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St. Thérèse and the Year for Priests

Matthew Harrison

Thursday, October 1, 2009

saint-therese-of-lisieux-12Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Thérèse of Lisieux – one of the most beloved saints of our Church. Her popularity only grows year after year, as is evident with the current tour of her relics throughout England where nearly 70-thousand people turned out in the first 10 days for veneration.
(on a side note -- she's even made it into space!)
But the purpose of this blog entry is not to reflect on her popularity. In this Year for Priests, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on her love for priests.
Years ago I came across a book called Just for Today. Put together anonymously by a Benedictine monk in Worcester, England, this compilation features an entry for each day of the year that includes an excerpt from the the Imitation of Christ, followed by an excerpt from Thérèse's writings.
The November 10th entry highlighted the priesthood. First, the Imitation:
A priest should be adorned with all virtues and give example of a good life to others. His conversation should not be with the vulgar and common ways of men, but with the angels in heaven, or with perfect men upon earth. (Bl. IV, ch. v.)
This sketch of the priest is followed by an excerpt from Thérèse and an insight she had into priests:
Another experience (gained during the pilgrimage) was concerning priests. Up till then I could not understand the chief aim of the Carmelite Reform; the idea of praying for sinners delighted me, but to pray for priests, whose souls, I thought, must be pure as crystal, seemed to me surprising. It was in Italy that I understood my vocation, and it was worth while going so far to learn it.
During the space of a month I came across many holy priests, but although their sublime dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless men with human weaknesses. If then the best of them, the salt of the earth as the are called in the Gospel, are in need of prayers, what of those who are lukewarm? Did not Our Lord say: If the salt lose its flavour, wherewith shall it be salted? (Matt. v.13).
Salt of the earth is of course a phrase very dear to us here at S+L! It's something we are all called to be. As we all know though, sometimes we loose our flavour, our zing; we become a little stale, so to speak. If it happens to us, there's no reason to think that it would not happen to priests. If we need prayers at the best of times, there's no reason to think that it would not be the same for priests – even those we admire most or those who seem to have it 'all together'. Thérèse offers us an excellent reminder for the faithful to pray for priests.  On this feast of St. Thérèse we can pray for her intercession to set aflame the hearts of all priests with a deep love for God and to uplift those who are struggling!
Today, of course is also the first Thursday of the month. At the beginning of the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI granted a plenary indulgence decree to the faithful who attend: "Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to His Heart.” (the usual conditions apply for indulgences, of course: receiving the Sacrament of Confession, praying for the intentions of the Pope, detachment from sin.)
The decree also offered:
The elderly, the sick and all those who for any legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, "on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles.
And finally, it suggested:
Partial Indulgence is offered to all faithful each time they pray five Our Father, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri, or any other duly approved prayer in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life.
These are guiding reminders for us to keep our priests in our intentions -- not only this year, but always.  St. Thérèse loved the priesthood. I can think of many seminarians and priests who look to her, her little way, her abandonment to love, her understanding that her vocation, above all, was to love. Let us love our priests, follow the Little Flower's example and pray ardently for our priests, seminarians, and those discerning. By her intercession may they deepen their love for their vocation, for the people entrusted to them, and for the most Holy Trinity.
On October 1, Salt + Light will debut a new series from our friends at Catholic TV. Filmed on location at the oldest Carmelite monastery in the USA, Father Tighe shares his thoughts about of St. Thérèse, “The Little Flower,” with stories from her life in the picturesque setting of the monastery grounds and 19th century chapel. That's Thursdays at 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm ET beginning Thursday, October 1st.

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