June 20 is for me a great day. It is the day where I realize how Christ really loves me by having chosen me to be his priest.
Being a priest is really a big thing. That is why I greatly value what Pope Francis highlighted in his address to bishops of Italian Episcopal Conference on May 17, 2016, when he said: The secret of our priest … is in that burning bush that has branded with fire his existence, conquering it and conforming it to that of Jesus Christ, the definitive truth of his life. It is the relationship with Him that safeguards him, keeping him apart from the spiritual worldliness that corrupts, and from any form of compromise or meanness.
Friendship is essential in our lives as priests. It is the power house from where we get our energy. I purpose use the word house since the latter involves a personal relationship. Jesus told us so when he compared himself to the vineyard and we the branches. He said in John 15:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you (John 15:4-7).
If these words are true for every believer how relevant they are for us priests! How can we give Christ to the people if we are not connected with Him, our true Way, Truth and Life? For this reason Our Lady in Medjugorje keeps insisting, and rigthly so, to pray for us priests. In her message of September 2, 2012, Gospa said: Pray for priests. Pray that the unity between my Son and them may be all the stronger, that they may be one. In another message, precisely that of May 2, 2008, She exhorts us with these powerful words: Pray for priests. My Son gave them to you as a gift.
Even if this is a big grace for us believers we priests need to be responsible of doing our utmost to let the Holy Spirit make us that gift which Mary is talking about. Our Lady in Medjugorje shows us the way: praying the Rosary! In her message of June 25, 1985, Mary tells us: I invite you to call on everyone to pray the Rosary. With the rosary you shall overcome all the adversities which Satan is trying to inflict on the Catholic Church. All you priests, pray the Rosary! Dedicate your time to the Rosary!
Moreover, Mary wants to make us priests propagators of the Rosary. In her message of August 25, 1997, she tells us: Dear children! God gives me this time as a gift to you, so that I may instruct and lead you on the path of salvation. Dear children, now you do not comprehend this grace, but soon a time will come when you will lament for these messages. That is why, little children, live all of the words which I have given you through this time of grace and renew prayer, until prayer becomes a joy for you. Especially, I call all those who have consecrated themselves to my Immaculate Heart to become an example to others. I call all priests and religious brothers and sisters to pray the rosary and to teach others to pray. The rosary, little children, is especially dear to me. Through the rosary open your heart to me and I am able to help you.
If we want to be holy priests we have to let Mary take us to Jesus. This must be our life program. And, if we want that our pastoral intiatives bear abundant good fruit we have to pray the Rosary and teach to others. The Rosary is so effective since it is the meditation on the Word of God in the house of Mary! Pope St John Paul II reminds us of the absolute importance of the priests’ relationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary in his testament to priests which he concluded with these words: When we celebrate Holy Mass, dear brother priests, the Mother of the Redeemer is beside us. She introduces us into the mystery of the redemptive offering of her divine Son. Ad Jesum per Mariam; may this be our daily program of spiritual and pastoral life!
I want to conclude these humble reflections today, on the eighteenth anniversary of my priestly ordination by drwing attention to another vital message of Our Lady of Medjugorje regarding the urgent intercession for us priests. In the message of September 25, 2017, she says:
Dear children! I am calling you to be generous in renunciation, fasting and prayer for all those who are in temptation, and are your brothers and sisters. In a special way I am imploring you to pray for priests and for all the consecrated, that they may love Jesus still more fervently; that the Holy Spirit may fill their hearts with joy; that they may witness Heaven and Heavenly mysteries. Many souls are in sin, because there are not those who sacrifice themselves and pray for their conversion. I am with you and am praying that your hearts may be filled with joy.
Lord, through Mary, Your and Our Beloved Mother, help every priest, me the first one, to love you still more fervently, to let the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with joy; so that we may witness Heaven and Heavenly mysteries to everyone around us. Amen!
Today, 20 June, anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, May, through the imposition of my hands and upon the intercession of Holy Mary Mother of God, St. Joseph, Sts. Francis, Faustina, Pio and Leopold Mandic, the blessing of the Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, come upon thee, and your family, friends and enemies and remain with thee, your friends and enemies forever. Amen.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap