This second wave of the revelation of the sexual abuse scandals in the Church has been sickening and disheartening for so many as we confront the suffering of countless victims, the wickedness of predators, the lack of spiritual paternity and pastoral determination on the part of those with the responsibility to root it out, and the corruption and tepidity that not only tolerate such filth and infidelity but sometimes augment it.
Those who know Church history are aware that throughout the centuries there have been periods of infidelity and iniquity in which spiritual cancer spread throughout the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the clergy, religious orders, the laity, even the papacy. They also know that in response to such pervasive degeneracy, God was not indifferent and inert. Where sin abounded, His grace superabounded, witnessed above all in the saints, movements and devotions that He himself inspired to bring the Church to her knees in prayerful conversion.
Hope comes from the recognition that God never abandons his people but remains with us speaking to us in prayer, purifying us through penance, sanctifying us through His sacraments, and desiring to draw good even out of evil we have committed and endured. The pace of reform always depends on the level of cooperation we give to God’s work of rebuilding.
Over the past several months, there have been many voices, including my own, that have tried to sketch out the ways the Church needs to be reformed, but if we were able ecclesially to receive Jesus’ clear input — not just our inferences based on what he has said to us already through the living word of Sacred Scripture, but the Divine Physician’s diagnosis of the problem and prescription for healing for the Church’s present wounds — what might he say?
I think the answer to that question may have sketched out through credible private revelations given to an anonymous Benedictine priest from Oct. 3, 2007, through June 2, 2016, found in the book recently published by Angelico Press entitled, In Sinu Iesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart — The Journal of a Priest at Prayer.
The words In Sinu Iesu come from the Latin Vulgate of how St. John reclined during the Last Supper “on Jesus’ breast” (Jn 13:23). This priest’s journal, in which he humbly and plausibly claims to have regularly heard Jesus and Mary speaking to him, reminds us that Jesus desires to have an intimate heart-to-heart relationship with all of his beloved disciples, but especially with his priests. Throughout its 308 pages, Jesus and Mary — and also on rarer occasions God the Father and a few saints — cover many fundamental aspects of the Christian spiritual life in such a profound, direct and moving way that it’s the most compelling text of spiritual reading besides Sacred Scripture that I’ve read in years.
What I’d like to focus on, however, is what Jesus communicates to his interlocutor about the roots of the priestly scandals and what God is asking the clergy and all the faithful to do in response.
“All of heaven weeps over the sins of my priests,” Jesus states, which are a “grievous affront to my own priesthood,”adding, “Every time a priest sins, he sins directly against me and against the most Holy Eucharist toward which his whole being is ordered. When a priest approaches my altar laden with sins that have not been confessed or for which he has not repented, my angels look on with horror, my mother grieves, and I am again wounded in my hands and my feet and in my heart.” Would we expect any less?
Jesus’ desire, however, is not to condemn but to convert: “I am about to renew the priesthood of my Church in holiness. I am very close to cleansing my priests of the impurities that defile them. Soon, very soon, I will pour out graces of spiritual healing upon all my priests. I will separate those who will accept the gift of my divine friendship from those who will harden their hearts against me.” He emphasizes about the latter what we now all know: “Those who do not live in my friendship betray me and impede my work. They detract from the beauty of holiness that I would see shine in my Church.”
The root of priestly sins, Jesus says, is the “loneliness” that comes from a lack of friendship with him. Jesus desires to be the friend each priest needs, “the Friend with whom they can share everything, the Friend to whom they can tell everything, the Friend who will weep over their sins without, for a moment, ceasing to love them.” He laments, “If priests lived in my friendship, how different my Church would be! … Many of the sufferings and hardships experienced with my Church at the hands of her ministers, my priests, would not exist.” The lack of “experiential knowledge of my friendship and love,” Jesus continues, “is the root of the evil that eats away at the priesthood from within.”
This lack of friendship, he says, is seen in the “coldness and indifference” with which priests approach Jesus in the Eucharist. “There are priests who go into my church only when they have a function to perform.” They receive little from their daily communion “because they expect so little.” He adds sorrowfully, “Even after two thousand years of Eucharistic presence in my Church, I remain unknown, forgotten, forsaken, and treated like a thing to be kept here or there.” Priests, moreover, “keep themselves apart from me. Their lives are compartmentalized. They treat with me only when duty obliges them to do so.” And because of loneliness, they look for love “in other places and in creatures unworthy of the undivided love of their consecrated hearts,” as they try to “fill the emptiness within with vain pursuits, with lust, with possessions, with food and drink.”
What’s the remedy?
“The sins of my priests call for reparation,” Jesus declares. The particular reparation he implores is Eucharistic adoration. “The renewal of my priesthood in the Church will proceed from a great return to the adoration of my real presence in this the Sacrament of my love. … This is the remedy for the evil that has so disfigured my holy priesthood in the Church.” He underlines, “I want priest adorers and reparators,” “priests who will adore for priests who do not adore, priests who will make reparation for priests who do not make reparation for themselves or for others.” He says that priests “will be renewed in holiness and purity when they begin to seek me out in the Sacrament of my love,” meaning the Eucharist.
Time with Christ in prayerful adoration will develop that friendship that is the source of true priestly life. “The secret of priestly holiness,” Jesus states, is “a life of friendship with me, a ‘yes’ renewed each day to the gift of divine friendship that I offer each priest.” This is where priests learn to identify “with all my interests, with all my sorrows, with all that offends me, and … with my burning zeal for the glory of my Father and for the holiness of all my people.” He adds, “All the rest is secondary.”
To enter into friendship with Jesus means to enter, he notes, into a “privileged and sweet relationship with my Mother,” imitating the relationship both St. Joseph and St. John had with her. “The great renewal of the priesthood in my Church will begin when priests understand that I want them to live in the company of my Immaculate Mother.” He wants us to pray each day the Rosary and the Ave Maria Stella and to entrust our lives and needs to her, both big and small.
The reform also involves, he says, embracing the purifying fire of love of the Holy Spirit in very practical ways: “I will pour out the Holy Spirit upon all priests in the form of a purifying fire. Those who welcome that fire will emerge from it like gold from the furnace, shining with holiness and with a wonderful purity for all to see. Those who refuse my fire will be consumed by it.”
Living by the fire of the Holy Spirit means demanding that priests strive for holiness. “There has never been in all of history a single priest whom I have not destined for a great holiness,” Jesus says. “A holy priest is quite simply one who allows me to live in him,” and for this reason, “I offer them my presence in the Eucharist. Yes, this is the great secret of priestly holiness.” So many of the problems in the clergy and in the Church have come from priests’ lowering the bar for themselves and everyone else.
To grow in holiness, Jesus says he wants priests to “go to confession weekly,” to meditate each Thursday on chapters 13-17 of the Gospel of St. John, preferably together with adoration, and to grow in the exercise of spiritual fatherhood based on trust in God’s Fatherhood. “The fatherhood of the priest is a grace that I shall renew in the Church now,” because the Church “suffers in that so many priests do not know how to live the grace of their fatherhood,” abandoning souls to “live like spiritual orphans.” Jesus says to his Benedictine dialogue partner and through him to all priests, “Be a father.”
Finally Jesus encourages the prayer of what he calls the “Chaplet of Reparation” or the “Offering of the Precious Blood for Priests.” Like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, it is prayed on ordinary Rosary beads. On the ‘Our Father’ beads, we say, “Eternal Father, I offer you the Precious Blood of your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish or spot, in reparation for my sins and for the sins of all your priests;” on the ten ‘Hail Mary’ beads, “By your Precious Blood, O Jesus, purify and sanctify your priests;” and at the end of each decade, “O Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named, have mercy on all your priests and wash them in the Blood of the Lamb.” What a beautiful prayer to say for the renewal of the clergy!
What I’ve shared are just a few coins of the enormous treasure contained in In Sinu Iesu. I urge you to buy this book and prayerfully read it. I encourage you to purchase a copy for the priests of your parish and the bishop of your diocese. And I exhort you to pick up copies for your friends and family members who don’t know how to respond to the scandals the Church is enduring. It will bring you and them into the heart-to-heart conversation with Jesus that is at the root of the renewal the Church urgently needs.
Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., who is national chaplain for Catholic Voices USA.