The Church is there especially for the poor. Pope Benedict XVI once put it like this: ‘Alongside the real presence of Jesus in the Church, in the Blessed Sacrament, there is also that other, that second “real presence” of Jesus in the least, in the downtrodden of this world, in the last, in whom He wishes to be found by us.’

This is something that priests experience in a special way. It is they who, repeating the words of Jesus, effect the consecration of the sacred host by the power of their ordination. And in many cases they also share their Mass Stipends with the poor.

In Zambia many parishes are so deeply impoverished through unemployment and the ravages of AIDS that they do not even have the resources to help their priests with the cost of travelling between the widely scattered villages. Thanks to your Mass Stipends, around 70% of the parishes are able to have Holy Mass celebrated at least once a month. And when the priest does come, he not infrequently also brings medicines with him – likewise paid for from your Mass Stipends. It is in villages like these that we find, together with the priest, the poorest and the downtrodden of this world. In the archdiocese of Lusaka there are 41 priests who survive in this way, with their parishes, thanks to the help of your Mass Stipends.

Most priests know only too well what to expect, as in the seminaries the situation is little different. Even for the lecturers, the modest Mass Stipends they receive often account for the lion’s share of their income.

Thanks, for example, to the help you have given for the current year, the seven lecturers in the seminary of Sts John Fisher and Thomas More in Harare, Zimbabwe can now focus fully on the training of their seminarians – and thereby also set them a good example for their future life as priests.

For above all in the poorer countries of the world, and not only in Africa, there is enormous pressure on priests to go looking for work or trying to earn money in some other way, simply in order to survive. This robs them of the time for their pastoral work and often also of time for prayer and the celebration of Holy Mass. As a result they risk not only forgetting the least and the downtrodden but also sidelining their own vocation and marginalising it. Your Mass Stipends are a threefold help here:

  • they strengthen the priests in their vocation,
  • support them in caring for the poor
  • and reinforce the bond of solidarity between you and these priests.

And above all we must not forget that they are bringing our intentions before God.

This article can be found in Mirror 0713.