A Forty Hours Devotion and Prayers for Priests. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

I am in Denver, preaching for a Forty Hours Devotion following, of course, the Clementine Instruction in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

On Thursday we had a Sung Mass, after which I exposed the Blessed Sacrament, we had a procession, and sang the litany.  Yesterday, we had Low Mass at a side altar, while the Blessed remained exposed.  Tonight we have that rarest of liturgical critters, the Solemn Mass coram Sanctissimo, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed.  I’ve done it once before.  There are lots of little changes to keep the clerics focused.   Wait… I think even rarer might be the Solemn Mass coram Sanctissimo in the presence of the Ordinary.   Yes, such is thing exists.  Maybe we’ll get to do that some day.  But I digress.

In the run up to Forty Hours, I was asked if I had intentions for the Masses.  I chose as intentions, 1) In reparation for sacrilegious Communions, 2) For defense if the priesthood and of priests, 3) For an increase of vocations to the priesthood.   We are not praying about vocations in general, generic vocations.   No.  We are praying for priests.

One of the points I am making in sermons is that time with the Blessed Sacrament, good Holy Communions included, must have concrete results out there in living life.  When Forty Hours developed in the 16th century, so did Confraternities of the Eucharist.  But these confraternities of lay people also clothed and fed the poor, educated orphans, and picked up the dead in the streets and gave them proper burial.  There were social benefits integrally tied to their adoration of the Eucharist.  The benefits were not dreamy.  They were concrete.

So too, in talking about vocations to the priesthood, I stress that while we should pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood in a general way, we have to pray for vocations here and now among us.  Vocations can’t be someone else’s job to foster.  We all have that task here and now.  Concern for the poor “out there somewhere” is not enough.  Helping the poor right here and now is needed.  Concern for vocations “out there somewhere…”.

I hear from people all over the country about the state of vocations.  Some say that, as things are going now, they can expect 50% of their priests to retire or die in the next 5 years!   They add that there were X (a small number) of ordinations this year and only Y entered the seminary.  In other words: disaster.  Right?

We need more priests.

Furthermore, we need to pray for vocations in our midst, in our homes.  That prayer must constantly ring in the ears of young men in our families, our parishes.

In my home parish we prayed for vocations to the priesthood and religious life at every Sunday Mass using this.  Directly after the Gospel, the people would and the priest or deacon lead this:

In the 33 years that Msgr. Schuler was pastor there, and this prayer was used, there were 30 First Masses.   I’m just sayin’.  Again and again we see that traditional and reverent sacred worship, hard-identity priesthood, an open door, joy and a sense of humor, and lots of prayer draw men to the priesthood.

On this note… the Extraordinary Ordinary, Bp. Morlino of Madison, has been able to foster a large number of vocations for a mostly rural diocese.  How does he do it?  First, he asks men to think about the priesthood.    Duh, right?  He is supportive of his priests and seminarians.  And he says Mass, including the Extraordinary Form, happily and often.  Consider this:

Your Excellencies… THIS is how you do it.

Pray for vocations TO THE PRIESTHOOD.   Sure, go ahead and also pray for vocations for other walks of life too.  Fine.  But, right now, PRAY FOR PRIESTS and for an INCREASE in priestly vocations.

And, parents, grandparents, be willing to offer your children to God for this purpose.  For those of you who are… how to say this with delicacy… stingy, I offer you the example of St. Solomnis, mother of the Seven Holy Maccabee Brothers whom the Church venerates as saints and martyrs. The mother is being tried, tested, by being forced to watch each of here sons executed in different ways, eldest to youngest. She urges them not to give in.

Here is a taste of Ambrose in De Iacob et vita beata II, 12:

The words of the holy woman return to our minds, who said to her sons: “I gave birth to you, and poured out my milk for you: do not lose your nobility.” Other mothers are accustomed to pull their children away from martyrdom, not to exhort them to martyrdom. But she thought that maternal love consisted in this, in persuading her sons to gain for themselves an eternal life rather than an earthly life. And thus the pius mother watched the torment of her sons … But her sons were not inferior to such a mother: they urged each other on, speaking with one single desire and, I would say, like an unfurling of their souls in a battle line.

Everyone, unfurl your sons like battle standards.  Pray for all priests.  Pray for more priests.

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28 Responses to A Forty Hours Devotion and Prayers for Priests. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

  1. Flos Carmeli says:

    Thank you Fr. Z! My husband and I have been tasked by our pastor to form an apostolate for vocations in our parish. Where might one get permission to use/adapt Archbishop Brady’s Prayer for Vocations in our parish?

    [I don’t think you need permission. It is a sound prayer that had ecclesiastical approval. And don’t “adapt” it. I’ve seen adaptations by the well-meaning and they nearly always water it down. Not permanent deacons, especially. PRIESTS. Short and sweet, it worked as it is.]

  2. PTK_70 says:

    I rather think that parishes ought to pray specifically for young women, virgins, to consecrate themselves to the Lord in religious life. Vocations to the priesthood will follow.

    [But not in this prayer.]

  3. Tom A. says:

    I fear many in the hierarchy simply desire the vocation shortage. For them its a means to allow married priests and eventually women priests.

  4. Joseph-Mary says:

    Not just more priests but HOLY priests, worthy men. We have had enough of the other kind. We must pray for HOLY vocations. And still, now, holy vocations are targeted, religious orders are targeted if they are holy, comtemplatives are targeted, it will take more years to get to final vows, diocesan bishops cannot set up orders without modern Vatican permission and so on. The path is not an easy one. Love for God and for souls must lead a person to a great fortitude to make it through the gauntlet in many places. You know about that, Fr.Z.

  5. lmgilbert says:

    Does not praying for an increase in vocations fall short of the dictum: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men`s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” [No, it doesn’t.]

    Which is more likely to stir the heart of God and have a positive result, to pray for an increase in vocations or to pray something like this, “O Lord, fill up our rectories with priests, our empty convents with teaching nuns, our monasteries with monks, our cloisters with contemplatives”?

    Let us ask for something worthy of an all-powerful God. Honestly, simply praying for an increase in vocations bores me to death and I cannot be the only one. Let us pray far more ambitiously—as if we had great faith. Doing so is itself an act of great faith, is it not? But great faith has great results.

  6. lmgilbert says:

    Further to the above, Father you write, “In my home parish we prayed for vocations to the priesthood and religious life at every Sunday Mass using this.  Directly after the Gospel, the people would and the priest or deacon lead this:

    Here you insert the actual prayer that was said, but note both the wording and the result: “O God, we earnestly beseech thee to bless this archdiocese with many priests, brothers and sisters . . .” Then addressing Mary, the prayer says, “Pray for us. Pray for our priests and religious. Obtain for us many more.”

    Then you say, “In the 33 years that Msgr. Schuler was pastor there, and this prayer was used, there were 30 First Masses”

    But note, that was not a prayer for an increase in vocations, but for many vocations. There is a big difference, for if we have two ordinations in the diocese this year, and three the next, that is an increase alright, and an answer to the very unambitious and tiresome prayer for an “increase.” No, your parish prayed for many vocations and they had many vocations. If all the Church would pray the same, there would be no shortage of priests, period. Or is our Lord urging cautious, timid, “sensible” prayers when he says, “Whatever you ask for in faith, believing, you will receive”?

    [A distinction, perhaps, without a difference.]

  7. Tom A. is absolutely right. That is why a drive to pray for vocations must include prayers for the swift, decisive, crushing defeat of the Church’s enemies, especially those within her ranks.

  8. Athelstan says:

    I fear many in the hierarchy simply desire the vocation shortage. For them its a means to allow married priests and eventually women priests.

    Some are even more radical in their aspirations than that. In Germany, the shift is on to remove priests from regular parish life on a fundamental level, reducing them to little more than roving sacrament dispensers, while the parish itself is restructured on something like a congregationalist model, run by laypeople.

    There are not many places in the U.S. where that mindset is explicit; though some seem to be feeling forced into something like it as an expedient measure, with a preference for permanent deacons as administrators, where they are available in sufficient numbers.

    But no question that, indeed, in many dioceses over the past four decades and more, a number of bishops did indeed create an artificial vocations crisis, as Archbishop Eldon Curtiss of Omaha once famously declaimed.

  9. andia says:

    I run the website and the facebook page for a local parish. Would you mind if I shared that prayer for more vocations on them?

    Thanks

  10. majuscule says:

    From the Archdiocese of San Francisco:

    Jesus Christ has told us that if we want more vocations then we need to pray for them. Taking our Lord’s request to heart, on the weekend of February 4-5, there will four sites in the Archdiocese of San Francisco that will be having Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for vocations, with three sites open for 24 hours of prayer. We are inviting the faithful to come and pray in a particular way for vocations to the Consecrated Life, the Permanent Diaconate, and the Priesthood. You or a group may sign-up for a particular time slot or if you are busy, to just stop in and say a prayer.

    https://sfarchdiocese.org/home/archdiocese/archdiocesan-calendar/2017/02/04/archdiocesan-calendar/24-hours-of-prayer-for-vocations

  11. yatzer says:

    I’m afraid the stifling of what vocations there are in order to create an even bigger crisis in vocations, leading to demands for married clergy and/or priestesses is likely. I’m fairly sure that method was employed to prevent permanent deacons around here for a long time.

  12. Father Bartoloma says:

    The Tait!

  13. rbbadger says:

    In some dioceses, nearly half of the presbyterate will retire in the next five years. As I look at my brother priests in my diocese, I wish our numbers were that good. There are only three of us who are under 50.

    Under the previous administration, some highly placed clerics wanted to see nuns and deacons running the parishes with the priests coming in periodically to replenish the tabernacles. Seminarians were dismissed for frivolous reasons.

    We are paying a very high price for the foolishness of liberalism. There are glimmers of hope, with some very good men who will be ordained the next few months and years. But in the meantime, many of us are stretched very thin and caring for multiple parishes. We need many more ordinations and soon.

  14. Lucas Whittaker says:

    Father, We would love to have you preach a forty hours devotion at our parish! I would be thrilled to witness/assist at the Solemn Mass “coram Sanctissimo”, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. You recently visited our parish in St. Paul, and also know our pastor well. It might be best for the two of you to work out details. No? Otherwise I can suggest it . . .

    Regarding the prayer for vocations, I see what you mean about keeping it to priests and religious as opposed to watering it down. There is also the worthy practice of offering your life, or a part of it, for priests and holy vocations.

  15. PTK_70 says:

    While there is surely value in devout Catholics petitioning the Lord for faithful priests, brothers and sisters, I wish to put forward the notion that there may also be value in specifically praying that more young women commit themselves to celibacy for the sake of the Gospel. I’ve heard it said that the Marian principle precedes the Petrine principle in the Church.

    As a secondary consideration, the more the pool of “good Catholic girls” eligible for marriage shrinks, the more young Catholic men might be nudged to consider religious life and/or priesthood. Furthermore, if these young religious sisters have brothers of their own, then these latter will be more inclined to consider religious life and/or priesthood.

  16. Hidden One says:

    Time spent quibbling about how many more priestly vocations to pray for is time better spent praying for them. Oremus!

  17. GypsyMom says:

    With the present atmosphere of persecution of tradition-minded priests and religious that has come with this papacy, there may be a reluctance for pious young men to enter the seminary at this time. The destruction of the centuries-old SMOM in little more than two weeks can cause one’s blood to run cold for fear of this happening everywhere. I lived through the darkness of the 70’s and 80’s in the Church, and this present environment makes those dismal decades look like pre-school. Some young men may choose to wait out this pontificate.

  18. Flos Carmeli says:

    Fr Z says: “[I don’t think you need permission. It is a sound prayer that had ecclesiastical approval. And don’t “adapt” it. I’ve seen adaptations by the well-meaning and they nearly always water it down. Not permanent deacons, especially. PRIESTS. Short and sweet, it worked as it is.]”

    Thanks Fr! By “adapt” I meant only that we would name our own parish/diocese specifically. :)

  19. APX says:

    I wish to put forward the notion that there may also be value in specifically praying that more young women commit themselves to celibacy for the sake of the Gospel.

    How do you mean exactly? Religious vocations, private vow, Concescrated Virgins?

    If you’re referring to anything other than religious vocations to religious communities that are strictly Latin Mass traditional communities, in my experience, it will require a substantial amount of catechesis. At least in my Latin Mass community, marriage is the promoted and preferred vocation for women. I even had one woman tell me it would have been better if I had married a widower to help raise his children than to commit my life to perpetual chastity. Her assumption was that I didn’t want to deal with babies and toddlers. *sigh* So much ignorance.

    [Pray for vocations to the PRIESTHOOD.]

  20. In Germany, the shift is on to remove priests from regular parish life on a fundamental level, reducing them to little more than roving sacrament dispensers, while the parish itself is restructured on something like a congregationalist model, run by laypeople.

    That has happened in the U.S. too. I am personally familiar with a local parish where that mess went on for years. They finally ditched that model and got a resident pastor a few years ago.

  21. hwriggles4 says:

    Fr. Z:

    Great post. I will copy this prayer.

    Here’s a witness moment that I will share here. Yesterday, I was in Austin for the Texas Rally for Life March to the Capitol grounds – a first for me. I briefly had a discussion with five seminarians from the Austin Diocese who showed up to March and pray. All were clothed in the Cassock. I thanked each of them for coming, and as many young people were there, I am sure some boys and young men noticed.

    There was also a group of religious sisters from the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist present. The Austin Diocese invited them in some years ago as teachers, and the majority of these sisters are under 40, know their faith, have a genuine interest in young people, and are good communicators. Their students, even the teenagers, Respect them. By the way, these sisters are outgrowing their convent, which says they are on the right track.

  22. hwriggles4 says:

    APX:

    There is an order of more traditional religious called the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. I heard there story a few years ago on Catholic Answers. A search engine will help you find more of their story.

  23. Nan says:

    I fast from meat on Fridays with the intention of fostering vocations to the priesthood.

    We’re fortunate locally that we have over 60 men in formation for our diocese between the college seminary and the major seminary. I think one commenter here has made the trek from minor to major seminary. We have many lovely young priests and the men in seminary are our hope for the future.

  24. VexillaRegis says:

    Great idea! When he was small, I used to hope that my son would be called to the priesthood, but I have never prayed for it. I don’t dare. Not in these times of persecution, both inside and outside the Church. Am I a coward or just a loving mother?

    Vexilla

  25. AnnTherese says:

    I also pray for devoted lay men and women to answer God’s call to become educated and trained for ministry roles, in addition to living their vocations as married or single people. There is plenty of work to do, and while we’re praying for new priests or sisters/brothers, we can also be encouraging lay people to share their gifts and faith. (By the way, these lay ministers pay their own way through graduate school and/or other training programs, and usually are underpaid and make other sacrifices to do work they are passionate about and feel called by God to do. They are rarely recognized, but they impact many Catholics and are instrumental in keeping parishes and dioceses operating, and often, flourishing.) Prayers for ALL who are called to serve God and our Church!

  26. JustinNelson says:

    The problem doesnt lie with vocations and the response to the call. The Lord hasn’t stopped calling men to the priesthood and many good men have responded,
    The issue lies in what happens around this.
    Men feel a desire to serve the Lord, to give their lives to the mission of serving Him as one of His Priests, then they visit with a vocation director or go to seminary this is where the real problems lie where the real prayers are needed.
    Men are told by vocation directors that what the Lord has placed in their hearts no longer exists, that the priesthood has changed, what was read about in the lives of the saints which confirmed this calling they felt is a memory of the past. Trying to follow this memory of the past also gets one removed from seminary.
    During my 8 years of formation in 2 diocese, 2 religious orders and three seminaries the stories were all the same.
    God was calling and good men were responding yet they were destroyed by bishops and formators.
    So many men showed up fervent and good willed but were slowly- some not so slowly–worn down by the demanded mediocrity of formation.
    Some left on their own will not willing to go through the motions of pretending to be heretics, or treat Christ poorly in the Eucharist so they could get ordained, others were kicked out for failing to do so.
    Sadly those who often wound up worst are those who tried to keep their head down and play the game. Years of compromise and duplicity to get ordained take their toll.
    Instead of forming leaders formation houses demand compromise and betrayal. After 8 years of this they are ordained and told still to play the game as a Parocial Vicar until they become a Pastor- more years of compromise, then after becoming a Pastor are told make no changes for a year or two.
    After years of compromising, duplicitous behavior and failing to lead it is unrealistic to expect them to change old habits now.
    Most of these men wind up broken because the system has betrayed them. They may understand the beauty of the Priesthood but know the system will not allow them to live it as Christ intended.
    Fulton Sheen once said that if you wanted to see your kids lost the faith send them to Catholic Schools. To update that quote it may be better to say that if you want your kids to lose the faith send them to a Catholic Seminary.

  27. PTK_70 says:

    Hi APX,

    Now that this post is off the front page, I feel as though we can converse a bit more freely about the topic at hand. As to your question, I had in mind religious vocations. But I understand that there are other avenues by which to pursue celibacy for the sake of the Gospel.

    Let me say this about Archbishop Brady’s “Prayer for Vocations” which appears above: this prayer wisely petitions the Lord for priests AND brothers AND sisters. Not priests only. Here’s the problem with an exclusive focus on priests, as I see it: a young woman, who has yet to commit herself to some path in life or another, may get the idea that her “job” in the Church is to become a mother of boys who might then grow up to be priests. She will perhaps be inclined, then, to look askance at a religious vocation, for in following this path how can she become the mother of many boys who will grow up to be priests?

    If in your community marriage is the “promoted and preferred” vocation for women, surely your community is out of step with the Church. Trent anathematized this notion.

    Why, then, a specific focus on praying for women religious? Here I’ll point to a recent post on Aleteia titled, “What have nuns done for us lately?”: http://aleteia.org/2017/01/30/what-have-nuns-done-for-us-lately/?ru=07d9f1e39af8fda86f0d72ef9e21f779.

    And then there’s this: in hearing a prayer which specifically petitions heaven above for more women religious, no young man is going to think, “my job in the Church must be to get married and sire many girls who will grow up to be sisters.” That’s just not the way a young man’s mind operates. So I see no danger whatsoever in petitioning the Lord specifically for more nuns.