While we were still in the beginning stages of the book, as we were working on our first chapters on those we knew, and then going on to those who, of the many hundreds of Saints and men, the Lord would choose, we received a phone call from Sister Briege McKenna.
She had just returned from a thirty day silent retreat in Dublin. For anyone who knows Sister Briege, you know that for her to be silent for thirty days, is a miracle in itself. She told us the only reading material she brought with her, was our book, Saints and Other Powerful Women in the Church. She said it affirmed her vocation. We felt extremely complimented by this, although our intent had not been to focus on the religious life.
Then she hit us with her next line, which bowled both of us over! She told us the Lord had spoken to her, in her heart, the way He does with Sister Briege. She said the message she received was, "Tell Bob and Penny to write a book, affirming my priests."
We felt challenged by her statement, a little inadequate, and very nervous. Who were we to affirm priests? What qualifications did we have, what insights could we share, which would bring that message across to our Royal Order of the Priesthood? We prayed a lot on this. What should we do differently than we had done before? What great perceptions could we give them, that would touch them, and lift them up?
We thought about how the flavor of our talks had changed in the last year. In traveling all over the country, we had become startlingly aware of the crisis in vocations to the priesthood, but more than that, the struggle of our priests to remain loyal to their vocations. We found ourselves pleading with our audiences to lift our priests up, not knock them down, to love and pray for them, to show them how much they were needed. Our Lord promised us the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. But without priests, we don't have a church!
The first two chapters we wrote, strangely enough, or was it God's plan, turned out to be the first and the last chapter, Paul the Apostle, and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. We shared notes on what the Lord had given us to write. It seemed the answer to our questions were right there in what we had written. Paul, the blustering, fiery champion of Jesus, wrote, "In the end, there are three things that matter, Faith, Hope, and Love. And the greatest of these is Love." And Fulton J. Sheen, the prophet of the Twentieth Century, wrote, "No introduction is necessary to another priest; nothing to live up to, nothing to live down. No introduction is necessary; Christ has already introduced them to one another."
We pray that you will find something in what we've written that will make you want to go to your priest, and thank him for being a priest. Luz Elena tells us that in Mexico, they used to kiss the priest's hands, out of respect for their being consecrated. You may not feel comfortable doing it. But do go up and tell them how much you appreciated their homily; mention something they said, which touched you. Let them know you weren't sleeping during the Mass. Thank them for their "fiat."
We believe there's much to be learned, from reading about those who have preceded us. These are men who said "yes" to Jesus, knowing in advance that their lives would never be the same. They fell in love with Jesus, and through Him, their brothers and sisters. You and I are that family of Christ, these saints fought for. The battle for the Church over the centuries, has always been for the people of God. All the wars that have ever been waged, including those of the Twentieth century, have been for the people of God. There were those who wanted to protect and save the people of God; then there have been those who have wanted to destroy the people of God, hoping thereby, to destroy God Himself. We know that will never happen!
You'll be revisiting some old friends, Saints you have known from your childhood. But we think you will be pleased to meet some new friends, brothers you may have only heard of before now, or about whom you knew very little. You will get to love them as we love them, and as they love you. We invite you now, to join us, as we pay tribute to the Powerful Men in our Church.