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Reflections: Priests & Voctns. Sctn. (Prayer)

St. John Vianney, the Curé D'Ars (patron saint of priests)

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Priests & Prayer / Meditation / Contemplation

 

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Priests & Prayer / Meditation / Contemplation

Also See: Priests (Topic Page) | Catholic Prayer (Topic Page)

"[The] priest that leaves out his prayers is lost!" 

"A prelate should be foremost in action, more uplifted than others in contemplation." (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"[T]hey ought to dispose and prepare themselves, as the Scripture says: Before prayer prepare your soul, and do not be like someone who tempts God." (Council of Basil)

"The more pains they take to meditate well, the more clearly will they understand the greatness and holiness of the priestly office." (Pope Leo XIII, "Exeunte Iam Anno", 1888 A.D.)

"Dear brothers in the priesthood, we must often pause in prayer and meditate on the mystery of our vocation, our hearts filled with wonder and gratitude to God for this ineffable gift." (Pope John Paul II)

"It is stated in Decretal i,1: 'The worthier the priest, the sooner is he heard in the needs for which he prays.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Do not neglect, O holy man of God, to pray and to intercede for me, when by your words you cause the divine Word to come down, and when by a bloodless cutting you separate the Body and Blood of the Lord, your words serving as a knife." (St. Gregory of Nazianzen, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"There is a special, very important reason which should urge us to meditation; it is that meditation is a rich source of the wisdom and virtue which are so useful in the supremely difficult task of caring for souls." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"As Gregory says (Regulae Pastoralis ii,1), 'a prelate should be foremost in action, and more uplifted than others in contemplation,' because it is incumbent on him to contemplate, not only for his own sake, but also for the purpose of instructing others." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"There is no duty which Christ and His Apostles more emphatically urged by both precept and example than that of prayer and supplication to Almighty God. The Fathers and Doctors in subsequent times have taught that this is a matter of such grave necessity, that if men neglect it they hope in vain for eternal salvation." (Pope Leo XIII, "Fidentem Piumque Animum", 1896 A.D.)

"Realize, my brethren, that nothing is so necessary to an ecclesiastic as mental prayer before, during and after all our actions. I will sing, said the prophet, and I will understand. If administering the sacraments, my brother, meditate on what you are doing; if celebrating Mass, ponder on what you are offering; in reciting the Psalms, reflect on what you are saying and to whom you are speaking; if directing souls, reflect on the Blood with which they were washed." (St. Charles Borromeo)

"Above all else, the Church exhorts us to the practice of meditation, which raises the mind to the contemplation of heavenly things, which influences the heart with love of God and guides it on the straight path to Him. This meditation on sacred things offers the best means of preparation before and of thanksgiving after the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Meditation also disposes the soul to savor and to comprehend the beauties of the liturgy, and leads us to the contemplation of the eternal verities, and of the marvelous examples and teachings of the Gospel." (Pope Pius XII, "Menti Nostrae", 1950 A.D.)

"The spiritual life is, indeed, an interior life, a life of intimacy with God, a life of prayer and contemplation. But this very meeting with God and with his fatherly love for everyone brings us face to face with the need to meet our neighbor, to give ourselves to others, to serve in a humble and disinterested fashion, following the example which Jesus has proposed to everyone as a program of life when he washed the feet of the apostles: 'I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you' (Jn. 13:15)." (Pope John Paul II)

"Woe then to the priest who so far forgets himself that he abandons the practice of prayer, rejects the nourishment of spiritual reading and never turns his attention inwards upon himself to hear the accusing voice of conscience. Neither the festering wounds on his conscience, nor even the tearful pleas of his mother the Church, will move such an unfortunate priest until those fearsome threats come upon him: Blind the heart of this people, make dull their ears, and close their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and be converted and I should heal them." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"Moreover, it is the strict duty of the priest to have a mind for heavenly things, to teach them, to inculcate them; in the regulation of his whole life he must be so much superior to human considerations that whatever he does in the discharge of his sacred office will be done in accordance with God, under the impulse and guidance of faith; it is fitting then that he should possess a certain aptitude to rise above earthly considerations and strive for heavenly things. Nothing is more conducive to the acquisition and strengthening of this disposition of soul, this quasi-natural union with God, than daily meditation; it is unnecessary to dwell upon this truth which every prudent person clearly realizes." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"We, on the other hand, though perhaps our hearts are eager for gaining honors, for increasing our wealth, or for the mere winning of renown and glory by our learning, are listless and without inclination for the supremely important and difficult task of achieving our own sanctification. Rarely do we take time for recollection and submit our souls to scrutiny; our soul has become overgrown like the vineyard of the slothful man, of which it is written: I passed by the field of the slothful man and by the vineyard of the foolish man; and behold with nettles it was all filled, and thorns had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall was broken down." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"We therefore consider it Our grave duty to exhort you in a special manner to the practice of daily meditation, a practice recommended to all the clergy also by Canon Law. For just as the desire for priestly perfection is nourished and strengthened by daily meditation, so its neglect is the source of distaste for spiritual things, through which piety is lessened and grows languid, and the impulse towards personal sanctification is not only weakened or ceases altogether, but the entire priestly ministry suffers great harm. It must therefore be stated without reservation that no other means has the unique efficacy of meditation, and that, as a consequence, its daily practice can in no wise be substituted for." (Pope Pius XII, "Menti Nostrae", 1950 A.D.)

"All spiritual writers in their books, all preachers in their sermons, all confessors in their instructions to their penitents, should not inculcate anything more strongly than continual prayer; they should always admonish, exclaim, and continually repeat: Pray, pray, never case to pray; for if you pray, your salvation will be secure; but if you leave off praying, your damnation will be certain. All preachers and directors ought to do this, because, according to the opinion of every Catholic school, there is no doubt of this truth, that he who prays obtains grace and is saved; but those who practices it are too few, and this is why so few are saved." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church) 

"For it is not by pouring forth a copious stream of words, not by using subtle arguments, not by delivering violent harangues, that the salvation of souls is effected. The preacher who is content with those means is nothing but 'sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.' [I Cor. xiii, 1] What gives a man's words life and vigor and makes them promote wonderfully the salvation of souls is Divine grace: 'God gave the increase.' [I Cor. iii, 6] But the grace of God is not gained by study and practice: it is won by prayer. Therefore he who is little given to prayer or neglects it altogether, vainly spends his time and labor in preaching, for in God's sight his sermons profit neither himself nor those who hear him." (Pope Benedict XV, "Humani Generis Redemptionem", 1917 A.D.)

"Here it is fitting We should exhort you whom God has made His helpers by giving the divine power to dispense His Sacraments, to turn to meditation and prayer. If the reformation of private and public morals is needed, it scarcely requires to be said that in both respects the clergy ought to set the highest example. Let them therefore remember that they have been called by Jesus Christ, 'the light of the world, that the soul of the priest should shine Like a light illuminating the whole world.' The light of learning, and that in no small degree is needed in the priest, because it is his duty, to fill others with wisdom, to destroy errors, to be a guide to the many in the steep and slippery paths of life." (Pope Leo XIII, "Exeunte Iam Anno", 1888 A.D.)

"In order to conquer the emotions of lust, and the snares of the devil, lest we should be led into evil, we are commanded to seek the divine help in the words, 'pray that ye enter not into temptation.' How much more is this necessary, if we wish to labor for the salvation of others? Christ our Lord, the only begotten Son of God, the source of all grace and virtue, first showed by example what he taught in word: 'He passed the whole night in the prayer of God,' and when nigh to the sacrifice of his life, 'He prayed the longer.' The frailty of nature would be much less fearful, and the moral character would grow weak and enervated with much less ease if that divine precept were not so much disregarded and treated almost with disdain." (Pope Leo XIII, "Exeunte Iam Anno", 1888 A.D.)

"It behooves the sacred ministers, therefore, to strive to reproduce in themselves the examples of the Gospel and the virtues of the Divine Redeemer. However, just as the food of the body does not nourish, sustain or develop our life unless, after being digested and assimilated, it be changed into our own substance, so the priest cannot acquire dominion over himself and his senses, cannot purify his spirit, cannot strive for virtue as he should, cannot, in brief, fulfill faithfully, generously, or fruitfully the duties of his sacred ministry, unless his life becomes one with the life of the Lord through assiduous and unceasing meditation on the mysteries of the Divine Redeemer, the supreme model of perfection and the inexhaustible source of sanctity." (Pope Pius XII, "Menti Nostrae", 1950 A.D.)

"For serious cause the Church urges that those who serve the altar as an intrusted duty, or who have entered an institution of the religious life devote themselves at stated times to pious meditation, to diligent self examination and criticism, and other spiritual exercises, since they are appointed in a special way to the liturgical functions of regularly performing the Sacrifice and of offering due praise. Without doubt liturgical prayer, since it is the public supplication of the illustrious Spouse of Jesus Christ, stands out with greater excellence than private prayers. But this greater excellence by no means indicates that these two kinds of prayer are different from and at odds with each other. For, since they are animated by one and the same zeal, they also come together and are united according to these words: 'Christ is all and in all' [Col. 3:11], and strive for the same purposes, until Christ be formed in us." (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947 A.D.)

"Some of those who find recollection of the heart a burden, or entirely neglect it, do not seek to disguise the impoverishment of soul which results from their attitude, but they try to excuse themselves on the pretext that they are completely occupied by the activity of their ministry, to the manifold benefit of others. They are gravely mistaken. For as they are unaccustomed to converse with God, their words completely lack the inspiration which comes from God when they speak to men about God or inculcate the counsels of the Christian life; it is as if the message of the Gospel were practically dead in them. However distinguished for prudence and eloquence, their speech does not echo the voice of the good Shepherd which the sheep hear to their spiritual profit; it is mere sound which goes forth without fruit, and sometimes gives a pernicious example to the disgrace of religion and the scandal of the good." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"It is of great importance that the priest should combine his daily divine meditation with the constant reading of pious books, especially the inspired books. That was the command that Paul gave to Timothy: Attend unto reading. The same lesson was taught by St. Jerome when instructing Nepotianus on the priestly life: 'Never let the sacred book leave your hands'; and he gave the following reason for his advice: 'Learn that which you are to teach; holding to that faithful word which conforms to doctrine, that you may be able to exhort with sound doctrine, and refute the opponents.' What great advantages are gained by priests who are faithful to this practice! With what unction they preach Christ! Far from flattering and soothing the hearts and minds of their audience, they stimulate them to better things, and arouse in them the desire of heavenly things." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"Despite the high dignity of the various functions of the priestly office and the veneration which they deserve, frequent exercise of these functions may lead those who discharge them to treat them with less respect than is their due. From a gradual decline in fervor it is an easy step to carelessness and even to distaste for the most sacred things. In addition, a priest cannot avoid daily contact with a corrupt society; frequently, in the very exercise of pastoral charity, he must fear the insidious attacks of the infernal serpent. Is it not all too easy even for religious souls to be tarnished by contact with the world? It is evident, therefore, that there is a grave and urgent need for the priest to turn daily to the contemplation of the eternal truths, so that his mind and will may gain new strength to stand firm against every enticement to evil." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"Finally, the priest, in another way, follows the example of Christ. Of Him it is written that He 'passed the whole night in the prayer of God' and 'ever lives to make intercession for us'; and like Him, the priest, is public and official intercessor of humanity before God; he has the duty and commission of offering to God in the name of the Church, over and above sacrifice strictly so-called, the 'sacrifice of praise,' in public and official prayer; for several times each day with psalms, prayers and hymns taken in great part from the inspired books, he pays to God this dutiful tribute of adoration and thus performs his necessary office of interceding for humanity. And never did humanity, in its afflictions, stand more in need of intercession and of the divine help which it brings. Who can tell how many chastisements priestly prayer wards off from sinful mankind, how many blessings it brings down and secures?" (Pope Pius XI, "Ad Catholici Sacerdotii", 1935 A.D.)

"It was not to Timothy alone, but to the whole order of the clergy, that the command was addressed: 'Take heed to thyself and to doctrine; be earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.' For the saving and for the perfection of ourselves and of others there is at hand the very best of help in the Holy Scriptures, as the Book of Psalms, among others, so constantly insists; but those only will find it who bring to this divine reading not only docility and attention, but also piety and an innocent life. For the Sacred Scripture is not like other books. Dictated by the Holy Ghost, it contains things of the deepest importance, which in many instances are most difficult and obscure. To understand and explain such things there is always required the 'coming' of the same Holy Spirit; that is to say, His light and His grace; and these, as the Royal Psalmist so frequently insists, are to be sought by humble prayer and guarded by holiness of life." (Pope Leo XIII, "Providentissimus Deus", 1893 A.D.) 

"At this point we cannot refrain from referring with sorrow to those who, carried away by pernicious novelties, dare to maintain a contrary opinion, and to hold that time devoted to meditation and prayer is wasted. What calamitous blindness! Would that such people would take thought seriously with themselves and realize whither this neglect and contempt of prayer leads. From it have sprung pride and stubbornness; and these have produced those bitter fruits which in our paternal love we hesitate to mention and most earnestly desire to remove completely. May God answer this our prayer: may he look down with kindness on those who have strayed, and pour forth on them the 'spirit of grace and of prayer' in such abundance that they may repent of their error and, of their own will and to the joy of all, return to the path which they wrongly abandoned, and henceforth follow it with greater care. God himself be witness, as he was to the Apostle, of how we long for them all with the love of Jesus Christ." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"The pastoral address of St. Charles Borromeo is relevant here and is worth recalling: 'Realize, my brethren, that nothing is so necessary to an ecclesiastic as mental prayer before, during and after all our actions. I will sing, said the prophet, and I will understand. If administering the sacraments, my brother, meditate on what you are doing; if celebrating Mass, ponder on what you are offering; in reciting the Psalms, reflect on what you are saying and to whom you are speaking; if directing souls, reflect on the Blood with which they were washed.' Therefore, it is with good reason that the Church commends us to repeat frequently the sentiments of David: Blessed is the man who meditates in the law of the Lord, whose desire is upon it night and day; everything that he does shall prosper. There is one final motive which can be regarded as comprising all the others. If the priest is called 'another Christ' and is truly such by reason of his sharing in Christ's power, should he not also become and be recognized as another Christ through imitation of Christ's deeds? 'Let it be our principal study to meditate upon the life of Jesus Christ.'" (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"Let us be convinced, therefore, that a priest must be specially devoted to the practice of prayer if he is to maintain worthily his dignity and to fulfill his duty. All too frequently one must deplore the fact that prayer is a matter of routine rather than of genuine fervor; the Psalms are recited at the appointed times in a negligent manner, a few short prayers are said in between; there is no further thought of consecrating part of the day to speaking with God, with pious aspirations to him. And it is the priest, more than any other, who is bound to obey scrupulously the command of Christ: We ought always pray, a command which Paul so insistently inculcated: Be instant in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving; pray without ceasing. How numerous are the opportunities of turning to God in prayer which present themselves daily to the soul which is eager for its own sanctification and the salvation of others! Anguish of soul, the persistent onslaught of temptation, our lack of virtue, slackness and failure in our works, our many offenses and negligences, fear of the divine judgment, all these should move us to approach the Lord with tears, in order to obtain help from him and also to increase without difficulty the treasure of our merit in his eyes." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"The life of a priest who underestimates the value of meditation, or has lost all taste for it, provides a sad confirmation of what we have been saying. Let your eyes dwell on the spectacle of men in whom the mind of Christ, that supremely precious gift, has grown weak; their thoughts are all on earthly things, they are engaged in vain pursuits, their words are so much unimportant chatter; in the performance of their sacred functions they are careless, cold, perhaps even unworthy. Formerly, these same men, with the oil of priestly ordination still fresh upon them, diligently prepared themselves for the recitation of the Psalms, lest they should be like men who tempt God; they sought a time and place free from disturbance; they endeavored to grasp the divine meaning; in union with the psalmist they poured forth their soul in songs of praise, sorrow and rejoicing. But now, what a change has taken place! In like manner, little now remains of that lively devotion which they felt towards the divine mysteries. Formerly, how beloved were those tabernacles! It was their delight to be present at the table of the Lord, to invite more and more pious souls to that banquet! Before Mass, what purity, what earnestness in the prayers of a loving heart! How great reverence in the celebration of Mass, with complete observance of the august rites in all their beauty! What sincerity in thanksgiving! And the sweet perfume of Christ was diffused over their people! We beg of you, beloved sons: Call to mind...the former days; for then your soul was burning with zeal, being nourished by holy meditation." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"A point of capital importance is that a certain time should be given daily to meditation on the eternal truths. No priest can neglect this practice without incurring a grave charge of negligence and without detriment to his soul. The saintly abbot, Bernard, when writing to Eugene III, his former pupil who had become Roman Pontiff, frankly and emphatically admonished him never to omit daily divine meditation; he would not admit as an excusing cause even the many weighty cares which the supreme pontificate involves. In justification of this advice he enumerated with great prudence the benefits of the practice of meditation: 'Meditation purifies the source from which it comes, the mind. It controls affections, guides our acts, corrects excesses, rules our conduct, introduces order and dignity into our lives; it bestows understanding of things divine and human. It brings clarity where there is confusion, binds what is torn apart, gathers what is scattered, investigates what is hidden, seeks out the truth, weighs what has the appearance of truth, and shows up what is pretense and falsehood. It plans future action and reviews the past, so that nothing remains in the mind that has not been corrected or that stands in need of correction. When affairs are prospering it anticipates the onset of adversity, and when adversity comes it seems not to feel it, in this it displays in turn prudence and fortitude.' This summary of the benefits which meditation is calculated to bring is an instructive reminder not only of its salutary effect in every department, but also of its absolute necessity." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

Also See: The Divine Office | Prayers & Devotions Section | Prayers & Devotions Section (Reflections) | Prayers for Priests / Vocations | Prayer (Topical Scripture)

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