In the many places we’ve called home, we have always drawn close to and been blessed by our parish priests. They have been there during some the most important and intimate moments of our family’s life. They have been our friends, brothers, and true fathers. We do what we can to serve our dear priests in supporting our parish financially, serving in a variety of functions, and inviting them into our home for meals, but none of these gifts replaces the one thing we can all do for our self-sacrificing shepherds. They need our constant support in prayer, now more than ever.
Our priests and the priesthood have taken a beating over the years; between scandal, dwindling flocks, and now an insidious virus ravages their ministries. Our churches have been shut down for weeks only to reopen with seemingly burdensome restrictions. Priests have had to become ever more creative in finding ways to serve their parishioners. It must be exhausting and at times disheartening.
Just weeks before Masses were suspended, I was introduced to a beautiful apostolate dedicated to praying for the priesthood. The Seven Sisters Apostolate seeks to cover priests in prayer seven days a week, 365 days a year. Seven women commit to one holy hour a week on a specific day, praying exclusively for their particular priest and his priesthood.
Since its founding in 2011, Seven Sisters has established sisterhoods praying for over 1300 bishops and priests worldwide. There is at least one sisterhood in every state in the US with the exception of Rhode Island (hint, hint Rhode Island Sistas!). Obviously the ultimate goal is for every priest and bishop in every diocese to have a sisterhood covering them in prayer. It is such a lovely and powerful way to uplift our priests and support them spiritually. Our own priest has expressed his deep gratitude for the support.
Each group is founded by an Anchoress who recruits members, passes on needed information, and communicates the existence and intentions of the group to the particular priest. Communiques are sent from the foundress once a month with encouragement and updates on new locations, and any other pertinent information. Sisters select a particular day and spend any one hour that day in front of the Blessed Sacrament (ideal) or in a Church in praying exclusively for their priest. Such a simple setup for such a beautiful offering.
If you have a soft spot in your heart for priests, prayerfully consider anchoring your own Seven Sisters Apostolate in your parish. To learn more about establishing a group and any other information you might need visit the website at: www.sevensistersapostolate.org. Every priest could benefit greatly from this spiritual gift.
O Almighty and Eternal God, look upon the Face of Thy Christ, and for love of Him Who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on Thy priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to Thee, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.
O Jesus, I pray Thee for Thy faithful and fervent priests; for Thy unfaithful and tepid priests; for Thy priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Thy tempted priests; for Thy lonely and desolate priests; for Thy young priests; for Thy aged priests; for Thy sick priests; for Thy dying priests; for the souls of Thy priests in Purgatory.
But above all I commend to Thee the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Thy Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed or helped me and encouraged me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way, particularly (your priest’s name here). O Jesus, keep them all close to Thy heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen. Mary, Queen of the clergy, pray for us; obtain for us many and holy priests. Amen.
It takes a special man to answer God’s call to the priesthood. In a world that glamorizes power, pleasure, and self-indulgence, it’s difficult to understand the courage, sacrifice, and self-denial it takes to promise to live out a life of chastity, poverty, and obedience for the good of others.
Whether people think they’re fools or saints, though, it always seems like others can’t fully recognize the humanity of the Church’s priests. Catholics and non-believers alike either hold clergymen to impossibly high standards, only to be disappointed when they fail or see them as hypocrites for speaking the truth in spite of their own sinfulness.
We all need to be reminded of one thing: priests are people, just like you and me.
They Have Strengths & Weaknesses
Priests aren’t robots; they’re men. Even after going through seminary and professing their vows, they continue to be men with personal strengths and weaknesses. I’m always taken aback when people say things like, “He was so smart. He could’ve been anything, but he chose the priesthood…” or “He is so attractive. What a waste!”
The priesthood isn’t a prison sentence. It’s not a punishment for the misfits of society who don’t fill the perfect mold of what would make a good husband, father, student, or employee. As people of God, we should celebrate the intelligence, talents, work ethic, and even attractiveness of our priests. These traits aren’t wasted because they’re not experienced as a husband or father; they glorify God’s goodness in a unique, powerful way through the priesthood.
They Make Mistakes
Priests aren’t infallible. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t God. We need to remind ourselves of this from time to time when we get hung up on mistakes that they make, big and small. While they are in a public position to serve the Lord and his people, they are still sinful and will assuredly do things that not everyone likes or agrees with. Cut them some slack. Forgive them when they disappoint you, and move on.
Likewise, we shouldn’t hold priests that we love and agree with on a pedestal so high that we put them in the place of God. It’s equally as tempting to idolize godly men as it is to write off men for not being godly because there seem to be so few of them left in the world. When we do encounter one, it’s easy to hang onto his every word. We must fight this compulsion, however, recognizing that priests are God’s servants, not God himself.
They Need Our Prayers
At the end of the day, priests are on a journey to heaven just like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, their vocation is put on display for everyone, Catholic or not, to critique. I am thankful that the world isn’t watching my every move as a wife and mother under the scrutinizing microscope that most priests experience. I would be continually critiqued, and rightfully so.
Priests need our prayers. The good ones and the ones we struggle to find the good in. Thinking of the countless tasks they do every day that go unnoticed – the hospital visits, community outreach, continuing education programs, on top of saying Mass, hearing confessions, and managing a parish for little income – it’s a wonder that anyone would join the priesthood at all.
And yet, they do.
Knowing the sacrifice, ridicule, and ingratitude they will experience from the world, something still compels men around the world to take on the most important job in the world: bringing Christ to his people. For that, we owe them our prayers.
You’ve probably got Father’s Day all cinched up right now (hey, I’m just tryna be positive 😉 ), but what about your parish priest? You know, the fella on the altar who consecrates the bread and wine into Jesus – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. What about that guy? He’s your spiritual father! Today, we’re going to cover some quick and easy ways to help your priest feel loved on Father’s Day. Let’s get started! Don’t forget to take a listen (at the bottom of this post) to the Father’s Day homily by Father Michael Sullivan, given on Father’s Day 2016 at my home parish, St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, Texas.
Find him before or after Mass and tell him Happy Father’s Day!
Mail or hand deliver an actual Father’s Day card to your parish priest/s. Be sure to let them know you are praying for him and his work in building up the Kingdom.
Have the kiddos draw him some lovely artwork for his office, or you can do a fun interview with the kids to give him. Josie, who is almost eight now, still gets a big kick out of this interview she did for Father Jonathan when she was two!
Does he love Sonic, McDonald’s, or some other fast food place? Pick up a gift card (any amount will do!) and toss it in the Father’s Day card!
❤ SCROLL PAST THE PHOTOS TO SEE EXTRAS TO MAKE YOUR PRIEST FEEL LOVED ❤
What else can you do to help your priest know he is loved and appreciated, especially in big parishes?
Invite him over for dinner! Seriously, it doesn’t have to be fancy – pizza will do. Need some inspiration? Check out our Pinterest Food.Meals board!
Ask him if he will celebrate sacraments for your kiddos! In our case, our kids actually request our pastor because there is a level of comfort in that relationship. We have created a priestly culture and our kids know how church works – get there early so the boys can serve, say prayers, and then ask if we can see Father Dean. Every. Sunday. He greets everyone between Masses, so we head to the narthex and join him to say hello, greet folks, and let the littles run around outside to burn off some energy. I may or may not utilize that time to see how his week has gone and if he can pray a little extra over the one kid who acts like he’s never stepped foot in a church before – uh hem.
Offer to make a meal – fresh or for the freezer. Call ahead of time and find out likes/dislikes and what he prefers. Some priests love to cook and others can’t even look at a recipe card without sweating. 😉
Send an email (or text if you’re at that comfort level) and fill them in with the latest with your family. Often times, priests only hear about folks problems, which is part of the job, but sharing in some of the highlights of your family life can be a huge blessing.
In times of distress, ask for their prayers. Additionally, let them know you are offering up your suffering for their tireless work. Priests have a target on their back and Satan does not take a day off. Knowing you are praying for them and offering up struggles for them can go a long way. They definitely need all the prayers we can send their way! When I had an emergency appendectomy, both Father Dean and Father Uche came to see me at the hospital to pray over me and to pray Vespers together. I was hooked up to all kinds of machines and it was kind of comical, but I was so glad to have them there with me. Father Dean and his dry, German sense of humor and Father Uche and his Oxford English accent despite being from Nigeria. What made it all the better was listening to the two of them bicker like true brother priests. Another time, right after we experienced our first (of three) miscarriages, our parish priests reached out to me and my family in one of the most pastoral ways. They made themselves available in ways that were unique to their personalities. One priest researched burial logistics and another asked to talk to me because he knew I was suffering. This man – this diocesan priest whose schedule is filled from first light of day until the stars come out and here he was asking if he could call me and talk to me. These men have and still are treasures to our family.
Has your priest been reassigned? This is the time of year when the diocesan reassignments have been announced. Here’s one great way to help your priest feel the love of the parishioners and it takes very little effort, you’ll be glad to know!
What would you add to this list? Share in the comments!
Check out our boards on Pinterest that celebrate Dads
When I first became a mom, I was not quite 23 years old. I lived 3 hours away from my parents and my friends, and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have the internet or blogs back in those days, I really felt like we were completely on our own. I honestly couldn’t believe the hospital let my husband and me leave with a tiny human being. As I looked around at other human beings, I couldn’t fathom that so many people obviously had figured out how to do – what seemed to me – this monumental task of raising a little baby.
On our first night home, I was sure that our new son needed a bath. In fact, wouldn’t I be a neglectful mom if I didn’t bathe my newborn son? So we got out our “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book and opened to the chapter on newborns. My husband walked me through this process step by step and we got our “filthy” son cleaned up. We bumbled our way through and made many mistakes along the way, but about 6 weeks into being a new mommy, I understood what all the fuss was about. I was head over heels in love with my precious baby boy. I couldn’t get enough of him and thought he was the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful baby that had ever been born. (Except for Jesus of course.) 😉
As soon as we got into a groove and figured out what we needed to do to keep our child alive, we were able to kind of get back to what we wanted most for our baby. We wanted him to know that even though our hearts overflowed with love for him, God loved him even more. We enjoyed researching, reading, and talking about different ideas to teach him the truths of our faith and to try to prepare the garden of his heart to receive the love of God.
Before long, he also became interested in Super Heroes, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. One of the ways God showed His love to our son was through the presence of an amazing new priest who also shared these loves. ** God, Super Heroes, Star Wars and Harry Potter ** A match made in Heaven. So our son also started seeing priests as men who were fully alive and full of joy and men who cared about the small things, like talking to a 9 year old about which Harry Potter book is the best. We never prayed for our son to be anything in particular, but we prayed that he would know, love, and serve the Lord.
One of the most beautiful moments of my motherhood journey happened on a Confirmation Retreat. I was a small group leader, and my son, totally by chance, was my teen assistant. During Adoration, one of my teens, who had been struggling terribly with life, was overcome with emotion, and I think, felt the love of God for the first time. I was privileged to watch my son, my child, go to him and bring him words of peace and love. The other young man said, “Man, why do you even care?” My son cared because God cares. He had experienced the love and mercy of God in his own life and wanted to share this peace with another soul.
When he was in middle school, priests would ask him if he had ever thought about being a priest someday. He hated when people asked him this and from about 8th grade until 11th grade he started saying, “No way!” He loved Jesus though, and the Lord was always leading my son more deeply into a relationship with Him. My son also loved being Catholic, and since he attended a public school, was always looking for ways to defend his beloved faith. So, right before his senior year in high school, my son felt very strongly that the Lord was confirming in his heart a call to discern the Catholic Priesthood with a deliberate and an intentional heart.
At first, he told everyone, and I cringed. “Not yet,” I thought, “Not yet. Don’t tell people yet.” That year, after his initial zeal, I think he felt like maybe God was chaining him in and the only way God would be happy is if he succumbed to the chains. Time passed, he finished high school and went to college, and during this past year the Lord relentlessly pursued him. And my son couldn’t help but fall deeper in love with his Savior. Slowly, sometimes painfully, and sometimes full of joy, he began to see his calling as an invitation, not a chain. The Lord was offering him a gift.
So what do you say to your son when you know he is seriously discerning this life’s vocation? There is such a fine line. While you want to be supportive, you don’t want to be too excited. And honestly, you worry. The life of a priest is not easy, and your son is saying, “Yes, I will consider this completely counter cultural life.” I’ve learned that when a young man chooses to open his heart up to discern the will of the Father in this way, that young man will suffer vicious attacks from the evil one. I’ve learned that moments of consolation can be followed by moments of fear and sorrow over what is being given up. I’ve learned that people will not hold back what they think of this vocation, for good and for bad. And yet, how proud am I? My child is willing to say, “Yes!” to consider taking up the cross of my Lord, and follow Him. He is willing to sell all he has for the pearl of great price. But if he changes his mind, I want him to know that’s ok. That means it wasn’t his calling.
Jesus, I trust in You. That’s all I can say. I love my son, but I love You more. I want Your will for his life, whatever that is. This is so not about me, but I feel like when he is suffering with this decision, a sword is piercing my heart too. Mother Mary, pray for me to be strong like you. Mother Mary, how did you let Him go? Mother Mary, how will I let my son go? I love you, Son. No matter what you decide, I couldn’t be happier as a mom knowing that you love the Lord and want to serve Him with your life, no matter what. Be strong, child. The world is hurting and needs you to show them The Way. If you don’t, who will? Who loves people more than you? Who has a smile like you that brings light to the darkest places?
And then there are the details; the details that are really none of my business. My super smart, sweet, handsome young man is not very detail oriented. Quite honestly though, I’ve been a pretty great secretary for 19 years. But this whole process of saying yes to God’s call actually has nothing to do with me. I can’t even get his medical records for him because he’s 19. I have to sit back and watch and pray and trust. Last month I had this notion that I needed to go see the seminary where he was going to be staying. I needed to see if he should bring Tide HE or regular Tide for crying out loud. Due to various circumstances, the Lord said no this notion. My son has already seen the seminary and he has made this choice himself. He didn’t need his mom going there and hovering. So the Lord showed me, “This is not your journey, this is his. Walk with him, but trust Me and honestly trust your son.“
I cried very hard that day.
There are so many unknowns still, but there is peace because I know he is where God is calling him. When he looks back on his life, the Lord has been calling him for a long time. My son has a heart for the Lord.
God help me to keep walking with him and encouraging him. Help me, dear Lord, as my heart is sad sometimes because my world is changing. It is changing for the better, but it is changing.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible, we are saved by grace alone. But, what is grace? What does saved by grace alone mean?
I must admit that I cannot do any better a job explaining what grace is than what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on it, nor the simpler Baltimore Catechism. So please consult these links for explanations from genuine writers and theologians. However, often we learn better first from a friend in common speech than a formally written text. So, here we go, my friend.
To understand grace, first we must understand who we are. We, humans, are souls first and foremost. We are souls tethered in time and space by our earthly bodies. Similarly, angels (God’s creations before us humans), are souls as well, but in contrast, they do not have bodies and thus are not bound in time nor space, similar in that way to God.
Grace is a share in God’s life; it is a free gift to our souls from Him. There are two kinds of grace, actual grace and sanctifying grace. Actual grace is an unmerited favor that God bestows upon us by His generosity, like what we mean when saying, “By the grace of God we made it to the airport on time.” The other kind of grace, sanctifying grace is what I’d like to focus on. In the Bible, this kind of grace, or a soul in the state of this kind of grace, is often referred to as being or having Eternal Life.
The angels were all created in a state of grace, and were living in harmony with God in Heaven, until a third of them, lead by the angel of light Lucifer (also known as Satan), chose against God and were cast into Hell. The fallen angels, being creations of a higher order than humans, were damned immediately for all eternity. It is these fallen angels who are the masters of evil.
The souls of our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created with sanctifying grace, a share of God’s life, dwelling inside. Their souls were alive in God. Like the angels, they too had a perfect union with Him. They were created in a state of Original Justification. However, they were beguiled by the Serpent (a disguise of the fallen angel Satan), and chose of their own free will to disobey God’s one rule for them. They ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge knowing full well that God had warned them they would die if they did so. When God punished Adam and Eve afterward, their bodies did not die but it was their souls that died. They lost the grace in their souls they had been created with. They no longer had God dwelling in their souls. They were now separated from Him.
Furthermore, their children would also be created in a state of separation; the souls of their children would be created without grace, without God’s life, dwelling inside. This is what we call Original Sin. This does not mean humans are created evil, for God does not create anything in a state of evil. All of us offspring of Eve are simply not created in a state of grace, not in an automatic friendship with God, the way Adam, Eve and the angels had been.
Without grace in our souls, without God dwelling in our souls, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The gates of Heaven had been closed after the fall of Adam and Eve. However! God took pity on us lowly humans, and instead of casting us to hell immediately, He promised us a Savior – someone to restore our souls with God. When Christ defeated death on His Cross, when He died for our sins and Resurrected, He reopened the gates of Heaven. He made Heaven attainable. It is Christ that brings us the grace our souls need in order to be restored and in order to enter Heaven.
We first receive sanctifying grace in our Baptism, which is also known as regeneration. This is why Baptism is so very, very important to all humans. God uses an element of His creation, water, as a vehicle to apply Christ’s saving grace that our souls need to be “reborn”; to become alive again in God and to be eligible for Heaven.
Moreover, we receive grace through the Eucharist. When we partake of the Eucharist, we are partaking of Jesus’s body, blood, soul and divinity. While God uses water in Baptism to apply Christ’s grace to our souls, it is through His creations of bread and wine that God continues to feed our souls more of Christ’s grace during our earthly lives.
When we choose to sin, whether it is mortal or venial, we adversely affect the grace in our souls. In a venial sin, we remain in a state of grace, but our souls are just a bit ill or injured. In a mortal sin (a sin of grave matter done in full knowledge and with full consent, like Adam’s and Eve’s) the grace in our souls is actually lost – the way the angels, and Adam and Eve lost their grace.
However, when we approach Christ in the Sacrament of Confession with genuine and contrite sorrow, another one of God’s creations, a human, specifically a priest, is used to restore grace in our souls, whether we’re in a state of mortal or venial sin. It is a wonder God is so patient and forgiving toward us humans, but let us be thankful He is!
In a closely related side note, I would like to briefly mention what the Immaculate Conception of Mary means in this context. Jesus, as the second Adam, and being God made man, of course came to this earth in a perfect state of grace (not having been created, but simply made incarnate). Also, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the second Eve, was given the privilege of being created in the same state as her predecessor, Eve. Her Immaculate Conception means she was created with God’s grace already dwelling within her soul, in view of the merits of her Son, Jesus.
The topics of Justification and Sanctification are natural follow ups to this discussion of grace, but we’ll stop here today. I hope perhaps this explanation has helped some readers of Catholic Sistas understand these topics, as it’s not always easy to understand! I leave you with some Church Father quotes, as they are better and holier writers than I’ll ever be.
St. Justin Martyr in A.D. 151
In his First Apology talks about persons seeking to become Christians and quotes Scripture:
Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” John 3:5 Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Esaias the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, says the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” Isaiah 1:16-20
The Christians of Carthage have an excellent name for the sacraments, when they say that baptism is nothing else than “salvation,” and the sacrament of the body of Christ nothing else than “life.” Whence, however, was this derived, but from that primitive, as I suppose, and apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism and partaking of the supper of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and everlasting life? So much also does Scripture testify, according to the words which we already quoted. For wherein does their opinion, who designate baptism by the term salvation, differ from what is written: “He saved us by the washing of regeneration?” Titus 3:5 or from Peter’s statement: “The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us?” 1 Peter 3:21 And what else do they say who call the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper life, than that which is written: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven;” John 6:51 and “The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world;” John 6:51 and “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall have no life in you?” John 6:53 If, therefore, as so many and such divine witnesses agree, neither salvation nor eternal life can be hoped for by any man without baptism and the Lord’s body and blood, it is vain to promise these blessings to infants without them.
St. John Chrysostom in A.D. 388
In The Priesthoodhe speaks of how priests make possible the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confession for our Salvation, and quotes Scripture:
For if any one will consider how great a thing it is for one, being a man, and compassed with flesh and blood, to be enabled to draw near to that blessed and pure nature, he will then clearly see what great honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to priests; since by their agency these rites are celebrated, and others nowise inferior to these both in respect of our dignity and our salvation. For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” Matthew 18:18 They who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body: whereas this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, “Whose sins ye remit they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain they are retained?” John 20:23 What authority could be greater than this? “The Father has committed all judgment to the Son?” John 5:22 But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son. For they have been conducted to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable. … For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?