I found when I was seminary rector, that was my primary role: to be the spiritual father of that community. That's how the Church is structured. Without spiritual fatherhood, we drift. And so priests, looking to him, hearing him, but – more importantly – watching him in action, learn what they're supposed to be, the same way a child learns from his father.
I think it's super important that he personally is here to shepherd us and to father us.
When the faithful prays for priests, what should we be praying for? What are the biggest challenges they are facing, especially today?
Bishop Barron: I would say pray for our spiritual integrity. That priests remain grounded in Christ, grounded in the sacraments, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist, that we retain the spiritual center. I would pray – because the priesthood, as you know, is under attack in many ways in our culture, in our society – that priests remain grounded in Christ, they know who they are. I'd also pray for their protection... Ask the Blessed Mother to protect priests.
And, I would also say, pray for vocations. One thing I found very edifying when I was rector of Mundelein seminary (was that) the vocations kept coming, even though a lot of us felt, oh gosh, with the scandals the numbers would go down. They really didn't. Vocations kept coming. So, pray for that, that the numbers continue to grow.
Do have any other impressions of the different events in which you've taken part over the course of the Jubilee for Priests?
The night I gave a talk at Andrea delle Valle, it was at the end of Mass – I celebrated Mass after the talk – and, seeing this army of white robed priests coming forward to receive the Eucharist. So, the Eucharist was on the altar, and the priests were coming forward to receive it. I just thought of the book of Revelation, and the white-robed members of the Church. It just moved me very deeply. And then afterward, talking to so many priests – (from) Canada, America, Great Britain, Ireland, Ghana, the Cameroons, different parts of eastern Europe, all over the world – That image has stayed with me very powerfully.