Friday, January 29, 2010

Catholic Priests: Bridges Between Heaven and Earth

Jesus Christ, the definitive and perfect priest, established the ordained (or ministerial) priesthood with which the Apostles were the first to be invested. Conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the gift and mystery of ordained priesthood is the means by which Christ continuously builds up and leads his Church.

The priesthood is not an occupation but rather a vocation. Priests are men chosen by God to lay down their lives as bridges between heaven and earth. No one has a right to become a priest. Indeed, the priesthood can never be claimed by a man, for a man is called to it by God. Like every grace, the Sacrament of Holy Orders can be received only as an unmerited gift. The man who believes he may have a call to priesthood must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility to determine whether the call is genuinely from Christ.

Priests act in the person of Christ (in persona Christi) as the head of the Church sanctifying, leading, and teaching God’s people. At the same time, priests also act in the name of the Church: offering the sacrifice of the Holy Mass and administering the other Sacraments for the salvation of God’s people and of the world itself.

The call of priesthood is a call to configure one’s whole being to the person of Jesus Christ. All that a priest is and does is embraced with this end in mind. His whole life is focused on his sanctification and the sanctification of God’s people.

A diocesan priest responds to this call to sanctity in the context of his priestly promises. In imitation of Christ who chose the celibate way of life, the priest chooses to “keep for ever this commitment as a sign of [his] dedication to Christ the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the service of God and man” (Rite of Ordination). A life of celibacy frees the priest to be available to love all people with the love of Christ himself.

Recognizing that his call to priesthood is much bigger than his personal relationship to God, the priest lives out this call through a life in Christ’s Church. He acknowledges the authority and leadership of his bishop and promises respect and obedience to him. The relationship between a priest and his bishop is to enable him to best serve the members of the local Church.

As the priest accepts the call to spiritual leadership, he promises God and all God’s people that he will “exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely”; “celebrate faithfully and reverently the mysteries of Christ, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation”; “observe the command to pray without ceasing”; and “resolve to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest,…and with him to consecrate [himself] to God for the salvation of all” (Rite of Ordination).
~ From the Diocese of Toledo ~

Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, Mother of all Priests, and our Mother, help us respond generously to the Holy Spirit's request, through the voice of His Church, to offer up to God Eucharistic adoration for priests. Amen.

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