Today, I’m happy to share my recent email conversation with Kathleen Beckman, author of Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization. As you’ll note, Kathleen has devoted her life to leading our families in fervent prayer for our priests. Please take time to savor her suggestions and share this interview with your family and friends. Lisa
Q: Kathleen, thank you for your time and for your work with Foundation of Prayer for Priests. Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
Thank you, Lisa for your dynamic ministry at CatholicMom.com and for the opportunity to be interviewed for your many readers. I am a cradle Catholic, married to my high school sweetheart, and mother of two adult sons, with one daughter in law and one 4-month-old granddaughter. We are empty nesters presently and own a family business. My education focused on medical administration, a field where I worked for 12 years before working with my husband in the family business. Like most Catholic families, ours has endured seasons of immense joy and profound sorrow. That we have cried together and often made big mistakes makes the times of laughter the sweeter. Throughout the years our faith has been the cornerstone of our lives, though our living it is imperfect. We are a work in progress like most families.
Q: Congratulations on the publication of Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization. Please share what prompted you to write this book and what our readers will discover in the book.
In January 2013, I was invited by a group of priest friends to join them for a private retreat in Jerusalem. On the evening that arrangements were made for extended prayer time at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, my spiritual director who works for the Holy See arrived. Upon handing me the new 2012 version of the Congregation for Clergy’s booklet, Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Motherhood, he invited me to pray about whether the Lord is calling me to help in this mission. The initiative with urgency emphasized the call to pray for priests that they might be holy and the Congregation for Clergy looked to women to take up spiritual motherhood in the tradition of many female saints highlighted in their booklet.
At Calvary, while praying before the icon of the Sorrowful Mother, Mary quickened my heart. I became convinced that now is the time to engage more intentionally in supporting priests as the Holy See asked. When I returned home, after more consultation and prayer, I wrote a three-page action plan and mailed it to the Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. I had doubts about whether that letter would ever make it to the Cardinal’s desk in Rome but I entrusted it to Mary.
On the Marian Feast of the Visitation, five weeks later, via the Papal Nuncio, I received a letter from Cardinal Mauro Piacenza who strongly encouraged me to go forward with my proposal. I was actually very surprised, and overwhelmed! Five priests and four laywomen were engaged to form the approved apostolate, Foundation of Prayer for Priests, and I started writing the book that is now published by Sophia Institute Press: www.sophiainstitute.com/landing/praying-priests/.
In the book, readers will discover the urgency of a need of the Church for our time, and how to engage in the mission of spiritual motherhood of priests. The book magnifies the plea of the Holy See. Namely, for the Church to move forward there needs to be interior priestly renewal.
The book builds a case for why we must pray for priests and catechizes about the identity of the priest as a spiritual father, spouse of the Church, spiritual physician, and sacrificial victim of divine love. A chapter connects prayer for priests to the New Evangelization with a helpful timeline of Church events. It includes dramatic testimonies to the power of the Rosary as a school of prayer and how to live an intentional Eucharistic life. It is full of testimonies of saints, together with the living witness of priests and women religious that wrote their own stories. The book offers 100 pages of prayers, scriptural rosaries for priests and seminarians, spiritual exercises on forgiveness and healing. One set of rosary reflections is based on St. John Paul II’s encyclical Salvifici Doloris on the meaning and value of human suffering, with an emphasis on forgiveness. One chapter focuses on Mary’s spiritual motherhood and the next on the spiritual maternity of women in the Church, past and present.
Q: How did you and your family become involved in praying for priests?
My husband and I met in Catholic school and were raised in homes where the practice of the Catholic faith was strong, and our respective parents were active in their parishes. We grew up in the company of priests who came to our respective family homes for dinner, holidays and special occasions. At the start of our marriage, however we were caught up with work and financial advancement, so, regrettably, for a few years we did not practice the faith. With the birth of our children, we returned to the sacraments. As regards to the family praying for priests, regrettably, when the children were young, we did not do so, though we encouraged them to consider priesthood and made their Catholic education a priority from grade school through university. My husband’s spiritual journey has been on a different trajectory since the tragic murder of his father. As mentioned above, we are a work in progress!
In my mid-thirties I experienced a conversion of heart with renewed fervency for prayer when I joined a rosary prayer group with some school moms, the fruit of which was the start of the Magnificat, A Ministry to Catholic Women, in my diocese. My travels to many Magnificat chapters and involvement in the diocesan deliverance team brought more interaction with priests. As involvement in the diocese increased, so did friendships with priests and, for years, we opened our home to a group of priests for a weekly prayer cenacle. For training in the ministry of healing and deliverance, I was sent to conferences hosted at Mundelein seminary and met many more priests. Invitations to lead retreats for priests and seminarians ensued. I became increasingly aware not only of their identity as other Christ’s but also as human beings who face struggles while striving to live their priesthood with heroic virtue. Priests are God’s chosen and marked men but they are also first targets of all that oppose God and Church.
Q: Why is this fervent prayer such a critical component of the New Evangelization?
The New Evangelization is the Holy Spirit’s answer to the spiritual state of the world today. Prayer is an essential activity of the New Evangelization. Prayer is the pathway to union with God. Prayer opens the door for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us and transform our hearts and souls. Prayer prepares us for mission.
As Pope Francis expresses in Evangelii Gaudium, intercessory prayer has missionary power: “When evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed of self-absorption, they are desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others.” Through prayer we are transformed, and through intercessory prayer we obtain graces for our priests, our foremost partners in the New Evangelization.
It is clear that intercessory prayer for priests is at the very heart of the New Evangelization considering what Pope John Paul II wrote in Pastores Dabo Vobis, “The formation of future priests…is considered by the Church one of the most demanding and important tasks for the future of the evangelization of humanity.”
As your readers know well, a generation of believers walked out of the doors of the Church. What will draw them back? In the opinion of the past three Popes and bishops (various Synods), the Eucharist is at the heart of the New Evangelization. The revitalization of sacramental life is paramount to bring back fallen away Catholics and to attract new ones. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) our hearts need to burn within at the “breaking of the bread” so we become what we consume in the Eucharist. Then is our witness joyful, attractive and authentic.
Only priests can make Jesus present in the Eucharist. Only priests can absolve our sins and pour the medicine of divine mercy upon sin-sick souls. The role of laity is vital and complementary to ministerial priesthood. We need one another to reciprocally mirror Christ’s holiness that we may be faithful to stand for Christ in a world opposed to the Gospel.
For the New Evangelization, we must remember that the Church is most thoroughly revitalized not by programs, but by saints. Spiritual motherhood and fatherhood is a response to Christ’s words from the Cross-, “I thirst” -for souls.
Q: What are some of the forms of prayer that may be undertaken on behalf of priests?
The Holy See asked specifically for two forms of time proven prayer: Eucharistic adoration and the Rosary. The book provides catechesis on both. Testimonies to the efficacy of Eucharistic holy hours, scriptural rosaries, and spiritual exercises such as the offering of 7 First Saturdays, or 7 Holy Communions, or 7 Holy Hours for priests and vocations are included. I share how our family has received miracles of grace through the praying the Rosary. As a daily communicant for twenty-four years, I can attest to the unfailing efficacy of Eucharistic life that includes a daily holy hour. The book is a testimony to the power of prayer so everyone will be encouraged to take up an intentional prayer life with expectant faith. Prayer that includes the offering up of suffering is highlighted. Well known to my generation, the practice of “offering up” suffering needs to be rediscovered in this generation.
Q: Many will claim that women are disadvantaged in the Church because we cannot pursue the vocation of priesthood. I would imagine that you have a quite different opinion, given your vantage point to observe and participate in the leadership of strong women’s apostolates such as Magnificat. How do you see the role of women and the Feminine Genius as critical to the future security of the priesthood?
By no means are women disadvantaged in the Church because we cannot pursue the vocation of priesthood. I am frustrated by claims in secular media that Catholic women desire to be priests. For the past twenty-five years in leadership for Magnificat, an international ministry to Catholic women, and also having close friendship with the ladies of Endow and Women of Grace, I have worked and prayed with tens of thousands of women. Never once did I hear from these women even a hint of a desire to become priests.
Honestly, wherever someone makes a case for women to become priests I find the fog of misunderstanding the essence of ministerial priesthood, and the temptation of pride sprouting up, “I know what’s best the Church. I know better.”
Mary is God’s guardian of the priest’s dignity and vocation. Mary gently moves priests to be transfigured into Christ. Catholic women, who take Mary as the model of faith, are led by the same Holy Spirit and live obedience of faith. God raised Mary to the dignity of becoming the Mother of the Eternal High Priest. She was not chosen to be a priest, but to give the Eternal High Priest his human body: bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh. Is this not the highest dignity for woman—to cooperate with God in creating new life, physical and spiritual? Mary’s “feminine genius” is exemplified in a sacrificial love that serves life. So it is for faithful daughters of the Church.
Women are called to give life to the ministerial priesthood by infusing it with the odor of sanctity arising from maternal love. Women have powerful influence in the ministerial priesthood when they model Marian virtue for priests. St. Edith Stein describes the role of women:
The intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God’s work in the soul. For an understanding of our unique feminine nature, let us look to the pure love and spiritual maternity of Mary. This spiritual maternity is the core of a woman’s soul. Wherever a woman functions authentically in this spirit of maternal pure love, Mary collaborates with her. This holds true whether the woman is married or single, professional or domestic or both, a Religious in the world or in the convent. Through this love, a woman is God’s special weapon in His fight against evil. Her intrinsic value is that she is able to do so because she has a special susceptibility for the works of God in souls — her own and others. She relates to others in His spirit of love. (Essays on Woman)
I chose this quote for the book because it highlights the dignity of women. I love the line that women, through maternal love, have been chosen to be “God’s special weapon in His fight against evil.” Priests sense this and appreciate the role of praying women in their lives! The book highlights a reflection from Monsignor John Cihak on Mary and John the Beloved at the foot of the Cross. They help one another by engaging her feminine heart and his masculine heart to bring forth Mary’s motherhood and John’s priesthood. God Himself designed the complementarity of the masculine and feminine hearts, and it is beautiful!
Praying for the sanctification of priests will help engage the Feminine Genius in all women because no one is excluded in this mission of intercessory prayer—from the elderly in the convalescent homes, to the young bride or mother of a family, to the mid-aged career woman—all can contribute to the Church by the offering of suffering, penances, and prayers for priests. What is being asked is that we offer the first fruits of prayer for holy priests and more vocations.
In taking up this task, we live the Vatican II closing message addressed to women, “…at this moment when the human race is underdoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do much to aid mankind in not falling.”
Q: What can families do in our homes both to encourage vocations and to support and pray for priests?
When a family prays together, a spiritual intimacy is created that strengthens the bonds of all family members. Prayer is the principal way that the family becomes what it is meant to be (cf. Familiaris Consortio). The world and the Church, beginning with priests, need the first fruits of family prayer. One reason this is an urgent call for families is that they are the seedbeds of priestly vocations.
7 Ways to Foster Family Prayer, especially for priests & vocations include:
- Create a sacred space in your home that will be warm, welcoming and conducive to family prayer. Settings that include a crucifix, statue of Jesus or Mary or favorite saints and angels, candles, flowers, holy cards are ideal. Let this be considered holy ground where the family communes with God. Keep a family prayer journal with a list of intentions and include the seminarians and priests that you pray for by name.
- Obtain from your diocesan directory (often available online) the names of the seminarians and/or priests in your diocese and pray for one or more by name. Children may also appreciate having a picture of a few priests whom the family spiritually adopts.
- Pray a rosary or a chaplet of Divine Mercy together for seminarians and priests.
- Gather together to pray for one another before going to sleep each night. After your examination of conscience (a great spiritual exercise to teach children), remember to pray for a priest who may be exhausted and in need of spiritual help.
- The father and the mother can bless the children before going to bed; offer their children to God; and include a prayer for a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.
- Teach your family to offer up little sacrifices and/or their sufferings for priests who are engaged in helping families to carry their crosses.
- Invite a priest or seminarian to your home for a simple visit, or to share a family meal, or to watch a good spiritual movie (perhaps the life of a saint). Try to provide a brief time when the family and the priest can pray together.
Q: How can readers learn more about your ongoing work, including your wonderful Radio Maria program Living Eucharist?
I’d like to direct readers to the Foundation of Prayer for Priests website (www.foundationforpriests.org) for information and a myriad of resources on priesthood, prayer and spiritual motherhood but also on the formation of private or public Vianney cenacles, spiritual warfare, spiritual fatherhood and the offering of suffering. The Events section contains a calendar of speaking engagements, retreats, conferences, publications, etc. I hope readers will avail themselves of the Congregation for Clergy’s booklet and my new book by Sophia Press also.
Radio Maria has created a webpage for my weekly Living Eucharist programs where all programs are archived and can be heard from anywhere in the world via Internet, smart phones or tablets. This is found at http://radiomaria.us/living-eucharist/. I am privileged to have interviewed several bishops, clergy, nuns, and lay leaders like you, Lisa, over the past 3 years.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
I’d like to share that encouraging the mission of praying for priests to be holy and fostering spiritual motherhood has been surprising difficult. I have discovered what Pope Francis termed the “globalization of indifference” as it relates to praying for priests. A consumerist attitude is found among too many people in the pew who receive the priceless Sacraments from priests and remain unaware or unwilling to give back to the very men who feed them the Eucharist, absolve their sins, baptize their children, etc. The most disappointing of all is the awareness that the majority of Catholic parents admit they do not want their children to become priests or religious. I pray that families adopt the wisdom of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. I share this that your readers will pray the more and take action.
This mission is not mine, many have gone before, and countless are engaged already, but much more is necessary for the future of families and Church. To join this mission of the Church, please subscribe on the Home Page of www.foundationforpriests.org. I hope the book, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, will be a blessing to your loyal readership!
Copyright 2015 Lisa M. Hendey