Crusade Meditations: Summer 2018

The Priest: Witness to the Joy of the Gospel

In our world and culture today, we see an emptiness, a sadness, a despair which drives people and especially our youth to seek love and happiness in ways which only deepen their despondency: in pleasure, in consumerism, in the “quick fix” of addictions, in useless games, texting and the superficiality of social media among many other things. So many today have lost or have never known the joy of the Gospel, the truly good news that GOD became man and lived among us, He forgives us and wants to raise us up to His Kingdom, a Kingdom of love and communion with the Father. Only in God will man find the true meaning of his life and his happiness, yet how shall this message be known if there is no one to preach? And how can they accept the message unless it is accompanied by the witness of a life on fire with Christ. If one is not on fire for Christ, the Holy Spirit’s anointing will not really divinize and all talk about tenderness, mercy and compassion will only amount to a secular humanism empty of divine power and grace.

Pope Francis writes, “The People of God need to be guided by pastors whose lives are spent in service to the Gospel” (November 27, 2016). A true pastor knows that the “truth” of the Gospel is not something abstract; it is a truth for life in concrete situations, in the everyday life of man. He who preaches the Gospel must therefore be near to his flock, that men may experience in and through him the closeness of Jesus, the merciful gaze and forgiveness of Jesus, the acceptance and encouragement of Jesus in concrete situations. How many of us have experienced the joy and consolation of a word of a priest in a critical moment, a word of advice or encouragement, a word of compassion or understanding, a word that lifted us up so that we saw now with the eyes of faith – and knew that this word came from the Heart of Jesus, just for me! And then joy filled our hearts, our love and commitment to God was renewed, and we stood above the vacillations of life once again.

Only a priest who is close to God, who lives in this world, while he has died to himself in heart-wrenching trials like St. Paul, like St. Peter, a priest who sees all things with the eyes of God from the with deep faith can speak such a word to us. Such a priest is really near to the people because he has suffered in his own flesh, he is fully human. He comprehends their concrete situations and crises because he has radically accepted the challenge of faith which contradicts the wisdom of the world, and this crucifixion has set him free, this faith has opened his heart to God and to a joy which the world cannot give. Only he who has been trough the fires stands above the world and its seductions, false lights and confusion; only he can share God’s truth, His peace and joy with us. He is a shepherd to the flock, a light in the darkness of this world, a rock and stronghold for the faithful. He brings them near to Christ in the Sacraments and by his word and example, his witness to the joy of the Gospel. He stands absolutely fast to the truth, which sets us free. He shows us true mercy, which is the divine goodness calling us back to the truth of our being and of our relationship to God, our Creator and Savior. For mercy is God’s readiness and desire to forgive all prodigal sons, who desire the saving truth. Jesus needs these priests, these faithful and faith-filled witnesses, so that He Himself may remain near to His people, to each individual soul whom He calls with love, looks upon with compassion and forgives with divine generosity.

But herein lies the problem: priests are men who have also grown up in the same society as we; they have the same temptations and struggles as the rest of us. They are bombarded by the same media, placards and advertisements. Moreover, they are the special target of the enemy of the human race, who with demonic power and insidious traps seeks to ruin precisely these souls chosen by Christ to head the flock. Only by God’s special grace can a priest rise above the world and its seductions, and find the true joy in God, avoiding the traps of the enemy. Only by a special grace can a young man in today’s culture remain pure enough to hear the call of God and answer with a generous heart, a self-less love and enthusiasm for Christ and His mission. Yes, herein lies the mission of our Crusaders for Priests! God accepts our prayers, our sacrifices, our intercession for priests and young men called by God, so that they may stand untouched by the contagion of a corrupt culture, that they may spread the true joy found in the Gospel and lead many souls to God, as a shepherd leads his flock.

We may think our efforts are small and insignificant, our sacrifices of little worth, our prayers only a drop in an ocean of need. But this is not so! God depends on us, He asks us to be there for His priests, He calls us to this mission! Moreover, He blesses our efforts and our good will, small as they may be, and multiplies their effect. Pope Francis assures us and encourages us not to put our trust in ourselves nor in our own efforts, but in God who is all-powerful. He writes,

The seed of the Kingdom, however tiny, unseen and at times insignificant, silently continues to grow, thanks to God’s tireless activity. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep or rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how” (Mk 4:26-27). This is our first reason for confidence: God surpasses all our expectations and constantly surprises us by His generosity. He makes our efforts bear fruit beyond all human calculation. (Message for Day of Prayer for Vocations, November 27, 2016)

Thus, though our efforts seem small in our own eyes, God can bring about great things, if we believe and trust in Him and in His mercy. He can fill our seminaries and confirm our priests in their commitment to Christ, to His word and ministry. He can give them joy in their vocation, a joy which the world does not know. God can make them transparent for Christ, so that in them men see and experience the love of Jesus.

In order to intercede and merit grace and mercy for priests and for vocations to the priesthood more efficaciously, however, we ourselves must strive whole-heartedly for union with Jesus, especially in prayer and Eucharistic adoration. Pope Francis continues,

The Christian life needs to be nourished by attentive listening to God’s word and, above all, by the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration, the privileged “place” for our encounter with God. I wish heartily to encourage this kind of profound friendship with the Lord, above all for the sake of imploring from on high new vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. … I ask parish communities, associations and the many prayer groups present in the Church, not to yield to discouragement but to continue praying that the Lord will send workers to His harvest. May He give us priests enamored of the Gospel, close to all their brothers and sisters, living signs of God’s merciful love. (ibid.)

By drawing close to Jesus and becoming His friends, therefore, we can ask Him more efficaciously to open the hearts of our youth for the call of God and to support all our priests and Bishops who face the daily challenge of ministering to a society hostile to God and His law. For by prayer we offer them a share in our prayers and works in Christ.

In the Crusade for Priests in Opus Sanctorum Angelorum (the Work of the Holy Angels), we have a further powerful aid in our labors for the souls of priests and the fruitfulness of their ministry: the closeness, protection, help and guidance of the Holy Angels! It is not by chance that this Crusade grew from the Work of the Angels. “Are [the Angels] not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14). Just as the demon aims his most vicious and concentrated attack against priests and religious, so the holy Angel is most concerned to protect and inspire these individuals, who in Christ are especially entrusted with the continuation of His work of Redemption.

In Opus Angelorum, we distinguish three phases in our relationship with the Angels. First, we come to know them, to love them and to pray to them. We adore God with them and let them lift our spirits up to God. We learn to ask their help in our many needs, both spiritual and practical. We become as it were friends with the Angels. Secondly, as this friendship grows, we open ourselves more consciously to their influence, so that they may form, correct and admonish us in our growth in virtue and in the spiritual life. They teach us to deny ourselves for God’s sake, to abandon everything for the sake of the “one denarius” of our union with God. The Angel wants to lead us forward on the way of sacrifice, of making expiation, offering to God out of love. This development in our relationship with the Angel takes place in hiddenness, in all the unseen trials of fidelity and self-denial which lead to purity of heart, personal integrity, selfless love, a sacrificial spirit and union with God.

And finally in the third phase, we willingly seek to enter into the ranks of the Angels, to fight at their side against the evil one. How shall we fight? Like St. Michael, with the strength from God. This strength flows through the simple, the childlike, the truthful, in a word, through humble souls, who are unconditionally faithful to the commandments. Each one in his own way and in his own state of life will learn to collaborate with the Angel, some by teaching, some by their work with children or youth, some by silent prayer or the offering up of an illness or special trial, some by faithfully fulfilling their duty at home or in the workplace. Each of us has our own vocation, but now, being lead at the hand of the Angel, we do everything with the Angel and like the Angel in the great battle for souls. The angelic strength will imbue us more and more, for this divine strength is free to expand and deploy itself without any hindrance. For the humble heart, like St. Michael, like the Mary, is completely open to God. And so we will experience Mary ever more as the Mediatrix of Grace and light, leading us to victory in every trial.

This is the goal of the Work of the Holy Angels under the Queenship of Mary, to form all the Saints in union with the Angels into a strong ring of salvation around the Church, especially around the Holy Father, the Bishops and priests, so that through these Shepherds of the flock, many souls may be saved and the powers of hell defeated. We therefore invite all our Crusade members, those who are members of Opus Angelorum and those who are not, to draw closer to their Angels in their spiritual support of priests, to work and pray and sacrifice with their Angel in this great work for the Church and for souls. For those who would like more information regarding membership in the Opus Angelorum and the formation program towards the Consecration to the Guardian Angel, please contact us at the address below. We also offer a free quarterly Lay Circular Letter which offers spiritual meditations, Angel stories and other information for all those interested in this spirituality.

May God reward you and Our Lady keep you in her special care as you continue to pray and sacrifice for priests! May the Holy Angels be your strength and your shield in this great work! And as St. Therese told her sister Celine, as she encouraged her to pray and sacrifice for priests, so also it may be said of you, “Jesus will be grateful!”

Sr. Maria Basilea

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