On the Catholic Priesthood
"The blessed Apostle Paul, wishing to describe the ideal Bishop and to
form by his teachings a completely new man of the Church, explained what
was, so to speak, his highest perfection. He stated that a Bishop must
profess sure doctrine, in accordance with what has been taught, and thus
be able to exhort others to sound doctrine and to refute those who
Source: Saint Hilairy de Poitiers (De Trinitate)
The Words of the Priest
"At that hour of the Sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens
are opened, and in that mystery of Jesus Christ, the choirs of Angels
are present, and things below are joined to things on high, earthly
things to heavenly, and the service is both a visible and an invisible
Source: St. Gregory the Great
On the Church and the Age
"Let us strengthen our devotion to the Church. Let us love our holy
mother the Church; we owe everything to the Church. Let us not fear that
the words of Christʼs promise shall ever fail. The gates of hell have
never prevailed, and never shall prevail, against His Church. She has
never gone astray on a single doctrinal point: her enemies may be
challenged to prove that she has ever erred in any point of practical
justice or prudence.Her children may have done wrong; but the Bride of
Christ has preserved unstained during nineteen centuries that white robe
which He gave to her that she might be " a glorious Church, not having
spot or wrinkle or any such thing." She has never been unfaithful to His
truth or to His cause, and, by the virtue of His power, she will purify
again this earth, on which it is her lot to lead a life of ever-varying
trial and combat. Let us ask to be made worthy children of that Church
militant and struggling, in order that, having done our part of duty in
her warfare with the world, we may merit to be enrolled among the
glorious members of a Church which is triumphing in heaven."
Source: On the Church and the Age, Fr. Merrick (Catholic Oratory, A compilation of Sacred and Sublime Orations, 1891)
The sins of her pastors
If it is true that by contemplating Christ sinners learn from him the
“sorrow for sins” needed to bring them back to the Father, this is even
more the case for sacred ministers.
How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing causes more suffering for the Church, the Body of Christ, than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who become “thieves and robbers” of the sheep (cf. Jn 10:1 ff.), lead them astray by their own private teachings, or ensnare them in the toils of sin and death? Dear priests, the summons to conversion and to trust in God’s mercy also applies to us; we too must humbly, sincerely and unceasingly implore the heart of Jesus to preserve us from the terrifying risk of endangering the very people we are obliged to save.
Source: Pope Benedict XVI, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 19 June 2009
A Single Mass
"The entire Church cannot give to God as much honor, nor obtain so many
graces, as a single priest by celebrating a single Mass; for the
greatest honor that the whole Church without priests could give to God
would consist in offering to Him in sacrifice the lives of all men."
Source: St. Alphonsus Liguori (The Dignity and Duties of the Priest)
Some are scandalized at the mixture of good and evil in the Catholic Church, not knowing the Scriptures, nor believing the Word of God. The mixture of good and evil is permitted in the turbulent sea of this world; but they shall be separated on the eternal shore. And yet, though there be an evil mixture in the visible Church of Christ - bad Christians, bad Catholics, men whose lives are a scandal and a shame - nevertheless, the sanctity of the Church is never tainted. It depends not on men, but on the Sanctifier.
Source: Towards Evening, extracts from the writings of Cardinal Henry E. Manning. 1889
Horrendum illud scelus, Pius V
That horrible crime, on
account of which corrupt and obscene cities were destroyed by fire
through divine condemnation, causes us most bitter sorrow and shocks our
mind, impelling us to repress such a crime with the greatest possible
Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council [1512-1517] issued this decree: "Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature, given that the wrath of God falls over the sons of perfidy, be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery" (chap. 4, X, V, 31).
So that the contagion of such a grave offense may not advance with greater audacity by taking advantage of impunity, which is the greatest incitement to sin, and so as to more severely punish the clerics who are guilty of this nefarious crime and who are not frightened by the death of their souls, we determine that they should be handed over to the severity of the secular authority, which enforces civil law.
Therefore, wishing to pursue with greater rigor than we have exerted since the beginning of our pontificate, we establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, let him be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be put to death, as mandated by law as the fitting punishment for laymen who have sunk into this abyss.
Rome: Typographia Reverendae Camerae Apostolicae, Mainardi, 1738, chap. 3, p. 33)
Priests and Reparation
George Goyau, when giving notice of the forthcoming publication of a book entitled Lettres de Prêtres aux Armées ( Priests' Letters to the Armies), calls the Holy Mass "the greatest event in the history of humanity," and he adds:
"Daily, the priest brings the effective operation of our Divine Redeemer to bear upon the destinies of the human family. By a supreme act he interweaves the weft of our daily sins with the Divine Ransom; above the chaos of both open and hidden faults he raises the Victim. Our human history is continually being permeated with this Divine sacrifice, a sacrifice both multiple and one. To many this sacred rite is a mere commonplace thing. Nevertheless, through the agency of the priest, they are present at the recurrence of the decisive moment when our guilty world, so justly disinherited, was suddenly put on the way to the plenitude of the supernatural life by the two Mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption. God has chosen the priest to perpetuate these two Mysteries, and no human catastrophe can draw him away from this duty, which from the day of his ordination is one, for eternity, with the very life of his soul."
We could not express more briefly the grandeur and the responsibility of the priesthood. What is the priest? One who carries Christ on through the ages. But Jesus Christ came upon earth to give, to His Eternal Father, a Pontiff, a priest who could adequately make Reparation and Expiation. The priest, therefore, who is charged to prolong, as it were, the role of Christ, ought to imitate Him by offering himself with Christ as an evidence of adoration and expiation. The priest who consecrates will therefore be a victim with Jesus. He does not understand his whole ministry if he confines it to the distribution of the Body of Christ, of the word of God, of the forgiveness of Christ, and does not at the same time accept the role of the victim like his Master, of whom he takes the place and perpetuates the work.
All the years Jesus spent upon earth He was a victim, but He was not satisfied with this, for He had determined to prolong His Sacrifice by the agency of His priests. This He accomplished at the Last Supper, on the eve of His death; hence the Mass sets forth, without the shedding of blood, the immolation of Christ bleeding upon the Cross. Uplifted on Golgotha, Christ between Heaven and earth will be a shield interposed between God's justice and man's sin.
Jesus' mediation will be accepted by God, because of His wounds and His precious blood poured forth. But Jesus is is likewise the shield between Heaven and earth, between God's justice and our sins in every Mass. Each "elevation" compensates for our manifold scandals; each uplifting of the Hose atones for some decadence of ours, for our falls into sin, because the virtue of His blood and wounds lasts on. There are not two sacrifices, but this is the same as that of the Cross, though set forth differently. This is the formal teaching of the Council of Trent.
How many of the faithful, who hear Mass, do not seem to have any knowledge of this adorable Mystery! How many use prayers which have no reference whatever to the Mass, though perhaps appropriate for other occasions! How many know the term "Holy Sacrifice," without any conception of the exact truth and stupendous reality with which it corresponds!
Source: The Ideal of Reparation by Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J. 1852
Knocking at God’s Door
An humble priest, across the fields
His journey turned one day,
And where the plain to forests yields,
He saw the children play.
With yearning heart, quite nigh he drew,
And spoke in kindly tone,
Of One whose love a way well knew,
To make them all His own.
For He, though God, a child became,
All souls on earth to save;
And in rich payment for the same,
His Precious Blood He gave.
Yet when He died He left us not,
But still with us to stay
A miracle of love He wrought,
Which is renewed each day.
Within the Church sweet Jesus dwells,
And hears the children pray;
And listens to what each one tells,
And does what each may say.
Straightway from out that children-group
One hastened to the church;
And passing where the arches droop,
He entered by the porch.
Now kneeling on the altar high,
To which, by stool he rose,
The tabernacle door so nigh
He beat with gentle blows.
Then bending close the curl-robed ear,
“Good Jesus, art Thou there?”
He asked, and paused a word to hear,
But no sound broke the air.
And then again, the innocent
Tapped softly at the door,
And once again with head low bent,
He listened as before.
No answer came! “He’s fast asleep,
Dear Jesus is; and so
Beside Him very still I’ll keep:
He’ll waken soon, I know.”
Then from within a voice was heard:
“What wouldst thou, little one?”
The child by this to gladness stirred
Felt now his mission done.
“My father is not good to Thee,
And does not go to Mass.
Dear Jesus, grant this now to me:
That sin from him may pass.”
“It shall be so.” What joy to know
His father’s soul should live!
Like grace on us will richly flow
If we let Jesus give.
By Mortimer E. Twomey
Source: The Rosary Magazine, April, 1894.
The doctrines of Godliness are overturned
"The doctrines of Godliness are overturned; the rules of the Church are
in confusion; the ambition of the unprincipled seizes upon places of
authority; and the chief seat is now openly proposed as a reward for
impiety; so that he whose blasphemies are the more shocking, is more
eligible for the oversight of the people.
Priestly gravity has perished; there are none left to feed the Lordʼs flock with knowledge; ambitious men are ever spending, in purposes of self-indulgence and bribery, possessions which they hold in trust for the poor. The accurate observation of the canons are no more; there is no restraint upon sin.
Unbelievers laugh at what they see, and the weak are unsettled; faith is doubtful, ignorance is poured over their souls, because the adulterators of the word in wickedness imitate the truth. Religious people keep silence, but every blaspheming tongue is let loose. Sacred things are profaned; those of the laity who are sound in faith avoid the places of worship, as schools of impiety, and raise their hands in solitude with groans and tears to the Lord in heaven."
Source: St. Basil the Great
The Church of the Fathers, John Henry Newman 1868
The Mother of a priest
Letter of a mother to a friend of her childhood the day following the ordination of her son:
“Dear friend, bless, bless the good God with me; I am the mother of a priest!
It was to you that I wrote, twenty-five years ago, when this child was given to me. I can remember, I was beside myself with happiness! I felt he was really alive near me; I stretched forth my hand to him, I fondled him in his cradle to make quite sure that he was mine own. Oh! What a distance lies between those joys and the ones of today, which raise up my heart and fill it with new sentiments!
I am today the mother of a priest!
These hands which, when little, I kissed so tenderly, 25 years ago, these hands are consecrated, these fingers have touched God!
This intelligence, which has received the light and to which I showed the meaning of life, it has grown, it has been imbued with truth, it has surpassed mine by study and by grace, and behold now, it is consecrated!
This body, that I cared for, and protected, that made me pass many nights in tears, when sickness came upon it, this body has become great, robust, and behold it is consecrated!
Servant of the soul of the priest, it will grow tired in raising up the sinner, instructing the ignorant, giving the Lord to every thinking creature that seeks and asks for it.
This heart. Ah! This pure heart that never touched any other heart but that of his mother, that trembled before all earthly contact, behold it is consecrated! The love that it pours out is called charity. Oh! My son! I know him well; I know what treasures are contained in this concentrated nature. This concentration will be to him as a strong rampart against life, against himself; but in the secrecy of his priesthood, when God will put in his way a weak soul, troubled or lost, how he will find words to raise it up and make it trust in the Divine Goodness.
Yes, yes, he will do good, my child; he will be according to the Heart of God, he will be all charity.
Yes, yes, I am the mother of a priest, of a true priest! How shall I describe yesterday’s ceremony? I was there, but saw no one but him; but him kneeling down, standing up, prostrating, rising up, leaving, full of recollection after the hands of the Bishop had been imposed upon his head, now a priest!
And this morning, he said his second Mass in the little chapel of the humble convent, in silence and between two candles – with a child for his server – his mother and a few intimate friends for the audience!
Ah! When we desire to describe the happiness of Heaven, may we not liken it to the happiness of a mother in beholding God descending at the voice of her son, and being absorbed in such deep adoration as to forget the world, life, the past, and resting only on these two words, God and her son!
There he was, his tall figure, his black hair, his grave bearing, all made him appear noble. I was quite close to the altar, without motion and sensibility. The sound of a body kneeling before the Sacred Host fell upon my eats – my lips moved, I was in an ecstasy – I whispered: Thanks, my God, thanks!
This priest was once mine: I formed him, his soul learned the truth from mine! He is no long mine , but Yours alone! Keep him from every taint of evil; he is the salt of the earth, prevent him from being corrupted! My God, I love You, and I love him! I respect and venerate him, he is your priest!
At the Communion, the server, at my approach, said the Confiteor; the celebrant turned round and raised his right hand; the words of absolution were pronounced over his mother.
My son! With a sigh he took the ciborium, came to me, carrying with him my God! What a moment! What union! God, his priest, and me!…. Was I praying? Really, I do not know. A deep peace filled my soul; I burst into tears; with love and gratitude, I said quietly: “My God! My son!” Yes, for us mothers, prayer is our hope. I never complain. There have been many beautiful days in my life: this one is the sweetest of all, because the thoughts of earth had no place in it.
Farewell, then; I can write no more; my tears moisten the sheet on which I write, they are tears of happiness."
Source: Truth Vol. XVL No.8 August 1912
The Young Priest to His Hands
By Edward F. Garesché, S.J.
Time was when ye were powerless,
To shrive and sign, anoint and bless.
Clasped, ye worshipped from afar,
That Host, as distant as a star.
Your palms were barren still, and cold,
Ye might not touch, ye might not hold,
God, Whom the signs of bread enfold.
But now ah now, most happy hands,
Ye fold the Saviour’s swaddling bands,
Ye lift His tender limbs and keep,
The snowy bed where He doth sleep.
His heart, His blood, His being fair.
All God and Man is in your care!
Ye are His guardians everywhere.
Ye pour the wine, ye break the bread,
for the great Supper sweet and dread!
Ye dress the rood of sacrifice,
Whereon the morning Victim lies,
And when my trembling accent calls,
Swift leaping from His Heaven’s walls,
On you the Light of Glory falls!
You are the altar, where I see
The Lamb that bled on Calvary,
As sacred as the chalice shrine,
wherein doth glow the Blood divine.
As sacred as the pyx are ye,
Oh happy hands – an angel’s fee!
That clasp the Lord of Majesty!
Source: New Catholic World, Vol 107
Celibacy is not the problem - it is the solution
On the day of ordination the young priest dedicates himself to Christ and His mission. He gives everything to the Almighty. Naturally, there will be space in the life of the celibate priest but of necessity it will encourage him to seek fulfillment in God. Where else can contentment be found but before the Blessed Sacrament? Such a man will form a covenant with his maker. Celibacy is for life and the struggle is ongoing but prayer is the answer. Celibacy is God's instrument to make His priests holy. Prayer transforms priests. Have you ever heard of a priest who daily made "the holy hour" leaving the priesthood? The priest who prays succeeds.
Celibacy enables a priest to come close to his parishioners. Yet his celibacy is a challenge to all married couples to remain faithful to their spouse, while those who are single are reminded of the need to remain chaste. Perseverance is a virtue that is necessary in all walks of life.
Unfaithful spouses are always unhappy and it is also true that priests who are unfaithful to their calling are equally unhappy. The Church prescribes clerical celibacy because it frees the priest from all concerns that are part and parcel of married life. "He who is unmarried is concerned with God's claim, asking how he is to please God; whereas the married man is concerned with the world's claim, asking how he is to please his wife; he is torn in two ways." (1 Cor. 33) At times there will be a conflict of interests. And as we all know the husband's first duty is to his wife and family.
Celibacy is a clarion call to our pagan world that a normal human being can voluntarily forgo the gift of marriage because of his extraordinary
love for God. God is his treasure. He is God's chosen individual, His close friend. The celibate priest comes to realize that he must develop
daily patterns of prayer. Penance must be a regular part of his life. However, let us not exaggerate the burden of celibacy on the priest.
Millions of single young men and women throughout the world must also struggle to remain chaste. Just as married couples spend much time together the priest needs to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He needs to become an alter Christus. A number of priests allocate certain times each day for prayer. Happy are those parishioners who know that at such and such a time Father will be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Source: Article from THE LINK April 2000 (A Eucharistic Magazine) VOCATIONS by Pat Ryan
“And the people were waiting for Zachary.”—S. Luke i. 21.
As morning breaks, or evening shadows steal,
Duties and thoughts throng round the marble stair,
Waiting for Him who burneth incense there,
Till He shall send to bless them as they kneel.
Greater than Aaron is the mighty Priest
Who in that radiant shrine for ever dwells;
Brighter the stones that stud His glowing vest,
And ravishing the music of His bells
That tinkle as He moves. The golden air
Is filled with notes of joy that dance and run
Through every court, and make the temple one.
—The lamps are lit; ’tis past the hour of prayer,
And through the windows is their lustre thrown—
Deep in the holy place the Priest doth watch alone.
Source: The Catholic World, November, 1873. p. 219.
Special thanks to Robert Olson
The Lukewarm priest
(That) priest is certainly greatly to blame who is filled with the spirit of the age that he ridicules every pious devotion, even those devotions approved of by the Church; who is, on principle, opposed to pious sodalities and confraternities; who makes light of the rosary, the medal, the scapular and so on; who never encourages the people to practice frequent Communion; who discourages and even opposes those who wish to enter the convent, especially when they are useful to himself; who is, on principle, opposed to missions, to retreats and the like; who looks upon Catholic Schools as a foreign notion, or at least as an unnecessary luxury; who takes more interest in fairs and dances than in teaching his poor children the catechism; who finds more pleasure in fast horses than in the conversion of sinners; who spends more time in carousing, in visiting the theaters and watering places than in instructing the ignorant and praying before his Lord hidden in the tabernacle.
Such a priest is clearly a stumbling block to many on the way of salvation. But let us forget that HE is also an enemy of souls, who is ever guided by rash, imprudent zeal; who sends people to the convent who have no marks of a divine vocation; who encourages young men to study for the priesthood, who are slaves of the most shameful vices; who allow frequent Communion to worldly-minded young women, passionately addicted to so-called fashionable, yet really indecent dances; who show an insane jealousy of their neighboring priests, especially if these priests have the good or ill fortune to be religious!
(…) He is not very strict in observing the rubrics. He rushes through his breviary with little attention and devotion. He confesses but seldom, and even then with little preparation. He hurries through Mass without preparation or thanksgiving, without devotion or recollection. The lukewarm priest may labor much, but his motives are merely natural. His actions are not prompted by the inspirations of grace. Hence he makes so little progress in the path of virtue. He preaches to others, but how does he practice what he preaches. He prays in the name of the Church, but does he pray from his heart? (…) Every day at the altar, he opens heavens to others, while his own heart has no desire for heaven.
Every day our Lord comes down from heaven to cast fire upon his heart, and his heart remains cold; the fire of divine love will not burn. If a man takes every day the most nourishing food and yet does not get strong, he must certainly be sick; there must be something wrong!
Source: The Catholic Priesthood, Michael Muller p68