Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ as we embrace Christmastide graces to be mutually gentle and bright reflections of the Light of the World Who is ever in our midst to draw all unto Himself.
In His Light we see light. Especially in the silent glow of His Eucharistic Presence we are set to understand things not before considered. While impossible to fully know the ways of God, contemplating His founding directives for the Apostolate may hearten our prayers. We can well understand that God desires holiness for all, and especially His priests. Ordination imparts a sublime dignity to priests which necessitates a brilliant holiness. “The priest must shine like a star in the world” (St Pius X). “The shepherd’s flame is an illumination for his flock” (St Bernard of Clairvaux). Seven Sisters readily value this and tenaciously beseech these graces. Each Hour is also to incorporate an appeal to a deepening devotion of the priest/bishop to Mary. While Mary is indeed mother to us all, might other factors be undergirding this God-inspired element of our weekly Apostolate Hour?
Mary has a unique relationship with priests where her maternal actions and presence has been described by theologians and popes alike as inseparable. Mariologist, Fr Emile Neubert (1878-1967) unfolds fascinating insights into the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the Marian influence in his book, “Mary and the Priestly Ministry”. He notes that the Marian dimension of the priesthood is found at the moment of the Incarnation. Since Mary conceived the great High Priest, the source of Christian priesthood, every priest is inextricably linked. Their distinct role in the world is to extend the priesthood of Jesus Christ. “If the Virgin, Mother of God, loves all souls with an ardent love, she has a predilection for priests who are the living image of Jesus Christ” (Pius XI in Ad Catholici Sacerdotii).
In Chapter 5, Fr Neubert draws several beautiful resemblances between Mary and the priest, weaving a unique relationship between the two. Both receive invitations to serve God in radical ways. Both fully consecrate themselves to the work assigned them. Mary “gave substantial existence to Christ-Priest when she gave Him a physical body”. The priest makes present Christ’s body in the Eucharist. Mary offers up the divine Victim “to accede to the will of God and obtain grace for humankind,” and the priest “offers up the same Victim for special purposes and on behalf of particular individuals”. Mary is the Distributrix of all the graces of the Redemption, while the priest is a disseminator of graces. Mary’s participation in the mysteries of the Incarnation and redemption makes her the spiritual mother of souls. The priest exercises a spiritual paternity concerning souls, and “acts in the name of two mothers — Mary and the Church”. Everything Mary does is an effort to give Jesus to the world. The priest substantiates the same mission. Fr Neubert concludes in surmising that when individuals share so much in disposition, mission, joys and sorrows, a close companionship is inescapably destined to form. He surmises that Mary and each priest are destined toward a distinct and innermost union that will only grow closer and stronger.
Mary loves all the faithful with an incomparable love, but Fr Neubert notes that she loves priests “with an altogether unique love” for these principal reasons:
- Mary sees that a priest has a greater resemblance to the image of her Son than in any other Christian of equal holiness.
- Jesus loves His priests with a distinctive love and Mary shares all the feelings of her Son.
- Priests give “worldwide efficacy to the mission of her Son”, and they make the Blood He shed “efficacious to souls”.
- Mary, beneath the Cross, prayed and offered her sufferings in union with Christ, Priest and Victim, and foresaw those who would continue her Son’s mission on earth. She continues to “ceaselessly pray for their sanctification and success!”
- Mary needs priests to carry out the “mission of giving Jesus to the world, of sanctifying souls and transforming them into other Christs.”
Fernando Campos’ striking painting seems to perfectly portray a priest who understands that ‘altogether unique’ love of Mary, who in his last breaths knew where to nestle his head and heart. While reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s Pieta in mood, here Our Lady’s eyes serenely seek Fr Esqueda’s heavenly Father and home. In the vigil the gentle caresses of her priest-son are hope-filled. Fulton Sheen echoes this theme in the conclusion to The Priest is Not His Own: “Every priest at death wants to be laid in Mary’s arms as was the Christ, Whose representative he is. … Is it any wonder, then, that she is the Woman in every priest’s life? No priest is his own. He belongs to the Mother of Jesus…”.
It is utterly paramount that God chose Our Lady’s patronage for the Apostolate work under the title of Madonna of the Grapes -for she is Overseer of the Eucharistic Life. Oh, what we stand to learn from her, and also to imagine what the priests/bishops for whom we dedicate our prayers learn from her! It has been said that the more one prays and suffers for another, the more that other is loved. Our
Lady as Overseer of the Eucharistic Life has prayed and suffered exceedingly. How great is her love!
The God-designed simplicity of our Holy Hours as Seven Sisters – to pray for well-being and sanctity, and that the priest/bishop will have a strengthened devotion to Mary – favorably unfastens a way of profundity of thoughts and prayers. Let us remain in the school of intercession and see where God will take us. In a simple word of summation from a seasoned priest friend, “A priest without Mary is a goner.” Let us believe him and let our response be prayer!
United in prayer and mission…that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest…. eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day.… “One Ave Maria makes hell tremble” (St John Vianney). Pray that I will not ‘spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted…’ (St Teresa of Calcutta) … your kind emails and notes and phone calls and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your financial sacrifices are for 100% furtherance of Apostolate. THANK YOU! The letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! What glory is given to God through your writing! Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.
SEVEN SISTERS – in and out and about:
Heartfelt welcome: NEW groups that registered in DECEMBER to cover more priests in daily prayer: Additional groups in Cameroon (Africa) and these USA states: Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. Our sure and steady mission in every diocese of every country: Let no shepherd be left behind!
RECENT … and AHEAD on the calendar:
> Gratitude for Seven Sister Anne M (MN) for writing this excellent article: https://t.ly/pkR_y
> Fri-Sat, 26-27 Jan 2024: “All or Nothing: Living Every Moment for Christ” (Reflections by Janette on deCaussade’s writing and life of Sr Clare Crockett) St. Felix Catholic Center, Huntington, IN. Bishop Rhoades will celebrate Mass on Saturday aft. Contact: Tammie, sevensistersFWSB@gmail.com
Anchoress duties: The initial prayer and wisdom of the Apostolate led us to limit the Anchoress service for each woman to one group. Why? 1) Shares the JOY of leadership. 2) Brings a more vested interest into what one is leading. 3) Keeps the focus for all on prayer versus management. 4) If an Anchoress departs the work, replacement is easier for one versus multiple groups and the priest/bishop is more likely assured of uninterrupted prayer. However: We encourage each woman to pray in as many groups as she is called to, assuring that a distinct Hour is dedicated to each recipient.
Impressive LOGO pendants available: Seven Sister Annie W collaborated with Seven Sister Jean M from Font of Grace, to design and strike a beautiful medallion of the Apostolate logo. Go to www.fountofgrace.com and click onto Apostolate top right. A portion of sales to the Apostolate.
MATTERS of the HEART:
- “In response to the December Communique about all is gift, I know I have experienced this apostolate as a gift and so have the women in our circle. There is often a palpable sense of receiving and pouring back out this gift onto the altar during my Holy Hours for our pastor and bishop, completely fueled by His love. Incredible! I feel that the Lord is so pleased by our love and prayers/intercessions for His sons! Thank you again for responding to His call to form Seven Sisters.” (Maria, Texas)
- “I became a Seven Sister three years ago. The Apostolate has probably been more beneficial for me than my prayers have been for Father. I have learned so much about prayer and Jesus and the rosary, just to name a few! Practicing the concentrated, silent prayer in my Holy Hour has stimulated spiritual growth in my soul, and I feel that my faith has been deepened by my dedication to this commitment.” (Em, Oregon)
- “More than ever now priests are going to be attacked by the evil one for standing courageously for Holy Mother Church! We continue here in Nashville to pray.” (Marilyn, Tennessee)
- “This Apostolate is such a beautiful blessing. My prayer seems to be much deeper. At times I have felt so close to the Holy Spirit that I felt as though I was levitating. It has been such an honor to pray for Father and I am deeply committed to praying for him not only in my Holy Hour but as part of my daily prayer. I have found it to be such a blessing when traveling to spend some time in a church away from home, to have that quiet prayer time. I feel so blessed to be part of the Seven Sisters!” (Nicole, South Dakota)
- “My sister sent me the Brochure and I loved this idea. I knew this would be a powerful apostolate for our parish. Our Pastor is a very faithful Shepherd, and with this commitment to pray for him, I know God will bless him and give him many graces through it.” (Elizabeth, Rhode Island)
- “I acted on your idea, and now have monthly Masses offered for the Seven Sisters Apostolate the first Wed of each month at our Parish. Together in prayer!” (Margaret, Archdiocese of Chicago)
- “I met with the priest and as I read the induction promise, we were both moved to tears. I invited him and our 7 Sisters team to dinner in my home. It was rewarding spiritually and socially. We prayed, ate a delicious variety of foods and allowed the new priest to see all his support. We’re grateful to be a part!” (Diane, Florida)
ELIJAH’s HELPERS: Intercessors in this group are dedicated to offering Holy Hours for priests in various forms of crisis (no names known). These are special Hours for special circumstances and carry special supportive graces. It is growing! Please consider this vital, hope-filled offering for our priests! All inquiries to Nancy at ElijahsHelpers@gmail.com or cell: 612-756-1107.
APPRECIATED and LOVED quilt project: A double cloaking for RETIRED PRIESTS: Seven Sisters prayer and a quilt! The priests love both! To learn more regarding a single quilt for a retired priest or on how to get this started in your Diocese, contact QuiltsBySevenSisters@gmail.com
FASTING BROTHERS is growing: Groups of men offering various forms of fasting to augment the prayer efforts of a Seven Sisters group. Each man prayerfully discerns the type of fasting he will offer and commits to fast a designated day of the week (excepting Sunday/Solemnities). Our Chaplain, strongly urges formation of these groups. There is a form on the Website to register.
LAMP-BEARERS: Lamp-Bearers, so-named for their action of continually ‘filling of their lamps with the oil of prayer’, was launched to pray for the Apostolate at large. Each intercessor offers prayers every day for the Apostolate. Intentions are gleaned from topics and calendar points in the monthly Communique and also sent to members on the second or third Sunday of the month. Additional intercessors welcomed. Inquire through Website.
SEVEN SISTERS Guideline BOOKLETS: Available as free download from Web site. Hard copies passed on for printing cost of $2 each + P/H. Order thru Web email with amount desired/address
SEVEN SISTERS Tri-fold BROCHURE: Effectively used in parish pamphlet stands (ask pastor’s approval prior), Adoration Chapels, Retreat Centers, Bags/Packets for Women’s Conferences/Retreats, Women’s clubs, Serra clubs – or simply handing out! Available on Web as free download. Recommend 80# silk for best printing results. May also order through Web site. Indicate address/quantity. 50 cents each or 25 for $10 + P/H. Available in ENGLISH and SPANISH.
SEVEN SISTERS Tri-fold LITANY for PRIESTS: Beautifully printed on 100# silk (a bit thicker than brochures). Original artwork (inspired by the Diary of St Faustina) by Seven Sister in Minnesota, Litany by Richard Cardinal Cushing. 50 cents each or 25 for $10 + P/H.
REMEMBRANCE of those SEVEN SISTERS who have PASSED: We want to remember those Seven Sisters in name and in prayer, who have gone before us to their eternal rest. Visit the Web site. Click on ABOUT folder and scroll to bottom, choose: IN REMEMBRANCE. Follow prompts… OR you may submit info via the Website email. Please check site monthly for additions and to pray!
PRIEST who has PASSED to ETERNAL REST: If the priest for whom you pray has entered eternal life, the group may be led to continue to pray for a length of time for the soul of that priest. Perhaps a novena of Holy Hours or the offering of holy Mass(es) for the priest. You will know. Some groups have/are offering Holy Hours for an entire year for their beloved deceased priest. Groups may be started following the death of a priest that did not have a group prior. This is commendable and welcomed. Please register these special groups through the Web site.