Be an angel of prayer!
Each of us can make a spiritual adoption of some seminarian, priest and even bishop. One must only pray for him every day.
For many years the Church has promoted the Spiritual Adoption to protect unborn children. Daily prayers are to defend these defenceless beings against abortion. But the spiritual adoption of priests is still a novelty in Poland. Are their breviary prayers and Masses not enough? Why should we pray for them? ‘In the contemporary world there are no conditions that would support an increase in priestly vocations’, explains Fr Ludwik Nowakowski, who is involved in the Polish branch of Mission Thérésienne, which deals with spiritual adoptions of priests. ‘It is harder to endure in priestly vocation surrounded by various temptations. Therefore, people should also pray for us, priests’, Fr Ludwik adds.
The demand for prayer is enormous. Currently, the queue in the Secretariat of Mission Thérésienne is long. One hundred vocations that are valuable for the Church are waiting for spiritual adoptions and cares of their ‘angels of prayer.’
The beginning of the Mission
Spiritual adoption of priests began in the mid 1970s. In France some pious woman wanted to have a son who would become a priest. But she could not have children and her dream could not be fulfilled. After some time she conceived an interesting idea. She sent a letter to the Bishop of Lisieux asking him to give her a name of priest for whom she could pray every day. It happened so that recently the bishop talked to some seminarian and without any deep consideration he wrote, ‘Please pray for the seminarian called Bruno.’ Thus the woman adopted first a seminarian and then a priest. Her prayers were very valuable for the young priest. After having worked in some parish in Lisieux Fr Bruno Thévenin had painful experiences. His parish priest got married and left his priesthood. The parishioners were so disgusted that all the laymen who were involved in the parish ministry decided to leave. The young priest was left alone with ten thousand parishioners. He had no one to help him in the church and in the household. Every Sunday he administered several baptisms and catechised 650 children. One day when he saw the sink in his kitchen full of dirty dishes he asked a certain woman to help him. After some time it turned out that she was the woman who had prayed the rosary for him for several years. For Fr Thévenin it was a sign from heaven that inspired him do start a mission of prayer for priests. He associated the mission with St Therese of the Child Jesus who had prayed for priests in Lisieux. Therefore, he called his work Mission Thérésienne.
Priests need child’s prayers
Fr Bruno, who catechised children, thought that he could entrust important spiritual issues to their prayers. Since then priests and seminarians have filled in small cards with the inscription ‘godchild’ and children have become ‘god parents.’ Thus the little ones began defending the big ones. After 30 years one can see that Mission Thérésienne has become a popular movement in France. The Mission can boast of numerous testimonies. ‘One child prayed for a seminarian who became a priest and then a bishop. After several years that child from Mission Thérésienne entered the theological seminary’, Fr Bruno Thévenin writes in ‘Pastores.’ On the day of the ordination it was the ‘godson’ who laid his hands on the priest’s head! In the Polish branch of Mission Thérésienne the little angels of prayer prevail. ‘Currently, we have 3,500 ‘angels’, and 80 % of them are children,’ says Maria Sledzik from the National Secretariat of Mission Thérésienne. Groups of little angels are all over the country. ‘If someone wants to found such a group in his/her parish I offer my help and formation materials’, Maria stresses. She herself prays for one priest every day. In her opinion the best time to begin such an initiative is the First Communion or just after it. ‘Recently, I have received the applications of over 100 children from Wielkopolska. These are third-form pupils who declared to pray daily and once a month receive Holy Communion for the intention of the adopted priests’, says Maria Sledzik.
A long queue for an angel
The mission of prayer for priests is based on the ‘little way’ of St Therese of the Child Jesus. All its members, the so-called angels of prayer, both children and adults, are called to special love for priests and daily prayers for them. ‘If you love apostle priest you love Christ Priest’, we read at the web site of the Mission.
The Polish branch of the Mission has existed for several years. Each participant prays for one consecrated man (seminarian, priest, monk). ‘But the needs are much bigger’, says Maria Sledzik. Currently, about 100 priests are waiting for their spiritual adoptions. These include diocesan and religious priests and even bishops. ‘In accordance with our rule three angels must pray for every bishop. Since the biggest responsibility lies on them’, stresses Fr Ludwik Nowakowski. The Mission receives many testimonies that confirm the effectiveness of prayers. The priests feel that they have spiritual accompaniment and support. A few months ago the Secretariat received a letter of thanksgiving from Bishop Tadeusz Pikus who had been in the Mission for six years. Lately Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw has been included in the prayers.
Everything in the Secretariat works perfectly, like in a watch. Everyone who asks for prayer receives his angel. The Mission has a web site www.misja.teresy.org.pl. Every day Maria checks in the computer whether there are new applications from those who ask for prayer and from those who offer their prayers. ‘I have a special computer programme so that I can ‘attach’ an angel to a priest or a seminarian. The programme shows how many angels we lack’, Maria Sledzik says. ‘However, there are sometimes extraordinary situations. We hear that some priests experience difficulties concerning their vocations. It is their colleagues that send us such news. And we ‘add’ angels for such priests because they need them most. So in unique cases the Mission works as angels’ ambulance. Maria recollects the case of some monk whose character was very difficult. He could not settle anywhere. He left his congregation and became a diocesan priest. However, he did not like any diocese. He could not find his own place. In the end, he left his priesthood and returned home. Then his colleague from the congregation wrote to the Mission asking us to pray for him. Maria found a suitable angel and sent a letter to that priest informing him that some child prayed for him every day. And the child prayed that he would become a holy priest. ‘When the priest received our card he cried. After several months of priestly apathy he began working on his character. And finally he returned to his congregation’, Maria says. ‘It was eight years ago and until now he has been a zealous monk’, she adds.
Why do they need prayers?
Maria Sledzik knows the environment of the clergy very well. Her son is a priest. ‘I know that they have many problems. That’s why they need our support, daily prayers’, she says. Fr Ludwik Nowakowski thinks that the spiritual support can save the vocation in some cases. ‘I can see the big problems that priests have to deal with. And above all a vocation is a great gift’, he stresses. Therefore, prayers for priests are the most important intentions of the Church. ‘It is on them that the contemporary picture of the Church and her earthly lot depend on,’ Fr Nowakowski says.
Fr Ludwik Nowakowski, Mission Thérésienne in Poland
A layman can not only deliver a priest from evil but can also contribute to his sanctity. Therefore, our participation in Mission Thérésienne is an expression of the layman’s responsibility for the Church. Besides, when a priest knows that a child prays daily that he becomes a holy priest he should automatically becomes better. The child’s efforts should oblige all the priests that belong to the Mission. We should not limit our prayers to priestly vocations but first of all we should pray God to give us holy vocations. Since sanctity is rare in the contemporary world, which is full of various temptations.
Maria Sledzik – secretary of Mission Thérésienne
Currently, people are increasingly weaker and there are more and more temptations in the world. Priests are not exempt from them; they are also weak. They are taken out of mankind. Therefore, prayers for priests also answer the challenges of the present times. On the other hand, daily prayers for priests show our Christian responsibility. After all, in our holy Church we all want holy priests, to have them as many as possible.
Priest has been taken out of mankind
Christ chooses ordinary people to proclaim the Gospel. ‘Every priest has been taken out of mankind’. Like mankind, like priests. Some are better, some are worse, like ordinary people are. But one requires more of priests. Both people and Christ himself demand more of them. ‘When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him.’ A priest, especially a diocesan priest who is not a religious, working in a parish is – one can say – in a difficult situation. He is responsible for the salvation of the sheep that he has been entrusted with, and at the same time he cannot forget about his own salvation. Thus a priest saves himself, ministering to his people well. An apostle of Christ’s Gospel is only a human being. And like each human being he is inclined to sin. He can experience loneliness and can have problems with his celibacy. He feels tired, experiences failures and sometimes faces crisis of his faith... St Paul says, ‘for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not.’ The enemies of the Church eagerly use serious failures and sins of priests and they blow them up to humiliate the priesthood of Christ and to destroy the Church.
Materials from the Mission
Any priest who needs spiritual support and all those who can offer such support are requested to contact the Secretariat of Mission Thérésienne. Every person who is willing to pray is warmly welcomed. The Secretariat helps to organise big groups, e.g. in parishes.
Sekretariat misji sw. Teresy
Parafia Podwyzszenia Krzyza Swietego
Slomiana 2/4, 01-353 Warszawa