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Never cease praying for priests

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Never cease praying for priests

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the culmination of this Year for Priests.  It has been a year in which we have made a great effort to augment our prayer for priests, to deepen our understanding of the nature of priesthood and consequently our appreciation of our clergy.

Although the ‘year’ is at an end, we must continue to pray for our priests (because the devil hates priests – it’s reason enough, isn’t it?!), but how shall we continue to hold our priests in prayer?  Like all good habits, we’ll be most likely to continue in our efforts if we build our prayer for them into our routine or use something else to remind us.

During our recent Parish Day of Prayer, Fr John Edwards suggested praying for the priest during the ablution of the hands that he may become ‘less unworthy’.   Only a priest, I thought, could put it quite like that.  Another priest, Thomas a Kempis, puts it even more bluntly in The Imitation of Christ (IV: 5, 1-2):

Had you the purity of the Angels, and the holiness of Saint John the Baptist, you would still be unworthy to receive or touch this Sacrament [of the Eucharist]… You have been made a priest, and ordained to celebrate the Sacrament:  see, then, that you offer this sacrifice to God faithfully, regularly, and devoutly, and that your life is blameless.  Your obligations are now greater; you are bound to exercise stricter self-discipline, and to aim at a higher degree of holiness.  A priest should be adorned with all virtues, and show an example of holy life to others.  His life should not be like that of worldly men, but like that of the Angels, or of perfect men on earth.

It’s no mean feat that our priests are striving towards and they need our prayers.  So alongside a prayer during their ablutions, when else can we remember to pray for them?

Casting your mind back to being seven (again!) you’ll remember being taught that alongside saying your penance and thanking God for the gift of his mercy, you were taught always to pray for your confessor: there’s one slot, then.

When there is no recessional hymn (ie. at a weekday Mass), it seems obvious to pray for the celebrant as he leaves the altar.  When you’re busy singing a recessional hymn, though, you need to find another time.  On our knees before Mass begins, for example.  Or what about continuing our First Friday practice, commending our priests to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?  You are very fortunate if you can spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament to pray for our priests, but if not, then let’s try to put some extra time aside wherever we find ourselves to pray for our priests.

For today, here’s an extract from a prayer by Fr Bruno Hagspiel, SVD:

O Jesus, I pray to You for Your faithful and fervent priests;
for Your unfaithful and lukewarm priests;
for Your priests working hard at home or overseas in distant mission fields;
for Your tempted priests;
for Your lonely and desolate priests;
for Your young priests;
for Your aged priests;
for Your sick priests;
for Your dying priests;
for the souls of Your priests in purgatory.
But above all, I commend to You the priests dearest to me:
the priest who baptised me;
the priests who absolved me from my sins;
the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who have given me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;
the priests who taught me and instructed me or helped me or encouraged me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way, particularly…
O Jesus, keep them close to Your Heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity.
Amen.

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