Monday, March 3, 2014

Helping priests to embrace the mystery of their spiritual fatherhood

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Your prayers and sacrifices as spiritual mothers are indispensable and essential in helping priests to embrace the mystery of their spiritual fatherhood and to allow God to shape them as He desires.  

So many, either because of felt necessity or because of negligence, have made themselves all but inaccessible to the souls in their charge.  The confessional should be their "nido", the nest where they set out to nourish and strengthen the souls that come to them hungering for God's mercy.  

Your prayers are needed in order that their fatherhood might not simply be functional but the fruit of the unity of their will with that of Christ's; that they may give their hearts to Him so that He may help them to give their hearts - their lives - in the service of souls.  

This delicate work is beyond their strength - for they must care for those who come to them as Christ would; with immense love and respect; treating their sins with the gentlest touch and as a skilled surgeon.  

Like a good father, a priest must protect and yet give utmost freedom.  He must lead them to trust not in him but in Christ and the grace that flows from the Sacrament.  He must seek to help them see God's providence and discern His plan for their lives.

It is you, Daughters, who can help him carry the weight of this responsibility as Christ desires and in imitation of Him.  Pray that each priest may in his very act of pardoning also take upon himself with his children the penance in reparation for sins.  Above all pray that priests may not lose sight of the precious gift of this ministry or what God desires to do through him and in him.     

To understand, you must humbly accept the mystery which surrounds you on every side: the mystery of your being on this earth; the mystery of your vocation; the mystery of your spiritual fatherhood; the mystery of the scope I have left to your initiative; the mystery of your unique role in the history of redemption, since you are only dust, ashes and negation.

What you must know is that this mystery is a mystery of love, and it is love alone that will give you an appreciation of the wealth of grace which will keep you tranquil in the face of doubt and contradictions.  Do not waste time acting without love.  The more you grow in love, that is, in forgetfulness of yourself in the service of souls, the more surely you will find balance, peace, and fruitfulness.  What I expect of you is an immense respect for the souls that I attract to you.  They do not belong to you.  If I have made you their judge it is in the spirit of love.  You are their physician as well.  Still more are you their servant.  Do not be content on pardoning them, but encourage them to take full advantage of the grace hidden in that pardon which you grant them in my name.  Those souls cost me blood.  Love them with the same love with which I have loved them, that is to say for themselves.  Help them to realize the plan of love that my Father has for each of them.

Your mission is not to think for them, but to help them to think; not to act for them, but to help them act.  If sessions in the confessional weigh you down, remember that it is natural for you to take upon yourself part of the expiation of the sins on which they accused themselves.  I pardoned sinners, but at the same time I made superabundant reparation for them.  The disciple is not above his Master.

Be confident.  I speak and make expiation in you just as I listen and profit by your offering in the penitent.  Be so united to me that they can discover me in you, and that you in your turn can easily discover me in every soul, or at least discover my desire for that soul.

I know the interior of the soul.  You know that I am he who sees within.  I grant lucidity, a perspicacity, an astonishing intuition to the priest who has grounded his will in mine and who has rid himself of every personal desire, in order that my Spirit may take possession of him.  Have a strong and persistent faith in the efficacy of your ministry in the confessional.  Trust more in what you do there, and for that purpose trust in what you are, that is to say, in what I have done for you, in what I want to do for you. if you are united with me.

Fr. Gaston Courtois
Before His Face
"The Priest in the Confessional"

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