...because its a war out there in this world -a 'war for souls' -and they are our generals on the battlefield.
In today's world, to be a Christian is a call to be a martyr in many ways -and yet, how much more difficult is it to be the leader and shepherd of martyrs -how much greater of an example does one have to be to guide others? Our poor priests are called to not only serve, preach and give Christ -but to become a 'little Jesus' to each and every soul on earth. The more they conform themselves to their crucified Savior, the more powerful their ministries will be in saving souls. This conformity to Jesus must be lived out not only in giving absolution, but also in living forgiveness; not only in preaching others to avoid evil and temptation, but in running from it themselves; not only in smiling when they are exhausted, but in feeding the deep joy of the Holy Spirit to those carrying the heaviest of burdens.
Priests are called to live 'in persona Christi' when celebrating the Sacraments -but they are also called to live this way (in such a deep union mystically united as one with Jesus through prayer and love) at all times of their lives. This (such deep union with Christ) is the only source of strength they will have to carry them through the struggles of being a holy priest today. But their commitment to the Church is a two way street. They promise to love and serve the people of God as best they can (in meekness and integrity of heart), but we must love and serve our priests. We can do this by feeding them a good dinner, sending encouraging notes and even offering our services at Church. But the deepest way priests need people to help them -is to pray for them. Anyone in ministry can tell you that the difference between the fruit born from heavy labor alone and that born from heavy labor supported by prayer and fasting is astronomical. Priests need our help -for us to pray for them and for the souls they touch. They need us to pray for their own growth in holiness and wisdom, their own strength in temptations and frustrations, their own comfort and grace to be heroically faithful to truth and love when they suffer persecutions. They need us to pray for their words to reach deep into hardened hearts, for their sacrifice to be huge portals of grace, for their crucifixion to be always united to Jesus' wounded Heart. They need us to pray that they have the grace to know and live God's will at all times, to respond to all situations as our loving Savior would do, and to humbly seek to grow in knowledge and grace, admitting their faults and asking forgiveness for their weaknesses and mistakes (for humility ALWAYS bears fruit). Most of all they need the grace to always remain humble and obedient before the hand of God (especially His Voice in the Church) -for any great gift given without the foundation of humility can lead one quickly down a dangerous path.
Mary has said in many apparitions all over the world that wars can be stopped by prayer and fasting -and so how many great miracles could happen through our priests if they were supported by such prayer and fasting. Let's commit again today to pray for and love our priests -not in loud, noticeable ways, but instead in humble, hidden sacrifices day by day. We need them to stand 'in persona Christi' for us before the throne of God. We need them to give us Jesus in the Eucharist, to take away our sin, to bless our children and marriages. We need them to guide us to holiness on this rough road towards Calvary -the 'way of the Cross' all Christians are called to follow in some shape and form. If only we saw the reality of who these special, consecrated souls are before the eyes of God. If we only saw the true reality of their being 'another Christ' to us when they speak in Confession and offer us Jesus in Mass:
We must not judge our priests, but instead love them fiercely and trust them... they need us to trust them again and this trust will open new gifts in their hearts to lead us to holiness. For who can lead a soul who does not trust their intentions? Let us not criticize priests, but instead respect them deeply, forgive their imperfections and pray ardently for their growth (especially if we do not agree with something they say or do). Only prayer and fasting can help our priests grow more deeply in conformity with Christ -helping them see with His eyes and hear with His ears and speak with His mouth. Let us thank our priests for the sacrifice of their entire lives -for being a priest is not a 'job' a man lives from 8-5, but instead a vocation of fatherhood which he lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Being a priest is exhausting and at times lonely and disheartening in today's dark world. Let us support our priests by praying for them to be holy, strengthened, wise, faithful and courageous. This gift of prayer and fasting for them will bear fruit 100-fold.