to flow forth to nourish the people, our true children?

Or if our hearts are filled with anything other than the pure blood of a deep spiritual life, what kind of food will flow forth?

Therefore…particularly priests of Christ…should immerse themselves in the Scriptures by constant sacred reading and diligent study. For it must not happen that anyone becomes ‘ an empty preacher of the Word of God to others, not being a hearer of the Word in his own heart,’ when he ought to be sharing the boundless riches of the divine Word with the faithful committed to his care, especially in the sacred liturgy. [19f]

Here, as in all aspects of our lives as priests, we should have recourse to our Blessed Mother, she who is the Seat of Wisdom:

Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. [20]

A contemporary term used to denote the experience of many Christians who hear one thing on Sunday yet live something else the rest of the time is the term: cognitive dissonance.

That is the living and shuttling, as it were, back and forth between two stances, two views of life, an attempt to have two mutually opposed ‘truths’ co-exist.

We priests can find ourselves in bondage to cognitive dissonance when we attempt to live a basic secular life while attempting to ‘do’, rather than ‘be’ that which we are by divine election.

Spiritual understanding centers on the acceptance of a divine truth, which gradually reveals itself, rising on the horizon of the mind till it pervades all. If the mind and its reactions are brought into willing obedience to that truth the divine truth continues to permeate the mind even more and the mind develops with it endlessly. “To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph.3:19). It is clear from this verse that the knowledge and love of God and divine things in general are immeasurably above the level of knowledge that is human knowledge. It is therefore futile and foolish for us to try to ‘investigate’ the things of God in an attempt to grasp them and make them yield to our intellectual powers.

On the contrary, it is we who must yield to the love of God so that our minds may be open to the divine truth. It is then that we will be prepared to receive surpassing knowledge. That “being rooted and grounded in love [you], may have the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth.”(Eph.3:17, 18). [21]

Reading to fill up our hearts then with food which sustains us and can be poured forth is a matter of humility. A crying out from the core of our being, constantly, to the Holy Spirit that He would ‘help my unbelief’.

It is also a humble willingness to heed the cry addressed to us by all the children of the Father, those who believe, yearning in their hunger to be strengthened in the faith; by those who do not believe, because no one has yet spoken to them of Christ.

As the Foundress of the Madonna House Lay Apostolate pleads on their behalf:

Teach us God because you have met Him in prayer and in the study of the Word. The Word is like a tremendous mysterious teacher. You might be a Scripture Scholar, familiar with every passage, but if you read it on your knees the light of the Holy Spirit will fall on a Word and it will open itself before you like a flower or a nut cracked by an immense nutcracker.

Teach us to know God, because you know Him. Teach us to pray because you are men of prayer. [22]

Here the connection is made for us by the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, between our being nourished and our ability to feed the flock confided to our care. To teach truth with love, love with truth, to all our brothers and sisters.

The connection is that of our being truly men of the Word to bring the word, with and through all our words, to His children.

Being men of prayer: so that our words are His, His alone.

The words He has for all the children of the Father.

Among the spiritual reading done for this chapter one which truly rejoiced my heart was the book of Pope John Paul II, another of his many gifts to us his brother priests: GIFT AND MYSTERY.

In this work, written to celebrate his 50th anniversary of priesthood, he stresses the importance of study in general for priests and connects everything we do with our role as servants. Thus, this statement from the Holy Father, struck my heart as applicable to lectio divina, and indeed to all our spiritual reading as a means by which the Holy Spirit guides us to, forms within us:

…a deeper awareness of how each individual is a unique person. [23]

And the Holy Father adds, simply yet to the point:

I think that this awareness is very important for every priest. [ op. cit.]

Meditation upon the persons who emerge across the pages, through the unfolding of salvation history, of Sacred Scripture – from those who are direct proto-types of Christ such as Moses, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah to those representative of each individual soul such as Job, the bride in the Song of Songs, from the New Testament, the woman at the well, each person needing healing and deliverance, etc., – these are all used by the Holy Spirit to open ever wider the doors of our being to Christ and to open ever wider the doors of our hearts as portals of compassion for all our brothers and sisters.

Indeed such meditation should enable us also to become ever more compassionate towards our own selves in the depths of our poverty and need for Divine Mercy. [Rev.3:20; Lk.24:32]

When we open our hearts to any moment of intimate encounter with the Father, of Christ coming ever more fully into the depths of our being through the Sacred Text, in that moment we also will hear the teaching voice, the configuring voice, of the Holy Spirit seeking to set our hearts aflame within the communion of love between the Holy Trinity and us!

Holy Scripture, carefully read, and even learned by heart, will always be like a living fountain in the heart of the priest. In the Eucharist the Divine Word hides Himself under the sacred species, clothed in majestic silence; in the Scriptures He communicates Himself to us under the form of human speech, which expresses itself according to the manner of our expression.

The Word of God in Himself is incomprehensible. Is He not infinite? In His Son the Father gives expression to all that He is and all that He knows. In the Scriptures we read only one small syllable of the incommunicable Word pronounced by the immensity of the Father. In heaven we shall contemplate this living Word, we shall be introduced into its secret, but even here on earth we must keep our intellect in a state of respectful attention to what has been revealed and to that portion of divine wisdom which has been made known by the holy Writings. [24]

Through Sacred Scripture, and indeed through all our spiritual reading and study of the sacred sciences, we are truly being invited into an ever deeper intimacy of communion of love with the Blessed Trinity. This grace leads to an ever deeper passion for the Gospel lived in humble service of all our brothers and sisters, in particular of the poorest among them, most especially of our enemies.

This grace leads us to be priests of the ‘truth-speaking’ hearts and mouths, feeding our people with absolute orthodox Catholic teaching.

Because we love them, and, desire the salvation of souls.

Our lives then become lives only of and for Christ and the things of Christ.

Once again here, as in everything in the lives of all Disciples of Christ, we turn to our Blessed Mother, the first disciple and the Mother of we her priest sons.

Mary is our example of Sacred Scripture internalized and lived as moment by moment blessing of life.

When our Blessed Mother approached her cousin Elizabeth, as we know, Mary already contained within her the living and true God, the Incarnate One, Jesus.

In that immediate moment, as Scripture tells us Elizabeth cries out in full experience. [Lk.1:44]

Our hearts too will leap for joy as the ‘sound of greeting’ of Scripture itself permeates our being when we contemplate the sacred text.

Approached on our knees, in the same spirit of expectancy and stillness of the whole of creation on the night of His birth, and through the reality of opening wide the doors of our being through the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we shall no longer feel like observers of the history of salvation, of the mysteries of our redemption, but true participants!

Thus, for example, when the eyes of our body, of our hearts, fall upon the words of the text, in the depths of our souls we shall hear and respond to what we see and hear.

Thus, not only to the shepherds, but to each one of us the Angels announce the Good News. [Lk.2:10]

Filled with the fire of the moment, in the fulfillment of our divine election, when we come to preach upon the reality of Christ and of our salvation we shall indeed discover we bring great joy to all the people!

Spiritual reading, meditation, mental prayer, divine office, lectio divina, and contemplation, study of the sacred sciences and related authentic reading and study: these are all ways of cooperating with the Holy Spirit at prayer within us as He teaches us all we need to know to be true servants of the Gospel.

It is a struggle to be faithful each day: likewise is it a struggle to be faithful each day to the life of continuous formation, growth in prayer, wisdom, knowledge, love.

Pope John Paul II speaks to us of the daily struggle in these words:

…..we must all be converted anew every day. We know that this is a fundamental exigency of the Gospel, addressed to everyone, and all the more do we have to consider it addressed to us. If we have the duty of helping others to be converted we have to do the same continuously in our own lives. BEING CONVERTED MEANS returning to the very grace of our vocation; it means meditating upon the infinite goodness and love of Christ, who has addressed each of us and, calling us by name, has said: “Follow Me.” BEING CONVERTED MEANS continually “giving an account” before the Lord of our hearts about our service, our zeal and our fidelity, for we are “Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God.” BEING CONVERTED ALSO MEANS “giving an account” of our negligences and sins, of our timidity, of our lack of faith and hope, of our thinking only “in a human way” and not “in a divine way.” Let us recall in this regard the warning Christ gave Peter himself. BEING CONVERTED MEANS, for us, seeking again the pardon and strength of God in the sacrament of Reconciliation, and thus always beginning anew, and every day progressing, overcoming ourselves, making spiritual conquests, giving cheerfully, for “God loves a cheerful giver.”

BEING CONVERTED MEANS “to pray continually and never lose heart.” In a certain way prayer is the first and the last condition for conversion, spiritual progress and holiness. PERHAPS IN THESE RECENT YEARS…there has been too much discussion about the priesthood, the priest’s ‘identity’, the value of his presence in the modern world, etc., and on the other hand THERE HAS BEEN TOO LITTLE PRAYING. [25]

Perhaps in the lives of we priests there is ‘too little praying’ because we are more deeply infected by the ‘world’ than we care to admit. Or perhaps because we find it difficult to rejoice in the power and beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours, maybe even of the Divine Liturgy itself there is within us a type of resistance that needs that ‘being converted anew each day’ of which the Holy Father speaks.

A friend told me recently of how a friend of his family’s became converted to our Catholic faith.

The man was a serious Protestant Fundamentalist, so filled with anger and hatred of the Catholic Church he decided he would begin to confront the local priest about the errors of the Church. To do so this fundamentalist Christian, armed with the Bible, opened to the Book of Revelations, sat at the back of the church during Holy Mass. While Holy Mass unfolded this good man became aware that what was transpiring before him was the heavenly liturgy as described in the very sacred text he held open before him. Once Mass was over he did indeed approach the priest.

For instruction!

When I think of prayer, the sentence that comes to me is this: Hold the hand of the Lord, and talk to Him any time you wish. There is not a time to pray and a time not to pray. To pray is to pray always. You hold the hand of God. Sometimes you talk to Him and sometimes you don’t, but you are there with Him all the time.

That is what our basic approach to prayer must be.

…..You give your time to everyone and to everything, but in your heart, you pray continuously. You know that the Lord is very near, and that He holds your hand, as it were, while you go about your business. That’s the way you should pray.

…..The Mass is the outstanding prayer for all Catholics. In the Mass, you find the Lord. He comes to you joyfully and gladly. Can you feel how glad He is to come to you? He is happy to have you there. It is very important that you be there, for the Mass is your rendezvous with God.

…..The Mass encompasses you totally and absolutely. It is such a beautiful time. In some profound sense, you become the Mass. Do you ever think about it that way?

Between two Masses – the Mass of today and the Mass of tomorrow – you spend your time talking lovingly to God. There is the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours ….One can always ‘take time’ to pray before the Blessed Sacrament….real prayer is simply the communication that constantly passes between you and the Lord. Prayer is conversation with Him. You don’t need to understand how to talk to God. You just do it. He loves to listen to you and He especially delights in your silence when you listen to Him. [26]

We certainly have a lot to DO every day in our lives as priests.

But when we allow those duties which do NOT require sacramental ordination to overwhelm us, rather than trust the charism of the laity to handle those things which do not require sacramental ordination, we will easily find therein the rationale for excusing ourselves from daily celebration of Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, lectio divina, prayer, etc.

Saint Pius X, throughout his pontificate wherein he sought to engage everyone in restoring all things to Christ, speaks to us when he wrote:

….all who bear the seal of priesthood must know they have the same mission to the people in the midst of whom they live as that which Paul proclaimed that he received in these tender words: My little children, of whom I am in labour again until Christ be formed in you.(Gal.iv,19) But how will they be able to perform their duty if they be not first clothed with Christ themselves? and so clothed with Christ be able to say with the Apostle: I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.(Gal.11,20) For me to live is Christ.(Phil1,21) Hence although all are included in the exhortation – to advance towards the perfect man, in the measure of the age of fullness of Christ(Ep.iv,3), it is addressed before all to those who exercise the sacerdotal ministry; thus these are called another Christ, not merely by the communication of power but by reason of the imitation of His works, and they should therefore bear stamped upon themselves the image of Christ. [27]

The more we plunge ourselves into prayer, spiritual reading, and meditation, contemplation { in particular of His Passion, Death and Resurrection }, the more we shall become intimate with Him, clothed with Him, enabled by the Holy Spirit to imitate only Christ, to desire, to seek only the things of Christ.

Devotion, true faith, is not therefore per se things I believe in, adhering to, much less why I do anything; rather it is who I am: a true believer!

This is my state of being because I am beloved of Him and in this communion of love I have been ordained in His person.

This, Fathers, IS the joy of our being, our vocation of joy!

Among priests of another generation I have often heard the bravado statement of having ‘never opened a book of theology since I left the seminary’; sadly I have also heard from priests of this generation that they can find more ‘truth’ in novels and on the internet than in books of theology.

Lastly there is the mindset that will only study the latest notion in the field of sacred science, or other fields, hot off the press, without necessarily exercising due discernment about the orthodoxy, or lack thereof, to be found in a given work.

Once again the heart and desire of Holy Mother the Church, therefore the will of the Holy Trinity for us, as regards ongoing study, itself a means of a more affective understanding of the needs of people and how to serve them with love in truth, has been articulated clearly from the very first days of the development of theology:

The fathers see in the pursuit of sacred learning the priest’s most powerful natural contribution to preparing the way for divine grace in his own life and the life of others. Besides they find in devotion to the sacred sciences his surest safeguard against worldly influences. Hence it is, as St. Gregory observes, that sustained attention to the study of the sacred sciences assures the priest of faithful devotion to his sacred duties:

“The priest lives up to all these sacred responsibilities if he is filled with the spirit of heavenly fear and love, and daily meditates on the commands of Holy Writ. This he does in order that the words of divine warning may re-enkindle the fervour of his watchfulness over his people and of his farsighted attention to the life of heaven within him. In all this he is motivated by the realization that whereas his contacts with the world are continually leading him away from his first fervour, he may by the spirit of compunction acquire a new love for his spiritual home in heaven.”

…the office of priest is to find answers to the questions of human life in the language of God. His next step is to express the language of God in terms that will be grasped by the people. In a word, he is an interpreter between God and man. Consequently, to be well-versed in the language of God he must be deeply devoted to the study of sacred science. Only in this study can he familiarize himself with the ideas and terms which will translate for the people God’s answers to the questions of life. [28]

This means, as we become ‘well-versed’ in the language of God we will inevitably find ourselves more courageously speaking the true, proclaiming the Gospel of Life in the midst of a culture of death.

We know that every Christian through Baptism is called to be, in imitation of and with Christ, a sign of contradiction at the very core of this culture of death.

How much more are we priests, by divine election called and by ordination created in persona Christi, to be the surest and clearest voice, the most visible sign of contradiction?

The sign of life!

When as priests we seek by any means to live other than in the reality of being such a sign, to hide behind secular clothing or the parsing of our words so as not to offend ‘the world’ we become at war with our very own being.

True, the more we strive to live fully our vocation, to live in reality, we will suffer.

Perhaps even at the hands of confreres, or of our people.

Certainly the culture of death, satan and his minions, will attack us.

Here too we simply are becoming more fully Disciples of Christ, are following Him more closely, being drawn more intimately into union with Him.

We are thus blessed! [Lk.6:22]

It is natural as human beings that we should seek the immediate gratification of acceptance by our confreres, our people, by the world around us. No one wants to be hated, excluded, insulted, and denounced.

No one naturally wants to be crucified.

In truth, the Cross is our joy!

The struggle to be faithful is the only lasting gratification.

Christ is our comfort, our love, and acceptance.

He includes us in the communion of love of Himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Finally much of our struggle is very simply because we feel pressing against our hearts the weight of the sin and sadness of the world which lives in a vast darkness. The darkness of sin and death, the darkness of billions of human hearts having forgotten who they are, why they exist, because they are forgetful of the very Father in heaven who loves them so much He sent to us His only begotten Son.

While it is true, as the Holy Gospel teaches, Jesus is the One who pours His Light within us; it is also terribly true not all embrace Him, His Light! [Jn.1:9; 10, 11]

In humility we need to accept where within us there is darkness still, where we still refuse within our beings to accept Him and allow Him to shine within us, to heal and restore us.

In union with Our Blessed Mother this shall come to pass through the deep interior life of prayer, lectio divina, etc., as discussed in this chapter.

If we struggle each day to be faithful and are ever more willing to both offer and be offered, then we shall come not only to understand but to experience continually that communion of love from the Risen Christ which is communion of illumination love of the Holy Trinity:

Our world lives in a darkness so vast, a forgetfulness so dreadful, that only a kind of global healing of memories can enlighten it. The healing of memories is in fact a healing of forgetfulness and the resurrection of memory. When the glory shining on the face of the risen Christ shines in our hearts, we are set free from the terrors that roam in the darkness, and the darkness itself flees away. Each moment of our lives is touched by the healing light of the Lord, and each becomes a moment in the history of salvation. The moment of rejection shines now with reconciliation; the moment of anger becomes bright with forgiveness; the moment of lust is filled with the radiance of love; and the countless moments of loneliness are radiant with the presence of Him who will never leave us. Bitterness vanishes when we see the wounds others have inflicted upon us begin to gleam, like those of Christ, with the pure light of compassion. As He gazes upon all that we have tried to keep in darkness, His brightness touches too the wounds we have given others, not only the pain we have consciously caused, but the numberless hurts caused by our indifference, our coldness, our fear, our seemingly unbreakable absorption in our own poor selves. The human eyes of the Invisible Light fall on all of this, and we see the broken ones restored and raised up, and our shame itself is broken up, carried away into the darkness that lies behind the back of God. [29]



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Rev. Arthur Joseph

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


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

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

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