Among those for whom we really should pray daily are our bishops and our priests, not necessarily in general, as a group, though that is commendable, too, but for own bishop, our pastor, our associate pastor, or, in the case of the Cathedral at which I serve, our parochial vicar (let's not forget that we are the Cathedral!). After all, these are men who made a decision, most of them as young men, to dedicate their lives to God, foregoing home and family, to serve us. I can tell you from my first row seat that it is often very challenging, not without its rewards and consolations, but often difficult to discern the fruits of one's labors.
I had the great pleasure of running into Bishop Wester Sunday afternoon and the opportunity to speak with him for a few moments. One of the things I made it a point to tell him is that I pray for him everyday. I don't know why I felt compelled to tell him that, especially given the brevity of our conversation. Looking back on our brief exchange, I can't think of anything more important I had to say to him.
Another group for whom we should fervently pray is for the seminarians of our respective dioceses. Yesterday, on the Feast of St. Luke, the evangelist, the Holy Father released the text of a letter he wrote to seminarians. Like his message for next year's World Youth Day, the Holy Father begins his heartfelt encouragement with a personal reminiscence:
"When in December 1944 I was drafted for military service, the company commander asked each of us what we planned to do in the future. I answered that I wanted to become a Catholic priest. The lieutenant replied: 'Then you ought to look for something else. In the new Germany priests are no longer needed'. I knew that this 'new Germany' was already coming to an end, and that, after the enormous devastation which that madness had brought upon the country, priests would be needed more than ever. Today the situation is completely changed. In different ways, though, many people nowadays also think that the Catholic priesthood is not a 'job' for the future, but one that belongs more to the past. You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity. Where people no longer perceive God, life grows empty; nothing is ever enough. People then seek escape in euphoria and violence; these are the very things that increasingly threaten young people. God is alive. He has created every one of us and he knows us all. He is so great that he has time for the little things in our lives: 'Every hair of your head is numbered'. God is alive, and he needs people to serve him and bring him to others. It does make sense to become a priest: the world needs priests, pastors, today, tomorrow and always, until the end of time."
Pope Benedict's letter is a lovely reflection on priesthood. It is very inspiring. Of course, everyday I pray for the Holy Father, whom I love with a deep filial affection. You can the read the entire text of his letter here. Above all, we need to pray for more vocations to the priesthood, both worldwide and in our respective dioceses. We also need to encourage young men to consider priesthood as a possibility for their lives.