Adoration for Priests
For many years the Opus Angelorum has sponsored the spiritual Crusade for Priests with an appeal for prayer, sacrifice and even the spiritual adoption of specific priests. Priests depend upon our prayers—they need the spiritual support of the faithful. On December 8, 2007, the Congregation for the Clergy addressed a letter to every diocesan bishop in the world, calling for "Adoration, Reparation and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests" after the example of Mary, Mother of the Eternal and High Priest, Jesus Christ. Recognizing the great spiritual crisis of priests in our times and the crisis of vocations, the Congregation announced that in handling this situation, "with an awareness that action follows being and that the soul of every apostolate is Divine intimacy, it is our intention that the departure point be a spiritual endeavor." Priests cannot remain faithful on the strength of committees and social groups—they need an intimate union with Christ, a deep prayer life and the spiritual support of those who pray for them.
In the midst of all his duties and ministry, the priest must find and maintain an intimate union with Christ as the source of his spiritual efficacy in the service of souls. "The mystery and reality of the Church cannot be reduced to the hierarchical structure, the liturgy, the sacraments, and juridical ordinances. In fact, the intimate nature of the Church and the origin of its sanctifying efficacy must be found first in a mystical union with Christ." Mary is the beginning and model of union with Christ. She is our Mother in the order of grace. "She is the model of maternal love who must inspire all those who cooperate—through the apostolic mission of the Church—in the regeneration of all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium 65)". Though it is the duty of priests to administer the needs of souls, with and like Mary, every soul can become a mother in the order of grace, a mother even of priests, helping them to maintain their union with Christ in the midst of all their trials, duties and temptations.
Towards this end, the Congregation has called for a worldwide campaign to encourage the spiritual adoption of priests, of souls who will pray and especially make Eucharistic Adoration for the salvation and sanctification of priests. "In order to continually maintain a greater awareness of the ontological link between the Eucharist and the Priesthood, and in order to recognize the special maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for each Priest, it is our intention to bring about a connection between perpetual Eucharistic adoration for the reparation of faults and sanctification of priests and the initiation of a commitment on the part of consecrated feminine souls—following the typology of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, and Helper in His work of Redemption—who might wish to spiritually adopt priests in order to help them with their self-offering, prayer, and penance."
In order to inspire souls towards this great endeavor and spiritual movement for priests in the Church, the Congregation attached to this letter a brochure with examples of saintly women who offered their lives for the sanctification of priests. The following is one such example. We hope that this letter will encourage you who have already committed yourselves to praying for priests to continue with even more fervor and dedication. To see the complete document, please see the website: www.clerus.org and click on the link: "Praying for priests". For those interested in adopting a specific priest, please contact us at the OA office in Detroit.
My Priesthood and a Stranger ~ William Emmanuel Ketteler (1811-1877)
Each of us owes gratitude for our lives and our vocations to the prayers and sacrifices of others. One of the leading figures of the German episcopacy of the 19th century, and among the founders of Catholic sociology, Bishop Ketteler owed his gratitude to a simple nun, the least and poorest lay sister of her convent.
In 1869, a German diocesan bishop was sitting together with his guest, Bishop Ketteler from Mainz. During the course of their conversation, the diocesan bishop brought up his guest's extremely blessed apostolate. Bishop Ketteler explained to his host, "I owe thanks for everything that I have accomplished with God's help to the prayer and sacrifice of someone I do not even know. I can only say that I know somebody has offered his or her whole life to our loving God for me, and I have this sacrifice to thank that I even became a priest."
He continued, "Originally, I wasn't planning on becoming a priest. I had already finished my law degree and thought only about finding an important place in the world to begin acquiring honor, prestige and wealth. An extraordinary experience held me back and directed my life down a different path.
"One evening I was alone in my room, considering my future plans of fame and fortune, when something happened which I cannot explain. Was I awake or asleep? Did I really see it or was it just a dream? One thing I do know, it brought about a change in my life. I saw Jesus very clearly and distinctly standing over me in a radiant cloud, showing me his Sacred Heart. A nun was kneeling before him, her hands raised up in prayer. From his mouth, I heard the words, 'She prays unremittingly for you!'
"I distinctly saw the appearance of the sister, and her traits made such an impression on me that she has remained in my memory to this day. She seemed to be quite an ordinary lay sister. Her clothing was very poor and rough. Her hands were red and calloused from hard work. Whatever it was, a dream or not, it was extraordinary. It shook me to the depths of my being so that from that moment on, I decided to consecrate myself to God in the service of the priesthood.
"I withdrew to a monastery for a retreat, and I talked about everything with my confessor. Then, at the age of 30, I began studying theology. You know the rest of the story. So, if you think that I have done something admirable, now you know who really deserves the credit—a religious sister who prayed for me, maybe without even knowing who I was. I am convinced, I was prayed for and I will continue to be prayed for in secret and that without these prayers, I could never have reached the goal that God has destined for me."
"Do you have any idea of the whereabouts or the identity of who has prayed for you?" asked the diocesan bishop.
"No, I can only ask God each day that, while she is still on earth, he bless and repay her a thousand-fold for what she has done for me."
The Sister in the Barn
The next day, Bishop Ketteler visited a convent of sisters in a nearby city and celebrated Holy Mass in their chapel. He was distributing Holy Communion to the last row of sisters when one of them suddenly caught his eye. His face grew pale, and he stood there, motionless. Finally regaining his composure, he gave Holy Communion to the sister who was kneeling in recollection unaware of his hesitation. He then concluded the liturgy.
The bishop who had invited him the previous day came and joined him at the convent for breakfast. When they had finished, Bishop Ketteler asked the Mother Superior to present to him all the sisters in the house. Before long she had gathered all the sisters together, and both bishops went to meet them. Bishop Ketteler greeted them, but it was apparent that he did not find the one he was looking for.
He quietly asked the Mother Superior, "Are all the sisters really here?"
She looked over the group of sisters and then said, "Your Excellency, I called them all, but, in fact, one of them is not here."
"Why didn't she come?"
"She works in the barn," answered the superior, "and in such a commendable way that, in her enthusiasm, she sometimes forgets other things."
"I would like to see that sister," requested the Bishop.
A little while later, the sister who had been summoned stepped into the room. Again Bishop Ketteler turned pale, and after a few words to all the sisters, he asked if he could be alone with the sister who had just come in.
"Do you know me?" he asked her.
"I have never seen Your Excellency before."
"Have you ever prayed for me or offered up a good deed for me?" he wanted to know.
"I do not recall that I have ever heard of Your Excellency."
The Bishop was silent for a few moments and then he asked, "Do you have a particular devotion that you like?"
"The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus," was the response.
"You have, it seems, the most difficult task in the convent," he continued.
"Oh no, Your Excellency" the sister countered, "but I cannot lie, it is unpleasant for me."
"And what do you do when you have such temptations against your work?"
"For things that cost me greatly, I grew accustomed to facing them with joy and enthusiasm out of love for God, and then I offer them up for one soul on earth. To whom God chooses to be gracious as a result, I have left completely up to Him and I do not want to know. I also offer up my time of Eucharistic adoration every evening from 8 to 9 for this intention."
"Where did you get the idea to offer up all your merits for someone totally unknown to you?"
"I learned it while I was still out in the world," she replied. "At school our teacher, the parish priest, taught us how we can pray and offer our merits for our relatives. Besides that, he said that we should pray much for those who are in danger of being lost. Since only God knows who really needs prayer, it is best to put your merits at the disposition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, trusting in His wisdom and omnipotence. That is what I have done," she concluded, "and I always believed that God would find the right soul."
"How old are you?" Ketteler asked.
"Thirty-three, Your Excellency," she answered.
The Bishop paused a moment. Then he asked her, "When were you born?" The sister stated her day of birth. The Bishop gasped—her birthday was the day of his conversion! Back then he saw her exactly as she was before him now. "And have you any idea whether your prayers and sacrifices have been successful?" he asked her further.
"No, Your Excellency."
"Don't you want to know?"
"Our dear God knows when something good happens, and that is enough," was the simple answer.
The Bishop was shaken. "So continue this work in the name of the Lord," he said. The sister knelt down immediately at his feet and asked for his blessing. The Bishop solemnly raised his hands and said with great emotion, "With the power entrusted to me as a bishop, I bless your soul, I bless your hands and their work, I bless your prayers and sacrifices, your self-renunciation and your obedience. I bless especially your final hour and ask God to assist you with all His consolation."
"Amen," the sister answered calmly, then stood up and left.
A Teaching for Life
The Bishop, profoundly moved, stepped over to the window in order to compose himself. Some time later, he said good-bye to the Mother Superior and returned to the apartment of his bishop friend. He confided to him, "Now I have found the one I have to thank for my vocation. It is the lowest and poorest lay sister of that convent. I cannot thank God enough for His mercy because this sister has prayed for me for almost 20 years. On the day she first saw the light of the world, God worked my conversion accepting in advance her future prayers and works.
"What a lesson and a reminder for me! Should I become tempted to vanity by a certain amount of success or by my good works, then I can affirm in truth: You have the prayer and sacrifice of a poor maid in a convent stall to thank. And when a small and lowly task appears of little value to me, then I will also remember the fact: what this maid does in humble obedience to God, making a sacrifice by overcoming herself, is so valuable before the Lord Our God that her merits have given rise to a bishop for the Church."
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