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Shepherds of Christ

A Spirituality Newsletter for Priests



Chief Shepherd of the Flock

Personal Uniqueness

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. And He did so being aware of each of us in a most special way. Joseph Chorpenning, O.S.F., in commenting on the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, doctor of the Church, says in one of his observations, "In human relationships one seeks to awaken in others an awareness of their divine dignity by the respect and reverence one demonstrates for their person, individuality, and liberty. In Salesian thought each person is unique and unrepeatable. For example, Francis says that when Jesus accomplished our redemption on the day of His passion and death, he 'knew all of us by name and by surname' (Treatise on the Love of God, 2 vols., Tan Books. Vol. 2, p. 280)2"

This realization of how precious each of us is to Jesus as this special unique person should be deeply imbedded in our consciousness. Much of our growth in the spiritual life depends on this awareness.

St. Francis de Sales is not the only spiritual master who greatly stresses the uniqueness of each person. There are others, including John Henry Cardinal Newman: "...Newman saw the need for a theology and philosophy of the individual person. We have seen individuals trampled on by totalitarian governments, and we have known educationalists who would lead us away from the field of personal responsibility into the realm of mass-psychology. Materialism, behaviorism, totalitarianism, Marxism -- these are a few of the 'isms' that have been attacking human personality in our time. No wonder there has been a crop of personalist and existentialist philosophies and theologies; and no wonder these aspects in Newman have become so deeply appreciated and studied...

"Put into the kind of definition we enjoy, Newman's contribution to thought could be called a theology and philosophy of human individuality. Most of the aspects of his message could probably be included under these terms. Sometimes he was content to underline the divine and human importance of the individual, and the personal significance of the concrete circumstances in which his life was passed. The fact that each individual is so bound up with particular parents and belongs to a particular town or village, in a particular country, is part of the loving design of a Providence that orders each one's life specially for His own special purpose and our special good..."3

Given Newman's concern for the individual, it is not surprising that he was attracted to the person of St. John Chrysostom. Newman says, "I consider St. Chrysostom's charm to be in his intimate sympathy and compassionateness for the whole world, not only in its strength, but in its weakness; in the lively regard with which he views everything that comes before him, taken in the concrete, whether as made after its own kind or as gifted with a nature higher than its own...{It is} the interest which he takes in all things, not so far as God has made them alike, but as He has made them different from each other. I speak of the discriminating affectionateness with which he accepts everyone for what is personal in him and unlike others. I speak of his versatile recognition of men, one by one, for the sake of that portion of good, be it more or less, of a lower order or a higher, which has severally been lodged in them."4

Given Newman's great interest in the individual person, it is no wonder that he has left us the following words: "Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. We are not born at random... God sees every one of us; He creates every soul, He lodges it in a body, one by one, for a purpose. He needs, He deigns to need, every one of us."5

Because of the uniqueness of each Christian's existence, he or she presents Christ with a unique opportunity. Each Christian has the vocation to offer Christ his or her humanity so that Jesus can live in that individual in a special way. To the extent that an individual Christian offers his or her humanity to Jesus, that person has an unique opportunity to help to continue the work of the redemption--an opportunity that no one else can fulfill. Likewise, to the extent that an individual fails to offer his or her humanity to Christ, Jesus loses the opportunity to continue His redemptive work according to that person's uniqueness.

Each one of us, consequently, has both the great privilege and the great responsibility to properly utilize his or her life according to God's Christ-like design. No one else can fulfill your unique mission, and, in turn, you cannot accomplish the unique mission of another. At times we can become fearful and anxious concerning the task that God has entrusted to us as we more deeply realize what it demands. We can feel the same reluctance that Jeremiah the prophet voiced when Yahweh called him: The word of Yahweh came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I appointed you as prophet to the nations.'

I then said, 'Ah, ah, ah, Lord Yahweh; you see, I do not know how to speak: I am only a child!’

But Yahweh replied, 'Do not say, "I am only a child," for you must go to all to whom I send you and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of confronting them, for I am with you to rescue you, Yahweh declares.' {Jr 1:4-8}

Jeremiah initially shrank back from the mission that God was giving him. He complained that he was not capable of accomplishing it. God answered him, however, and told Jeremiah that he was perfectly capable of fulfilling his appointed role, for He, Yahweh, would be with Jeremiah. God would work through Jeremiah, and Jeremiah, for his part, was to be open to God, allowing Yahweh to work through him according to the divine will.

We, too, can be guilty of reacting to God's call in the way that Jeremiah originally reacted. This can happen as God calls one to a basic state of life. Once a person is within a fundamental vocation, one can be tempted to resist God's call to higher things, to a greater accomplishment of one's mission, to a greater spiritual maturity.

When so tempted, we must control our fears and trustingly give ourselves to God's will. Only then will we become fully convinced that God never requests anything without granting abundant grace to accomplish His design, and that to answer God's call as consistently as possible is the only true path to peace, happiness, and fulfillment, despite the pain that is necessarily involved.

The realization of the greatness of our missions must be balanced with a realization of the limitations attached to that greatness. We are finite creatures who have various limitations which emanate from our finitude. A sense of limitations, then, should accompany the fulfillment of our missions in life.

What are some of these limitations? First, it is important to realize there are false limitations--limitations that need not be--as opposed to limitations that are inevitable, limitations that spring forth from the fact that we are finite creatures who are immersed in the human condition. An example of a false limitation is demonstrated by the person who succumbs to the temptation of wanting to be someone else. This person looks at the physical and intellectual gifts of one person, the pleasing personality of another, and so forth and so on, and tells oneself that, if only he or she were endowed with such qualities, well, yes, then it would be possible to really accomplish something with one's life. In other words, such a person fails to accept the self which God has created. The person fails to accept his or her God-given uniqueness and wastes precious time looking at what one does not have, rather than appreciating that which God has given. Such a person must strive to accept the self in his or her fundamental uniqueness. Moreover, the person must develop the gifts, strengths, and capacities of one's uniqueness and strive to control as much as possible the weaknesses which hinder the development of this uniqueness. The person should realize that only by accepting one's uniqueness as coming forth from God's creative love and constantly striving to allow that same love to bring one's uniqueness to fulfillment, will one achieve real peace and happiness.

If there are limitations which should not be, there are also limitations which are inevitable as a person strives to fulfill one's unique mission in life. We possess certain special talents, for example, but present circumstances do not allow us to exercise these talents here and now. Even at those times when we can exercise our special talents, we often feel limited because we realize that there are only a certain number of concrete opportunities and a certain amount of time for us to use our special talents. At other times we feel limited because the very persons we are trying to serve are hostile to our efforts and shut themselves off from what we desire to so generously offer.

These, then, are some examples of limitations we can experience in our efforts to fulfill our unique missions. To balance the realization of the greatness of our call with the realization that we will be variously limited-- sometimes painfully so--in our striving to carry out our mission in life is as necessary as it is challenging.

A Christian accomplishes his or her unique mission in proportion to one's realization of Christ's tremendous, unique love for him or her, and in proportion to the person's surrender in love to Jesus. The more the person surrenders to Jesus, the more Jesus lives through that person's uniqueness. Let us always strive to live according to the words of St. Paul: I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me. The life that I am now living, subject to the limitation of human nature, I am living in faith, faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. {Ga 2:19-20}


The Church And The Father

Pope John Paul II tells us: "In continuing the great task of implementing the Second Vatican Council, in which we can rightly see a new phase of the self-realization of the Church--in keeping with the epoch in which it has been our destiny to live--the Church herself must be constantly guided by the full consciousness that in this work it is not permissible for her, for any reason, to withdraw into herself. The reason for her existence is, in fact, to reveal God, that Father who allows us to 'see' him in Christ. {cf Jn14:9} No matter how strong the resistance of human history may be, no matter how marked the diversity of contemporary civilization, no matter how great the denial of God in the human world, so much the greater must be the Church's closeness to that mystery which, hidden for centuries in God, was then truly shared with man, in time, through Jesus Christ."8

The Holy Spirit In Our Lives

Archbishop Luis M. Martinez tells us: "The true Director of souls, the intimate Master, the soul of the spiritual life is the Holy Spirit. Without Him, as we have already said, there is no sanctity. The perfection of a soul is measured by its docility to the movement of the Spirit, by the promptitude and fidelity with which its strings produce the divine notes of the song of love. A soul is perfectly holy when the Spirit of love has taken full possession of it, when the divine Artist finds no resistance or dissonance in the strings of that living lyre, but only celestial strains coming forth from it, limpid, ardent, and delightfully harmonized."9

St. Bernard's Tribute to Mary

St. Bernard, doctor of the Church and one greatly devoted to Mary, offers us these inspiring words: "If you will not be submerged by tempests, do not turn away your eyes from the splendor of this star. If the storms of temptation arise, if you crash against the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary. If you are tossed about on the waves of pride, of ambition, of slander, of hostility, look to the star, call upon Mary. If wrath or avarice or the enticements of the flesh upset the boat of your mind, look to Mary. If you are disturbed by the immensity of your crimes...If you begin to be swallowed up by the abyss of depression and despair, think of Mary! In danger, in anxieties, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let her name not leave your lips, nor your heart, and that you may receive the help of her prayer, do not cease to follow the example of her conduct...If she holds you, you will not fall, if she protects you, you need not fear."10

The Eucharist


On Prayer

Henri Nouwen observes: "For a man of prayer is, in the final analysis, the man who is able to recognize in others the face of the Messiah and make visible what was hidden, make touchable what was unreachable. The man of prayer is a leader precisely because through his articulation of God's work within himself he can lead others out of confusion to clarification; through his compassion he can guide them out of the closed circuits of their ingroups to the wide world of humanity, and through his critical contemplation he can convert their convulsive destructiveness into creative work for the new world to come."19

The Christian and the Social Order

In his encyclical, On Social Concern, commemorating Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio, Pope John Paul II tells us: "The Church's social doctrine is not a 'third way' between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church's tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities, determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation which is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behavior. It therefore belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology and particularly of moral theology.

"The teaching and spreading of her social doctrine are part of the Church's evangelizing mission. And since it is a doctrine aimed at guiding people's behavior, it consequently gives rise to a 'commitment to justice', according to each individual's role, vocation and circumstances.

"The condemnation of evils and injustices is also part of that ministry of evangelization in the social field which is an aspect of the Church's prophetic role. But it should be made clear that proclamation is always more important than condemnation, and the latter cannot ignore the former, which gives it true solidity and the force of higher motivation.

"Today more than in the past, the Church's social doctrine must be open to an international outlook, in line with the Second Vatican Council, the most recent Encyclicals, and particularly in line with the Encyclical which we are commemorating. It will not be superfluous therefore to re-examine and further clarify in this light the characteristic themes and guidelines dealt with by the Magisterium in recent years.

"Here I would like to indicate one of them: the option, or love of preference for the poor. This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods.

"Today, furthermore, given the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed, this love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of the existence of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the 'rich man' who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus lying at his gate (cf. Lk 16:19-31)...

"It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all. The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property, in fact, is under a 'social mortgage', which means that it has an intrinsically social function, based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods. Likewise, in this concern for the poor, one must not overlook that special form of poverty which consists in being deprived of fundamental human rights..."20

Various Thoughts

The Pierced Heart of Christ

Fr. Pedro Arrupe,S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, speaks of the pierced Heart of Jesus: "The figure of the Crucified over the earth, with his side wide open, has its roots in the Old Testament and is a compendium, as it were, of the theology of John's Gospel. It could be said that it is a summary of the whole of Christianity. More than any other symbol, this is a sign in St. John of the redeeming fecundity of the death of Christ. The open side, from which blood and water gush forth, responds to a Semitic symbolism: the wound, a sign of death (the slain lamb); and the blood and water, a sign of life and fecundity. Thus the pierced heart is the symbol of the Paschal Lamb of the New Covenant."22

Fr. Arrupe also offers us these ideas concerning the love of Christ's Heart: "...another wound that afflicts the world today is instability...In Europe and outside Europe, in the East and in the West, instability is the bane of many governments and political parties, fluctuation is the law in the money exchange and in the market. Changeable is the rhythm of demand and supply.

"But that is not all. The world today is afraid of the instability of its own ideas and beliefs. Many people who are at the helm of human activities and trends feel uncertain about the validity of principles, rights and duties, particularly in the field of social justice. Even the philosophical structure of thought is tottering and becomes skeptical and agnostic. Repercussions of this instability are felt in the Catholic field as well where one can perceive much vacillation and uncertainty even in private and professional life...

"Isn't this a sign that we need Jesus more than at any time in the past? Only he stands firm, indestructible upon the rock, while everything around him wavers in constant restlessness. Our Saviour has ever remained constant in his statements of yes or no. Through Peter he continues today to impart a feeling of security to the poor human mind, a fragile little barque tossed in the stormy ocean. We must give our minds a sure criterion. We need a source of knowledge which is ever fresh and young, today and tomorrow as it was in the days of St. Paul--the science of the love of Christ.

"Paul wanted to communicate to his Christians a re-assuring certitude that will never lose sight of the love of Jesus for us. Some of the faithful in the church at Ephesus were attracted to some strange ideas and mysterious concepts. Paul tells them forcefully that there is one knowledge that transcends all others--the knowledge of the love of Christ, on which the stability of human thought depends. "This is a love without bounds, because the love of the Heart of Christ is infinite in depth, in its height and breadth; there are no boundaries of time or place, or limitation of persons.

"This is, my brothers, where I invite you to fix your minds and especially our hearts; in the love of Christ we shall find stability in life, the happiness of feeling ourselves loved, security on the way. These blessings will surely be ours if in following Jesus we are led by her who is the Mother of the eternal Wisdom, the Daughter of Love and the Lady of the Way"23

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 a 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,

I am writing to ask you to please send me ten copies of the Spiritual Newsletter for Priests, Shepherds of Christ, and a copy of the book which includes the first 12 issues of your newsletter.

I have received two issues of 1998, and I have found them very useful to enhance our priestly on-going formation, and I wish to give one to my nine diocesan priests and keep one for myself.

Sincerely yours in Christ

Bishop Ambrose Ravasi, IMC
Diocese of Marsabit, Kenya

Dear Ed,

Thank you for sending us copies of the Shepherds of Christ Newsletter. We appreciate your good efforts to support the clergy in their vocations--an excellent apostolate, especially in these "difficult" days for the clergy.

Keep up the good work.


Tom Radloff,S.J.
North American College, Rome

Dear Father,

Pax Christi! Recently a colleague placed a copy of your newsletter on my desk in order that I may partake of its richness. I was very pleased at the various articles found within. On occasion I find myself looking for just the right article that will spark my attention, but one short enough to not require much time. I am pleased to say that your newsletter is a very good source that falls under my guidelines. If you would please place me on your mailing list, I would be most appreciative.

In Christ,

Rev. Mark A. Mc Anally
St. Mary's Seminary & University
Baltimore, Maryland


  1. Scripture quotations are taken from The New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday.
  2. Joseph Chorpenning, O.S.F.S., as in The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, Michael Donney, editor, The Liturgical Press, p. 853.
  3. The Heart of Newman, A Synthesis arranged by Erich Przwara, S.J., Ignatius Press. pp. 11-14.
  4. Ibid, pp. 276-277
  5. John Henry Cardinal Newman, Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congregations, Longmans, Green and Co., pp. 111-112.
  6. Romano Guardini, Jesus Christ, Henry Regnery Publ., as in Daily Readings in Christian Classics, ed. Randy Meyers, Ignatius Press, p. 83.
  7. Walter Farrell, O.P., Only Son, Sheed & Ward, as in Daily Readings in Christian Classics, ed., Randy Meyers, Ignatius Press, p. 81.
  8. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Rich in Mercy, United States Catholic Conference, No. 15.
  9. Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, The Sanctifier, Pauline Books and Media, p. 18.
  10. St. Bernard, as in Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, Christian Classics, Vol. I, p. 237.
  11. The Documents of Vatican II, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy", America Press Edition, No. 47.
  12. Ibid., No. 48.
  13. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter, Mystici Corporis, AAS, XXXV, pp. 232-233.
  14. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., "In the Presence of Our Lord", as in Living Faith, Creative Communications for the Parish, April-May-June, 1999 Issue.
  15. Mother Teresa, Rosary Meditations from Mother Teresa, contact Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament, PO Box 1701, Plattsburgh, New York.
  16. St. Peter Julian Eymard, Eucharistic Handbook, Emmanuel Publications, as in Adoration, Ignatius Press, p.97.
  17. Jean Galot,S.J., Theology of the Priesthood, Ignatius Press, p. 207.
  18. Christopher O'Donnell, O. Carm., Love in the Heart of the Church, Veritas, p. 129.
  19. Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, Doubleday, p. 47.
  20. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, On Social Concern, St. Paul Books and Media, Nos. 41-42.
  21. Mother Mary Frances, P.C.C., Forth and Abroad, Ignatius Press, p. 113.
  22. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., In Him Alone Is Our Hope, The Institute of Jesuit Sources, p. 120.
  23. Ibid., pp. 116-117.


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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 Marian Mackey. 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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