In this article I would like to take a break from the bad news and focus on some good news, a light shining in the darkness, if you will. But let us begin by praying an Ave for our bishops.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
Sometime in either 2009 or 2010, my family and I were attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the parish church of St John the Baptist in Knock. The Mass was a Latin Mass and was celebrated by Canon Wulfran Lebocq, Prior of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, in Ireland.
Afterwards, a lady we know informed us that the Canon and two seminarians that were with him, had nowhere to stay for the night. We offered to put them up in our house as we were living in Knock at the time and had a room to spare. We ended up having a wonderful musical evening at the house as some of my children and our visitors played musical instruments. Thus began our friendship and relationship with the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.
In September, 2011, four members of the Institute stayed with us in Knock as Cardinal Burke was visiting the Shrine and would celebrate a pontifical High Mass in the parish church. On that occasion five of my sons assisted with serving at Holy Mass.
In late 2011, I approached Canon Lebocq and asked him if it was possible to have one of my sons confirmed using the traditional Latin formula for the sacrament. I wasn’t aware of exactly what this would entail as my return to the Latin Mass was relatively recent and only on Sundays. I had served the Latin Mass as a boy but the changes had come in before I finished my time.
Canon Lebocq informed me that it would not be possible to have my son confirmed in Ireland using the Latin any time soon but, if I was able to visit their seminary in Gricigliano, in Florence, Italy, there were many occasions where bishops visited the seminary and confirmation could be arranged.
My reply was, if we go to Italy, I want two for the price of one, as my youngest son would also be approaching confirmation age. The Canon enquired after his age and if he was properly prepared for confirmation. Raphael was eleven at this time and home schooled so he knew his catechism.
The following year the Canon informed me that there would be a bishop visiting the seminary in March of 2012 and asked if that would suit us. I checked for flights on Ryanair and I was able to get return flights for eight of us relatively cheaply and so we made arrangements to visit Italy for ten days where we would stay at the Institute’s seminary.
One of the priests of the Institute contacted me some weeks before to say that he would be in Knock and could he come for a visit. After tea, this priest examined my two sons, Oscar and Raphael, on their catechism to make sure that they were prepared for confirmation and had a proper understanding of the sacrament. I was very impressed with this because I knew, that if they were not ready, they would not be confirmed.
When we arrived in Gricigliano, we learned that the visiting bishop was none other than Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, who with Cardinal Burke and two other Cardinals would issue the ‘dubia’ regarding Amoris Laetitia in 2017.
On March, 21st, the Feast of St Benedict, my sons Oscar and Raphael were confirmed and afterwards we got to meet with Cardinal Brandmuller where he encouraged us to keep up the home schooling on account of the liberal agenda infiltrating the public schools.
We have very fond memories of our time with the Institute in Gricigliano and our relationship has deepened over the intervening years.
The high point to date, arrived on Tuesday 29th, June, 2021, when my youngest son Raphael took the cassock with the Institute of Christ the King after completing his first year of studies for the holy Catholic priesthood. Another young Irish man from County Offaly, Darrell Lally, also received the cassock, whilst a third Irish seminarian, Abbé Bryan McDermott, completed his second year of studies.
These young men must still complete their journey to ordination and there are no guarantees that any of them will be ordained. What is certain is that the devil will use all of his cunning, deviousness and lies, to try to put them off track.
This is why it is so important for Catholics to pray for our seminarians, to pray for more holy vocations to the Catholic priesthood and to offer our sacrifices and our sufferings at the foot of the cross in order to gain graces for these courageous young men who desire to leave the things of this world so that they can minister to the flock of Christ.
In chapter nine of St Matthew’s Gospel we see Jesus going about His priestly ministry. Jesus forgives the man suffering from the palsy and when the Scribes and Pharisees are thinking that this is blasphemy, Jesus in response cures the man saying:
“Why do you think evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk?
But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the man sick of palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.
And he arose, and went into his house.” (Matthew 9:4-7)
Afterwards Jesus calls St Matthew to leave everything and to come and follow Him.
Again the Pharisees complain when they see the ‘bad company’ that Jesus is keeping.
“Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)
While Jesus is responding to a question about fasting, Jairus comes and asks Him to raise his daughter who has died. As Jesus follows Jairus, the woman who had been haemorrhaging for twelve years touches His cloak and is healed.
Jesus raises Jairus’s daughter back to life, and as he continues on His journey He is approached by two blind men and later, another man who is dumb and possessed by a demon, is brought to Jesus. Jesus heals them all.
“And as Jesus passed from thence, there followed him two blind men crying out and saying, Have mercy on us, O Son of David.
And when he was come to the house, the blind men came to him. And Jesus said to them, Do you believe, that I can do this unto you? They say to him, Yea, Lord.
Then he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it done unto you.
And their eyes were opened, and Jesus strictly charged them, saying, See that no man know this.
But they going out, spread his fame abroad in all that country.
And when they were gone out, behold they brought him a dumb man, possessed with a devil.
And after the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke, and the multitudes wondered, saying, Never was the like seen in Israel.” (Matthew 9:27-33)
The Pharisees accuse Jesus of being in league with the devil, but He goes about the towns and cities teaching and preaching and healing every disease and infirmity. When Jesus sees the distressed multitudes, who are like sheep without a shepherd, He urges His disciples to pray for vocations.
They have witnessed what is expected of the priestly followers of Jesus, and He urges them to pray that more men will enter the vineyard of the Lord to help with the rich harvest of souls.
“And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them: because they were distressed, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few.
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)
This call to pray for vocations should resonate with each one of us. The harvest is daily growing but the labourers are in serious decline. This is true especially in the western world, where the true vision of the mission of the Catholic Church has been lost or obscured.
Those religious orders who understand Tradition as the Catholic Church understands it, do not have a shortage of vocations, quite the opposite in many cases, but we must still continue to pray for them, so that those who wish to join them can be accommodated.
The mission and the glory of the Catholic priesthood should never be underestimated. It is through our priests that we receive the Sacraments which open up to us the channels of sanctifying grace which enable us to resist temptation and the wiles of the devil and to become saints. St Paul recounts the power of sanctifying grace in his second letter to the Corinthians.
“And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.
For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me.
And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
It is indeed a great blessing to have a priestly vocation in the family, but it is not without its struggles. I was speaking recently to one of the Sister Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus, in Galway, and I was telling her about some of our own family struggles. She told me that it is not uncommon for families where there is a vocation to the priesthood, to experience a greater share of the cross. As soon as she said this, I understood. The devil will do all in his limited power to destroy vocations to the priesthood. He will seek to dissuade the candidate and he can make life difficult for the family, all in an effort to bring the vocation to an end.
The priest becomes an ‘alter Christus’, and Christ redeemed us through the suffering and sacrifice of the cross. Our struggles and our sufferings have great merit when we accept them with good grace and bring them to the foot of the Altar and the foot of the Cross of Christ.
Our Lady told the children in Fatima, on the nineteenth of August, 1917:
“Pray! Pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.”
We have within our grasp the ability to help to save souls from Hell through our prayers and our sacrifices. The Catholic priest has the power from God to forgive sins and restore poor sinners to the state of Grace.
It is so easy to lament all the troubles we experience in this world but let us try not to waste a single opportunity to win graces for sinners and for priestly and religious vocations. Let us remember the words of St Paul to the Romans. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
In your charity, can I please ask you to remember in your prayers and sufferings, the young Irish men who are training for the priesthood with the Institute of Christ the King, Abbé Raphael Lacken, Abbe Darrell Lally and Abbé Bryan McDermott. Can I ask you to please pray that more young men will answer the call to the priesthood.
Oh Lord, grant us priests, Oh Lord, grant us holy priests, Oh Lord grant us many holy priests and religious vocations.
May God bless you.