“If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place.” (St. John Vianney)
Around a decade back I decided to pray for priests who had been helpful in my life. I started to list them on the inside cover of my journal, beginning with pastors and confessors. I began to add on those whose writings or homilies had somehow made a difference, even though I did not know them personally. In quick time, there was no space for names left on my journal cover and I had to stop! The end result provided a visual image of the large number of ordained souls God had put in my life. Whether it be for years as a pastor or for minutes reading an article, God’s time is eternal and each moment mattered.
June is the month in which most graduations are held. After years of working through programs of study, their accomplishments are celebrated. As Catholics, we have another type of ‘graduation’ that typically takes place this month: priestly ordinations. The ‘accomplishment’ we celebrate is God’s work in their soul and their response to that. We look with awe at Him in them, knowing He did this for us. He personally wants us to receive His gifts, the sacraments, which only His priests can bring. In the body of Christ, God wants us to most fully participate in the communion of saints. Most importantly, He wants to heal and sanctify us now so that we may begin to participate in the loving relationship of the Trinity and to fully live in that relationship for eternity. And He does all of this through the Holy Catholic church that He established just for us, and throughout which His Holy Spirit breathes.
Our ‘graduation’ will be celebrated in Heaven and God has given us an amazing ‘program’ to get there. By our baptism, we are brought into this body of Christ and become an adopted child, heir of God our Father. Confirmation brings us into a Divine Office commissioned by Christ Himself. Our priestly Office is most fully exercised by attending mass, even if we do not receive the Eucharist. We ‘assist’ the priest in the Holy Spirit’s memorial and altar sacrifice, laying upon the altar ourselves and the cares of the world. Only Catholics can bring the world’s woes to this sacrifice of atonement, and it is the highest duty we have. It is an honor that God has entrusted us with the mass and trusts in us to return that honor to Him by our reverent worship.
He also trusts us to live out His precepts, the first of which is to love others after having first allowed Him to love us. This is our Divine Office of prophet, and it is tied closely to our third Divine Office of King in which we exercise holy self-governance of our own heart, mind and body. The sacraments are critical to our living out these three Divine Offices.
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” (St. Francis de Sales)
However, if we do not work to master this ‘program of study’, the grace of the sacraments will bounce off our souls like raindrops bouncing off a stone. The hidden element is growth in our spiritual life. The spiritual life isn’t devotions, rosaries or meditation. These are, however, the very important means to engage in it, to dispose ourselves to grace. The spiritual life is relationship with God. It tends to begin as a reciprocal relationship. God bestows actual grace upon moments in our life to enliven our hard heart. We respond. Pretty soon we are spending moments in thought or 20-minutes in silence with Him, which He rewards with a type of peace that comes from somewhere deep within us rather than from our mind. The give-and-take begins: we admit to our failings and fears, and He heals the soul. This goes on for quite some time (and can be quite volatile!) in the purgative stage of growth.
“True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.”
(St. Francis de Sales)
Upon ‘graduating’ (metaphorically) from elementary ‘school’ of the Holy Spirit, we move onto higher ‘school’. Having conquered not only mortal sin but even much venial sin, the illumination of the soul grows with His light of Glory within it. This is where the Dark Night of the Senses takes place, like a boot camp that forces the giving up of self-reliance to take on God-reliance, self-empowerment to God-empowerment. No more empty speech: we say what we mean and mean what we say, attested to by our actions. And while the reciprocal give-and-take continues, there also begins a symbiotic aspect of our relationship with God because He begins to live more vibrantly in the soul. Much ‘work’ by the Holy Spirit takes place as He fills us with desire for Him and our soul will do whatever is needed. The moral virtues infused in our soul at baptism grow, formed by Love and lived out more fully by the seven Gifts of the Spirit.
All of this blends into the Dark Night of the Spirit in which the Holy Spirit seeks to deeply reform every nook and cranny of the soul that we open up to Him, imprinting the intellect of Christ upon our own (as the saints say). A lifelong endeavor, our graduating is indeed gradual!
We were created for union with God and so our human nature is designed to seek Him. We become most fully human when we live that search.
For all of this, then, we must continue to pray whole heartedly for the worldwide Church, in particular for our Holy Father Pope Francis, all clergy and religious, for all newly ordained and for all who struggle in their vocation.
Let us ask our Lord that, at least today, He may take possession of a few souls who will bear His testimony totally and, in our daily lives, let us try to renew our courage and our enthusiasm at every moment, by thinking that our Lord is entrusted into our hands and that, ultimately, the possibility that Christ be received today”
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
P.S. We cannot live out this spiritual life without help! Seek only those sources that will bring you into love of Him for that is the commandment He has given us. Abstain from media that leaves you stuck in your passions (emotions, anger) rather than His love, and He will reward you with abundant steadfastness. Finally, address woundedness so that the Holy Spirit can enter and heal. The Souls and Hearts Resilient Catholic Community is only open a few more days for new members—look into it! Also see their new group specifically for men. In this culture that has abolished manhood coupled with social media icons who keep men (and women) steeped in unrighteous anger, God needs men who are willing to live out their Divine Kingly Office with the self-governance proper to one who is made in His image. The restoration of the family and society may count on it. 😊
Image by Thomas Cole from Smithsonian CCO
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