Satan hates priests and seeks above all to get to us. Jesus remarked laconically and pointedly, quoting from Zechariah (13:7), Strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. This is why Satan hates priests and seeks to topple them. Corruptio optime pessima (The corruption of the best is the worst.)
I have always felt my mother’s prayers very powerfully. I pray that my mother, Nancy Geiman Pope, who died in 2005, and is now at home with the Lord. She always told me that she was praying for me! I often attributed her prayers to her tendency to worry. But I have learned of the power of her prayers and of their necessity. She told me that the Lord had told her that Satan wanted me and all priests and that she had better pray for me. I never doubted that she did and I’m sure she still does.
I remember once, a week before my ordination in 1989, I was up on the roof of our family house cleaning out the gutters. My mother came out and told me to “Come down from the roof at once!” and that she would hire someone to clean them. She later explained that her concern was that I, so near to my ordination, was now a special target of the Evil One and that I might have fallen from that roof by his evil machinations.
Yes, she always told me she was praying for me. I have come to see both her wisdom and my need for her prayers. I have also come to value the prayers of so many of my parishioners, who have told me that they were praying for me. Yes, I need a hedge of protection—and so do all other priests. Pray for priests! Pray, pray, pray!
And though my mother has long since gone home to the Lord, I still feel her prayers.Somehow she knew that I needed them in a way that I, in my pride, did not. But I have come to know.
Thanks be to God; I have been a faithful and fruitful priest for 26 years. But I know that it was not I who accomplished this. It was the Lord and so many people, like my mother, who have prayed for me.
Back in my 33rd year of life and my 5th year of priesthood, I was severely attacked by the Evil One. He made his move and sought to discourage and destroy me; he did not succeed. My mother and others were praying for me. My parishioners, too, saw my distress and rallied to pray for me and hold me up. And now, almost 20 years later, I feel strong, alive, joyful, and grateful. Sometimes I’m weary in the work, but never weary of the work.
But I am no fool; I know that Satan will try again. I pray only for the prayers of God’s holy people and for my own sober awareness of the need to pray and to fulfill the mandate of the Lord who said, Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt 26:41).
So today on this Feast of Monica, my thoughts stretch to my mother. Thanks, Mom, for your prayers and for your wisdom. You knew that precious gifts, like the priesthood, also come with crushing burdens and temptations that require sober and vigilant prayer. One day you called me down from the “roof” of my pride and told me to keep my feet on solid ground. Yes, you knew and you prayed. You warned me and then prayed some more.
And thank you, dear readers and beloved parishioners, for your prayers. They have sustained me. Better men than I are suffering and better men than I have fallen under the burden of office. It is only your prayers that have kept me. Yes, pray, pray, pray for priests! Join your prayers to those of my mother, Nancy Geiman Pope, others in the great beyond, and many others still here on this earth. Pray for priests! Pray, pray, pray!
The photo at the top? Yeah, that’s yours truly, in a needy moment; my mom is holding me up in prayer and care. She still does this from her current location, closer to the Lord. Her prayers still hold me, as mine hold her. Requiescat in Pace.