by on February 27th, 2018

Starting this month, each month here on the blog we'll publish suggested Prayer of the Faithful that could be included in Mass each Sunday, and shared via social media, parish bulletins, websites, etc.

4th March: The Third Sunday of Lent
That all those seeking to discover their vocation in Christ will take heart in the faith that He is the Lord our God and calls them to the glorious perfection of love…
11th March: The Fourth Sunday of Lent
That God, who is rich in mercy, will bless those called by Jesus to serve Him and His Church as priests with faithfulness to that call…
17th March: St. Patrick
That, through the intercession of Saint Patrick, those discerning the call to priesthood in our archdiocese may experience the guiding and wise presence of Christ with them on their journey…
18th March: The Fifth Sunday of Lent
That God’s name will be glorified by the faithful love of those being called by Christ to serve and follow Him as priests…
25th March: Palm Sunday
That in imitation of Christ who emptied Himself for our salvation, those being called to priesthood will share in His passion for souls…
29th March: Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
That as a community of disciples, we may encourage those discerning the call to a life of service and humility as priests…
1st April: Easter Sunday
That more men within our community will joyfully answer the call of the Lord to proclaim His life, death and resurrection as priests…

(Image of man at prayer:

by on February 20th, 2018

Recently, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the Community of the Pontifical Regional Seminary of Sardinia, on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of its founding.
The following is the text of the Pope’s address to those present:

Address of the Holy Father

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear educators and students!

I welcome you on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Regional Seminary of Sardinia. It was Pope Pius XI who solicited the Italian bishops, especially from the centre-south and the islands, to agree on the concentration of the seminaries, in order to provide for the education of aspirants to the priesthood. In your Region the Seminary was first established in Cuglieri, together with the Theological Faculty; later it was transferred to the regional capital. I greet you all with affection, beginning with your Pastors, especially the archbishop of Cagliari, Msgr. Arrigo Miglio, whom I thank for his words.

On this occasion I would like to join you in praising the Lord, Who in these years has accompanied with His grace the life of the many priests formed in this important educational institution dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It has given the Church many committed ministers in your local Churches, in the mission ad gentes and in other services to the universal Church. May this commemoration give new impetus to the pastoral care of vocations, and to an up-to-date and careful formation of candidates for the sacred Order, for the benefit of God’s people.

Dear seminarians, you are preparing to become, one day, workers in the harvest of the Lord, priests who know how to work together, even among different dioceses. This is particularly valuable for a region like Sardinia, steeped in faith and Christian religious traditions, and which, also due to its island nature, requires special care for the relations between the different diocesan communities. Today’s material and spiritual poverty makes even more important what has always been required: namely, that pastors are attentive to the poor, and capable of being with them, with a simple lifestyle, so that the poor feel that our churches are first of all their home. I encourage you to prepare yourself now to become priests of the people and to the people, not dominators of the flock entrusted to you (cf. 1 Pt 5,3), but servants. There is a great need for men of God who look to the essential, who lead a sober and transparent life, without nostalgia for the past but capable of looking forward according to the healthy tradition of the Church.

In these years of preparation for the ordained ministry, you are experiencing a special and unrepeatable moment in your life. May you be ever more aware of the grace the Lord has granted you by making resonate in you the invitation to leave everything and follow Him, to be with Him so as to be sent to preach (cf. Mt 4: 19-20, Mk 3:14). The hopes of the Church in Sardinia are placed in you, in a special way! Your bishops follow you with affection and concern, counting heavily on you and your resolve to conform to Jesus Good Shepherd for the good and holiness of the Christian communities of your region. Walk with joy, tenacity and seriousness in this journey of formation, to take on the form of apostolic life, which is able to respond to today’s demands of evangelization.

The seminary, prior to and more than being an institution functional to the acquisition of theological and pastoral skills and a place of common life and study, is a genuine ecclesial experience, a singular community of missionary disciples, called to follow closely the Lord Jesus, to be with Him day and night, to share the mystery of His Cross and Resurrection, to be exposed to the Word and the Spirit, to verify and mature the specific traits of apostolic following. From now on, it is up to you to prepare yourselves adequately to be able to make a free and irrevocable choice of total fidelity to Christ, to His Church and to your vocation and mission.

The seminary is the school of this fidelity, which is learned first of all in prayer, especially in the liturgical one. At this time friendship with Jesus is cultivated, centred in the Eucharist and nourished by contemplation and the study of the Holy Scriptures. You can not exercise the ministry well if you do not live in union with Christ. Without Him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15: 5).
In the journey of the seminary the role of formators is decisive: the quality of the presbytery depends largely on the commitment of those who are responsible for formation. They are called to work with rectitude and wisdom for the development of coherent and balanced personalities, capable of validly assuming, and then responsibly fulfilling, the priestly mission. In this delicate work of formation, your seminary also carries out an indispensable service to the dioceses, enhancing the quality of the formation of the clergy and communion among the Churches.

I entrust you all to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Bonaria. From experience I can tell you that time in the seminary is a privileged moment in which we experience this loving presence of Our Lady in our life. She always watches with thoughtful love on each one of you. She is your mother. Turn to Mary often and trustfully. I assure all of you of my prayer and my blessing. And please, I ask you to pray for me.

(Source of article: ​;
Image: ​

by on January 29th, 2018

​So maybe you’ve decided to make the leap and attend seminary. You have spoken to your vocation director and maybe to your bishop. Or maybe you think you ought to give seminary a try, but you’re feeling too intimidated by how shrouded in mystery the whole process seems to be.

I remember when I finally decided to apply, I was pretty consistently baffled by what was supposed to be happening next, and what being a seminarian was actually going to be like. In fact, I would say that most of the experience was actually a surprise, and even the things that I expected didn’t happen in the way that I expected.Here are three things to know:

1) People will treat you differently
This will start as soon as people hear that you’ve begun the application process.
Even with everything that has happened, people still love priests and the priesthood. The reason for this is that they love Jesus and they know that the priesthood is the way that Jesus has chosen to stay with them. They will treat you accordingly. This is a beautiful thing and it should be a cause of great joy for you to see how devoted the people still are to their priests.
It is very critical to remember, however, that Jesus and the sacraments are the reason people are treating you so differently, not because of your awesome personal accomplishments, and certainly not because you are actually better than them in any way.

This reality will hit you very hard pretty early on, and may cause some struggle because you know your own interior life and you know what a miserable sinner you still are. This is a good thing, and you should be very concerned for your spiritual health if it ever completely stops bothering you. I’ll never forget the first time I put on the collar and looked in the mirror it struck me immediately that nothing magical happens. You are still you, warts and all.
With that in mind, be aware that people are going to treat you as if a) You have no faults or sins, b) You are an expert in all matters spiritual and doctrinal (especially moral!), and c) You are an impenetrable fortress of commitment to celibacy, incapable of being tempted or developing romantic feelings for anyone. Hopefully, you have enough self-knowledge to realize that none of these are reality. It goes without saying that without constant self-checks and being committed to holding nothing back from your spiritual director, any one of these things will be poison to your soul if you start to believe your own hype.

The last of those three things deserves more attention. When you apply to seminary you will notice that your interactions with women will change almost instantly. Because you have made a temporary commitment to celibacy (which is definitely a good thing), women in your life will suddenly see you as emotionally available and eminently trustworthy with their intimate feelings. Be very, very careful here. You may find yourself invited into the intimate places of women’s hearts where you really shouldn’t be, since you are neither their boyfriend nor their spiritual director.

Regarding interactions with the opposite sex, I would recommend being very diligent in paying attention to the what your actions tell you in terms of your commitment to celibacy. Just because you enjoy female attention doesn’t mean you’re not called to celibacy – that’s completely natural – it’s just that if you are called to celibacy it’s something you’re going to have to learn to exercise great caution around. Also, tell your spiritual director everything. If you have cultivated a relationship with someone that is starting to cross some boundaries (even just emotionally) you need to bring that to your director. Failure to do so is a recipe for a spiritual and potentially, moral, disaster.

2) You will be scandalized
Just like the society of people at large, any collection of people from that society are going to have all the same problems, sins, and vices as the population in general. And I do mean pretty much all the same sins. Perhaps the fact that some of the them are happening inside the Church makes them worse or more scandalous, but the reality is what it is. I think a lot of young men enter seminary with the expectation that they will suddenly stop struggling with the sins of their past and that everyone else there will be very pious and virtuous.

Don’t get me wrong, you will meet some of the most authentically holy and saintly people you’ll ever know in the seminary. However, you will also meet men who are bishops, or priests, or who are about to be priests whom you know (because of your proximity to their lives) to be at least as flawed and sinful as you are. Realizing and accepting this is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it can be an opportunity for great spiritual maturation. You will be forced to separate your notion of the holiness of the Church and of the Priesthood from the holiness (or lack thereof) in the individuals who occupy the Church, even at the highest levels of authority.
Working and living inside the institutional structure of the Church can be one of the greatest tests of faith a Christian can endure. For that reason, it can also be one of the greatest opportunities for growth available. You will experience the dissonance between the things that people say about the Church from the outside and the things you know to be true on the inside. Faith tells us that Jesus is in charge of His Church and nothing can stop it from enduring. You will be made to cling to this truth in a new way when you go to seminary.

3) You will learn to pray like you never have before
I thought I had a pretty decent prayer and sacramental life before I went to seminary, and by most people’s standards, I did. Something I found in seminary was that not only was I taught methods and forced into habits of prayer that were totally new, but I found myself impelled by the difficulty of the situations I faced, and simply by taking my discernment seriously, into praying with greater fervor and intensity than I ever had before. This is true especially if your seminary offers a Spirituality Year and a long Ignatian retreat as mine did. This habit of prayer will be indispensable for both the discernment of your vocation itself and the strengthening of your ability to do God’s will.

With this great gift, however, comes the great responsibility of remaining mindful that this spiritual gift is especially for you, here and now in your life. God neither expects nor wants all of the faithful to have the same kind of prayer life and practices that you are building. You will have to combat the temptation to think that other people are somehow spiritually inferior or know less about God’s will for their lives because they don’t pray in the same way or as much as you do. God gives graces as He chooses to, and He wants you to receive grace in the way that he’s planned for you.

Overall, seminary can be a great time of grace and maturing as a Christian man. The best advice I think I can give to anyone planning to go to seminary is to keep your grasp on reality. Don’t become so cynical and bitter that all you can see is how terrible everything is all the time, but don’t become such a Pious Pollyanna that you refuse to acknowledge evil and dysfunction when it’s staring you in the face.

In short, be the man God made you to be and then He’ll make you into the Priest He wants you to be. Don’t worry about anything, because if Jesus Christ wants you to be His priest, then no power on earth or in hell can stop that from happening.

(Article taken from ​; Image from ​J Voitus, Flickr)

by on November 8th, 2017

With thanks to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

What do parents have to say about their sons call to the priesthood?

We took the opportunity to interview a few wonderful parents to learn more about the call to become a Catholic priest and the transformation of their son.

Gratefully filmed by US Digital Partners for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Filmed on location at St. William Church in Cincinnati, OH. ​

by on August 31st, 2017

​At his weekly public audience on August 30, Pope Francis said that “the joy of the encounter with Jesus” is the first indication of one’s vocation.

Pope Francis based his catechetical talk on the St. John’s account of Christ’s call to the first apostles (Jn 1:39). He remarked that the encounter remained always vivid in the apostles’ memories; the Gospel mentions the time of day when it took place.

Those first two apostles not only followed Jesus, but “immediately they became missionaries,” the Holy Father observed. Sts. Andrew and John quickly recruited Sts. Peter and James.

These apostles, the Pope continued, were “young men, searching, healthily restless.” He added that young people are characteristically restless, saying: “The young who seek nothing are not young; they have become pensioners; they have aged before their time.”

Addressing the young people in the audience, the Pontiff said: “I too would like to ask the young people here in the square today, and those who listen via the media: ‘You, who are young, what are you seeking? What are you looking for in your heart?’”

Regarding the call for all Christians to be evangelists, the Pope said that the work is not carried out “by honing the instruments of rhetoric.” The key, he said, is “keeping in our eyes the glimmer of true happiness.” He encouraged young people especially to “cultivate healthy utopias.”

Pope Francis insisted on the importance of maintaining a hopeful attitude in order to attract others:

"Please, I advise you: let us not listen to those who are disappointed and unhappy; let us not listen to those who cynically advise us not to cultivate hope in life; let us not trust in those who dampen every enthusiasm at the outset, saying that no enterprise is worth sacrificing all of life for; let us not listen to the “aged” of heart who suffocate youthful euphoria."

(Article first appeared here: ​

(Image: ​

by on August 9th, 2017

​Bishop Brendan Kelly ordains Rev Declan Lohan, a former barrister and member of the Legion of Mary and Youth 2000, to the priesthood for ministry in the Diocese of Galway.

“We’re not priests in order to fix the world, or anybody in it. We are priests because God has called us,” Bishop Brendan Kelly told the congregation of family and friends who gathered in Oranmore parish, Co. Galway on Sunday for the ordination of Fr Declan Lohan.

The former barrister and member of the Legion of Mary and Youth 2000 is the first priest the parish has produced. The Bishop of Achonry told the congregation, which included up to 60 priests, that the implements that build up the community of Jesus Christ are poverty and detachment, and freedom in the face of the powers of the world.

“These are the implements of the priestly trade. These were Jesus’ implements, the tools of his trade, for which at the age of thirty he laid aside the tools of his training in the carpenter’s shed at Nazareth.”

Dr Kelly referred to Fr Lohan’s decision to set aside his first trade in law to follow Jesus as a priest, with and for the people of God in the Diocese of Galway. “Your priesthood and shepherding will be enhanced by your first training, just as the experience of being wood-worker was never lost on Jesus,” he said.

He thanked the young priest on behalf of the Diocese of Galway and thanked God for the quiet persistence with which he “planted that good seed of your vocation and gathered you into a community in which you could hear his call.”

On poverty and detachment, Bishop Kelly referred to Pope Francis’ words to priests, religious and seminarians in Havana in September of 2015, when he told them “to love poverty like a mother”.

He said “That’s not the message the world gives, nor any of us want to hear maybe. And then, when you think a mother gives life and unconditional love, isn’t the Pope saying that it is out of our poverty and detachment that we become life-givers?”

Addressing Fr Lohan, he said, “As a priest, the witness of your life will be everything. The rituals you perform, the clothes you will wear have their significance, but what people will see above all is the life you live, the way you relate. And as a priest, your work will be the work of building community.”

He said that in these times when all institutions and traditional sources of authority and wisdom are doubted and under severe scrutiny, witness and example in the matter of faith become far more significant.

“This is true for all followers of Jesus Christ, but especially for those of us called to the service of priesthood. Such witness will expose us to opposition, even ridicule and possibly danger. Never forget what Saint Paul says today: The spirit comes to help us in our weakness.”
He recalled Pope Paul VI’s words when he said that “It is  … primarily by her conduct and life that the church will evangelise [bring the Good News to] the world, in other words by her living witness to the Lord Jesus, the living witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world …”

(Originally appeared here: ​

by on August 8th, 2017

​Ireland’s youngest priest takes up his new position as a curate in Portlaoise this week – the first time he will lived on his own as he makes his transition into his new surroundings.

Fr David Vard (25) was ordained in his hometown of Newbridge by Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin last month surrounded by his proud family and friends.

He is hoping to use his age and love of social media to appeal to a younger generation.
The Newbridge native who takes up his new post as a curate in Portlaoise Parish today, says that while he was not a regular Mass-goer as a teenager, a trip to Lourdes changed this and ultimately put him on his spiritual path.

“What I discovered in Lourdes was a real love, not just for the church and going to Mass, but for each other. I quickly realised that the source of this love for each other was the same thing, God,” Fr Vard told The Irish Times.

Fr Vard entered St Patrick’s College in Maynooth after his Leaving Certificate, in 2010 at Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge.

“I was 16 when I went to Lourdes and was one of the first times that I was away from home. I had a very honest conversation with our old parish priest, while I was there. I asked him questions like had he ever wanted a family, or did he regret being a priest. He answered honestly and a very small seed of thought entered my head.”

That seed of thought festered for more than a year but never left the young priest, and it was at 17 that he knew he had a calling.“Lourdes was the point in my life that changed; a lot of things in my life have pointed me in this direction, subtly. My favourite quote from the bible is ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.’ That’s from Jeremiah.

​“Some people say it’s a young life I have led and I don’t know anything but it is God that has brought me here. It’s taught me a lot of hard but good lessons.”

Fr Vard is one of three children. “I’m smack bang in the middle and I have two sisters. Rebecca is my older sister and Charlotte is my younger sister,” says Fr Vard. “I first told my mother Liz on April Fool’s day when I was 17 and she cried so I told her it was a joke, but a few weeks later I told her it wasn’t a joke. I never remember telling my father David, it just kind of came out.
“My mother could see the change in me when I came back from Lourdes but she later told me it was the same cry she would have had if I was going to be married. They were tears for me growing up.”

Telling his friends in school was also an easy thing for the young priest, as he told them during a night out and they were accepting. “This was 2010, and all my close friends were happy for me. We were all going off on our own journey. They were more surprised that it took seven years for me to become a priest,” smiles Fr Vard.

Moving to Portlaoise is an exciting move for the young curate who has never lived on his own before.“I’ve never had to do stuff like pay a bill and I’m not a great cook but it’s going to be interesting. There are a lot of challenges ahead but this is my path. I feel more pressure to be a priest rather than that I’m 25.

“I like music and hanging out, I play tennis and I golf and enjoy social media. Maybe I’ll become the Snapchat priest of Ireland where I can reach more people,” adds Fr Vard.

The new curate says that he has great admiration for Pope Francis and the fact that he has taken his message to social media.“The pope is a great inspiration of how to reach out to a new generation. I hope that people will be able to come to me to seek advice and guidance and not see my age as a deterrent. “The fact that the pope is on Twitter and Instagram is something new and refreshing about the Catholic Church. It’s not something that we have seen in the past, the pontiff speaks from the mind.”

Fr Vard recalls his time training at Maynooth and the seven-year journey it has taken him to become a priest. “I made some very good friends very quickly in Maynooth but I suppose it was a little strange. I was 18 and the oldest in my class was 65, so there was a bit of a difference.

“There was only 15 of us so you’re very close, there was one time when I was doing my pastoral placement and ours was in a nursing home. There was me in my early 20s, the 65-year-old and a 30-something trainee priest. We looked like a family coming in to visit, the dad, son and grandson,” laughs Fr Vard.

Carrying on the family name was something that may have been a little difficult for his family.
“I guess carrying on the family name is something all parents want their children to do. The fact that I have two sisters means that my family namesake ends with me, but I have a firm belief that this is my path in life.”

Fr Vard says he looks forward to the moments that lie ahead for him in his new parish in Portlaoise and welcomes the challenges ahead.

(Originally published here: ​

by on August 7th, 2017

​Why should we say prayers for the priests in our lives? Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, once said, “After God, the priest is everything.”

Priests serve Christ’s Church here on earth daily through the Mass and sacraments. In confession they stand in persona Christi and work with Christ to bring us forgiveness from our sins.

We must pray for priests everyday—especially because of the deep hatred Satan has for priests. Christ Himself instituted the priesthood for the Church here on earth, so naturally, the devil hates the men Christ has chosen to continue to bring light and truth to the world.  He continuously works to separate them from the grace of God.

After their ordination, all priests have an indelible mark on their souls. This mark makes priests prime targets for the devil and his evil ways.  Here are six prayers (from some of our favorite saints!) to say today to intercede for our shepherds here on earth.


1. St. Therese of Lisieux’s Prayer for Priests

O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.

Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.

Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.

Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.

Let Your holy love surround them and
shield them from the world’s contagion.

Bless their labors with abundant fruit and
may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and
everlasting crown. 


2. St.John Vianney’s Prayer for Priests

God, please give to your Church today
many more priests after your own heart.

May they be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd.
May they wholeheartedly devote themselves to prayer and penance;
be examples of humility and poverty;
shining models of holiness;
tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God;
zealous dispensers of your grace in the sacraments.

May their loving devotion to your Son Jesus in the Eucharist
and to Mary his Mother be the twin fountains of fruitfulness for their ministry.


3. St. Pope John Paul II’s Prayer for Priests to Our Blessed Mother

Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of priests,

Accept this title which we bestow on you to celebrate your motherhood 
and to contemplate with you the priesthood of your Son and of your sons, 
O holy Mother of God.

Mother of Christ, 
to the Messiah Priest you gave a body of flesh 
through the anointing of the Holy Spirit 
for the salvation of the poor and the contrite of heart; 
guard priests in your heart and in the Church, 
O Mother of the Savior.

Mother of Faith, 
you accompanied to the Temple the Son of Man, 
the fulfillment of the promises given to the fathers; 
give to the Father for his glory the priests of your Son, 
O Ark of the Covenant.

Mother of the Church, 
with the disciples in the Upper Room 
you prayed to the Spirit for the new People and their shepherds; 
obtain for the Order of Presbyters a fullness of gifts, 
O Queen of the Apostles.

Mother of Jesus Christ, 
you were with Him at the beginning of His life and of His mission, 
you sought the Master among the crowd, 
you stood beside Him when he was lifted up from the earth 
consumed as the one eternal sacrifice, 
and you had John close by you, your son; 
accept from the beginning those who have been called, 
protect their growth, accompany your sons in their life and in their ministry, 
O Mother of Priests. 

4. St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Prayer for Priests
Mary, Mother of Jesus, throw your mantle of purity over our priests.

Protect them, guide them, and keep them in your heart. 
Be a Mother to them, especially in times of discouragement and loneliness. 
Love them and keep them belonging completely to Jesus. 
Like Jesus, they, too, are your sons, so keep their hearts pure and virginal. 
Keep their minds filled with Jesus, and put Jesus always on their lips, 
so that he is the one they offer to sinner and to all they meet. 
Mary, Mother of Jesus, be their Mother, 
loving them and bringing them joy. 
Take special care of sick and dying priests, and the ones most tempted. 
Remember how they spent their youth and old age, 
their entire lives serving and giving all to Jesus. 
Mary, bless them and keep a special place for them in your heart. 
Give them a piece of your heart, so beautiful and pure and immaculate, 
so full of love and humility, so that they, too, can grow in the likeness of Christ. 
Dear Mary, make them humble like you, and holy like Jesus. 

5. Fr. Benedict’s Prayer for Priests
Lord Jesus Christ, eternal High Priest,
You offered yourself to the Father on the altar of the Cross 
and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 
gave Your priestly people a share in Your redeeming sacrifice. 
Hear our prayer for the sanctification of our priests. 
Grant that all who are ordained to the ministerial priesthood 
may be ever more conformed to You, the Divine Master. 
May they preach the Gospel with pure heart and clear conscience.
Let them be shepherds according to Your own Heart, 
single-minded in service to You and to the Church 
and shining examples of a holy, simple and joyful life. 
Through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother and ours,
draw all priests and the flocks entrusted to their care 
to the fullness of eternal life where you live and reign 
with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

6. St. Faustina’s Prayer for Priests
Heavenly Father, grant that our priests be strengthened and healed
by the power of the Eucharist they celebrate. 
May the Word they proclaim give them courage and wisdom.
We pray that all those whom they seek to serve 
May see in them the love and care of Jesus, 
Our Eternal High Priest, who is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.
Mary, Mother of the Church, look tenderly upon your sons, our priests. 
St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us all.
8. O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church:
Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit 
and give power to the words of priests 
so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance 
and return to You, O Lord.
Lord, give us holy priests; 
You Yourself maintain them in holiness. 
O Divine and Great High Priest, 
may the power of Your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them 
from the devil’s snares which are continually being set for the souls of priests. 
May the power of Your mercy, O Lord, 
shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of priests, 
for You can do all things.      

(Original article appeared on ​

by on March 19th, 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with participants at an annual course on the internal forum, organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary.In his words to the group, the Pope spoke about the formation of good confessors, focusing on three characteristics which should guide their work.

​Firstly, Pope Francis said, a good confessor is a true friend of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and a person dedicated to prayer. A Ministry of Reconciliation "bound up in prayer", he said, is a credible reflection of God's mercy and will “avoid the harshness and misunderstandings” that are sometimes associated with the Sacrament. Prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin, he said. Pope Francis told participants that they cannot forgive through the Sacrament without the awareness of first having been forgiven themselves. He urged them to pray for humility and “the gift of a wounded heart” so that they are able to understand other people's wounds and heal them with the oil of mercy.

Secondly, the Pope said the good confessor is a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church through a lack of discernment, he added. Discernment, he insisted,  enables a confessor to distinguish and not "tar all with the same brush" despite the many different and delicate situations people bring to the confessional.
Pope Francis said that if a confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances, confirmed through a ”healthy collaboration” with specialists in human sciences, he must not hesitate to refer the issue to an exorcist, chosen with “great care and great prudence”.

Finally, Pope Francis concluded, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization and thus of formation. In the brief dialogue that is woven with the penitent, he said the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister. He stressed that confession is a real pastoral priority and he urged them never to limit the availability of the Sacrament to anyone who comes asking for it.

Please find below the English translation of Pope Francis’ address
Dear brothers,
I am pleased to meet you in this first audience with you after the Jubilee of Mercy, on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum. I address warm greetings to the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, and thank him for his kind remarks. I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and the staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of the ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the Papal Basilicas in Rome, and all of you, participants in this course.
In reality, I admit, this Penitentiary is the type of Tribunal I truly like! It is a “tribunal of mercy”, to which we turn to obtain that indispensable medicine that is divine mercy.

Your course on the internal forum, which contributes to the formation of good confessors, is more useful than ever, and I would say even necessary in our times. Certainly, one does not become a good confessor thanks to a course, no: that of the confessional is a long education, that lasts a lifetime. But who is a “good confessor”? How does one become a good confessor?
I would like to indicate, in this respect, three aspects.

1. The “good confessor” is, first of all, a true friend of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without this friendship, it will be difficult to develop that fatherliness so necessary in the ministry of Reconciliation. Being friends of Jesus means first of all cultivating prayer: both personal prayer with the Lord, incessantly asking for the gift of pastoral charity, and the specific prayer for the exercise of the task of the confessor and for the faithful, brothers and sisters who come to us in search of God’s mercy.
A ministry of Reconciliation “bound in prayer” will be a credible response to God’s mercy, and will avoid the harshness and misunderstandings that at times can be generated even in the Sacramental encounter. A confessor who prays is well aware of being the first sinner and the first to be forgiven. One cannot forgive in the Sacrament without the awareness of having been forgiven first. Therefore, prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin.
In prayer it is necessary to implore the gift of a wounded heart, able to comprehend the wounds of others and to heal them with the oil of mercy, that which the good Samaritan poured on the wounds of the poor victim on whom no-one took pity (cf. Luke, 10:34).
In prayer we must ask for the precious gift of humility, so that it may appear increasingly clear that forgiveness is a free and supernatural gift of God, of which we are simple, if necessary, administrators, by the very will of Jesus; and He will certainly be glad if we make extensive use of His mercy.
In prayer, then, let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of discernment and compassion. The Spirit enables us to empathise with the sufferings of our sisters and brothers who enter the confessional, and to accompany them with prudent and mature discernment and with true compassion in their sufferings, caused by the poverty of sin.

2. The good confessor is, in second place, a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church by a lack of discernment! How much harm is done to souls by a way of acting that is not rooted in humbly listening to Holy Spirit and to God’s will. The confessor does not act according to his own will and does not teach his own doctrine. He is called always to do the will of God alone, in full communion with the Church, of whom he is the minister, that is, a servant.
Discernment allows us always to distinguish, rather than confuse, and to never “tar all with the same brush”. Discernment educates our outlook and our heart, enabling that delicacy of spirit that is so necessary before those who open up the shrine of their own conscience, to receive light, peace and mercy.
Discernment is necessary also because those who approach the confessional may come from the most desperate situations; they could also have spiritual disturbances, whose nature should be submitted to careful discernment, taking into account all the existential, ecclesial, natural and supernatural circumstances. When the confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances – that may be in large part psychic, and therefore must be confirmed by means of healthy collaboration with the human sciences – he must not hesitate to refer the issue to those who, in the diocese, are charged with this delicate and necessary ministry, namely, exorcists. But these must be chosen with great care and great prudence.

3. Finally, the confessional is also a true place of evangelisation. Indeed, there is no evangelisation more authentic than the encounter with the God of mercy, with the God Who is Mercy. Encountering mercy means encountering the true face of God, just as the Lord Jesus revealed Him to us.
The confessional is therefore a place of evangelisation and thus of formation. In the dialogue that is woven with the penitent – although brief – the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister; at times it becomes necessary to re-proclaim the most elementary truths of faith, the incandescent nucleus, the kerygma, without which the same experience of God’s love and His mercy would remain as if mute; at times it means indicating the foundations of moral life, always in relation to the truth, good and the will of God. It is a work of prompt and intelligent discernment, that can be of great benefit to the faithful.
The confessor, indeed, is called every day to venture to the “peripheries of evil and sin” – this is an ugly periphery! - and his work is a real pastoral priority. Confessing is a pastoral priority. Please, do not let there be those signs that say, “Confessions only on Monday and Wednesday at such-and-such a time”. One confesses whenever one is asked. And if you are there [in the confessional] praying, stay with the confessional open, which is the open heart of God.

Dear brothers, I bless you and I hope that you will be good confessors, immersed in the relationship with Christ, capable of discernment in the Holy Spirit and ready to seize the opportunity to evangelise.
Always pray for your brothers and sisters who seek the Sacrament of forgiveness. And please, pray for me too.

And I would not like to finish without something that came to mind when the Cardinal Prefect spoke. He spoke about keys, and about Our Lady, and I liked this, so I will tell you something … two things. It was very good for me when I was young to read the book of Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori on Our Lady: “The Glories of Mary”. Always, at the end of each chapter, there was a miracle of the Madonna, who entered into life and sorted things out. And the second thing. On Our Lady there is a legend, a tradition that they told me exists in the South of Italy: Our Lady of the Mandarins. It is a land where there are many mandarins, isn’t it? And they say that she is the patroness of thieves [laughter]. They say that thieves go to pray there. And the legend – they say – is that the thieves who pray to Our Lady of the Mandarins, when they die, they form a line in front of Saint Peter who has the keys, and opens and lets one pass, then he lets another one pass; and the Madonna, when she sees one of these, makes a sign for them to hide. Then, once everyone has passed by, Peter closes up and comes during the night, and the Madonna calls him from the window, and lets him enter through the window. It is a folk tale but it is beautiful: forgiving with the Mother next to you, forgiving with the Mother. Because this woman, this man who comes to the confessional, has a Mother in Heaven who opens the door and will help them at that moment to enter Heaven. Always the Madonna, because the Madonna helps us too in showing mercy. I thank the Cardinal for these two signs: the keys, and Our Lady. Many thanks.

I invite you – it is time – to pray the Angelus together. “Angelus Domini…”


Don’t say that thieves go to Heaven! Don’t say this! [laughter]

(Article first appeared here (accessed March 19, 2017):

by on March 5th, 2017

​The Pope meets the clergy of his diocese in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, 02.03.2017

This morning in the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome, the Holy Father met with the clergy of his diocese during the traditional encounter at the beginning of Lent. During the meeting, the Pope read his meditation on “The progress of faith in the life of the priest”, in whch he lists a series of guidelines for following the path of continuing formation and maturity in faith, valid for the disciple, the missionary, the seminarian, the priest and the bishop. “Fundamentally it is the virtuous cycle referred to in the Aparecida Document that led to the coining of the phrase ‘missionary disciple’”, he said.

“To live, grow and persevere in faith, we must nurture it with the Word of God”, he continued. “We must ask the Lord to increase it. It is a faith that must work by means of charity, sustained by hope and rooted in the faith of the Church”.

Memory, as the Catechism tells us, is rooted in the faith of our forefathers, and making memory of past graces confers to our faith the solidity of the incarnation; it situates it within a history, the history of the faith of our fathers. We, “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”, look at what they look at, and “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”.
Hope is what opens faith to the surprises of God, “Our God is always greater than all that we can think or imagine of Him, than what belongs to Him and His way of acting in history. The opening up of hope brings freshness and vision to our faith”.

Discernment, finally, is what concretises faith, making it work through love, what enables it to give credible witness. Discernment of the opportune moment (kairos), as the Holy Father observed, is “fundamentally rich in memory and hope: recalling with love, it directs its gaze with lucidity at what best guides the Promise. And what guides best is always in relation with the cross. With that dispossession of will, with that inner drama of ‘not as I will but as you will’, that places me in the hands of the Father and ensures that it is He Who guides my life”.

The second part of the Pope’s address focused on the figure of St. Peter, “sifted like wheat” by the Lord, so that with his tested faith he confirmed all of us who though we have not seen Christ, love Him. “The faith of Simon Peter has a special nature: it is a faith that was subject to trials, and with it he had the mission of confirming and consolidating the faith of his brothers, our faith”. Simon Peter’s faith has moments of greatness, such as when he confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, but these moments are followed almost immediately by others of great error, of extreme fragility and total confusion, such as when he tries to distance Jesus from the cross, when he began to sink in the lake and his three denials of Jesus.

Temptation is always present in the life of Simon Peter. He teaches us, in the first person, how faith progresses through confession and allowing oneself to be tested. “And also showing that sin itself enters into the progress of faith. Peter has committed the worst sin – denying the Lord – and they made him Pope nonetheless. It is important for a priest to know how to position his own temptations and his own sins in the scope of that prayer of Jesus that our faith not fail us, but that it instead mature and serve to strengthen the faith of others entrusted to him.

“What helps in the growth of faith is keeping together one’s own sin, the desire for the good of others, the help we receive and what we must give. It does not serve to divide: it has no value to feel perfect when we carry out our ministry and, when we sin, justify ourselves with the fact that we are like all the others. We must unite these things: if we strengthen the faith of others, we do so as sinners. And when we sin, we confess for what we are, priests, underlining that we have a responsibility towards people; we are not like everyone else. These two things unite well if we place the people before us: our sheep, the poorest especially. It is what Jesus does when He asks Simon Peter if he loves Him, saying nothing of the pain or the joy that this love causes him, He makes him look to his brothers in this way: feed my sheep, confirm the faith of your brothers”.
“Our elders said to us that faith grows in acts of faith. Simon Peter is the icon of the man whom the Lord Jesus makes accomplish acts of faith in every moment. When Simon Peter understands this ‘dynamic’ of the Lord, this pedagogy of his, he does not miss the opportunity to discern, in every moment, what act of faith he must do in His Lord. And in this he does not err. When Jesus acts as his master, giving him the name Peter, Simon lets Him do so. His ‘let it be thus’ is silent, like that of St. Joseph, and will be shown to be real throughout his life. When the Lord praises and humiliates him, Simon Peter does not look at himself, but is careful to learn the lesson of what comes from the Father and what comes from the devil. When the Lord rebukes him because he has aggrandised himself, he lets himself be corrected. When the Lord shows him, playfully, that he must not be dishonest with the tax collectors, he goes to fish with the coin. When the Lord humiliates him and tells him in advance that he will deny Him, he is sincere in saying what he feels, as he will be in bitterly weeping and in letting himself be forgiven”.

“There are many different moments in his life, yet a single lesson: that of the Lord Who confirms his faith so that he will confirm that of His people”. The Pop concluded, “Let us too ask Peter to confirm us in faith, so that we can confirm that of our brothers”.

(Source: ​
Photo: ​

by on February 28th, 2017

Praying for Vocations:

A Meditated Rosary for Vocations To the Priesthood And Consecrated Life

​By Monsignor Peter Dunne
And Vicki Herout

© Copyright 2012, Maria Regina Cleri, All rights reserved.

​Taken from

"​In the Mysteries of the Rosary, we contemplate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But, if we look carefully with the eyes of faith, we may also see the life of a vocation to serve the Lord in His Church unfolding in the rhythm of the mysteries, following the path of the
life of Jesus.

In the Joyful Mysteries, we first see the seed of vocation appearing, the “infant” vocation, and we pray for its nurturing in devout homes, parishes, and schools.

In the Luminous Mysteries, the Mysteries of Light, we contemplate
the vocation as it takes its first steps into the light of the Church, and we pray for prayerful discernment.

In the Sorrowful Mysteries, we call to mind Jesus’ words, “…unless a grain of wheat falls to the [earth] and dies, it remains a grain of wheat, but if it dies...”
 We pray for young men and women as they enter into formation, preparing to give their lives in service to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Finally, in the Glorious Mysteries, we contemplate in the Resurrection of Jesus the glorious entrance of the newly ordained or professed into the life of Holy Mother Church, and we pray for their mission, service, and fidelity.

Let us turn our eyes, then, to Mary and join with her in praying to the
Master of the Harvest that He many send an abundance of laborers
into His Holy Vineyard."

You can download a PDF of these Meditations here: ​

(Rosary image from

by on February 25th, 2017

On Wednesday, 12 August [2009], at the General Audience held at the Papal Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, in the context of the upcoming Solemnity of the Assumption the Holy Father reflected on the connection between Our Lady and the priesthood. The following is a translation of the Pope's Reflection, which was given in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, next Saturday, is at hand and we are in the context of the Year for Priests. I therefore wish to speak of the link between Our Lady and the priesthood. This connection is deeply rooted in the Mystery of the Incarnation.

When God decided to become man in his Son, he needed the freely-spoken "yes" of one of his creatures. God does not act against our freedom. And something truly extraordinary happens: God makes himself dependent on the free decision, the "yes" of one of his creatures; he waits for this "yes".

St Bernard of Clairvaux explained dramatically in one of his homilies this crucial moment in universal history when Heaven, earth and God himself wait for what this creature will say.
Mary's "yes" is therefore the door through which God was able to enter the world, to become man. So it is that Mary is truly and profoundly involved in the Mystery of the Incarnation, of our salvation. And the Incarnation, the Son's becoming man, was the beginning that prepared the ground for the gift of himself; for giving himself with great love on the Cross to become Bread for the life of the world. Hence sacrifice, priesthood and Incarnation go together and Mary is at the heart of this mystery.

Let us now go to the Cross. Before dying, Jesus sees his Mother beneath the Cross and he sees the beloved son. This beloved son is certainly a person, a very important individual, but he is more; he is an example, a prefiguration of all beloved disciples, of all the people called by the Lord to be the "beloved disciple" and thus also particularly of priests.

Jesus says to Mary: "Woman, behold, your son!" (Jn 19:26). It is a sort of testament: he entrusts his Mother to the care of the son, of the disciple. But he also says to the disciple: "Behold, your mother!" (Jn 19:27).

The Gospel tells us that from that hour St John, the beloved son, took his mother Mary "to his own home".

This is what it says in the [English] translation; but the Greek text is far deeper, far richer. We could translate it: he took Mary into his inner life, his inner being, "eis tà ìdia", into the depths of his being.

To take Mary with one means to introduce her into the dynamism of one's own entire existence — it is not something external — and into all that constitutes the horizon of one's own apostolate.

It seems to me that one can, therefore, understand how the special relationship of motherhood that exists between Mary and priests may constitute the primary source, the fundamental reason for her special love for each one of them.

In fact, Mary loves them with predilection for two reasons: because they are more like Jesus, the supreme love of her heart, and because, like her, they are committed to the mission of proclaiming, bearing witness to and giving Christ to the world.

Because of his identification with and sacramental conformation to Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, every priest can and must feel that he really is a specially beloved son of this loftiest and humblest of Mothers.

The Second Vatican Council invites priests to look to Mary as to the perfect model for their existence, invoking her as "Mother of the supreme and eternal Priest, as Queen of Apostles, and as Protectress of their ministry". The Council continues, "priests should always venerate and love her, with a filial devotion and worship" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 18).

The Holy Curé d'Ars, whom we are remembering in particular in this Year, used to like to say: "Jesus Christ, after giving us all that he could give us, wanted further to make us heirs to his most precious possession, that is, his Holy Mother (B. Nodet, Il pensiero e l'anima del Curato d'Ars, Turin 1967, p. 305).

This applies for every Christian, for all of us, but in a special way for priests. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray that Mary will make all priests, in all the problems of today's world, conform with the image of her Son Jesus, as stewards of the precious treasure of his love as the Good Shepherd. Mary, Mother of priests, pray for us!

(Source: ​

by on February 23rd, 2017

by on February 22nd, 2017

by on February 21st, 2017

With thanks to Fr. Edward Looney (@FrEdwardLooney), why not pray for priests who have had an impact in your life?

Here are some suggestions:

​1. The Priest Who Married Your Parents
Some of you may have parents who were not married, and are not married today.  Many will have parents who wedded and then went on to have a family, including you!  Pray for the priest who prepared your parents for marriage and then witnessed their marriage because you are fruit of your parent’s marital love.

2. The Priest Who Baptized You
Some people reading this might have been baptized by a deacon or a protestant minister and you were later received into the Catholic Church through RCIA.  Others will have been baptized by a priest.  Regardless of who baptized you, offer a prayer for them.  Give thanks to God that they claimed you for Christ Jesus through the waters of Baptism.  If you were received in the Church through RCIA, pray for the priest who welcomed you into the Church.

3. The Priest Who Gave You First Communion
Photos from my First Communion remind me of the priest who gave me Jesus for the first time. Now, as a priest, I see him from time to time, which I’m sure makes him feel old.  Pray for that priest, at whose hand ordinary bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Christ for you to receive so many years ago.

4. For the Priests Who Have Heard Your Confessions
Over the years, many priests have probably heard your confession and granted you absolution.  There was your first confession, the Advent and Lenten confessions, Catholic conference and retreat confessions, pilgrimage confessions, regular confessions, and so forth.  These priests have given you counsel to overcome the vices of your life.  They have accompanied you from the darkness of sin into the freedom of Christ’s light.  Thank God for them and for the gift of Christ’s mercy they mediate to us.

5. For the Priest or Bishop who Confirmed You
For those who went through Catholic schools or religious education programs, you were probably confirmed in 8th grade or junior year by the bishop or auxiliary bishop from your diocese. In some dioceses you might have been confirmed by a priest delegate of the bishop. If you are a convert to the faith, then you would have been confirmed at the Easter Vigil. The bishop or priest who confirmed you sealed you with the gift of the Holy Spirit and completed your initiation as a member of the Church. Say a prayer for the bishop or priest, thanking God for the gift of the Holy Spirit that leads you in living the Christian life today.

6. For Your Childhood Priest
The priest from your youth might be the first priest you remember. Possibly because he may have visited your classroom or you saw him regularly at Mass. Or maybe there was a priest in junior high or high school that helped you through a difficult time.  Or a priest who brought you through a major conversion experience at a conference or retreat.  Pray for this priest, that he may still be an example to the youth he ministers to.

7. For Your Current Parish Priest(s) (Pastor, Parochial Vicar)
Priests these days are stretched thin. They celebrate several Masses each weekend and during the week with daily  Mass and funerals. They work early mornings and late nights, on call 24/7 in case of an emergency, serve several communities, and administrate the parish. Pray for their strength, energy, and zeal so they can keep serving God’s people.

8. For the Priest who Witnessed Your Marriage
This won’t apply to everyone, because you might not be married or were married by a deacon. Church law binds Catholics to marry before a priest or deacon and two witnesses, what we call canonical form.  The priest who witnessed your marriage guided you through this process with sacramental preparation.  You might have chosen him because you knew for a long time or maybe because he works at the parish you wanted to get married at.  Whoever he is, offer a prayer for him, that he might inspire other couples to fall deeply in love with God, the Church, and each other.

9. For Senior Priests and Those Who are Sick and Dying
From time to time your parish might have the help of a senior priest.  This might be on account of your pastor juggling several parishes and his inability to bilocate or to relieve your pastor for a brief vacation from parish life.  Many senior priests are busier now than they were before retirement.  As a clergyman, I’m grateful for their assistance.  Say a prayer of thanksgiving for their help in assisting parish priests.  And also remember those priests who have served in our parishes who now are sick, and possibly on their deathbed.  Ask God to give them the reward of their labor.

10. For Priests Facing Temptations; For Those Who are Considering Leaving the Priesthood
Every Tuesday night in compline the priest reads a reading from 1 Peter, “Stay sober and alert.  Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, solid in your faith.”  The evil one is real and cunning, seeking to lead astray souls, especially those who live closely to the sacramental mysteries.  Pray for priests who are faced with temptations, that they may remain faithful to the promises they made to Christ and his Church, and the commandments of God.  One temptation a priest might be faced with is leaving the priesthood. Offer a prayer for any priest who might be considering this, that they may experience a renewal in their priestly identity and mission.

(This article first appeared at ​

(Image credits: 
Young Man Praying:
"Pray for Our Priests": www.​

by on February 20th, 2017

With thanks to ​@Philly_Priest and

by on February 18th, 2017

With thanks to John Lamansky (​

by on February 17th, 2017

"Your Vocation Is Not About You"

By Benjamin Mann


​It is quite traditional and correct to speak of “discerning a vocation” – particularly to consecrated life or the priesthood, though also in regard to marriage, careers, and other major commitments. In modern Western culture, however, the idea of vocational discernment has become problematic, producing unnecessary indecision and anxiety.

The problem is not with the traditional concepts and language, but with us and our mindset.

Shaped by the modern sensibility of intense self-consciousness, and by the consumer culture’s obsession with options and the “pursuit of happiness,” we think too much about ourselves and our preferences. Often, we are looking for the wrong things in a vocation. And we approach the discernment of our calling in a correspondingly wrong way.

This is true across the board: with regard to choices like marriage and work, just as for consecrated religious vocations and the priesthood. In all these areas, we invest the idea of a vocation with expectations our forebears did not have. We think that discernment consists in figuring out whether those expectations will be met. Then we become frustrated when no option seems to fit the bill.

Our expectations are wrong. Consciously or not, we sometimes expect a vocation to solve all of our problems, answer all of our questions, and satisfy all of our desires. But these are not the purposes of a vocation. Discernment, likewise, does not consist in finding the choice that will meet those expectations.

Your vocation will not live up to these unrealistic hopes. Nothing in this world will answer all your questions, solve all your problems, or satisfy all your desires. These are impossible, immature ambitions, and the spiritual life consists largely in realizing that they are impossible and immature.

The purpose of life is the unitive devotional service of God, which includes the love of our neighbor (in whom God dwells). This is the real purpose of any vocation. Some forms of life, such as monasticism, are ordered directly to this end; other states of life are oriented toward it indirectly. But these are only different versions of the one human vocation: to love and serve God, and become one with him in Christ.

A vocation – any vocation – is a school of charity and a means of crucifixion. Your vocation is the means by which your self-serving ego will die in order to be resurrected as the servant and lover of God. This is all that we can expect; but this is everything – the meaning of life, all there really is.

My vocation is where I will learn to let go of my questions, carry the cross of my problems, and be mysteriously fulfilled even when I am not happy. We have some choice as to how we will undergo that process; we do not – so long as we abide in the grace of God – get to choose whether we will undergo it.

This, it seems to me, is the attitude we should bring to discernment. I am not choosing between makes and models in a store, looking for the perfect fit or the best value. One is faced, rather, with the question: How I should lose my life, in order to save it? (Luke 9:24)

Of all the wrong expectations that we bring to vocational discernment, perhaps the most pernicious is the expectation that “everything will finally make sense.” We imagine that our true calling, when we find it, will bring a kind of total coherence and resolution to our fragmentary, broken, unresolved lives.

Modern life – with its combination of extreme intensity and instability – promotes both the inner fragmentation of the psyche, and the intense self-focus that makes such fragmentation especially painful. Naturally, we want the pieces to be put back together, the loose ends tied up. But we cannot expect this in the course of our present, earthly lives.

To be sure, a true vocation will have a certain coherence about it: one will understand his task, his direction, in a new way. He will have a degree of clarity, at least regarding which route he is to take on the pilgrimage toward his ultimate destination.

But it is a trap – and perhaps a very common one – to think that my vocation will sort out and join together all the scattered puzzle-pieces of my life, healing all the inner disintegration and painful incoherence of my past, present, and future. Your vocation will not cause life to make sense in that way.

Discernment is not about finding the hidden, magic key that will unlock your life and solve the riddle of your being. When you figure out what you ought to do with your life, and begin to do it, you will be just as much a mystery to yourself as you are now. Your daily confusions, recurring frustrations, and deep puzzlements will remain. Life, even life illumined by faith, will be an enigma – at least as much as before.

This is how things must be for us on earth. Things will be different only in the world to come: where we will see clearly what we now see only “through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12), where my secret and eternal name – which I do not even know yet – will be given to me (Rev. 2:17). Your vocation is not the answer to the question of your being; it is only a part of God’s pledge that the answer will be given in the end.

Nor will your vocation heal the deep sense of incompleteness and longing that you feel. This is critical to realize. Many people fail in their vocation – perhaps especially in the vocation of marriage – because they expect their life’s calling to satisfy, or at least take away, the impossible and inexpressible longing that lies within them: that strange mix of awe and desire and sadness before the mystery of existence.

But your vocation, whatever it may be, cannot do that either. That longing is ours as long as we are in this world. We must bear it, and let it become a “vacancy for God.”
All of this – the sadness and perplexity of life – will accompany you in your vocation. It will exist, with no contradiction, alongside the joy and truth of the Gospel. It is what we must suffer until we are fully united with God in eternity.

But that union must begin here and now, if it is to occur at all. Your vocation, in the end, is simply the means by which you will allow it to occur.

“There’s no escaping yourself,” conventional wisdom says. That is perhaps half-true, at least in the order of nature. But it is not true in the order of grace. There, God provides an escape, or something better than an escape: a transcendence that preserves all our natural gifts, while taking our focus off of ourselves. We remain ourselves; but our focus simply rests on the Lord – “everywhere present and filling all things.”

Then we have escaped: we no longer look at ourselves, anxiously or pridefully or in any other way, beyond the bare and necessary minimum. We simply look upon Christ, and on our neighbor with whom he identifies himself. (Paradoxically, it is only then – when we have almost completely forgotten ourselves – that we see ourselves rightly, and know who we really are.)
But that is the only escape there is. You cannot take a shortcut simply by getting married, or becoming a missionary, or changing careers, or joining a monastery. Such choices must be made, and such responsibilities embraced; but they will not, in themselves, provide any escape from ourselves. These external situations are only necessary means, the circumstances in which our liberation becomes possible.

You will enter into a new state of life, your chosen and God-given vocation; and yet, because you have not been radically renewed, you will experience it as largely familiar once the novelty has worn off.

Someday this will not be the case: you will be changed, if you persevere. But this change in you will not occur through the mere changing of circumstances. They will reshape you – God will reshape you, through them – over the course of years.

Slowly, you will be freed from the trap of selfishness in which you were born. In the school of your vocation, Christ will teach you to forget your wants, and even your needs, for the sake of the charity that “seeks not its own” (1 Cor. 13:5).

No matter what calling you embrace, your vocation must be your means of letting Jesus into your life completely, learning to love God more than yourself.

This does not mean fixating on a sentimental idea, or worshiping an enthroned mental abstraction. It means living in the fullness of Reality: recognizing and loving the Lord who is absolutely transcendent yet totally present, the Son of God who “plays in ten thousand places, / Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his / To the Father through the features of men’s faces” (G.M. Hopkins).

That one of these faces should be your own, and that the light of your eyes should be the light of Christ living within you: this is the goal of your vocation, whatever it may be.

But you will not reach that goal by ordinary human means: not by the calculation, strategy, and careful hedging of bets that seem – but only seem – to make the world go around.
The central question in discernment is: How shall I die with Christ, to rise with him? How will I lose my life to find it? What will bring me to the point where I can say, with St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”?

Such thinking is more than countercultural; it goes beyond our natural inclinations. But this is the perspective of the Gospel, the self-emptying attitude of Christ that should also be in us. And it is the only mindset by which we can revive three vocations – marriage, consecrated life, and the priesthood – that are currently in trouble.

(Image from ​

by on February 15th, 2017

From January 13th 2017:
The preparatory document for the next synod was launched by the Vatican today, together with a letter from Pope Francis to young people calling for them to make their voices heard in the run-up to October 2018.

The lineamenta, or preparatory document, entitled ‘Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment’, makes clear that the Church will for the first time be inviting young people — defined in the document as aged 16 to 29 — to help the Church work out effective ways of evangelizing in today’s world.

The Church has decided to “examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love,” but also to “ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today,” the document says.
“By listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow.”

The Vatican also released the text of a short letter addressed to young people by Pope Francis in which he quotes the Rule of St Benedict, founder of western monasticism, in which he urges abbots to consult young people prior to any important decision, because  “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.”

“The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism,” Francis says in the letter, adding: “Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”
By listening carefully to what young people are saying to the Church, the synod hopes to develop new strategies for helping them discern their future.

The preparatory document invites a three-stage reflection:
 - an analysis of the social and cultural dynamics of contemporary society,
- a review of the basic process of discernment,
 - and a vocational programme for youth.

It concludes with a series of questions for discussion in the local Church, leading eventually to submissions in advance of the synod.

For the first time the synod will also launch a website in March that will question young people directly about their own expectations, feeding the answers into the working document for the bishops gathered in Rome in October 2018.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod’s general secretary, said in a press conference today that he wants responses to the questions by the end of October in order to prepare a working document for the Synod in early 2018.

Text of Pope Francis’s letter.
My Dear Young People,

I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.

I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to “go”, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.

When God said to Abram, “Go!”, what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this “new land” for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?

But unfortunately, today, “Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).

I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: “Teacher […] where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.

In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: “Can we change things?” And you shouted: “yes!”. That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, […], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master.

The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).

Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: “Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).

With paternal affection,

(Original article appeared here: 

Image of Pope with Young People from:

Pope Quote: ​

by on February 10th, 2017

​Homily for Good Shepherd Sunday, Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B, 
St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, 26th April 2015

Before conferring Confirmation, I like where possible to visit the children in a parish, introduce myself and playfully interrogate them on what they understand about the sacrament they are soon to receive. On one occasion, on my way into one of our primary schools, a tiny-tot saw I was unusually dressed and asked what I was. "I'm the bishop," I explained, to which he responded quick-as-a-flash, "Are you a chess piece?"

Often on such occasions I bring props, including my mitre and crozier, to help explain what on earth I am. When I ask the children what my pastoral staff is, I am reminded how very old I seem to them, as some suggest it's my walking stick. Usually, however, some smart kid identifies it a shepherd's staff. When one now-retired auxiliary bishop asked why he had one of those, a child answered "Because you are Little Bow Peep!"

Well, in case you are wondering, I'm not! But I am a shepherd in some sense. What might the stick say about that? For drovers the crooked end is used for catching straying sheep around the neck, especially those caught in a hard place and lifting them to safety; the pointed finial, on the other hand, is used to goad reluctant sheep in the right direction; and the rod in between is a solid support useful in fights with wolves, dingoes and robbers.

When a bishop carries such an item, it is a reminder of his pastoral office:
that it is his responsibility to encourage people in the right direction,
to goad the spiritually lazy,
to draw back those who stray,
o defend all from spiritual attack and to be their strong support.

A bishop normally uses the crozier only in his own diocese, as it is about the relationship he has to a particular flock.

It is interesting that the shepherd's crook caught on as the symbol for bishops rather than, say, a fishing rod or net - fishing is, after all, another New Testament metaphor for apostolate; or a rod or whip - after all, the Greek work ἐðßóêïðïò refers to the overseer who keeps the labourers working; or keys, since bishops share with the Pope the role of unlocking the mysteries, binding and losing by teaching and judging. No, bishops carry a shepherd's crook, to evoke the image of Christ the Good Shepherd.

What might we say about this way of imaging Christ and those who act on His behalf? In today's Gospel (Jn 10:11-18) John contrasts the shepherd with the hireling. The hired man is just doing a job and gives it up if the work is too arduous or risky. The shepherd, on the other hand, is invested in the sheep: he knows them (and they know him), he cares about them. What's more, the employee decides whether he wants to do this work and on what terms; but for the appointed shepherd it is a calling. Though he has to decide whether to respond or not, he doesn't make the call or set the terms. As Jesus explains today, in freely laying down His life, He is responding in love to "the command of my Father". We pick our jobs but our vocations pick us.

What else does our pastoral allegory reveal? The shepherd is supposed to put the good of his flock first, to make their unity, direction and flourishing his priority. This is why people are so disappointed with the misconduct of some clergy and the failure of supervision by some leaders: we are appalled by the evil done to the victims, and doubly appalled that it was done by guys with such a sacred trust. Some say the Catholic clergy have received disproportionate scrutiny in these matters compared to others; that the Catholic laity have had their noses rubbed in this again and again when it was none of their fault; that most of this is ugly history from decades ago and that we've cleaned up our act in the meantime. While I understand this frustration, nonetheless I accpt that we must hear the anger in our community at our failings as a Church, repent with all our hearts, learn all we can from this, do all we can to bring justice, compassion and healing to victims, and ensure such things are never repeated. We must ensuring that the sheep, and especially the lambs, are 100% safe from wolves in shepherds' clothing. That people are appalled by failures in this area is as it should be; indeed, it is the community acting as a crook, lifting the Church out of trouble, and as a crozier point, goading the Church forward in the right direction. 

The shepherds of the Church - bishops and clergy - must be images of the Good Shepherd. Easter celebrates that Christ laid down His life for His sheep, as He's said He would; that He did indeed put Himself last and His flock first. In the process He changed what it meant to belong to His flock. We are not just dumb followers anymore, ready to be fleeced or butchered at the owner's convenience: no, we have become the sheep Jesus loves, the beloved, and that is very different to the usual relationship between farmer and herd. We have become the sheep with whom He shares the Resurrection, immortals like Him, with dignity and destiny. And in becoming our Easter Shepherd Jesus has changed not only what it means to be one of His sheep but also what it means to be one of His shepherds. For a bishop or priest to be a Good Shepherd, a shepherd like him, is to be ready to give his all for his people, as Christ did.

Of course, all the priestly people of God share in the dignity and destiny of sheep and shepherds. But we need wise, compassionate, self-sacrificing, holy priests to hook and prod, defend and strengthen us. On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations I say: yes, I am sickened and ashamed and, on behalf of the Church of Sydney, I repent of the failures of some of our pastors; but I also want to acknowledge that the great majority of our clergy are generous, God-loving, flock-loving men, who would never dream of abusing their office or their little ones. At the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday our priests renewed their priestly promises, declaring that they are resolved to be more closely conformed to Christ, denying self and joyfully embracing once more their calling: to be faithful stewards of the mysteries, authentic teachers of sacred doctrine, pastors moved only by a zeal for the souls. Then I asked our lay people present:

As for you, dearest sons and daughters, pray for your priests, 
that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest, so that they may lead you to Him,
who is the source of salvation.
Finally I asked our lay people to 
Pray also for me, that I may be faithful to the apostolic office 
entrusted to me in my lowliness 
and that in your midst I may be made day by day
a living and more perfect image of Christ, the Priest, 
the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and Servant of all.

Dare I ask you again, dear friends, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, to pray for your pastors? Pray also that the Church is graced with a new generation of happy and holy priests who will rebuild the trust our priests deserve and the confidence our people deserve, who will take our Church forward with Christ and with you in the decades ahead!

Word after Communion for Good Shepherd Sunday, Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B, 
St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, 26th April 2015

Today we have celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Please keep praying for vocations to the priesthood and to all Christian states of life. To our young people I say: ask yourselves whether your own temperament, gifts and ideals might well be put to such service. Open your hearts to that possibility in prayer and sacrament, seeking God's will for you and the courage to pursue it. Do not be afraid to give your lives to Christ: He is the one who knows your deepest hopes and dreams and desires - and He wants to give you a joyful and abundant life. Pray for the grace to know and love and serve Him best in this life, that you may draw many to be with Him in the next!

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