Photo: Felix Carroll
The Divine Mercy image, Lagiewniki, Poland — outside the convent where St. Faustina received her Divine Mercy revelations. Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, has frequently returned to these revelations as a source of hope and renewal for the Church and the world.
The Pope: Our Priests Need Divine Mercy
By David Came (Jun 2, 2010)
The desire for priests "to be Apostles of Divine Mercy" guided by Mary was expressed in a special prayer of Pope Benedict XVI during his recent pastoral visit to Fatima, Portugal. The occasion came when the Holy Father entrusted and consecrated priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on May 12 at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima. There, he invoked the Blessed Virgin Mary as "Mother of Mercy" and prayed:
Guided by you, we want to be Apostles of Divine Mercy, glad to celebrate every day the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar and to offer to those who request it the sacrament of Reconciliation.
He was celebrating vespers in the church with consecrated persons and priests, which he closed with the Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The prayer came with a little more than a month left in the Year for Priests proclaimed by the Pope, which will end on June 19.
Interestingly, Divine Mercy for priests was also on the Holy Father's mind when he opened the Year for Priests in his homily in St. Peter's on June 19, 2009, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It also marked the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the patron of priests. On that occasion, the Holy Father underscored how much priests themselves need to respond to "the call to conversion" and have "recourse to Divine Mercy," so they can avoid "the terrible risk of harming those whom [they] are bound to save":
Even our shortcomings, our limitations, and our weaknesses must lead us back to the Heart of Jesus. Indeed, if it is true that sinners, in contemplating Him, must learn from Him the necessary "sorrow for sins" that leads them back to the Father, it is even more so for holy ministers. How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing makes the Church, the Body of Christ, suffer more than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who are transformed into "a thief and a robber" of the sheep (Jn 10:1 ff.), or who deviate from the Church through their own private doctrines, or who ensnare the Church in sin and death? Dear priests, the call to conversion and recourse to Divine Mercy also applies to us, and we must humbly address a heartfelt and ceaseless invocation to the Heart of Jesus to keep us from the terrible risk of harming those whom we are bound to save.
The Pope's prayer at Fatima and his remarks in opening the Year for Priests should inspire our own reflection and prayer. Consider that in his prayer at Fatima, the Pope identifies what should be uppermost in our prayer for priests — that they become, under Mary's guidance, apostles of Divine Mercy to such a degree that they are glad to minister the great Sacraments of Mercy to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. Just imagine what would happen in our parishes if every priest took this to heart!
On the other hand, consider how the Holy Father's homily in opening this special year clearly shows us that the path priests must take to become apostles of Divine Mercy is their own "conversion and recourse to Divine Mercy." Otherwise, they run the danger of being "transformed" by their sins into "'a thief and a robber' of the sheep," as the clergy sexual abuse scandal has so painfully shown us. The bottom line, then, is that for their ministry to be credible and authentic on the altar and in the confessional, priests must experience God's mercy in their own lives.
This is why, encouraged by our Holy Father, we should pray earnestly to Our Mother of Mercy for Divine Mercy for all our priests, especially during these last weeks of the Year for Priests. As we do, we should keep in mind that Divine Mercy is ultimately the only answer — the only solution — to the clergy sexual abuse scandal that has caused so much suffering in the Church. Let the cry of our hearts be, "Mother of Mercy, we entreat you to plead God's mercy for our priests! Help them to open their hearts to receive God's mercy. Guide them in becoming apostles of Divine Mercy."
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass. He is the author of Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate.