While some parts of the Western world are dealing with a shortage of priests, there are entirely different trials elsewhere, as some who have generously answered the call are facing the very real possibility of brutal martyrdom. These good men are not only faced with the daily dilemma of how to encourage their flocks to live their faith and trust in God amidst growing hostility, but with the challenge to live it personally while seeing brother priests systematically killed. If they show any reticence to proclaim their faith, the laity will likewise be similarly discouraged from standing as the fearless witnesses they are called to be. And yet, if the priests do not move with the utmost caution and prudence, then they will be cut down and their flocks left without their shepherds.
Our prayers are critical, and through an especially timely initiative, the Congregation for the Clergy has invited women to imitate Our Lady in prayer for those who follow in the footsteps of her son. Eucharistic adoration has been suggested on behalf of the clergy, and there is a growing need to pray for all priests so that they can live their vocations fully — no matter the risks.
The Congregation wrote: “In order to continually maintain a greater awareness of the ontological link between the Eucharist and the priesthood, and in order to recognize the special maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for each priest, it is our intention to bring about a connection between perpetual eucharistic adoration for the reparation of faults and sanctification of priests and the initiation of a commitment on the part of consecrated feminine souls — following the typology of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the eternal high priest and helper in his work of redemption — who might wish to spiritually adopt priests in order to help them with their self-offering, prayer, and penance.”
Concerning spiritual motherhood, the Congregation notes: “The vocation to be a spiritual mother for priests is … fundamental and vitally important. It is a vocation that is often hidden, not apparent to the human eye, but intended to transmit spiritual life. Pope John Paul II, convinced of this, founded a cloistered convent in the Vatican where nuns would pray for his intentions as Supreme Pontiff.”
One such program has been established in the Diocese of Providence, RI, whereby women are enrolled in an apostolate specifically for the benefit of priests. These women meet monthly at the seminary for Mass, a rosary and to offer special prayers, so that the men who are discerning, or in formation, or already in holy orders have added the support that is so crucial to their ministry.
Each place and time has its challenges. While material considerations and scandal have impacted vocations in some countries, violence, intimidation and disorientation plague the flock elsewhere. While some family members are conflicted about encouraging priestly vocations because of questions concerning the integrity and chastity, other families may rightly sense that encouraging their sons to say yes to a vocation is a real call to shed their blood. Such families deserve our prayers (and gratitude) as well.