What and who is a priest?
"Priests are, in the Church and for the Church, a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd." St. John Paul II.
When a priest is formed and receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders, he is prepared to lend his body and spirit, that is, his whole being, to the Lord, making use of him "especially in those moments in which he performs the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ when, in the name of God, in sacramental Confession, he forgives sins.
The administration of these two Sacraments is so central to the priest's mission that everything else must revolve around it." St. Josemaría.
As for the mission of a priest, "precisely because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of men: he is a minister of their salvation, of their happiness, of their authentic liberation".
Mission of a priest
"This priesthood is ministerial. 'This function, which the Lord entrusted to the shepherds of his people, is a true service' (CV II, LG, 24)".
This is the reason for the dignity of priests, which is not personal but ecclesial. The dignity of the mystery they perform, each time they convert the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord, is the reason of faith that gives meaning to all of Christianity.
In these priests, we admire the virtues proper to any Christian and any honest man: understanding, justice, a life of work (priestly work in this case), charity, education, gentleness in dealing with others.
We, the Christian faithful, expect the priestly character to be clearly emphasized: that the priest should pray; that he should administer the Sacraments; that he should be ready to welcome all, whatever their type; that he should put love and devotion into the celebration of the sacraments; that he should be ready to welcome all, whatever their type; that he should put love and devotion into the celebration of the Holy Mass; who sits in the confessional, who consoles those who are patients and to the afflicted; to have counsel and charity for the needy; to give catechesis; to preach the Word of God and not some other kind of human science which, even if it were perfectly known, would not be the science that saves and leads to eternal life.
"God is the only wealth that, ultimately, men wish to find in a priest." Benedict XVI, Speech, 16-03-2009.
What is your identity?
St. Josemaría asks: "That of Christ. All Christians can and must be not alter Christus, but ipse Christus: other Christs, Christ himself! But in the priest this is given immediately, in a sacramental way".
St. Josemaría, Priest for eternity, 13-04-1973.
"Our identity has as its ultimate source the love of the Father (...) The life and ministry of the priest are a continuation of the life and action of Christ himself".
St. John Paul II, Message, 02-11-1990.
Why did Christ institute the priestly ministry?
The priestly ministry exists not for itself, but for "the formation of the Christian community, to the point of making it capable of radiating faith and love in civil society". (Blessed Álvaro del Portillo - Writings on the Priesthood).
Since his identity is sacramentally the identity of Christ, the priest's fidelity corresponds to the fidelity of Christ. Hence the need for the holiness of the priest, not only for the objective efficacy of the sacraments, but for the full future of the service which, with every ministry, he renders to the faithful.
"Although their difference is essential and not only in degree, [the baptismal or common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood] are ordained to each other." (LG, 10).
"The ministerial priesthood was born in the Upper Room, together with the Eucharist, as my venerable John Paul II so often emphasized. 'Priestly existence must possess as a special title a Eucharistic form,' he wrote in his last Letter of Holy Thursday (n. 1). It is precisely this 'Eucharistic form' of the priest's life that makes his celibate state so happily suitable, which substantiates his dedication to belong to the Church with a spousal love, continually stimulating in him pastoral charity in the service of all souls."
Priests, God's smile on Earth
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