Our contributing author for this month’s reflection, Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, is a retreat director, itinerant preacher and writer at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois.
Intention: Priests and their Pastoral Ministry
That priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.
Do you remember when Pope Francis was first elected in 2013 and how he stepped out onto the balcony at St. Peter’s to meet the cheering crowds? He then did something extraordinary. He asked us to pray for him. This was no pious gesture or false humility. This was a sincere request born of his awareness of the overwhelming responsibility now placed on his shoulders. He knows his limitations. In his first major magazine interview, Pope Francis was asked: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” His response: “I am a sinner.” He paused and then added: “but I trust in the in infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Pope Francis not only knows his own personal limitations, he is acutely aware of the limits of his brother priests. This awareness prompts this month’s petition. We priests are so very human, and yet we are given this extraordinary gift of access to people’s hearts, of being the public face of Christ’s Church. When a priest accomplishes much good, everyone benefits. But when a priest fails to reflect Christ, everyone touched by his ministry also suffers. We are well aware of how much damage has been done by those priests who have tried to meet their needs for intimacy, love, and self worth in twisted, damaging ways.
All people need friends. Priests are no exception. That’s one reason why Pope Francis himself moved out of the Papal Palace and into Casa Santa Marta – so he could have more support from his brother priests. We pray that our priests may also form strong bonds of fraternal support with one another. And may all priests draw closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the source of all comfort and strength.
Questions for Reflection
Who are priests who have inspired you and your family? Pray for them.
Who are priests who have irritated or scandalized you? Pray for them.
What else might you do to show your support for them?
Hebrews 5: 1-2 “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness.”