Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Priesthood

Last week, I wrote about the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  Most of us are familiar with priests since we see them more often than bishops and deacons.  In his address to seminarians in Ethiopia Pope Benedict had this to offer in regard to priests: "(Christ) does not suppress the person’s characteristic qualities; on the contrary, he elevates them, he ennobles them, making them his; he calls them to serve his ministry and his work."  Essentially, this means that the Sacraments of Holy Orders does not change a man’s personality.  He remains who he is, but is sanctified. Priests come in all shapes and sizes, and so their personalities come in different guises. Our Lord does not miraculously make a man into whatever our ideal conception of a saint is.

Perhaps one would like a jovial priest or a gregarious one.  But, that may not be the case.  When God calls a man to the priesthood, He knows his purpose, and how He will use that man with all of his personality traits and defects.  Through ordination, He will give him the power to administer the Sacraments.

This is why we are expected to respect all priests regardless of our liking certain personality traits or not.  We respect him because he is in the person of Christ, 24/7.  But, there are two things of which we should be mindful.  First, priests must respect priests which means each priest respecting himself.  This involves living the life which is expected of his office all the time.  He must always be aware of who he is wherever he is, whether he is working, recreating, relaxing, etc.  It is, of course, understood that he has to live the moral life. He also is happy living as a priest and doing what God wants.

Secondly, even though a man’s personality is not changed by Holy Orders, no one is given a free pass to meanness or nastiness.  Those might be considered as personality disorders, especially if they are constant.  He is called to respect everyone and to love them as Christ does.

Finally, there is enormous joy in being a priest.  Why? Because he is fulfilling the vocation to which God has called him. He is not a CEO, not a professional of the world, not a entrepreneur; but he is teaching and sanctifying in the person of Christ.

Father Stanley 

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