Thank you roundly for Father George Dmitry Gallaro's ''Priestly Spirituality'' (The Priest, December 2008). Father Gallaro has it exactly correct when he writes of the need for us priests to understand what it means to be members of the holy order of presbyters: ''It is certain that this aspect of the spirituality of the priest, not individualistic but communal, deserves a different attention from what it has received until now. And this also is in order to subtract the diocesan priest from any temptation of pastoral and existential isolation.''
A primary way that the communion among priests and between the presbyterate and its bishop is both manifested and nourished is the diocesan priests' council or senate. The council or senate is a primary point of contact in order to strengthen the communication, cooperation and collaboration that lead to communion.
Perhaps a good resolution for the year would be for individual priests to resolve to be more active in their local council or senate, and for the councils and senates to resolve to reach out more zealously to individual priests. On both counts, the National Federation of Priests' Councils stands ready to assist and encourage.
Father Richard Vega, President, National Federation of Priests' Councils
I am a 32-years-old priest from Czech Republic. I apology for the mistakes in my English. Three years ago I started to read The Priest. I admire it very much. It helps me in my priesthood. In the March edition there were really good articles which impressed me much. First was the article written by Father Indyer: "Three-Step Preaching". It was really amazing for me, that a priest in Africa -- in such a different pastoral and cultural situation -- has a similar view of the preaching as I have. The article "Pastoral Ministry is Fruitless without Prayer," written by Father Myers, was also very helpful. The reality that he is a retired priest gives a great value to his words.
Thank you for the work you are doing. I am sure there are more priests who are very pleased as me with The Priest.
God bless you.
Father Pavel Moravec, Administrator in Ostrava-Pustkovec, Czech Republic
It was Jan. 22, 2009, the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Some 250,000 plus people were either on Constitution Ave. marching toward the U.S. Supreme Court, or had already arrived, or were at the National Mall waiting to begin marching in protest against the unfortunate decision that opened the doors to abortion on demand and contributed to some 50 million deaths of innocent unborn children to date.
Most of the protestors, including myself, felt glum knowing that the few pro-life gains achieved since the infamous Supreme Court ruling were being severely threatened by a newly elected federal administration that promised to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that might among other things compel pro-life physicians and nurses, and Catholic hospitals to kill preborn human beings against their will and in violation of their consciences and ethical values (cf. Campion, ''The Root of It All'' and Smith, ''Conscience and Uncontroversial Truths,'' The Priest, January 2009).
It was about three in the afternoon, the hour of redemption and great mercy, as the gloom-laden march proceeded, when a humble priest from the Immaculate Conception Church in Scranton, Pa., my home parish, received a phone call from a local hospital. A premature baby just five and a half months from conception lay dying. In the case of premature births the doctors can tell within 72 hours whether a baby will survive or not.
This child had been studied carefully and a decision had been arrived at that this baby was non-viable. It was an emergency. The parents wished to have their son baptized. So the priest should come at once because the baby had only about an hour to live. A nurse conveniently met the priest at the elevator and took him to the child's bedside.
When the priest reached the neo-natal intensive care unit where the infant was, the atmosphere was somber. The parents and friends were despondent. The baby was dark red and listless. His breathing was shallow and irregular. His heartbeat was weak and erratic. The baby's kidneys had shut down, and he had not urinated since before his birth a few days earlier.
The priest proceeded to baptize the baby and administer the sacrament of the anointing. He offered communion to the other people present. He tried as best he could to offer consolation to the grieving family and left.
He had not yet exited the hospital when it struck him that he should return to the neo-natal unit and, with the family present, ''lift up'' the child in heart and prayer and consecrate him to Our Lady, the mother of the Lord Jesus. He would place the child under the mantle of her protection and implore her to intercede on his behalf.
He immediately returned to the child's incubator and gathered the family around the infant. Spiritually, the priest raised up the child to Mary and implored her intercession, saying something like this:
''Dearest Lady, on this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when so many children's voices have been silenced, may this little one speak and praise our good Lord and God. Wrap your loving mantle around him and ask our sweet Jesus that he may live.''
When he finished praying, the baby began to stir in his incubator. He began to breathe more deeply and more regularly. His heartbeat became stronger and steadier. The room was suddenly filled with hopeful people.
After several days had passed, the father of the baby boy visited the Immaculate Conception Parish and said: ''It is a miracle. My child is alive. His kidneys began to function soon after the priest departed. He began to urinate.'' The boy had never urinated outside the womb.
With the help of a student assistant at Marywood University, I checked the one Scranton newspaper for the names of the babies born locally during the four days that preceded January 22, and compared them with the names of those that died within two weeks following January 22. None of the deceased babies matched the ones born before January 22.
The priest who related the story of the inexplicable healing knew the name of the premature baby boy. He confirmed for me that the baby was still alive 19 days after his encounter with him. He had been carefully reading the obituaries himself.
In addition, he returned to the hospital 19 days after anointing the baby to check on the child. The baby was doing well, and his mother was still there by his side, praying. Her prayer was: ''Good Lord, let him live one more day.''
Although we pro-life Catholics may no longer have a friend in the White House, we have a pro-life Mother in Heaven. I suggest we place all unborn children under her maternal protection. I recommend that we lift them all up and place them under her mantle. There is no greater intercessor with the Son of God than she, and no mother who loves them more.
Dr. Charles DeCelles, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Religious Studies, Marywood University,Scranton, Pa.
I am surprised and saddened that editors of The Priest magazine would publish any article which contained condemnation and outright insults of the Society of Jesus, Franciscan communities, and even a qualification of present religious life as a "disaster." The Priest, March 2009, "A Great Priest and a Great Jesuit," by Father Benedict Groeschel.
My over 50 years of priesthood have been blessed by Jesuits of Springhill College, Mobile, and around the country. And Franciscans, women and men, who personify the gentle and awe-inspiring virtues of Francis and Clare. And many retreats of religious are highlights of my life and challenges to our Church and world of the excitement and renewals of Vatican II.
Back in 1966 I and many others were fortunate to attend ''Search and Service,'' at Woodstock College, a Jesuit house of formation in Maryland. Many of the great Jesuits of that time, including John Courtney Murray, and others who made serious contributions to the documents of Vatican II were speakers. Also present was Father Avery Dulles. His talks were attended by all even the priests of Woodstock.
That Father Dulles would be in any way associated with the unjust and harmful comments included in Father Groeschel's article, concerning his brother Jesuits and other religious communities, is unthinkable.
Further words from Father Groeschel must not be ''private'' revelations and further attacks on religious but a sincere apology.
Msgr. William James, Pastor, St. Patrick's Church, Robertsdale, Ala.