Day of Prayer for Priests (Vatican)

DAY OF PRAYER FOR PRIESTS
These three Meditations have been compiled by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy. They include short passages from the Scriptures, the writings of saints and theologians ancient and modern, and excerpts from various Papal teachings.

MEDITATION ONE

The Priest is God's merciful gift to humanity

The Word of the Lord

From the Gospel of John
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another (Jn 15,14-17).

Meditation

From the Letters of John Paul II to Priests
"Mercy is the absolutely free initiative by which God has chosen us: 'You did not choose me, but I chose you' (In 15, 16). Mercy is his deigning to call us to act as his representatives, though he knows that we are sinners.

"Mercy is the forgiveness which he never refuses us, as he did not refuse it to Peter after his betrayal. The avowal that 'there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance' (Lk 15,7) also holds true for us. Let us then rediscover our vocation as a ‘mystery of mercy'" (Holy Thursday, 2001, nn. 6, 7).

"How marvellous is this vocation of ours, my dear Brother Priests! Truly we can repeat with the Psalmist: ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord'" (Ps 116, 12-13) (Holy Thursday, n. 1, 2002, n. 1).

From St John Chrysostom

"These are really the ones who are in charge of spiritual travail and responsible for the birth which comes through baptism. Through them we put on Christ, and are buried in union with the Son of God, and become members obedient to our blessed Head (cf. Rom 6, 1; Gal -3,27). For that reason they should not only be more justly feared than rulers and kings, but also be more honoured than our parents. For our parents generated us of blood and the will of the flesh (cf. Jn 1,13), but the priests are the authors of our birth from God; even that blessed regeneration which is true freedom and adopted sonship according to grace" (cf. St John Chrysostom, De sacerdotio, 111: 6,PG 48, 643-644).

From St Anthony of Padua

"'Our altar of gold is the Heart of Christ. We must enter into the Holy of Holies, which is this same Heart of Jesus, and gather up the riches of His love" (St Anthony of Padua).

From St John of Avila

"If the Jewish High priest carried the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on his shoulders and on his breast, how much more Christ, our High Priest, carries our names written on His Heart" (St John of Avila).

From the holy Curé of Ars

"The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus" (CCC, n. 1589 - St John Vianney, quoted in B. Nodet 'Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d'Ars, 100).

"The priest is not a priest for himself. He does not give absolution to himself. He does not administer the sacraments to himself. He does not exist for himself, he exists for you" (Curé of Ars: Monnin II 453).

From Blessed John XXIII

"Today everything which concerns the Sacred Heart of Jesus has become familiar and doubly dear to me. My life seems destined to be spent in the light shining from the tabernacle, and it is to the Heart of Jesus that I must look for a solution to all my troubles. I feel I would be ready to shed my blood for the cause of the Sacred Heart. My fondest wish is to be able to do something for that precious object of my love. .

"At times the thought of my arrogance, of my unbelievable self-love and of my great unworthiness alarms and dismays me and robs me of my courage, but I soon find reason for comfort in the words spoken by Jesus to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque: 'I have chosen you to reveal the marvels of my heart, because you are such an abyss of ignorance and insufficiency'.

"Ah! I wish to serve the Sacred Heart of Jesus, today and always. I want my devotion to his Heart, to be the measure of all my spiritual progress. I desire to do everything in intimate union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

"My greatest joy will be to seek and find comfort only in that Heart which is the source of all consolation. I am determined to give myself no peace until I can truly say I am absorbed into the Heart of Jesus" (BI. John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, ["During the retreat in preparation for the ordination to the diaconate, 9-18 December 1903"], pp. 208-209, New English Library: London, 1966).

Praise and Thanksgiving

From the Letter to the Ephesians

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5, 25b-27).

From the Psalms

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want;
he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff ,
they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
(Ps 22[23]).

Prayer

"The Heart of Jesus is also my own, I have the courage to say it. If, in fact, Christ is my head, what is His must be mine as well. As the eyes of my body are truly mine, so the Heart of my spiritual head is also my heart. I am so fortunate: behold that I have one same heart with Jesus With this your and my heart, O sweetest Jesus, I will pray to you, my God" (St Bonaventure).

MEDITATION TWO

Sacramental Confession and the Priest

The Word of the Lord

From the Gospel of John
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you'. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you'. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained' (In 20,19-23).

Meditation

From the Letter of John Paul II to Priests
"Left to himself, man can do nothing and he deserves nothing. Before being man's journey to God, confession is God's arrival at a person's home. In confession, therefore, we can find ourselves faced with all kinds of people. But of one thing we must be convinced: anticipating our invitation, and even before we speak the words of the sacrament, the brothers and sisters who seek our ministry have already been touched by a mercy that works from within. Please God, we shall know how to cooperate with the mercy that welcomes and the love that saves. This we can do by our words and our attitude as pastors who are concerned for each individual, skillful in sensing people's problems and in delicately accompanying them on their journey, and knowing how to help them to trust in God's goodness" (Holy Thursday, 2002, n. 6).

From the Apostolic Letter 'Dilecti Amici' of John Paul II

"It is also necessary - and always in relationship with the Eucharist - to reflect on the Sacrament of Penance, which is of irreplaceable importance for the formation of the Christian personality, especially if it is linked with spiritual direction, which is a systematic school of the interior life" (Apostolic Letter Dilecti Amici of Pope John Paul II to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the International Youth Year, n. 9, Palm Sunday, 31 March, 1985).

From St Ephrem the Syrian

"I tremble and shudder when I think of my hidden sins, when I weigh my works. The frightening memory of my sins and of the day of judgement fill my heart with fear, fill my thoughts with anguish. But ... despite that, I do what is wrong; I know what is right and I end up doing what is wrong... I am well versed in the sacred writings and in their reading, but I am far from doing my duty. I read the Bible to others, but nothing enters my ear. I admonish and exhort the ignorant, but I do not carry out what is good for me... And so I take refuge in you, Lord, from this perverse world and from the body so full of evil, cause of all sin. For this reason I cry out to you, as the Apostle Paul did, 'When will I be set free from this body of death?' (cf. Rom 7,24).

"... Mysteriously there arises in my thought a consoling thought, that counsels me for good and stretches out its hand of hope to me... 'Listen, sinner, - penitence whispers in my ear - I wish to give you a life-giving counsel!... Do not be discouraged, do not surrender to despair... The Lord is kind and merciful, he desires to see you at his gate and he is happy if you will be converted, so he can embrace you again with joy. Your sin; that is so great, cannot even be compared with the smallest drop of his mercy; he purifies you with his grace from the sins that reign in you. The sea of your sins cannot suffocate the slightest breath of his mercy... Do not look at the immense number of your hidden sins ... your Lord can purify you from every sin, wash you clean from every stain... He will make you white as snow, according to what is written in the prophet Isaiah (Is 1,18). Sinner, abandon your misdeeds, repent of what you have performed and, in his mercy, he will receive you...

"To all those who are sinners like me, I said all this, to stir up in them hope, consolation and repentance" (cf. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on 'Woe to we who have sinned!' 9-13).

From St John Chrysostom

"For the priestly office is indeed carried out on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances. And this is very naturally so. Neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, ordained this succession, and persuaded men who are still living on earth to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in heaven itself among those powers... For they who inhabit the earth and live there are entrusted with the administration of heavenly things, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For has it not been said to them, 'Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven' (Mt 18,18) For indeed what is it but all the authority of heaven which He has given them when He says, 'Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain, they are retained?' (In 20,23). What authority could be greater than this? ‘The Father has given all judgement to the Son' (cf. Jn 5,22). But I see the Son has placed all of it in the hands of these men. For they have been raised to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable" (St John Chrysostom, De sacerdotio, III, 4-5).

From Presbyterorum ordinis

'The ministers of sacramental grace are intimately united to Christ the Saviour and Pastor through the fruitful reception of the sacraments, especially sacramental Penance. If it is prepared for by a daily examination of conscience, it is a powerful incentive to the essential conversion of heart to the love of the Father of Mercies" (Presbyterorum ordinis, "Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests", n. 18, Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, 7 December 1965).

From the Diary of St Mary Faustina Kowalska

"Write, speak of My mercy. Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are constantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one's misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of Divine Mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late" (St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul: The Diary of the Servant of God Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, Notebook V, 1448, pp. 511- 512, Marian Press: Massachusetts, 1987).

Praise and Thanksgiving

From the Letter to the Hebrews
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4, 14-16).

From the Psalms
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
To him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures for ever ...
It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures for ever
(Ps 135{136}, 1-4, 23-26).

Prayer

"Our Father for Priests"
Our Father who art in heaven,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That Thy name be hallowed,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That Thy kingdom come,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That They will be done on earth as it is in heaven,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
To give us each day the Bread of life,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
To forgive us our trespasses,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
That we be not led into temptation,
Give us priests according to Your Heart.
And deliver us and all of Your priests from evil.
Amen.
(Anonymous)

MEDITATION THREE

The Most Holy Eucharist and the Priest

The Word of the Lord

From the Gospel of Luke
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you' (Lk 22, 19-20).

From the Gospel of John
So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever (Jn 6, 53-58).

Meditation

From the Letter of John Paul II to Priests
"'Do this in memory of me' (Lk 22, 19): although addressed to the whole Church, the words of Christ are entrusted as a particular task to those who carry on the ministry of the first Apostles. It is to them that Jesus hands on the action which he has just performed - changing bread into his Body and wine into his Blood - the action in which he appears as Priest and Victim. It is the will of Christ that henceforth his action should also become sacramentally the action of the Church through the hands of priests. In saying ‘Do this', he refers not only to the action, but also to the one who is called to act; in other words, he institutes the ministerial priesthood, which thus becomes one of the essential elements of the Church" (Holy Thursday 2000, n. 10).

From Origen
"Our Lord and Saviour says, ‘Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life in you. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink' (Jn 6, 53-55). Therefore, since Jesus is completely pure, all his ‘flesh is food' and all his ‘blood is drink' because his every deed is holy and his every word is true. For this reason, therefore, his ‘flesh is true food' and his ‘blood is true drink'. For from the flesh and blood of his word, as from pure food and drink, he quenches the thirst and satisfies the hunger of mankind. Thus in the second place, after his flesh, the clean food is Peter, Paul and all the apostles; in the third place, their disciples. In this way every person, either through great merit or purity of understanding can become wholesome food for his neighbour ... Every person has some store within him from which, if indeed he is good and ‘from the good treasure of his heart he brings forth good' (cf. Mt 12,35), he may proffer pure food to his neighbour. But if he is evil and ‘brings forth evil' (cf. Lk 6,45), he produces unclean food for his neighbour" (cf. Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, Homily 7, sec. 5, pp. 145-147, Catholic University of America Press: Washington, DC, 1990).

From St Francis de Sales
"The most holy, sacred, and supremely sovereign sacrament and sacrifice of the Mass, [is the] centre of the Christian religion, heart of devotion, and soul of piety, the ineffable mystery that comprises within itself the deepest depths of divine charity, the mystery in which God really gives himself and gloriously communicates his graces and favours to us. Prayer made in union with this divine sacrifice has inestimable power ... The choirs of the Church triumphant and those of the Church militant are united to our Lord in this divine action, so that with him, in him, and through him they may enrapture the heart of God the Father and make his mercy all our own" (St Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Second Part of the Introduction, "How to Attend Holy Mass", pp. 103-104, Image Doubleday: New York, 1989).

From St Thérèse of the Child Jesus
"I only desire the science of Love ... I understand so well that it is only love which makes us acceptable to God that this love is the only ambition I have ...

Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude... He has no need of our works but only of our love. Ah! I feel it more than ever before, Jesus is parched, for he meets only the ungrateful and indifferent among his disciples in the world, and among his own disciples, alas, he finds few hearts who surrender to him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of his infinite Love" (cf. Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Ch. IX, "My Vocation is Love", pp. 187-189).

"Dear Lord! To win my heart, from heaven Thou didst come:
For me Thy blood didst shed, O King adored!
And on our altars makest Thy home.
So, if I may not here behold Thy Face,
Or catch the heavenly music of Thy Voice,
I still can live, each moment, by Thy grace,
And in Thy Sacred Heart
I can rest"
(cf. The Poems of St Thérèse of Lisieux, "To the Sacred Heart", October 1895).

From Venerable Conchita Cabrera de Armida
"What a sublime thing is the priest! What immense predilection of God to choose these souls for his intimate service and to continue his work upon earth! Do not let one day go by without expressing your thanks for such a great favour. Of my seven children, you have received the best portion by the pure goodness of Jesus, who so greatly loves you that he has sent you such proofs of his love. And do you still doubt? Seek to love him and to make him loved; do not think of yourself but of him and abandon yourself like a child into his maternal arms, because his heart, the heart of Jesus, is profoundly maternal. Is it not true? With him, and with Mary Most Holy, what have we to fear? Take from that heart your happiness, your peace, your nourishment, your consolation, everything which you need: light, grace, fervour, recollection, and love, and live and die, be enflamed, and lose yourself in him. You faith must be eternal as the Mercy of God is eternal" (cf. Letters of a Mother, Conchita Cabrera).

Praise and Thanksgiving

From the Letter to the Ephesians
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.

For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory (Eph 1,3-12).

From the Psalms
O God, you are my God, whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
Thus I will bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet I will meditate on you:
That you are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
But they shall be destroyed who seek my life,
they shall go into the depths of the earth;
They shall be delivered over to the sword,
and shall be the prey of jackals (Ps 63[62]).

Prayer

O Jesus, how I wish that my heart lived solely in obedience to Your adorable Heart!
I will become more humble, more sweet, more charitable, from the moment that your Heart is admired especially for its sweetness, its humility, and charity.

When, O God, will You give me the grace to free myself of my miserable heart and give me Your own, if not in the sacrament of the Eucharist, supreme pledge of Your love?

May the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus be praised, adored, and thanked, in every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, until the end of time! Amen (St Francis de Sales).

One may conclude the time of meditation with the recitation of the "Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ Priest and Victim" that can be found in the Pope's book on the priesthood, Gift and Mystery.

One may also conclude with the Act of Entrustment and Consecration to Mary, by John Paul II at Fatima, 13 May 1991 (ORE 1991, n. 20, p. 7).

  • Created: 25 August 2008
  • Modified: 23 April 2009