"The world looks to priests because it looks to Jesus."
- Pope John Paul II
You are a Priest Forever
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the seminarian is elevated to the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ. The man's soul is permanently changed, marked with the indelible seal of the sacrament. It’s a beautiful life, but certainly not one without challenge and sacrifice. The following gives a glimpse in the life of a catholic priest.
So what is a priest?
A man of prayer:
The priest is first and foremost a man of prayer. He prays for and with the people of the God. His life is centered on his discipline of prayer in the Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, personal meditation. The priest leads his entire community to holiness rooted in his deep personal relationship with Christ. The priest, through his life of prayer takes on the identity of alter Christus (another Christ), this is seen explicitly in his ministry of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Preacher of the Gospel:
The priest is the Shepard of souls. He opens the Gospel to his parishioners offering them application of the Gospel message. It is a priest's duty, then, to teach his people how Christ's life is relevant to their own. He answers the question, "How can I live out my faith today?"
His preaching during mass is critical to the identity of priest, and more than that, the priest is a teacher of the Gospel through every part of his life. Through every aspect of the priest’s life, the priest shows how the message of the gospel is lived to the fullest. He truly teaches the message of Jesus Christ through Word and Deed.
Servant of all people:
The priest is often referred as “all things to all people” because he is present at all times to the lives of those he serves. He is there at the birth of a new child, celebrating the baptisms of the young and old. He welcomes the newcomer into the church. The priest fosters the education of many men and women as they grow by his teaching in elementary schools, high schools, and universities. He witnesses the marriages of men and women as they unite their lives and begin new families. The priest is for many the presence of Christ on earth: praying for and with the sick, the suffering, and the socially marginalized. Even in death the priest is present, praying for the dead at funerals and comforting those who mourn.
His presence and work is to bring God to the people and to bring the people to God. He celebrates the holy sacrifice of the Mass, nourishing the spiritual hunger of the faithful, feeding the souls of the people of God. The priest baptizes, witnesses marriages, visits the sick, cares for the dying, buries the dead, comforts the suffering, and defends the souls of the faithful. It is the priest who supports the people of god. Without the priest there is no Eucharist. Without the priest there is no forgiveness of sins. Without the priest, the Church as it is known and has been known for the past two millennia would cease to be.
The priest is still just a man:
The calling to the priesthood truly is a supernatural gift. It is a divine inspiration to work as a priest. And although his soul is changed, marked by an indelible seal, he is still just a man. A man with his own interests, hobbies, favorite foods, successes and failures. The personality of the priest permeates his ministry and fills every aspect of his life. Some are charismatic speakers, others great athletes and natural leaders, while others may be reserved, wise, and perceptive spiritual directors. It is not the great talents that make a man worthy of the priesthood, rather it is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the call from God to serve the Church as another Christ.
Here is what the Catechism has to say about Priesthood and the sacrament of Holy Orders:
“This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church #1581
“The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a "sacred power" which is none other than that of Christ. The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all. "The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him."”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church #1551
“Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, "but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation 'to the end of the earth," "prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.""
-Catechism of the Catholic Church #1565
“Only Jesus Christ is the true priest; the one who can offer sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Every other priest in the world simply shares in his priesthood”
– Catechism of the Catholic Church #1545
Check out what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about priesthood.
You are a Priest Forever
To live in the midst of the world without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family, yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering; to penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds; to go from men to God and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity, and a heart of bronze for Chastity
To teach and to pardon, console and bless always.
My God, what a life; and it is yours,
O priest of Jesus Christ.
- J.B. Henri Lacordaire, OP
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Ultimately, understadning what it means to be a catholic priest takes more than a few short paragraphs. It takes time, for some even years. If you even have the slightest inclination to preisthood and desire greater things for your life, contact us for more information.
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