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Intimacy as a Path to God

Making Mary a permanent and essential part of our lives

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When Jesus gave Mary to St. John, the beloved disciple, to be his mother, Jesus gave Mary to be the mother of all disciples, but especially priests. As her beloved sons, we are to take Mary into our home, like St. John.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes that when St. John took Mary into his home, it was more than a physical act; it was a spiritual commitment. To take Mary into our home is to take her into the deepest recesses of our hearts, and to the center of spiritual life. Mary then becomes a permanent and essential part of our life and existence, just like she was for Jesus. The Lord wants us to accept, love and learn from his mother, the most perfect of all disciples.

We are familiar with IHS, the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. From these three letters, we also discover our three universal callings: Intimacy with God, Holiness, Service. These three callings overlap, complement and build upon one another. Mary fulfilled these three areas to the highest degree possible. Therefore, as Mary’s priest sons, we are called to reflect, learn and imitate our Blessed Mother to live out our vocation more perfectly.

Intimacy with God

No one is closer to Jesus than Mary. There is an inseparable bond between mother and son. They are one in heart, mind and soul. The love between Mary and Jesus is perfect. As priests, we too are called to an intimate relationship with Jesus. And not only Jesus, but with all three Persons of the Holy Trinity. God desires intimacy with us. God the Father wants us to know him as Abba, a term that connotes endearment, tenderness and affection. Some of us may have a father wound that makes it difficult for us to grow close to a father figure. But with the help of Mary and the Holy Spirit, we can come to know the love of the Father, to trust in him, and to love him in return.

Mary
A detail of the “Virgin from the Annunciation,” from the Orlier Altarpiece, c.1468-70. Bridgeman Images

Jesus, too, wants to be our intimate friend. He tells us, “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15:15). Are we truly friends with Christ? As in other friendships, we have to take time to be with him, listen to him, speak to him and trust in him. Every morning, before I do anything else, I spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I share with Christ my worries, gratitude and hopes, then I surrender everything to his will, knowing that his providence will take care of all things.

Jesus tells us to remain or abide in him. The word “abide,” or “remain,” is the same word Jesus uses to describe his relationship with the Father: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (Jn 15:10). By using the same word, abide, or remain, Jesus is calling us to be one with him as he is one with the Father. Jesus is calling us to share in the life, love and union of the Blessed Trinity.

Mary is known as the spouse of the Holy Spirit, who also wants an intimate relationship with us. He wants to dwell in us and make us his temple. The Holy Spirit wants to live in us, sanctify us and make us his instrument in the world, like he did for Mary. The Holy Spirit is also our Comforter, Consoler, Advocate and Guide.

Intimacy requires recollection, which is difficult to attain in our world, so filled with noise, busyness and distractions. Although Mary was busy with many responsibilities of a Jewish mother, wife and woman, she nevertheless remained recollected. We read that Mary would often reflect and ponder on the workings of God in her life. Mary was a contemplative in action, and it is possible for us as well.

Because of the demands placed on a priest, we can tend to become like Martha — that is, anxious and worried about many things. But Jesus tells us that there is a need for only one thing, and that is to be present and attentive to him who is always with us. When we are united to Jesus in love, our work will bear much fruit, because, without this union with the Beloved, we can do nothing. We are reminded to practice the presence of God throughout the day by bringing God into every aspect of our lives. By giving a priority to intimacy with God, everything else will tend to fall into place.

Holiness

After being united to the Lord in love, we cannot help but want to be like him. As we become aware of God’s perfection and learning of his desire for our perfection, we desire to become holy as God is holy.

We know that next to Jesus, our Blessed Mother is the holiest person ever. And as her priest sons, we are called to the highest level of holiness. This is not only for ourselves but for the Church and for the people we serve. We are called to be configured to Christ in the most radical way, to be another Christ for our flock, and an example of holiness for others. If we are not holy, then we lose credibility. Actions speak louder than words. We should be preaching and encouraging our flock to grow in holiness not only by words but by our lives. People deserve priests who are authentic and real, and who strive to practice the teachings of the Gospel. We need more Curé of Ars in the presbyterate.

The priesthood is a gift, but with gift comes responsibility. We are responsible not only for our eternal salvation but for those entrusted to us. We are not meant to be the lone star in the sky but to lead a constellation of stars to heaven.

Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, but requires our cooperation. St. Augustine said that God created us without us, but he will not save us without us. We must desire and strive for holiness and contribute to the good of the Church. As priests, we are expected to celebrate Mass every day, including our days off, with reverence, faith and love, not only for ourselves but for our flock and the world. We should go to confession frequently — that is, at least once a month. Every priest should have a priest spiritual director who he sees at least once a month. And every priest should take a five-day silent retreat yearly. Like Mother Teresa said, “Holiness is not the luxury of a few, but a simple duty for you and me.”

Service

Mary
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After knowing Jesus and wanting to be like him, we cannot help but want to serve him. We know that our Blessed Mother fulfilled her role in God’s plan of salvation perfectly. Mary served the Lord with all her heart, mind and soul. As her priest sons, we want to imitate our Blessed Mother in giving our life back to the Lord and serve him in any capacity that he desires of us. When I was going through my conversion and discernment, I felt as if Mary was telling me to take her fiat and make it my own. That is to say to the Lord, “Behold, I am your servant, be it done onto me according to your will.”

We all have received different gifts from the Lord. It is up to us to identify those gifts and to use them for his glory and the good of others. St. Paul calls these gifts charisms, which are given to individuals for the good of the Church. As in the parable of the talents, the more we use our charisms, the more they will grow and multiply, but if you don’t use them, even what was given to us will be taken away.

Many priests work very hard, but do we have the right intention and disposition? God does not look so much at what we do but how we do it. Do we work out of duty, or out of selfish or worldly motives? St. Paul reminds us that whatever we do, do it for the glory of God. Mother Teresa also said that we don’t have to do great things, but little things with great love. God looks at the heart. When we purify our intentions and do everything for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, then our actions become sanctified and take on value in the eyes of God.

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bookFather Quan Tran is the author of “The Imitation of Mary: Keys to Growth in Virtue and Grace” (Sophia Institute Press, $17.95) in which he discusses 12 essential qualities of Mary to unleash a torrent of graces in your life.

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Our priesthood is to be a gift for others. Pope St. John Paul II writes, “Life has meaning to the extent that it becomes a gift for others.” Mary and the saints held nothing back; they gave it their all. This life is short, fragile and unpredictable.

Father Henri Nouwen writes that God has loved us from all eternity and will love us long after we die. Our time on earth is just a short time for us to say to God, “I love you, too.” So we do not want to waste our time not loving and serving the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have any regrets on my deathbed. I want to know that I gave it my all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, including my own. In the end, I want to say with St. Paul: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me” (2 Tm 4:7-8).

Let us keep in mind our lofty dignity and calling as priests. As sons of Mary, our Blessed Mother wants us to imitate her Intimacy with God, Holiness of life and Service to Our Lord. May we develop a routine, a habit, a way of life that will help us flourish in our callings and inspire others to do the same.

FATHER QUAN TRAN is a priest of the Diocese of Orange and the administrator of St. Hedwig Parish in Los Alamitos, California. He is the author of “The Imitation of Mary: Keys to Growth in Virtue and Grace” (Sophia Institute Press, $17.95).

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Words of Wisdom from Pope St. John Paul II

In his 1992 post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul concludes with the following words to priests about the Blessed Virgin Mary: “While I wish for all of you the grace to rekindle daily the gift of God you have received with the laying on of hands (cf. 2 Tm 1:6), to feel the comfort of the deep friendship which binds you to Jesus and unites you with one another, the comfort of experiencing the joy of seeing the flock of God grow in an ever greater love for him and for all people, of cultivating the tranquil conviction that the one who began in you the good work will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 1:6), l turn with each and every one of you in prayer to Mary, Mother and Teacher of our priesthood.

“Every aspect of priestly formation can be referred to Mary, the human being who has responded better than any other to God’s call. Mary became both the servant and the disciple of the Word to the point of conceiving, in her heart and in her flesh, the Word made man, so as to give him to mankind. Mary was called to educate the one eternal priest, who became docile and subject to her motherly authority. With her example and intercession the Blessed Virgin keeps vigilant watch over the growth of vocations and priestly life in the Church.

“And so we priests are called to have an ever firmer and more tender devotion to the Virgin Mary and to show it by imitating her virtues and praying to her often” (No. 80).

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