"Send out laborers to the Harvest..."
From the very beginning our Lord exhorted His disciples to pray the Father to send laborers into the harvest (Mt 9:39).
Current scandals in the priesthood recall to our minds that prayers for priests are urgently needed. To this we may also add a spirit of sacrifice and reparation. "Lord," we may be inclined to ask, "did you not sow good seeds in your field? How then does it have weed?" (Mt 13:27). In good part, the bad seed that the enemy has sown is a spirit of worldliness, pleasure and comfort that led to a break down in sexual morals to the break down of the family which, in turn, went to seed in still greater sexual perversity and spiritual blindness. A band aid will not remedy the situation; what is needed is a deep and genuine conversion of hearts by the people of God, beginning, hopefully, with the priests. To this end we wish to implore the merciful Father for the sake of His Son.
An immediate question that arises in the minds of many is how best to go about praying for priests and their sanctification? 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.
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 Christs Body, the Church.
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.
Offer up a portion of your sufferings for priests, be they sickness, hardship, sleepless nights, an upcoming operation or other discomforts.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 Oclock, 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."
Make the Stations of the Cross, at least, once a week for priests. Try to do this at the three Oclock 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).
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.
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.
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.
Nine years ago this June 11th 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.
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