Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Secret Sorrows/Prayers for Priests

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  ~Ian MacLaren

Each day on my lunch break, I walk a few short blocks from the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Clinic where I work, to the Marquette University Campus, while praying the rosary.  The campus setting is so park-like and beautiful, and as I pass all of the college students cheerfully talking to each other, or texting on their cell phones, or slumped under the weight of their backpacks, it occurs to me that despite their carefree outward appearance, each and every person I pass is carrying a hidden sorrow in their heart.  I pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary and I think about how each of these students re-live our Lord's sorrows in their own mysterious ways of which others may never know.  We all have our secret sorrow.

Today I was carrying my own sorrow, deep within my heart.  It was announced at Sunday Mass that a local priest, Fr. Quintin Heck, had taken his own life.  My heart broke right open upon hearing this tragic news, and I could not keep from crying during the remainder of the Mass no matter how much I tried to remain stoic.  I didn't know Fr. Quintin, but my heart grieves for him as if he were my closest friend.

"In strengthening the priest, you strengthen the whole Church...Strengthen the priest and you strengthen the whole foundation, you strengthen everything in the Church."  
~Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP, Founder of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood

It's unfathomable to me how a priest, beloved by God and by the Church, his family, a man who promotes the Catholic value of dignity and sanctity for all life, a man who transforms an ordinary piece of bread into the very Body of our Lord within his very hands, a man whose life is committed to saving souls, could take his very own life, that indescribably precious gift from God. Depression is a dark, tormenting and deadly disease, to be sure, and it does not care whose life it takes.  But it seems that beyond the disease of depression, there is an evil that is lurking within the Church, wreaking havoc and causing distress beyond measure.  Considering that Fr. Quintin is the second priest in Milwaukee who has taken his own life in the past month, it appears that our Church, and especially our priests, are under attack and we are all suffering victims in this battle.

"This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting."  Mark 9:29

For me, as an Oblate of the Precious Blood and the organizer of the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests calendar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I take this tragic news very personally and easily become discouraged, as if the many hours I spend in prayer for priests has been for naught.  But deep down I know that all prayer is fruitful, that my words uttered to the Lord within the silence of my heart on behalf of the priests of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee do somehow help them to cope and to thrive, as they tremulously balance upon the straight and narrow path, duty-bound to God despite the tremendous difficulties that they may encounter in the spiritual battle for heaven.  God always wins, after all, and the demons of depression and suicide are not the end of the story.  It's vital that we remain strong, especially on behalf of our priests whose shoulders are burdened with not only their own crosses, but also those of all the Catholics who depend upon them to be a witness of strong faith, as well as the source of the Sacraments in which we meet Christ.

Handmaid of the Precious Blood
Today I implore you to please visit the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests website and bookmark the page or print out the calendars, keeping our Milwaukee priests in your daily prayers.  If you do not have a Monthly Prayer Request for Priests within your own diocese, please consider starting one.  I will gladly help you get started-it's not terribly difficult or time-consuming.  If you feel called to do even more, visit the Handmaids of the Precious Blood and spiritually adopt a priest, or prayerfully consider whether or not God might be calling you to look into becoming an Oblate of the Precious Blood, or to a religious vocation as a Handmaid of the Precious Blood.

"Be close to your priests with your affection and with your prayers that they may always be shepherds according to God's heart."  ~Pope Francis

Our priests deserve our attention, encouragement, gratitude, support, love and prayers.  Let's give them our heartfelt and faithful daily prayers which, through the grace of God, will hold them up when they grow weak and weary.  And please, remember the souls of our deceased priests within your prayers as well.

Eternal rest grant unto Fr. Quintin Heck, and all of our deceased priests, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

By the late John J Cardinal Carberry

Keep them; I pray Thee, dearest Lord.
Keep them, for they are Thine 
The priests whose lives burn out before
Thy consecrated shrine.
Keep them, for they are in the world,
Though from the world apart.
When earthly pleasures tempt, allure --
Shelter them in Thy heart.
Keep them and comfort them in hours
Of loneliness and pain,
When all their life of sacrifice
For souls seems but in vain.
Keep them and  remember, Lord,
they have no one but Thee.
Yet, they have only human hearts,
With human frailty.
Keep them as spotless as the Host,
That daily they caress;
Their every thought and word and deed,
Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.

Daily Prayer For Priests (St. Therese of Lisieux)

O Jesus,
I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;

for your unfaithful and tepid priests;
for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields.
for your tempted priests;
for your lonely and desolate priests;
For your young priests;
for your dying priests;
for the souls of your priests in Purgatory.
But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me:
the priest who baptized me;
the priests who absolved me from my sins;
the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;
the priests who taught and instructed me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way
(especially …).
O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart,
and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity.


  1. My daughter, Jude Cynthia, recently commit suicide and someone wrote a note to my family that for someone so inwardly depressed (even though she was outwardly exuberant) there is a "Hope [in suicide] that there wasn't in life."

    Prayer for suicide victims and those contemplating (Every 14.2 minutes someone dies by suicide in the U.S.)

    God of Life,
    our hearts go out
    to all those whose
    suffering and loss
    is so deep and unrelenting
    that they want to end it all.

    God of Life,
    help us to understand
    and to empathize with
    the isolation, the fear,
    and the loneliness of
    all those who are bullied
    by others and made to feel
    they are worthless.

    God of Life,
    help us to understand
    and to empathize with
    the terrible toll that
    pressure and demands
    from parents, teachers,
    and peers can have
    upon sensitive souls
    who are unappreciated
    and, in many cases,
    are treated like dirt.

    God of Life,
    help us to understand
    and to empathize with
    those who have plunged
    into the abyss of depression
    and despair for any number
    of reasons or for no reason.
    Forgive us for not paying
    attention and trying to ease
    their pain and fear.

    God of Life,
    help us to be present to
    and to take note of the
    distress signals of suicidal
    relatives, friends, or community
    members. If problems persist,
    may we call for help from
    suicide prevention centers,
    crisis hot-lines, and therapists.

    God of Life,
    we are all in this life together
    and as fellow travelers
    we know there is more that
    we can do to eradicate
    fear and denial of suicide and
    to make a place in our prayers
    for all those who give up on life
    and choose self-destruction.

    God of Life,
    suicide has touched the lives
    of many of us and we are
    called to bring to both
    the victims and their survivors
    our large reserves of
    love and compassion.


  2. Dear Patti,

    Thank you for taking the time to leave this note, and this beautiful, beautiful prayer. I am so sorry for your loss. Please know of my prayers for you and your family, as well as for the soul of your daughter. May our God of hope and love bring peace to your heart.

  3. This post leads me to decide to stop reading tonight, and head to the chapel to say my night prayers. I am so blessed to attend two parishes with such hugely dynamic priests, and such huge numbers of vocations. And all the young priests which have come out of the parishes seem so happy.

    I shall pray for Father Heck. I have had many failures in my life, and many sins. What strikes me as sad is that this man of God didn't really know God. Whatever he did in his life that he felt was so tragic or sad, he didn't understand that GOD understood, and stood willing to forgive him.

    In this life we can fail, even fail miserably and very publicly. This life can seem like hell. But sometimes we forget, that it ISN'T hell, because hell is forever. This life will end, and if we ask forgiveness of our Father, no matter how we may have failed Him, He waits to forgive. And heaven, forever, awaits us, after this so short, short life.

    I'm just starting to read a book titled The Catholic Guide to Depression; How the Saints, the Sacraments, and Psychiatry Can Help You Break Its Grip and Find Happiness Again. If it turns out to be as good as it initially seems, I'll review it.

    1. To: "do not be anxious"

      Father Heck did nothing "tragic or sad" and didn't need "to be forgiven." He was in immeasurable physical pain and for you to assume he did something "wrong" is rediculous. Next time, before you so harshly judge someone, walk a mile in THEIR shoes first.

    2. Dear Anonymous, I am so, so sorry for your loss. Please know that I am praying for Fr. Quintin's soul, and for his family and friends- for peace, every day.

  4. Thank you, Tom, for your prayers for priests, and especially for praying for Fr. Heck.