Saint John Paul II established that the Day for the Sanctification of Priests should coincide with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Therefore, seconding the desire of the Roman Pontiff, who once again calls the Church to pray for the universal clergy, we want to explain the reason for this indication and suggest concrete ways to “pump” divine grace to those souls chosen by God for the priestly ministry.
Why Help Them to Be Virtuous, to Be Saints?
But why have that special prayer for the sanctification of priests? It’s because sometimes we forget that prayer alone is the blood that can irrigate the Church’s heart, and priests are in the center of that heart, in need of divine help as we all are.
It’s for them to purify the arterial blood that will vivify the Church, and they need special encouragement on the part of those who also constitute the Mystical Body of the Church, whose Head is Christ Himself. All, laity and consecrated, support Peter’s boat, hence we must pray for one another, very united, compacted in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
We know that a Christian’s main task is his sanctification. His life’s priority must be prayer, silent contemplation and the Eucharist, without which all the rest would be no more than useless bustle. This is, finally, what a priest must divulge, no more and no less.
However, he will be able to divulge it by being a priest, and only a priest, but living what he intends to have his neighbor do. He can only give what he has; he can only teach what he lives! His responsibility is understood, no? Understood is his need to have all of us help him fulfill it, no?
What can be done to help priests?
How can priests be helped to be holy? Simply through two tools: prayer and example. By praying for them and giving them an example of life — how much example attracts –. The intention of this “help” must be only one: that priests identify themselves with Jesus Christ, as the compendium of their vocation is there.
Another synthesis of what it’s appropriate to have priests “reach” is the theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity, “unbounded charity to <the point of> self-forgetfulness; Faith that illumines, which stimulates to persevere, to Hope,” as Blessed Alvaro del Portillo said referring to priests.
With those three virtues, they would be “more than served,” as the other virtues hang on these three, and they will acquire them over time, also to divulge them, based on those three.
It is especially appropriate to ask God, and the Virgin Mary, Mother of priests, that their dominant passion be preaching and the dispensing of the Sacraments. They must love the Eucharist and desire ardently to dispense the Sacrament of Joy and of Forgiveness and all the others.
As the holy Cure of Ars said, they must have common sense, perspicacity, and supernatural knowledge because, as the Saint stresses, “if the Sacrament of Holy Orders disappeared, we wouldn’t have the Lord. Who has placed Him in the Tabernacle? The priest. Who received your soul no sooner you were born? The priest. Who feeds it so that it can finish its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, washing it for the last time in the Blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest . . . After God, the priest is everything!”
Prayer for Today and for Always
And, as a practical idea for today and for the whole of life, there is the prayer of a candid soul and very much of God — Saint Therese of the Child Jesus –, a prayer to never forget and to pray with great devotion.
“O Jesus — who instituted the priesthood to continue the divine work on earth of saving souls –, protect Your priests in the shelter of your Sacred Heart.
Keep their hands spotless, which daily touch your Sacred Body, and keep their lips pure, dyed with your precious Blood.
Keep their hearts pure, marked with the sublime seal of the priesthood, and don’t allow the spirit of the world to contaminate them.
Increase the number of Your apostles and may Your holy love protect them form all danger.
Bless their work and toil and, as fruit of their apostolate, may they obtain the salvation of many souls.
May they be consolation here on earth and their eternal crown in heaven. Amen.”
Alejandro Vazquez-Dodero Rodriguez
Doctor in Canon Law