Priesthood: June 2009 Archives

Cogitationes Cordis Ejus

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The thoughts of His Heart
are to all generations;
He will save their souls from death
and give them to eat in time of famine.
(Psalm 32:11, 19, Introit of the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).

To All Generations

The thoughts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are to all generations, touching all, excluding no one. By His death, He rescues us from death; by the mysteries of His Body and Blood, He feeds every hungry heart.

All Priests

On the threshold of this Year of the Priest, we recall that the thoughts of the Heart of Jesus embrace all priests from the first ones assembled with him in the Cenacle on the night before He suffered to those who will welcome Him when he returns in glory.

Beset by Sin and Repaired by Love

What are priests if not weak men beset by sin and repaired by love? The Heart of Jesus sends out his priests for the healing, reconciliation, and restoration of those who, like themselves, stand at every moment in need of mercy. Speaking to a priest, Our Lord said:

"There has never been in all of history a single priest whom I have not destined for a great holiness. My Heart has suffered much because so many of my chosen ones have refused my gifts and, preferring their own ways to mine, gone into the outer darkness where it is night.

My Heart burns to see my priests all ablaze with Eucharistic holiness. The altar is the source of priestly holiness. The kiss given to the altar at the beginning and end of Holy Mass means that the priest recognizes this. By kissing the altar, he makes himself vulnerable to my piercing love. By kissing the altar he opens himself unreservedly to all that I would give him and to all that I hold in the designs of my Heart for his life. The kiss to the altar signifies total abandonment to the priestly holiness that I desire and to the fulfillment of my desires in the soul of my priest.

The holiness to which I call my priests, the holiness to which I am calling you, consists in a total configuration to me as I stand before my Father in the heavenly sanctuary, beyond the veil. Every priest of mine is to be with me both priest and victim in the presence of my Father. Every priest is called to stand before the altar with pierced hands and feet, with his side wounded, and with his head crowned as my head was crowned in my passion. You needn’t fear this configuration to me; it will bring you only peace of heart, joy in the presence of my Father, and that unique intimacy with me that I have, from the night before I suffered, reserved for my priests, my chosen ones, the friends of my Heart."

My Heart Thirsts for You

Mother Marie des Douleurs, writing for priests in the 1930s,
placed these words in the Heart and mouth of Our Lord:

“I have need of this body of priests
who continually will live their Mass,
who will continue my Passion.
My immolation must go on until the end of time;
I must find priests who will hand over to me
their bodies, their souls, their whole being so that in them,
I may be the one whom nearly no one accepts to recognize,
the Crucified.
You whom I have chosen
and marked for this mission glorious above all others,
will you not understand, will you too go away?
My Heart thirsts for you.
Do you not see all the souls torn away from me?
If my priests do not continue me, I am alone and powerless.”

Priests Passionately Loved

Mother's text, like the message of Our Lord to a priest cited above, is almost frightening in its lucidity and crushing in its implications, but it is meant to inspire today in each one a more ardent prayer for all priests, chosen and passionately loved by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Blessed Edouard Poppe

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Ciboire du Curé d'Ars.jpg

My God, I forget all fear and all mistrust.
I melt away for joy and love, whenever I lay my eyes on the Tabernacle
and, in my soul, repeat these words:
"That Host is my God, my Creator. . My Master. . . My Bridegroom!
You see me. . . You think about me. . . You love me. . ."
What else could He do? For God is love.
I may not be worthy of it, but He is love!

(Spiritual Notebook of Blessed Edouard Poppe, July 17, 1917)
The ciborium in the photo belonged to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé d'Ars.

A Young Priest for Priests

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A Holy Priest

Today is the memorial of Blessed Edouard Poppe, priest (1890-1924). The approach of The Year of the Priest makes the example of his short life particularly compelling. Born into a Belgian working family -- his father was a baker -- on December 18, 1890, the young Edouard heard Jesus calling him to the priesthood at an early age. In my own experience, this is not unusual. I have known priests who admit that they were first aware of their vocation between the ages of 3 and 7!

Children and the Eucharist

Ordained a priest on May 1, 1916, Edouard was assigned to a working class parish in Gand. Creative and enterprising, he devoted himself to the education of children in the faith. More than anything else, he worked to bring children to the Most Holy Eucharist, and the Most Holy Eucharist to children.

A More Hidden Life

At the close of World War I, Edouard's chronic poor health caused him to be named chaplain to the Sisters of Charity at Moerzeke, and to the residents of their home for the aged poor, sick, and orphans. Another priest shared his home at Moerzeke; they lived in a holy friendship, sharing the same table, praying, working, and recreating together. The two priests began a weekly hour of Eucharistic adoration on Thursday evenings; before long they were not alone before the Blessed Sacrament. Others, drawn by their example, asked to join them in adoration. The number of adorers grew until the chapel was filled to capacity.

Priestly Blessing and Daily Confession

Edouard and M. de Beukelaers, his priest-brother, blessed one another at the beginning of each day, and every evening they made their Confession one to the other, receiving from each other the grace of sacramental absolution. They referred to this as "the washing of the feet." Edouard said, "Try this daily Confession. You will feel better because of it." To a friend who objected, "But I would never know what to say!" Edouard replied, "In fact, that was my case too. It often happens that I cannot find in the actions of my day sufficient matter for confession. That's not important. The sacrament floods me with its healing power." Then, pinching his nose as if he were smelling a stench, he added, "I can always reopen the grave of my past."

Saint Thérèse and the Little Way

On September 15, 1920, after visits to Lourdes and to the tomb of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard in Paris, Edouard Poppe visited the tomb of the Venerable Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus et de la Sainte-Face at the Carmel of Lisieux in France. This contact with Saint Thérèse marked a turning-point in his life. Her "Little Way" would become his path to holiness.

Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces

Marked by the teaching of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by Cardinal Mercier's energetic initiatives in favour of the solemn definition of the dogma of Our Lady's universal mediation of graces, Edouard's priestly life was profoundly Marian. Dispensed from the recitation of the Divine Office because of his poor health, he replaced it with the devout recitation of rosary upon rosary. The liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces was for him a moment of profound spiritual joy. "Give yourselves to Mary," he said to his spiritual sons. "You will know the magnificent power of her mediation in your life. You will see how your Mother watches over you and desires your sanctification."

The Sanctification of Priests

In 1922, Edouard was named Spiritual Father to the young priests and clerics preparing for obligatory military service at Léopoldsburg. The zeal for priestly holiness that had always burned in his heart became a consuming blaze. As priest and victim, and in spiritual communion with the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus founded by the Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, Edouard Poppe made the offering of his life for the sanctification of priests. "I burn," he wrote, "for the coming of the reign of God in priestly souls. I burn, but I am so poor that I will be consumed before the coming of the desired reign."

To the Spiritual Mothers of Priests

To the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus at Berchem, called to the spiritual motherhood of priests, he wrote: "O my Sisters, if only you knew what it costs a secular priest to keep whole his ideal in the midst of his family, in the midst of his parish, in the solitude of aspirations that are misunderstood." Again he wrote, "Come, all the same, to the help of the body of the clergy; they have such good will. They are hungry and I have nothing to give them. Sisters, is there no one among you to show compassion in the face of such need, to accept the role of mediatress and mother? Your vocation attributes to you the role of Mary. I implore you, then, in the name of the entire priesthood, the mystical heart of Jesus; be generous, come to our aid."

Surrendered to Merciful Love

On the morning of June 10, 1924, Edouard Poppe, the most loved priest in Flanders, died at thirty-three years of age. His eyes were fixed on an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He had surrendered himself totally to His merciful love. "I never asked the Lord that I might live to an old age," he said, "but only that men might love Him and that priests might become holy."

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