A Loving Tribute to Our Priests
‘He made them the vicars of his love.’ —St. Ambrose of Milan
Note: The writer of this piece has permission from the woman in this story to share the following.
When I was a novice in the religious life, I knew a young sister who began suffering from panic attacks and depression. This was something she had been enslaved to throughout her entire life, mainly due to a profoundly traumatic childhood marked by several situations of abuse, as well as the fact that she was raised outside of the Catholic Faith.
Even though she had a tremendously beautiful desire to give her whole life to Jesus as a contemplative nun, the silence of the cloister and the interior struggles of the religious life overwhelmed her, and greatly intensified her emotional struggles. One tough day led to another, and she began to fall back into a terrible habit she had wrestled with countless times for many years in the past — that of physically harming herself out of sheer desperation.
One evening, she realized what she was doing to herself was in fact a mortal sin, so she did not receive Holy Communion the next morning at Mass. Her spiritual father happened to be the priest offering the Mass for the sisters that morning, and having noticed that she didn't come to Communion, wrote her a note later that day asking her why. She gave him an honest answer.
Instead of looking down on her with shame, he invited her to come to Confession and said he would be happy to offer a Mass just for her that evening. At that Mass, the mercy of God washed over her, as a balm of clemency, washing away her angst and self-hatred, helping her to remember the Father to whom she truly belongs — the infinitely loving Father who holds her in the palm of his almighty hand, and in the depths of his Sacred Heart. In the sacrosanct, illuminating silence of that Mass, she encountered the healing power of his divine love in an extraordinary way, and she was never the same again. She never harmed her body after that day, and any temptation she had to do so seemed to vanish from then on.
To this day, she marvels at what a phenomenal impact this one Holy Mass had on her life — this one 20-minute-long Sacrifice of the Mass, offered by one benevolent and compassionate priest, on just one quiet evening of her life, as a testimony to the magnanimity of her Lord.
Years later, she met a priest who cared for her and took her on as his spiritual daughter, and by doing so, he was able to bring forth bountiful healing in her heart, soul and mind. Once again, she witnessed God's love working through the heart of a priest in a marvelous way, helping her to grow into the joyful, whole woman that her Heavenly Father had created her to be.
Her story is moving indeed, and it reminds us of what a blessing priests are in our lives and in the life of Mother Church. They are its lifeblood, its gorgeous song, and its telling glory. They are our faithful guides, our companions and our friends. They are there at the most joyful and most painful moments in our lives.
My husband and I were married soon after Pope Benedict XVI released his motu proprio that reaffirmed the canonical right that priests have to offer the Latin Mass. Our parish priest made incredible sacrifices to learn how to offer a High Nuptial Latin Mass just for us, as it was the first Latin Mass that had been offered in our diocese since the Novus Ordo was promulgated after the Second Vatican Council.
After an emergency C-section in 2013, I awoke from anesthesia to find out that the conjoined twins I had so joyfully carried to 40 weeks had suddenly and shockingly died. My brother-in-law, a priest, was there the moment I woke up, along with my husband, and he led us in praying the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. He offered the funeral for our twin daughters, nearly breaking down in tears during one of the most heartfelt sermons a priest could ever give.
There is not a Catholic alive who can say that a priest has not helped them become who they are today, for without the assistance of a priest, they would not even be Catholic at all. So many of us have stories to share of the matchless place that priests have had in bringing us home to the arms of our sweet Lord Jesus, our redeemer and our best, eternal friend. For if Padre Pio can say that “it would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” could we not say that it would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without our Catholic priests who alone can offer the Mass?
Priests — we have walked with them, and they have walked with us, on the journey toward the Beatific Vision. They have carried us in our hearts and in our prayers, and we have held them in ours. Some of us have made great sacrifices in order to help bring them to the altar — such as saintly mothers who suffered immensely or even endangered their lives to bear a son that one day became a priest; fathers who gave their lives to backbreaking labor in order to fund their son’s seminary education; homeschooling and parish school parents who gave all they could possibly give to offer their child a genuinely Catholic education; girlfriends who rent their hearts and gave up the love of their lives to send them off to seminary; family members who sent a beloved son or brother off to the mission fields; and priests who embraced their vocation with such jubilance so as to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
My dad has terminal cancer and there is one person I would do almost anything to have beside him when he is on his deathbed — a Catholic priest.
Bearing this all in mind, we must treasure them, cherish them, honor them and most of all, pray for them. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux once wrote to her sister:
Let us be apostles ... let us save especially the souls of priests; these souls should be more transparent than crystal ... Alas, there are many bad priests, priests who are not holy enough. ... Let us pray, let us suffer for them, and, on the last day, Jesus will be grateful. We shall give Him souls! Céline, do you understand the cry of my soul? (Letters, 94)
Ah! Céline, I feel that Jesus is asking both of us to quench His thirst by giving Him souls, the souls of priests especially. I feel that Jesus wills that I say this to you, for our mission is to forget ourselves and to reduce ourselves to nothing. … We are so insignificant ... and yet Jesus wills that the salvation of souls depends on the sacrifices of our love. He is begging souls from us!” (Letters, 96).
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A Tribute to Priests, Vicars of God’s Love
By Amanda Evinger
When a priest of God raises the Sacra Hostia to the heavens on high,
He lets out an eternally victorious battle cry —
As the world's malignity is defeated and the demons weakly sigh;"
“It is finished!” hails from the lips of the King of Kings, who with sovereign liberty, dies.
As he raises up Christ the Eternal High Priest to the glorious east,
His Divine Beauty and Love come alive and shimmer out, in this Feast of all feasts;
Hell's minions are cast down, along with Lucifer, the haunting beast;
Much blasphemy, hatred, and sin is for one numinous moment in time — ceased.
When a priest surrenders his life to be ordained for His august glory,
It is only the beginning of the universe's most beautiful love story;
A story brimming with miracles of grace, hope and joy beyond all understanding;
One that unveils the mysteries of His Kingdom and the salvation He is handing.
A loyal priest desires to be fully given over to our gratuitous God;
For in the bloody footsteps of the Suffering Servant he longs to trod;
When he consecrates his priesthood to the Sacred Heart with the depths of his soul,
His Christ-like kindness and goodness far across the everlasting hills, will freely roll.
If he can but live for the Heart of his Master alone,
Many wounded hearts he will mend; many “Magdalenes” he will save from the stone;
And countless forsaken souls he will bring safely to their Eternal Home;
In the angst-filled darkness his spiritual children will never again have to roam.
A priest is a beloved son of Mary, Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of Fair Love, Mother of Glory–
He is her trophy; the prize she savors, the treasure she won by streaming the Gospel story;
She will take care of Him, no matter how relentless the war upon him wages,
Until the end of time, when the Master of the Universe will reign, for ages upon ages.