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Shepherds of Christ

A Spirituality Newsletter for Priests

1999 - ISSUE TWO


Chief Shepherd of the Flock

His Body, the Church

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. (Jn 10:11-151)

Yes, the Good Shepherd has laid down His life for us. He gave His life so that we might have life in Him. This life we gloriously possess in Christ, we live within the Church. The Church herself came forth from the pierced side of Jesus. Vatican II tells us: "For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament which is the whole Church."2

There follow various thoughts concerning the Church.

Assimilation to Jesus

The spiritual life is centered in assimilation to Jesus. Here are words which offer insight into our life in Christ: "No mere human courage carried even to the highest degree could rise to the strength of soul needed to carry into practice the principles of life on which the Man-God acted. Mere conviction that His way and His conduct are most excellent and most worthy of imitation, is not sufficient for us. It is more disheartening than inspiring to have to approve and yet to be unable to imitate. And admiration that does not lead to imitation is a sterile thing. The Christian by his very vocation is called to express Christ in his own life. To do this demands a divine energy. That energy is, in a mysterious manner, latent in the mysteries of the Savior’s life on earth. These mysteries are quasi-sacramental in their character. Each is a manifestation of the divine. It is that and something more. For those, who by faith, lay hold of Christ in a willingness to be united with Him in act, the mystery possesses a divinizing power. It can make contact with the ordinary experiences of the Christian’s life and impart to them a superhuman dignity and worth.

"The mysteries of the life of Jesus are not dead, static…They are living and dynamic. They have been lived for the members of Christ. All the states that the Savior traversed, all the human experiences that he willed to go through, have for their purpose the sanctification of all that enters into a man’s deliberate life. These mysteries of His love accumulated vast reservoirs of merit in order to communicate this human-divine quality to the Christian’s doings and sufferings…

"That this divinizing process take place, there is required a willed contact between the individual and Christ. This contact is effected by the activity of the virtue of faith. It is perfected by sympathy and love. The Christian who wills to have the life of Christ develop in himself, must consent to ‘steep’ mind, imagination and heart in the earthly career of Jesus. He must aim at a sympathy with the Savior in all that he went through. He must strive to identify himself with the divine Master, to think with Him, to feel with Him, to judge with Him, to see with His eyes and to speak with His tongue. He must will to be as the Savior was in all these incidents…

"The Son of man is ever at the service of His brethren for their good. The transformation of their souls is His chief concern, though He is not indifferent to their bodily welfare. It is certain, then, that if a soul lays hold of Him in faith and trusts to receive an inflow of divine life through that contact, its expectations will be fulfilled. Christ Himself states that He came to give life. By life He meant the supernatural life of divine grace.

"Christ’s mysteries belong to all Christ’s members. To secure the advantages that follow from their privileged condition the members of Christ must deliberately aspire to harmonize thoughts, affections and aspirations with those of the Lord. They must try to be, in fact, one spirit with Him. It is this ‘Oneness’ in spiritual ideal that releases the streams of life accumulated through Christ’s merits and permits them to circulate through the soul…

"The events of the thirty-three years are not to be laid hold of by the Christian in the sense that he has to undergo exactly similar things. It is the spirit of these experiences that is important. And it is by putting that spirit into his own encounters with circumstances that the Christian posits the condition that enables the virtue and the merits of Christ to transmute his actions into something of divine worth. An excellent imitation of the Lord may be realized without demanding anything extraordinary in the way of poverty, sufferings, trials or persecutions." 8

The Eucharist

The Holy Spirit and Mary

The late Archbishop Luis M. Martinez of Mexico strikingly speaks of the ongoing cooperation of Mary with the Holy Spirit regarding the reproduction of Jesus within us: "Christian life is the reproduction of Jesus in souls…

"Now, how will this mystical reproduction be brought about in souls? In the same way in which Jesus was brought into the world, for God gives a wonderful mark of unity to all His works. Divine acts have a wealth of variety because they are the work of omnipotence; nevertheless, a most perfect unity always shines forth from them because they are the fruit of wisdom; and this divine contrast of unity and variety stamps the works of God with sublime and unutterable beauty.

"In His miraculous birth, Jesus was the fruit of heaven and earth…The Holy Spirit conveyed the divine fruitfulness of the Father to Mary, and this virginal soul brought forth in an ineffable manner our most loving Savior, the divine Seed, as the prophets called Him…

"That is the way He is reproduced in souls. He is always the fruit of heaven and earth.

"Two artisans must concur in the work that is at once God’s masterpiece and humanity’s supreme product: the Holy Spirit and the most holy Virgin Mary. Two sanctifiers are necessary to souls, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, for they are the only ones who can reproduce Christ.

"Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary sanctify us in different ways. The first is the Sanctifier by essence: because He is God, who is infinite sanctity; because He is the personal Love that completes, so to speak, the sanctity of God, consummating His life and His unity, and it belongs to Him to communicate to souls the mystery of that sanctity. The Virgin Mary, for her part, is the co-operator, the indispensable instrument in and by God’s design. From Mary’s maternal relation to the human body of Christ is derived her relation to His Mystical Body which is being formed through all the centuries until the end of time, when it will be lifted up to the heavens, beautiful, splendid, complete, and glorious.

"These two, then, the Holy Spirit and Mary, are the indispensable sanctifiers of souls. Any saint in heaven can co-operate in the sanctification of a soul, but his co-operation is not necessary, not profound, not constant; while the co-operation of these two artisans of Jesus of whom we have been speaking is so necessary that without it souls are not sanctified (and this by the actual design of Providence), and so intimate that it reaches to the very depth of our soul. For the Holy Spirit pours charity into our heart, makes a habitation of our soul, and directs our spiritual life by means of His gifts. The Virgin Mary has the efficacious influence of Mediatrix in the most profound and delicate operations of grace in our souls. And, finally, the action of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of the most holy Virgin Mary are constant; without them, not one single character of Jesus would be traced on our souls, no virtue grown, no gift be developed, no grace increased, no bond of union with God be strengthened in the rich flowering of the spiritual life.

"Such is the place that the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary have in the order of sanctification. Therefore, Christian piety should put these two artisans of Christ in their true place, making devotion to them something necessary, profound, and constant."14



Now it happened that Jesus was in one of the towns when suddenly a man appeared, covered with a skin-disease. Seeing Jesus he fell on his face and implored him saying, ‘Sir, if you are willing you can cleanse me.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him saying, ‘I am willing. Be cleansed.’ At once the skin-disease left him. He ordered him to tell no one, ‘But go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering for your cleansing just as Moses prescribed, as evidence to them’.

But the news of him kept spreading, and large crowds would gather to hear him and to have their illnesses cured, but he would go off to some deserted place and pray. (Lk 5: 12-15)

All of us no doubt have told ourselves on more than one occasion that we were too busy to pray. We are speaking about set, formal periods of prayer. We are not speaking about prayer in action, or that prayerful attitude which should permeate our daily activity. Such prayer in action allows us to bring a deeper Christian awareness to what we are doing and why we are doing it.

We cannot tell ourselves that we are busier than Jesus was, that we have more important work to accomplish than He did. Yet, as the above Scripture passage reminds us, Jesus set aside special time for prayer. Many, many holy Christian men and women from all states of life have likewise always found the time to pray. Moreover, they were more effective in their work precisely because they did pray.

Prayer serves various purposes. One of its functions is to mold us to become more effective workers in the Father’s vineyard. Prayer helps us to control worry and anxiety. Worry and anxiety obviously can make us less efficient in our work. We cannot expect prayer to remove all anxiety from life. But prayer has a significant contribution to offer in making us Christians who are basically permeated with the peace of Christ. If we are persons of prayer, we grow in the awareness of what it means to be loved by Jesus, and, consequently, are in a position to control worry and anxiety. Prayer also aids us in our work by giving the motivation to do the right thing at the right time. Sometimes we can fail to do the work of the Lord precisely because we are not properly motivated. Prayer can also aid in making our work of a higher Christian quality—prayer can help permeate our work with a deeper faith, hope and love.

These are some of the ways prayer assists us to go about our work more effectively. When we pause to analyze the situation, then, we have to admit that we really are not too busy to pray.

Words from Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen has been one of the most prolific and well-known spiritual writers of our time. There follow excerpts from some of his writings.

Various Thoughts

Trust in the Lord

St. Claude La Colombière, one of the great apostles of devotion to the Heart of Christ, speaks eloquently concerning confidence or trust in God. Trust in God is one of the great fruits of devotion to the Heart of Christ. Claude says: "My God, I am so convinced that you keep watch over those who hope in you, and that we can want for nothing when we look for all from you, that I am resolved in the future to live free from every care, and to turn all my anxieties over to you…

"Man may deprive me of possessions and honor, sickness may strip me of strength and the means of serving you…but I shall never lose my hope. I shall keep it till the last moment of my life; and at that moment all the demons in Hell shall strive to tear it from me in vain…

"Others may look for happiness from their wealth or their talents; others may rest on the innocence of their life or the severity of their penance, or the amount of their alms, or the fervor of their prayer. As for me, Lord, all my confidence is my confidence itself. This confidence has never deceived anyone. No one, no one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded.

"I know, alas! I know only too well that I am weak and unstable. I know what temptation can do against the strongest virtue. I have seen the stars of heaven fall, and the pillars of the firmament; but that cannot frighten me. So long as I continue to hope, I shall be sheltered from all misfortune; and I am sure of hoping always, since I hope for this unwavering hopefulness.

"Finally, I am sure I cannot hope too much in you, and that I cannot receive less than I hoped for from you. So I hope that you will hold me safe on the steepest slopes, that you will sustain me against the most furious assaults, and that you will make my weakness triumph over my most fearful enemies. I hope that you will love me always, and that I too shall love you without ceasing. To carry my hope once for all as far as it can go, I hope from you to possess you, O my Creator, in time and in eternity. Amen."21

The Christian and the Social Order

Pope John Paul II states: "The historical experience of the West, for its part, shows that even if the Marxist analysis and its foundation of alienation are false, nevertheless alienation—and the loss of the authentic meaning of life—is a reality in Western societies too. This happens in consumerism, when people are ensnared in a web of false and superficial gratifications rather than being helped to experience their personhood in an authentic and concrete way. Alienation is found also in work, when it is organized so as to ensure maximum returns and profits with no concern whether the worker, through his own labor, grows or diminishes as a person…

"The concept of alienation needs to be led back to the Christian vision of reality, by recognizing in alienation a reversal of means and ends. When man does not recognize in himself and in others the value and grandeur of the human person, he effectively deprives himself of the possibility of benefiting from his humanity and of entering into that relationship of solidarity and communion with others for which God created him. Indeed, it is through the free gift of self that one truly finds oneself. This gift is made possible by the human person’s essential ‘capacity for transcendence’. One cannot give oneself to a purely human plan for reality, to an abstract ideal or to a false utopia. As a person, one can give oneself to another person or to other persons, and ultimately to God, who is the author of our being and who alone can fully accept our gift. A person is alienated if he refuses to transcend himself and to live the experience of self-giving and of the formation of an authentic human community oriented towards his final destiny, which is God. A society is alienated if its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer this gift of self and to establish this solidarity between people."22

A Prayer for Priests

Many of the laity pray for us priests, and consistently so. Is it not also fitting that we priests pray for all our brothers in the priesthood, and consistently so? There follows a prayer that can aid us in this endeavor.

"Lord Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, we pray that in the great love and mercy of Your Sacred Heart that You attend to all the needs of Your priest-shepherds throughout the world. We ask that You draw back to Your Heart all those priests who have seriously strayed from Your path, that You rekindle the desire for holiness in the hearts of those priests who have become lukewarm, and that You continue to give Your fervent priests the desire for the highest holiness. United with Your Heart and Mary’s Heart, we ask that You take this petition to Your heavenly Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen".

The above prayer is taken from the prayer manual of Shepherds of Christ Associates, a facet of Shepherds of Christ Ministries. The associates are members of prayer groups which meet regularly to pray for all the needs of the entire human family, but most especially for priests. If you would like a copy, or copies, of this prayer manual, and further, if you would like information on how to begin a Shepherds of Christ prayer chapter, contact us at:

Shepherds of Christ
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
Phone (toll free): 1-888-211-3041
Phone: 1-513-932-4451
Fax: 1-513-932-6791

Act of Consecration

Lord Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, I consecrate my priestly life to Your Heart, pierced on Calvary for love of us. From Your pierced Heart the Church was born, the Church You have called me, as a priest, to serve in a most special way. You reveal Your Heart as a symbol of Your love in all its aspects, including Your most special love for me, whom You have chosen as Your priest-companion. Help me always to pour out my life in love of God and neighbor. Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You!

Dear Blessed Virgin Mary, I consecrate myself to your maternal and Immaculate Heart, this Heart which is symbol of your life of love. You are the Mother of my Savior. You are also my Mother. You love me with a most special love as this unique priest-son. In a return of love I give myself entirely to your motherly love and protection. You followed Jesus perfectly. You are His first and perfect disciple. Teach me to imitate you in the putting on of Christ. Be my motherly intercessor so that, through your Immaculate Heart, I may be guided to an ever closer union with the pierced Heart of Jesus, Chief Shepherd of the Flock, Who leads me to the Father in the Holy Spirit.


Dear Fr. Carter,

We priests get so many things in the mail for the parish and all its ministries and ministers. I was dumfounded that there was something for the pastor, and what a good thing it is, "Shepherds of Christ"! It is like geting a mini-retreat in the mail. How good of you to do this for us! Bless you.

Sincerely in Christ and the
Blessed Mother,

Fr. Guilbert Manaric
Skidmore, Texas

Dear Fr. Carter,

Thank you. I have just got your Shepherds of Christ Newsletter for l998, Issue Five. I was eagerly waiting for it so that I could distribute it among our clergy and seminarians. Every issue is a precious little mine of spiritual insights which helps us priests, always on the go, to stop and cherish the Spirit.

Sincerely in Christ, the Good Shepherd

Fr. Joseph M. Galdes, S.J.
Victoria, Gozo - Malta


  1. Scripture quotations are taken from The New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday.
  2. The Documents of Vatican II, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy," America Press Edition, No. 5.
  3. Avery Dulles, S.J. Models of the Church, Doubleday & Co., p. 63.
  4. Pope John Paul ll, Encyclical Letter, Rich in Mercy, United States Catholic Conference, No. 3.
  5. The Documents of Vatican II, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy", America Press Edition, No. 10.
  6. Henri de Lubac, The Motherhood of the Church, Ignatius Press, pp. 71-72.
  7. Gerald Vann, O.P., The Heart of Man, Longmans, Green and Co., pp. 151-152.
  8. Edward Jean, C.S. Sp., The True Vine and Its Branches, Kenedy, pp. 24-28.
  9. The Documents of Vatican II, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy", America Press Edition, No. 47.
  10. Ibid., No. 48.
  11. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter, Mystici Corporis, AAS XXXV, pp. 232-233.
  12. Slavko Barbaric, O.F.M., Celebrate Mass with Your Heart, Faith Publishing, p. 109.
  13. Letter of Pope John Paul II, The Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist, Pauline Books and Media, No. 3.
  14. Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, The Sanctifier, translated by Sr. M.Aquinas, O.S.U., Pauline Books and Media, pp. 5-7.
  15. Richard Nahman, O.S.A., "I Am a Priest—What Am I?", Homiletic and Pastoral Review, January 1971, p. 276.
  16. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R., A Priest Forever, Our Sunday Visitor Pub., p.162.
  17. Nicholas Cachia, The Image of the Good Shepherd As a Source for the Spirituality of the Ministerial Priesthood, Editrice Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, p. 328.
  18. Henri Nouwen, Here and Now, Crossroads, pp. 88-89.
  19. Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome, Christian Classics, pp. 105-106.
  20. Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns, Doubleday, pp. 45-46.
  21. St. Claude La Colombière, "An Act of Confidence in God", Apostleship of Prayer, Chicago Regional Office.
  22. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, St. Paul Books and media, No. 41.


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Shepherds of Christ

Shepherds of Christ Ministries
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193

Shepherds of Christ, a spirituality newsletter for priests, is published bi-monthly by Shepherds of Christ Ministries, P.O. Box 193, Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193. While distribution is free of charge to all priests in the U.S., and growing internationally, donations are still very much appreciated. Inquiries and comments are welcome, as are address changes and addresses of the newly ordained. Permission to reproduce intact is granted for non-commercial use. Editor Father Edward Carter S.J. is Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. John Weickert is President. Good Shepherd illustration is by Brother Jerome Pryor, S.J. Layout and design are by Cathy Ring. Also dedicated to the spiritual advancement of priests is a worldwide network of lay/religious prayer chapters, Shepherds of Christ Associates, headquartered at 2919 Shawhan Road, Morrow, Ohio 45152, telephone toll free 1-888-211-3041, fax 513-932-6791.

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