Yesterday, for the first time, I witnessed the Ordination Mass for Priests in the Diocese of Phoenix. This Holy Mass was at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of Ss. Simon and Jude. To say that the Holy Spirit came upon the cathedral and lite the hierarchy and the lay faithful on fire with God’s grace would be the under statement of the year. It was a joyous liturgical celebration that displayed so many of the beautiful traditions of the Catholic Church. The three new Catholics priests, and whom I dedicate today’s “Mondays with Mary” are, Fr. Kevin Grimditch, Fr. Keith Kenney, and Fr. Scott Sperry.
Since I have begun this series on the Blessed Virgin Mary, I have been told as well as witnessed with my own eyes that many priests have a true and deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. For many of them, through the perpetual intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, their priesthood is defined, advanced, and completed. Although their own mothers play an important role in their vocation to the priesthood, it’s Mary as Mother who never leaves their side, as she did not leave the side of Jesus, even as he was crucified on the cross. As Mary stood by the side of Jesus, so too she stands with His priests when they act in persona Christi Capitis by way of their Holy Orders.
To understand Mary’s role in the life of the priest, below are four testimonies from Catholic priests explaining how important the Blessed Virgin Mary is in their vocation –
“Mary points us to Her Son. For me as a priest, I believe that I am called, like Our Lady to bring our loneliness, our littleness to Our Lord in humility. Our Lady shows me how to trust. I also believe Our Blessed Mother brings our awkward utterances that we see as prayer…and She makes them beautiful hymns of praise and thanksgiving before the throne of Our Lord.” – Fr. Don Kline
“I entrusted my discernment and vocation to Mary even before I went to seminary. I try to pray my rosary everyday knowing that Mary will not leave me astray from Jesus. I gaze with her up on our crucified Lord with all my unfulfilled desires, knowing that God will bring all things to completion in the best way possible.” – Fr. Matt Lowery
“When I think of Mary and the priesthood, I am drawn to that classic prayer prayed in preparation for celebration of Holy Mass in which the priest says, Mary “you stood by your Son as he hung dying on the cross. Stand also by me, a poor sinner, and by all the priests who are offering Mass today here and throughout the entire Church.” As the great priest saints have shown us, Mary not only stands by us at the altar, our entire life is lived beside Mary. As her Son lived knowing her motherly love, so we priests are sure of her loving intercession.” – Fr. Paul Sullivan
So quiet and subtle, her Motherly heart finds a way into the heart and life of the priest. She communicates a hidden understanding of the deepest mysteries we celebrate…When I celebrate Him on the altar I hold the Precious Body that He received from her body and that was nurtured and nourished by her body…When I encounter a soul in the confessional I ask her to teach me of His Mercy as she knew it, so Her tenderness may teach me to reach the soul and give away His Mercy properly. – Fr. Anthony Sortino
To conclude this post, I give you the words of our past three Popes who know in a way like no other the importance that Mary plays in the life of a priest.
Recently, Pope Francis said,
“First of all go [to the Mantle of Mary] and wait until there is a bit of calm…Some of you will tell me…in this time of so many modern goods – psychiatry, psychology – in this time of turbulence, I think it would be better to see a psychiatrist to get help. But – do not dismiss this – but first go to your Mother, because a priest who forgets [the Virgin Mary], especially in times of turbulence, is missing something. He is an orphan priest, the one who forgets his Mother” (Meeting with Pontifical Universities and Colleges in Rome, May 12, 2014).
Pope Benedict XVI said,
“To take Mary with one means to introduce her into the dynamism of one’s own entire existence it is not something external and into all that constitutes the horizon of one’s own apostolate. It seems to me that one can, therefore, understand how the special relationship of motherhood that exists between Mary and priests may constitute the primary source, the fundamental reason for her special love for each one of them” (General Audience, August 12, 2009).
Pope St. John Paul II said,
“Every aspect of priestly formation can be referred to Mary, the human being who has responded better than any other to God’s call. Mary became both the servant and the disciple of the Word to the point of conceiving, in her heart and in her flesh, the Word made man, so as to give him to mankind. Mary was called to educate the one eternal priest, who became docile and subject to her motherly authority. With her example and intercession the Blessed Virgin keeps vigilant watch over the growth of vocations and priestly life in the Church” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 82).
This week as we remember the many priests of the Church in our prayers let us pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ask that His Holy Catholic Priests are given the grace and strength they need to continue in their vocations on a daily basis. May they represent Him to the world, bring many souls to His Heavenly Kingdom, and may they do it with the Blessed Mother always at their side.