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Shepherds of Christ
A Spirituality Newsletter for Priests
Chief Shepherd of the Flock
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for
his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf
attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern
for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the
Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.
Yes, Christ, in the great love of His Heart for us, has laid down His life for us. In
the giving up of His life for us He gave us new life in Him. And at the heart of our life
in Him-our life of grace-is the infused virtue of love. In Jesus we have a new power to
love God and others.
In the First Letter of John, we read:
"My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone
who loves is begotten by God and knows God." (1 Jn 4:7)
"Anyone who says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who
does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen."
(1 Jn 4:20)
Yes, in Christ we are called to love one another in a special way. What are some of the
characteristics of our love for neighbor? There follow some reflections on our
love-relationship with others.
- Our love of neighbor should exclude no one. It should embrace every single person the
world over. As Christ's love for the human family is universal, so must ours be. In our
universal love for others we must be willing to act to help promote their good. One way we
can do this is in our prayer for their various material and spiritual needs. This
constitutes no slight contribution of love, for prayer is one of the great means of
channeling God's gifts to the world.
- The true Christian is imbued with consciousness of others. That is to say, the true
Christian is keenly aware that, to a great degree, God intends each of us to press on
toward maturity in the spiritual life through a proper relating to others. Indeed, the
Christian imperative reminds us that we are to walk life's path, not in isolation, but
hand in hand with our kindred human beings.
- To authentically relate with others we must be properly aware of who they really are. We
must be able to penetrate beyond surface appearances, which may nor may not be appealing
to us, and contact others in their core existence. When we are truly in touch with others
at the core of their beings, we are simultaneously aware of their awesome dignity. We are
conscious that these persons are created and redeemed by God in His love. Fortified with
this proper awareness, we are thus in a position to relate to them as we should.
- In order to be in touch with the inner self of others, I must be aware of, or in touch
with, my own inner or true self. This awareness, in turn, is an awareness that I too am
made in the image of God, that I have been divinized in Christ and that my life has
meaning in proportion to my union with Jesus. I am made for Jesus. Through and with Him,
I, in love, go to the Father, in the Holy Spirit, with Mary, My Mother, at my side.
Through and with Him I relate in love to all my brothers and sisters in the human family.
- The contemporary Christian has a special responsibility and privilege as a bearer of
love for one's brothers and sisters. A Christian of any age certainly has a duty of love
towards the human family, but our present-day world has special need of people who love
their brothers and sisters, and love them deeply. The human family is faced with enormous
problems, and many of these are caused because there is not enough love in the hearts of
many. Not only is there not enough love, but in certain cases there is deep hatred.
We do not want to look only at the darker side of today's world. As Christians who believe
that Christ has victoriously redeemed the world through His death and resurrection, we
should always be aware that Christ's redemption has let loose a torrent of grace which is
meant to permeate the human family more and more. The grace of Christ works to make us
persons who more and more love God and others. This grace of Christ has accomplished
marvels of love. The example of love for one's brothers and sisters in the human family is
being multiplied countlessly each day the world over. Because good can be so hidden, and
because it does not usually make headlines, we can be unaware of the vast good which does
exist in many persons' hearts.
But there is a darker side. War is still with us. Great poverty, with its concomitant
scourge of disease and other ills, mars much of the face of the earth. Much of this
poverty is caused by the selfishness in the hearts of some, a selfishness which manifests
a callous lack of love for one's neighbor. In our own United States we have enormous
social challenges. We have gigantic racial problems. We have peddlers of drugs and
pornographic literature who are selfishly becoming rich off the physical and moral ruin of
those to whom they cater. We have an enormous deterioration of the family unit. These are
examples of some of the decay which eats away at our society. As our gaze sweeps out over
our own United States and the rest of the world, and we see what happens when people fail
to love as they should, we have to be aware of our special responsibilities as Christians
to give witness to love of neighbor.
- In dealing with others, we must strive to maintain the balance, so delicate at times,
between independence from others and dependence on them. We must, on the one hand, humbly
realize that in so many varied ways, we consistently depend on others.
If, however, we must, on the one hand, strive to maintain a sense of proper need for
others, we must, on the other hand, couple this with a thrust toward independence. To have
an attitude of healthy dependence on others is a main ingredient for Christian growth. To
maintain a morbid need for others, however, is a serious obstacle in becoming the persons
God destines us to be. We should never become slavishly dependent on the company of
others, their love, the attention they give us, the approval they give to us, our ideas,
or our work. It is, of course, always very pleasant to receive love, attention and
approval. All this, however, must occur within the framework of God's will for us. We must
constantly strive to lovingly do His will at all times and in all circumstances. This is
the all-embracing and all-necessary imperative that permeates every facet of our being.
When we live according to this imperative, we gladly and gratefully receive love,
attention, and affirmation from others when it is forthcoming. We realize that to be
offered this is a part of God's plan for us. If, however, such is not forthcoming at any
one time, we courageously continue to live as we think God intends, aware that God in His
loving faithfulness will compensate for what currently appears to be a lack of human
- Whether one is a married person, a single person living in the world, a religious, a
priest-we all have to be aware lest we be more concerned with receiving love from our
neighbor than in giving it. God wants us to receive love from others, and we need this.
However, we must not allow this legitimate desire to degenerate into a morbid
preoccupation whereby we always enumerate all the different ways that others should be
manifesting love toward us while, at the same time, we ourselves might be guilty of
neglecting numerous opportunities for loving them. If our main concern is to love others
rather than to be loved by them, I think we will more often than not be surprised at the
love others show us over a lifetime.
Nonetheless, even in the event we might feel slighted in this regard, our vocation as
Christians is eminently clear. We ourselves must continue to love even when it is
extremely difficult to do so, thus following the example of Jesus who loved even those who
nailed him to the cross.
- We should strive to be evocative persons. By what we are and say and do, we should
evoke, or call forth for further development, the truth, the goodness, and the beauty that
is inherent in each human person. When we deal with others, we should want to aid, not
hinder, them in their quest for personal growth. We are evocative persons in various ways:
by offering appropriately affirming words of encouragement and commendation; by simply
being kind to others; by wanting to sincerely share other's joys and sorrows; and by
helping others realize that they are unique individuals with an unique mission to fulfill.
These and other ways-which, again, should be infused with appropriate love-are constantly
available to us. Collectively, these ways are a constant reminder to us that we can be
evocative personalities not only on rather rare and so-called special occasions, but also
on the special occasion of every day. For, indeed, each day is a precious gift from God.
- Communication is obviously a very important element as we deal with one another.
Authentic communication requires a willingness on the part of the parties involved to
appropriately share ideas, problems, ideals, joys, and sorrows. Words are obviously
involved, but not all words are helpful. We must strive to discern which words are helpful
and which are not-a task that is not always easy. Further, the increasing quantity of
words is not always the measure of healthy communication. Sometimes the more the words are
increased, the more the communication suffers. What matters most is the quality of the
words that are spoken, the motivation that prompts them. Also, not all those who are
involved have to speak and listen equally. If we attentively try to evaluate all the
circumstances-including the different personalities involved-we will tend to contribute
our appropriate share of listening and speaking. Furthermore, we must always remember that
communication occurs in ways that go beyond the spoken word. Finally, we should realize
that authentic communication must be rooted in the mutual respect and love that should
guide our dealings with one another.
- The true Christian realizes that a special love and concern for a few should
proportionately and appropriately deepen love and concern for all others. Do my special
relationships with a few expand my horizons, my concerns, my love? Do they help me be more
sensitive to the fact that God has created all of us brothers and sisters to one
another-whether we are black, white, brown, or whatever? Or, on the other hand, do these
special relationships narrow my love and attention almost exclusively to the special few
involved? If the former description characterizes us, we have cause for rejoicing. If the
latter, then we should be concerned and attempt to correct the situation.
Growth in the spiritual life requires that we grow in spiritual freedom. This freedom
consists in striving to relate to all reality according to God's will. The following
excerpt addresses itself to this important issue of spiritual freedom: "The apostles
who experienced the transfiguration were obviously not expected to close their eyes to the
beauty of the experience. (To do so would be to turn their backs on a wonderful gift of
God; more than that, it could be an act of ingratitude.) But, on the other hand, neither
were they called to set up tents there. Instead, they were expected through this
experience of God to be free to carry the experience with them and go out into the unknown
future, even to Jerusalem. So, other questions we are asked to grapple with by our
spiritual guides are: Are we truly grateful for the people and things God has given to us
to enjoy in our lives? Are we also willing to let go of them rather than to try to
possess, control, or idolize them?2
The writings of St. Paul are often vividly self-revelatory. More than once the reader
is allowed to see inside the person Paul. In one such passage the deep, enthusiastic love
of Paul for Jesus is amply evident: "Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death
would bring me something more; but then again, if living in the body means doing work
which is having good results-I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this
dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but
for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake." (Phil:
We should all be inspired by these words of Paul to stimulate our own personal
enthusiasm for Jesus. After all, for us, too, to live should mean Christ. What else does
the word "Christian" mean? If we reflect on the meaning of the word
"Christian", we realize that it ideally means a follower of Christ, one totally
committed to Christ, one for whom life has no real meaning without Jesus, one who is
willing to live and die for Jesus and His cause.
Jesus calls us to share in the work of ongoing redemption. He invites, but He does not
coerce. He promises us that it is an enterprise which immensely satisfies. He does not say
there will be no suffering, no hardships, no weariness. He challenges us to a great work,
but He does so with complete honesty - He tells us what to expect.
This Jesus who invites us is a leader who Himself has suffered greatly for His cause.
There were, of course, numerous sufferings throughout His life, but His passion challenged
to the utmost His capacity for pain and anguish. He had been deprived of food and sleep.
He had been spat upon, made fun of, scourged, and crowned with thorns. Then there was the
terrible, brutal suffering of the crucifixion itself. But, despite this great suffering
brought on by the physical brutalities He endured, the greatest suffering was His immense
anguish of spirit.
And what are we willing to endure for Jesus? As we labor with Him in the work of
ongoing redemption, is there a limit beyond which we refuse to go in bearing suffering?
Can insults separate us from the work of Christ? Can weariness? Can misunderstandings? Can
the failure of others to show us love and appreciation? Can the opposition of others? We
pray and hope that nothing-absolutely nothing-will ever separate us from Jesus and His
cause. St. Paul offers us eloquent words in this regard: "Nothing therefore can come
between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being
persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. As scripture
promised: For your sake we are being massacred daily, and reckoned as sheep for
the slaughter. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him
who loved us.
"For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing
that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created
thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our
Lord." (Rm 8:35-39)
- Strength in Weakness. "So I shall be
very happy to make my weakness my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over
me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships,
persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ's sake. For it is when I am weak
that I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10)
According to the wisdom of the world, it is often thought to be a sign of weakness if one
feels a sense of powerlessness and admits the same. According to the wisdom of Christ, it
is of paramount importance that one admits weakness and powerlessness and builds upon this
If we do not admit our weakness and our helplessness, then we are living a lie. Jesus has
told us that without Him we can do nothing. It is a sign of Christian maturity if we not
only admit to our weakness, but consistently live this realization. It is not a question
of giving in to this weakness, of capitulating to it in an evil way. It is rather a
question of realizing our helplessness and throwing ourselves into the arms of Christ.
Then we become strong with His strength. Then His grace more and more strengthens us and
we actually are surprised at the depth of our Christian existence.
At certain rather rare points along the path of life, we feel overwhelmed, for various
reasons, with the burden of life. We feel adrift upon the turbulent waters of worry and
anxiety. Fear gradually strengthens its grip. Life temporarily seems to be too much, and
we feel ourselves deluged, barely capable of coping with the harshness of the human
condition. Such episodes, painful as they are, are magnificent opportunities for Christian
growth. If we act as we should at such times, abandon ourselves anew to Jesus, then our
Christian life takes on a new depth and vitality. For we have become so much more closely
united to Jesus who is our nourishment, our life, our happiness.
Of course, it is not only at times of special trial that, realizing very acutely our
helplessness, we should turn to Jesus. If we are spiritually sensitive, we will always be
aware of our weakness. But very importantly, this realization of our powerlessness is not
meant in any sense to make us feel depressed or discouraged. If we build properly upon the
understanding of our weakness, we will experience deep peace, and love, and
security-because Jesus is very near. And the nearer He is, the more we participate in His
strength, His might.
- The Human Condition. "The Word was made flesh, he lived among us,
and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace
and truth." (Jn 1:14).
Sometimes we are tempted to think that the best way to be a good Christian would be to
withdraw as much as possible from earthly concerns. We think how peaceful it would be to
be alone with God in our own kind of hermitage, as it were, and let the world with all its
worries, anxieties, and temptations pass us by. In moments of clearer thinking, however,
we realize this is a dreamy kind of thinking, unrealistic thinking, thinking which does
not correspond to the plan of redemption.
Jesus, as man, redeemed us within the framework of the human condition. Jesus' human
enfleshment placed Him within the world, and He accepted the full implications of His
being human. He did not deny His humanity. He rather lived it to the full. He lived a full
human life, not only when it was pleasant to do so. He also lived human existence
perfectly when this meant being rejected, laughed at, spat upon, scourged, crowned with
thorns, nailed to a cross in excruciating agony.
All His human acts helped redeem us. His preaching, His relationships with Mary and Joseph
and others, His taking meals with friends, His gathering the little children in warm
embrace, His healing of the sick, His thrilling to nature's beauty, the sufferings of His
passion-all these human acts contributed to our redemption.
As Jesus objectively redeemed us within the framework of the human condition, so in like
manner we subjectively participate in redemption. We receive the life Jesus came to give,
and mature in this life, by living the human condition according to God's will. We are
saved, not by fleeing the human, but by embracing it according to God's plan. Whether one
is a lay person involved most intensely with the secular city, or a Trappist monk within
monastery walls, that person is Christian by living the human in a graced manner, or he or
she is not Christian at all.
As Jesus did before us, we also have to accept the bitter with the sweet. We cannot accept
the human condition only at those times when life rewards us with intense joy and success
and enthusiasm. When we experience failure or misunderstanding, when we taste the
bitterness of human existence, when life seems all too much for us, at these times we also
have to affirm our being human. In this way we are saved. In this way we help others be
saved. In this way we follow Jesus, who always accepted His state of being human in the
fullest possible manner.
Here are appropriate words for our Easter Season from St. Melito of Sardis, bishop:
"There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover; that
mystery is Christ, and to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
"For the sake of suffering humanity he came down from heaven to earth, clothed
himself in that humanity in the Virgin's womb, and was born a man. Having then a body
capable of suffering, he took the pain of fallen man upon himself; he triumphed over the
diseases of soul and body that were its cause, and by his Spirit, which was incapable of
dying, he dealt man's destroyer, death, a fatal blow.
"He was led forth like a lamb; he was slaughtered like a sheep. He ransomed us
from our servitude to the world, as he had ransomed Israel from the land of Egypt; he
freed us from our slavery to the devil, as he had freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh.
He sealed our souls with his own Spirit, and the members of our body with his own blood.
"He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as
Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One who smote sin and robbed iniquity of
offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us
out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of
tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his
own forever. He is the Passover that is our salvation.
"It is he who was made man of the Virgin, he who was hung on the tree; it is he
who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven.
He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized
from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at
night. On the tree no bone of his was broken; in the earth his body knew no decay. He is
the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb."3
- Vatican II tells us: "At the Last Supper, on the night
when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and
Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the
centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church,
a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of
charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and
a pledge of future glory is given to us.
"The church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at the
mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary,
through a proper appreciation of the rites and prayers they should participate knowingly,
devoutly, and actively. They should be instructed by God's word and be refreshed at the
table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate
Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn to
offer themselves too. Through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into
ever closer union with each other, so that finally God may be all in all."4
- Here are thoughts from one woman's spiritual journal on the Mass:
"The priest needs to feed the people with the love of God. When people come to the
Mass and the sacraments, they are spiritually fed.
"The world cries out to be fed. The Church is the body of Christ. Jesus has chosen
each priest and anointed him as Christ alive in this world today. The greatest calling is
to be called to be a holy priest by our Lord Himself. How dearly He loves His beloved
priests and longs for their love. As He suffered so during His bitter Passion for the lack
of love of some of His chosen priests betrothed to Him, He was comforted by His holy
priests. Jesus truly loves His sacred priests.
"Jesus must live in the priest. The priest's every action must be one with Jesus. He
is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
"When a priest is filled with the love of Jesus, He will unite more deeply with
Christ in the great sacrifice being offered to the Father. In the holy sacrifice of the
Mass, the faithful will see Jesus through the priest offering sacrifice to the Father. We
will lift our eyes and we will feel, at this great sacrifice, the presence of God, Father,
Son and Holy Spirit. We unite in offering sacrifice to the Father. We all unite as one and
give ourselves in such oneness with Jesus, in such love to the Father, in the Holy Spirit.
We die to all those things that are not of Him and join in this great miracle taking
place. The Father looks down and He sees the sacrifice of His beautiful Son through the
consecrated hands of His holy priests. Heaven unites to earth. Earth cries out in such
jubilation at the great gift given from the Almighty God, and we unite as creatures giving
ourselves as a sacrifice to our beloved Creator. Do we experience the presence of God as
His power flows through the hands of a man, the priest who takes ordinary bread and wine
and changes them into the Body and Blood of our Lord? Do we hear Jesus cry out, as He did
at the last supper, with the intensity in His voice reflecting all knowledge of the
upcoming events of His passion and death?
"Do we hear the priest say the words of consecration with the emotion of Jesus, about
to give His life for His beloved souls? And the earth stands still. There is, at that
moment, the sacrifice of Calvary sacramentally made present through the hands of the
priest. Oh, that God so loved this world to give His only Son as a sacrifice and that God
wants us in this deep oneness with Him. I give You myself, my beautiful God, as You so
willingly gave Yourself to me on Calvary. I want to die with You.
"Love between two persons is mutual giving. It is interaction between two people. It
is intimacy. It is dependent on how much we give. We receive intimacy, interaction,
according to how much we put into it. God gives His all. We see Him hanging, covered with
blood, crowned with thorns, hands and feet pierced. We see His precious heart, font of
life and love and mercy, pierced. This is freedom. He shows us the way. We give ourselves.
We sacrifice and beg to be made holy, beg to be like Him in this holy sacrifice. The most
important aspect of our offering sacrifice is how we are in our heart. Are we one with
Jesus, giving ourselves to our beloved Father Who is all worthy of our love? Who are we
that God loves us creatures so much that He, Almighty God, becomes present, no less
present than the day He walked this earth, through the hands of a man, and we take it so
lightly. Think of Jesus calling out. Raise the Host high, beloved priests. This is the Son
of God and you have been given the greatest honor on this earth.
"God comes to us. He gives Himself to us. Let us see ourselves as one in Him. Let us
unite. Let us look at ourselves, all creatures of our beloved God, God, all Holy, all
Magnificent, Almighty, all Powerful, and see what He gives us. Let us see ourselves as His
creatures and Him as the Creator, and look at ourselves and see how we, and all men, are
offending our precious God. As we unite, we beg, beg, with this holy sacrifice of His Son,
for mercy. We watch it flow from the Father, in the Holy Spirit, through the font of grace
and mercy, the pierced Heart of Jesus, through the heart of Mary, by the hands of the
priest, who is one with Jesus, to us. We are so joined in such oneness with the Hearts of
Jesus and Mary. We have given ourselves to Them. It is here, united to Christ in such
oneness, that my sacrifice is received by the loving hands of the Father. It is in this
oneness that He pours out His grace. We unite through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the
unity of the Holy Spirit, and we beg for mercy as His creatures who have offended our
beloved God. This is our gift to You, our beloved Father. As Vatican II says, in union
with the priest, we offer the Son to the Father. We give Him the greatest thanks for this
holy and living sacrifice. We unite with the whole Church. We ask to be nourished by His
Body and Blood, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and increasingly become one body in
Him. We join with Mary and all the saints and constantly plead for help through this
sacrifice. Through this sacrifice may we make peace with You and peace for the salvation
of the whole world. We pray in love and faith for your pilgrim Church, for the Pope, our
bishop and all bishops, all clergy and all people. We ask the Father to hear the prayers
of His family and ask Him in mercy and love to unite all children the world over. We ask
the Father to take all our brothers and sisters that have died, that were good, into
heaven. And we pray that we will have the vision of Your glory, through Christ, Our Lord,
and we pray through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. All glory
and honor is Yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.
"We pray to the Father, with all our hearts and all our love, the 'Our Father.' We
say every word. We say with such love, 'Our Father,' we pray that Thy kingdom comes on
earth as it is in heaven. We want this kingdom here, we are all brothers and sisters and
God is our Father and we want all men doing His will. We ask to be fed both spiritually
and physically every day. We beg to be free from evil and have peace. We ask Him to keep
us free from sin and anxiety and hope for His coming. We pray that the kingdom and power
and the glory are God's now and forever. We give to each other peace and we beg for
forgiveness and mercy. We are sinful, but we want mercy. We stand. We should shout out to
the Father, "Look how sinful we are!" We beg for mercy for our sins and those of
"I experience the action of the Holy Spirit in a special way from the Consecration of
the Mass. It fills me with such anticipation to receive Jesus, and I want to be holy. From
the Consecration, I give myself to the Father, united in the Holy Spirit, in a special
way. Consecrated to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, I experience God. I love the Mass so
much. The rest of this book that follows are my experiences during Mass, after Communion,
and other times. Many are experiences at Holy Cross-Immaculata Catholic Church in
Cincinnati, Ohio. For four months straight I experienced special moments with my beloved
Jesus there daily."5
- We should not be afraid to look at ourselves in prayerful self-reflection. Prayerful
reflection upon myself in union with Jesus will give me a growing sense of peace and
security, resulting from an increased prayerful awareness of how much Jesus loves me as
this unique priest-companion. If there is pain involved in prayerful self-reflection, the
pain soon fades to the background. In prayer Jesus shows us how lovable we are. He loved
us unto His brutal death. Redeemed by the love of God, how can we be unlovable? We have
been touched by Jesus' redemptive blood. We are thus beautiful in His sight. His love for
us continues, and the more we surrender to the boundless love of His magnificent Heart,
the more the truth, the goodness, and the beauty of our persons shine forth.
- Fr. John Wright, S.J., tells us: "It is frequently said that the prayer of
beginners is more active and that as time goes on and prayer matures it becomes more
passive. But it seems to me that we must distinguish here our attitudes and awareness from
our actual activities and operations. Initially, our attitude is more active than passive.
We are more conscious of doing and acting than of receiving. We are more aware of what we
do by way of response than of what God does in His initiative. Gradually this changes, so
that we become more and more aware of His action in us, illuminating, inspiring,
strengthening, encouraging, and so forth. This means, of course, that our attitude becomes
more passive. But our actual activity in operation doesn't itself become less. There is
indeed a greater dependence on God's action, and what we do is done more freely, more
simply, more intensively and spontaneously. Our attention, then, is more upon God than
upon ourselves, but we are actually more active in the real sense. For we see more
clearly, believe more deeply, love more purely, rejoice more unselfishly..."6
- Thomas Merton speaks to us about the place of love in prayer: "The instinctive
characteristic of religious meditation is that it is a search for truth which springs from
love and which seeks to pursue the truth not only by knowledge but also by love. It is,
therefore, an intellectual activity which is inseparable from an intense consecration of
spirit and application of the will. The presence of love in our meditation intensifies our
thought by giving it a deeply affective quality. Our meditation becomes charged with a
loving appreciation of the value hidden in the supreme truth which the intelligence is
seeking. The affective drive of the will...raises the soul above the level of speculation
and makes our quest for truth a prayer full of reverential love and adoration striving to
pierce the dark cloud which stands between us and the throne of God. We beat against this
cloud with supplication, we lament our poverty, our helplessness, we adore the mercy of
God and His supreme perfections, we dedicate ourselves entirely to this worship."7
There has recently been formed a new congregation of nuns whose purpose is to
pray-indeed, live their entire lives-for priests and for vocations to the priesthood. The
name of this new congregation is The Hermits of Jesus the Eternal Priest.
Here are words from the foundress, Mother Elias, H.J.E.P., concerning their life and
purpose: "It has recently come to our attention that many people, priests included,
do not truly understand our life as hermits - in a religious community - contemplative -
living a radical witness to God's Presence in the world. One other question that so often
has arisen is that of our wearing a color and style of religious habit that people are
unaccustomed to seeing. We hope that the following explanation will clarify these points.
"Very simply, we stand as a sign of contradiction to the world and its
spirit. We cannot follow the values of the world and accommodate to them. We must stand as
a constant sign silently proclaiming the presence of God. We are set aside,
called apart, to a very special vocation as hermit, and for us in particular, in
immolation for the priesthood.
"In order to understand where we are coming from we ask you to keep in mind Our
Holy Father's words during his last visit to the United States at Giants' Stadium, 'I do
not speak in words of the world but from the Spirit; not in human terms of human values,
but in spiritual terms of spiritual values.'
"The Hermits of Jesus the Eternal Priest have their origin in the
eremitic tradition of monastery life begun by the prophet St. Elias on Mt. Carmel and St.
Sharbel, patron of our hermitage. This tradition was revitalized by the life, death and
resurrection of the Lord and by the many Christian nuns and monks through the centuries
who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have followed Christ in solitude, prayer
"We are an institute wholly ordered to heavenly contemplation and joyful
penitence, in a special way for the spiritual welfare of all priests and for vocations to
the priesthood. The hermits dedicate themselves to the worship of God in a hidden life
within the monastery, a life totally separated from people and the world by the practice
of solitude and silence as defined in the Constitution. Our purpose is to live in intimate
union with the Most Holy Trinity, talk to Him whom we love, intercede continually for His
priests and help them, in their needs, insofar as this is compatible with our eremitic way
"We do not leave our monastic grounds unless there is a special need to do so. We
have the permission of our Archbishop to go to Holy Mass, Confession, Ordinations and
First Mass of a new priest and other spiritual functions pertaining to the prayerful
support of the priesthood. It is most important in these days, where religious vocations
are not encouraged, that the laity see that there do exist in the church today young
consecrated souls totally on fire with God's love and joy."
For further information, write:
The Hermits of Jesus the Eternal Priest
P.O. Box 216, North Brookfield MA 01535
The Institute for Priestly Formation Announces a Mini-Sabbatical Program for Diocesan
Priests, January 5-30, 1998 at the Oratory Center for Spirituality, Rock Hill, S.C. The
Institute for Priestly Formation, founded to assist in the spiritual formation of diocesan
priests in the Roman Catholic Church, invites diocesan priests to a time of spiritual
renewal. Inspired by the biblical-evangelical spirituality of Ignatius Loyola, this
program seeks to give diocesan priests a time and place in which they can allow the Holy
Spirit to touch their hearts with a deeper experience of his love.
Going beyond programs of continuing education, this program offers a time of spiritual
formation intended to help foster the spirituality of diocesan priests. The twenty-six day
- an atmosphere of rest and leisure
- an eight day silent directed retreat
- ongoing spiritual direction
- seminars on: prayer and finding God in everyday busyness, sexuality, celibacy and
priestly life; discernment and everyday decisions; the spirituality of diocesan
priesthood, personal prayer and liturgical prayer.
Presenters/directors: Rev. George Aschenbrenner, S.J., S.T.L., Rev. Richard Gabuzda,
S.T.D., Rev. John Horn, S.J., D. Min., Miss Kathleen Kanavy, M.A., Margarett Schlientz,
The program will be conducted at the Oratory Center for Spirituality, Rock Hill, South
Carolina, located just south of Charlotte, N.C. With its cultural and athletic
opportunities for leisure, the center is situated on six acres in a residential area of
Rock Hill. The grounds, the neighborhood and two nearby parks offer opportunities for
meditation, prayer and relaxation. Pool facilities of the local Y.M.C.A., located next
door to the Center, are available.
Rooms are single occupancy with private bath. The sabbatical
program begins Monday, January 5, 1998 and concludes Friday, January 30, 1998. Cost:
$2,435. Limited financial assistance is available.
For further information, please contact:
Rev. Richard J. Gabuzda, Director
The Institute for Priestly Formation
320 N. 20th Street, #1208
Omaha, NE 68178
Tel 402-449-6384 Fax 402-280-2423 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lord Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, I consecrate my priestly life to Your Heart,
pierced on Calvary for love of us. From Your pierced Heart the Church was born, the Church
You have called me as a priest to serve in a most special way. You reveal Your Heart as
symbol of Your love in all its aspects, including Your most special love for me, whom You
have chosen as Your priest-companion. Help me always to pour out my life in love of God
and neighbor. Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You!
Dear Blessed Virgin Mary, I consecrate myself to your maternal and Immaculate Heart,
this Heart which is symbol of your life of love. You are the Mother of my Savior and you
are also my Mother. You love me with the most special love as this unique priest-son. In a
return of love I give myself entirely to your motherly love and protection. You followed
Jesus perfectly. You are His first and perfect disciple. Teach me to imitate you in the
putting on of Christ. Be my motherly intercessor so that, through your Immaculate Heart, I
may be guided to an ever closer union with the pierced Heart of Jesus, Chief Shepherd of
the Flock, who leads me to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
We thank all those who have taken the time to write to us. We very much appreciate your
letters. Space limitations permit us to publish only a few of them.
Dear Fr. Carter,
I want to thank you for sending me a copy of Shepherds of Christ. This Spirituality
Newsletter for Priests contains very nourishing food for priests. Reading through it
lifted up my "drooping spirit." May you be blessed in this ministry.
And I have a request: There are 78 Diocesan priests in the Diocese of Darjeeling, India,
in the foothills of the Himalayas, working in the remote missions. A copy of Shepherds of
Christ to each one of them would be very enriching. May I request you to send to me about
80 copies of Shepherds of Christ regularly so that I can send each priest in the Diocese a
Thanking you in advance,
Yours fraternally in the Lord,
Fr. Thomas DiSouza
My dear Fr. Carter:
Just a short note and a small donation to support the wonderful work you are doing for the
Lord. May He bless you and your spiritual ministry to His priests throughout the world. I
read all that you have been writing with care and prayer.
In your charity, please remember me and the Church in China.
Fr. Bernard Hwang
Oregon City, Oregon
- Scriptural quotations are taken from The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday & Co.
- Robert J. Wicks and Robert M. Hanna, A Circle of Friends, Ave Maria Press, p.
- St. Melito of Sardis, as found in The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book
Publishing Co., Vol II, pp. 458-459.
- Documents of Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Nos. 47-48,
America Press edition.
- Rita Ring, The Mass: A Journey Into His Heart, to be published by Shepherds of
- Fr. John Wright, S.J., A Theology of Christian Prayer, Pueblo Pub., p. 101.
- Thomas Merton, A Thomas Merton Reader, Thomas P. McDonnell, editor, Doubleday,
Shepherds of Christ
Shepherds of Christ Ministries
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
Shepherds of Christ, a spirituality newsletter for priests, is published
bi-monthly by Shepherds of Christ Ministries, P.O. Box 193, Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193. While
distribution is free of charge to all priests in the U.S., and growing internationally,
donations are still very much appreciated. Inquiries and comments are welcome, as are
address changes and addresses of the newly ordained. Permission to reproduce intact is
granted for non-commercial use. Editor Father Edward Carter S.J. is Professor of Theology
at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. John Weickert is President. Good Shepherd
illustration is by Brother Jerome Pryor, S.J. Layout and design are by Cathy Ring. Also
dedicated to the spiritual advancement of priests is a worldwide network of lay/religious
prayer chapters, Shepherds of Christ Associates, headquartered at 2919 Shawhan Road,
Morrow, Ohio 45152, telephone toll free 1-888-211-3041, fax 513-932-6791.
© 1997 Shepherds of Christ.
Rights for non-commercial reproduction granted:
May be copied in its entirety, but neither re-typed nor edited.