What role would you like Mary to play in your priestly ministry?

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“Ask the Newly Ordained” features Fathers Brian Morris, Joseph Brice and Stephen Battey — who respond to questions about the faith from Rhode Island Catholic readers.

It is often said that behind every great man, there always is a great woman. This certainly has come true in Jesus and our Blessed Lady. Just like a mother is always crucial for the kind of person a child becomes, Mary is vital for the kind of priest a man becomes. As we continue to reflect on the “Year with Mary, our Mother” proclaimed in our diocese by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, it is fitting to ask: what can she teach priests?

Mary teaches the newly ordained priest that trusting in God’s plan is rational. She clearly did not know the ins and outs of what she gave her fiat to, yet in hindsight, who would say she had made a mistake? She put her hands in God’s hands and simply let Him lead her. As a result of that choice, she is referred to today as the “highest honor of our race, the Mediatrix, and Co-Redemptoris of our salvation.” No small feats! In just the same way, if the newly ordained priest embraces his ministry with deep devotion, intense love, and unwavering trust, he has nothing to fear; God may accomplish unutterable feats through him. Deep down, everyone has a natural desire to accomplish something magnificent and extraordinary with his life. Our Blessed Lady shows us that this is possible when we accept God’s plan and follow it intensely.

Mary teaches the priest how to be a father to her children. We learn from her how to accompany, serve, know and love the children she already knows and loves. Just as biological fathers learn how best to treat their children from their wives, Mary teaches the priest how to minister to people as their spiritual father. It is beautiful to observe how Mary dealt with Jesus when she found Jesus in the temple; she did not scold him; rather she said: “Son, why have you treated us this way” (Luke 2:48)? Her gentleness, motherly kindness, patience, and tolerance toward Jesus must have been a teaching moment for Joseph. We men don’t handle things that way. So, in dealing with the foibles and scruples of daily ministry, her abiding presence, “feminine touch,” and inner sweetness are necessary if we are to be as fatherly, caring, gentle and uplifting as possible in every situation. She teaches us that unassuming authority, asking questions listening attentively go a long way. It is no surprise that the best and most effective priests around have a deep devotion to her.

She is the avatar of the Beatitudes and a model for all priests striving to become “pastors of the Beatitudes.” As “the handmaid of the Lord,” she accepted to live only as God saw fit. The priest needs that in order to jettison every part of his ministry to God’s will. She stood beside Jesus not only in his hours of successes, but also in the hour of seeming defeat. The priest needs that grace to stand with all in festive moments as well as in trying times. As the immaculate virgin mother who kept her purity before, during and after giving birth, the priest needs her burning charity in order not to waver in chastity. She embraced her vocation with clarity of purpose; the priest needs this model when the path of priestly ministry becomes steep. In Mary’s exemplary life, the priest finds everything he needs to be all for all. Oh! How I want her beside me in every person I meet, every soul I touch, every Mass I celebrate, and every homily I give!

Mary Mother of God, please teach me how to be a priest after the Sacred Heart of your Son. Amen!

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