- Why Should We Pray For Priests?
- How best to go about Praying for Priests?
- Spiritual Adoption Program
From the very beginning our Lord exhorted His disciples to pray to the Father to send laborers into the harvest (Mt 9:39). St. Paul, in turn, implored the prayers of the faithful for himself (cf. 1 Thess 5:25; Rom 15:30, etc.), mindful surely that even as a priest, he carried the treasure of divine grace in a vessel of clay (cf. 2 Cor 4:7).
Why Should We Pray For Priests?
Fr. John Hardon, SJ in his biography of Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, the founder of the Servants of the Paraclete and the Handmaids of the Precious Blood gives us an eloquent, and we could even say an unmatched, explanation of the reasons why the faithful need to pray for priests. The following are excerpts from his chapter on "Praying for Priests" in the biography, which is titled, A Prophet for the Priesthood." These excerpts are a little long, but they deserve to be quoted at length.
"St. Luke tells the story of King Herod's persecution of the early Church; how after he beheaded James the brother of John and saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. He put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turn. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church of God prayed for him unremittingly (Acts 12:2-5).
In like manner, St. Paul, in what is considered his first inspired Letter, closed the Epistle to the Thessalonians with the earnest plea, 'Pray for us, my brothers' (1 Thess 5:25).
Here we have the revealed teaching of the Holy Spirit, as a practice (for Peter) and a petition (by Paul) that among the duties of a Christian is to pray for priests. Surely if Peter, the first Pope, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, needed prayers, how much more their successors in the papacy, episcopate and the priesthood.
And most recently, when Pope John Paul II was elevated to the papacy, the day after his election he preached at the Mass he concelebrated with the College of Cardinals. The highpoint of his homily was an urgent request for prayers. 'After praying to the Lord,' he said, 'we feel the need of your prayers to gain that indispensable heavenly strength that will make it possible for us to take up the work of our predecessors from the point where they left off.'
All of this and more is part of the Church's unbroken tradition, since the earliest Christian times. The faithful pray for their priests, from the Bishop of Rome to the least known curate in some mapless village on the other side of the world. They are all the 'anointed of the Lord.'
As we begin to ask ourselves, 'Why should the faithful pray for priests?', the first response is also the fundamental one. Since all the faithful, priests included, are members of the same Mystical Body, all should cooperate with one another for the up building of this Body and the greater glory of God.
Each of us has a different task to perform in the Church of Christ, and each has his or her own responsibility, according to their state of life. We should pray that fathers and mothers be good parents; wives and husbands good spouses; that children be good children; that the unmarried and widows serve God in their respective positions; that religious be good religious and faithful to their vocation.
So, too, priests deserve to be prayed for, just because they are priests and therefore part of the visible society, which is the Church. She is made up of many and different members, each needing the other and each depending on the others for prayerful support.
But priests have been chosen to serve a unique and especially exalted role in the Mystical Body. They are to perpetuate the sacrifice of Calvary in the Mass, make present the living Christ on earth in our day and, in the power given them by Christ, they are to absolve the contrite of their sins. Yet all the while they remain human, very human beings, and therefore in need of divine assistance in the form of actual grace. To obtain this grace and sustain them even in God's friendship, they themselves must pray, and no one can substitute for this primary law of our faith. Either priests pray, or, like anyone else, they will fall into temptation. Yet that is not enough. They also need the supporting prayers of others, and they have a special claim on this support because of what their ministrations mean to the people…
A moment's reflection, therefore, should tell a believer that the priesthood, as Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald puts it, is a 'terrifying exaltation.' And that is why, as he goes on to say, we 'can do nothing more consoling to the Sacred heart than to pray for his priesthood; for by the institution of the priesthood God has committed his stainless honor, his deepest interests, to the keeping of created clay.' Among the saints, St Teresa of Jesus knew this and that is why she made prayers for the priesthood the first duty of her Carmelite family…" (A Prophet for the Priesthood. Bardstown, KY., 1997, pp. 115-119).
It is clear, from the above, then, that the faithful have a duty to pray for priests. And so to facilitate this practice and increase the efficacy of the faithful's prayers, we are officially starting our "Adopt a Priest Program." Some of you have already signed up and with this letter will be receiving your adopted priest, bishop or seminarian. Others will receive an insert that can be filled out and sent to our Missions Office in Detroit. The program will operate as follows:
Each year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, the persons who have expressed a desire of participating in the program will receive the name of a seminarian, priest, or bishop to pray for. The adopters, however, make the commitment to pray daily for the individual that they have adopted, and they also offer up every Thursday for him. Besides this, if they have the opportunity, they may make a holy hour and pray the Litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim for him.
The program is be placed under the patronage of the Blessed Mother and she will be invoked under a different title each year. This year it will be "Mary, Living Temple of the Holy Trinity."
We would be very grateful if interested persons would send us the names of seminarians and priests, that they would like to have "adopted."
Fr. Matthew Hincks, ORC
© 2015 • All texts of the Circular Letters are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without written permission except for personal use.
How best to go about Praying for Priests?
The answer is not a particular prayer or even a particular form of prayer, but rather, "pray frequently for priests and offer a variety of your good works for their sanctification". Here are some suggestions that may help make your prayers more effective.
1. 'Adopt' or pray for a particular priest or bishop that you find especially troubling, rather than one you like. This requires a greater sacrifice and therefore will school us in the selfless love of Christ and be more meritorious and efficacious. Our charity is like a chain, as strong as its weakest link. By working on our 'weak links' of charity we ourselves will grow and contribute more to the building up of Christ's Body, the Church.
2. Pray especially for newly ordained priests. They are like young plants in the garden: tender and in need of special care. Their immersion into the apostolate, their lack of experience, isolation and, at times, disillusionment are especially painful at the beginning of the ministry. A recently published study reported that an estimated 10-15 percent of American priests leave the priesthood within five years of their ordination.
3. Offer up a portion of your sufferings for priests, be they sickness, hardship, sleepless nights, an upcoming operation or other discomforts.
4. Pray for the souls of priests in purgatory, asking them to intercede for their fellow priests on earth. It would be good to gain at least one plenary indulgence a week for them. In general, prayers for the poor souls, who cannot help themselves, are a great work of mercy, to which is attached a great work of mercy: when they get to heaven through our prayers, they never forget to pray for us poor sinners. To their gratitude we can recommend and direct their prayers for priests.
5. Offer up at least one rosary a day for priests. When possible, pray the rosary in a Church before the Blessed Sacrament and with others.
6. Fast with prudence and the approval of a priest or spiritual director for the sanctification and conversion of priests, especially for those in the state of mortal sin and in the grip of the devil. For as Christ Himself has told us, there are some kinds of demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting (see Mk 9:29). And Pope John Paul II has stated that the "first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil are prayer and fasting." (Evangelium Vitae, 100.2).
7. If you say the Liturgy of the Hours, offer it up in reparation for all the priests who have stopped praying their Office. If you do not know how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, consider learning how to do so; it is the official prayer of Christ our High Priest in and with the Church.
8. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily — or at least every Friday — at 3:00 PM. the Hour of Mercy, asking our Lord to be merciful to His priests. The Lord revealed to St. Faustina that great graces are attached to praying at this time. "At three O'clock, implore My Mercy, especially for sinners, and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion." (Diary, 1320). It is therefore helpful and efficacious to pray also at this time the short but powerful ejaculation, "O blood and water which poured forth from the Heart of the Savior as a fount of love and mercy, I trust in Thee."
9. Make the Stations of the Cross, at least, once a week for priests. Try to do this at the three O'clock hour, if at all possible. For Christ told St. Faustina, "My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant." (Diary, 1572).
10. Visit a sick person in a hospital or in a nursing home in reparation for priests who have failed to console the sick and offer them the consolation of the sacraments.
11. Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament at least once a week for priests. If you are already doing this, try to make another one, or spend another half-hour before the Blessed Sacrament, or at least try to make an extra visit to a church or chapel.
12. Make at least one communion of reparation each week to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to repair the irreverence of priests and in expiation for the sacrilegious masses offered by priests in the state of mortal sin.
These are just a few of the prayers and sacrifices that can be offered up for priests. There are many others. But what needs to be stressed at the present moment is the critical necessity for all of us to do something extra not only for the sanctification of priests but also something extra in reparation for the sins of those priests who have failed the Lord.
Pope John Paul wrote a letter to all the bishops of the United States when a similar but less severe priest scandal rocked the Church in America. At the end of his letter the Pope warned bishops, in words that now seem prophetic, "Yes, dear brothers, America needs much prayer — lest it lose its soul." Let us, then, redouble our prayers and sacrifices for priests, so that America may grow in holiness and so come to fulfill its mission to be a witness to the gospel of Christ in the modern world.
Our Lord promises: "He who receives you receives Me, ... and whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mt. 10;40-42) May the reward of the Lord be the grace that you might always have a priest who gives you daily Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and at the end of this life eternal happiness.
Spiritual Adoption Program
As part of our Crusade for Priests, we have a Spiritual Adoption Program whereby one may adopt a specific priest, Bishop, or seminarian. When praying daily for our "adopted priest", we ask Our Lord to allow these graces and blessings to flow to all priests, especially for those who have no one to pray for them.
Those who join the Spiritual Adoption program will receive our bi-annual meditations on the priesthood and an initial packet containing the last two meditations on the priesthood, the Chalice of Strength booklet of prayers for priests, a Litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim prayer card, a prayer card with a specific name of a Priest, Bishop or Seminarian. Please specify a preference or write "any". Each year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart you will receive the name of a different priest for whom you can pray for one year.
Alternatively, you may provide the name of a priest of your choice, whom you would like to adopt permanently. Every year you will receive a new prayer card with his name.
Those who participate in this program should strive to pray at least daily the prayer indicated on the annual prayer card and make one sacrifice (e.g. small renouncement, act of charity etc.) on behalf of the adopted priest, bishop or seminarian.