All priests, saints and strugglers alike, need our prayers

All priests, saints and strugglers alike, need our prayers

In a conversation with Kathryn Jean Lopez, Kathleen Beckman, author of "Praying for Priests," says, "Christ gives priests his Sacred Heart with which to love the human family, and in turn, God’s family should love their priests."

Commentary

There’s a book called Praying for Priests that I find myself carrying around more often than I ought to. I always have way too many books with me. I’ve read it a few times. It is full of some good prayers, but I seem to carry it with me more as a reminder to sound a siren.

Our priests need prayers. The good and holy ones need prayers. The struggling need prayers. Whoever the priest, whatever his assignment. Each and every one of them need prayers.

Do something about that, next time you’re grateful for a short homily or wish for a better one.

Kathleen Beckman, a wife and mother in Orange County, is author of Praying for Priests – and another, God’s Healing Mercy, for the jubilee year of mercy – is a revert to the Catholic faith who describes praying for priests as “like breathing for me.”

She has a Foundation of Prayer for Priests, dedicated, as you might imagine, to getting people praying for priests. As Pope Francis talks about priests and the Sacred Heart of Jesus during this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart and to fatherhood, I asked Beckman to talk about her work and its urgency for the Church and the world.

Lopez: What is the Foundation of Prayer for Priests?

Beckman: It’s is a Eucharistic and Marian apostolate of intercessory prayer and catechesis aimed at obtaining graces for the sanctification of priests and fostering vocations to the priesthood.

Resources are found for seminarians, clergy, families, parishes, and individuals on our website.

You wrote a book and are giving a lot of talks and retreats about mercy. What are you seeing in the Year of Mercy? Is there anything different going on? How are people responding?

Since the start of the Jubilee of Mercy in December, I’ve traveled almost every weekend to speak and lead retreats on God’s healing mercy. I’ve witnessed many conversions, healings, stories of reconciliation and forgiveness.

In praying with various people throughout the U.S. and internationally, I witness a thirst for God and need for healing. Everywhere there are remnant communities of strong faith.

I believe that the Jubilee Year is an occasion for extraordinary grace— a unique opportunity to seek and share the mercy of God. And we have until November 20!

June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What does that mean? It’s a devotion that isn’t as widespread as it once was among Catholics.

I once heard a priest professor at a seminary in Ireland exhort his brother priests about the need for devotion—calling it the “spice” of the spiritual life. Devotions such as the Sacred Heart can animate the interior life of grace.

I grew up in a Catholic home that always venerated the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Such devotion became a way of life-giving love.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is about sacrificial love; an invitation to communion. We love with His heart when we love rightly.

Why is the Sacred Heart so connected to the priesthood?

Pope Benedict XVI reflected upon the notion of the priesthood radiating “the love of the heart of Jesus.” The expression of St. John Vianney also makes us think of Christ’s pierced Heart and the crown of thorns which surrounds it.

I also think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain, or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister.

One lays down his life for the beloved and allows his heart to be pierced, as was the Lord’s.

This means the priest must possess a kind of availability of spirit, as Pope Benedict XVI eloquently expresses: “Day after day, it’s necessary to learn that I do not possess my life for myself. Day by day, I must learn to abandon myself; to keep myself available for whatever he, the Lord, needs of me at a given moment, even if other things seem more appealing and more important to me: this means giving life, not taking it.”

Every vocation requires a heart that sees the needs of others. We learn this through the gift of family, the domestic church. Every vocation passes through a family.

A spiritually sensitive heart perceives Christ’s presence in the other. The ordained priest marries the family of the entire Church.

That’s why Christ gives priests His Sacred Heart with which to love the human family. In turn, God’s family should love their priests.

 What’s the idea of ‘spiritual motherhood’ of priests? (And how is that not patronizing, or begging for intimacy that can be dangerous?)

 Maternal love, by its nature, is self-giving. Spiritual maternity is at the service of God’s plan for the salvation of souls. The offering of daily sacrifices in union with Jesus births new life for priests and the Church.

The danger you mention can occur if a woman doesn’t have a Marian-formed heart and is seeking disordered affection. For the most part, authentic spiritual maternity of priests is a hidden, selfless vocation.

The Congregation for Clergy acknowledged that spiritual maternity of priests is little understood and rarely lived. We have work to do in that area. This has not been a popular, easy work to advance.

 What is your prayer for the Church during these confusing – sometimes angry, hostile – times?

My prayer is for heroic holiness, because saints change things for the good. Saints courageously, joyfully, step up to the challenge of proclaiming Christ, even with their lives. So be it!

God has a plan for these trying times. He’s looking for saints who will bring it to fruition.

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