Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Praised be Jesus Christ!
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday on the revised calendar, while last Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday on the traditional calendar. As I indicated last week, this time of year is opportune to contemplate the importance of praying for priests and priestly vocations in the life of the Church. Imagine our church and our world without priests, and imagine what our church and our world would be like with more priests. Even more faithful and holy priests, like St. Philip Neri.
The life of the priest is blessed. He is permanently configured to Christ the priest, to offer sacrifice to God and bring about the forgiveness of sins; the most important works that can be accomplished in the world today. For in those two acts, the priest makes present to us the entirety of Christ’s mission for His people. The priest rejoices with families during happy days and mourns with them on sad days. Encouraging them to virtue, to holiness, to sacrifice. So that hopefully at the end of his life, those he assisted to attain eternal life are there to welcome him into the kingdom of Heaven.
The life of a priest is also riddled with temptation; temptations to be the priest that is liked; temptations to a life a comfort; temptations to the same vices that tempt the faithful in the pews. Though he has been given a great gift, that gift did not destroy his nature. Hopefully, the priest has allowed it to build upon it, but this, unfortunately, does not always happen. Especially when the priest forgets the dignity that was given to him, or believes that he is entitled to the dignity.
But make no mistake, if lived correctly, the life of the priest isn’t easy. Just as it isn’t easy to wake up and care for crying babies at night, neither is it easy to go to the bed of a dying person in need of the Sacraments. Families often struggle to keep a balanced checkbook and ensure bills are paid, just as pastors must do the same thing to keep the lights on in the church. The priest is often called upon to rejoice with one family on any given day, at a baptism for example, and then later that day mourn with another at the death of a loved one. Canon Law states that a priest is to celebrate only one Mass per day, a practice still used by the Eastern Church, but there are few places on earth where this happens for Roman Catholics. With most priests in the United States saying three or four Masses on a Sunday, to ensure that we have the Sacraments available to us. It is the love the priest has for his people that make this possible. It is a life worth living and a life worth encouraging.
Please do well to pray for priests daily, especially your priests. The priests who baptized you, gave you absolution, gave you Holy Communion, who currently pastor you. And please pray for others to fill these ranks in the future, so that this great gift of God to the Church continues until the end of time. Next Sunday, we will look specifically at the day of an Oratorian. Have a blessed week!