Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What is a Catholic priest?

What is a Catholic priest?

And what do I, a laywoman and a convert, know of the priesthood?

Not a lot. But I am learning - through reading Church teaching, through books like In Good Company, The Priest Is Not His Own, Many Are Called. Through the encyclical Mediator Dei. Through St Paul's letter to the Hebrews. Through my dealings with priests - during Mass, before and after Mass, in parish life, as friends.

Why learn about the priesthood?

Because , "What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God -- a man who is invested with all the powers of God' ....St John Vianney .

Or, as Fr Hardon has said, "What is the Catholic Priesthood? The Catholic priesthood is that institution which is absolutely necessary for Christianity. That's a large statement that the Catholic priesthood is absolutely necessary for the Church. So that without the priesthood there would be no Christianity left on earth. Remove the priesthood and you remove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the world. Remove the priesthood and you remove the sacrifice of the Mass from the world. Remove the priesthood and you remove Holy Communion from the world. Remove the priesthood and you remove the sacrament of reconciliation from a very sinful world. Remove the priesthood and you remove the sacrament of anointing from the world. Remove the priesthood and you remove the divinely assured teaching of God's revealed truth from the world. In a word without the priesthood Christianity would be a memory but no longer a reality. It would cease to exist on earth in this admittedly, difficult valley of tears".

I think there can be a tendency to see priests as administrators, as those who head a business (the parish) and administer the sacraments and pastoral life in a corporate fashion.

There can be a tendency to see the Church, the parish, as a numbers game - people in pews, money given in the collection.

Pope Benedict XVI, in this week's letter to seminarians, has warned against this style of thinking. The Holy Father has encouraged seminarians to put their relationship with Christ first; to do what is right, first

"It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand."

And what can I, as a layperson, do to support priests? For, if there is no Church without our priests and sacraments, there lies a responsibility for all. For priests, to maintain their relationship with Christ, properly ordered, and then to serve. For laypeople, to pray and sacrifice for our priests, so they will be encouraged and supported in their vocations.

To pray and sacrifice for all priests and religious but most especially for those whom we know, for those in our parishes, for those from whom we have received the sacraments. For those whom we love, those orthodox self sacrificing, compassionate priests... and also for those priests who are, perhaps, misguided and who may be less of an example than they should.

And to pray and sacrifice for vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, so we may build up the Church as a shining star, an example, a beacon to our often secular world.


Bridget said...

Beautiful post!
As a mother to 3 boys, all of whom are expressing a call to the priesthood, I always appreciate a mother's take on appreciating and supporting the priesthood.

Leonie said...

Hey, Bridget, had a peek at your blog. Lovely, lovely photos!

molly said...

fantastic post. thank you for the reminders.

Leonie said...

Good for me to remember this on the feast of St John Vianney. And thank you!