Praying for Priests
An Urgent Call for the Salvation of Souls
By Kathleen Beckman
Sophia Institute Press, 2018 (reprint)
192 pages, $14.95
To order: sophiainstitute.com or (800) 888-9344
The best of our priests lead us to salvation, while the worst point the way to hell. Of late, sadly, we’ve witnessed some of the worst.
In the updated edition of Praying for Priests: An Urgent Call for the Salvation of Souls, retreat master Kathleen Beckman addressed recent revelations that those we considered fathers and shepherds had violated the sacred trust bestowed on them as men of the Church. “The weight of sorrow for the abuse victims is unspeakable, as is the pain of betrayal by clergy,” she wrote.
Infidelities and illicit compromises have been evident for years, starting out small and turning into a cancer, according to Beckman, including: watered-down truths, illicit insertions or omissions, trying too hard to please everyone, and sexual immorality. “Now God has permitted the light of truth to illuminate the deeds of darkness perpetuated by His own beloved priests,” she said. “Let justice be done and healing begin.”
Healing, Beckman said, demands involvement of the laity. “This defining moment in the Church begs for reforms of a temporal order, but these will only be as strong as the spiritual response of prayer, penance and reparation that must undergird them,” she wrote.
Many will leave while those who stay will suffer ridicule and persecution, but Beckman encourages Catholics to help rebuild the breach rather than cast stones. She points to the solution contained in Scripture, “to share in the suffering of God’s sinful people, and to commit to more prayer, fasting and almsgiving to atone for collective sins.” Ultimately, praying for our priests is not even an option, according to Beckman. “As disciples, we know that praying for holy priests is a sacred duty for the salvation of all souls.”
Beckman explains the urgency of this need with a quote from St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. “When people want to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest; for when there is no priest, there is no sacrifice; and when there is no sacrifice, there is no religion.”
The very reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8), Beckman explained. And from the time of Jesus’ birth to his death, we see that the devil pursued him through the actions of King Herod to Judas. To this day, the devil continues his efforts, “wanting to separate priests from Christ.”
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen is quoted from his book The Priest Is Not His Own: “Intercession for priests has everything to do with the universal call to holiness. … Every worldly priest hinders the growth of the Church; every saintly priest promotes it. If only all priests realized how their holiness makes the Church holy and how the Church begins to decline when the level of holiness among priests falls below that of the people!” It is also true, he said, that “holy Christians guarantee holy priests.”
Make It a Vocation
Beckman invites the laity to support the priesthood as a vocation by uniting our spiritual life with the priesthood. She recommended becoming a part of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests, an international apostolate to build up the Church and protect the priesthood through prayer, sacrifice, service and study.
It is also especially fruitful, according to Beckman, to ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother since the Incarnation set the ground for Mary’s motherhood of priests. “Mary provided the material cause of Christ’s priesthood,” she said, “then carried her Son’s future priests in her womb along with Him.”
The book especially challenges women to become spiritual mothers to priests. Beckman refers to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, which encourages “a hidden vocation” by inviting women disciples to imitate Mary’s motherhood as a vocation to support priests
The author offers many examples of saints and stories of spiritual motherhood in her book. For instance, when the Church was being torn asunder by the Protestant Reformation, St. Teresa of Ávila initiated her reform of the Carmelite order for the purpose of praying for the needs of the Church and for priests. “In the Way of Perfection, she counseled her spiritual daughters that they must ‘help our King’ [Christ] by helping those he has chosen, ‘these servants of God who, at the cost of so much toil, have fortified themselves with learning and virtuous living and have labored to help the Lord.’”
The book finishes with litanies, prayers and devotions for reparation, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and a collection of Scripture, reflections and petitions specifically addressing the priesthood.
Praying for Priests is more than a mere suggestion for a generous spirit: It is an urgent appeal because, as the priesthood goes, so goes the Church; the holier the priests, the holier the Church. “Therefore,” Beckman writes, “‘for such a time as this,’ (Esther 4:14) the Church beseeches the laity to embrace our mission as intercessors.”
Patti Armstrong writes from North Dakota.
Pages and pricing information has been
updated from the print-issue version.
This is a longer version of the print review.