Those who think that praying for priests is part of our ordinary duty demanded by Christian charity should look at the state of the Church today, especially that of her hierarchical members. As the late Fr John Hardon SJ, quoted in Praying for Priests: An Urgent Call for the Salvation of Souls (by Kathleen Beckman, Sophia Institute Press, 192pp, £11.99/$14.95) commented: “The Catholic priesthood needs prayer and sacrifice as never before since Calvary.” This does not seem to be an exaggeration.
Thus, Beckman has done an important task in bringing such a vital apostolate to the attention of readers. A well-known broadcaster and writer in the US, as well as being part of her diocesan exorcism team, the author helped to initiate a Foundation of Prayer for Priests (foundationforpriests.org) in 2013, specifically for its members, both clergy and laity, to advance the holiness of the priesthood through prayer, sacrifice, service and study.
As Beckman emphasises, priests are particularly targeted by diabolical forces – something the laity are not always aware of. In his hatred of Christ, Satan will do everything he can to tempt priests by any means to fall away from the devout celebration of Mass, whether by sins of the flesh (which the media are always quick to point out) or sins of the spirit – that self-sufficient satisfaction in their status which makes priests forget that their task is the salvation of souls more than attending conferences or immersing themselves in social projects.
As one would expect, Beckman invokes the power of Our Lady in this battle for priestly souls, reminding readers that “the most joyful priests I have met are those who consecrate themselves to Mary and relate to her as a son”.
She points out that Mary assists the priest in the “refinement of his will, the purification of his heart, in the conformity of his mind to God”. It is significant that St John Paul II took as his papal motto Totus Tuus (Totally Yours), from St Louis de Montfort’s classic work on the rosary.
She draws attention to the work of spiritual motherhood, understood by many saints such as Monica, Catherine of Siena, Thérèse and Faustina. But this “spiritual motherhood” is also important for lay Catholics today to undertake: perhaps the adoption of a particular priest to pray and sacrifice for, or the clergy as a whole.
Beckman also explains the importance of making a Holy Hour for priests, writing: “Do not be anxious about the right or wrong formula of prayers … Cultivate a listening heart. Jesus is pleased to have your company!”
Beckman advocates rosaries of reparation for clerical scandals, praying for the victims of abuse, for their abusers, for falsely accused priests, for healing and for forgiveness. Her book would make a worthwhile gift for a parish priest. As one remarked to me recently: “Being a priest today is a hard and often lonely life.”
This honest account of motherhood, Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom (by Colleen Duggan, Ave Maria Press, 160pp, £12.99/$15.95), written with humour and insight, should be read by all mothers who start out with high ideals about their vocation and who are then confronted by the imperfect, indeed messy, reality – that family life is not as prayerful, calm and pious as they had hoped.
Duggan reminds us that we all start out with flaws, writing: “My quest for the perfect Catholic family was motivated by the desire to correct certain broken aspects of my own childhood.”
With six lively children and a husband who found her perfectionism hard to live with, Duggan finally realised, with the guidance of a Catholic counsellor, that “What my kids really need is a sane, attentive, fully present mom; a peaceful home; and parents who love each other.”
She adds the important advice that the regular practice of Confession “has supplied me with the gifts that a parenting book, parenting practice, advice or counselling hasn’t”.
There is also the wry insight that “Instead of expecting my children to be patient, kind and loving, I have to be those things, even when my children can’t or won’t return the gesture.”
A collection of essays and talks by a Canadian icon painter and novelist, The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope and Consolation (by Michael D O’Brien, Wiseblood Books, 172pp, £9.99/$12.95), raises the question, “Are we living in apocalyptic times?”
Given his arresting theme, O’Brien offers a sober reflection on why the End Times described in the New Testament may be closer than we think.
He quotes the then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła in an overlooked speech of 1976, stating: “We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel.”
Nonetheless, whether the end is “a thousand years from now or only a few years away”, the author stresses that we have to “stay awake and watch”, be faithful to prayer, the Sacraments, to fasting and sacrifice – and consecrate ourselves to Our Lady, the woman who has overcome the dragon, or Antichrist.