ASK FATHER: “How do you keep your energy up for the fight?”


From a priest…

Someone forwarded me your article responding to Fr. Gerald J. Bednar’s article. First of all: thank you! :)

But second: how do you keep your energy up for the fight?

Many who believe the 1 true Faith, you have no need to preach to… and those who do not… well, I have more luck convincing my cup of ice tea because of willful blindness. I bounce between boundless energy to take this to the end, and deflated frustration. God bless you!

Let me try my hand at few points, not in logical order.

  • I am now getting pretty grey. As I contemplate my age and the time left to me, and how much I might have done but didn’t, and how much I have done but could have done better, and how much good I’ve accomplished by God’s good grace and what it might mean for others and myself, I ponder more and more my death and judgment and what Paul wrote in his Second Letter to Timothy … this is a reading that comes up often in the Extraordinary Form:

    I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Be sober. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming.

  • Reflecting on the Four Last Things and the duties of your state in life can be a strong motivational moment.
  • In John 6, when people were abandoning Christ because of His hard teachings, He asked His apostles if they, too, were going to leave Him.   Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”  To stray from Christ and His Church – which is what so many are doing even within Holy Church’s formal confines now – is unthinkable.  So, we stick to him.
  • Time at the batting cage and at the shooting range is time well spent and quite therapeutic.
  • We have set our hands to the plow.   It is human to be weary.  The Enemy can take advantage of that.  We can flag and fall down.  We have to get back up.  We have – I’ll speak for myself – I have many defects and, because in this life I can see only as if through a glass, darkly, I can get confused or tempted to give up.  But repetita iuvant.  Repeated things help.  We say our prayers and their content sinks in and becomes a part of us.  Say the Office.  Say the Rosary.  Learn the TLM, which will teach you more about priesthood.  We make affirmations and act of faith, hope, charity and contrition, over and over.  So, when times are hard, we have a path to follow and an interior compass and gyroscope to get us out the the dark place.  Also, once you’ve been knocked around for a bit longer than I am guessing you – with your “boundless energy” – have been, you’ll know that you can keep going.
  • We have the grace of Orders, through which God will help us when we call upon His help.  Just as the baptized and confirmed can do, just as spouses can call up the graces that flow from matrimony, we can invoke our Holy Orders.
  • My old pastor, Msgr. Schuler, used to say, “When you’re right, you can’t be wrong.”  We’re right.
  • A couple years ago, at an ordination, The Extraordinary Ordinary, Bp. Morlino, told the ordinands about Job and his tribulations.  In the parish they might experience some hard times.  When the criticisms or the blow back comes from doing our jobs, the bishop said, we have to say with Job, “Blessed by the name of the Lord!”
  • By preaching the truth, we fulfill our duty in the sight of God and men, for the sake of souls.  One of those souls is our own.  We preach the truth to save our own souls, whether people listen or not.  God help us to find, in the charity that seeks always the good of the other, the right words and manner at the right moment!  Nevertheless, we have an obligation to fulfill.  Of course we also have to remember what Augustine said, when he preached to his people a hard message.  He said that he was going to preach and save his soul whether they listened or not and were, thereby, not saved.  But he added, “Nolo esse salvus sine vobis… I don’t want to be saved without you.”
  • The priest, like Christ, is both the priest who offers the Sacrifice and, simultaneously, the Victim being sacrificed.  Christ poured Himself out.  So must we.  He fills us up again when we get ourselves out of the way.  (Yet another reason for the TLM and ad orientem worship.)
  • Even as I type, I have on a shirt with the time honored phrase containing much wisdom, “Embrace The Suck!”  Things will go sideways at some point.  Work through it.   Also, if things are going smoothly for a long time and people aren’t shooting at you, then you aren’t over the target.  [No, I don’t always wear my cassock to write these posts.]
  • Have purely clerical gatherings with good booze, steaks and great conversation.
  • Christ has not lied to us.  We know that He is our Savior and our God and that the Catholic Church is the one, indefectible Church that He Himself founded.  We know that when we act in and for His Church, each priest acts as alter Christus and in persona Christi.  If we are faithful He will give us every actual grace we need to fulfill our small part in His great plan.  And when we fall down or fail or flag, He raises us back up with His own hand.  And then there is His Mother, Queen of Priests who is always with us.  And there is St. Joseph, the Terror of Demons,  by us.  And there is St. Michael and our own Guardian Angels ever near us.  And there are the saints in heaven… And… And… And…. We are not alone.
  • Father, we just persevere.  Put on your big boy underwear and get back to work.

Frankly, I am grateful for this email.  Right now.

I have been flagging a bit myself, lately.

A lot of really bad news comes to my mailbox.   There is an endless flow of stupid surrounding us.  There is growing confusion and division as camps within the Church (and wider society) separate.   The Evil One is rampant in the Church like the roaring lion seeking whom he might devour.  There are also many good things happening, quietly and slowly.  But I, too, have been frustrated lately.

Moreover, I am pretty well convinced that I’ve been under attack in a particular way by the Enemy of the soul.  I’ve chosen a new course of spiritual counter-measures as a result and I’m fighting back.  To put it ironically but iconically, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

For example, I made a list of people for whom I will pray in a specific way to St. Joseph, along the lines of the Bux Protocol™.    I going to make greater use of Holy Water, blessed salt, etc.  I just picked up from the shop my newly framed prayers for before and after Mass that priests can/should recite.

I will, of course, GO TO CONFESSION!  Sacramentals and devotions are one thing, but that’s a sacrament.   The devil can go back to hell.

So, dear Father, persevere.  When life gets rough, you are also being offered great graces.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. benedetta says:

    Great post. Motivating. Inspiring. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Father Z.

  2. stephen c says:

    This post was very moving. Feel free to skip this perhaps tangential comment with my observations on Saint Peter, who achieved so much — I could be wrong, but when you read all the words of Peter from the gospels, it is very difficult to agree with people who say he betrayed Jesus (I am not arguing with the word betrayed, as that is the word Jesus used) from cowardice or weakness. He was one of the first to fully recognize that Jesus was God, and probably the first to proclaim that truth so loudly. His motives for doing the things he is recorded as doing after, say, the Transfiguration, could not have been the simple motives of cowardice and fear of death that would have been, for example, my motives (as a person who has not left everything to follow Jesus, as Peter did, and as someone who is, approximately, at best the 10 billionth person to recognize that Jesus is God). So when the Bible says Jesus said Peter would betray him 3 times before the cock crowed, I am not sure that “betraying” was more than an intellectual mistake, a tactical error, and as I get older I am more and more convinced (having met many brave Christians, an experience I did not have when younger) that Peter “denied” Jesus only to stay close to Jesus without being arrested himself, in the hope of saving or helping Jesus, at the cost of his own life (and he eventually gave up his own life, not to save Jesus from the cross, but helping to save who knows how many souls with his sacrifice of his own life ….). Maybe his only mistake, on that Friday night, was not understanding the mission, and maybe his “betrayal” was only a lack of understanding. Are we not called to assess the actions and statements of fellow Christians – particularly the obviously holy and pious ones – in the best light possible, if we can? Anyway, the truth is great, and the truth will prevail. “When you’re right, you can’t be wrong” – that is a good quote.

  3. Charles E Flynn says:

    The Daily Mail would summarize this article as:

    Priest Tries to Cure “Itchy Ears” BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Folks, let’s not forget to pray for priests!! All priests need our prayers. The ones that irritate us need more prayers, and the ones that help us deserve more prayers. :)

    And let’s not forget deceased priests, either.

    Re: Peter, I think his problem was that he had no plan about what to do if he were recognized. Unfortunately, this made him prey to temptation. (His lies were childishly bad, and it’s clear that St. Peter was normally so straightforward that it was obvious when he wasn’t being that.) And it was probably made worse not just by Jesus’ prediction and look at him (although that would be bad enough!), but by his previous fulminations at Judas’ betrayal, once he figured it out.

    But just because he was weak, doesn’t mean he wasn’t sinful. It’s exactly at our weak points that we are most likely to get nasty and sneaky and bad.

  5. DavidR says:

    Fr. Z, for what it’s worth, you are in my daily prayers.

  6. DavidR says:

    Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Faithful to the Core says:

    I would just add that you should read Cardinal Sarah’s “The Power of Silence” and practice it. All the other prayers are wonderful, appropriate, and powerful, but the encounter of God in silence is where we come to trust God in the worst of times and to understand that God will do for us what we cannot do by ourselves. We just need to ask Him and get out of His way (the hard part).

  8. yatzer says:

    It’s interesting and sort of comforting in a way that this post has so much resonance with my own situation even though I’m older, battered, female, married, and a mother and grandmother. So I also take heart from your response, Father. We have to get strength and keep going through the tough areas to our heavenly home and take as many with us as we can. Thank you, you are in my prayers.

  9. Spinmamma says:

    Father Z,

    You must know that your words of strength, encouragement, humor and truth are a lifeline to many of your readers. You are more a pastor to me than my own priest, much as I love him and pray for him (and all the clergy.) We thank God every day for you and the others who continue to speak the truth in love despite the growing chaos. Thank you for your strength, wisdom, and clarity.

  10. Kathleen10 says:

    As things do grow darker and darker, we should realize more and more how precious and valuable are our good priests. God bless you and all good priests Fr. Z. I will remember you in my prayers.
    Happy Thanksgiving, to you and all. :)

  11. stephen c says:

    Well said, Suburban at 7:36 AM, I can’t disagree with a word of that. And if I have forgotten sometimes to pray for priests every day, I will try not to forget going forward.

  12. jdt2 says:

    What a beautiful post. Thank you, Father. Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. HealingRose says:

    “How do you keep your energy up for the fight?”

    You mean the answer isn’t to start each day with plenty of Mystic Monk coffee?

    ..but first, coffee!

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    I don’t know about others, as I don’t quite see this as “a fight”, but rather as a discipline of truth and Faith to be never abandoned, but I must say that I often find the following to be helpful :

    Genesis : {1:1} In principio creavit Deus cælum, et terram.
    {1:2} Terra autem erat inanis et vacua, et tenebræ erant super faciem abyssi: et Spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas.
    {1:3} Dixitque Deus: Fiat lux. Et facta est lux.
    {1:4} Et vidit Deus lucem quod esset bona: et divisit lucem a tenebris.

    John : {1:1} In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum.
    {1:2} Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.
    {1:3} Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est,
    {1:4} in ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum:
    {1:5} et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt.

  15. gracie says:

    When I think about what I have no control over I turn it around and say, “Okay, I know what I can’t do . . . what *can* I do? What can I do in the next 30 minutes? In the hour after that? A whole bunch of ideas present themselves to me when I approach my day and my life in this way. Bills to pay, dishes to clean, laundry to do. All right, what else? People I should call, get-togethers I should plan, exercising I should do. Do two things at once – take a walk *and* say the rosary. You feel lonely? Look around and figure out who’s lonelier than you – assisted living/rehab/nursing homes are a good place to start. Go visit these people – find out what they need and how you can help them – often just being there is enough. Get them to talk about their lives – old people can be really interesting. And then return again – and again – once is not enough.

    Develop hobbies. Fr. Z does baseball and target practice among other things. I do bridge, kanji, and piano. You may not be called to the religious life but there are so many opportunities to serve God Himself through the Church. (They always need CCD teachers – pass on the faith to kids who aren’t getting it from their parents.) Have a bunch of books to read – the good ones become dear friends that can be revisited when you want to take that journey again. There really are a few good things on t.v. and at the movies – look until you find them. Go beyond blogs and use the internet to expand your knowledge. If we’re blasted back to the cave days I can make a nice set of stone tools for you thanks to a Youtube video that showed me how. You like Western Civilization? Get out to museums and historical sites and learn about it. You can’t talk about what you don’t know.

    It sounds as if the priest is not only discouraged but also isolated. He probably knows about connecting to God but he shouldn’t forget to connect to life here on earth too. God works not only directly, but also through nature and through other human beings to help us on our journey through this life. There are so many opportunities God puts at our disposal to help form us in His image but if we’re blind to them they won’t do us any good.

    Forget about the things you can’t do. We’re all limited by our age and circumstances. Do what you can and it’s enough. Leave the rest to God. He’ll work it out.

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