For the last several decades, Blessed Pope John Paul II and now our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, have asked all the faithful on the Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (which this year falls on Friday, June 15th) to pray in a special way for the sanctification and holiness of all the priests of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict says, "Let us pause on that feastday and contemplate the pierced side of the Crucified One. The essential nucleus of Christianity is expressed in the Heart of Jesus. In Christ the whole of the revolutionary newness of the Gospel was revealed and given to us. He is the Love that saves us and makes it possible for us already now to begin to live in God’s eternity. (John 3:16). His divine Heart calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to abandon our human certainties, to trust in Him, and, following His example, to make of ourselves a gift of love without reserve."
" It is true that the invitation of Jesus to abide in His love (John 15:9) is addressed to every baptized person, but on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Day of Prayer for the holiness of priests, it resounds more powerfully since it is directed more to priests. It is a special moment to remember one of the beautiful and moving sayings of Saint John Marie Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars, who is the patron saint of all priests, especially parish priests, a saying cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The priesthood is the Love of the Heart of Jesus."
The Pope remarks, "It is the experience of many priests today to notice that the modern "world" does not understand the Christian and, therefore, does not understand the priest, who is designated by God Himself to be the minister of the Gospel. This is sometimes because the world simply does not know God, but more frequently it is because it does not want to know Him (John 17:14-16). The world does not want to know God because it does not want to be disturbed by His will ( 1 John 4:4-5). That is the reason oftentimes that it refuses to listen to His priests." In the "Imitation of Christ", Thomas a’ Kempis reminds the faithful, however, that they themselves should always recall that "the priest, clad in sacred vestments, is Christ’s vicegerent, who is commissioned to pray to God for himself but also for all people" (Hebrews 5:1-3).
Blessed Columba Marmion the brilliant and holy Benedictine Abbot, wrote: "Remember what happens on the day of ordination to the priesthood. On that blessed morning a young levite, overwhelmed by the sentiment of his own unworthiness and weakness, prostrates himself before the Bishop who represents the heavenly Pontiff. He bows his head under the imposition of hands by the consecrating prelate. At this moment the Holy Spirit descends upon him and the eternal Father is able to contemplate with ineffable complacency this new priest, a living reproduction of His beloved Son: This is My beloved Son! While the Bishop holds his hand extended and the whole assembly of priests imitate his gesture, the words of the angel addressed to the Virgin Mary are accomplished anew: The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you (Luke 1:35). At this moment, full of mystery, the Holy Spirit takes possession of this chosen one of the Lord and effects between Christ and him an eternal resemblance. When he rises, he is a man transformed: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech (Psalm109:4 or 110:4)."
Father Walter Farrell, the great Thomist philosopher, says, "The priest is a man of power and authority. By his preaching, example, and counsel, he directs the lives of his parishioners in accordance with the revealed wisdom of God and the laws of His Catholic Church. In his administration of the sacraments and the blessings of the Church, the priest is the human channel through which the power of the passion of Christ is transmitted to men for their salvation. No man could give himself such power or arrogate to himself such authority. No mere man could even dare to choose himself for so stupendous a role in the life of men. Only God can make a priest and He does so in the Sacrament of Holy Orders."
"When a man becomes a priest he becomes another Christ. Before his ordination he received grace from others. But after his ordination he can communicate grace to others. He is the active human instrument through which the grace of Christ passes to men. Holy Orders sanctifies a man for the benefit of others. It makes him holy so that he can communicate holiness to others."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "The presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weakness, the spirit of domination, error, or even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all the acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church." This is why praying for our priests is so important, especially on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Saint Anthony said that he was convinced that priests are tempted by the Devil far more than lay people, because Lucifer knows winning a priest over to evil brings innumerable souls to hell. The old doggerel verse is worth remembering: "Keep them we pray Thee, dearest Lord, keep them for they are Thine, Thy priests whose lives burn out before Thy consecrated shrine." We must love and respect our priests, pray for them, and support them, and, if we detect their short-comings, to tell these to God, asking Him to assist and enlighten them, and, if necessary, change them.
The Second Vatican Council teaches, "Priests, as partakers of the function of Christ, the sole Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), on their level of ministry announce the divine word to all. They exercise this sacred function of Christ most of all in the Eucharistic liturgy or synaxis. There, acting in the Person of Christ and proclaiming His mystery, they join the offering of the faithful to the sacrifice of their Head. Until the coming of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:26), they re-present and apply in the sacrifice of the Mass the one sacrifice of the New Testament, namely the sacrifice of Christ offering Himself once and for all to His Father as a spotless Victim (Hebrews 9:11-28). For the penitent or ailing among the faithful, priests exercise fully the ministry of reconciliation and alleviation. They labor in word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17), believing what they have read and meditated upon in the law of the Lord, then teaching what they believe and practicing what they teach."
An Ordinary Viewpoint
Holy Orders - 2012 - III