From the very beginning our Lord exhorted His disciples to pray to the Father to send laborers into the harvest (Mt 9:39). St. Paul, in turn, implored the prayers of the faithful for himself (cf. 1 Thess 5:25; Rom 15:30, etc.), mindful surely that even as a priest, he carried the treasure of divine grace in a vessel of clay (cf. 2 Cor 4:7).
Fr. John Hardon, SJ in his biography of Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, the founder of the Servants of the Paraclete and the Handmaids of the Precious Blood gives us an eloquent, and we could even say an unmatched, explanation of the reasons why the faithful need to pray for priests. The following are excerpts from his chapter on "Praying for Priests" in the biography, which is titled, A Prophet for the Priesthood." These excerpts are a little long, but they deserve to be quoted at length.
"St. Luke tells the story of King Herod's persecution of the early Church; how after he beheaded James the brother of John and saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. He put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turn. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church of God prayed for him unremittingly (Acts 12:2-5).
In like manner, St. Paul, in what is considered his first inspired Letter, closed the Epistle to the Thessalonians with the earnest plea, 'Pray for us, my brothers' (1 Thess 5:25).
Here we have the revealed teaching of the Holy Spirit, as a practice (for Peter) and a petition (by Paul) that among the duties of a Christian is to pray for priests. Surely if Peter, the first Pope, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, needed prayers, how much more their successors in the papacy, episcopate and the priesthood. Read More
As part of our Crusade for Priests, we have a Spiritual Adoption Program whereby one may adopt a specific priest, Bishop, or seminarian. When praying daily for our "adopted priest", we ask Our Lord to allow these graces and blessings to flow to all priests, especially for those who have no one to pray for them.
Those who join the Spiritual Adoption program will receive our bi-annual meditations on the priesthood and an initial packet containing the last two meditations on the priesthood, the Chalice of Strength booklet of prayers for priests, a Litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim prayer card, a prayer card with a specific name of a Priest, Bishop or Seminarian. Please specify a preference or write "any". Each year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart you will receive the name of a different priest for whom you can pray for one year.
Alternatively, you may provide the name of a priest of your choice, whom you would like to adopt permanently. Every year you will receive a new prayer card with his name.
Those who participate in this program should strive to pray at least daily the prayer indicated on the annual prayer card and make one sacrifice (e.g. small renouncement, act of charity etc.) on behalf of the adopted priest, bishop or seminarian.
To Enroll in the Spiritual Adoption program
Please send your name, mailing address and preference of Priest, Bishop, etc. to:
The answer is not a particular prayer or even a particular form of prayer, but rather, "pray frequently for priests and offer a variety of your good works for their sanctification". Here are some suggestions that may help make your prayers more effective.
1. 'Adopt' or pray for a particular priest or bishop that you find especially troubling, rather than one you like. This requires a greater sacrifice and therefore will school us in the selfless love of Christ and be more meritorious and efficacious. Our charity is like a chain, as strong as its weakest link. By working on our 'weak links' of charity we ourselves will grow and contribute more to the building up of Christ's Body, the Church.
2. Pray especially for newly ordained priests. They are like young plants in the garden: tender and in need of special care. Their immersion into the apostolate, their lack of experience, isolation and, at times, disillusionment are especially painful at the beginning of the ministry. A recently published study reported that an estimated 10-15 percent of American priests leave the priesthood within five years of their ordination.
3. Offer up a portion of your sufferings for priests, be they sickness, hardship, sleepless nights, an upcoming operation or other discomforts.
4. Pray for the souls of priests in purgatory, asking them to intercede for their fellow priests on earth. It would be good to gain at least one plenary indulgence a week for them. In general, prayers for the poor souls, who cannot help themselves, are a great work of mercy, to which is attached a great work of mercy: when they get to heaven through our prayers, they never forget to pray for us poor sinners. To their gratitude we can recommend and direct their prayers for priests.
5. Offer up at least one rosary a day for priests. When possible, pray the rosary in a Church before the Blessed Sacrament and with others.
6. Fast with prudence and the approval of a priest or spiritual director for the sanctification and conversion of priests, especially for those in the state of mortal sin and in the grip of the devil. For as Christ Himself has told us, there are some kinds of demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting (see Mk 9:29). And Pope John Paul II has stated that the "first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil are prayer and fasting." (Evangelium Vitae, 100.2).
7. If you say the Liturgy of the Hours, offer it up in reparation for all the priests who have stopped praying their Office. If you do not know how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, consider learning how to do so; it is the official prayer of Christ our High Priest in and with the Church.
8. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily — or at least every Friday — at 3:00 PM. the Hour of Mercy, asking our Lord to be merciful to His priests. The Lord revealed to St. Faustina that great graces are attached to praying at this time. "At three O'clock, implore My Mercy, especially for sinners, and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion." (Diary, 1320). It is therefore helpful and efficacious to pray also at this time the short but powerful ejaculation, "O blood and water which poured forth from the Heart of the Savior as a fount of love and mercy, I trust in Thee."
9. Make the Stations of the Cross, at least, once a week for priests. Try to do this at the three O'clock hour, if at all possible. For Christ told St. Faustina, "My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant." (Diary, 1572).
10. Visit a sick person in a hospital or in a nursing home in reparation for priests who have failed to console the sick and offer them the consolation of the sacraments.
11. Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament at least once a week for priests. If you are already doing this, try to make another one, or spend another half-hour before the Blessed Sacrament, or at least try to make an extra visit to a church or chapel.
12. Make at least one communion of reparation each week to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to repair the irreverence of priests and in expiation for the sacrilegious masses offered by priests in the state of mortal sin.
These are just a few of the prayers and sacrifices that can be offered up for priests. There are many others. But what needs to be stressed at the present moment is the critical necessity for all of us to do something extra not only for the sanctification of priests but also something extra in reparation for the sins of those priests who have failed the Lord.
Pope John Paul wrote a letter to all the bishops of the United States when a similar but less severe priest scandal rocked the Church in America. At the end of his letter the Pope warned bishops, in words that now seem prophetic, "Yes, dear brothers, America needs much prayer — lest it lose its soul." Let us, then, redouble our prayers and sacrifices for priests, so that America may grow in holiness and so come to fulfill its mission to be a witness to the gospel of Christ in the modern world.
Our Lord promises: "He who receives you receives Me, ... and whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mt. 10;40-42) May the reward of the Lord be the grace that you might always have a priest who gives you daily Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and at the end of this life eternal happiness.
Ecclesia de Eucharistia — "The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist by Him she is fed and by Him she is enlightened,"; wrote St. John Paul II in his last encyclical letter. Also quoting the Second Vatican Council he often proclaimed the Eucharist as "the source and summit of the Christian life." He stresses,
When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord's death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and the work of our redemption is carried out. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11)
The centrality of the Holy Eucharist instantly calls the dignity and importance of the ordained priesthood to mind. Only ordained priests have the power to offer the saving sacrifice of the Mass and to feed the people of God on their pilgrimage through life. Hence the saying, "Without the priest, no Eucharist; and without the Eucharist no salvation."
On the other hand, we know well from experience that a single holy priest is incomparably more fruitful in the work of saving souls than many mediocre or lukewarm priests. This brings us to the question: what is it that distinguishes a holy priest from a not so-holy priest? The distinctive criteria is his relationship to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist! Every priest has tasks and duties; one serves as a pastor, another as a chancellor, again another as financial administrator of a religious community. Nevertheless, the fundamental reason why he was ordained a priest is the Holy Eucharist. Hence, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist must define, center and orientate his entire life and priestly ministry. A priest must realize in his inmost being the truth that he draws his life and holiness from the Holy Eucharist! In Him, he lives, moves and has his being (cf. Acts 17:28). Everything good comes forth from the Holy Eucharist and everything returns to the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, without the Holy Eucharist there can be no holy priest.
On the very night, before He died, Jesus gave us two great gifts which are inseparably united: the gift of Himself in the Eucharist and the gift of the priesthood to guarantee His living presence in the world until the end of the time. The Council of Trent defined the following doctrine:
Our Blessed Lord, was about to offer Himself, once and for all, to the Father on the altar of the Cross where His death would accomplish the eternal redemption of men. But His priesthood was not to end with His death. Therefore, at the Last Supper, during the night of His betrayal, He willed to leave to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a visible sacrifice, necessary as such to our human nature…. Therefore, in His quality of Eternal Priest according to the order of Melchisedech, He made the oblation of His Body and of His Blood, to God the Father under the species of bread and wine. Then, He gave that Body and that Blood to the Apostles who were constituted at that point priests of the New Testament, and lastly, with the words: "Do this in memory of Me," He commanded the Apostles themselves and their successors in the priesthood to repeat that same oblation. (Session, 22, chapter l.)
The very first men were consecrated bishops when during the Last Supper Jesus consecrated bread and wine and fed them for the first time with His Body and Blood. This profound mystery highlights powerfully the truth that the ordained priesthood and the Holy Eucharist were "born" together, Christ instituting them together to perpetuate forever his paschal sacrifice. This underscores the inseparable unity between Christ's Eucharistic Sacrifice and the priestly order of the New Testament. This is the reason why the Church held firm from ancient times to this day that while the other sacraments can be celebrated outside Mass, priestly ordination can only be fittingly accomplished in the context of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
After giving His Body and Blood to the newly ordained apostles Jesus charged them, "Do this in memory of Me," commanding them and their successors to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice "from the rising of the sun, even to its setting … And everywhere they bring sacrifice to My name, and a pure offering" (Mal 1:11) until the end of the world. In this way the ordained ministers themselves continually nourish and strengthen their priestly lives from this Divine Sacrament and then give It to all the faithful who hunger for the Bread of Life.
Speaking about the Holy Eucharist, it must be stated that the Mass is not only for the sake of confecting the Eucharist, but it re-enacts Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary. In the Mass Christ's sacrifice becomes truly present for our sake, and its redeeming grace is dispensed to the priest himself and to the faithful. It is through his interior participation in Christ's Eucharistic Sacrifice that the priest's faith is nourished; he must never act like a mere functionary, but with a Christ-like heart and priestly self-surrender he ought to sacrifice himself along with the Sacrifice he is offering. In the same line Pope Pius XII wrote to the clergy in the entire world, "The soul of the priest must refer what takes place on the sacrificial altar to himself; for just as Jesus Christ immolates Himself, His minister must immolate himself along with Him" (Menti Nostrae, 66).
This sacrifice of himself is, of course, not limited to the celebration of Mass, but must be extended to and comprise his entire life. The priest must take sincerely to heart the Church's maxim directed to priests offering Holy Mass, "Be aware of what you are doing; imitate what you hold in your hands." Without this imitation his priesthood is doomed to fail. Pope Pius XII states, "It is not enough for him [the priest] to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice, but in a very deep sense, he must live it; for in this way, he can draw from it the heavenly strength that will enable him to be profoundly transformed and to share in the expiatory life of the Divine Redeemer Himself" (Menti Nostrae, 65).
Just as Christ's life was directed towards the sacrifice of Himself, in the same way, every priestly life must reproduce Christ's example in himself. In other words, his time no longer belongs to him anymore but to God and the people; his talents are not for his own enrichment, but for the sake of building up the Kingdom of God; philosophical and theological studies are not for the advancement of career and fame, but to make the splendor of truth shine more radiantly in the world. Conveniences, tastes and preferences must be sacrificed, whenever priestly identification with Christ, the High Priest, calls for it. In other words, the priest is not his own; he is for God and for the sake of bringing people to God.
Every priest is called to be a Eucharistic priest with every fiber of his being! The Holy Curé of Ars was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament with a most intense passion and charity; the tabernacle was like an irresistible magnet, from which a divine force drew him to his Eucharistic Lord. When people saw him offering Mass, how he prayed, how he moved, how he genuflected, he stirred up in a most contagious way in the faithful reverence and love for Christ hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. He told his parishioners most naturally, "He is the One Who has loved us so much; why shouldn't we love Him in return?"
One proof of love is that we spend time with the beloved. Jesus Himself asked Peter, James and John to spend time with Him, "Remain here and keep watch with me" (Mt 26:38). When they failed He gently reprimanded them, "So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?" (Mt 26:40). This request to make a Holy Hour is directed to every priest. The Sacred Heart is grieved when there is an inconsistency between the sublime priestly call and its poor realization in daily life. Fulton Sheen was known for his commitment to make a daily Holy Hour. He points out how intimately connected Eucharistic devotion is with the priest's growth in holiness and fruitfulness in pastoral activity. Referring to St. Thomas Aquinas he writes,
The priest's power over the corpus mysticum [meaning the members of the Mystical Body of the Church] follows from his power over the corpus physicum [meaning: the Body and Blood] of Christ. It is because he consecrates the Body and Blood of Christ that the priest can teach, govern and sanctify the members of the Church. Practically, this means that he walks into the confessional from the foot of the altar, that he [evangelizes] after having enacted the mystery of Redemption. Every sick call, every word of counsel in the parlor, every catechism lesson taught to children, every official act in the chancery flows from the altar. All power resides there, and the more shortcuts we [priests] take from the tabernacle to our other priestly duties, the less spiritual strength we have for those duties. (The Priest is not his own, p. 231)
Spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is not a devotion like others, but the filling of the priest's mind and heart with Jesus' Real Presence. Fulton Sheen says, "A priest can give only what he possesses. To give Christ to others, one must possess Him." A Eucharistic priest is a most persuasive inspiration and motivation for those who are discerning the priesthood. "I want to be like this holy priest!" becomes an ardent desire in their own hearts. If there are holy priests, we don't have to worry about new vocations.
Our world and culture have gone wrong in many ways. This great darkness could only grow so strong because those who are called to be children of light—and here are meant first of all the pastors—do not live up to their calling. Therefore, the crisis in the world and the Church is essentially a crisis of the priesthood. The priestly vocation is most sublime, and therefore in many ways it is also the most difficult to live up to and is certainly subjected to the most attacks. The remedy for priestly laxity is Christ encountered in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament. All graces given to man, the angels and the physical creation originate ultimately in the Holy Eucharist.
The crisis in the priesthood and the shortage of vocations has its root in the lack of Eucharistic priests. There are priests who do not believe in the Real Presence; the larger number of priests certainly believes in the Real Presence and maybe even preach about It, but relatively few put the Mass and the Eucharist at the center of their lives. Is not the lack of close connection between the offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and their personal lives the reason behind tepidity and the failure in the apostolate? The holy Cure of Ars said, "The cause of priestly laxity is not paying attention to the Mass!"
Dear Crusaders, God has created us in interdependence, meaning that none of us can attain salvation and eternal beatitude on our own. You, the faithful need the priests, for without priests there is no Holy Eucharist and thus no grace. Jesus charged all the faithful with the obligation, "Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest" (Lk 10:2). This must not be understood in the sense that we should only pray for new vocations, but we also ought to for the sanctification of those who are already serving as priests. The Little Flower called souls who pray and sacrifice for priests "apostles of the apostles"; they "preserve the salt of the earth" so that it keeps its salty permeating taste.
Nothing will console the Blessed Mother more than when you join her in pleading and sacrificing for her priestly sons (possibly before the Blessed Sacrament), in making reparation for the lack of Eucharistic devotion in the lives of priests. May they return ever more eagerly to this sublime mystery of our faith and draw from its inexhaustible fruits for the grace of holiness, the salvation of souls and the repatriation of the entire creation. May God reward you for praying for priests!