Our Handmaid charism has called us to give our lives in Eucharistic adoration, prayer and sacrifice for the sanctification of priests since our founding in 1947. Under the guidance of the Servant of God John A. Hardon, S.J. we began prayer associations in the 1970s to offer the opportunity to others throughout the world to spiritually hold a particular priest by name before God in Eucharistic adoration, prayer and sacrifice. We were delighted in 2007 when the Holy See’s Congregation for the Clergy published Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity encouraging wider participation of all the faithful in the very purpose and raison d’être for which we Handmaids of the Precious Blood were founded 60 years before. Still, we’ve long thought it needed that there should be another additional way to honor our priests.
When our Motherhouse moved to the Knoxville Diocese, we experienced the prayerful and practical support of the Knights of Columbus, while they learned more about our mission for priests. Three ideas have been brought together by the Handmaids of the Precious Blood and the Knights of Columbus: 1) praying for priests by name, 2) honoring and respecting them, and 3) thanking God for them: now these concepts can take a concrete shape. The Knights incorporate support of our priests in their own mission in the world. As such, it’s fitting on the birthday of Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, that we break ground for the initial phase of the Mary, Mother of Priests Garden, dedicated to Father McGivney.
While years lie ahead to its final completion, the multi-phase project has this as its goal: a beautiful, prayerful oasis of silence, evocative of three strong aspects of the Handmaid charism: eucharistic adoration, prayer and sacrifice for priests, and carrying that out in imitation of the Mother of God.
- first, shaped as a monstrance with Jesus as the central focus, the garden reminds us of the Real Presence that can only come through the ordained priesthood;
- second, it recalls prayer and sacrifice for priests by name in the plaques that will line the walls;
- and third, it honors Mary as our Mother of Sorrows and the Mother of Priests in a pieta symbolizing the dedication of all priests in their conformity to Christ crucified as both priest and victim, and Mary’s needed role in the support and sanctification of every alter Christus.
August 12th is just a start, a groundbreaking, but, as any farmer knows, the plow must break and till the ground before the seed can be sown, the harvest grown, and its yield be numbered 30, 60, or 100-fold. Let us pray together for our laborers, our dear priests: may they be godly men of the kingdom persevering faithfully in his service!