Father’s Day should never come and go without giving thanks for men who give their lives to the Church. Don’t forget to say “Happy Father’s Day” to a priest this Sunday. And more importantly, don’t forget to pray for him!
I highlighted the work of Kathleen Beckman, author of Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, and her Foundation of Prayer for Priests for Crux the other day here. A little more from our interview:
Q: How much time do you spend praying for and encouraging prayer for priests?
A: Praying for priests is like breathing for me—it’s become so much a part of my spiritual life. However, it wasn’t always the case. In 1991 I experienced a profound conversion and began attending daily Mass and holy hour. My reversion to the faith was through the intercession of Mary. I credit Mary for teaching me the art of prayer, and for leading me to discover the joy of spiritual motherhood of clergy.
Presently, as co-founder (together with a priest) of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests (est. 2013), I’m writing, speaking and traveling to meet and form others in the vocation of spiritual motherhood and fatherhood of clergy. In founding the apostolate (FPP), we placed ourselves at the service of the Congregation for the Clergy and with their written encouragement, we engage individuals, families, parishes, apostolates, religious orders, to offer prayers, sacrifices, suffering, reparation for the “sanctification of priests”—the specific intention asked for by the Vatican. This call is a divine mandate (cf. Matt 9:38, Lk 10:2) and a Eucharistic vocation proper to all walks of life.
Q: Why is this so important to you?
A: Praying for priests is important to me because of a Person, Jesus Christ, and because of a relationship with Him. This relationship is rooted in the sacramental life, most intimately in the Eucharist. Praying for priests is a matter of reciprocal love for the Eternal High Priest. Simply, I focus on loving Jesus Christ in response to being loved first. I am moved by Christ and His Mother to love according to their united hearts. I show up for prayer and dispose myself to commune with God. But it is the Holy Spirit who teaches me to pray and to love according to the heart of God. Our Lord and His Mother have a very distinct love for clergy. The renowned Mariologist, Fr. Emile Neubert, S.M., teaches this in his famous work, “Mary and the Priestly Ministry” which I quote in my book, Praying For Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization (Sophia Institute Press).
Q: Someone reading this may be thinking of the bad preacher or priest who said something insensitive. Do we get the priests we deserve? Should this be a call to prayer?
A: Kathryn, you and I know many priests who are heroic in virtue and service to the Church as our respective paths cross with many clergy. I am a sinner and won’t throw stones at anyone, because, try as I may, I’ve fallen many times, been insensitive, indifferent, impatient, unkind. I’ve delivered less than perfect talks, writings, prayers, and service. Often we hold priests to a higher standard. This is a compliment really—we expect more of them. We desire priests to be our holy, Good Shepherd, our affirming and selfless, loving spiritual father. But they are human. Occasionally, I’ve been taken aback by stories or homilies that are not becoming a priest. The take away is to pray more for the holiness of priests, for their transformation into Christ, their continued conversion. Pray intentionally, sacrificially. This is not new. The Church has taught that priests need the prayers of the faithful always. But in the opinion of the Vatican, many clergy, and lay leaders, there is a new emphasis on the need for the broader Church to pray for holy priests.
Q: Pope Francis clearly is not a fan of clericalism. Your work calls for praying for priests, how do you keep that from clericalism?
A: An anecdote may be helpful here. Recently, I was one of several speakers for a Catholic university Marian Eucharistic conference. I was to speak after a Marian priest who shared with the audience a situation that occurred at the airport. He was standing in the boarding lane at the gate, checking his smart phone. A man in the line spoke to him, “Where are you stationed?” The priest sincerely responded that he belongs to a religious order and works at a shrine. The man responded in a loud voice, “You mean you are not running a little boys club like all priests do?” Everyone overheard. There are many such stories — sad commentaries on how little respect is shown to priests in our present secular culture. Healing is needed because there is still an air of suspicion due to the clergy scandal. But the truth is that priests have a sacramentally unique dignity to be, “other Christ’s, the head of the Church. We laity have a sacramental dignity to be the body of Christ. We do not compete; we compliment one another. Catholicism is both/and, not, either/or.
Q: What are you most grateful for?
A: In a word: Eucharist! The Eucharist is the heart of my life. Without the Eucharist, I would not be Catholic—I would be lost. That everyone will come to know and love Jesus in the Eucharist, I’m grateful for the yes of each and every priest. Deo gratias!