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Year and Day of Prayer for Priests

pope bxviPope Benedict XVI is proclaiming a Year for Priests on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of St Jean Marie Vianney. It will be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the call and mission of priests and to pray for the holiness of priests and for the vocation to priesthood and religious life. Maybe dedicate one day a month to this special prayer?

In his recent Message for the 46th World Day of prayer for vocations Pope Benedict XVI said: “The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence if it is enlivened by prayer. The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity.”

This call for prayer is even more relevant in the Year of the Priests called by Pope Benedict XVI, which starts on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 19th of June 2009 which commemorates 150th anniversary of the death of the saint Jean Marie Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock.

The same zeal for prayer assisted those who have spread the idea of the “Day of Prayer for Priests” which initially was celebrated on the first Saturday of the month and latter moved to the first Thursday of the month.
These people have pointed out the importance of the prayer for holiness of priests and those called to priesthood and religious life.

The initiator of that idea was Fr Paschalis Schmid SDS, who during his retreat in 1930 felt a strong call to remedy for lack of priests in the whole Church. After many talks with bishops, priests, religious and lay people he realised that there is a need for one particular day in month to dedicate it to prayer for the holiness of priests and priestly vocations. In short time this idea found many followers around the world.

On the request of Fr Pancratius Pfeiffer, the General Superior of the Salvatorians, Pope Pius XI gave his verbal blessing to the idea of the “Day of Prayer for Priests” which was set to the first Thursday of the month.

The formal encouragement to practice “Day of Prayer for Priests” came from the Encyclical of the Pope Pius XI “Ad catholici sacerdotti” which  stated: “We have thought it opportune, after consulting the Sacred Congregation of Rites, to prepare a special votive Mass, for Thursdays, according to liturgical rules: De summo et aeterno Iesu Christi Sacerdotio, to honor "Jesus Christ, Supreme and Eternal Priest." It is Our pleasure and consolation to publish this Mass together with this, Our Encyclical Letter.” (20/12/1935).

The Monthly Day of Prayer was not only thought of by Fr Paschalis Schmid SDS as a day where the faithful prayed for a short period for vocations and the needs of priests for example during the celebration of the Eucharist, in communal or private prayer. He wanted them to dedicate the whole day to the Lord and so to transform it with all its duties and efforts into prayer. Moreover he was very aware of the power of intercession through the Virgin Mary and he desired that the faithful offer “all their prayers, works, joys, sorrows and sufferings” through her hands to the Divine Saviour Jesus Christ.

Today, looking at the call of Pope Benedict XVI for the prayer for the vocations and establishing the Year of the Priests we can come to the conclusion that the idea of promoting the “Day of Prayer for Priests” held on first Thursdays of the month should be enlivened and renewed in our parishes and communities because "The Christian community can only really have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence if it is enlivened by prayer".

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You should be men of faith and, therefore, also have great confidence. Hope springs from faith. If you wish to do great things for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, then you need great, powerful faith and boundless confidence.