On the Catholic Priesthood
The priesthood is a supernatural institution, charged, from the time He was promised to the world, with representing Christ: with figuring Him and prophesying Him before His coming, with continuing Him, serving as His instrument and organ since His advent; and as human paternity reminds us of the Divine paternity; as the regal office among men shadows forth the sovereignty of God; as the idea of sacrifice is explained by that of sin and expiation, so does the priesthood presuppose and show forth not Christ only, but the whole of Christianity which is summed up therein.
Source: Catholic Doctrine as defined by the Council of Trent by the Rev. A. Nampon, S.J.
Absence of Vocations to the Priesthood
To what shall we attribute the absence of vocations to the priesthood, of which we are compelled to make complaint? It the cause in the absence of vigorous Catholic faith - a faith grasping in its narrow range of vision the fullness of the responsibilities that a plenary loyalty to the Saviour imposes upon His followers - a faith prompt to the call of those responsibilities, ready in generosity of soul and willingness of sacrifice to obey their every behest? At first sight, this, I confess, would seem to be the cause. Where Catholic faith reigns supreme, youths not the few there should be to rise in aspiration and self-consecration to the mountain-tops where the rays of the supernatural shine the brightest and unfold in clearest light the splendors of divine life. Youths not the few there should be to instantly answer the call from on high: "Speak, O Lord, for Thy servant heareth Thee. " The call from on high is surely spoken, since it is His will that the Church be supplied with priests, and His call it to the whole Church. To every land, in every diocese, to every parish the word is said, once said to Simon and Andrew - "Come follow me." Now, where this call is the voice crying in the wilderness, should we not be tempted to believe that there something is awry, that their Catholic faith is somewhat weak and timid? In an army of soldiers the general level is low, where all clamor to be led, where none are willing to lead, where none spring to battle, so soon as the commander speaks, and rush to the heights of valor and sacrifice.
Given the community of Catholics, which seldom or never makes offering of a candidate to the priesthood - given the diocese, unable to supply itself out of its own bosom with a full legion of priest - what the verdict it at once suggests!
Is it not this - that faith there is weak, unable to do more than hold its life, without ever bursting forth into luxuriant leaf or blossom? Is it not this - that the soil, into which the divine word is cast, is wanting in native nutriment, or is without that art of cultivation which not only begets the common crop of plant and shrub, but, now and then, here and there, bids upward the tall tree, the fragrant rose-bush, where with to adorn the landscape and cause the passerby to pause and be gladdened?
The cause is this - people and priests have not been asked to advert to the problem confronting us, have not been made to understand its bearings and the obligations it imposes. A trumpet sound is in order to re-echo far and wide, proclaiming needs and duties, summoning priests and people to the charge to the work, which once seen will surely be done.
We become so accustomed to rejoicing in the many accessions daily coming into the Church from among the well disposed who are ever seeking that peace and contentment, that tranquility of life which the possession of the true faith alone can give, that we not unfrequently lose sight of the losses incurred by the Church through the negligence of those who once claimed the honor of membership in her fold. Nothing is perhaps sadder than to unravel the history of a Catholic who has been unfaithful to his great trust, for it is then that the results which might have been, dawn on us, and we see how utterly impossible it is to repair the loss.
Just to illustrate: A few years ago, a lady well along in years came to see a priest about being received into the Catholic church which her mother had left on the occasion of her marriage. She told the priest that she was one of seven children, four of whom had married and had become the parents of twenty-four children.
"Your mother, then," rejoined the priest, "was responsible for the loss of her own seven and in all probability of her twenty-four grandchildren, making in all a known loss of 31 members suffered by the church, through her defection."
Like many another weak and careless mortal, she had gone on through life, unconscious of the havoc her defection had wrought in the Lord's fold, or unmindful of the awful responsibility laid upon her, and the great, untold, immeasurable damage for which she would one day have to answer. The fact is real: it is only one of the many which almost constantly come to the experience of a priest on the missions: and while from his heart he may deplore and pray for the wandering member of the House of Israel, he must leave to the recording angel the sad task of summing up the souls thereby lost to God's eternal kingdom.
Priestly Vocation in Christian Families
The blessing of Heaven upon a Christian family is the gift of a priestly vocation to one of its children. It is the reward of the fidelity to God; it is the sure mark of such fidelity. There are families, where, short of a special miracle of grace, a vocation never germinates, or if somehow it is there born, it quickly withers and dies. Those are the families, where the usual atmosphere is repellent, to the sweetness and comeliness of Christian life, where the example of parents so lowers the spiritual tone of the child, that it banishes from his mind all supernal thought, from his heart all freshness of grace and purity. In quest for vocation, we must first discover the Christian home, the Christian father and mother. Granted to a parish, or to a diocese true Christian families, vocation will not be wanting. They are the choice flowers of the well-cultivated garden, whose soil is rich, whose nutriment is the descending dew of the skies. The Christian home is the nursery of vocations; other agencies - presbyteries, colleges or seminaries - are the mere helpers to growth and development.
Grace of Priesthood
If the Christian priesthood is raised so far above the Jewish in its nature and mode of transmission, it is also contrasted with the Jewish priesthood in the grace and clemency of its origin. I have stated that the Jewish priesthood began in the slaughter of sinners; whereas our Lord consecrated the hands of the Apostles, not in the blood of sinners, but in His own Precious Blood, about to be shed for sinners, when He instituted the most holy Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Altar. Therefore, at the present day the hands of the priest are anointed at his ordination with the holy oil, which typifies not justice, but mercy.
For functions such as those of the Christian priest, great graces are required, and great virtues may be demanded. We cannot have sinless priest, yet the candidate must be "without crime, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" ( I Tim. iii. 9). Let anyone compare the list of virtues mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistles to St. Timothy and ST. Titus, with the list of bodily or physical qualities enumerated by Moses as necessary for the Jewish priest, if he would understand the difference between the two covenants.
"One would need to be a Saint to celebrate worthily. When we are in Heaven, we will appreciate the value of the Mass and how often we have said it without due reverence, or worship, or recollection."
Source: Saint John Mary Vianney (The Priest in Union with Christ, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.)
"If we would only bear in mind, dearly beloved brethren, the exalted character of the things that the Lord God has placed in our hands, what unbounded influence would not this have in impelling us to lead lives worthy of ecclesiastics! Has not the Lord placed everything in my hand, when He put there His only-begotten Son, co-eternal and coequal with Himself? In my hand He has placed all His treasures, His sacraments, His graces; He has placed there souls, than whom nothing can be dearer to Him; in His love He has preferred them to Himself, and redeemed them by His Blood; He has placed heaven in my hand, and it is in my power to open and close it to others . . . How, then, can I be so ungrateful for such condescension and love as to sin against Him, to offend His honor, to pollute this body which is His? How can I come to defile this high dignity, this life consecrated to His service?"
Source: St. Pope Pius X (To the Catholic Clergy on Priestly Sanctify)
A Bed-Ridden Priesthood
Oh! it is good to stand each day,
A trembling, happy priest,
And offer up the Victim-God
And taste the heavenly feast.
But it is better yet to lie
Helpless, alone and still,
God’s victim on a bed of pain,
A martyr to His will.
To feed on Jesus is the life
Of all th’angelic host,
To suffer and to sigh for Him
No seraphim can boast.
Source: Rev. Edmund Vaughan, C.SS.R.
Lyra Hieratica: poems on the priesthood / collected from many by Fr. Thomas Edward Bridgett,, 1829-1899.
A Call to Arms
Awake! O Church of Christ, Awake! Thy loveless tasks of life forsake: His cross upon thy shoulders take! Thou living Body of the Lord, Gird on the Gospel's gleaming sword: A heaven-sprung power in thee is stored. Thy stately Nave, thy Reredos, Was it for these He suffered loss? For ins He died upon the Cross. Thy marble Altar, gem-inlaid, The Sumptuous robe with incense sprayed; For such as these was He betrayed? Thou doest well to glorify With beauty pleasing to the eye, But not for them came He to die. O Church! Is it through fault of thine That millions lack the Gift divine Which strengthens thee in Bread and Wine? In some degree hast thou denied The tidings of the Crucified, By shameful sloth or selfish pride? Till thou has drunk His Cup of Pain, And brought dead souls to life again Thy gold is dross, thy rites profane. Arise, O Church! And in thy might Go forth to Chris ho is thy Light: Faith and His touch shall give thee sight! Source: St. Andrew's Cross, 1922
A Priest Forever!
It is significant that Holy Orders is one of the three Sacraments that impress an indelible seal or mark on the soul, called character. It implies a special consecration to almighty God, and is a reminder that the person thus sealed or marked should walk worthy of the character he bears, either as a child, a soldier, and, above all, a priest of the true God.
Once a priest, a priest forever, whether he tread in the footsteps of John and Augustine, or of Judas and Arius.
Pray, then, for the young Levite, who says his first Mass today, that the grace of Holy Orders planted in his soul may bear fruit abundantly, and ever aid him in his high and arduous office.
Pray the Lord of the Vineyard, that He may send laborers into His vineyard, men "powerful in work and word"; men with wills of steel, and hearts of gold, men of light and leading, trained like St. Paul, in the best of all schools, that of "Christ and Him crucified."
Pray for him and all, remembering that they carry the great grace and responsibilities of Holy Orders, "in vessels of clay. " And whilst availing yourselves of their ministrations in the great work of saving your souls, do not fail to thank God, "who hath given such power to men."
Priests are, in St. Paul's words "the dispensers of the mysteries of God." They thus guard and administer the channels of grace. We may say, therefore, with truth, that Holy Orders is the fountain of spiritual life in the Church. It is the source of all the streams of grace that water the garden of God. Without Holy Orders the world, spiritually, would be a wilderness. It would like under perpetual interdict.
The city of God, alive today with the hum of prayer, and praise, and sacrifice, would be, without Holy Orders, like a city of the dead, as silent and lifeless as the grave. So pressing is the need of a priesthood, that where the churches are closed or desecrated, and the true priests slain or driven away, they get soon re-opened; and if the altar and true sacrifice are not restored, they are replaced by a table or reading desk, and a sham clergy put in to take the place of real sacrificing priests. If men cease to worship the true God by the one true sacrifice, through the one true priesthood, they take to themselves false ones. Divine worship of some sort is a social need.
Hence, the devil's best weapon in his war with Christ is the removal or corruption of the clergy, the drying up, in fact, or poisoning, the wells of Holy Orders. All the great persecutors, from Nero downwards, have mainly aimed their death-blows at the heads of the clergy. "Scatter the shepherds, and the flocks will be dispersed." is their motto.
All Glory to the Blood of Jesus
"The Precious Blood has doubtless always been honored in the Church by devotion to the Passion and Holy Eucharist, but It requires, It exacts a particular homage in our days, since hell, whose hatred for It is extreme, has caused It to be particularly trampled upon and despised...Careless and indifferent Christians, though well aware that is was sin which caused Its most painful effusions, incessantly commit the self-same sins. Jesus complains of this by the mouth of the Prophet: "Of what avail is My Blood? and asks for some return for the world's ingratitude towards the Price of our Salvation.
source: Devotion to the Precious Blood
Offerings to the Divine Incarnate Word of His own Most Precious Blood
O most Holy Word! I offer Thee Thy priests, and in their behalf I offer thee whatever is most dear to Thee in heaven and on earth, in union with all Thy Most Precious Blood: and I pray Thee to enable them fitly to conceive of the high degree to which they are exalted, and to hold in extreme abhorrence whatever can dishonor their dignity or contaminate their lives.
O most Loving Word! I offer Thee the Virgins consecrated to Thee, and in their behalf I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood which Thou didst sweat in Thine Agony, in the garden. I place these doves in their own nest, and these lilies in their garden, Thy most amiable Heart; and I pray Thee to make them know the height of the vocation to which Thou hast called them, and faithfully correspond to Thy love.
O Eternal Word! I offer Thee all the faithful sons of Holy Church, Thy Spouse, members of that body of which Thou art the Head; and I offer Thee in their behalf the Most Precious Blood which Thou didst shed in Thy scourging: I pray Thee to cause them to remember the solemn renouncement of the world, the flesh, and the devil, which they made in baptism; and that they may lead such lives as will not bring discredit on the faith which they profess.
O Divine Word! I offer Thee all poor sinners, and in their behalf I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood and Water which issued from Thy sacred Side when pierced by the lance. I pray Thee to wash the stains from their souls in this Blood and Water, and to grant that, with a timely repentance, they may, by returning love for love, make up for the sins they have committed against Thee.
O Eternal Word! I offer to Thee all heretics, and in their behalf I offer Thee that Most Precious Blood which Thou didst shed from Thy Body, all wounded as it was, when Thou wast stripped to be crucified. I entreat Thee to have compassion on these poor sheep, which, separated from Thy fold, are on the way to lose themselves in the paths of error and obstinacy; and place them in the bosom of Thy Church, where alone truth and safety are found.
O Divine Word! I offer Thee all infidels, and in their behalf I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood which Thou didst shed from Thy sacred Head when crowned with thorns. I beseech Thee to remember that these souls also are the work of Thy Hands. Enlighten them, that they may know their true and only God, and their Savior; that they too may be made partakers of the grace of the Sacraments, and of our common redemption.
Eternal Father! I offer Thee the intense pains which Thy only-begotten Son did suffer, during the three hours that he was nailed to the Cross for love of us; particularly when, in the intensity of His grief and abandonment, He exclaimed, " My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?" I offer them to Thee in behalf of all those in their agony, together with the Blood that flowed from His five wounds; that they, by the power of this Blood, may be fortified and defended against all temptations, and may reach the port of eternal bliss.
O most merciful Word! I offer to Thee all the holy souls in Purgatory, and in then- behalf I offer Thee Thy most Precious Blood. I beseech Thee to grant that this sacred fount of comfort may incessantly flow to mitigate their pains, and to hasten their release, that so they may quickly come to be united with Thee in that glory to which they are destined. Amen.
O Eternal Father! I offer Thee the love which Jesus Christ, Thy Son, testified towards the human race during the whole course of His Passion, and especially in the pain which He endured in the hiding of the Beatific Vision from the lower part of His nature. I pray Thee that Thy complacency in this love may so delight Thee, that Thou mayest mercifully vouchsafe to overlook the many offenses committed against Thee in the world at this time.
Seven Glorias in honor of the Most Precious Blood.
Aspirations for Each Day: July 5
Eternal Father! I offer Thee the merits of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, Thy beloved Son and my divine Redeemer, for all those who shall this day pass to another life, that Thou mayest deliver them from the pains of hell, and admit them the more readily to the possession of Thy Glory.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Blessed and praised for evermore be Jesus, who hath saved us with His Blood!