When asking what a priest does we can look to the tradition of the church to see that the main “work” of a priest could best be described as a share in the Tria Munera of Christ the Lord: The Sanctify, Teach and Govern. In this post we will look at the ministry of teaching, by which a priest builds up the people of God in the truth of the Gospel.
Priests share in the teaching office of Jesus Christ, the Truth. The Gospels very simply relate that Jesus “...on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mark 1: 21b-22 ). Jesus was a teacher, who was most often referred to as Rabbi, and instructed the people in the way of the Kingdom. He taught with authority and clarity and many believed his teaching. One of the most widely regarded aspects of priestly life is that of teaching primarily through preaching at Mass. When priests preach at Mass they are not simply sharing their own ideas or telling funny stories, but rather they are sharing in the teaching office of Christ himself. They teach with a certain authority, and should clearly and lovingly communicate the truth of the Gospel and the dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church. The aim of a homily is to further introduce people to Jesus the Truth, so that knowing him they may love and follow him more faithfully.
Priests also teach through advice given in the confessional, through spiritual direction, and through times of formal instruction in Catechism lessons or teaching classes at local Catholic schools. While not a liturgically visible as the Homily at Mass these times of teaching are still in union with Christ the teacher. In all these ways our priests share in this aspect of the priestly office of Jesus Christ.
~ Fr. Michael Casey
The priest is the most powerful man alive. A frail, dying priest is more powerful than the strongest bodybuilder or the wealthiest celebrity or the most influential politician.
Power is the capacity to make change occur. Lots of people have the power to create change in this world, for better or for worse. But none of them have the power of the Roman Catholic priest: the power to command God of the universe…and God obeys! This is true power, the most ultimate change.
As Saint Alphonsus Liguori says, “The dignity of the priesthood is also estimated from the power that he has over the real and the mystical body of Jesus Christ. When they pronounce the words of consecration, the Incarnate Word has obliged Himself to obey and to come into their hands under the sacramental species. Imagine. The Lord God, obeying the voice of a man…”
~ Fr. Anthony Federico
As a young boy when I first grasped that there was going to be a shortage of priests I remember experiencing a pang of guilt accompanied by an interior question – “Am I the one who has to make the sacrifice to be a priest?!” Even though my faith was important to me and the dearth of vocations disturbed me, I did not want to be a priest. I desired to be married and to have a family. With some rationalization I found myself a convenient excuse: “I am a math and science guy. I want to be an engineer. Those men who like English and writing – those are the ones whose duty it is to be priests!”
As the years went by I embarked on engineering studies. It was in the midst of a thriving campus ministry that I learned that we don’t just have a shortage of men signing up to be priests, we have a shortage of faithful men period. This revolutionized my world-view. It allowed me to instead put the focus on growing in my relationship with Christ rather than on a yes or no to the priesthood. Gradually something unexpected happened. A deep desire overtook the guilt feeling I had about the priesthood. Yes, the sacrifice was there, but this time, I wanted to make that sacrifice for Christ and His Church – this time, I wanted to be a priest.
~ Fr. John Gancarz
When asking what a priest does we can look to the tradition of the church to see that the main “work” of a priest could best be described as a share in the Tria Munera of Christ the Lord: The Sanctify, Teach and Govern. In this post we will look first at the ministry of sanctification, which is the first and most common way most people encounter the priesthood.
Priests sanctify in celebrating the sacraments which objectively make people Holy, or set apart for God. In Baptism we are washed clean of original sin and become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. In this way we are objectively made holy. When we receive Holy Communion we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ and, if we receive communion worthily our holiness grows just as surely as physical nourishment causes the body to “grow”. Through confirmation we are sealed with and strengthened by the Gift of the Holy Spirit so that our holiness may overflow in works of apostolate. Priests restore lost holiness through the Sacrament of Confession and provide strength and support those experiencing grave illness through the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
Finally Priests witness the vows of those entering into matrimony, to live holiness in the married state. Bishops confer the sacrament of Holy Orders which sets a man apart for service in the church and participation in the priestly office of Christ. Additionally priests sanctify by their life of prayer, praying for and with God’s people. Every priest promises to pray without ceasing for the people of God, asking that they be granted great holiness. Particularly when praying the Liturgy of the Hours the priest lends his voice to Christ for the sanctification of the Church and the whole World.
~ Fr. Michael Casey
The answer to our quest for happiness lies in recognizing that what our heart longs for is Our Creator. Many men discerning a potential call to the priesthood have opened themselves to the answer: allow God to be the center to their lives. Excellent!
Yet a struggle seems to remain sometimes: “I know God’s Will is to place Him at the center of my life. But how do I know it’s really His Will that I serve Him as a priest?” Seek the answer to this question because God’s Wills to answer. Getting the answer, however, requires taking concrete steps forward including daily prayer, reception of God's Sacraments; and certainly, reaching out to one of the priests in the vocation’s office.
God Wills to help you find out if He is indeed calling you to the priesthood, and His help entails allowing His Church to formally accompany you in your journey.
~ Fr. Jaime G. Maldonado
No, you can’t get married.
No, you can’t have sex.
No, you can’t be a dad and raise a family.
No, you can’t make serious money.
No, you can’t determine the course of your own life.
When I first felt the call as a teenager, I thought of the priesthood through the lens of all these Nos. Most of the priests I knew growing up embodied this life of No – unapproachable, grouchy and insecure in their authority.
Who would want that kind of life? Not me, for sure. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, when I started taking the faith seriously for the first time, that I started to think of the priesthood as, not a list of Nos, but one great YES.
Yes, Lord, I offer you my body.
Yes, Lord, I offer you my masculinity.
Yes, Lord, I offer you my strengths.
Yes, Lord, I offer you my weaknesses.
Yes, Lord, I offer you my past.
Yes, Lord, I offer you my future.
YES, Lord, I give you all of me – without conditions or reservations – in the ultimate YES. Yes, Lord, I will serve you as a priest.
If you are struggling with your calling to the priesthood, reframe what the priesthood is. It’s not a series of Nos, it’s the life of YES.
~ Fr. Anthony J. Federico
Why can’t Jesus do to me as He did to Saul? Flash a bright light! Make me fall! Speak to me audibly, tell me once and for all: "Yes, I am indeed calling you to My Priesthood!”
Saul’s call to conversion, as we read in Acts 9, is indeed filled with extraordinary, astonishing events. That’s what I wanted. Yet, as I went through High School, college, the workplace, my ‘Saul-moment’ never seemed to come. What kept coming up was this relentless question: Could it be that I am called to the priesthood?
For too long my answer was a list of questions: How can I be certain Jesus is calling? What is this “calling” supposed to look like anyway? What if this relentless question is my way of escaping disappointments? Can I be happy as a priest? How do I even go about this?
Eventually, I had to find out. It wasn’t until I reached out, was accepted and began formal discernment, that I began to see how the relentless question was not my own, but Christ giving me a chance to give everything I am to Him through His Priesthood.
A relentless, constant question…that was my ‘Saul-moment’.
- Fr. Jaime G. Maldonado
Many people, wondering what God’s plan for their life may be, ask the question, “do I have a vocation?” In order to begin to answer that question we need to know what a vocation even is. The word vocation derives from the Latin word vocare which means “to call”. A vocation simply is a calling. The first calling we each have on account of our baptism, is the call to holiness. We have been chosen by God to be holy, as St. Paul says in the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians. This is the call shared by every baptized person.
Sometimes, God issues another call for someone to follow Him more radically. This is the call to the priesthood or religious life. It is a call to step outside of our normal daily activities and dedicate ourselves more fully to the Glory of God and the spread of the Gospel. This is what many people mean when they begin considering if they have a “vocation”. What is important in all this is not to confuse the two calls. A person who feels called to greater holiness, prayerfulness, and love of God is feeling the call which each of us should be pursuing. It is from this that one is then called to more radical self gift and apostolic activity.
This small amount of clarity in what we are even asking helps set the stage so we can take the first steps in growing in holiness and have the freedom to then hear the voice of the Master if he should call us by name and say, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.
~ Fr. Casey