It is so easy at times to take priests for granted. We see them at least every week, sometimes more frequently; we go to Mass week in and week out. But have we ever stopped to think how essential they are to the Church’s very existence?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:
“The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood: ‘Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers’ (St. Thomas Aquinas, Hebr. 8,4)” (paragraph 1545).
“In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis [in the person of Christ the Head]” (paragraph 1548).
Praying for Priests
Fr. John Hardon writes: “St. Luke tells the story of King Herod’s persecution of the early Church; how after he beheaded James the brother of John and saw that this pleased the Jews, he decided to arrest Peter as well.
“He put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turn. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard, the Church of God prayed for him unremittingly (Acts 12:2-5).
“In like manner, St. Paul, in what is considered his first inspired Letter, closed the Epistle to the Thessalonians with the earnest plea, ‘Pray for us, my brothers’ (1 Thess. 5:25).
Here we have the revealed teaching of the Holy Spirit, as a practice (for Peter) and a petition (by Paul) that among the duties of a Christian is to pray for priests. Surely if Peter, the first Pope, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, needed prayers, how much more their successors in the papacy, episcopate and the priesthood.
“Intercession for priests has everything to do with the universal call to holiness.… Every worldly priest hinders the growth of the Church; every saintly priest promotes it. If only all priests realized how their holiness makes the Church holy and how the Church begins to decline when the level of holiness among priests falls below that of the people!” (Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen). Archbishop Sheen also said that “holy Christians guarantee holy priests.”
Priests are really under attack today. The devil hates them because of their role, and he is ever on the prowl to tempt them to sin, to tempt them to abandon their vocation. Everyone in the Church needs to support them with prayer, as well as with encouragement whenever possible.
We can ask the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, to guide all priests as they live out their vocation. Also, we can ask the intercession of Mary, Mother of all priests, and St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests.
In days past in some parts of the world, it was customary to set aside one Saturday of the month as a day devoted to praying for priests. This would be a beautiful custom to bring back!
O Jesus, Eternal High Priest, have mercy on your priests! Below we share a prayer for priests which we encourage you to pray daily.
Daily Catholic Prayer for Priests
I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests;
for Your unfaithful and tepid priests;
for Your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields;
for Your tempted priests;
for Your lonely and desolate priests;
for Your young priests;
for Your dying priests;
for the souls of Your priests in Purgatory.
But above all, I recommend to You the priests dearest to me:
the priest who baptized me;
the priests who absolved me from my sins;
the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;
the priests who taught and instructed me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way.
O Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart,
and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.