One of the most deeply moving moments in the ordination rite of a priest comes when the candidates prostrate themselves before the altar as the clergy and people pray together for them with the sung recitation of the Litany of the Saints. This ceremony reminds us that these men, who are giving their lives entirely to God in order to focus on preaching the Word of God and give us the sacraments, are themselves in need of support in their awesome vocation.
Over the centuries priests have drawn strength and courage from the faithful who have supported their spiritual fathers with their prayers and actions.
Blessed Jeanne Marie de Faille, St. Gemma Galgani, and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity devoted themselves to prayer for priests. St. Rose of Lima assisted priests by making or repairing altar cloths and furnishings, includ- ing flowers of gold and silk, and by washing the altar linens. St. Francis of Assisi spoke of his determination to ""reverence, love and honour priests"" because it is only by means of them that we can see Christ here on earth in the Holy Eucharist.
When, in times of persecution, priests risked their lives to bring the sacraments to the faithful, the faith- ful in turn risked their lives to protect their priests. In England, Queen Elizabeth I's parliamentary statute of 1585 not only imposed the death penalty upon Catholic priests, but also condemned to death all who helped priests in any way. The laymen Blessed John Mason and Blessed Sidney Hodgson rose from their knees during a Mass behind closed doors to stop the murderous agent and ""priest catcher"" Richard Topcliffe from reaching the altar, where Blessed Edmund Genings was reciting the words of consecration. Mason and Hodgson were martyred a month later for helping keep Topcliffe at bay.
While not having experienced such dramatic events in my own life, I count as one of my greatest blessings being supported by the prayers of so many and having my name mentioned in the Eucharistic prayer at every
Mass in the Diocese. As priests, we are deeply grateful for all the material and spiritual support that we receive. A noteworthy sign of support for our priests has been the generous financial response to our appeal to provide assisted living and continuing nursing care for priests, who due to infirmity or advanced age, are in need of special accompaniment. To that end, we have secured exclusive use of ten spaces within the proposed expan- sion of the Father Lacombe Care Centre (FLCC). In this way they will be cared for with dignity and compassion in a communal setting where the tradition of faith is celebrated and where spiritual and emotional growth are fostered.
To date we have received $2,221,061 in donations and pledges. Of that, our priests have contributed $437,078. In view of the revisions made to the original drawings, our revised target has been reduced from $3,200,000 to $2,726,120 (including our contribution to the chapel). Our goal is within reach. We still need to raise $505,059. Please consider making a gift, large or small, to our fund- raising efforts. Thank you!
☩ Frederick Henry