The Priestly Ministry
Administration of the Sacraments
First Meditation - Esteem for the Sacraments
I. We are shepherds of souls. To each one of us, in due measure, the Lord repeats what He said to the Prince of the Apostles: Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. (John xxi, 16-17)
The two kinds of pastures which I, as shepherd of souls, am obliged to provide for them are: the divine word, by my preaching of the Gospel; and the Sacraments, a nourishment still more sustaining than my preaching, because I thereby confer upon souls the spirit of God, grace.
Lord, I fear I may have slaughtered many sheep of Thy Flock, like a wolf; or, like a hireling, I may have allowed them to starve, keeping them away through my indolence, and even driving them away, from the sources of life. I fear Thou mayest have to say to me: The little ones have asked for bread, and there was none to break it unto them. (Lament. iv, 4.)
II. The Sacraments! . . . Divine Signs that infuse into those who receive them worthily divine sonship. Only those who have received them in a holy manner, in re vel in voto, are, in the full sense of the word, children
The Sacraments! . . . The sole means of eradicating guilt from the soul and communicating the first grace, of keeping it there, of confirming or restoring its possession. All this is done by the priest when he administers the Sacraments.
I am empowered by Heaven to bring forth children of God, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John i, 13); I am commissioned to nourish them, restore them to life, and lead them to the possession of the divine paternal inheritance. What do I do with this power which Christ has entrusted to my feeble hands? Have I received it, do I hold it, with a thankfulness befitting the Almighty's greatest gift to mortal man? Or do I often consider it an encroachment on my repose and on the enjoyment of a soft, leisurely existence?
III. The lovely words of prophecy are fulfilled whenever the Sacraments are received : You shall draw waters with joy out of the Saviour's fountains (Is. xii, 3); and those of Christ Himself: The water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting. (John iv, 14)
Through the power of the Sacraments the priest's hand possesses the art of healing souls: subtly he can penetrate to the deepest centre of the human spirit and cleanse the leprosy of sin, and bring back the life of grace where death had entered; he can cicatrize wounds and ulcers, strengthen the soul in good against its inborn weaknesses, and secure for it the possession of its Heavenly Father's Home.
There is no medical skill capable of doing for the organisms of the body what the priest does for souls through the instrumentality of the Sacraments.
Have I held this tremendous gift of healing in due esteem? Have I not frequently ignored the fact that this power was given to me, not to keep it chained, not to store it away, as in a museum or a safe, but to give it free scope?
To remember the Apostle's instruction to Timothy:
"A special grace has been entrusted to thee. . . do not let it suffer from neglect" (1 Tim. iv, 14); and also our divine Lord's: Freely have you received; freely give. (Matt. x, 8)
To remember this every day, and also to bear in mind that in the Court of Divine Justice our Lord will rightly say to me, if I am negligent, what St. Basil said to the ungenerous rich: "Si non pavisti, occidisti" - if you failed to feed them, you slaughtered them; therefore give Me an account of the souls that perished because you denied them nourishment, the nourishment which was Mine, not your own, and which I entrusted to you for its distribution; for you were but a steward placed over My household for this very purpose.
I will require his blood at thy hand! (Ezech. iii, 18) - I will demand an account for every soul you allowed to perish!
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!