Praying for our pope, our priests and vocations

Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

It was announced in these pages two weeks ago that the archdiocese will hold a period of 60 hours of eucharistic adoration in honor of Pope Benedict XVI’s 60th anniversary of priestly ordination. The purpose is not only to remember the Holy Father in prayer, but also to pray for the sanctification of our priests as well as an increase in priestly vocations. This will take place at the St. Paul Seminary on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, beginning with Mass on Tuesday, June 28, at 7 p.m. It will conclude on July 1.

It is fitting that we should hold such a devotional celebration during the month of June, which is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that beautiful image of Christ’s love for us and for all people.

Image of God

I would offer a personal connection here. As many of you know, I am rarely at a loss in answering questions about our Catholic faith. Thus, it was quite a surprise for me when my spiritual director some years ago asked me: “What does God look like when you pray?”

My eventual puzzled reply was:? “Well, God looks like, you know, God.”

“No,” said the wise priest. “If you are going to have a personal relationship in prayer, you must be able to see the face of the one you are talking to.”

This made great sense. And, after some consideration, I realized that the image of God that has been most prominent in my life was that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As a senior in high school, I attended a retreat at Manresa, outside Detroit, where we were presented with a contemporary image of Jesus and his Sacred Heart. I attended as a student and later became rector of Sacred Heart Seminary. I was ordained at Sacred Heart Church in Dearborn. At my first parish in Union Lake, there was a six-foot statue of the Sacred Heart in the back of the church. Such signs were all around me — making it evident for me to know that this was God’s revelation of who he wanted to be for me.

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us: “I am meek and humble of heart . . . my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matthew 11: 29-30). In St. John’s Gospel, the piercing of Jesus’ side while he hung on the cross makes his pierced heart the symbol of his Paschal Mystery.

Pope Pius XII wrote: “The Heart of Jesus is the Heart of a Divine Person, that is, of the Word Incarnate, and continues to put before our eyes all the love that He had and continues to have for us. For this reason, the cult of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus must be held in such high esteem as to be considered as the most complete expression of the Christian religion.” This is an extraordinary statement.

Blessed John Paul II in “Redemptor Homines” de­fines the mystery of man in reference to the mystery of the heart of Christ: “The redemption of the world . . . is, at its deepest root, the fullness of justice in a human Heart — the Heart of the First-born Son — in order that it may become justice in the hearts of many human beings . . . called to love” (No. 9).

Recently, I read the reflections of a contemporary author who drew out of the traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart its relevance to theories of nonviolent resistance; i.e. en­coun­tering God’s presence in the embodied persons and events of our lives; God’s heart being the center where all paradoxes are held in tension; the heart of Christ as being humble and gentle. Truly, this image remains relevant today.

To my mind, this is one of the richest devotions we have in the Catholic Church. As I go about my pastoral visits to parishes in the archdiocese, I am impressed that so many of our churches offer an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for inspiration and veneration. I urge that you reflect, study and pray over this most powerful of images.? Ponder the love of His Heart in your own.

Pray for priests

The solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which this year falls on July 1, gives rise to the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. I encourage all of us to pray in a special way that day for all our priests as well as for an increase in priestly vocations. Pray that they be holy so as to inspire a people who are holy.

The great promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was St. Mary Margaret Alacoque, who once said: “It seems to me that our Lord’s earnest desire to have His Sacred Heart honored in a special way is directed toward the effects of redemption in our souls. For the Sacred Heart is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to His good pleasure.”

My fervent hope is that, like me, you might also come to see this rich image of Christ’s abundant love as the face you gaze upon when you turn to pray.


Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

(Attributed to Bishop Tom Olmsted)

Most Sacred Heart,
Jesus my First Love,
Cherished Spouse of my life,
I desire to make you first:
first in my thoughts,
first in my affections,
first in my decisions.
For you, Lord Jesus, are
First and Last,
Alpha and Omega,
Beginning and End.
And you are worthy
of all my love. Amen.

Category: Only Jesus

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