Two weeks ago, I offered some thoughts on the importance of the Church of the home and the crucial role of good mothers and fathers in the spiritual care of their children. That sacred calling is certainly on my mind again as we prepare to celebrate our fathers this Sunday. The need for good fathers grows ever more intense as too many young people lack that foundational and formational blessing in their lives. I hope that we all thank and support fathers who embrace that sacred calling and I wish all of you and your families a joyful celebration.
I wonder if you might permit me to also offer a few thoughts about the spiritual fathers that shepherd our parishes here in the Diocese of Providence. When I received the appointment by the Holy Father to begin this new ministry in Rhode Island, I received a congratulatory call from New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan. He told me about his visit to Providence as part of the celebration of the diocese’s 150th anniversary. In that characteristically joyful voice, His Eminence told me that Providence is a great diocese with great priests. Over these last six months, I have personally experienced both these truths. Our priests are devoted to their ministry and fraternally attentive to one another. They have certainly welcomed me to their ranks and demonstrated their willingness to take on increasing responsibility in our parishes, schools and institutions. As I have observed more than once, I need them, and I depend upon their priestly zeal in the pastoral care of God’s people.
Because I see their generosity, I also see the burdens that we place upon them. In too many instances, our priests take on multiple ministries. I have seen how they sometimes devote themselves to others to the point that they may neglect their own well-being. I feel keenly, as they do, the pain that too many Catholics have grown indifferent towards the faith. As priests, our most fervent wish is that people come to know Jesus Christ and his grace. There are days when our priests feel the uphill nature of that work in a secular culture.
I am deeply grateful to our priests, and I pray for them each day. With that in mind, I have a favor to ask of you. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls on the 16th of June. It is a beautiful devotion recalling us to the heart of our shepherd who has loved us to the end. It is a devotion that reveals his pierced heart and proclaims his tender mercy. He knows us with all our failings and draws us into the communion of love that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a beautiful moment in which to recall and pray for our priests. It is also a good moment to consider thanking the priests who have accompanied us on the journey of faith.
May I ask that we all pray for our priests through the Sacred Heart Devotion this June? Pray that our priests will be filled with zeal for the gospel, pure in their life of celibate chastity, and ever ready to lay down their lives in imitation of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine!