The Priest at Prayer, May 20
The Priest and the Eternal Truths
First Meditation - The Goal of all Priestly Aspirations
Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena?
"How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?"
The priest who does not aspire to heaven is for ever singing the Lord's songs in a strange land. For, every prayer I say, from the Mass to the final words of the Divine Office; all the Sacraments I receive and administer, the matter I preach and teach, my very name "priest": everything about me speaks of eternal life. And this eternal life is my social justification, the only thing I represent in this world.
If it is not also my first aspiration; if I cannot honestly call it principium laetitiae meae, the source and wellspring of my rejoicing; if I neither think nor interest myself about it; shall I not deserve the epithet of hypocrite?
Shall I, a priest, or anyone else for that matter, ever find happiness on earth, that happiness which leads us all a dance like moths fluttering round a light? Is true happiness to be found in the enjoyment of any of the pleasures of body and mind which this world can give?
Pleasure has been attached by God to the exercise of certain natural functions necessary or useful to life, but it is not an end in itself; it is a stimulant lest these activities should be neglected, with consequent danger to our individual lives or to that of the human race. It is a condiment ensuring that we eat, etc. Earthly pleasure, then, not being the final purpose of any living being, cannot be ours either, nor our final destiny. All the more so since these pleasures are doomed to extinction together with our terrestrial existence, whereas the, soul takes with it to eternity all its thirst for happiness and perfection.
What will my soul do when it has had its fill of empty vanities here below and is left hungering, but fly to God, its only Good, in search of real sustenance?
Our Divine Lord never spoke to us in terms of temporal satisfactions, nor did He offer to us what by word of mouth and, still more, by deed and a life of toil, He so utterly disdained.
In the world you shall have distress. (John xvi, 33).In the "Our Father", where He teaches us to ask for the truly good things of life, with regard to temporal goods He wishes us to ask only for our daily bread: our bodily nourishment reduced to its minimum expression; and He bestows a ninefold blessing upon those who despise all things terrestrial: Blessed are the poor, the meek and humble of heart, those that weep, those that suffer persecution and calumny. . . for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matt. vi)
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matt. xvi, 24)
Do not expect to hear of any other reward from Christ's lips; if you do, you have not properly understood the spirit of the Gospel; you make the Redemption meaningless, and Christ the Redeemer will say to you: after all these things do the heathens seek. (Matt. vi. 32.)
We save up for the future, all of us put something by. Is there a priest who, in his activities, emoluments, office and dealings with society, does not dream of making provision for a quiet old age free from worry and unhappiness? For this purpose, one will cultivate useful friendships, another will seek a lucrative position, a third will economize. It would seem something connatural to the human heart, and He who made us priests aas not made us less human.
But would it not be more logical, and also a safer investment, to provide gradually for a happy eternity which for many of us will arrive before old age? Eternal life is not so far away, in time or space; and even if it were, the means of transport to it are surprisingly rapid!
Lord, persuade me of the sheer practical wisdom of Thy exhortation:
Lay up to yourselves treasures in Heaven because, if I follow it, I shall find thatResolutions
where thy treasure is, there also is thy heart. (Matt. vi)
1. To meditate very frequently on the nothingness of this world's pleasures, until I am convinced that no real happiness has ever been mine in the past nor will be mine in the future if I rely on the world for it; and therefore, not to expect or put faith in any other substantial happiness outside that of eternal life.
2. To fight against my delusions on this point, to shatter them, and to make my life's supreme aspiration consist in reaching the goal of life: eternal bliss.
Can I set myself a higher target in life? Does anything better satisfy my thirst for perfect happiness?
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.
Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!