St. Paul talks of the groaning of the Spirit within us as prayer too deep for words, groaning that cannot be uttered. Most times, I think of that groaning as an expression of pain and suffering that is simply too vast or overwhelming to articulate. The Spirit steps in to uphold us in our weakness, to give us the strength to sustain our journey in faith, and to give vent to the things that try the core of our very souls and carry the message to God.
When I started to pray the Glorious mysteries, I discovered that the Spirit can groan because things are just too great and wonderful to articulate as well. More than any other time, meditating on these mysteries causes my mind to wander far off the path of language into images and senses that I have a hard time putting into words, the following rather lengthy attempt notwithstanding. The weakness I experience in casting my mind on these mysteries is not the failing shortfall of sin, it’s the shortfall of trying to put into words the unimaginable glory of the new creation….rather like the difference between seeing a sunset and trying to describe it…and so, the Spirit steps in. The Spirit will always step in, if we let Him.
The Resurrection: I believe in the resurrection, but like Thomas, there is a part of me that cannot begin to comprehend it. Not only did Jesus consent to die for me, knowing all the while what I have done and will do to separate myself from Him and reject the gift He offers, He returns, lifted up from the dead, and His first word is Peace.
Not recrimination, but peace. Not bitter disappointment at those who denied and abandoned Him, but the calming quiet of love. His resurrection completes the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation, God made man, made vulnerable, made subject to His own creatures, and returning with arms outstretched in greeting to embrace us even in our brokenness.
Father help those who are called to the priesthood to remember that You knew, even as You called them, their weaknesses as well as their strengths. You knew their limitations, how they would disappoint You and how they would falter and You called them anyway to be men of the Resurrection as much as men of the cross. Men who know that the worst the world has to offer is not the end, men who will by their lives give witness to the stone rolled away from the tomb. Help them always to be men with their own arms outstretched for those they serve. Help us, too, to always embrace them with a greeting of peace and love grounded in the living Christ.
The Ascension: Jesus, You went before us to prepare a place for us, and so will our priests will prepare us to meet You. Prepare the hearts of Your seminarians to love Your people, so that they may preach and teach and baptize and make disciples in Your name. Give them a love for Your Church, both as it is in its worldly imperfection and as it will be in the perfect fullness of time.
We pray for those who are being formed in seminary, and for those who are responsible for their formation. Ground them in Your love and Your will. Transform them, with Your love so that they can become the beacons that lead us to You. As You stretched out Your hands to bless your Apostles when You returned to Your Father, bless these men whom you have called as their successors. Strengthen them, confirm them, and let Your glory be ever before them to guide and strengthen them in their vocation.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit: Ordinary men, once touched by the Holy Spirit were released form the prison of their fears, and with a boldness of spirit—Your Spirit—went forth to share the good news with the whole world. You made possible the seemingly impossible: the transformational love of God spread to the farthest reaches of the world because a remnant of believers received in their hearts the fire that Christ longed to cast upon the earth, the fire of the Spirit. It changed them and You used them to change the world.
Come, Holy Spirit, and enkindle in the hearts of your seminarians an unquenchable love and desire to serve God and His people. Pour out Your gifts on them. Strengthen them, and give them joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Make them modest, generous and chaste. Convict them when they sin, and lead them to continuing conversion so that they always know Your presence in their lives.
Comfort them in times of trial. Empower their learning and give eloquence and force to their ministry. Enable in them the life of Christ Himself, so that they may assist in bringing to completion Your work in the Church. Prepare them to bring by the sacraments and by their lives the life of the Spirit to those they will serve.
Give us, too, we pray, a share in Your Spirit, that we may love and serve them as they love and serve us. Use them, and use us, to change our world, and illuminate it with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
The Assumption: Oh, Mary! You show us by your very life the path of discipleship that we are to follow, the one thing Christ could not show us Himself. Too often we describe your life in terms of acquiescence or submission to God’s will, but I think it was more than deference, yielding. Was it not more an active joining of your will with God’s? A resounding, confident yes. A yes that, even though you did not understand the particulars, was completely, absolutely and freely given because you knew how to trust God as completely as He loved you. A yes that flowered in the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and at length, the Assumtion.
Mary, your response to God opened the way for Him to come among us as man. Help those who would share in the priesthood of your Son to learn all the the lessons of your yes, brought to wonderful completion in your assumption, the assumption that means a human mother, body and soul, intercedes for them in Heaven. Nurture in them the life of Jesus, your son. Guide and direct them with maternal love and concern. Wrap your mantle around them. Hold them in your arms with joy as you held your infant son, and in sorrow as you stood at the foot of the cross.
As you walked with Jesus through His ministry, be with them in theirs. Spread your mantle around them, strengthen and protect them and lead them gently and perfectly, as you always do, to your son, our Savior. Teach them the deepest expressions of yes to the will of God, whatever form it takes for them. Help them keep their eyes on heaven, which is home, the place their Father, Brother and Mother all await them, and us.
We ask too, that gift of joyful assent for ourselves, that we, like you, may open ourselves fully to the will of God. We ask particularly that we see the gift of vocation to the priesthood as an opportunity for a joyous yes from those of us who surround our seminarians. Intercede for us that we may be rid of selfish desires and fears that would impede the vocations of those we love. As your yes to God’s will in your life ultimately gave rise to the priesthood of your son, let ours be the soil from which the priesthood of others will grow.
The Coronation: Mary, Queen of Heaven, has a unique relationship with God. She is, after all, the only one with whom she can speak to God the Father of our son. What a surpassing mystery that intimate relationship is, and what deeper mystery it holds for the rest of humankind, still broken and fettered by sin. A God who loves us enough to become Man, a mother who so completely loved God that she could give a free and unfettered yes to her role in salvation history. A Redeemer kinsman who knows what it means to be human and who walked the very path we have to walk in order to show us the way out of darkness.
God could have chosen to redeem the world in so many ways, but He chose this one. His grace gives us Father and Brother, and mother; King and Sovereign, and queen. The threads of human life so intimately bound together with God Himself that participating in the Divine Life becomes the very purpose of our own existence—to love God, and to serve God, that we might, like Mary, be happy with Him in heaven for all eternity.
Pray for us, Mary, Queen of Heaven. Intercede for us, that God may raise up from among us many vocations to the priesthood, many holy seminarians who will become happy and holy priests, bringing to the people of God the sacraments of the Church. In the spiritual order, prepare them to be good priests who mirror the love of our Heavenly Father, that we may all enjoy a place in the family of God. Mary our Mother, pray for us, and remind us that we are, indeed, royal children with a heavenly inheritance.
Thanks be to God!