Friday, November 12, 2010

The Catholic Priesthood- 7 QuickTakes

A few reflections on the priesthood from those who would know better than I...

St. Ambrose of Milan- "We saw the prince of priests coming to us, we saw and heard him offering his blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests, and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in sacrifice here on Earth when the body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered" (Commentaries on Twelve Psalms of David 38:25 [A.D. 389]). 

St Ignatius of Antioch- "Indeed, when you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ, who died for us, that through faith in his death you might escape dying. It is necessary, therefore—and such is your practice that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in him. It is necessary also that the deacons, the dispensers of the mysteries [sacraments] of Jesus Christ, be in every way pleasing to all men. For they are not the deacons of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They must therefore guard against blame as against fire" (Letter to the Trallians 2:1–3 [A.D. 110]).

"In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him" (ibid., 3:1–2). 

St. Cyprian of Carthage- "If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father; and if he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if he commanded that this be done in commemoration of himself, then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, truly functions in place of Christ" (Letters 63:14 [A.D. 253]). 

St. John Chrysostom- "When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?" (The Priesthood 3:4:177 [A.D. 387]).

"Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the sacrificial victim who is placed thereon!" (Homilies on Romans 8:8 [A.D. 391]).

"‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the blood of Christ?’ Very trustworthy and awesomely does he [Paul] say it. For what he is saying is this: What is in the cup is that which flowed from his side, and we partake of it. He called it a cup of blessing because when we hold it in our hands that is how we praise him in song, wondering and astonished at his indescribable gift, blessing him because of his having poured out this very gift so that we might not remain in error; and not only for his having poured it out, but also for his sharing it with all of us. ‘If therefore you desire blood,’ he [the Lord] says, ‘do not redden the platform of idols with the slaughter of dumb beasts, but my altar of sacrifice with my blood.’ What is more awesome than this? What, pray tell, more tenderly loving?" (Homilies on First Corinthians 24:1(3) [A.D. 392]).

"In ancient times, because men were very imperfect, God did not scorn to receive the blood which they were offering . . . to draw them away from those idols; and this very thing again was because of his indescribable, tender affection. But now he has transferred the priestly action to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, he commands the offering up of himself" (ibid., 24:2). 

"I, Patrick, the sinner, am the most rustic and the least of all the faithful . . . had for my father Calpornius, a deacon, a son of Potitus, a priest, who belonged to the village of Bannavem Taberniae. . . . At that time I was barely sixteen years of age . . . and I was led into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of persons, in accordance with our deserts, for we turned away from God, and kept not his commandments, and were not obedient to our priests, who were wont to admonish us for our salvation" (Confession of St. Patrick 1 [A.D. 452]).

and for good measure....

Excerpt from the Pieta Prayer Book (Our Lord's revelations to Mutter Vogel)

"One should NEVER attack a priest, even when he's in error, rather one should ray and do penance that I'll grant him My grace again. He alone fully represents Me, even when he doesn't live after My example!

"When a Priest falls we should extend him a helping hand through prayer and not through attacks! I myself will be his judge, no one but I! Whoever voices judgment over a priest has voiced it over me; child, never let a Priest be attacked, take up his defense. Child, never judge your confessor, rather pray much for him and offer every Thursday, through the hands of My Blessed Mother, Holy Communion (for Him). Never again accept an out-of-the-way word about a priest, and speak no unkind word (about them). Even it were TRUE! Every Priest is My vicar and My Heart will be sickened and insulted because of it~ If you hear a judgment (against a Priest) pray a Hail Mary."

"If you see a Priest who celebrates the Holy Mass unworthily then say nothing about him, rather tell it to Me alone! I stand beside Him on the altar! Oh pray much for my priests, that they'll love purity above all, that they'll celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with pure hands and heart. Certainly the Holy Sacrifice is one and the same even when it's celebrated by an unworthy priest, but the graces called down upon the people is not the same!"
Pray for our priests and bishops!


  1. A certain priest is bemused that no comments have been made on this post- a favorite-priest-story please!

  2. I struggle with accepting the last few about the priest in error. The chaplain at my alma mater was actually driving people away from Mass and the Catholic faith by his ad libbing (even the words of Consecration sometimes), over-culturalizing (homilies about Brittany Spears, supporting abortion, gay "marriage," and the like), not wearing proper vestments, publicly humiliating students who would read if he didn't like the way they did it (in the middle of the Mass), and so on. I cannot count the number of people who told me they would have attended Mass (and a couple who might have converted) but were so disgusted that they stopped. Were they particularly dedicated if they took this as a reason to stop attending Mass? No. But if they felt "chased away" there was no possibility for them to learn more about the beauty of our Catholic Faith. Personally, I had to make the decision that attending Mass on campus had almost become an occasion of sin because I was so distracted and angry. And we are to sit back and do nothing while people are leaving over these abuses? I know that despite everything, he still stands in persona Christi, but in some ways, doesn't that make the problems even worse?

  3. Annony11- I hear you! yes- I think when a priest is evil like you describe, it is even worse than a lay person because they are in persona Christi- as it says in the Bible, "It would be better that he never was born."

    I think the point of the quote is that the judge needs to be God Himself- but you can still go to his bishop and change Masses if you need to. The coffee and donut line is not the place to critique the priest, however.

    I think for us lay people, this prayer/quote is good so that we will be merciful to a priest when he mispronounces a word or maybe seems a little standoffish or forgets something. There have been people who have complained if my husband BREATHES in the wrong place while singing the Gospel. Not exaggerating.

    For a priest to scandalize lay people in the ways that you have described is so awful- it is best that we don't dwell on it because he might be in mortal sin (I say 'might be') because God is the only judge.


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