“Pray for me.” These words from Pope Francis have become a hallmark of his papacy. “I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me,” he implored at his first message to the world, “the prayer of the people for their Bishop.”
One of the unheralded aspects of Catholic spirituality that affects us all is intercessory prayer. Often anonymous and unknown, a prayer of intercession, as the Catechism describes it, is “asking on behalf of another,” an action that is “characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy.”
We ask intercession for something in our own lives, for the wellbeing of others, for peace in the world. But how often do we pray for priests?
The Foundation of Prayer for Priests (FPP), an international apostolate, materialized in 2013 out of a void that co-founder and Diocese of Orange parishioner Kathleen Beckman saw in this era of the New Evangelization: to protect the Church’s spiritual leaders with prayer.
In addition to her work with FPP, Ms. Beckman is a prolific author and frequent contributor to the online resource Catholic Exchange. In her book, Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization, she details how the Foundation of Prayer for Priests seeks to fill the void of utilizing intercessory prayer for the Church’s priestly sons. “Praying for the holiness of priests is urgent,” Ms. Beckman writes. She adds, “If the priest is to remain completely available to God and His people and willing to embrace suffering, he needs perennial renewal.”
As today’s emerging generations find themselves discerning their own particular pathways, Ms. Beckman thought it vital to create a proscenium where priests can be edified knowing communities are praying for them. In doing so, they become adopted sons—and thus models for the vocational call to the priesthood so integral in continuing the New Evangelization into the third millennium.
Ms. Beckman co-founded FPP with Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk, JCD, Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Orange’s Office of Canonical Services, who also serves as the foundation’s spiritual director. The essential nature of FPP, according to Monsignor Doktorczyk, is to “promote the pious practice of praying for priests, offering suggestions and ideas as to how to effectively do so.”
The impetus of launching the foundation, Monsignor Doktorczyk explains, “came from an initiative of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Clergy.”
Within three years since its inception, “the number of spiritual mothers and fathers, clergy and religious now spans 20 countries and thousands of members,” Ms. Beckman writes. The Foundation of Prayer for Priests website speaks of prayer places dubbed “Vianney Cenacles,” named after the patron of priests, St. John Vianney. Whether in homes, parishes, or prayer groups, Vianney Cenacles provide outlets for those who desire “to build a spiritual foundation of prayer for clergy and seminarians by spiritually adopting them.”
The Icon of Spiritual Motherhood, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Eucharist, serve as spiritual pillars for the foundation’s mission.
Praying for priests strike not a few as a revolutionary concept. “[S]ome will express that they never really thought it important to pray for priests,” Monsignor Doktorczyk explains. “[T]hat priests might need prayers was not something of which they were aware.” He cites that through the foundation website (foundationforpriests.org), “priests from all over the English speaking world will write in to request prayers.”
The Foundation of Prayer for Priests offers concrete ways to actualize what is often a saying vulnerable to a hasty, insincere cliché: “I’ll pray for you.” Among these recommendations is entering into the prayerful silence of Eucharistic Adoration.
Indeed, the original initiative from the Congregation of the Clergy, which would later serve as the inspiration for the creation of the foundation, found Eucharistic Adoration so central it published Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity in 2007. It was signed by the then-prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy, Cardinal Hummes.
Monsignor Dokotrczyk recommends anyone interested in becoming more involved in the Foundation of Prayer for Priests movement to study the document. Its engaging contents contain short biographical sketches of figures throughout Church history. Among them is Anna Stang, who as a young woman kept the faith amid oppression under Soviet Communism. “Lord, give us priests again!” she bemoaned while in offering up her sufferings for the betterment of priests. “Give us Holy Communion!”
The Foundation of Prayer for Priests website offers instructions for those interested in private prayers, family prayers, joining a Vianney Cenacle, and how to become a member of the foundation.
“Pray for me,” Pope Benedict XVI implored at his Inaugural Mass in 2005, “that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” With the establishment of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests, the now retired Holy Father can rest assured that he is not forgotten in the prayers of those to whom he dedicated his life.