Part of my job this summer required me to find priests to hear confessions for over 50 teens each week attending the Steubenville LEAD retreats. Being at Franciscan University, I never had a shortage of friars to volunteer, but one week all but one of the friars were gone on their yearly retreat. I called a lot of the local priests and they came to help.
As I was handing out their thank you notes, one of them looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes. “Is this our payment for being here?”
I chuckled and said to him, “Father, I’m sorry. We can only pay you with our thanks and prayers.”
“Oh yes! I’ll take them!” he said. His brother priests nodded in agreement.
A few weeks earlier, I had the amazing opportunity to be one of a few women in a room of about 200 men. I attended the Steubenville Conference’s Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Retreat in order to write a press release.
Attending these conferences is one of my favorite parts of my job. I probably won’t have the opportunity to attend these conferences otherwise and it’s been an opportunity I’ve been truly grateful for. I always walk away from each talk feeling empowered and renewed.
From the first session to the last, there was a resounding message that I felt in the depths of my heart: We need to be praying for these men as much as we pray for ourselves.
As a kid, I thought my priests were rockstars. I was blessed to have incredible priests I could look up to and who I really saw as my shepherd. I remember Father Ken giving out Starbursts candy to the kids after mass; I remember Father Pavel who would pick kids off their feet and spin them around with his vestments flapping in the air; I remember watching Father Bryan greet every parishioner by name and feeling amazed that he could remember everybody’s name.
Priests seemed like superheroes who had it all figured out. Once I got to college, I was able to get to know priests at a more intimate level through attending Franciscan and Totus Tuus with the Diocese of Grand Island. They are regular men who are wonderful and joyful. They have hobbies and likes. They have dislikes. But they are human with temptations like other humans.
Loneliness can plague them: Insecurities about their leadership capabilities. I dare say that they struggle with temptation more than the average lay Catholic because the state of so many souls rests with them.
The devil isn’t going to pull the big guns on the souls he knows he already has. He’s going to go hard after those who take souls from him.
Priests administer the sacraments. He calls on the holy spirit to transform babies from their fallen state into a child of God; he looks the sinner in the eye sitting across from him in a confessional and absolves them of all sins, away from hell; he is able to transform an ordinary piece of bread into the body of Christ then share it with the congregation. He takes the grace given to him by the Holy Spirit and builds the church, the body of Christ.
To remove the priest from the church, the whole system would fall apart.
If that is the case, then we have to be praying for our priests. Offer rosaries, masses, sufferings, joys, anything you can for our priests and for their souls. Thank the Lord for calling them to to the holy vocation. Ask him to shower them with his gifts and wisdom. Ask him to comfort them and strengthen them in their ministries. Prayer is the easiest thing we can do for them.
I found this amazing prayer from the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops. So let’s lift up our hearts in prayer for our brother priests:
Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests.
Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments.
Help our priests to be strong in their vocation.
Set their souls on fire with love for your people.
Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.
Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel.
Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.
Help them to become instruments of your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.
Here are links to the releases I wrote on the conference: