Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Whom Do I Serve?

The opening prayer of the Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, the holy Mother of God references the Blessed Virgin Mary's "fruitful virginity". I don't remember the rest of the prayer because those two words echoed in my head until the first reading, as they continue now to echo in my heart.

Fruitful Virginity

Debates regarding the Catholic Church's position on chastity, which includes celibacy for single persons, are plentiful and mercurial. Try Googling "fruitful virginity" - I did. When I did I found debates, quotes from tonight's prayer, articles, and posts on Consecrated Virginity (in the priesthood, religious orders, and consecrated virgins), but nothing about the fruitful virginity of a single person who is not called to vowed religious life.

Is then the virginity of an unconsecrated person not fruitful?

Excuse me a moment while I "snort".

In 2008 Pope Benedict XIV received in audience around 500 consecrated Virgins. According to the Vatican Information Service's post on the audience, the Pope called their consecrated virginity "a gift in the Church and for the Church" and "he invited the women "to develop, from day to day, their understanding of a charism which is as luminous and fruitful in the eyes of the faith as it is obscure and futile in the eyes of the world". He then spoke of the history and ancient traditions of consecrated virginity and concluded saying "The choice of virginal life is an allusion to the transitory nature of earthly things and an anticipation of future good. Be witnesses of vigilant and industrious hope, of joy, of the peace that belongs to those who abandon themselves to the love of God. Be present in the world, yet pilgrims on the journey to the Kingdom".

Are these things not true of any single person who has chosen celibacy until marriage? Is it even necessary that one have never had sexual relations in order to offer their celibacy as a gift to and for the Church? Consecrated Virginity is a unique gift, and I mean in no way to belittle or diminish it, for it is an ancient and blessed tradition, but that doesn't mean that it is the only way in which virginity and celibacy can be offered to and for the Church.

I was first introduced in 2008 to a movement dedicated uniquely to the sanctification of priests called Spiritual Maternity. The USCCB distributed a Vatican document, Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity, which I read, printed, saved, and have read again more than once. I've even written about it before in this blog. A few years later a seminarian was assigned to our parish the summer before his Ordination, and I felt a particular calling to pray for him. Every day that year I prayed often throughout the day for him, and for other seminarians. I regret that after his ordination my diligence and dedication to pray for him faded.

Recently, Father David Abernathy, CO, Vice Provost and Novice Master for the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri has been sharing a new venture of the Oratorians, the Daughters of St. Philip Neri, Secular Oratorians Dedicated to Adoration, Reparation and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests.

According to the Little Catechism on Spiritual Motherhood for Priests posted on the Daughter's blog, "Any mature Catholic woman, already fully engaged in the sacramental life of the Church, can discern a call to the spiritual motherhood of priests. This spiritual motherhood can be lived in any state of life; it is open to single women, married women, mothers of families, widows, grandmothers, and religious in both the active and enclosed forms of consecrated life. None of its obligations bind under pain of sin. The vocation to the spiritual motherhood of priests is also compatible with the spirituality and obligations of Benedictine Oblates and of those who belong to one or another of the Third Orders: Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Servite, etc.

And now I'm back to fruitful virginity. Yes, spiritual motherhood can be lived in any state of life. But celibacy is luminous and fruitful. So for whom can my celibacy be a light? How can my celibacy be fruitful? Whom can I serve?

First and foremost, I serve God. I serve the Father Almighty, Creator of all that is visible and visible, and I serve the Lord Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man; Who for our sake was crucified, suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. I serve the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I serve God, Who is uniquely present to the world in the "alter Christus" - another Christ - the Priest who stands with us before God, offering our prayers to God and offering to us from God the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. And yet, how can I serve God Who has all, Who is all? He answered that question long before I ever asked it, when He said "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

The Catholic Church offers spiritual as well as physical works of mercy, that which we "do for the least of these," and not the least of which is prayer. I can serve God, offering my gift of fruitful virginity through prayer and sacrifice in particular for the sanctification and reparation of priests. What better use could my offering have than to be offered for those who "stand in the gap", those who pray for us, feed us, teach us, who pour out on us the gift of the Sacraments. I can think of no worthier cause than to serve the servants of God.

So on this Eve of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, I will begin discerning a vocation to Spiritual Motherhood for the sanctification and reparation of priests. And don't be confused, this is not a New Year's Resolution, this is a fiat, a "yes" to the Holy Spirit - "may it be done unto me according to thy word."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Service in Prayer and the Rosary for Priests

I am reading a book about Intrecessory Prayer for "Pastors, Christian Leaders, and others on the Spiritual Front lines". The author is not Catholic, but neither is he anti-Catholic, and in reading his book I learned first of all that being an Intercessor is a spiritual gift, and although not all have this gift (just as not all have the gift of preaching, or teaching, or hospitality, or evangelism, or tongues, etc...). yet all are called to fulfill the role of intercessor, especially for our family, our leaders, and our pastors... in the case of Catholics, our priests.

This book has been sitting in a drawer for months, and I find it no coincidence that I happened to come across it again at this time, when the Catholic Church is preparing to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Pope Benedict's Ordination to the Holy Priesthood. I haven't finished the book, and I look forward to reading more about intercession, and how to be an intercessor, but tonight while praying before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament I tried to "just intercede" for Pope Benedict, for our Bishops, and for priests that I know... suffice to say I ran out of things to ask God for on behalf of them pretty quickly. Granted, I'm a novice intercessor in this way, and I typically pray for priests using one of the many-many prayer cards I collected during the Year for Priests or using The Chalice of Strength, a book full of prayers for priests, but then I remembered the best intercessory weapon in a Catholic's Spiritual Arsenal: The Rosary.

I'm sure that somewhere out there in the world of Catholic books, devotions, and ways to pray the Rosary there is a Rosary for Priests, but obviously I didn't have one with me, and I didn't need one. Here is my Rosary for Priests.

Praying as normal with only one substitution in the Hail Mary, I prayed the following mysteries:

The Agony in the Garden: That priests will spend at least one hour with Jesus in prayer each day.
The Scourging at the Pillar: For those priests who suffer persecution, and even torture.
The Crowning with Thorns: For priests who suffer.
Carrying the Cross: For those priests who have fallen, that they will be sent a Simon.
The Crucifixion: That priests will put to death whatever is sinful.

I prayed the Hail Mary as follows:
Hail Mary, full of grace...
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for our priests, now and until the hour they enter heaven.

From the book I mentioned I learned that "Intercessor" comes from the Latin "inter" meaning "between" and "cedere" meaning "to go", and means "to go between" or stand inbetween, as in "standing in the gap", standing between. I can think of no greater service we can offer our priests than to stand in the gap on their behalf, both in lifting them up to God, and in shielding them from the attacks of the evil one... In fact, the book's title is "Prayer Shield".

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Garden and the Desert

A friend of mine, who gave me permission to share, shared with our women's prayer group a stunning realization from this Sunday's readings (The First Sunday of Lent) from Genesis and Matthew. Perhaps it's something we should have all realized before, but none of us did, and it is this...

In the second reading, from Romans, Paul compared the fall of Adam to the redemption brought by Christ, disobedience to obedience, but there's more- In the Desert, Jesus reversed every temptation Adam and Eve accepted.

In the Garden, the serpent tempted Eve to eat; "The woman saw that the tree was good for food".
In the Desert, Jesus faced the same temptation when the devil said "...command that these stones become loaves of bread."

In the Garden, the serpent assured Eve that "You certainly will not die!"
In the Desert, Jesus was told " throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you..."

In the Garden, the serpent said to Eve, and to Adam who was with her, "you will be like gods..."
And in the Desert, Jesus was offered "all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence".

To be sated, to avoid or conquer death, to have power. Each of these temptations was put before Adam and Eve and before Jesus. Adam and Eve sinned. Jesus did not.

Ironically, Adam and Eve were probably already sated, especially as compared to Jesus who had been fasting for 40 Days. And yet the first thing Eve noticed was that "the tree was good for food". Yes, it was "pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom", but first and foremost it looked good to eat.

Is it any surprise, is it not then twice as fitting, that our Lent should begin, end, and include all throughout it, fasting and abstaining... not eating of some kind? Meat on Fridays is not bad, eating three meals a day is not bad, food in and of itself is not bad. And yet, food was the tempter's tool for the first sin, and continues to be a tool for sin in the lives of many... perhaps in the lives of us all? After all, in "The Screwtape Letters" C.S. Lewis, through his diabolical characters, posited the idea that there is a gluttony not just of quantity, but of quality, when we will only be satisfied by just the right temperature/texture/taste.

So are you in the Garden or the Desert this Lent? I know that now, a week into this year's Lent, I am rethinking and reconsidering my Lenten fasts.