“No one who prays is ever alone”

Ah, it’s true: those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer –thank you, Nat King Cole –are coming into the station. Soon, all we’ll have are memories.

One stands out for me. I was on the Jersey Shore, at the Villa Saint Joseph, in company with priests. At supper I had quietly admired one of them, now retired, and listened as he joined in swapping stories about past assignments and colorful incidents from priestly life. It was clear to me that this particular priest had worked hard for over fifty-five years –poor parishes, teaching, caring for the sick. He was an example of a senior priest who had “been in the trenches” and served Jesus and His Church faithfully.

Later that evening I sat alone up on the second-floor porch and enjoyed the sea-breeze. I also smiled as I watched the married couples and families walk along the boardwalk, and had to admit to myself that it sure would be nice to have a wife, kids, or grandkids here with me. Not that I was regretting my priestly celibacy, mind you, because I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I guess I was just imagining “what-if …”

And then I saw the old priest below me on the front porch. He, too, was all alone. He, too, was looking at the couples and families walking-by. And I felt sorry for him. This priest, who had given it his all as a generous, committed priest, there all-by-himself in a rocker on the front porch.

Down I went. Yet, as I approached, I saw his lips moving, as if he were in conversation with a friend; his eyes were closed, although he was not asleep, because the rocker was moving; he hardly looked lonely at all, because there was a smile there …

Then I saw the rosary in his hand, and the breviary (the book of daily readings and prayers, mostly from the Bible, which we priests promise to pray daily) open on his lap … and I realized he was enjoying the best company of all.

I went back upstairs and finished my cigar.

And recalled what Pope Benedict XVI had observed earlier in the summer when he had begun his own vacation, “No one who prays is ever alone.”

11 Responses to ““No one who prays is ever alone””

  1. Fr. Lorig says:

    Awesome. Thank you, Archbishop. I’ll be sharing this one.

  2. Anne B. says:

    Wonderful! Hope your cigar was most enjoyable! Ditto to Fr. Lorig’s comment-I will definitely be sharing this one! Thanks for writing it!

  3. Robert Fox says:

    Beautiful account Arch Bishop!

    As things get tougher for Catholics… this kind of priest (one who has worked very consistently to meet The King and Queen in prayer)… will never be alone. Why? Because when he is not praying his office or the rosary… people will be magnetically drawn to him. Not because he is cheerful or affable… but because his prayer life leads us into the great adventure that only orthodoxy can provide: The unvarnished Gospel of Jesus and the life of Mary.

    That Magnetism is the Love the Father has for the Son and that the Son has for the Father. We call that Love The Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost. You know Him, I know Him, that good priest knows Him (perhaps better than you and I do). I pray that we become more and more like that old priest. The sooner that happens the better for all of us New Yorkers. It is the only way to happiness for our families. In reality… every good father has to answer to his priest. My teen aged daughter pointed this out once. She said “it is easy to obey you Dad because you obey your confessor.” All priests are fathers. All Bishops are grand fathers when and if they teach the True Faith.

    I never knew about the essential nature of the Rosary until many years ago when Mother Angelica gave an amazing talk about Fatima and the Rosary on EWTN. I remember mother pointing her arthritic finger at me through the lens of the camera and saying “’Ya know… some of you out there… if you consider the things Our Lady said at Fatima… then the Rosary is not really optional… not if you say that you love her and her Son”. How I loved when Mother would prick my conscience like that with a simple beam of electrons scanning across my television screen. My kids were small then. I thought: Was it too late for me to start saying a nightly Rosary with my wife and kids? My kids are teen agers (one is actually 20 now). If we miss a Rosary… my wife and they will complain to me the following night now. It’s what they want/need every day. We pray the office sometimes… it is kind of a treat in my house (office or night prayer). But the rosary gets priority because we need to pray like little children for our own good. I know my own bishop prays the rosary daily because he told me so.

    Up until that point (Mother’s explanation) I had been to Mass every Sunday for almost 25 years and I still had not heard about the connection between a daily rosary and Fatima, First Saturdays, fasting and the conversion of Russia.

    There is another aspect to this scene of a holy priest saying his Rosary or his breviary and the connection between those things, the Holy Family… and family life with one’s priest in general. It’s this: I’ve known several amazing priests in my life. By amazing, I mean other worldly, detached from things, places and situations, kind, patient, somewhat ascetic, totally un-distracted from the Holy Gospel, focused on the presence of Our Lady all around us…aware of the Most Precious Body & Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the tabernacle. Some of these priests were very young… others old… still one other was middle aged when I first discovered him. They all had several things in common… deep devotion to Mary, faithfulness to magisterial teaching (especially in the very important matters of purity, chastity and human sexuality), they were always available to hear confessions no matter what the hour of the day was, were totally comfortable with messy family life, crying babies, cranky kids… interruptions, spoiled dinners (Oh yeah… they would dine with families often, eat little, stay a long time, help clean up, hear a confession in the back room). They NEVER missed saying their rosary and they never seemed to rush through their rosary. They never made an excuse for serious sin in the confessional… made no excuses for the Church’s tough moral demands… but would dust any of us dad’s off, straighten us out… give absolution… but make sure we were intent upon improving ourselves (… to sin no more and to AVOID THE NEAR OCCASION of sin…). Several of us dads have known these priests in common through the years and we often discuss their greatness among ourselves. Some have moved on to their eternal reward now… but it was as though their charity came directly from the Holy Ghost, through the conduit of Mary and right into the lives of our families. I’m speaking of about 6 priests that I have known out of the hundreds that I have met in my life. (I’m sure there are more than 6… but I really got to know these men especially).

    This reminds me of something George Weigel said about John Paul II. Back in Poland… many often marveled at Karol Józef Wojtyła’s PRESENCE in the lives of common people. I personally know a woman who told me the (then) cardinal used to say Mass and then eat dinner with and for the university students weekly when she was attending university in Krakow. Nothing fancy. Cafeteria style dinner. He traveled very little out of Poland in those days… so close was he to his flock. When he did miss a visit… due to travel… he would double up on his “rounds” the next month.

    Weigel called this the Pastoral Strategy of Accompaniment… that the “priest must be with his people in all things but sin”. It made John Paul tick. John Paul WAS his interior life. Sadly, it is missing from most diocesan priests. The priests I mentioned had busier lives than most diocesan pastors… due to multiple apostates… but their interior lives somehow made nourishment out of ‘stone soup’. Their attitude was one of Beatitude.

    The other thing I noticed about these young & old men were they way they viewed the Council. They always spoke of the Second Vatican Council in light of all the previous councils and documents. They never insulted us dads by assuming we could not read a document. They never handed us some dumbed down catechism. One such priest once said to me “You know… folks today can trade their stocks on line, balance their bank accounts on their computer, fix their car’s fuel injection, wire up a light switch, fix a pipe and staff an entire department in their professions if needed… who the heck am I to assume they can’t read a document on human sexuality, the Eucharist, marriage. And who am I to limit them only to documents written after the council. The Church is a whole and living entity… the council must be seen in the light of all the councils and the Church Fathers”. Amazing. I’m a VERY lucky man to have known these priests. They changed my life one at a time… for these priests did not know each other… they were too busy taking care of us.

    Many in the Church today falsely believe that the role of the priest is first and foremost to preach. No! The essential nature of the priesthood is to offer sacrifice for the living and the dead. I believe it even says this in the old rite of ordination. This sacrifice starts with his interior life. The pinnacle is the confection of Christ’s Body at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We don’t teach ‘interior life’ in the diocesan seminaries (seminarians have told me what their schedule is like… there is no time given to them to cultivate a real prayer life). Preaching is important… but not as important as the sacerdotal nature… and it is impossible to nourish this without prayer (both mental and contemplative).

    There are a very small hand full of men in the world… who look for this in the priesthood. We laymen go to those men. We support them. They help hold us together. Were we to live in paradise or in a concentration camp… we would still seek them out. They show us the way to the Father.

    Lord… make us more like that priest the Arch Bishop spoke of… please. Make us into saints for Thee.

    Amen.

    Ave Maria! Robert Fox
    Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY.

  4. Carl says:

    As a man discerning the Priesthood, I just responded out loud after I read that, “Awesome. Freaking Awesome!”

    That was great Your Excellency!

    Thanks be to God! I am so encouraged right now!

  5. Andrew Piacente says:

    Would that we could have more Priests like this old timer. It’s up to you Bishop Dolan. You can make St. Joseph’s Seminary produce new young Priests like this one. It hopefully will be your main mission. Teach them about the early Church and deep six the modernism that is so often taught in our seminaries. Andy Piacente – Yonkers, NY

    HOSEA 4:6

  6. Brian says:

    Your Excellency:

    Your blog is a source of constant inspiration to me, inspiration that in times we live in, we as Christians should do what we can to hold on to hope; the hope that comes from the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary. No one’s life is easy, as your blog describes in the case of those chosen for the Priesthood, but it is only when we pray that we can feel as if we aren’t alone in our daily life. It’s accounts like this one, Your Excellency, that help us to understand that and, as a young member of your flock, I am proud to have you as our leader. Thank you so much for your encouraging words!!!

    May God Bless You!!!!

  7. George Gano says:

    Archbishop — another homerun. We all go thru life wondering “what if”. As a single never married celibate I think that. But then I realize I am where God wants me and living what he has designed me to be. We can so “connected” (tech wise) but still be all alone. My Priests give me a proper perspective of living the Single Vocation. The difference beteween us is our Vocation and the graces bestowed upon us to live these vocations. The bonus my friends have is being part of “G-d’s crew” and the graces to preside over the sacraments. We are both called to celibacy, a life of service and prayer. Because these vocations are very similar we can share our “singleness”. I thank G-d for their vocation – without them I can not receive the awesome graces that come from the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Quick question — Archbishop / are you a Knight of Columbus?

  8. Guillaume says:

    As a young (2months) french priest, I hope I will never forget this : “No one who prays is ever alone”

    Thanks be to God! Thank you, Excellency!

    Thanks to Mr Fox for his inspiring message about Karol Wojtyła’s presence: he was his interior life…

  9. Rich says:

    Wow! I really liked some of what Robert Fox had to say here. What really stuck in my craw was the line “Sadly, it is missing from most diocesan priests”. (Fox was referring to what he called the “interior” life of a priest.) Perhaps more troubling is the statement made by Fox that “seminarians have told me what their schedule is like… there is no time given to them to cultivate a real prayer life”. To make these kinds of unsupported assertions is just not fair to the “diocesan” priests and seminarians. Anyone who is familiar with priests and seminarians knows they deserve better treatment than what you have given them. I say man up and amend your ways Robert Fox!

  10. Blessings Archbishop Dolan!!!!
    Congratulations on your appointment as President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is truly the answer to many prayers, including mine. My sister lives in Milwaukee and she has forwarded to me for years your archdiocesan letters. I watched you be installed as Archbishop of New York, with a heart overflowing with love and gratitude- and many tears. You are a Shepherd in Spirit and Truth and a blessing to us all! I was also praying that our new Archbishop. Thomas Wenski, would be the Vice President. I am sure that is just a matter of God’s perfect timing. We too, here at the Archdiocese of Miami are truly blessed with our Shepherd who also leads in Spriit and Truth, no matter the challenge or sacrifice. Be assured of a daily remembrance in prayer. “This tis the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be blad!”

  11. judy vincent says:

    Dearest archbishop,
    I read in our Las Vegas newspaper this morning, that you were voted President. And I am so hopeful for my church NOW!
    My husband (fourth degree Knight) and I have watched our birthright church tumble to a state that we do not reconize any more. This social justice thing, is wrong. Please continue to stand for conservatism. NO ABORTION, NO SAMESEX marriage etc.
    I have seen and heard you on EWTN. You speak our lingo.
    Thank you, Thank You
    Charlie and Judy Vincent