Holiness of the Priesthood
The Priest as the "Father of Souls"
I. "The purpose for which any high priest is chosen from among his fellow-men, and made representative of men in their dealings with God, is to offer gifts and sacrifices in expiation of their sins." (Hebrews 5:1)
So my first obligation, as a priest, is to offer prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of souls.
As a father of souls, I must pray and weep before God for the sins of the world, with all the love of a father for his beloved children.
And what is the fragrant incense of prayer that appeases the Divine Wrath? What is the sacrifice that God has never disdained? Cor contritum et humiliatum - a heart that is contrite and humbled.
God will hardly listen to prayers for other men if the tongue that utters them He detests; if the heart whence they rise, far from being contrite, is hardened by pride and obdurate in wickedness; if my hands, when raised to Heaven, are steeped in sin.
II. "Keep yourselves unsullied, you that have the vessels of the Lord's worship in your charge." (Is. 52:11)
I am the one set apart, the one consecrated by the Finger of God and by the anointing of His Holy Spirit, to carry the vessels of the Lord; not chalices of silver and gold, not artistic treasures, but rather, those most precious vessels for whose sanctification and redemption Christ, the Almighty and Eternal God, deigned to die on a cross; souls to whom it has been given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; souls made sanctuaries of the Holy Ghost, tabernacles of the Body of Christ.
It is my duty to make those vessels so clean that I leave them worthy to contain God. If the hands that wash are unwashed, will they not add to uncleanliness and minister to profanation?
Faith and devotion constrain me to show in my external demeanour towards the people the loftiest regard; similar to that which I have, for instance, in the celebration of Mass. God forbid that in my relations towards the faithful, the Mystical Body of Christ, I allow myself anything derogatory to the esteem that is their due as souls redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb without stain.
III. An obligation I cannot escape is good example.
St. Peter's admonition to priests rings in my ears:
"Be shepherds of the flock God has given you. Carry out your charge as God would have it done, cordially, not like drudges; generously, not in the hope of sordid gain; not tyrannizing, each in his own sphere; but setting an example, as best you may, to the flock." (I Peter 5:2,3)From a practical and even a theological point of view, the most unanswerable argument for our Faith and morals is a Saint. Give me a saint, that is, a constant imitator of Jesus Christ, and his life will provide an adequate solution to any specious problem raised by irreligion. A good priest is worth more than a dozen works of apologetics. Shall I be worth at least one? Or will my life be a book of apologetics for evil?
My God, am I intimately and fully convinced of these truths? If slackness and foibles keep me far away from genuine holiness of life, do I at least believe that my calling, my God, and my neighbour are crying out for me to acquire it?
This conviction I shall take to heart and engrave on my mind, if only as the first step along the path of perfection.
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.
Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!