Pray for our Future Priests

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For a number of years now, in the weeks leading up to ordination, our Saint John Paul II Seminary has highlighted the relationships of prayer and priestly ministry by hosting and inviting parishes to host a holy hour for transitional deacons who are to be ordained. This year, we will celebrate our archdiocesan Mass of ordination to the priesthood on June 25, 2016, and I pleased to share that 98 parishes across the archdiocese will be hosting a Holy Hour. On June 24, 2016, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, there will be a Eucharistic Holy Hour at 6:00 p.m. to mark the Church family coming together in prayer for these men who, God willing, will be our future priests.

One of the most powerful moments at ordination to the priesthood is after the Mass, when the newly-ordained “Father” stands before a line of family, friends and other well-wishers eagerly waiting for him to bestow his first blessings. This moment is the fruit of years of prayer of those who have walked with him on his journey and the grace of ordination that imbues the priest with the power to bless.

It is the moment in which those closest to the priest realize what it means to act in in persona Christi capitis. Through this priest, in the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Jesus Christ himself who is present to the Church as Head of the Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, and Teacher of the Truth (CCC 1548). This man is forever changed as he begins his service to the Church to preach, celebrate the sacraments and to shepherd the people entrusted to him.

Following the celebration of the priest’s first public Mass, there is a chance for everyone present to receive a blessing. Often the blessing ends with the priest asking that we pray for him – and need for this cannot be underestimated. Priests are sustained by prayer, their own and the prayer of the Church. They know that they depend on God’s grace to carry out their priestly duties and that it is prayer that enables them to trust fully in God’s providence.

Certainly, all of us are familiar with the prayer of petition in which we ask something of God for ourselves and for others. We pray for our families, for the people we work with, for our friends and neighbors. Hopefully, we also follow the pattern of prayer we hear at Mass and pray for the Holy Father and for me, your servant, and all our bishops, for one’s pastor and all priests and deacons, religious women and men, for all in the Church, and also for all outside the Church, that we may be one flock with one shepherd. This prayer extends further for those in authority, for relatives and benefactors, for the deceased and for all souls in purgatory, and even for enemies and persecutors.   This is a long list, but it is a helpful reminder that our prayer ought to be wide-ranging.

Fortunately, our Church also sets aside certain days or times of the year to focus on a particular group for which to pray. Building on this idea, our vocation and seminary staff have offered with these Holy Hours a special opportunity to pray for those to be ordained priests and all priests. As these men make their final preparations for ordination, I encourage you to join us at one of these Holy Hours or, if you cannot do that, to make some room in your prayer for our men to be ordained and in the first days and months of their ministry.

As you turn to God in this way, your prayers may be a simple expression of love and praise, or something more formal, such as this prayer from our Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Society, which is a prayer apostolate dedicated to praying for vocations and for priests:

Lord Jesus, you have chosen your priests from among us and sent them out to proclaim your word and act in your name. For so great a gift to your Church, we give you praise and thanksgiving.

We ask you to fill them with the fire of your love, that their ministry may reveal your presence in the Church. Since they are earthen vessels, we pray that your power shines out through their weakness. In their afflictions let them never be crushed, in their doubts never despair, in temptation never be destroyed, and in persecution never abandoned. Inspire them through prayer to live each day the mystery of your dying and rising.

In times of weakness send them your Spirit, and help them to praise your Heavenly Father and pray for poor sinners. By your same Holy Spirit put your word on their lips and your love in their hearts, to bring good news to the poor and healing to the brokenhearted.

And may the gift of Mary, your Mother, to the disciple whom you loved be your gift to every priest. Grant that she who formed you in her human image, may form them in your divine image, by the power of your Spirit, to the glory of God the Father, Amen.