Those who have followed my writing know that I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I try more and more to steer clear of the fighting, but I figured as we head into fall and winter I’d try leading a Live Rosary for Priests with my daughter through my writer’s page on Facebook.
The times and days will change based on our schedule, but we will start this coming Monday, October 5, 2020 at 3 pm Eastern Time. It is the Memorial of St. Faustina who was a spiritual mother to priests. She is my go-to saint each day when I pray for priests who are struggling in their vocation or who may be falling under the weight of their cross.
You can Like or Follow my page for updates and I will post dates and times here too.
Holiness is contagious. Human beings are attracted to those souls who radiate the love of Christ. They may not understand why it attracts them. That light may also induce fear and shame, but there is nothing more contagious in this life than holiness. Holiness does not, however, come about through an idea or philosophical system. We do not become radiant in love through our intellectual pursuits or our politics. Holiness begins with a radical encounter with the Living God.
The Church’s primary mission is to bring all nations into conformation (communion) with the Most Holy Trinity. To lead people on the path to sanctity, which answers the longing deep within every human heart to be loved and to experience joy. Holiness is communion with the Most Holy Trinity. It is to be a close friend of God’s. He wants all people to come to Him; to find their rest and blessedness (beatitudo). The Church does not primarily transform the City of Man through natural means, although she is called to do so through the missions and vocations of her disciples. She transforms the world through this call to holiness, through discipleship.
The world today, especially in the West, poses unique challenges to our evangelical mission in a way the Church hasn’t encountered in previous ages. We are no longer primarily evangelizing polytheistic people who sought to worship transcendent gods outside of themselves. Instead, we are faced with the task of evangelizing peoples who have predominately caved in on themselves and been fed the philosophical lie that truth is set by the individual, thus rendering each individual their own god. Leading people from the darkness of relativism and nihilism—which dominates through the will to power—is extremely difficult.
The answer to how we evangelize always has the first starting point in every age: Jesus Christ. We must seek to bring Christ to all people. This cannot be accomplished through an over- reliance on political posturing or even moralism. This is not because the moral law doesn’t matter. It is because we cannot expect those around us who have not been given the supernatural gift of faith to see the truth clearly as we do. We must lead them to an encounter with Jesus Christ first.
The reason for our faith is not the moral law. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI repeatedly pointed out that Catholicism is not a philosophical or moral system. It is a lived encounter and relationship with Christ. The mistake many of us make is in thinking that the moral law is everything. We forget that our own conversion and our own daily conversion is difficult and it is only possible through our relationship with Christ. We love Him and we want to serve Him, so we beg Him for the grace to persevere in order to grow in sanctity.
One of the dangers in the Church today—as well as in previous ages— is to foolishly attempt to lead people to the moral law before Christ. It is nearly impossible to evangelize people without leading them to Christ Crucified and Risen first. People cannot know the truth until they come to love Jesus who is the Truth. They will not submit to what seems to be an arbitrary set of rules until they know God. A man and a woman come together in marriage because they love one another and they choose to sacrifice everything for the other. The same is true in the Christian life.
This same method is used when a primarily political understanding is placed above our evangelical mission. Political systems are simply another type of philosophical system. Politics aid us in bringing about the common good, but our political convictions are not the center of our lives. In our current divisive and vitriolic political climate, it is very easy to turn politics into a false idol. It is also impossible to evangelize through political means because it will automatically alienate the other side. The Church transcends politics even as she transforms society.
The reality is, we very rarely are able to convert souls to the truth in Christ Jesus through our political posturing. Instead, we often aid in the hardening of hearts because we forget that the truth is not primarily political and we forget that those who cannot see the evils of abortion, contraception, euthanasia, etc. do not have the full light of faith and truth to guide them. We expect from them what it is not in our power to give. We are guides, not the distributors of grace.
St. Paul tells us the Cross is folly to the wise. Why? The Cross we are called to is a total relinquishment of self in love to God and for our neighbor. Given that it is natural for human beings to protect ourselves from suffering, the Cross looks like pure insanity to those who do not have the supernatural vision of faith. How can suffering redeem? Why should I give up my contraception, premarital sex, and other pleasures of the world for a philosophical system?
Until someone has had an encounter with Christ, they will fight back against this relinquishment. They will not see that the Church says “yes” far more often than she says “no.” As Christ’s disciples, we must seek to lead people to Jesus Christ who is made present on our altars. This is accomplished through a life dedicated to holiness and the mission that Christ gives to each one of us through our baptism. Holiness is the starting place for transforming the world around us, not endless debates about politics or our vote.
St. Teresa of Calcutta did not stop to ask the political beliefs of the poorest of the poor. She sought to love and to serve united to Christ on the Cross. St. John Paul II boldly proclaimed the truth, but in a manner that was centered on the person of Jesus Christ. Both of these saints were radiant in their person. This radiance drew people towards the Living God who is Light Itself. We are called to be this light.
The divisions of our day cannot be solved through deeper entrenchment in our political ideologies. We must seek to heal the ruptured communion that exists within the human family. Christ seeks out the lost, and our culture is lost. He admonishes the Pharisees most of all because they had been given the law and yet they failed to lead the nations to God. We run the risk of falling into this trap when we mistakenly believe that it is only the law that can save us. We run this risk when we place political ideologies above Christ. The Jews of Jesus’ day fell into this temptation repeatedly.
Christ issues invitations to sinners. He only flips tables once, but He repeatedly seeks the lost sheep of Israel and the world. The woman caught in adultery is an example of how we must approach the wounded and lost in our own culture. Jesus is not standing over her admonishing and chastising her. Rather, he is crouched down in the dirt. He admonishes those who want to stone this woman through his questions about their own sins. Each person present drops their stone and walks away aware of their own sinfulness. Jesus then looks up with His gaze of love and frees this woman from her sins. She is then transformed by His love. He is below her and looks up at her. His love reveals her sinfulness and she accepts His invitation of love. How often do we instead stand over our political or moral opponents Lording over them?
A few years ago, weeks after my fourth miscarriage, I was asked to help a woman who was considering an abortion. I was in the throes of intense grief at having lost another child, a son, after seeing his heartbeat twice on the ultrasound monitor. It was then that Christ showed me a woman in greater need than myself who was scared, unsure, and being pressured to get an abortion. Our lifestyles were very different. She had a past of petty crimes. Our moral understanding was polar opposite. She did not know Christ other than in the fact that she had heard His name, but didn’t know Him personally.
It would have been impossible for me to help her avoid killing her own child if I had used a philosophical or moral worldview rather than seeing her with the eyes of Christ. Instead, I had to walk with her and help her in whatever way I could. I had to be a radiant light in the darkness to her. I had to emptying myself completely out in love for her.
She chose life for her son and I was blessed to hold him in my arms shortly after he was born. Afterwards, she chose to end our relationship even after I tried to check in on her. I did not change her moral view. She didn’t have a radical conversion. Instead, I planted seeds and then had to leave them to God to tend. Her conversion isn’t up to me. It is up to God and His timing.
Screaming at one another on social media or around the family dinner table accomplishes very little in an age of division. As a mother and a spiritual mother, I’ve had to learn the hard way how often the only thing I can do is seek to be constant, loving, and patient with others. We can’t ram the truth down anyone’s throat. We can share it boldly in love, but we cannot force anyone. That isn’t love. God doesn’t force us to love Him and we can’t force others to love Him either. We can’t make people see what we see. We must pray for the gift of faith for others and for ourselves. More than anything, we must live the truth in such a way that any light within us leads people to Christ.
This is why I am against the over-emphasis on politics by so many Catholics today. Not because politics don’t matter. They do matter in the measure with which our political system can be directed towards the common good. Politics do not make up most of our lives, however. You couldn’t tell based on social media threads.
We cannot evangelize through a political lens, nor is being Catholic primarily political. We are Catholic because we have encountered Christ and fallen in love with Him. We want to serve Him. We want to dwell forever with Him in eternity and to lead all souls to Him. We see the truth because we have been given that gift from the Holy Spirit. We didn’t earn it. We accepted the invitation He has given to us. The same invitation we need to help others accept in the measure we are able to in accordance with God’s will and timing.
I’ve gone back and forth on this, but in an effort to encourage people to pray for priests, I wanted to share some meditations that I wrote to go with the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. I wrote them for a holy hour for priests we had at our parish on the Memorial of St. John Vianney. These are for personal use. If you are going to use them in prayer ministry or parish events please contact me directly first at firstname.lastname@example.org . Pax.
1. The Agony in the Garden While in fervent and agonized prayer, Our Lord seeks to unite His human will perfectly to the will of the Father. He accepts the chalice of the Cross in loving obedience for the glory of the Father and in order to bring about our redemption.
Let us pray, Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will constantly seek to submit in obedience to the will of the Father in all things and to align their vision to Your supernatural vision. May they unite themselves fully to You in prayer in the Garden as they endure the sufferings they are called to embrace as Your priests. Lead them to willingly accept the agonies and desolations that come from a complete surrender to You, so that by their great love for You, they may glorify the Most Holy Trinity and be perfected in charity through their promise of obedience.
2. The Scourging at the Pillar Through the desolation of the scourging at the pillar, Christ heals us by His stripes. He endures the sufferings of the flesh so that we too may overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil by uniting ourselves to Him at the pillar.
Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will accept all of the lashings they must endure in their priestly ministry as the means by which they are configured more closely to You. Fill them with great fortitude and patience. Give them the strength to overcome the temptations of the flesh, the devil, and the world and anything that may lead them away from perfect union with You. Give them the strength they need to persevere in their priestly ministry and to find joy in their afflictions and periods of loneliness united to You at the pillar.
3. The Crowning with Thorns
Our Lord is crowned with thorns as an inversion of His Divine Kingship. He is derided, persecuted, mocked, and beaten. He calls us to unite our own persecutions and humiliations to Him, which we are promised in this life as His disciples.
Eternal High Priest, we pray that your priests may unite their humiliations, criticisms, calumnies, spiritual warfare, misunderstandings, and persecutions to You. Remind them that they wear a crown of thorns in this life, so that they may bring many souls to you in eternity. Strengthen them in the knowledge that they will exchange their crown of thorns for a crown of glory in the next life. May they keep their eyes fixed on You their “thorn-crowned captain” despite the hatred and spiritual warfare they encounter living their sacred office.
4. The Carrying of the Cross Christ carries the Cross burdened with the weight of our sins. He does so in love and in order to show us the way to eternal life. We must follow Him on the Way of the Cross in order to become the saints we are called to be.
Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will lovingly embrace the heavy cross placed upon their shoulders at ordination. Keep them from abandoning their cross despite how many times they fall and how heavy it becomes along the way. Lead them into the depths of Your love, which can only be found in the desolation of the Cross. Help them to see Our Heavenly Mother walking beside them guiding them deeper into Your Most Sacred Heart. Show Your priests that she is united to each one of them in their burdens and how she daily ministers to each one of them through the tender love of her Immaculate Heart.
5. The Crucifixion of Our Lord Our Lord dies on the Cross in expiation for our sins. He pours out every ounce of His blood for the salvation of souls in kenotic love to the Father united to the Spirit. It is on the Cross that He calls each one of us to die-to-self and to love as He loves.
Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will seek to be crucified with you on the Cross in every moment of their priestly ministry. May this crucifixion lead them into deeper union with Your Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, which is the source of their priestly identity. Give all priests the courage to abandon themselves completely in love to the Father, united to You in the Spirit on the Cross, so that they may be transfigured into the priest-saints they are called to be. By Your grace, may their dying-to-self every day lead to the salvation of countless souls and an outpouring of Your radiant love throughout the world.
People would sometimes ask me, and I would sometimes ask myself, if all of the suffering and darkness I endured after my 9/11 relief work was worth it. Like so many who lived through that day and the following weeks, I spent about three years in the abyss of PTSD. I do believe that I would have navigated it a bit better had my faith been stronger at the time, but I know that God used this agony for good and to strengthen me for all of the other sufferings He will ask of me along the way to my eternal home.
The strongest presence in that darkness was Our Heavenly Mother. She was there when I found myself alone in England in the middle of the night tormented by nightmares, night terrors (awful awful!), and sleep paralysis. Our Lady understands the Cross since she endured it united in an interior sacrifice with Her Son. Given my path now, I completely understand why Our Lord sent Her to me in one of my darkest hours.
She was with me when I finally had to concede that I was in rough shape and needed to check myself into a private mental health clinic in London for treatment that lasted about a month. I will still never understand how the U.S. military got a contract with this amazing center, but I am thankful to God for it.
I went running towards the Cross following the initial attack at the Pentagon. I began my relief work on Friday, September 14, 2001 which is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (my NAM citation dates are wrong…leave it to the Navy..LOL). But, as is always the case with the Cross, I didn’t fully grasp what would be asked of me and what it would cost me. The same is true for all of the firefighters, EMTs, police officers, military, and civilians who ran into burning towers never to return.
The Cross is what saves, however. It leads us to the depths of God’s love and mercy. It is what ultimately transfigures us. My suffering has shaped me in ways I never could have been shaped without it. Funnily enough, in God’s divine plan, I would hold three holy relics of the True Cross 13 years later when I had just turned 33. It is the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena that we celebrate in the Church every September 14. Not to mention I was born in Helena, MT.
It was only this morning that I was able to grasp what my own suffering was meant for besides to help those who were in the throes of unbelievable grief and agony. God is eternal, so our sacrifices and sufferings are not offered in a linear fashion in my view. They don’t have to be given to God at the exact time when they are happening. He already knows we will offer them to Him when the Holy Spirit prompts us to do so.
I told my husband this morning that Christ knew while I was dealing with the difficult task of serving the bereaved as a relief worker, followed by the throes of my own darkness of PTSD, that 19 years later I would offer it all up to him on the Cross for his priests. It is from his perspective that suffering becomes a gift to be offer to Christ for others.
Suffering often makes little sense at the time, but our participation in redemptive suffering transforms our suffering into something radiant and beautiful united to Christ Crucified. Oftentimes we don’t see until years later, even decades later, what He is asking of us, but we can trust that regardless of how dark the night gets, He is bringing about His good and shedding light in the abyss. We only have to unite our agony to His in love for the salvation of others.
Please remember to pray for the dead, the loved ones of those killed, relief workers, our nation, and our enemies. Pray for the hijackers’ souls as well. it took me over a decade to be able do that latter, but it changes everything.