On the Feast of St. John Vianney, August 4th, the patron of parish priests, our parish held a Holy Hour for an increase in vocations, with the acknowledgement that for vocations to succeed, we must first discover a healing in our Church.
Part I: For Healing Within Our Church
We began the Holy Hour with a plea to God for healing of our Church. The Church is broken; it is a human institution that reflects the brokenness of our original sin. For the thousands of years, since the time of Cain and Abel, humanity has lived a broken existence and we need to depend on God’s grace and mercy for our very existence.
We are the Body of Christ, too. We are the Broken Body of Christ in the Eucharist, hanging on Calvary. Jesus Christ had the Resurrection to demonstrate to the world His healing power. Today, we need to rely on that healing. We must gather together and pray for:
For those who are wounded by the abuse in any way, and for each member of The Church, that only through the grace of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that all will ask for forgiveness, that all will forgive, and that through the Eucharist we may become one Body of Christ
In our Holy Hour, our prayer continued before the Holy Eucharist with the meditation hymn, Hosea, which offered the words, “Come back to Me, with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart.”
Part II: Thanksgiving for Young Priests
Our Holy Hour continued with prayers for young priests. I may be a recently ordained priest, but certainly not a “young” priest. And those young men who have entered the ministry to the People of God in these past five or ten years have done so within a time that our secular society and culture would scream at them, “Why?” Why would you enter into the priesthood in the middle of such a scandal in our Church?
The answer, of course, is that Jesus spoke to them, and to me, and said, “Come, follow me.” It wasn’t an easy decision for the early disciples, either; most died as martyrs. These young priests chose to be the presence of Jesus, to serve in persona Christi when we minister the sacraments. They invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to change simple bread and wine into the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. They have offered their lives to God, without counting the personal costs. Just as we must pray with confidence and trust that God - only God - can heal the Church, we must also pray with zeal our thanksgiving for these courageous men who will continue making Jesus present to our world - our broken, flawed, sinful world.
Let us pray now with heartfelt thanksgiving for the gift of the Eucharist, where we come together, broken and hurt, but hopeful and hope-filled, with gratitude for the service of faithful priests and bishops.
In the meditative hymn, “Serve With Your Hearts,” we declared that we - the Body of Christ - will continue to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to serve others with our hearts. We sang that “...the love of the Lord is alive in the world, through your care, through your heart, through your love.”
Part III: Our Plea for Increased Vocations
In our closing segment of the Holy Hour, we prayed that Jesus, the same God who will heal the Church, will send others to serve as priests. The young men who may be ordained ten years from now are today somewhere between 15-25 years old. If we imagine that for most priests, their journey through the formation of the seminary will take 4-5 years, and their discernment of the authenticity of this call from God may take 5 or more years, then we are asking God to touch the lives and hearts of these teenagers and twenty-something’s today. Yes, today, in the midst of a Church in desperate need of healing.
But God can do that. Without priests, there is no Eucharist; without the Eucharist, there is no Church.
Let us pray that Our Loving and All Powerful Father hears our plea to send us more priests, to send us more religious men and women who pray constantly for the Gospel to become our model of life, and that as we bow before the Eucharist today, that each of us surrenders to the gracious will of Jesus Christ, that we, the Body of Christ, will continue to joyfully serve Him.
Our meditation as we closed our time before the Eucharist was with the hymn, “Come With Me Into the Fields.” The harvest that is the fruit of seeds planted by God is before us; He has chosen us to be disciples, and He has chosen some to the vocation of priesthood. May we, the Body of Christ, implore our God to grant a future full of hope.
The final Eucharistic adoration hymn was“Take Lord, Receive.” Not a traditional Benediction hymn, but certainly one that offers ourselves back to God, in thanks for all He does for us: “Give me only Your love, and Your grace, that’s enough for me!” In the words of our Eucharistic prayers, we unite ourselves with the sacrifice of Jesus, we make of ourselves an oblation to God.
We are decades away from the fruits of God’s healing to become a reality in our Church. Not that we cannot start now, but the pain, the hurt, the injury of decades will take more than a little time to become a reality in our human institution of The Church. Let us never forget that it is Jesus’ call and invitation to become “church,” to enter into “communion” with one another. I will not abandon the Church; I will struggle to forgive those who have abused their power and position, and abused children or young adults.
It will be hard.
But I will forgive. I will trust Jesus to be the only judge. And I will be thankful for every moment that our Church is an instrument of justice and peace for any who were abused. That is what Jesus has commanded us to do.