When a country is at war, citizens stand behind their troops fighting the enemy. Communities organize to collect food, clothes and other essentials to make the soldier feel comfortable in the war zone. Schools direct their students to write cards with well wishes to the warriors. Parents and friends send care packages. The government that has sent him to fight tries to sustain him by replenishing his supplies and sending reinforcements. All these gestures remind the soldier in the field that people on the home front care and support him. The mementos from home help sustain his morale in the fight against an enemy that is trying to destroy his family and country.
The Catholic Church is fighting a battle against a ruthless enemy that will not back down. Just like any country at war, the Church has troops on the frontlines. These troops are its men that have answered the call to take Holy Orders.
Are they getting the support they need? Is their morale strong enough to resist the enemy’s onslaughts? Are parishioners and laypeople giving its frontline troops the proper support they need?
The devil, “A murderer from the beginning, …a liar and the father of lies,” Satan is “the deceiver of the whole of the world.” This is the enemy that our priests are waging battle against. Unfortunately many Catholics do not recognize that our priests are fighting this battle due to their disbelief in Satan. Due to this unbelieving most priests are not getting the support they require.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders, (CC 1536) “…is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry.” Powerful words that deem repeating: “…the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry.” That is a heavy burden for a man. Though the men that become priests are called they still have the choice to accept the calling. Through training and schooling they understand what they are entering. Years of training, counseling and mentoring prepares these men for the work that is ahead of them. All through this they can quit if young man wants.
Once he completes that training and a Bishop approves of his learning and his moral character he moves to the next step. Then a Bishop ordains the man. “Impose not hands lightly upon any man (1 Timothy 5:22)”.
Reviewing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the below paragraphs highlight the responsibilities imposed on priests.
Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and rules his Body. Hence the priesthood of priests, while presupposing the sacraments of initiation, is nevertheless conferred by its own particular sacrament. Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head. (CCC 1563)
This “special character” signifies that priests represent Jesus’ presence in the Church
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, “but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation ‘to the end of the earth,”‘47 “prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere. (CCC 1565)
It is true that someone validly ordained can, for grave reasons, be discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can be forbidden to exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the strict sense,75 because the character imprinted by ordination is for ever. The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently. (CCC 1583)
Our priests have given up most basic human desires to help us and to serve the Lord. When they take Holy Orders they offer themselves wholeheartedly to God and us.
Priests are on the frontline in the fight against Satan. As such, they are the main targets of Satan. Many Catholics look upon their priests as examples and Satan purposely targets priests knowing that if a priest fails, this will influence many believers. This might, no will,turn Catholics away from the Church. We have seen this tactic work during the recent sex scandal. We have to remember that priests are human and are susceptible to all the weaknesses of man.
Priests, just as police officers and soldiers, witness all the cruelties of man. They hear things daily in confession that most of us do not hear in a lifetime. Priests, during last rites, see the agony of dying people; some might be begging to continue to live. Missionary priests face physical attack overseas, in prison and at their parishes. Priests in the United States face constant verbal abuse on-line, in print, on television, in novels, from politicians and in face to face encounters.
Satan hopes these attacks weaken the will of the priests. The devil wants them to give up, feel isolated, distressed and forlorn. When priests begin to feel this way, this when the evil one strikes.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
The main thing that Catholics can do to help priests perform their duties is to believe that there is a devil. Because once we stop believing in Satan we are not actively defending against him and the gates are wide open for him to perform his evil. Disbelief also make him stronger to weaken the will of priests.
Priests sacrifice much to serve. So they deserve our whole hearted support.
How do we support priests since they are on the frontlines fighting? Well, just as we do for our soldiers. We provide them with encouragement and nourishment. Parishioners should communicate with them as we do with any human. We should not only talk to them about our problems. Parishioners should talk to priests as if they were regular people. Ask them how their week was. How their family is; work ? How was their vacation? Simple questions that let priests know that the parishioner cares.
Sometimes parishioners are selfish in their interactions with priests. Parishioners bombard priests with requests, advice, prayers and other assorted comments that are parishioner centric. While priests are here to serve, we have to remember they are human too.
These little things will go along way to better the morale of our priests and fight Satan.
In the meantime, pray this to support our priests:
Gracious and loving God, we thank your for the gift of our priests.
Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments.
Help our priests to be strong in their vocation.
Set their souls on fire with love for your people.
Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.
Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel.
Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.
Help them to become instruments of your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.
Photography: See our Photographers page.
Sean Morrisroe is husband to a wonderful woman and father of to an 11-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter. He served 10 years in the US Marine Corps as an infantryman and in his post Marine Corps career has worked at investment banks, business valuations firms and public companies focusing on mergers & acquisitions. Sean graduated from UC Irvine with a BA in History, attended the London School of Economics and received a certificate in Finance from UCLA.