Tag Archives: victim



                                    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.



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

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

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

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

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

They are a beautiful source of meditation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ IS everything!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I assumed he was living there as the chaplain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should not be afraid.

Christ is everything.

He is with us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WALKING FROM the Post Office back home yesterday afternoon, adjusting to new tri-focal glasses, I was wary of the ice on the sidewalk, increasingly irritated at the man approaching, riding his bicycle towards me. Irritated that someone would place my arthritic knees at risk by invading MY space with his bicycle.


As the man got closer I noticed he had the facial features common to a particular type of mental handicap and became more interiorly irritated, this time against myself for being such a sidewalk hog.

In the same instant the man past me, at a clip, while saying, with a great smile on his face: “Hello there! How are you? “

The other day in my mediation I was seeing myself as Zaccheus and rejoicing that Jesus called to me as He passed by — the moment that man called out his greeting I felt as if Jesus Himself was passing by and felt, of myself, like one of those proverbial cartoon characters who sits on a tree branch, merrily sawing away, until too late he discovers he has severed the limb, and thus himself, from the tree.

HE LIVED until he was over a hundred years old. He was born in Egypt of Christian parents but orphaned at an early age, with a younger sister to care for. One day in church his heart was broken open when he heard the words of the Gospel, spoken by Jesus to the rich young man. So moved, he immediately gave away all but what was needed to care for his sister. Yet sometime later, his heart further opened by the Gospel passage not to worry about tomorrow, he gave away what was left, saw to the care of his sister and went deep into the desert.

There he became the greatest of all spiritual warriors and the great Abba of monastic life.

He is ABBA ANTHONY and today is his feast.

Divine Wisdom was fused into his heart in the crucible of decades of solitary life in the desert, battling evil spirits, being emptied of his false-self by the Holy Spirit, who illumined Abba Anthony and, with fire, configured him to Christ, so that, as is recorded:

They said that a certain old man asked God to let him see the Fathers and he saw them all except Abba Anthony. So he asked his guide, ‘Where is Abba Anthony? ‘He told him in reply that in the place where God is, there Anthony would be.[cv-1]

Now THAT is what it means to be a friend of God!

So here, then, wisdom from the ‘desert great ‘, Abba Anthony:

…whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures…… ….This is the great work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath. ….Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven….Without temptations no one can be saved. ….I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, ‘What can get through from such snares?’ Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humility.’….Our life and our death is with our neighbour. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ. ….A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us. ‘…I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear. [cv-2]

The life of Abba Anthony was preserved from the oral tradition and written down by another giant of the faith, himself a saint, St. Athanasius. Thus by the time another young Egyptian man was struggling, the story of Abba Anthony would influence his conversion and he too would become a saint. That man was Augustine!

The first mention St. Augustine makes of Abba Anthony comes when he speaks of being introduced to the saint by a friend named Ponticianus. During his friend’s visit Augustine spoke about his meditations upon Sacred Scripture and notes:

…..a discussion arose in which he narrated the story of Anthony, an Egyptian monk. His name was famous among Your servants, but up to that very hour it had been unknown to us…..We in turn stood in amazement on hearing such wonderful works of Yours, deeds of such recent memory, done so close to our own times, and most fully testified to, in the true faith and in the Catholic Church. [cw-1]

Abba Anthony had died around 356 A.D., aged about 105. St. Augustine was born just two years before Abba Anthony’s death. St. Augustine was about thirty years old when he was baptized. Thus when Augustine speaks about ‘deeds of such recent memory, done so close to our own times ‘ he is marvelling not only at what Christ has accomplished in the life of Abba Anthony, but he is also revealing something vital about the mystery of the Communion of Saints, namely, while many have lived seemingly distant in time from our own era, others have lived close to our own. What is even more incredible is that many are alive in this moment in our very midst.

The Communion of Saints is part of the living treasury of the Church’s life, the storehouse of wondrous works of grace from which the Church brings forth models of hope and holiness for us, which are ever ancient and ever new.

When, in the powerful account of the pivotal moment of conversion grace where he, St. Augustine, hears the voice of a child, and is able to attune himself to this gift of the Spirit he remembers:

……I had heard how Anthony had been admonished by a reading from the Gospel at which he chanced to be present, as if the words read were addressed to him……and that by such a portent he was immediately converted to You. [cw-2]

Of course, in truth, such moments of grace are never something ‘chanced’ upon.

So-called ‘chance’ and ‘coincidence’ are terms only rightly applied to the dark ignorance of the tea leaf reading mentality.

With God all is opportunity of grace and graced opportunity.

Closer to our own time another saint emerged from that great tradition which has streamed across the millennia, developing into various forms of monastic-desert life, as well as various forms of religious orders of teachers, nurses, etc., and the modern new forms of consecrated community life in the Church today.

One of the more ancient, tracing itself back to Mount Carmel and Elijah, at least within pious memory if not hard fact, is the Carmelite order, from whose religious sisters in nineteenth century France came a woman known popularly as the Little Flower, whom Pope John Paul II made a Doctor of the Church, namely, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

Her autobiography is a record itself of the marvels and wondrous deeds of the Lord close to our own day.

Called “The Story of a Soul “ it was a treasure of my youthful reading, a source of inspiration when I was a monk and moved me to open my heart to Abba Anthony and the wisdom of the desert.

On my journey of return to the faith, before I entered the seminary, it became a source of hope and courage and I renewed my devotion to this holy woman companion.

A few words of wisdom from her:

At the beginning of my spiritual life when I was thirteen or fourteen I used to ask myself what I would have to strive for later on because I believed it was quite impossible for me to understand perfection better. I learned very quickly since then that the more one advances, the more one sees the goal is still far off. And now I am simply resigned to see myself always imperfect and in this I find my joy. [cx-1]

How often in life has the distance of the goal been a source of discouragement, when in fact, as the saint notes, embraced humbly, humbly embracing our weak selves, the journey becomes joy!

How sweet is the way of LOVE…True, one can fall or commit infidelities, but, knowing HOW TO DRAW PROFIT FROM EVERYTHING, love quickly consumes everything that can be displeasing to Jesus; it leaves nothing but a humble and profound peace in the depths of the heart.[cx-2]

This is the most difficult truth about actual conversion for many souls to accept. Hence, as can be seen in certain evangelical/charismatic circles, emphasis is placed upon external manifestations of faith and love, such as sudden cures, falling faint ‘ in the spirit ‘ and more bizarre forms of shaking, laughing, as well as an increased emphasis on financial security, all attended by a type of xenophobia regarding those who are not of like ilk.

To achieve the fullness of illumination, divinization, sobornost with the Trinity, as exemplified in the lives of the Great Desert Father Abba Anthony and in the Great Doctor of the Church the Little Flower, means a lifetime of spiritual warfare. A lifetime which in the case of Abba Anthony lasted more than a century, in the case of the Little Flower, barely a quarter of one.

It is not the length of the journey, but the inward depth of the journey; it is not the quantity of the battles but the willingness to open wide the doors of our being to His transfiguring touch.

Too often, infected as we Christians are with the Zeitgeist egocentric selfishness pervading our culture, we deny the reality of configuration to Christ by the Holy Spirit as meaning cross and death precede tomb and resurrection. That contemporary Zeitgeist flays about in the quicksand error of love as what I experience from another, rather than soaring into the communion of joy which knows and lives love’s truth: love is gift of self to another first in imitation of God who is Love and first loves us, makes Himself First Gift!

In order to live one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your love, O my God! [cx-3]

It is her example of love why Pope John Paul II has urgently begged all bishops and priests to introduce the Little Flower to the youth of this era.

It should be clear too, now, why the elderly priest who took me in and fed and clothed me that stormy night so many decades ago, gave me, along with the Bible, a book of the Lives of the Saints.

It is in their lives that we see in concrete terms of human life the marvellous deeds of the Holy Spirit, brought to ultimate fruition in a manner which should encourage our wounded souls and hearts with the joyful acceptance in our own beings that nothing is impossible to God.

Once I was beginning to commune again with the Saints I was enabled to commune with the process of formation that awaited me in the seminary.

An even closer contemporary of this generation, whose importance in the deepening of Gospel life in the lives of ordinary Christians cannot be overly stressed, and herself a pioneer of the new forms of consecrated life in the Church, is the Servant of God Catherine Doherty.

Born in Czarist Russia, forged into adulthood as a nurse in the bloodletting of the First World War and the Russian Revolution, she was led by the Spirit into the desert of external poverty and service of the poor. Through those experiences she also was plunged into the purifying fire of internal poverty.

A modern Desert Mother she remains, after Our Blessed Mother, the most important woman in my life.

She herself is now in heaven, among that great company of the Communion of Saints where Abba Anthony and the Little Flower preceded her.

Often referring to herself as a poor woman, she was incredibly rich in her passionate love of Christ and all human beings, especially the anawim, those bent over by the burden of external or internal impoverishment.

From the mystery of Christ in the desert, through the life of Abba Anthony, the self-offering as victim of the Little Flower, to the treasury of practical spiritual wisdom from her own heart, poured out in service of the poor and filled with illumination from the Holy Spirit in her days spent in contemplation in her hermitage — always called by her according to its Russian name: Poustinia — comes a clear description of what the desert is all about, what conversion is about, and the central issue of freely choosing to open wide the doors of our being to the Most Holy Trinity, or not.

The teaching is stark, frank, admitting the exhaustion which is constitutive of spiritual warfare.

It contains both an echo of Abba Anthony’s admonishment that we shall endure temptations until our last breath and the passionate willingness of the Little Flower revealing the Little Way of complete self-offering as victim of love:

The more I behold this freedom of mine, poised between these two choices, the more tired I get. Everything suddenly becomes very clear, very simple, and that kind of simplicity is intensely tiring to us human beings. For the vision is clear. There is the burning desert, and there is the other side of the desert which appears so restful. I am somewhere in between. I must decide to either go to the right, into the will of the Father, or to the left, into my own will and the desert of satan. Yes, I am tired because the sight is so clear. I see confusion and demonic powers calling me to do my will contrary to the will of God.

Then, suddenly, all these thoughts leave my mind and I simply realize that God has given me the freedom of choice and a free will, and that He has sent His Son to show me how to do His will. That is what His Son came down to do — to do the will of the Father freely, without compulsion, at the request, as it were, of His Father. I was like that too, like Jesus. I had a free will, and I was not being compelled.

Now my mind begins to clear and my meditation becomes simple. Yes, I am the sister of Jesus Christ. Yes, I have come to do the will of my Father. Yes, that is what I am going to do. I have made the decision. I know that my fiat will have to be repeated again and again, but I am ready, with the grace of God, to do so. [cy]








                                       PRIESTLY MISSION: EMBRACING OBLATION PART 1


In our day the word ‘victim’ has an almost exclusive echo referring to one who has been abused as a child, or for some it connotes those who perished on 9/11, for others it refers to women who suffer domestic violence.





Thus to connect the word victim and soul, as in victim-soul for many, at first hearing, suggests a soul victimized, rather than the classic true meaning, namely, a soul chosen by God, such as St. Faustina or St. Gemma Galgani, who accepts to suffer more than most people in this life, doing so of course in union with Jesus, following the Pauline concept of fulfilling within ourselves a sharing in the Passion of Jesus.

Some, most notably the ranks of the Martyrs, known and unknown, have this thrust upon them so suddenly their fiat, their yes, occurs simultaneously with being victim of an act of violence against Christ which unfolds within their own being.

Others, by Baptism for all, for some additionally and profoundly by Ordination, being immersed in the first instance in the death and resurrection of Christ,  and again some being configured to Christ Priest, lead lives of clear faith and fidelity, in what I most respectfully refer to as ordinary lives.

It is not necessary to have some extraordinary experience such as a vision or a locution to know deep in one’s heart the call of Christ, within the ordinary of our lives, to open ourselves to being, with Him, victim-soul, sacrificial-soul, or, the term I have, after for many years using the former two, sense is best for priests: OBLATION.

We know from her life that St. Gemma Galgani was told directly by Jesus of His need of victims, souls who would atone for others.

At the moment of our ordination, in persona Christi, we men who are ordained in point of fact are saying YES to this cry of Jesus across the millennia.

Any objective observer of the condition of the human family on this earth so ravaged by hunger, homelessness, violence, environmental anxieties, overshadowed by the culture of death with its relentless assault on the human person through abortion, obsessive materialism, the assault on Holy Marriage and Family life, etc., etc., or observing the state of the Church with the vast numbers of empty pews, or of the Priesthood where the sins of a few have wrecked the image of the many, surely can understand the urgent plea of Christ.

As Priests we find ourselves in the whole gambit of life conditions/situations from being on the threshold of death in a nursing home, perhaps no longer able even to concelebrate, to the newly ordained;  being part way through life and active priesthood, serving in parishes or the military or some institution of higher learning, or place of care for the sick or imprisoned; finally, but in no way least, many these days as priests live literally in prison or isolated, virtually invisible because, guilty or not,  we have been suspended from public ministry.

Irrespective of our situation or status we remain priest that is in, with Christ we are oblation.

Oblation: first for love of Jesus and thus for love of everyone, for their salvation.

Of course, no matter what my emotions may be doing on a given day, wherever and whatever my situation as priest is, we are talking here about fundamental faith and fiat, which means a constant willingness to trust Him and to surrender!

For myself all this is impossible without the help of Our Blessed Mother of Priests.

Every morning my first words to her are to ask her to share with me, and all my brother priests, her own heart, faith, love, fiat, trust and surrender.

If we imitate her that directly brings us into the depths of the imitation of Christ.

If we share in, and imitate, her own self-offering, her oblation, we will more fully be one with Christ-Priest, as priests, in His self-offering, oblation.

Since we become what we contemplate our gaze should always be fixed upon the face, the person of Jesus and there is no better place to begin this contemplation than, like the Shepherds, humbly approaching the cave where we find Jesus with His Mother.

She first presents Him to us.

To be there then is to be in the school of Mary, where we learn to be truly what we are, priest and to become fully what we are: priest- oblation in persona Christi.

Bethlehem leads to Calvary, the cave to the tomb, and the point of convergence, wherein all the reality of Christ, of our baptismal lives is both vivified and illuminated is within the depths of the Divine Liturgy, for Pope John Paul himself stressed we priests are “born from the Eucharist.”

In the depths of the Eucharistic mystery and reality we contemplate Jesus: sacrificial-self-gift; Jesus: victim; Jesus: oblation; Jesus: PRIEST.

Our Blessed Mother placed Jesus in the chalice of the manger for everyone to meet Him, gaze upon Him and from that chalice throughout His earthly life He poured Himself out, teaching, healing, proclaiming God IS Abba, Father!, until the time came for Him to place Himself on the paten of the Cross and pour Himself out to the last drop of His blood, for us.