On the Catholic Priesthood

Saturday August 18, 2018


Historians may discuss and dispute the time and circumstances in which the Christian priesthood began to use an altogether distinctive dress at the altar; but they have to agree that what was so used was held as sacred. The cloak which St. Paul seemed so careful about was early reported to have been his sacrificing robe. The same character was attributed to Thomas the Apostle’s mantle, long venerated at Rome. The centuries of persecution were not a time for elaborating ceremony or dress, yet pontiffs of the period are on record for restrictions in the use of the same garments at the altar and away from it, or by one order of the clergy and by another. The first pope who enjoyed the freedom of peace, St. Sylvester, introduced an improvement that still holds its ground: our sleeved dalmatics were prescribed by him. St. Jerome mentions the white robes of all ministers within the Sanctuary, as ordinary and long-established. Thence down through the centuries there are adaptations to place, or rite, or monastic or secular garb; but the insistence on sacred vestments, on their sacred significance and sacred employment, goes on ever increasing. Holy to the Lord, is the more and more exclusive mark on them, as on those who are privileged to wear them.

And here, my brethren, I have to call your attention to a point that may somewhat escape your notice – though when well considered it is found most practical. The holiness of the priestly vestments is very much for the priest himself. In blessing them the Church asks that the wearer may be fit and apt for so sacred a ministry; but she also implores that he may be filled with the grace of the Holy Ghost, rendered perseveringly agreeable to God, clad with chastity here and with immortality hereafter. ‘Tis particularly in the words she puts on his lips as he takes each vestment that we divine her maternal solicitude for her priest in person. All scriptural sanctities are invoked on him. The amice, with which you may have seen him first cover his head and then tuck out of view all trace of his secular dress, is to be to him an unfailing helmet of salvation. Made white like his alb, and, in the very Blood of the Lamb, he is to be fitted for joys eternal. With the binding of his cincture, concupiscence is extinguished. His manipule tells of the exultant harvesting that will follow his tearful sowing; for of him and his fellow-laborers is it prophetically true that “going they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves” (Ps. 125). His Stole, the special ensign of the priesthood that is forever, proclaims his right to Everlasting Life and its beatitude; while his Chasuble, though bearing a Cross before and behind, is but the sweet yoke and light burden of the Master who give both the merit and the crown. So it is with these and the other sacred vestures he may have to put on. Panoplied round with them, and with the dispositions they suppose, he is invulnerable to the assaults of every malign spirit. Even human malignity had often to refrain; for Law recognized a peculiarly punishable atrocity in assaults on the vested priest. To the devout faithful there is an attractive sacredness in the robes which come in contact with the Altar of God; for they vividly recall that Garment, the touch of whose hem was health and holiness. And as far, my brethren, as holy vesture can announce and preserve the sanctity of the wearer, the same faithful have good reason to rejoice. Assuredly they may be said to need nothing, after the grace of God, more than they need the holiness of their priests. God’s ordination carries with it that sanction and consequence. ‘Tis markedly the races and nations most devotedly attached to the chaste sacredness of the priestly character who have best maintained the worship of the Son of the Virgin, the Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.

Source:By the Rev. G. Lee CSSP ( A Pulpit Commentary on Catholic Teaching: The liturgy of the ecclesiastical year, 1910)

Friday August 17, 2018

To be a Priest

To be a Priest, How blest a thing!
To walk the way Christ has trod,
To know the longings of each soul,
And help the creature seek its God.

To aid, by prayer and power Divine
Each erring and repentant heart
To walk a selfish, sinful earth,
Serene, unstained ~ a man apart.

To see, like God, the breaking heart,
To soothe when earthly powers have ceased;
To walk the way that Christ has trod,
How blest a thing, to be a Priest!

Thursday August 16, 2018

Pray, pray for your priests!

"Pray, pray for your priests; every nation, every diocese gets the clergy it deserves. We priests are only earthen vessels, you know for yourselves many of the shortcomings, hasty temper and slovenly habits and so on, by which we often disgrace the livery we wear. But, when you observe such things, you merely shrug your shoulders, and say, "Pity Father So-and-so isn't more like poor Canon So-and-so".

You should be on your knees, this next week, praying for the clergy everywhere, from the Holy Father himself down to the new priests [...]; praying for the seminaries too, the factories where the tools of Christ are made. God protect His Church in the anxious, bewildered days that are coming; and give us supply of good priests to work as the martyrs worked, to live as the martyrs lived, and if need be to die as the martyrs died, to the glory of His Holy Name."

-- Monsignor Ronald Knox, Priesthood, Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons

Wednesday August 15, 2018

Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Holy Church

Queen of heaven, thy immense love for God maketh thee likewise love His Church. We pray thee, come to its help amidst the ills under which it is now suffering, rent asunder as she is by her own children. Thy prayers, being a mother’s, can obtain all from that God Who loveth Thee so well.

Pray then, pray for the Church; ask for enlightenment for so many unbelievers who are persecuting it, and obtain for faithful souls the necessary strength to resist being caught in the snares of the unbelievers who would drag them down into their own ruin.

Source: St. Alphonsusʼ Prayer Book (Father Edward Saint Omer, Redemptorist.1888)

The Religious State

He who finds himself bound by a habit of any vice cannot take any holy Order without incurring the guilt of mortal sin.

“I am horrified,” says St. Bernard (Epist. 8), “when I think whence thou comes, wither thou goest, and what a short penance thou hast put between thy sins and thy ordination. However, it is indispensable that thou do not undertake to purify the conscience of others before thou purifiest thy own.

"Of those daring sinners who, though full of bad habits, take priesthood, an ancient author, Gildas say, “It is not to the priesthood that they should be admitted, but they should be dragged to the pillory” (Cast. In eccl. Ord.).

They, then, says Saint Isidore, who are still subject to the habit of any sin should not be promoted to holy orders (Sent. 1. 3, C. 34).

(…) According to St. Gregory, it is particularly necessary with regard to the virtue of chastity that “No one should be admitted to the ministry of the altar unless an assurance has been given of his perfect chastity".

(...) And as a bishop cannot ordain any person unless he be a man of approved chastity, so a confessor cannot permit an incontinent penitent to receive ordination without having a moral certainty that he is free from the bad habit which he had contracted, and that he had acquired a habit of the virtue of chastity.

By St. Alphonsus de Liguori

Source:The Religious State: Together with a Short Treatise on the Vocation to the Priesthood 1889

Tuesday August 14, 2018

The Priest Under False Accusations

God might have redeemed the world by a manifestation of His glory; but He chose to do it by shame. Jesus was rejected of men, and they hid their faces from Him as if ashamed to own Him. This lot He has bequeathed to us. Jesus was falsely accused. No man ever more so. He was called a Samaritan, and told that He had a devil. He was “a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” He was a deceived, and a seducer, and seditious; stirring up the people, feigning to be a king and a prophet, being a pretender and a blasphemer. He suffered all the penalties of sin, its guilt only excepted.

 False accusations was hateful to Him, because of His perfect holiness. To be baptized as if He were a sinner was an act of divine humility. The eyes of all were fixed upon Him. He was counted as one of the sinners of Jerusalem. It was bitter to be even suspected. But to be accused as a sinner was an infinite humiliation. The bitterness of sin entered into His sinless soul. He tasted the horror and the shame even of those who are justly accused. Innocent men arraigned at the bar, and though falsely yet skillfully accused of atrocious crimes, have afterwards told us that, for a time, they had the horrible sense of guilt upon them. And, in the measure of their innocence, their hatred of the evil laid to their charge will be more acute. To the sinful it brings little pain; for sin deadens the perception of the baseness, the grossness, the deadline of sin. The agony of our Divine Lord in the Garden came from the vision and the contact of the sin of the world. The sins of mankind before the Flood, the sins of the tribes of Israel, the sins of the Christian world, and, above all, the sins of His own priests, these wrung from Him a sweat of blood. The sanctity of God in contact with the sin of the world cause a sorrow “unto death”. For though God cannot sorrow as God, God Incarnate sorrowed by the suffering of His sinless humanity in this world of sin.

In the measure, then, of the innocence and purity of a priest’s life and heart will be his suffering when falsely accused. They who accuse him little know the pain they inflict. They have not his delicacy of conscience, or the purity of his heart, or his jealousy for the priesthood and for the Name of our Divine Master. So far “they know not what they do.” The coarse, and the rude, and the vindictive, and the malevolent, and even the foolish and the reckless in speech, with no ill-will, perhaps, but with great want of caution, often inflict woulds upon a good priest which are never healed. They would care little if it were said of themselves; and that is, perhaps, their only excuse, and a very mean one.

By Cardinal Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892)

Source:The Eternal Priesthood 1884

Monday August 13, 2018


Everywhere, says Cardinal Manning, we meet with whisperers, murmurers, critics, censors, and carpers who spare nobody, and least of all those whom they should most respect, if not for what they are, at least for the office they bear. Such minds invoke their own Nemesis. No priests are so carped at as they who carp at their brethren. No priests are so turned into ridicule as those who ridicule Superiors. Carping in a priest betrays the absence of the gift of piety. (The Eternal Priesthood, Chapt. XVI.)

Source:The Catholic Priesthood,The  Public Life of The Priest by Michael Muller

Sunday August 12, 2018

The Titles of a Catholic Priest.

1. He is a king, reigning not over unwilling subjects, but over the hearts and affections of his people.

2. He is a shepherd, because he leads his flock into the delicious pastures of the sacraments, and shelters them from the wolves that lie in wait for their souls.

3. He is a father, because he breaks the bread of life to his spiritual children whom he has begotten in Jesus through the Gospel.

4. He is a judge whose office it is to pass sentence of pardon on self-accusing sinners.

5. He is a physician because he heals their souls from the loathsome distempers of sin.

Cardinal James Gibbons.
Source: Our Church, Her Children and Institutions, 1908

Saturday August 11, 2018

The priest

There is in the midst of us a man little appreciated, too often little loved, and sometimes frightfully calumniated, and yet who is, nevertheless, just the one man who is most worthy of the reverence and confidence of all. This man is the Christian priest – the consoler of all who suffer, and the friend of all the friendless; and it is against him that the scoffing and the irreligious, enemies of God and of society, constantly endeavor to prejudice the minds of men.

The priest is attacked in this manner only because he is the minister of God. The man who would have no God, would also have no priest; and, knowing that he is powerless to impose silence upon this inconvenient preacher of the divine law, he seeks to expel him, or at least to rob him of the confidence of men in order to paralyze his ministry.

The priest has been sent to his brethren by Jesus Christ, even as He Himself was sent. “Even as My Father hath sent Me,” said Jesus to the Apostles, His first priests, “I also send you!” Jesus was sent to save the world by the sacrifice of Himself, to enlighten it by His teaching, and to console it by His mercy. And thus He send His priests to save, instruct, console, and sanctify their brethren; or rather, He Himself fulfills, by means of His priests, the little elect. Let him choose without fear the better part. It is the most sublime, and the sweetest; it is the most Divine, and the simplest; thus, where responsibilities abound, graces also abound, and this vocation to a more perfect life is, essentially, only a vocation to a nobler, truer, purer happiness; it is the mark of a more tender love.

Source: Monseigneur de Ségur, The faith that never dies, or, The Priest of God in the Catholic Home: How to live an ideal Christian Life as a true follower of Christ, 1900.

Friday August 10, 2018

The Priest a Soldier

“Labora sicut bonus miles Christi Jesu.”

“Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2. Tim ii.3.

The priest is more than once compared by St. Paul to a soldier; and rightly, for the more of the soldier there is in him, the better priest he is.

At first sight, nothing seems more opposed than the two callings, but a closer examination reveals the fact that several of their leading features are the same. The same general conditions of life are found in both, and the same qualities are required.

1. The priest, like the soldier, once engaged is no longer free; he is no longer at liberty to forsake his profession, and to turn to any of the pursuits of life which were previously open to him. He cannot even combine them, to any extent, with the duties he has assumed. “No man,” says St. Paul (ibid), being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular business.” That is, he has no right to do so. The soldier has ceased to belong to himself. His very life is not his own. The Roman soldier that St. Paul had in mind was separated from family, kindred, home, country; indeed, everywhere the soldier’s life is a life of detachment. In active warfare he has to hold himself always in readiness; at any time he may be called upon to face certain death. And therefore he is best without a family. If he has left behind him persons tenderly loved, it is not good that he should give them much thought; such memories would unman him. In a word, the life of a soldier in active service is a life of detachment, of self-devotion; a ready gift of his energies, and, if need be, of his life, to the service of his country.

What else is the life of a priest, if he be true to his calling? His time, his energies, his influence, all his gifts, belong to the great purpose for which he became a priest. Like St. Paul, he is ready to give his very life for it: “I most gladly will spend, and be spent myself, for your souls.” 2 Cor. Xii. 15.

2. The qualities of the soldier are no less necessary in the priest, courage, endurance, discipline. The true soldier is the type of courage. He is fearless in presence of danger, or, if fear is awakened in him, he does not yield to it, else he would be branded as a coward. But his courage is only occasionally appealed to, whereas his power of endurance is taxed at every hour. Long marches, scanty provisions, excessive heat or cold, lack of shelter, sickness, these are what try the soldier much more than facing the enemy. This is why St. Paul does not say: “Have courage; be brave;” but “suffer hardship,” for such is the meaning of the Greek term rendered in the Vulgate by the word labora. Last of all, but not least, discipline. In the Roman army discipline was of the strictest kind, and the oath of obedience (sacramentum) was looked upon as the most sacred of all. In man, as in nature, only disciplined power is useful. Uncontrolled, it wastes itself, and often proves destructive.

Courage, too, is a requirement of the priesthood; physical courage sometimes, moral courage always. To be faithful to duty, at nay cost; to live up to his convictions whatever others may say; to speak out for the right, to censure and to oppose what is wrong; to carry our necessary but unpopular measures; to face the risk of being misunderstood or blamed; of to forfeit certain advantages sooner than relinquish a useful purpose, all this is necessary in the priest, and it means in all cases true moral courage.

The power of endurance is not less necessary. The life of a priest, if he strives to meet all the requirements of his position, is generally a trying one. His mission may be what is called a hard one. The demands upon his physical strength may be as much as he can bear. His patience is tried in numberless ways. Among those with whom he is placed in contact, there are the thoughtless, the unreasonable, the obstinate, the deceitful, the selfish, the ungrateful; he has to bear with all, and strive by dint of gentleness and forbearance to win them to Christ.

Finally, his life has to be one of order, of rule, of discipline. In many things he is left to his own initiative; but in a still larger number he is under rule, the rule of the Gospel and the rules of the Church. His action as a priest is individual in one sense, in another it is collective, that is, associated with the action of the Church herself and of her representatives. In both it is equally withdrawn from caprice and subject to law.

It is the soldier’s pride to fight for his king; what an honor to be the soldier of Christ!

But if campaigning means endurance, he who endureth not is no soldier.” Chrys. In 2 Tim.

 Source: Rev. John Baptist Hogan (Daily Thoughts for Priests, 1899)

Thursday August 09, 2018

Memorare for the Clergy

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your clemency hear and answer me. Amen.

Our Lady, Mother of the Church, please intercede for the Church in this time of great trials.

Mary, Queen of the Clergy, Please intercede for our clergy and for their holiness of life.

Source: Cardinal Raymond Burke

Prayer for Priests Who Have Become Unfaithful to Their Vocation

Divine Savior Jesus Christ, Thou are the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. Oh, be in a very special way the Good Shepherd of those poor lost priests who are also appointed by Thee to be leaders of Thy people, but who have broken the oath of their holy ordination and have become unfaithful to their exalted calling. Bestow upon these poorest of the poor the very fullness of that pastoral solicitude with which Thou dost so faithfully seek the sheep that are lost! Touch their hearts with the irresistible ray of grace which emanates from Thine all-merciful love!

Enlighten their minds and strengthen their wills, that they may turn away from all sin and error and come back to Thy holy altar and to Thy people. O most compassionate Savior! Remember that Thou didst once redeem the souls of Thine erring priests with Thy Precious Blood and in infinite preferential love didst impress upon them the indelible character of the priesthood. Put wholly to shame those miserable helpers of Satan who lay snares for the virtue of priests and endanger the holy ideal of the priesthood.

Most graciously accept our prayers and sacrifices for poor priests who have gone astray and hear our earnest petition. Amen

Source: Curé d'Ars Prayer Group

Wednesday August 08, 2018

Regina Cleri: A Priest's Prayer

Mother of God, in thy surpassing grace
The Christian priest his glorious type may trace;
His functions study in thy life divine,
And sigh to thee for virtues like to thine.
What holy orders to his soul might be
Was thy conception’s sanctity to thee:
A sacramental fount, a living well,
Whence all thy mighty stream of graces fell—
That purest love which in thy lowly womb
Made heaven’s great Exile find a royal home—
That thrill of rapturous joy when Jesus pressed
His infant lips upon thy virgin-breast—
That strength to bear thy more than martyr’s sword
And murmur still, ‘the Handmaid of the Lord.’

Then, Lady, look with pity upon one
Who bears the priestly image of thy Son;
By whose unworthy hands and trembling breath
The Victim-Priest renews his mystic death—
Whose functions bind him to thy highest care,
While conscience cries, ‘Presumptuous man, beware.’
O Glorious Queen, thy lamp was kindled bright
In thy conception: yet, through all the night,
Waiting the King of kings, thy prudent toil
Trimmed and replenished it with purest oil.
My priestly lamp burns dim; Oh, pray thy Spouse,
Within my sluggish spirit to arouse
The grace the priestly character demands,
Pledged by the pontiff’s venerable hands.

 By Father T. E. Bridgett, C.SS.R.

Source: Carmina Mariana, Second Edition Collected and Arranged by Orby Shipley, M.A. Burns and Oates, Limited (London: 1894).p. 76-7.

Special thanks to Robert Olson

Tuesday August 07, 2018

"Go Teach," Teach what?

“Go teach,” said Christ to His Apostles. Teach what? Not the opinions of Peter, James or John, not the sayings of Matthew, Philip or Bartholomew, not this or that system of belief, or these or those deductions of human reason; but “the things that I have commanded you.” And the command laid upon the twelve Apostles is still honored and obeyed by the priest in the Church of God. The priest, then, teaches, not in his own name, nor does he propose a doctrine thought out in deep study, but, “God exhorting through him” on account of his unity with the chair of Peter, he but echoes the divine voice, heard throughout Judea in the dawn of Chris­tianity. The priest speaks and the world listens, not because of his words of deep reasoning, nor on account of his faultless diction, nor because of his fervent eloquence, but because he speaks as one having authority, the authority given by Jesus to His Apostles, and by them transmitted to him.

Source: The Priesthood by Rev. M.S. Smith (The Homelitic Monthly and Pastoral Review, Trinity Sunday, May 1922)

Special thanks to Robert Olson

The Priest

The Priest should be like those angels whom Jacob saw in a vision ascending to Heaven and descending therefrom on a mystical ladder. He is expected to ascend by prayer and to descend by preaching. He ascends to Heaven to receive light from God; he descends to communicate that light to his hearers. He ascends to light his torch at the every-burning furnace of Divine Love; he descends to communicate the flame to the souls of his people.

Beacon Lights: Maxims of Cardinal James Gibbons, 1911