The Catholic priesthood is undoubtedly experiencing a profound crisis at this moment. The vast majority of good priests are tainted by the scandals, but Our Lady, Mother of Priests, does not give up hope for them, even though the world and some Catholics do. She can free the clergy of the weight of scandal and bring the priesthood back to the heroism of its original apostolic calling. We can ask her to undo the stigma on our clergy and help them live up to their high calling of saving souls.
Mary’s love for priests
There are strong reasons why the Virgin Mary loves priests. The incomparable St. John Eudes taught his spiritual sons about the intimate bond between Our Lady and her beloved priests. He said:
There is a particular alliance between the Blessed Mother and priests. As the Eternal Father made her a partaker in His divine paternity, giving her the power of forming Christ within her womb, so, too, He communicates this same fatherhood to his priests in permitting them to form Christ in the Blessed Eucharist and in the hearts of the faithful.
The mystical connection between Mary and priests is clear: her love of priests is an extension of her union with the Blessed Trinity, and in particular, Jesus Christ, the High Priest.
Mary’s belief in the apostolic fruitfulness of the priesthood is not just theoretical. Her deep familiarity with the first priests of the New Covenant made her understand that the gift of the priesthood was often contained in fragile vessels of clay, as St. Paul would later say (2 Cor 4:7). She saw the mystery and witness of the apostles first hand but was not deterred in her devotion to them by the weaknesses of those who abandoned Jesus in the Garden, the bluster of the pretentious Peter, or even the betrayal of one of Jesus’ inner circle. Mary knows these fallible men belong in a special way to her Son because of their conformity to Him through ordination.
In all authentic Marian apparitions – and they are numerous – , you will notice that Our Lady always respects the hierarchical order of the Church. Our Lady sends the recipients of the visions and messages to the priests and bishops to affirm the legitimacy of their spiritual experience. The divinely established authority of the clergy matters to Mary. She trusts them, despite their failings, because she knows that the plan of salvation is worked out through their ministry.
The average Catholic must not be discouraged by the apparent ongoing scandals of the clergy. We do not excuse scandal, of course, but history offers us a perspective on what is happening: priests, precisely because they are “officers” in the Church Militant, are always the devil’s first target. Spiritual attacks will strike hardest at the clergy in every day and age. And we are well aware that when clergymen are weak, the whole Church is weak. Still, the lay faithful can do much to strengthen them.
First, pray to the Mother of Priests for those clergymen who have fallen through scandal. Ask her to heal them, renew them, and return them to a fruitful public ministry where that is possible. Where not, ask Our Lady to unite their sufferings and frustrations to the Cross of Jesus for the ongoing redemption of the world. Our Lady knows that the priesthood is a spiritual gift to the Church and to the world even when a priest is not in active ministry. Fallen priests can still join Our Lady, through prayer and penance, in the undoing of the knots of the world’s sins.
Second, pray every day together with Our Lady for an increase in good and holy vocations to the priesthood. She will raise them up for the renewal of the Church just as she witnessed the power of the Resurrection to undo the devastation of her Son’s death.
It was on that day, Good Friday, that Our Lady wrapped her divine Son in a burial cloth and laid Him in a tomb. And behold – three days later, the knots of the High Priest’s shroud were completely undone!
By Peter Darcy
Iconographic source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Mary_and_saints_gallery#/media/File:Angelico,_pala_di_annalena_con_predella.jpg