When Kendra and Bonnie invited me to join their time of fasting and prayer, I had to say Yes. All of this suffering (and not being able to eat anything good because of my Lyme/Candida diet) can be for something good. I can unite my sufferings with Christ for the sake of healing in our suffering Church. And YOU CAN, TOO.
Please consider joining in from August 22 on the Feast of the Queenship of Our Lady through the month of September. I think the images explain it all:
It is that time of year again—when the new priests have been ordained and the reassignments from the bishops are out and implemented. When I first heard that the beloved pastor at my mother’s parish was being transferred I wondered how she would take the news. I knew that she would experience sorrow, but I also knew that she would be one of the first to reach out to the new pastor of her parish with prayers and any support she could offer. She would still attend the daily Mass, receive the Sacraments from her pastor in persona Christi, be available to pray during adoration hours, and have him over for dinner. She would adjust to him as her new pastor, and I am sure that she already has, because my mother deeply appreciates all priests.
The parochial vicar at our parish was also transferred to another parish after only one year with us. We had already grown to appreciate the depth of his homilies, which called us on to live our Christian lives more intensely. We had become friends with him through several meals, and now we will no longer receive Jesus from his hands weekly. In some ways it is an occasion of sorrow, but in other ways it is a realization that experiencing Christ in the sacraments is so much more than which priest is ministering to us. It is the same Christ giving us grace, whether it be through the words and hands of Fr. Jaspers or Fr. Schroeder.
This past weekend nine men were ordained to the priesthood for my home Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. On the Sunday feast of Corpus Christi my family and I assisted at the first Mass, a Mass of Thanksgiving, of a new priest who had grown up in our parish. It was a beautiful Mass, and the sanctuary was full of men who had received the Sacrament of Holy Orders: deacons, priests, and even two bishops.
As the Mass went on, and I stood in back with my one year old son, I was filled with incredible gratitude for the gift of the priesthood that has been given to the Church. I watched those men in the sanctuary, who have given their whole lives to the Church, to spread the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, to be another Christ for us, and I prayed for them. It is a good thing that Holy Orders is a sacrament, because the priesthood is a vocation that can only be lived fully with sacramental graces.
If you get off I-90 in the middle of upstate New York near Auriesville and travel a few miles along a hilly rural road, you may find yourself at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Martyrs. The Shrine is the location of a church dedicated to the North American Martyrs, and it is in this location that the Jesuit priest St. Issac Jogues and his companions the Jesuit brother St. René Goupil and a layman St. John Lalande were martyred. Fifteen years after their death, St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656.
Looking out from the bluff, you can see the Mohawk River winding its way through the rolling countryside, and try to imagine the days when it was untamed wilderness and the Jesuit missionaries struggled to bring the Gospel to the people of this “new” land. The lived with great hostility and suffered many physical deprivations, but they did it out of love of God and the truth.
The Shrine also honors the North American martyrs of Canada, one of them being the priest St. Jean de Brebeuf , a missionary Jesuit to the Hurons who was captured by a group of Iroquis, brutally tortured, and martyred. During his time as a missionary he learned the Huron language and wrote this beautiful Huron Carol (translated into English by Jesse Edgar Middleton):
‘Twas in the moon of winter-time When all the birds had fled, That mighty Gitchi Manitou Sent angel choirs instead; Before their light the stars grew dim, And wandering hunter heard the hymn: “Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”
Within a lodge of broken bark The tender Babe was found, A ragged robe of rabbit skin Enwrapp’d His beauty round; But as the hunter braves drew nigh, The angel song rang loud and high… “Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”
The earliest moon of wintertime Is not so round and fair As was the ring of glory On the helpless infant there. The chiefs from far before him knelt With gifts of fox and beaver pelt. “Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”
O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou, The Holy Child of earth and heaven Is born today for you. Come kneel before the radiant Boy Who brings you beauty, peace and joy. “Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”
We need the beauty of the Christmas story today as much as ever. The little babe, God become Man, is greater for humanity than anyone could ever have imagined. And that is the message that the missionary priests brought to the first American people. During our modern time, where there are priests are failing to live up to their priestly vocations and so many accused of horrendous things, I think about the Jesuit missionary priests who gave their lives to convert people so hostile to Christianity. While they succeeded in teaching some about the truth, there were others who hated them for it.
The Church has never been a stranger to hatred, and will not be until the second coming. I would like to believe that all our priests are living pure, holy lives, and God knows the truth. As faithful Catholics, we must pray for our priests and for the Church to become more holy. We can turn to the North American martyrs and ask their intercession for all priests that they live out fully their vocation to priesthood and holiness.
And then there is the Infant Jesus, who was adored and wondered at on the first Christmas and who we still adore today. Christmas is a reminder of the simple beauty of an infant who is God, who grew up to establish the Church, who ordained the first priests. There is something about the Child Jesus, the Holy Infant, that can help one remember the first love they had of God, that can rejuvenate a tired priest, who faces the daily hostility of the secular media and the suspicions of people who do not understand the choice to be celibate.
As the Church, we need to stand strong behind our priests and bishops, pray for them, and especially that the truth be made clear. And for those who have sadly done the things of which they are accused, we need to pray for their conversion and repentance. No matter how hostile the world becomes towards the Church and her clergy, it will not change that God came to Earth and that “Jesus your King is born” and that we will have joy in Him.
We must remember those who were persecuted for their faith, have their heavenly reward, and that we are called to it as well. On this Feast of Stephen the first Christian martyr, we pray,