Writings from Tulsa 2008—2012: February 2009 Archives

So, what do you do all day?

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Daffodils Blooming Under the Chapel Window

Some folks do wonder what I do all day. This week I am especially blessed to have two priests staying with me here in the Cenacle to make a retreat. It is a very much a participatory retreat for them: one of the priests, Father M., has been doing the cooking, a task made simpler by the homemade meals that some women of the diocese have been kind enough to prepare. Both priests follow the whole monastic day and, if I am called away to hear a confession or meet with someone, they carry on valiantly.

Here is the horarium as it stands:

5:00 a.m. Rise, Coffee.

Why coffee before Vigils, you ask? I use the distribution of the Psalter (150 psalms in one week) as given in the Rule of Saint Benedict. Vigils, with fourteen psalms, plus the hymn, readings and responsories on an ordinary day, last for an hour. Usually I am alone for Vigils. A hot cup of coffee improves my actuosa participatio!

5:45 Exposition, Vigils, Angelus

First there is a little antiphon to Our Lady, a reminder of the Office of the Blessed Virgin that at Cluny and Cîteaux used to precede the great Night Office. And yes, the day begins, while it is still dark, in the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. After exposing the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, I recite a short prayer of adoration and reparation on behalf of all my brother priests throughout the world, especially for those who are most in need of our Lord's presence, and of the healing and purity that flow from His wounded side in the Blood and in the Water. Then the Office begins: Domine, labia mea aperies.


Very, very simple. The monastic term is frustulum.

{ Lectio Divina

Readers of Vultus Christi know the explanation of lectio divina that I often give. It is the Word heard (lectio), the Word repeated (meditatio), the Word prayed (oratio), and the Word indwelling the heart (contemplatio).

7:30 Lauds

A glorious Hour as Saint Benedict laid it out: Psalm 66, Psalm 50 (the Miserere: compunction, spiritual resurrection, and praise), two morning psalms, a canticle from the Old Testament, the three Laudate Psalms (148, 149, 150) under one doxology. Then follows a short reading, responsory, hymn, and versicle that lead into the Benedictus, the Canticle of Zechariah with its own special antiphon. The Hour ends with a little Kyrie, eleison litany, the Our Father, the oration of the day, a commemoration of Our Lady, and the concluding verses. After the Office: an antiphon and prayer for priests, invoking the intercession of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, the model of priest-adorers.

{ Lectio Divina

9:00 Tierce and Holy Mass

Tierce recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Thus, Holy Mass is offered under the fire of the Paraclete who descends in response to the prayer of the Church, with His seven gifts.

After Holy Mass -- celebrated in Latin apart from the readings -- there is work to be done. This is when I generally schedule appointments for the clergy who come for spiritual support.

12:30 p.m. Sext, Rosary, Angelus

This is the simple prayer that closes the first half the day. Refreshment and peace close to Our Blessed Lady, the Advocate of Priests, and Mediatrix of All Graces.

1:00 Dinner

For the retreat this week we are taking turns reading at table. The book is Partnership With Christ: A Cistercian Retreat by Dom Eugene Boylan, author of This Tremendous Lover. Both books are marvelous.

{ Rest

A very civilized thing to do. And I am 50% Italian.

3:00 None

The ninth hour recalls the death of Our Lord on the cross, and the openng of His Sacred Side by the soldier's lance. All the Hours, by the way, are sung from the Monastic Antiphonal, principally using Latin and only Gregorian Chant.

Then there is time for work again.

5:00 Exposition, Ave Maris Stella and Vespers

Eucharistic adoration again: "Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening." The Ave, Maris Stella is prayed for the spiritual needs of all priests. Vespers is structured like Lauds, except that there are four psalms and, in place of the Benedictus, there is is Our Lady's Canticle, the Magnificat. Adoration is prolonged for a full hour after Vespers.

6:30 Collation

A light supper, then clean-up.

8:45 Compline, Angelus

The end of the day . . . and to bed. There are always variations on this structure. It is flexible. It has to be. To use a certain language -- "souls" often come to the door or ring. They have to be received as Christ Himself. Then, there are a few outside commitments, all of them related in one way or another to the spiritual support of priests and to the sanctification of the clergy.

Novena of the Holy Face of Jesus

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A Day Rich in Graces

-- Today, February 15th, is Sexagesima Sunday. In Rome the stational church is the Basilica of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls. This is reflected in the traditional Collect for today's Mass and Office: "O God, Who seest that that we put not our trust in anything we do of ourselves; mercifully grant that by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles we may be defended against all adversity."


-- It is the feast of Saint Claude La Colombière, the spiritual father of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Apostle of the Sacred Heart. Our Lord said this about him to Saint Margaret Mary: "Turn to my servant and tell him from Me to do all he can to establish this devotion and to give this pleasure to my Divine Heart. Tell him not to be discouraged by the difficulties he will meet with, for they will not be lacking. But he must learn that he is all-powerful who completely distrusts himself to place his trust in Me alone."


-- It is also the feast of Blessed Michael Sopocko, the spiritual father of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska and the Apostle of Divine Mercy. Concerning Blessed Michael Sopocko, Our Lord said to Saint Faustina: "He is a priest after My own Heart. . . . As a result of his efforts, a new light will shine in the Church of God for the consolation of souls."

-- And today marks the beginning of the Annual Novena in honour of the Most Holy Face of Jesus. The feast of the Holy Face is celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. I invite the readers of Vultus Christi to join me in praying daily this Litany of the Holy Face.

Praying the Litany

Litanies are among the oldest forms of Christian prayer. They invite us, not to a mechanical and vain repetition of words, but to a prolonged contemplation of one or another of the mysteries of our faith, shot through with an insistent appeal for mercy. Pray the Litany of the Holy Face quietly and slowly. Allow each invocation to open the eyes of your soul to the adorable countenance of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Human Face of God.

The Litany of the Holy Face of Jesus

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven,
R. Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world.
R. Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
R. Have mercy on us.

Most Holy Face of Jesus, radiant splendour of the Father,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

Most Holy Face of Jesus, spotless mirror of the majesty of God and image of His goodness,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

Most Holy Face of Jesus, where radiates the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

Spiritual Motherhood for Priests

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In a document from the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, addressed to all the bishops of the Church on 7 December, 2007, we read:

The vocation to be a spiritual mother for priests is largely unknown, scarcely understood and, consequently, rarely lived, notwithstanding its fundamental importance. It is a vocation that is frequently hidden, invisible to the naked eye, but meant to transmit spiritual life.

A Little Catechism on Spiritual Motherhood for Priests

1. Who can become a spiritual mother to priests?

Any mature Catholic woman, already fully engaged in the sacramental life of the Church, can discern a call to the spiritual motherhood of priests. This spiritual motherhood can be lived in any state of life; it is open to single women, married women, mothers of families, widows, grandmothers, and religious in both the active and enclosed forms of consecrated life. None of its obligations bind under pain of sin. The vocation to the spiritual motherhood of priests is also compatible with the spirituality and obligations of Benedictine Oblates and of those who belong to one or another of the Third Orders: Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Servite, etc.

2. What is spiritual maternity?

Spiritual maternity is a particular grace of the Holy Spirit by which a woman surrenders herself, body and soul, to the fruitful love of Christ, for the sake of His Bride the Church and for the glory of the Father, so that, through her offering, the particular priest entrusted to her, and all priests, may be purified, healed, and sanctified.

3. How does a woman express the grace of spiritual maternity.

A woman expresses the grace of spiritual maternity by imitating the hidden life of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, in the mystery of the Annunciation, consented to the enfleshment of the Word in her womb, and was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, so that through her, Christ, Priest and Victim, might enter the world, save it by His Sacrifice, and offer it back to the Father.

4. How does a woman live out this imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

A woman lives out this imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by embracing the Will of God in joy and in sorrow, health and infirmity, prosperity and want, companionship and solitude, light and obscurity. In a word, she sees in every event of life an opportunity to enter, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, into the sacrifice of Christ the Priest.

In this way, a woman can participate in the spiritual fecundity of the Mother of the Redeemer who, by her constant intercession, cares for the gift of life that ever flows from the open Heart of her Son, and cooperates with a mother's love in the birth and upbringing of Christ's faithful, her children.

5. How is spiritual maternity related to the Priesthood?

Spiritual maternity in favor of priests derives from the special relationship of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint John, that Jesus Himself established when, from the altar of the Cross, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, thy son!" (Jn 19:26). "Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, thy mother!'" (Jn 19:27).

While John -- representing all priests past, present, and to come -- had the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ in the unbloody renewal of His Sacrifice, Our Lady was charged with supporting all her priest-sons down through the ages by standing at their side, even as she stood by the Cross of her Son on Calvary. There, with her Immaculate Heart pierced by a sword of sorrow, she co-offered in silence the Sacrifice of her Son, Priest and Victim, and through Him, with Him, and in Him, offered herself to the Father.

6. What does this imply for a woman called to spiritual maternity
in favor of priests?

For a woman called to spiritual maternity in favor of priests, this implies a readiness to stand by all priests and, in particular, for the priest entrusted to her, in a ceaseless offering of adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and supplication. The Diocese of Tulsa is preparing a prayer book to help the spiritual mothers of priests fulfill this role.

7. What characterizes the adoration of a spiritual mother of priests?

In her adoration, a spiritual mother of priests looks to the Blessed Virgin Mary who, on August 21, 1879 at Knock in County Mayo, Ireland, manifested herself in reference to the immolated Lamb, the altar, and the Cross. The spiritual mother of priests draws near to Christ, the Eternal Priest and to the altar of His Cross so often as she participates in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She adores the Lamb of God present on the altar during the Holy Sacrifice; she adores Him hidden in the tabernacle and exposed to her gaze in the monstrance. She offers herself in adoration for the sanctification of all priests, desiring with Our Lady, to see them become, in their liturgical service and in all of life, "true adorers, who shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:23).

8. What characterizes the thanksgiving of a spiritual mother of priests?

The thanksgiving of a spiritual mother of priests is, first of all, for the Priesthood of Jesus Christ prolonged in space and in time, from the rising of the sun to its setting, by means of the gift and mystery bestowed on the apostles in the Cenacle, and perpetuated in the Church so often as a bishop, a successor of the Apostles, lays hands on a man and pronounces over him the solemn prayer of sacerdotal consecration.

The thanksgiving of a spiritual mother of priests is, also, for the sacramental ministrations and fruits of the priesthood: first of all, for the Most Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of all Christian life; then for the preaching of the Word of God, the forgiveness of sins, the healing of the sick, deliverance from evil, comfort in affliction, and shepherding along the path that leads to holiness.

9. What characterizes the reparation of a spiritual mother of priests?

The reparation of a spiritual mother of priests seeks to console the Heart of Jesus who grieves over the coldness, offenses, and betrayals of His priests, and waits for them to return to Him, for He is merciful.

The spiritual mother prays for priests who fail to pray; adores the Most Blessed Sacrament for those who do not adore; listens to the Word of God for priests who neglect it; and seeks the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for those who have forgotten that she is their Mother and Advocate. She offers herself for the spiritual restoration and resurrection of priests who have fallen into patterns of sin; for the deliverance of priests oppressed by the powers of darkness; and for the healing of souls scandalized, alienated, or wounded by the sins of priests.

10. What characterizes the supplication of a spiritual mother of priests?

The supplication (or intercession) of a spiritual mother of priests draws its inspiration, first of all, from the Priestly Prayer that Our Lord Jesus Christ offered in the Cenacle on the night before He suffered: "Father . . . keep them clear of what is evil. They do not belong to the world, as I too, do not belong to the world; keep them holy, then, through the truth; it is Thy word that is truth" (Jn 17: 16-17). In their intercession for priests, spiritual mothers will also take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul: "Nothing must make you anxious; in every need make your requests known to God, praying and beseeching Him, and giving Him thanks as well" (Phil 4:5); and in another place, "And now, brothers and sisters, let us have your prayers, that the word of the Lord may run its course triumphantly with us . . . and that we may preserved from malicious interference" (2 Thess 3:1-2).

11. Are there any obstacles to spiritual motherhood for priests?

The obstacles to spiritual maternity are the same ones that would impede any growth in holiness: willful attachment to sin, the refusal to forgive another, hardness of heart, pride, and the other "root" or capital sins. The most effective means of overcoming the obstacles to holiness are frequent confession and Holy Communion; full, conscious and zealous participation in the liturgy of the Church; devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (especially the Rosary); meditation of the Word of God; adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament; acts of penitence and mortification; and obedience to a spiritual father.

12. How does a woman go about becoming a spiritual mother to priests?

A woman who desires to become a spiritual mother to priests should ask her parish priest for the name of the priest charged by the bishop with promoting spiritual motherhood at the diocesan level. She should communicate with him and, after a suitable time of discernment and preparation, can make an act of dedication to spiritual mother on behalf of priests. The Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has developed a program to foster the formation and perseverance of women in the grace of spiritual maternity to priests.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory