Message for the day of prayer for priests
Congregation for the Clergy, April 22, 2008
Cardinal Cláudio Hummes

This is an excerpt prepared for L.C. study.  Full document >>

Eucharistic adoration and Spiritual maternity 

The Holy Mother of God remains an indispensable foundation of the whole of priestly life. The relationship with her cannot be resolved in pious devotional practice but is nourished by ceaseless entrustment to the arms of the ever Virgin of the whole of our life, of our ministry in its entirety. Mary Most Holy also leads us, like John, to beneath the Cross of her Son and Our Lord in order to contemplate, with her, God's infinite Love: "He who for us is Life itself descended here and endured our death and slew it by the abundance of his Life" (St. Augustine, "Confessiones," IV, 12).

As a condition for our redemption, for the fulfillment of our humanity, for the Advent of the Incarnation of the Son, God the Father chose to await a Virgin's "Fiat" to an angel's announcement. Christ decided to entrust, so to speak, his own Life to the loving freedom of the Mother: "She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son's sufferings as he died on the Cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 61).

Pope St Pius X said: "Every priestly vocation comes from the heart of God but passes through the heart of a mother". This is true with regard to obvious biological motherhood but it is also true of the "birth" of every form of fidelity to the Vocation of Christ. We cannot do without a spiritual motherhood for our priestly life: let us entrust ourselves confidently to the prayer of the whole of Holy Mother Church, to the motherhood of the People, whose pastors we are but to whom are entrusted our custody and holiness; let us ask for this fundamental support.

Dear confreres, the urgent need for "a movement of prayer, placing 24-hour continuous Eucharistic adoration at the centre so that a prayer of adoration, thanksgiving, praise, petition and reparation will be raised to God, incessantly and from every corner of the earth, with the primary intention of awakening a sufficient number of holy vocations to the priestly state and, at the same time, spiritually uniting with a certain spiritual maternity -- at the level of the Mystical Body -- all those who have already been called to the ministerial priesthood and are ontologically conformed to the one High and Eternal Priest. This movement will offer better service to Christ and his brothers -- those who are at once ‘inside’ the Church and also ‘at the forefront’ of the Church, standing in Christ's stead (cf. "Pastores Dabo Vobis," No. 16), and representing him as head, shepherd and spouse of the Church" (Letter of the Congregation of the Clergy, 8 December 2007).

A further form of spiritual motherhood has recently been outlined. It has always silently accompanied the chosen ranks of priests in the course of the Church's history. It is the concrete entrustment of our ministry to a specific face, to a consecrated soul who has been called by Christ and therefore chooses to offer herself, with the necessary suffering and the inevitable struggles of life, to intercede for our priestly existence, thereby dwelling in Christ's sweet presence.

This motherhood, which embodies Mary's loving face, should be prayed for because God alone can bring it into being and sustain it. In this regard there are plenty of wonderful examples; only think of St Monica's beneficial tears for her son Augustine, for whom she wept "more than mothers weep when lamenting their dead children" (St. Augustine, "Confessions," III, 11).

Another fascinating example is that of Eliza Vaughan, who gave birth to 13 children and entrusted them to the Lord; six of her eight sons became priests and four of her five daughters became women religious. Since it is impossible to be true mendicants before Christ, marvelously concealed in the Eucharistic Mystery, without being able in practice to ask for the effective help and prayers of those whom he sets beside us, let us not be afraid to entrust ourselves to the motherhoods that the Spirit will certainly bring into being for us.

St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, aware of the extreme need of prayer for all priests, especially those who were lukewarm, wrote in a letter to her sister Céline, "Let us live for souls, let us be apostles, let us save above all the souls of priests.... Let us pray and suffer for them and on the last day Jesus will be grateful" (St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Letter 94).

Let us entrust ourselves to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Queen of Apostles, our sweetest Mother, let us look to Christ with her, ceaselessly striving to be totally, radically his; this is our identity!

Let us remember the words of the Holy Curée d’Ars, Patron of Parish Priests: "If I already had one foot in Heaven and I was told to return to the earth to work to convert sinners, I would gladly return. And if, to do this, it were necessary that I remain on earth until the end of the world, always rising at midnight and suffering as I suffer, I would consent with all my heart" (Brother Athanase, "Procès de l’Ordinaire," p. 883).

May the Lord guide and protect each and every one, especially the sick and those who are suffering the most, in the constant offering of our life for love.


Love Crucified