October 20, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

My first ministry is praying for you every day

One day during the recent retreat for the bishops of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, although still convalescing from his radical cancer surgery, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago joined us for lunch. It was his first visit outside his home since his hospitalization in early August.

He told us how deeply his life has been touched by the recent ordeal of three different surgeries and his grave illness.

He stressed that what has affected him the most in this unexpected interruption in his life is the overwhelming outpouring of prayers interceding for him and his recovery.

He kept repeating how much the outpouring of intercessory prayers from all kinds of people from everywhere deeply affected his spirit. He said it is causing him to reflect more carefully about the priorities of his ministry.

The cardinal’s witness got me to thinking about the importance of intercessory prayer in our Catholic tradition and in my ministry as bishop.

The Letter to the Hebrews offers a reflection on the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ and finds great hope in the fact that we are always included in his eternal prayer before the Father.

“Because he remains forever, Jesus has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:24-25).

It is awesome to think that Jesus is always praying for us. It means he is specifically praying for you and for me.

St. Thomas Aquinas said God’s Providence extends to details. God can do that. In other words, we are not just included in some generic group.

Priests and bishops are ordained to share the priesthood of Christ in a unique way, and that means we are also to pray for our people.

There is a citation about this aspect of the life of a bishop in the late Pope John Paul II’s Shepherds of the Flock. “The Bishop’s love of the Holy Eucharist is also expressed when in the course of the day he devotes a fair part of his time to adoration before the tabernacle. Here, the Bishop opens his heart to the Lord, allowing it to be filled and shaped by the love poured forth from the Cross by the great Shepherd of the sheep, who shed his blood and gave his life for them. To him, the Bishop raises his prayer in constant intercession for the sheep entrusted to his care” (# 16).

The love of Jesus poured out and poured forth from the Cross and captured in the Holy Eucharist is the driving force of his intercessory prayer for us before the Father. His eternal intercession for us is the most profound expression of his trust in the Father.

Pope John Paul also wrote, “To learn to pray means ‘to learn the Father’… To learn who the Father is means learning what absolute trust is. To learn the Father means acquiring the certainty that he does not refuse you even when everything—materially and psychologically—seems to indicate refusal. He never refuses you.”

Praying in the name of Jesus, intercessory prayer, is a profound expression of hope in God. Even when we feel overwhelmed by life—especially when we feel overwhelmed—prayer helps us find meaning in what overwhelms or troubles us.

While on retreat, I read a column which my friend, Bishop J. Peter Sartain of the Joliet Diocese, wrote to his people. (I told him that I planned to borrow liberally from what he said.) I make these words of his my own: It is my vocation as priest and bishop—and my privilege—to pray for you every day. In fact, it is an expression of my love for you. In that spirit, I would like to issue an invitation. If there is an intention for which you would like me to pray, please send a brief note in the mail. I will keep your note in my chapel and make your intention part of my daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Many of you have heard me say that my first ministry as a bishop is to be a man of prayer for you. Knowing your special needs and intentions will further help me in being your pastor in prayer.

You may mail your prayer requests to:

  • Archbishop Daniel’s Prayer List
  • Archdiocese of Indianapolis
  • 1400 N. Meridian St.
  • P.O. Box 1410
  • Indianapolis, IN 46202-1410

Of course, you do not need to be on my prayer list in order to be in my prayers. Every day, I include all of you in my prayer in the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.

Every Sunday and every holy day, my Mass is offered for the intentions of all of you. †

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