1. The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is not to be regarded merely as a spiritual institution which can be neither touched nor seen; it is a concrete organism which is visible in its members, the faithful, who are joined together under the leadership of their pastors. ” For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office” (Rom. 12,4), so in the Church there are members of diverse importance, having various functions : there are the faithful and there are the shepherds, the priests appointed by Christ to guide souls. To state that Jesus sanctifies and governs us by means of the Church, is to say that He sanctifies and governs us by means of the Bishops and the Pope. Jesus has placed all the powers given to His Church in the hands of the priests, who have been chosen by Him from among the people to become His ministers. ” As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you” (Jn. 20,21) ; ” He that heareth you, heareth Me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me” (Lk. 10,16). The priestly dignity depends upon this investiture by Christ, this appointment as His representative and minister. Priests must be thoroughly aware of the great dignity of their call if they wish to live at the height of their vocation. ” They must be holy, says St. Pius X, because they are the friends and representatives of a holy God. ”
The faithful on their part should see and venerate Christ Himself in their priests. St. Paul, writing to the Christians of Corinth, gave them the exact meaning of his priestly authority: ” For Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors, God, as it were, exhorting by us” ( 2 Cor. 5,20) . And St. Catherine of Siena cautioned her disciples to see priests only as ” the dispensers of the Blood of the humble, Immaculate Lamb” and to overlook the faults which they might notice in them. A priest is a man, and therefore always remains fallible and capable of making mistakes, but this does not prevent him from being the Anointed of the Lord, marked forever with an indelible sign and having the power to consecrate the Body of Christ, to administer the sacraments, and to preach to the people in the name of God.
2. Without the priesthood we would be deprived of the Holy Eucharist; we would never have the consolation of hearing, in the name of God, ” Thy sins are forgiven thee” ( Mt. 9,2 ). If there were no priests, the churches would be deserted, schools would become secularized, there would be no nuptial blessings, the dying would be deprived of final consolation, children would be abandoned to evil; all men would become totally immersed in misery, with no one to raise them up and lead them to God, with no one to pray to Him in their name and for their welfare. But, Jesus, the sole mediator between God and man, willed to institute the priesthood to perpetuate among us, in a visible manner, His work of mediation, salvation, and sanctification. The priest accompanies us at every step of our life. Soon after our birth, he welcomes us at the baptismal font; he administers the Sacraments to us, he helps us to understand divine truths, he shows us how to lead a good life, blesses our efforts, sustains our footsteps, and strengths us in our last agony. He often works unseen and unknown, misunderstood, never sufficiently appreciated; yet his apostolic work is priceless, indispensable. Every Christian ought to be grateful for the gift of the priesthood: in the first place, we should be grateful to Jesus who instituted it, and then to those who perform its sublime duties. We must express this gratitude, not only by showing reverent respect and filial docility to God’s ministers, but also by assiduously offering our prayers and good works for priestly vocations. ” Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send forth laborers into His harvest ” ( ibid. 9,38 ). ” What prayer,” comments Pius XI, ” can be more pleasing to the Sacred Heart of the Redeemer? …. Ask, and it shall be given to you; ask for good, holy priests, and the Lord will not refuse to send them to His Church” ( Ad Catholici Sacerdotii). To our prayers we must add good works ” to awaken, foster and help vocations to the priesthood ” (ibid). Blessed are the families that have had the honor of giving a priest to God; blessed are all those who by their prayers, sacrifices, and good works help in the formation of holy priests!
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy.