You have arrived
Do you remember when Pope Francis was first elected in 2013 and how he stepped out on to the balcony at St. Peter’s to meet the cheering crowds? He then did something extraordinary. He asked us to pray for him. This was no pious gesture or false humility. This was a sincere request born of his awareness of the overwhelming responsibility now placed on his shoulders. He knows his limitations. In his first major magazine interview, Pope Francis was asked: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” His response: “I am a sinner.” He paused and then added: “but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ...”
Pope Francis not only knows his own personal limitations, he is acutely aware of the limits of his brother priests. This awareness prompts this month’s petition. We priests are so very human, and yet we are given this extraordinary gift of access to people’s hearts, of being the public face of Christ’s Church. When a priest accomplishes much good, everyone benefits. But when a priest fails to reflect Christ, everyone touched by his ministry also suffers. We are well aware of how much damage has been done by those priests who have tried to meet their needs for intimacy, love, and self-worth in twisted, damaging ways.
All people need friends. Priests are no exception. That’s one reason why Pope Francis himself moved out of the Papal Palace and into Casa Santa Marta - so he could have more support from his brother priests. We pray that our priests may also form strong bonds of fraternal support with one another. And may all priests draw closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the source of all comfort and strength.
Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJRetreat Director, Itinerant Preacher and Writer
Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington, Illinois (USA)