Tag Archives: priests



                                    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.



                                                                     I give you joy – the immense joy that He alone can give, and that I hope will fill your hearts from now until you meet Him! I give you a lance, gold tipped like the crown that the magi offered Him, to open your heart to Him in everyone whom you meet. I give you myrrh, the symbol of a soul in love with God, who wants to share His whole life of joy, of peace, of suffering. [114]

Certainly the culture of death, and even some presumably well-meaning Catholics, obviously those with a particular agenda, including some priests and bishops, do not see our priestly promise of a chaste life, a celibate life, as reception of a gift of joy, albeit a joy which includes, dare I say should impel us, to grab the lance and plunge it into our hearts so that, like His, our hearts are broken open to all in need of Him, that they may enter.

Yet, in truth, this IS the gift for us ordained in persona Christi, offered to us.

While the state of our hearts, in union with Jesus, should be one of ubiety, often we may find ourselves in a state of ubiquity, particularly if our approach to our celibate commitment focuses on what we have promised to forgo, the unitive and fecund sacredness of sacramental marriage.

                                                                                    …Today, chastity is often mistakenly associated with being old fashioned…..in reality it is much more than simply the absence of sexual relations. Chastity calls for purity of mind as well as body.

                                                                               …..When we became Christians at the moment of Baptism, the Holy Spirit came to live in our bodies………….[115]

Already living temples of the Holy Spirit by Baptism [cf. 1 Cor. 6:19, 20] there is a deepening of our very physical sacredness with Sacramental Ordination, in persona Christi.

Truly chastity, our commitment to the celibate life, is intrinsically about what is given to us.

In that light, what we are asked to give in return is a little thing, but it means the gift of our whole selves.

When we truly give our whole selves, then our lives are joy-filled.

When we, intellectually or in any other fashion, withhold a single iota of our self-gift to Him, in return for the lavishness of His Self-Gift to us, then increasingly a sourness and hardening of heart takes hold.

                                                                           Abba Gerontius of Petra said that many, tempted by the pleasures of the body, commit fornication, not in their body but in their spirit, and while preserving their bodily virginity, commit prostitution in their soul. ‘Thus it is good, my well-beloved, to do that which is written, and for each one to guard his own heart with all possible care.’ (Prov. 4:23) [116]

We live in an era where our culture has such a materialist notion of the human person, the body of the human person is presented as a utility object, not unlike our cell phones or computers or any other ‘thing’ we make use of in daily life.

There is, I believe, an interesting parallel between the minimalist approach to sacred space, that is the reduction of most churches to sparse space devoid of statues, votive candles, the tendency of choosing vestments of either gaudy colours or so plain they dishearten, and the increase of immodesty in dress, the disfiguring of the body with piercings, tattoos, among our contemporaries.

The so-called sexual revolution of the sixties, the dismissal by so many priests and bishops of the prophetic teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humane Vitae, has given us a dark culture of death wherein we are drowning in the blood of aborted children in their millions, the devaluation of the sacredness of the human person, disruption of the holiness of marriage and family life by extreme nihilism.

The entire human family cries out, urgently, for the luminosity of chastity, a shimmering light of the sacredness of the human person in the darkness of our despairing culture.

In stark contrast to the luminosity of chastity is the dark disorder of a culture, of individuals, so disconnected from reality the very people who, in the media, society in general, scream about the abuse of children, by priests or anyone, deny that the most pervasive abuse of children occurs within the womb when they are torturously murdered by abortion.

Without minimizing by a single iota the horrific crime and sin of abuse, those who howl it is because of chastity, howl from the bowels of the very darkness of our culture of death, for they are less concerned about protecting the innocent than forcing upon the priesthood an agenda which is fundamentally anti-Gospel, anti-life, anti-the sacredness of the human person.

Reality is that any man incapable of authentic husband-hood, fatherhood, of mature, non-sexual relations with women, and indeed with men and children, not only is incapable of authentic chastity but would also fail in sacred marriage and parenthood.

Where the institutional governance of the Church has failed at the hands of those with authority is not simply in the past seeking to hide or deny the problem, rather that failure continues today with an obsessively punitive and defensive attitude which enables countless false accusations, seeks to so completely weed out potentially defective candidates for the priesthood, that the reality of conversion from a disordered life of sin to sanctity, so celebrated by holding Magdalene, Augustine, Dorothy Day, de Foucauld,  Catherine Doherty, as models to be followed, is deemed by recent edicts as impossible – take for example the edicts about homosexuality and priesthood.

The institution simply cannot have it both ways, that is stating a particular form of sexual expression demands such men and women lead chaste lives and at the same time stating in effect the Church does not believe such a state is possible therefore…..

Confusion reigns everywhere it seems.

Here is not the place to argue out all these issues, simply to indicate a few points, including since every man entering seminary in the ‘Latin’ rite knows chastity is constitutive of priestly life, for any seminarian or ordained man to latterly argue somehow it came as a surprise, and so now they should be able to get married is, frankly, nuts!

Finally, unless seminaries, and those therein responsible for the formation of future priests, change the current atmosphere of fear into one of affirmation and real common sense, those who struggle, in the old confessional phrasing: ‘alone or with others’, will be less than honest with themselves, their confessors, and others responsible for their formation, and thus, either through sexual activity, alone or with others, or some other compensating activity, will lead a life which eventually will cause them to crash and burn, no doubt seriously injuring others in the process.

So without belabouring the point luminous chastity, joyful chastity, like everything which flows in the Christian life of discipleship, for all the baptized, not just priests, means a simple willingness to accept the poverty of the human condition, with intimate confidence in Jesus, in imitation of Jesus:

                                                                            ….the temptation story summarizes the entire struggle of Jesus: it is about the nature of His mission, but at the same time it is also, in general, about the right ordering of human life, about the way to be human, about the way of history. Finally, it is about what is really important in the life of man. This ultimate thing, this decisive thing, is the primacy of God. The germ of all temptation is setting God aside, so that He seems to be a secondary concern when compared with all the urgent priorities of our lives. To consider ourselves, the needs and desires of the moment to be more important than He is – that is the temptation that always besets us. For in doing so we deny God His divinity and we make ourselves, or rather, the powers that threaten us, into our god. [117]

In other words the key to luminous chastity, the root of its joy, is priority to intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity.

In reality we are talking about a passionate love affair, indeed a type of marriage uniting us and the Divine Bridegroom.

It is a choice between the centrality of the one true God in our hearts, or the bondage- worship of a false god.

We must daily choose: intimate relationship with the God who gives Himself to us as food of life, or handing ourselves over to be devoured by the evil one, for all false gods ultimately are guises of satan. [cf. 1 Pt. 5:8]

                                                                       We are those disciples sent throughout the world to spread the “sweet smell” of Christ! To succeed, we too must “shatter” the alabaster vessel of our human nature: we must mortify the works of the flesh, the old Adam which acts as an inner barrier to the rays of the Spirit. The perfume of Christ is given off by “the fruits of the Spirit” (according to St. Paul, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” [Gal.5:22]; if these are in us, then, without our realizing (and of course while we by contrast only smell ourselves giving off the stink of our sins), someone around us may get a whiff of the fragrance of the Spirit of Christ. The world has a great need to smell the perfume of Christ! [118]

The Sacred Chrism, with which we are anointed in Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination, is sweet-smelling oil, balsam being mixed with the olive oil as we know.

 So we are in truth ‘perfumed’, as priests, three times in our lives and thus anointed have a critical obligation to struggle mightily, cooperating with grace, that in our lived chastity our purity is not only a luminous witness to Christ – and in baptism we have already become light in the darkness for we are bathed in Christ’s own light poured into us – but also a sweet-smelling testimony.

In a word we struggle to be akin to a living thurible.

Another parallel which comes to mind is that between the almost complete absence in contemporary liturgy of the use of incense and our modern culture awash in the sulphuric stench of impurity and dehumanization.

Jesus cries out in the Sixth Beatitude that truly blessed are the pure, the clean of heart [Mt.5:8] for they shall indeed see God.

This is not simply a declaration of post death reality for the blessed in heaven, but is a promise of the reality we will experience in this life on earth IF we strive, truly to be pure.

                                                       The organ for seeing here is the heart rather than the eyes, or at least the eyes themselves see through the heart……….The heart the Lord speaks of has been purified from an attachment to the profane by being washed in the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God. [119]

Again and again the fullness of chaste-joy, the joy which is the essence of our vocation in persona Christi, is participation in His own joy poured into us [cf. Jn.15:11] and is rooted in our intimacy with Christ our Beloved.

                                                                     If we had a deeper understanding of things, we would be able to comprehend the intimate relation that exists between purity and light, and perhaps we would comprehend with some astonishment that light and purity are two aspects of one same divine reality. The Greeks produced an admirable word to express graphically the idea of holiness: ‘hagios,” meaning without earth. To be pure is to be without earth; that is, to be free of all that is not God……….

                                                                         For souls to be bathed in light, to become light, they need to be purified……For souls to be transformed into the image of God, passing from glory to glory, they must ascend from purity to purity in the continuing effort to become, more and more, glowing crucibles. [120]

One of the statements on the whole reality of our joyful call and commitment to chastity, within which is truly the sweetness of the Cross, the joy of being intimately one with the Divine Bridegroom and thus in Him and with Him husband-fathers of and with the Church, I often recall, is from Cardinal Danneels:

                                                                       No rational arguments can fully explain celibacy ‘for the sake of the Kingdom’. [121]

We live in a time, an era of the culture of darkness and death which seems in the main not so much opposed to the simple joyous freedom of faith, faith which is maturely childlike, but rather terrified of faith, perhaps because there is a profound fear not so much of God in His immensity and power, but of God as vulnerable child in a manger.

Our obsession with science and so-called scientific proof, of ‘my’ rights over communal responsibility, which in its purest form is my being responsible, that is truly loving my neighbour, loving other as Jesus loves me, creates the illusion that we are mature adults, when in the main we act like immature juveniles.

No wonder the sweet luminosity of chastity triggers what it does against Church, priests, those men and women who take the sacred commitment of Holy Marriage between one man and one woman, open to the gift of children seriously!

In simplicity then, knowing fidelity means the moment by moment humble willingness to struggle, trusting He loves us so that all needed grace to be faithful is lavished upon us, is truly an inexhaustible living spring of holy life within us, in our joy can we not cry out with St. Tikhon of Zadonsk:

                                                                             Glory to God, for He has created me in His image and likeness! Glory to God, who redeemed me, the fallen one; Glory to God for He was the providence of my unworthy self. Glory, for He called me, a sinner, to repentance! Glory, for He has handed to me His holy Word as a lamp shining in a dark place, and by it He taught me the true way. Glory to God, for He has illumined the eyes of my heart! He has granted me to know His Holy Name! Glory to God, for He has washed away my sins in the waters of baptism! Glory, for He has shown me the way to eternal bliss. And this way is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who says of Himself: I am the way, the truth and the life.” Glory to Him, for He did not ruin me in my sin but in His mercy was patient to my transgressions! Glory to God, for He has shown to me the vain enticements and vanity of this world. Glory to God, for He has helped me in the multitude of temptations, griefs and tribulations! Glory, for He has preserved me in accidents and mortal dangers. Glory to God, for He has defended me from the enemy satan. Glory, for He raised me when I fell. Glory to God, for He has comforted me in my affliction. Glory to God, for when I erred He converted me: Glory to God, for like a father, He punished me. Glory to God, for He showed me His dreadful judgement that I might be afraid and repent of my sins! Glory to God, for He revealed to me eternal pain and eternal bliss that I might flee the one and seek the other! Glory to Him, for to me, the unworthy, He gave food to strengthen the weakness of the body; gave me a house in which to rest! Glory to God, for all the other benefits which He gave to me for my sustenance and comforts. As many breaths as I have taken, so many graces have I received of Him. Glory to God for everything. [122]   



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]



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This after the very clear instruction from the Vatican:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                         It can be said that man suffers whenever he experiences any kind of evil.

                                                                           In the midst of what constitutes the psychological form of suffering there is always an experience of evil, which causes the individual to suffer.

                                                                          While it is true that suffering has a meaning as punishment when it is connected with a fault, it is not true that all suffering is a consequence of a fault and has the nature of a punishment.

                                                                       Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance. The purpose of penance is to overcome evil. [92]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We live in extremely dangerous and often confusing times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherever evil lurks, there is the battlefield.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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]                                         




It is First Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

Again this morning I mention the same thing to Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each of them: a suffering soul.

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

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

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

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

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

Like Christ we too must be broken and distributed.

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

Christ loves us with a broken open heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


That we might believe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken hurts.

Broken can mean being unlovable, or unforgiveable.

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

The result was fear and distrust.

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

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

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

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

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

This is ultimate gift of Self.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: too clerical.

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

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

Is not the Sacred Heart their comfort?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually it is a protecting grace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However we need not remain stuck in such a sequence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Eucharist is communion of love.

Communion of love is Trinitarian.

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

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

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

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

The heart cannot be without love.

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

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

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

In both senses of the phrase.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                          You cannot taste Divinity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But He only wounds us with redemptive love.

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

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

The old priest looked up.

His face was brilliant with a shimmering radiant light.

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

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

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

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

At the heart of everything is faith.

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

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

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

Humble obedience is the external witness of faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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]


I CELEBRATED Holy Mass before starting to write again. A votive Mass of Our Blessed Mother under her title, Pillar of Faith.

As I lifted the chalice, filled with Himself, my eyes fell upon the icon of the Twelve Apostles holding up the Church. My heart became instantly steeped in this awesome mystery of being priest.

A sudden urgency took hold to finish this book .



Then, just as suddenly, as I descended the chalice, my heart had a profound understanding of the mystery of His time.

One day in those turbulent sixties while I was working on a painting commissioned by one of the many cognoscente of surrealism, I suddenly found myself weeping.

A week or so later, while traveling by bus between cities, again tears streamed from some un-aware region of my being.

Over succeeding weeks these fits of sobbing became intense, and frightening.

I finally faced the fact something was terribly wrong and, through a doctor in a street clinic I volunteered at, found myself a psychiatrist.

By the second session the psychiatrist declared he could indeed cure me of my angst, but in so doing I would be drained of my artistic powers and that I should choose, art or inner peace, but that he could not give me both.

It is indicative of just how interiorly wounded I was that I believed him and opted for art.

The sixties!

So I returned to my self-destructive, walking beside myself, split from self, illusory existence, for it was no ‘life’.

However the All-compassionate, All-loving Father, who is constantly calling us to Himself….the sound of His voice is the beating Heart of Christ, IS Christ Himself, His word….takes even our most screwed up, our most unintended, inclination to prayer as eloquent plea from a pure child.

The Father does this through the inexhaustible movement of the Holy Spirit within the baptized soul.

Since we are so confused by emotion, wants, even needs, etc., etc., we really do not know objectively the grace needed, hence the Holy Spirit within the baptized speaks passionately and eloquently for us{Rm.8:26,27}.

The shrink may not have understood my tears but with each one taken, and folded into the Spirit’s inexpressible groaning, they became the Surgeon’s lance, cutting deep into my soul allowing the pus of sin to drain. {Deut.4:29, 30}

It was late one night, I was hanging out near the bus depot with a small band of fellow hippies, when a tall man, poorly dressed, long haired and bearded, yet older than most of us, approached.

He’d been tossed out of the depot by the cops and sent towards us, being told by them we knew where to sleep.

He followed us down into the cavernous reaches of an underground parking garage where a steam vent afforded warmth for sleeping in the exhaust laden air.

In the morning when the depot had reopened the man took us to its greasy spoon and bought us pancakes and coffee.

He told us of a place far to the north that none of the group but myself recognized from his description.

It was then that I knew this man of beard and pancakes was a priest!

Soon he was gone towards the bus bays and we wandered off towards the financial district to panhandle food and drug money.

As we walked I wondered about a priest who looked like that, slept on a steam grate, appeared so deeply sad, yet with some protective aura around him which, although he seemed not to want it, kept him from ultimate harm.

[ I would not see him again for many years until, coming from many adventures, even time in the desert caves of the Holy Land, he too would join The Community and we would become the closest of brother priests…….but such lay years into the future from the period of which I now write.]

It was a short time later that a letter arrived from, of all the women in my life, exception of the primacy of Our Blessed Mother, THE woman in my life, the Foundress of The Community.

Our correspondence, since the late fifties, had been unusual and erratic.

 Her letters always short and totally on point.

      Mine, as I look back, rather self-serving pathetic!

This time she wrote, commandingly of : “…a priest I know will be good for you. He is a former..monk like you and he has come to join us. You should really meet him.”

Even as I write these recall lines my being burns with an inner fire, for in that brief letter was contained an ineffable grace for the rest of my life.

Although I originally had no intention of going to see this priest I was nonetheless curious at least to see The Community, meet the woman with whom I had over the years exchanged letters.

However, left to myself, I would probably never have made the trip but within days of receipt of the letter my father announced he and my uncle where going to that area to fish, their wives to shop in country stores, why didn’t I come along and go visit the community I often spoke of.

My next memory is of standing alone in the cold rain of a fall day, heavy mist rising from the great river, a small grouping of buildings looking rather poor, and a man not much older than myself rushing towards me as if we were long lost brothers.

It was the priest she had written about.

He was dressed in secular clothing with an unfamiliar styled cross hanging from a slight chain around his neck.

He ushered me across the muddy lot into a tiny log cabin, its shelves lined with rocks and crafting equipment.

A small card table stood in one corner laden with unknown tools and a couple of ash trays.

He lit a cigarette and began to talk at a rapid, enthused pace, peppering me with his answers to questions I hadn’t asked.

Questioning me with his answers.

I smoked one cigarette after the other, my mind dazed by nicotine overload and swirling emotions triggered by this accelerated flow of energy from the priest.

I have no memory of conversational detail.

Just a series of memories of rapidly moving events, for suddenly the priest told me not to move and he rushed out of the cabin.

My eyes, being as I was having a massive panic attack, searched the rocks on all the shelves as if I were looking for a clue.

The door of the cabin swung open, the priest came in followed by a man with slicked black hair, wearing a cross like the priest’s, but not a priest, and I do remember this man’s words: “ Father has told me all about you and you are just the kind of man we need to help with our summer program. I want you to go home, settle your affairs, come back and join us! See ya!”

He left.

It all seemed a done deal.

The priest said he thought it would be a good idea that I take time over Christmas for a retreat in my former monastery before coming to join The Community.

He blessed me and left the cabin.

I recall sitting there, smoking, listening to the rain beat against the tar paper shingles of the roof, wondering what had just happened, suddenly aware that, at least in the moment, I was no longer panic filled.

The woman I had sought to meet, I never did see on that trip.

Once home, within weeks I had quit my job, packed my few belongings, boarded a train for the monastery.