“It’s Not About Me”: National Vocation Awareness Week


“This is not about me. My vocation story is all about God.” These words of Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J., were spoken at a Magnificat Prayer Breakfast that I attended in Oakland, California. His testimony, along with nineteen other clergy is now published in a new book titled, Holy Orders: A Collection of Inspiring Clergy Testimonies.

Bishop Barber’s vocation story is filled with surprising twists and turns in a tumultuous time of the Church. He was faithful to what the Lord asked along the sometimes-confusing way. In the end, he was ordained into the Order of St. Ignatius and St. Xavier.

From the time when he served as military chaplain to the Marines:

We flew to the Middle East, and the war began shortly thereafter, when the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. It was one of the best times of my life as a priest. I was needed! We were on the Kuwait side of the Iraq border. I had my own convoy to attend to the soldiers who were dug in along the border preparing to invade. When I arrived, the men stopped their war plans. The colonel gathered everyone together.

“I am a Catholic priest,” I said, “and I have been sent here. The battle will begin soon, and I would like to say Mass.” Everyone attended. “If it is not your time to die no bullet will find you,” I told them. “If it is your turn to die there is only one thing that will keep you from getting into heaven, and that is mortal sin. But we have the sacrament of Confession that can wash away any sin—any mortal sin. I will not leave this camp until everyone who wants to confess can.” There was a huge line. All the Marines—even the Protestants—came up and said, “I’m not a Catholic, but I have got to get this off my chest.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB) website states, “National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) is an annual week-long (November 5-11, 2017) celebration of the Catholic Church in the United Sates dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.”

Vocations to the ministerial priesthood, diaconate or consecrated life are central to life of the Church for the salvation of souls. It is the duty and privilege of the entire Church to intentionally pray for vocations, since it is a divine mandate: “He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Luke 10:2).

In my work for the Foundation of Prayer for Priests apostolate, and on Radio Maria programs, I interviewed several seminarians and priests. It’s fascinating to hear how God knocked on their heart, shook up their plans, stretched their imagination, and tugged on their soul to say “yes” to His call on their life. Their yes required Goliath courage, and a breathtaking leap of faith as evidenced in the following excerpts from the book.

Fr. Donald Calloway, M.I.C., “I didn’t know how to pray. I couldn’t remember ever having said a prayer in my life. I didn’t realize that I had hung the image with the heart of Jesus right above my dresser. As I looked at that picture, trying to pray, suddenly I snapped. I realized that Jesus was truly God and that He wanted me. I looked at His heart, and it was on fire. His hands were in a gesture of invitation. I began to cry uncontrollably. It was pure contrition and repentance. I was so sorry for all my sinfulness, all my perversions, all my wretchedness—all of the wrong things I had done in my life.”

Fr. Raniero Cantalmessa, OFM, “It was as if Jesus stood beside me and gently said, ‘Do you want to give Me the reins of your life?’ There was a moment of panic. I understood this was serious. But at the same time, I immediately realized that no one can be in control of his or her life, so I said, ‘Yes, Lord, take the reins of my life.’ I must confess that later on sometimes I tried to get back control of the reins. This is why we have such a merciful Lord, always ready to forgive us.”

Fr. Harold Cohen, S.J., “The two years of my novitiate were the hardest in my life. I was homesick, and I threw myself into scrupulously obeying the rules. I had tremendous temptations against my faith. Thoughts such as, ‘This is not worth believing’, etc. came to mind. I thank God for my novice mater, Father Mangiacina, who became both father and mother to me. Without him I would never have made it.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, “My father’s leadership in our family helped me to understand the importance of father in every family, especially their effect on children and their relationship with Christ. One of my earliest childhood memories is of those few times when we started dinner before my father arrived home. While sitting at dinner table, my little sister and I would hear his footsteps coming up the stairs to the back door; we would push our chairs back from the table, jump up, and turn to the back door waving our arms and yelling, ‘Daddy!’  No matter how tired he was, our father had enough strength to pick us both up at the same time, one in each arm. That memory of my own father has stayed with me vividly, and mirrors such a powerful image of the love and tenderness of God our Father.”

Msgr. Stephen Doktorczyk, “The decision for me to move forward toward the priesthood came in 1998 during a retreat where I assisted. I enjoyed my involvement in the confirmation retreat, which was held in the mountains of San Bernardino, California. Near the end of the retreat, I asked one of the other helpers what he planned to do once he finished his advanced degree. He mentioned that first he would need to better consider ‘this priest thing.’ I believed the words coming out of his mouth were intended for me. I was the one who needed to consider ‘this priest thing,’ and without further delay. I could not continue to run from the Lord and delay giving an answer. Enough was enough. I soon took the proper steps—finding a good spiritual director and making an appointment with the director of vocations—before submitting my application to the seminary. We don’t know what the Lord has in store for us when we are obedient to His will. For seminarians, priests, and deacons, the Lord works through competent superiors. One who holds on too tightly to his own will and plans may miss out on the many surprises from God.”

Msgr. David Toups, “One seminarian shared the story of his calling. It impacted me, and I was deeply moved. …’My heart was burning within me.’ The bishop walked by. Knowing my family as he had for years, he paused and gave me one of those nice Italian slaps on the cheek like in “The Godfather”. He looked at me and said, “Jesus told the apostles, ‘Drop your nets and follow Me.’”. Then he walked off.”  …The Holy Spirit had been saying this to me already in a deep and profound way. But to now have a successor of the apostles calling me out was life changing. I looked at the seminarian next to me and felt myself turn white as a ghost.”

USCCB Prayer for Vocations

Hail Mary, full of grace; all generations call you blessed. Hail Mother of God; when asked by the angel to bear the Son of the Most High, filled with faith, you responded: “Let it be done unto me.”

Holy Mother of Jesus, at the wedding feast at Cana, you prompted your Son to perform his first sign. Be with us as we discern our life’s work and guide us in the way we are called to follow in the footsteps of your Son.

Holy Mother of the Savior, at the foot of the cross you mourned the death of your only Son. Bless and embrace the loving parents of all priests, deacons, brothers and sisters.

Holy Mother of the Good Shepherd, turn your motherly care to this nation. Intercede for us to the Lord of the harvest
to send more laborers to the harvest in this land dedicated to your honor.

Queen of Peace, Mirror of Justice, Health of the Sick, inspire vocations in our time. Let the word of your Son be made flesh anew in the lives of persons anxious to proclaim the good news of everlasting life. Amen.

Author’s note: Magnificat, A Ministry to Catholic Women published Magnificat Proclaims: Holy Orders: A Collection of Inspiring Clergy Testimonies. The fifth objective of Magnificat is to imitate the Virgin Mary in her spiritual motherhood of priests. The book is available at www.magnificat-ministry.org or on Amazon.

For more resources on vocations, priesthood, spiritual motherhood and fatherhood of clergy, visit www.foundationforpriests.org.

image: Easter Monday High Mass by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

They’d Had A Good Plan


We had a good plan. My mom and I would go to the hospital to visit my father, who was awaiting admission for a serious infection. In eighty-four years of life, he’d never been in a hospital. He’d been mom’s care-giver for the past few years.

Two hours later, as I drove to my parent’s home, I tried to imagine that my younger brother’s “Mom is gone” did not mean she had died. I grabbed the rosary hanging from my rear-view mirror and began to pray. The Holy Spirit descended upon me with understanding: my mother had died that night.

Flashing Lights on the Familiar Street

As I turned onto the familiar street where mom and dad had lived for sixty-four years, my eyes met the glare of flashing red lights from fire and police department vehicles parked in front of the home. I wedged my vehicle into the driveway, then ran past paramedics and police standing silently on the front porch, holding clipboards and filling out paperwork. Their eyes met mine, their glance sorrowful. No words were exchanged.

My father, pulled from the hospital, three younger brothers, a sister-in-law and young niece were in the room. My mother was on the floor, covered in a blanket. I fell to the floor and uncovered her face so that I could kiss her goodbye. She was still warm.

I was comforted by her familiar maternal warmth. I stroked her eighty-three-year-old face, now frozen in an expression of peace. From the depths of my soul, I wailed with cries of grief as my cheek rested on hers. My brother said, “We should pray the rosary for mom now. She’d like that.” We surrounded her lifeless body and prayed as we waited for the mortuary to remove her body.

Mom was rarely left alone. My dad, siblings and a religious sister accompanied her and enabled her to live in the home that she filled with love. But she was alone when death visited suddenly. A heart attack. Another brother shared that when he found her, there was no sign of life, but he tried CPR. I was told that paramedics heroically tried to revive her for a long time.

It was the Feast of the Visitation of Mary, a feast that has great meaning to me. I had just finished an EWTN “Women of Grace” webinar on “Spiritual Mothers: God’s Special Weapon Against Evil.” I never imagined that my foremost spiritual mother would die on this Marian feast.

Right after the webinar, mom called and we made our plans. She seemed happy but worried about my father. Her final words were “I’m fine. Take care of dad.”

Loss and Gain

Intellectually, I anticipated my mother’s death from heart and lung disease. Emotionally, nothing could prepare me for the loss. Mother suffered physically over many years, but she loved life and cheerfully fought for it. God’s plan to call her into eternal life when she was alone at home was quite different than ours.

We were left longing for one more conversation with a mother full of wisdom. We understood her sudden death was our loss but mother’s gain.

Divine Intimacy Radio Interviews Kathleen Beckman on "When Women Pray"


Divine Intimacy Radio, with Dan Burke and Melissa Elson, once again interview Kathleen Beckman. This time they chat about Kathleen's book, "When Women Pray: Eleven Womenon the Power of Prayer". Have you ever wondered how a busy mother can develop a strong prayer life, or does prayer affect one's physical and mental health, or is there a difference between how men and women pray? Listen and learn more about the power of a women's prayer by clicking the play button below.

The Priest’s Role in the Church & How He Affects the Family

The website spiritualdirection.com has posted an article, September 5, 2017, including a 'Divine Intimacy Radio' podcast hosted by Dan Burke and Melissa Elson titled, "The Priest’s Role in the Church & How He Affects the Family". They speak with Kathleen Beckman about the ever increasing need for prayers for our priests. Read the article and listen to the podcast on the spiritual direction website >here.

Focus TV's Lisa Flood interviews Father Andrew Merrick and Kathleen Beckman

Praying for our priests is becoming more important these days and who better to explain why than a priest. Lisa Flood, with Focus TV, interviews Father Andrew Merrick and Kathleen Beckman in an episode called, "A Divine Mandate". Father Andrew's joy seems contagious as he describes his calling and how he felt others were praying for him. In this video, you'll also get to hear how Kathleen was called to spiritual motherhood and praying for priests. The video is available to watch on Vimeo here.

This Pious Tradition Rewards Mothers of Priests for Their Many Sacrifices

The Aleteia website has posted an article by Philip Kosloski describing a pious tradition involving amaniturgium. If you've had the privilege of attending the ordination of a priest, you may have witnessed this tradition. The mother of the newly ordained priest is presented with the linen towel (the maniturgium) used to wipe the sacred oil of anointment from the new priest's hands. The true reward is not the towel, but what the linen towel will obtain for the mother. Learn more by reading the article on the Aleteia website here.

When Women Pray: Satisfying Love’s Longing

In Cardinal Sarah’s great book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, he quotes St. John Vianney on prayer, “See my children, A Christian’s treasure is not on earth. It is in heaven. Well, then! Our thoughts must go where our treasure is. Man has a fine function: to pray and to love. You pray, you love: that is man’s happiness on earth!” (p 151).

When Women Pray

Prayer is the way of knowing God the Father, Jesus, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The value we place on prayer amounts to a choice between wisdom or folly. It’s that simple. Prayer is a necessary, holy duty. Prayer is wise because it is the will of God. Prayer is worth the effort and brings fruitfulness. Prayer empowers the active apostolate and forms “contemplatives in action”. But for prayer, we need courage (Catechism clearly states that prayer is a battle) and we need encouragement from others who practice the way of prayer.

For this reason, I invited ten women who are known in Catholic circles for their fruitful apostolates (activity or work) in and for the Church. I invited these leaders to write about the hidden part of their spirituality: their prayer lives. The Holy Spirit wove together a beautiful tapestry on prayer life that is altogether relatable, informative and inspiring.

Johnnette Benkovic penned, “For the Christian who is serious about who he really is, prayer is not optional. As lungs are to physical life, prayer is to spiritual life. Prayer informs, reforms, transforms, and conforms us to Christ.”

Dr. Ronda Chervin wrote, “The Holy Spirit led me to infuse prayer into the classroom, not just at the start and the end of each class, but as occasion arose. If a student mentioned being anxious about a sick relative and wondering how a God of love could let people suffer, I would stop the class and have us all pray for that person.”

Dr. Pia de Solleni wrote, “St. John Paul II wrote, “Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts.” Could this not refer to the way in which a woman’s body disposes her to see and interact with human life in its very beginning?”

Dr. Mary Healy offered, “Throughout this time I found one kind of prayer to be more life-changing than any other (in fact, I think it is the best kept secret of the spiritual life): the power of praise. I first experienced this gift through the “festivals of praise” at Franciscan University-gatherings where the students would spend hours doing nothing but praising and worshipping God.”

Lisa Hendey wrote, “Being a mother for the first-time evoked emotions that drove me (often literally) to my knees. My begging pleas, amid the barrage of dirty diapers and sleepless nights, for the skills to be a worthy mom formed my lamentations.”


This article is a preview of “When Women Pray.” Read more inspiring words by clicking on the image.

This article is a preview of “When Women Pray.” Read more inspiring words by clicking on the image.


Joan Lewis penned, “Then I realized that I am not Teresa of Avila or Therese or John Paul II or a psalmist, those to whom God had given greater graces. I am Joan, created in God’s image and likeness and with my own gifts. Those gifts did not include soaring, powerful love phrases. Perhaps my gift is being able to talk, and sometimes cry and laugh with childlike simplicity, with my friend Jesus.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez offered, “When I pray, I feel the presence of some of these women I’ve mentioned—the saints whom Pope Benedict XVI helped me to know better. It’s often the events of the world that I cover as a commentator and editor that draw me deeper into prayer.”

Marilyn Quirk wrote, “The fruit of prayer: 1) We experience fellowship, 2) He changes us, 3) He teaches us, 4) He helps us to discern, 5) He strengthens us against temptations, 6) He uses our gifts.”

Vicki Thorn penned, “With Project Rachel, I’ve come to appreciate Jesus’ special relationship to wounded women. Often, we carry our wounds with us and hold God’s mercy at arm’s length because we feel unworthy, but we should not do this. Praying with the Gospel passages in which Jesus heals women can be very fruitful.”

Kelly Wahlquist offered, “In these times when I am struggling, I go to where I know Him to be… even if I don’t feel Him there. I take great comfort knowing that although I may not be able to find Him, He will always find me. Just pray.”

Excerpt from Foreword by Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D.

Somewhere in the secret chambers of a woman’s heart there is a gentle, persistent longing for holiness. We use various words to describe this longing: a desire for depth, for wholeness; a hunger for something more meaningful than our daily routine, something greater than ourselves. Sometimes we become aware of this longing during those precious moments of peace and leisure. At other times the yearning makes itself known during barren days of angst or during crushing periods of darkness.

Why such a persistent longing in a woman’s heart? How does she satisfy the longing during all the fluctuating seasons of the soul? The answers to these two questions are intrinsically linked. If you understand the answer to the first question, you have already solved the problem of the second question.

The persistent longing was actually embedded in our DNA the moment we were conceived. We were made in Love, by Love, and for Love. God, who is total, infinite, unchanging Love, thought of you, and His Heart was flooded with love for you. He created you that He might carry you in His love, that you might be in intimate relationship with Him, talk with Him, allow Him to love you, to touch you, to speak with you. You didn’t do anything to deserve this love. You can’t do anything to lose His love. It is yours. Forever. No matter what. That is why we are never completely fulfilled except when we are close to God. That is why we experience the longing, that He might fill it as only He can.

How do we weather the seasons of the soul? As best we can. We are frail human beings. That is all we ever will be. Our frailty poses no obstacle whatsoever to God.

The Lord cannot take His eyes off us; it is impossible for Him to tear His Heart away from us. We are never alone. But so often we can feel alone and can become absorbed in our little world. That is because we can forget the unimaginable power and blessing that belongs to us: we are able to communicate with God.

In the Old Testament, we discover women who prayed, women whose influence continues throughout the centuries even to today: Esther and the power of one woman’s intercession; Judith’s audacious faith and unstoppable resolve; Deborah’s far-reaching influence as the only woman judge. In the New Testament, we come upon that unknown child whose simple trust in the Word of the Lord brought about her unconditional Fiat, and the world was changed forever. These women spoke with God, they listened to Him and responded in faith.

Our Lord does not need special people or extraordinary circumstances. Look at the people He chose: a Hebrew girl, a carpenter, a few fishermen, Magdalene, a group of women who accompanied Him. Holiness is integrated within the routine and commonplace, within the scheduled and unscheduled happenings during each day’s unfolding. In that unfolding, our individual paths are often fraught with suffering and pain, that is true, but they are also emblazoned with the fire of love that overcomes and prevails.

We encounter joy and peace in the surrendered heart. A broken heart becomes the seedbed of new life. There is an unspoken confidence owing from the sure and certain knowledge that God accompanies us every step of the way.

In the early 1950s Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen made a compelling statement on his popular television program Life Is Worth Living.

“The level of any civilization is always the level of its womanhood.” The testimonies in this book are unique and personal. The authors share real struggles, tragic pain, palpable triumphs. These women have one thing in common: in the midst of their very human condition they learned to pray. It is that simple. Each woman emerges as a source of life to others. Each touches other hearts and raises the level of our civilization. This book is an invitation to step into your rightful place alongside women who have prayed through the centuries; women who have heard the beating Heart of God and changed the world forever.

Editor’s note: This article is a preview of When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayerwhich is available as ebook or paperback from Sophia Institute Press

The Diocese of Orange, CA Book Club chose, When Women Pray as a featured selection and will host an Author Event at Christ Cathedral on July 20. Visit: http://occatholic.com/oc-catholic-book-club/

image: By Nheyob (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sacred Heart: Love that Crushes Evil

“Sacred Heart devotion isn’t our devotion. It’s God’s. It’s God’s devotion to us”, writes Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., in his book, A Heart on Fire. He also reminds us that the Sacred Heart devotion didn’t begin in the seventeenth century with revelations to a Visitation nun named St. Margaret Mary Alacoque—it began “before time, in the eternal Heart of God.” This truth aids the joyful rediscovery of God’s perfect love for us. God doesn’t need our love in return, but in the mystery of divine mercy, He desires our reciprocal love. God intends an abiding, loving communion with us. While our hearts are often fickle, forgetful and fearful, His heart is intently focused on us.

In the present culture, so lacking in love, our concept of love is easily distorted, distracted, and destroyed. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a powerful provision against the destruction of authentic love. Christ is present, living and active and his Sacred Heart beats a love song that is uniquely personal.

The devil, our ancient enemy (cf. Eph 6:11-13, Job 2:1-7, Zech 3:1-2, 1 Thes 2:18, Rev 12:10) methodically plots the crushing destruction of authentic love of God and neighbor. Diabolical temptation is aimed at the distortion of God’s image, distraction from our eternal goal, and the destruction of love. When the soul experiences the absence of authentic love, it readily succumbs to the seduction of diabolical liaisons. In the Church’s ministry of deliverance and exorcism we see this repeatedly. A heart on fire with and for divine love repels the demons.

The Catechism addresses the reality of evil and our need to “fix our eyes of faith on him who alone is its conqueror”.

385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution”, said St. Augustine, and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace. We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.

When we fix our eyes and heart on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we perceive that God’s heart is loving, omnipotent, omniscient, and protective of beloved creatures. The Sacred Heart burns with incomprehensible power to create good and destroy evil. Our focus is always the Eucharistic heart of God, not the work of the devil. Though we perceive the spiritual battle all around us, and discern well the spirits within and without, our hearts must commune with the Sacred Heart. During terrible temptations and worse diabolical onslaughts, the Sacred Heart is a refuge. Especially in Adoration, we can gaze, pray, converse, refresh, discern and be filled with the fuel of grace to resist the devil and proclaim Christ’s victory.

I’d propose seven ways that devotion to the Sacred Heart protects us from sin and evil.

1. Sacred Heart: Incarnational

War broke out in Heaven at the revelation of God’s plan for the Incarnation of the Word.

The rebellion of one third of the angelic beings (now called demons), occurred because they would not accept that the Son of God would become “flesh” in the lowly form of a creature born of a “woman”.  Devotion to the Sacred Heart cultivates incarnational love. Honoring the human heart of Jesus Christ, loving the Incarnate Word’s living heart, empowers us to imitate Him in loving the Father, self and others. This thwarts the devil’s plan to draw us away from our Creator with doubts that God is impersonal and disinterested. Our heart united to Christ’s heart becomes an impenetrable fortress. Demons may surround the fortress but they cannot enter.

2. Sacred Heart: Eucharistic

We enter the epic drama of the greatest love story ever through communion with Jesus in the Eucharist. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Rekindling Eucharistic amazement is a term that Pope John Paul II used in his encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.” This amazement of the human heart enkindles the fire of divine love within. Demons despise the Humble Host. According to the saints, demons fear the disciples who live an intentional Eucharistic life. The Sacred Heart is the vessel from which flows the life-saving Precious Blood. The devil works tirelessly to keep us from Holy Communion. To the dismay of demons who curse, Eucharistic life forms a garment of praise that blesses.

3. Sacred Heart: Revelation

Jesus Christ Incarnate reveals the face and heart of our Father in Heaven. We desperately need this revelation of truth for knowledge of who we are: children of God. When we accept the revelation of Jesus Christ, we know our dignity and destiny. These ground us in the truth so that when the Liar, Deceiver and Thief assails us, we stand firm in the revelation of God’s mercy. Devotion to the Sacred Heart helps us to remember the revelation; the Gospel of love. The devil methodically plots to distract us from the revelation and its relevancy. When the devil tempts us to doubt God’s existence or insinuates that He is mean or punishing, we can fly unto the protection of the Sacred Heart, remembering the revelation of divine love. Knowing who God says that I am strengthens me to resist the devil’s lies.

4. Sacred Heart: Word

Pope Benedict reminded us, “We must never forget that all authentic and living Christian spirituality is based on the word of God proclaimed, accepted, celebrated, and meditated upon in the Church” (Verbum Domini, 121). From the beginning, the Word is love. The creation of mankind is deliberately orchestrated to draw all things to God wherein is the fulfillment of all desire. In the Scriptures, we read about Christ’s life on earth; His many human encounters where love manifested. His heart is touched, He weeps, heals, serves, sleeps, eats, prays—he understands men and women. This flies in the face of the devil who seeks to obliterate our awareness of the dignity given us by God. The Word has a heart of infinite love focused on you and me. The devil hates this reality because he exists in loneliness and alienation from love.

5. Sacred Heart: Altar of Sacrifice

The Sacred Heart is a heart for others. Father Simon Tugwell, O. P., teaches, “The liturgy, faithfully celebrated, should be a long-term course in heart-expansion, makes us more and more capable of the totality of love that there is in the heart of Christ.” The perfect sacrifice of Christ’s love is perpetuated on the altar. This is also the proclamation of His victory over evil. The devil, personified pride, is undone by the humility of Christ on the altar of sacrifice. Love sacrifices; lays down His life. The Sacred Heart radiates love that is aimed at the other; the poor, forgotten, sick, and grieving. His heart dies and rises for our sake. Proud and spiteful, the devils envy Christ’s power to save through sacrificial love. Whenever we love sacrificially, our spiritual armor is strengthened.

6. Sacred Heart: Reparation

“True devotion to the Sacred Heart depends on a proper understanding of reparation, an old theological term that is related to atonement, expiation, salvation, and redemption” writes Fr. Kubicki. In his “Jesus of Nazareth”, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “God cannot simply ignore man’s disobedience and all the evil of history; he cannot treat it as if it were inconsequential or meaningless. Such ‘mercy’ would be that ‘cheap grace’ to which Bonhoeffer rightly objected in the face of the appalling evil encountered in his day.” Christ paid the debt of sinners. Sin continues. Believers can unite with Christ’s reparation and offer up our sufferings and sacrifices to help repair. Devotion to the Sacred Heart helps us to enter Christ’s reparative love. Thus, we reclaim territory, robbing the devil of so many souls that he’d carry to the abyss.

7. Sacred Heart: Union with Immaculate Heart

The Church places the feast of the Sacred Heart on Friday and the feast of the Immaculate Heart on Saturday to reminds us their unity. Jesus Christ and His mother Mary are united in the will of the Father and they cannot be separated. Devotion and consecration to the Sacred Heart is spiritually complimentary to devotion to the Immaculate Heart. This holy liaison forms a powerhouse of protection against evil spirits. Between the Eucharistic Sacred Heart and the Virginal Immaculate Heart, there is a space reserved for you and me where no evil spirit dare to enter. Let us remain in the loving protection of the united Sacred and Immaculate Hearts where we are safe as we walk in the valley of death and evil.

Enthronement of the family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is highly recommended by priests. For more information about this, I highly recommend Fr. James Kubicki’s book, A Heart on Fire.

Devotion affords spiritual benefits, for as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Our God is not a remote God intangible in his blessedness. Our God has a heart.” To whom does your heart belong?

image: Nancy Bauer / Shutterstock.com

The Power of Spiritual Fatherhood

Just in time for Father's Day, we thought you might enjoy a good read. June 15, 2017, Michele Chronister writes an article at Catholic Exchange reflecting on her encounters with priests and spiritual fathers. She also reminds us,"This Father’s Day, remember the priests in your life."
Read her article by clicking the text or image below.

The Power of Spiritual Fatherhood

Spiritual Motherhood Live Webinar - Online Retreat - May 31, 2017

Don't miss our upcoming Spiritual Motherhood Webinar with author and speaker Kathleen Beckman. 

What is God's special weapon against evil? Find out in this inspiring webinar with Kathleen Beckman in which she delves into the topic of spiritual motherhood using the teachings of the Church and the wisdom of Our Blessed Mother and several female saints. 

Topics include:
- Rome's Congregation for Clergy invitation to women
Mary's spiritual motherhood, especially for priests and her role in the defeat of evil
- The example of women Saints including St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena, and Venerable Conchita Cabrera
- When you register, you will receive a link to the LIVE webinar on May 31st at 8:00 PM ET. 

You will get access to our self-paced Spritual Motherhood Online Retreat for mothers and spiritual mothers. 

Registrants will receive:

A LIVE Spiritual Motherhood Webinar with Catholic Author and Speaker, Kathleen Beckman
- 5 - Women of Grace® TV Programs on Spiritual Motherhood
- 30 - Day Women of Grace® Journal on Spiritual - Motherhood with Daily Reflections for meditation and prayer.

Women of Grace® Mission Statement

Women of Grace® seeks to transform the world one woman at a time

by affirming women in their dignity and vocation as daughters of God and

in their gift of authentic femininity™ through ongoing spiritual formation.


Learn more at www.womenofgrace.com

Become a Spiritual Father to a Priest - Catholic Exchange article by Dave McClow

Following is an article at Catholic Exchange website writen by Dave McClow entitled, "St. Joseph: Our Model for Fatherhood".

Fatherlessness has become an epidemic in our society:  43% of our kids grow up without fathers (US Census), approaching a catastrophe rivaling the 1918 flu pandemic when an estimated 56% of the world was infected.  Fatherlessness is devastating—legally, morally, psychologically, and spiritually. A shocking snapshot of our fatherless youth shows they comprise 63% of youth suicides (US Dept. Of Health/Census)–5 times the average; 90% of all homeless and runaway children–32 times the average; 85% of all children who show behavior disorders–20 times the average (Center for Disease Control); 80% of rapists with anger problems–14 times the average (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26); and 71% of all high school dropouts–9 times the average (National Principals Association Report).

Fatherlessness is a Catholic problem in two ways:  1) because God is father, it creates a crisis of faith and is partly responsible for the rise of the religious “nones” (70% are millennials, 23% are adults, and 57% are men) and 2) it challenges how we evangelize the fatherless.

The antidote is men fully living out their faith as spiritual fathers by informally adopting our lost generation.  Our faith calls us to care for the “least” and the vulnerable (Mt. 25:40) and to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19)—that’s spiritual fatherhood; that’s the summit of being a man, and St. Joseph is our prototypical model.

How is St. Joseph a Spiritual Father?

St. Joseph took two roads to spiritual fatherhood: 1) through the incarnation, and 2) through participation in a new order of family.

God the Father, our real prototype of spiritual fatherhood (Eph. 3:14), asked St. Joseph to be Jesus’ father.  John Paul II says that even though his fatherhood is not biological, he is not just an “apparent” or “substitute” father.  Rather, he “fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family“ (RC, 21).  How is this so?  As the Incarnation, Jesus’ whole purpose is to reveal the Father and true fatherhood (Jn 14:9).  And John Paul II explains that the Holy Family is inserted directly into the mystery of the Incarnation.  And so, though St. Joseph is not Jesus’ biological father, when he reveals, relives, and radiates the very fatherhood of God, he becomes Jesus’ authentic human, and I would add spiritual, father.  His masculinity is fully expressed in his spiritual fatherhood, as it should be for all men, first and foremost, even if they are not biological fathers.

A New Order of Family

“Who are my mother and brothers?  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt. 12:46-50; cf., Mk. 3:31-35; Lk 27-28).  Is Jesus trying to escape a stereotypical overbearing Jewish mother?  I don’t think so!  Instead, John Paul II believes Jesus is establishing a whole new order of family and parenthood based on obedience.  And who is more obedient than Mary?  Jesus is preparing her for the crowning event of her new spiritual motherhood at the foot of cross: “Son, behold your Mother” (Jn 19:26-27).  In the new order, Jesus gives us and the Church his own mother.

Similarly, St. Joseph, as Jesus’ spiritual father, can also be our father.  Spiritual fatherhood (or motherhood) includes any action of care for others, i.e., the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.

“Joseph did.…” These two words and their variants, “he took the child…and went…” define St. Joseph’s role in salvation history.  He is not known for what he said in the Gospels—he said nothing!  But he listens to God in his inner life—his dreams—and then does the hard thing!  He protects the Son of God and his mother through many obstacles and threats—spiritual fatherhood is always an adventure!  He cares for and educates a child who is not his own in obedience to God’s word.  And as a just and generous man, he is willing to sacrifice much.  He is a good spiritual father to Jesus, and to us.

Spiritual fatherhood, as the summit of masculinity, is open to any age.  For years I watched the 5th and 6th grade boys at my local parish mentor or shepherd the younger boys during Mass.  When men or boys live out who they are created to be as spiritual fathers, they become more themselves, more masculine; they follow St. Joseph, our model, in revealing, reliving, and radiating God’s fatherhood to others.  In Part 2 I will explore more of the practical side of St. Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood as priest, prophet, and king.

The fatherlessness of this generation will spread like a cancer if unopposed.  Catholic men must be a witness, exercising their God-given gender and masculinity as spiritual fathers.  Our Church and culture depend on us!  We must imitate our father St. Joseph in revealing, reliving, and radiating God’s fatherhood to spiritual children who are not our own.  To whom can you be a spiritual father in your neighborhood or parish today?

image: St Joseph and the Angel by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Fatima: Mary and the Struggle Against Satan

“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” According the memoirs of Sr. Lucia of Fatima, this prayer was directly taught by the Virgin Mary to the seers.

On the one-hundred-year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the universal Church reflects on Mary’s apparition. With joy, we celebrate the canonization of two of the seers who received the revelations. Jacinta and Francesco Marto lived Mary’s message with heroic charity and zeal for the salvation of souls. Now we must consider the weightiness of the events; Fatima’s relevancy over the past one hundred years, and its meaning for this present hour.

I did not orchestrate this, but Providence arranged that I celebrate the Centenary of Fatima in the Eternal City as a student at a Rome university in a course on liberation from evil through the ministry of exorcism. Enlisted by clergy into this ministry of mercy, I am receiving continuing education together with 240 students (mostly clergy and some lay assistants), representatives of thirteen countries, gathered to learn more about the task and responsibility of the hard fight with the devil.

This holy work requires “a deep bond with Jesus Christ, a constant and scrupulous care of self together with sacrificial love for suffering souls”. Believers and non-believers are more frequently calling the bishop’s office or knocking on the door of the parish priest seeking liberation from evil spirits. Christ’s ministers seek to respond with generous pastoral charity. The salvation of a great number of souls is at stake. One professor reminded us of the words of St. John Paul II, “We have to fight against the devil; only then are we witnesses of the Gospel.”

Fittingly, on the first day, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints, (who has been busy preparing for the canonization of seers Jacinta and Francesco Marto), gave an inspired talk titled, “The Role of Mary in the Struggle Against Satan” articulating nine key points. Here I will share a few of his reflections.

The Cardinal reminded us of the Marian aspect wherein, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, the scriptures present Mary as the “women” uniquely chosen by God to restore the dignity of woman after Eve’s fall into the temptation of Satan. The Virgin “Mary gives us a love that regenerates. Satan is absent love.”

In the book of Revelation, the two characters “the woman” and the “dragon” represent good and evil; life and death. Mary represents the Church according to some interpretations. “In modern and ancient interpretations, the Son of a woman is a personal messiah, Jesus Christ. He comes to send the devil away.”

“The event of Fatima underscores the victory of Mary over Satan.” Mary is the protagonist. Fatima presumes the presence of the Church though Mary. She comes to us in a time of war, anti-Catholic persecution, Communism, Fascism, Christian terrorism, and oppression of any religious values.

The Cardinal emphasized that Sister Lucia said, “Nothing is secret anymore; there is no fourth secret; all was published in 2000.” The Cardinal then commented, “Pope John Paul II is the great interpreter of the Fatima Secret.” After the assassination attempt on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father contemplated the events, and entrusted himself to the Virgin Mary whose maternal hand re-directed the path of what would have been a fatal bullet. He understands that the Lord and the Virgin Mary have intervened.

The third part of the secret refers to the killing of a bishop dressed in white (the Pope) surrounded by a group of soldiers who died also (the blood of the martyrs?). “There are various interpretations… the “official one is a publication in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, by then Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

“Fatima helps us to understand the signs of the times. Children see hell. They are exposed to this terror; enlisted to help save souls by prayer and penance. The children respond in faith with obedience to the revelation.” They understand “the key word: penance!”

“The free will of man is to choose between good and evil. Sometimes the future is presented in an irrevocable way: the vision of a city in ruin; a bishop in white is killed; martyrdom— (the future of the Church in the 20th century). Pope John Paul II acknowledged his own fate. The maternal hand of Mary says, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.”

“Protagonist Pope John Paul II interpreted the secret of Fatima. He was overwhelmed by the message of Fatima. He felt the need to reflect on the meaning and value of the angel and Mary of Fatima.”

“He was wounded by a professional killer. We are before a Pope who stopped at the beginning of his “rebirth”. John Paul II realized that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave him a second life, a “Marian Kairos” (a propitious moment for decision or action). The Holy Father had other intentions for his papacy but the assassination attempt and, consequently, his reflection on the secret of Fatima, gives him the way to interpret Fatima, and his present and future. The vision convinced Pope John Paul II that death was avoided only by the powerful intercession of Mary. This was a turning point in his pontificate. The secret of Fatima reveals the fight against Satan (murderer) and the maternal guidance (power) of Mary.”

“Fatima introduces the symbol of the Blood; it reveals the battle between Satan and the Virgin Mary. The message throws light on the world today. Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering. I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.”

“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” This prayer said at the end of each decade of the Holy Rosary punctuates the spiritual weapon that defeats evil.

  • “O my Jesus!” is the cry of the believing human heart.
  • “Forgive us our sins” is the desire of a good conscience, a response to God who poured out His Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
  • “Save us from the fire of hell” is a reminder that hell exists. We have complete freedom to choose NOT to go there.
  • “Lead us to Heaven” –the union of our free will with the divine will. Grace carries us there if we vigilantly respond to God.
  • “Especially those who are in most need”—penance, reparation, sacrifice –intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls.

The words of Cardinal Angelo Amato deserve repeating:

  • The maternal hand of Mary reveals, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.
  • Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering.
  • I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.

Once, my father-in-law commented that the fall of the Berlin Wall was an answer to the prayers of a generation of Catholics who took to heart the message of Fatima. How will this present generation live the Fatima message?

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Diocese of Austin, Texas, 2017 Women's Conference

This fall - Saturday, September 23, 2017 - Kathleen is scheduled to speak at the Diocese of Austin Women's Conference.
As it says on the poster below - The day includes Mass with Bishop Daniel Garcia, surprise guest testimonials, confession, eucharistic adoration, intercessory prayer teams, great women's fellowship and Catholic books and gifts for purchase.
See further details on the poster below.

Marian Eucharistic Conference: 100 Years of Fatima: A Message for Today

Coming up May 19-21, 2017, Kathleen will be one of several speakers at the Ave Maria University Marian Eucharistic Conference: 100 Years of Fatima: A Message for Today. Kathleen will give 2 conferences at the Annual Ave Maria University Marian Eucharistic Conference in Ave Maria, Florida.
- Our Lady of Fatima's Role in the Defeat of Evil

- The Fatima Angel's Eucharistic Lessons

Here is a poster with further details about this event.

Defeating the Tempter by Trust in Divine Mercy

In the book of Job we read, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job, and that there is no one on earth like him, faultless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil? He holds fast to his innocence and although you incited me against him to ruin him without cause.’ And Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has will he give for his life. But now put forth your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and surely he will blaspheme you to your face’,” (Job 2:3-5).

We know the trials and tribulation contained within the pages of the book of the Job. The Lord ordained that His good and faithful servant, endure diabolical vexation; He tested his love and fidelity. After Job’s longsuffering the Lord restored him and his household a hundredfold.

The words that Satan spoke to the Lord, “…surely he will blaspheme you to your face” represent a consistent goal of the Tempter—to cause us to blaspheme the Lord.

About blasphemy:

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. St. James condemns those “who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called.” The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God’s name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion. Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin (CCC 2148).

The Tempter tries to incite us to reject God and His will for our life; to become angry with God; to blame the Lord for all that is wrong, tempting us to negativity, indifference and then blasphemy in thought and deed. Such temptations vary from subtle to strong. Like Job, the saints model how to resist the Tempter.

In her spiritual diary, St. Faustina records Satan’s temptations, how she responded and what Christ taught her.

When I went, in my thoughts, to the chapel, my spirit was plunged into even greater darkness. Total discouragement came over me. Then I heard Satan’s voice: “See how contradictory everything is that Jesus gives to you: He tells you to found a convent, and the He gives you sickness. He tells you to set about establishing this Feast of Mercy while the whole world does not at all want such a feast. Why do you pray for this feast? It is so inopportune.” My soul remained silent and, by an act of the will, continued to pray without entering into conversation with the Spirit of Darkness. Nevertheless, such an extraordinary disgust with life came over me that I had to make a great act of the will to consent to go on living…(1497). (St. Faustina, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 2014)

And again, I heard the tempter’s words: “Ask for death for yourself tomorrow after Holy Communion. God will hear you, for He has heard you so many times before and has given you that which you asked of Him.” (1497)

Here Satan tempts a saint against God’s will and entices her to ask God to end her life at the precise moment of Holy Communion, which is the Eucharistic bond of the love life between Creator and creature. Satan abhors the moment of Holy Communion and seeks to corrupt it with the desire for death instead of life. The Tempter knows this humble nun is a threat to his kingdom of darkness. Like Job, Faustina must engage with an act of her will to overcome such temptations.

The tempter went on: “Why should you bother about other souls? You ought to be praying only for yourself. As for sinners, they will be converted without your prayers. I see that you are suffering very much at this moment. I’m going to give you a piece of advice on which your happiness will depend: Never speak about God’s mercy and, in particular, do not encourage sinners to trust in God’s mercy, because they deserve a just punishment. Another very important thing: Do not tell your confessors, and especially this extraordinary confessor and the priest in Vilnius, about what goes on in your soul. I know them: I know who they are, and so I want you on guard against them. You see, to live as a good nun, it is sufficient to live like all the others. Why expose yourself to so many difficulties?” (1497)

Now Satan tempts a saint to cease praying for others and to pray only for herself. Intercessory prayer for others is so important that Satan is tempting Faustina to cease this type of prayer. Then Satan emphasizes her suffering and taunts her to happiness that he says depends upon “never speaking about God’s mercy”. He tempts her against the will of God and her mission. In particular Satan exhorts her to cease encouraging sinners to trust in God’s mercy and he emphasizes justice and punishment.

Finally, the last temptation recorded in this diary entry is one against honesty with her confessor and against the priest in Vilnius. Satan sows seeds of doubt and tries to intimidate her, “I know them.” Satan abhors priests, confessors, and our confession of sins. The sacrament of Reconciliation saves countless souls from perdition and heals our spiritual sicknesses.

In response to the above temptations, St. Faustina “remained silent, and by an act of will I dwelt in God, although a moan escaped from my heart. Finally, the tempter went away and I, exhausted, fell asleep immediately.” (1498) The next morning, after she received Holy Communion, she renewed her act of submission to God’s will, “Jesus, I ask You, give me the strength for battle. Let it be done to me according to Your most holy will.”

Variations of the temptations of Job and of the saints such as Faustina are unleashed upon us also. The ancient serpent of the Garden of Eden who enticed Adam and Eve still roams the earth seeking the ruin of souls. In the desert, during the threefold temptation of Jesus Christ, He modeled how to conquer the wiles of the Tempter (cf. Luke 1:1-13). We are called to imitate Christ’s wisdom, fidelity, virtue and faithfulness to the Father’s will for our life’s vocation. We do so for the sake of the greatest love, eternal beatitude.

After St. Faustina resisted the tempter and recommitted her will to God’s will, the Lord said:

Satan gained nothing by tempting you, because you did not enter into the conversation with him. Continue to act in this way. You gave Me great glory today by fighting so faithfully. Let it be confirmed and engraved on your heart that I am always with you, even if you don’t feel My presence at the time of the battle. (1409)

Recently a priest advanced in age who has been my spiritual father underwent open-heart surgery. Twice he nearly died during the first weeks after surgery. Father asked for prayers because he experienced temptations such as, “Your God is all about suffering. Suffer, suffer, suffer priest! That’s all God wills for you. You are alone and God has rejected you and you will suffer unto death and be mine.” Father made many acts of faith and fought valiantly against the Tempter. Then he somehow experienced the truth of divine mercy saying, “It’s all real!”

That God allows the Tempter to try us is a mystery not to be solved but to be believed. Before Job’s restoration he said to the Lord, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42: 1-6).

As one who, for the past fifteen years, has witnessed much deliverance from evil during major and minor exorcisms, the manifestations of the evil one are not nearly as impressive as are the manifestations of God’s mercy working in and through the priest and church.

Take heart when the Tempter assails you because you are not alone, Jesus defends you, choirs of good angels and the communion of saints engage on your behalf, and as a member of the Church, her goods are your spiritual armor.

If like Job, you suffer loss in the fray with the evil one, trust that the Lord will restore you in unimaginable good. He is preoccupied with your eternal salvation and His mercy is your covering and protection. Repay His mercy with your loving trust.

Editor’s note: For approved spiritual warfare prayers please visit www.foundationforpriests.org, under the spiritual warfare section. See also Kathleen Beckman’s God’s Healing Mercy: Finding Your Path to Forgiveness, Peace, and Joywhich is available from Sophia Institute Press.

image: Archangel Michael defeats the Devil, relief by Marcantonio Prestinari on the facade of Sant’Angelo church in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, April 11, 2007, / Wikimedia Commons.

Lenten Retreat in Amarillo, Texas

Coming Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, 2017, Kathleen Beckman will conduct a Parish Lenten Retreat in Bishop Zurek Parish Hall at Blessed Sacrament Church in Amarillo, Texas. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo website has a page with further details and contact information for those who wish to attend the retreat. Those interested can see the Amarillo Diocese page by clicking >here. Also, you can view details about this Lenten Retreat by visiting our Events page >here. Lentan blessing to all!

Ephesians Six: Prayers in Spiritual Warfare

St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter six, brilliantly describes the real spiritual battle that is the human experience on earth. Defending our selves and families against the wiles of the devil requires grace, not self-reliance; prayer, not fear; wisdom, not folly.

It is foolish and outside Church teaching to deny that the devil is not in the mix of the spiritual world. Yet, he isn’t to blame for every evil thought or deed since sin is at work in our fallen nature. Daily we decide, consciously or unconsciously, to cultivate virtuous habits that strengthen our spiritual armor or destructive vices that weaken or remove the armor. Absent God’s armor we become extremely vulnerable to diabolical vexation (cf. Book of Job).

We may get weary of the spiritual battle, and procrastinate about doing anything constructive to combat the interior or exterior onslaught of negativity, lies, doubts, fears, and darkness that weigh heavily on the soul. To a degree, we give up; lethargy sets in. We just want the spiritual tension and torment to end. The flesh cries out for pleasure; the world beckons us to comfort. The devil taunts us, “Your God wants you to suffer. He doesn’t care. You’re in a fantasy world. Get real.” How do we respond to spiritual combat at its various levels of temptation, oppression, or obsession?

Eight weeks ago I took a strange fall and broke my right upper arm bone. This new physical incapacity and chronic pain took a toll on my prayer life. Attending daily Mass was impossible because I couldn’t drive for weeks. I felt my spiritual armor weaken, even as I offered up the deprivation of the Eucharist and chronic physical pain. Undergoing an intense purification in the silence and solitude of suffering, I thought I’d be swallowed up by the darkness. I didn’t feel like praying at all but with great effort of my will I prayed to the best of my ability. Daily grace was sufficient to keep my eye on the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Taking up the word of God, I prayed chapter six of Ephesians in the following way. It is always more fruitful to pray, to turn to God, than to complain about the fiery ordeal.

Ephesians Six Prayers

Ephesians 6:10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Lord, I’ve never felt weaker or more defeated in the battle against the evil spirits. In your mercy, hold me upright in the strength of your might. Protect me from this evil onslaught and increase my faith that I may not succumb to diabolical temptations. O Incarnate Mercy, embrace your suffering servant with tender strength.

Ephesians 6:11: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Lord Jesus, you are the whole armor of the Christian soldier—cover me please. Wherever there is a weak link in my spiritual armor, please heal and restore its integrity. The wiles of the devil are manifold leading me into darkness, discouragement, doubt, and division—even against my self, friends and family. I need your light to see, your encouragement to persevere, and affirmation that, with your grace, I can resist and the enemy will flee.

Ephesians 6:12: For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Eternal Father, what defense do I, a poor sinner, have against powers and principalities, and their wickedness? You have given me your Son Jesus Christ as spiritual armor. Father, graciously place me into the depths of the Sacred Heart, my refuge against this present darkness. If I have succumbed to evil, lead me to repentance, reparation and restoration. I am your unworthy child but the Blood of your Son Jesus is my garment because you willed it. Thank you for your loving, perpetual care. 

Ephesians 6:13: Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Eternal Father, I reach for you like a child who seeks to be picked up into the arms of his or her loving daddy. Only in your arms am I safe from the evil one. Have I done all, to stand for Christ against the evil day? I’m sure that I have not. Therefore, have pity on me and supply what is lacking in your servant please.

Ephesians 6:14: Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

Jesus, Incarnate Truth, please build me up in the truth that I may stand against my soul’s enemy. You, the only Righteous One, be my breastplate, shield and protection in this present spiritual battle. With Incarnate Truth, I can stand, am safe, and able to proclaim the victory that you won on the cross. My only righteousness is your Precious Blood; and because of it, the devil is defeated. Consecrate me in this truth, I beg you.

Ephesians 6:15: and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;

Lord Jesus, the gospel of peace rests in my heart but my feet feel the hot coals of the fire set by the evil one. Teach me please, the way of surrender, strength and suffering wherein I do not lose my peace of soul. Did you lose your peace on the Via Dolorosa? No! You entered into the fiery ordeal with confidence in Your Father’s plan. Teach me this way of wise confidence, I beg you. I admit my faith, hope, love are too small. Increase it, I pray.

Ephesians 6:16: above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.

Mother Mary, first disciple of the Lord Jesus, I implore your maternal help to strengthen my faith so it becomes an impenetrable shield. When the flaming darts of the evil one raged against you, they could not mortally wound you. You who where privileged to see God’s glory with greatest clarity also saw the unimaginable depths of evil at work all around you. You were not afraid, you believed, and proclaimed God’s victory in the greatest battle at the foot of the cross. You stood in valiantly in faith. Please strengthen the faith of your battle worn child now.

Ephesians 6:17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Lord Jesus, please renew my mind, that I may think the holy and good thoughts of a redeemed child. Please secure the helmet of salvation upon me so I am never without protection.

 Holy Spirit, come and fill me now. Graciously release your gifts of faith, hope and love, discernment and praise. Help me to pick up the sword of the Spirit to cut down and clear away all that is not of you. Keep me rooted in your living Word that is sharper than a two-edged sword against my enemy.

Ephesians 6:18: Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

Most Holy Trinity, as a member of your Church militant, I have recourse to the Church triumphant. On earth I can look to, count on, and pray to saints as my heavenly family. In the midst of spiritual battles I have saint friends who passed the test, and their witness strengthens me to fight the good fight. Thank you, my Triune God, for your loving mercy, assurance, protection and blessing.

 St. Michael the Archangel, most powerful against Satan and his cohorts, defend me in battle now, and until I am safely home with the Church triumphant. Archangel Michael and beloved guardian angel, please aid me in wearing the full armor of God.

image: Our Holy Redeemer by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr

Advent: Joyful Mysteries for Holiness of Priests

Fr. John Hardon, S.J. writes, “Having taught priests for over 30 years, having lived with priests, and having labored for them, loving them and suffering with them—no words I can use would be too strong to state that the Catholic priesthood needs prayer and sacrifice as never before since Calvary…” (Quoted by Beckman, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, p 20)

Advent season is a perfect time to pray Our Lady’s rosary for the holiness of priests; an intention most pleasing to the Immaculate Heart. We can consider it a fruitful spiritual work of mercy.

For that purpose, I offer the following reflections.

As you consider these rosary reflections, kindly recall the teaching of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap.,

“It is true that laypeople contribute to the support of the clergy, but their contribution to the kingdom and to the priests should not stop there. The Lord today is calling the faithful in ever-growing numbers to pray, to offer sacrifices, in order to have holy priests. A concern, a passion, for holy priests has spread as a sign of the times throughout today’s Church. …The royal and universal priesthood of believers has a new way of expressing itself, contributing to the sanctification of ministerial priesthood.”
(Quoted by Beckman, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, p 19)

First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation of Our Lord

Intention: Priestly obedience of faith

Fruit: the gift of wisdom and for yes to the divine will

Scripture: The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-33, 38)

Prayer: Father, I pray for priests to listen, hear and respond, as did Mary so that their hearts are receptive to the divine will. Please grant to priests the gift of wisdom to ardently desire holiness of life. Graciously protect them from temptations to flight, compromise, compensation, vice or sin.

Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation

Intention: Joyful, faithful service

Fruit: virtues

Scripture: During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:39-45)

Prayer: Father, I pray that priests never tire of going forth to serve wherever they are needed. Please grant to priests the experience of joy in their sacrificial love for souls. Sanctify your priests that they may sanctify your people, attracting souls to your kingdom.

Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity of Jesus

Intention: Humility of the Christ child

Fruit: to love and be loved

Scripture: While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 6-12)

Prayer: Father, the prophet Isaiah said, “A little child shall lead them” (Is. 11:6). I pray for priests to be humble with a childlike trust in divine providence. Please heal priests of any fear of vulnerability that is required for authentic Christ-like love and service. May the Christ Child be born anew in the heart of every priest so they remember the Gift of Love.

Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation

Intention: Growth in personal prayer

Fruit: holiness, purity, perseverance

Scripture: Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)

Prayer: Father, I pray for priests to grow in the gift of personal prayer, that they may know the joy of encountering Jesus Christ and of having a lively interior life. Please raise priests to know the power of prayer from the heart.

Fifth Joyful Mystery: Finding the Christ Child in the Temple

Intention: Zeal for the Father’s House

Fruit: self-emptying charity for souls

Scripture: Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he said to them. (Luke 2:41-50)

Prayer: Father, I pray that priests will be always breaking open the living Word in Your temple, the Church. Graciously grant priests the gift of zeal for your house, zeal for Christ, zeal for souls, zeal for the priesthood, zeal for loving service, and zeal for heaven.

Closing Rosary Reflection


Self-Offering: Intercession for Priests

Heavenly Father, I, a poor servant, ask that I may glorify the Trinity in the offering of my daily prayers and sacrifices for the holiness of priests. I am inspired by the glorious witnesses of saints who went before me on the path of spiritual motherhood and fatherhood. I unite my offering to all the spiritual mothers and fathers of priests through the history of the Church. I pray that I may imitate their fidelity and fruitfulness in handing down the Faith to future generations by spiritually supporting all clergy in prayer –which is the heart of the New Evangelization. Amen.

Excerpts from: Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization available from Sophia Press. For more on spiritual motherhood or fatherhood of priests: www.foundationforpriests.org.