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