Written by: Denise Serafini on Monday, November 27, 2017
On August 4th we had the privilege of presenting to a sizable group of priests and seminarians, men that have answered the call, as the Apostles did, to commit their lives in the service of Christ. Each of these men heard the call on a personal level, summoning them to God’s service in a way that is probably similar to what Leviticus 20:26 says, “I have separated you from other people, that you should be Mine.”
Father Jeff Gubbiotti, Director for Vocations at the Archdiocese of Hartford, invited us to present “Call from the Crucified Heart” with customized prayers for the priests and seminarians from the dioceses of Hartford and Norwich, in celebration of the feast of St. John Vianney.
It so happens that on that day I was accompanied by my teenage grandson Dustin who helps me out as “roadie” for CT events. We arrived at the chapel in St. Thomas Seminary in Blomfield, CT a little ahead of schedule and just began bringing in our equipment. Just as we were getting started, we noticed that seminarians and priests were filing into the chapel. It was obvious that some sort of prayer event was about to begin, so we immediately delayed our activities and retreated to the back of the chapel. Dustin and I got to stand at the back of the chapel as silent witnesses to their prayers of the Daily Office. What an amazing way to set our perspective for an evening of prayer. When they were finished they each left in turn, making their way down the hall for their evening meal in the dining room while we finished preparing for the event.
We had worked with Father Gubbiotti in advance on a program that not only included the customized prayers for priests, it was enhanced to incorporate his personal relic of St. John Vianney and highlight the wisdom of the patron saint of the priesthood with a short homily. I had also received a call from an about-to-be grandmother asking for prayer for a baby still in the womb. I asked Father Gubbiotti if he wouldn’t mind allowing members of the lay faithful attend. He agreed and we made the event details public and sent a special invitation for the family, noting that Father Gubbiotti would conclude the event by joining the priests and seminarians together in healing prayer for the child.
The program began with the dedication of our prayers joined to the merits of Christ’s Passion for the support and benefit of our priests and seminarians as well as for Baby O’Rourke.
We were joined in the process by seminarians Anthony Federico and Matthew Collins along with Father Gubbiotti to read the prayers and invocations for each meditative sequence. It also so happened that our full complement of musicians and singers were available to accompany us for this event, enhancing the meditative and prayerful messaging associated with the readings.
All were invited forward for personal veneration and once that was complete, the family of Baby O’Rourke came forward to be the central focus of a joint prayer on their behalf and on behalf of the soon-to-be addition. Surrounded by all the seminarians and priests in attendance along with the relics, the O’Rourke family was joined in prayer with them to storm Heaven on behalf of the gift of new life about to be bestowed on them. Watching from the sidelines was truly touching and the emotional aspect of what was happening was overwhelming. I don’t mind admitting that being in the presence of what was unfolding before me brought me to tears. Good thing I had plenty of tissue in my pocket.
To be honest, my original intent for engaging in this event was to present the program as a special gift for the seminarians and the priests that work so hard to serve us. In hindsight however, I think the real purpose of this event was highlighting for me and for all that follow what we do, something that St. John Vianney said many years ago, “The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.” They are called to be priests to pray with and for the faithful, to minister to God’s children in and with His Word, engaged in the joys and sufferings of our lives, to be extensions of the love and mercy God has for each of us. That was certainly exemplified in the way things played out that evening. We really need our priests. God has called each one of them as a special gift … for you.
Let us join together to pray for all those men that bravely answer God’s call and cherish them as the great gift God has chosen to shepherd each one of us on the path of salvation.