On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrated June 7, 2013, we remember in a special way Priests and we are encouraged to pray for their sanctification . The Carmelites, especially in the Reform of St. Teresa of Avila, have always nurtured devotion of praying for Priests. When St. Therese of the Child Jesus was asked why she entered Carmel, she responded "I entered Carmel to save souls and to pray for Priests." I have a personal devotion of praying for Priests. Our Constitutions explicitly oblige us to pray and offer sacrifices for priests. Carmel dedicates Saturday as a special day to pray for priests and candidates to the priesthood. This devotion was initially nurtured in me by my association with the Carmelites early on. But it was reinforced and acquired a new meaning for me in later years. On a personal basis, I am grateful to God for giving me the gift of a brother who's a priest. Having a brother-priest made me even more solicitous to pray for those called to the Priesthood. The scandal on sex abuse of children by priests even made me more cognizant of the fact that we need to pray for them. My long association with different priests made me realize how human and vulnerable they are. They are flesh and blood. They have the same need for love, encouragement, affirmation and companionship. They are confronted by the same temptations we are all subjected to. It might even be said that they have definitely chosen a more difficult life because we expect more from them. Much is given to them and so therefore, much is also expected. We do not excuse failings we see in them but rather demand a full accountability of what they do and do not do. We sometimes say "they should know better!" The sex abuse scandal was an inexcusable tragedy to the victims but also inflicted a deep wound in the image of Priesthood and brought a crisis of faith in many, if not ruining it altogether. The grace of priestly ordination is a treasure in earthen vessel. Despite the imperfections of the priest, Christ has ordained to choose a weak man to continue His priestly ministry of Word and Sacraments for the good of souls and the sanctification of His Church. May we never lose sight of this reality. It certainly calls for a deeper faith. It is only by keeping this mystery in mind that we can remain believers in the inherent dignity of this vocation. The world will try to convince us otherwise, and they would have proofs of their arguments, but we try to remain persuaded that the dignity of the ministerial Priesthood lies deeper than the worthiness of the man called to its office.
I love priests, not because they are inherently lovable, but because they are appointed by God to minister His sacraments here on earth. I have known many priests who have helped me grow spiritually and have helped me during great spiritual difficulties. I am always grateful to them and ask GOD to reward them. I believe it was in the Fatima apparition where the Angel told the children that when they are before the presence of a Priest and an angel, they should bow before the Priest and not the angel. This was a powerful statement for me regarding the dignity of priests. St. Teresa of Avila in her "Way of Perfection," made this statement to her nuns about Priests and the Priesthood:
"These priests, who must strengthen people who are weak and encourage the little ones.. these persons must live among men, deal with men, live in palaces and even sometimes outwardly behave as such men do. Have no fear that the world will forgive this deficiency, nor is there any imperfection it fails to recognize. I beg you to strive to pray.. that after putting these men in this combat which is not easy, they may receive protection from the Lord, so as to remain free of the many perils there are in the world and stop their ears in order not to hear the siren's songs, on this dangerous sea." This should be our constant prayer.
My brother always makes fun of my poems! "Your poem does not rhyme!" he complained. But I write them as an expression of my sentiments and do not really care much for rhyme and rhythm. So during one of those inspired moments, I came up with this poem:
"Kneeling before thy holy sanctuary,
Witness to the unfolding mystery,
Gazing at the hands holding Thee,
White Host held so reverently.
Sound of words changing substantially
Wine and bread into Blood and Body.
Hands formed in their mother’s womb
Created in secret in a hidden world,
One day will hold their Master and Lord.
Hidden from eyes of worldly curiosity,
Quietly formed in worth and dignity,
Touch with compassion, bless with devotion,
The waiting world needing Thee.
Empty hands, blessed hands!
Anointed by God for the work He began.
Do you believe how blessed you are,
Despite imperfections of being human?
This truth shall last now and forever
In life, in death, you are His priest,
Forget that never."