On the Catholic Priesthood
The Good Priest
If you wish to know how much good a priest can accomplish in the Church, you have only to examine how far he is willing to give up self in order that the spirit of Jesus Christ may enter his heart and abide there.
Source: Jesus Living in the Priest, The General Idea of the Priest by Rev. Fr. Jacques Millet
Study of Jesus Christ
Whosoever knows Jesus Christ possesses all knowledge; whosoever knows Him not is ignorant of all things, even though he may have mastered all that is taught in the academies of the learned.
The Word-made-flesh is the sun of truth and the light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world; He is the unutterable secret of His heavenly Father, the mystery of His love that lay hidden during the ages that precede His coming.
In the Chapel
In vain the torch of glimmering flame
Touches you taper's cold unyielding white;
Yet why so feeble? Why so loth to light?
All around thee stand ablaze. Art not the same?
Nor soul, nor taper ventureth to reply,—
"The smoking flax, this dull, reluctant spark,
Enkindle, Lord." Quick answering through the dark,
The taper glows, the soul uplifts its cry.
O parable of Peace from One on high
That poor reluctant candle, Lord, am I.
The Blessed Sacrament
Jesus! my Lord, my God, my All
How can I love Thee as I ought?
And how revere this wondrous gift
So far surpassing hope or thought?
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore!
Oh make us love Thee more and more.
Had I but Mary's sinless heart
To love Thee with, my dearest King,
Of with what bursts of fervent praise
Thy goodness, Jesus, would I sing!
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore,
Oh make us love Thee more and more.
Oh, see! within a creature's hand
The vast Creator deigns to be,
Reposing infant-like, as though
On Joseph's arm or Mary's knee,
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore!
Of make us love Thee more and more.
Thy Body, Soul, and Godhead all!
Oh, mystery of love divine!
I cannot compass all I have;
For all Thou hast and art are mine!
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore!
Of make us love Thee more and more. Amen.
A priest is not one merely chosen to read public prayers, or preach, or take a leading part in local good works. No sacramental symbol is required to enable a man to discharge these offices. The main function of the priest is to sacrifice; and, in the new law, to absolve from sin. Divine service is not necessarily Divine sacrifice. The rite of sacrifice, as essential, indeed , the main central act of worship, can never perish from the earth, not a priesthood to offer it. Forms, rites and ceremonies may change - not the priestly offering.
The abrogation of the sacrifices of the old law was only the introduction of the one majestic sacrifice of the new, still carried on in the Mass, and offered daily by the new priesthood " from the rising to the setting sun."
There is, and was, only one sacrifice worthy of God, and adequate to atone for sin - that of Christ on Calvary. That one sacrifice is still offered in an un-bloody manner in the Mass by the visible priesthood, representing and sharing in the power of our one invisible High Priest, Christ. Mystic powers are conveyed in Holy Orders, the chief of which is the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross, "Do this in commemoration of me." This command to sacrifice, i.e., offer Christ's precious Body and Blood, the Church faithfully carries out through her priests. The Victim is the same, the priest the same, Jesus Christ, speaking through His priest, the manner only differs.
The Mass is the Sun of Divine worship. It sums up in solemn splendor and spiritual beauty all other outward forms of sacrifice. We may say, in a reverent sense, that the old and new law survive in the Mass. Nature, in the form of grape and wheat, all that men can bring in the way of art, and wealth, and taste, flowers,a nd music, and, on occasions, majestic rites, are embodied in the great Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. All men's gifts to God circle round the altar, or are collected in the church, where holy Mass is offered by the priest, "first for his own sins, then for the people's" (Heb. VII, 27). The Mass is the one changeless Sacrifice of the Cross, offered up all the world over, to the quick and the dead.
Source: Holy Orders, by the Rev. William Graham. A Pulpit Commentary on Catholic Teaching: The liturgy of the ecclesiastical year. 1910
Before yon earthly shrine, O dearest Lord,
Knelt two whose lives like tapers burn for Thee,
— Thy holy priests now, bearers of Thy Word,
And guardians of Thy Sacred Mystery.
Pure as the lily keep those human hearts,
And spotless as the Host those hallowed souls;
While far above the joy this world imparts,
Be theirs that peace Thy Sacred Word extols.
O make them strong and comfort them in pain,
In hour of trial sorrowing apart;
And lest their life-long sacrifice be vain,
Enclose them in Thy Sacred, Wounded Heart,
Source: The Maine Catholic Historical Magazine, Volume 2
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, Maine, December, 1913
Council of Trent: Canon III
"If any one saith that Order, or sacred ordination, is not truly and properly a sacrament instituted by Christ the Lord; or that it is a kind of human figment devised by men unskilled in ecclesiastical matters; or that it is only a kind of rite for choosing ministers of the word of God and of the sacraments; let him be anathema..."
Council of Trent: Canon II
"If any one saith that, besides the priesthood, there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both greater and minor, by which, as by certain steps, advance is made unto the priesthood; let him be anathema"
Council of Trent
"If any one saith that there is not in the New Testament a visible and external priesthood; or that there is not any power of consecrating and offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord, and of forgiving and retaining sins; but only an office and bare ministry of preaching the Gospel; or that those who do not preach are not priests at all; let him be anathema."
source: Canon I, Council of Trent. Publications of the Catholic Truth Society, Volume 29
St. Augustin admonishes us :"When, either through the neglect of prelates, or by some necessity, or through unknown causes, we find that wicked persons are in the Church, whom we cannot correct or restrain by ecclesiastical discipline, let not the impious and destructive presumption enter our heart that we should imagine ourselves obliged to separate from them."
All scandals and excesses should be put to the charge of human frailty and perversity. The authority of the Church rests on the commission given by Christ, which is unqualified and perpetual."
Source: A Vindication of the Catholic Church in a series of letters addressed to the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Vermont by Archbishop of Baltimore Francis Patrick Kenrick. 1855
Christ Loved the Church
Treading the Nazareth vale and mountain side,
Growing in age and grace with God and men,
Still to His parents subject; even then
Wedded was Christ's young heart to one fair Bride.
Oft for the mystic nuptial rite He sighed.
Fulfilling years and grace, He filled again
The measure of His love, nor rested when
Of love's excess upon the Cross He died.
Christ loves His Church, throughout all time His Spouse,
The all-fair Mother of an offspring born
And bound to Him in more than carnal ties.
In all things like the Master, may our vows
Of love for Mother Church both night and morn
Arise and mount unbroken to the skies!
Source: The Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Vol. VIII Feb, 1893
Priests without Name or Reputation
The world is at present afflicted with a strange malady; it is in the throes of a feverish intoxication; it is like a sick man writhing in pain; it is harassed and tortured by the burning fever of impiety.
But when God shall determine to put an end to these convulsive movements, what will He do? Will He raise up astute politicians and powerful rulers who will restrain as with fetters of iron the seething passions of men? No.
Will He send profound philosophers and great orators to recall these peoples by eloquent speech and powerful reasoning to a sense of their duty? By no means.
What, then, will He do? He will do what He has done in every age when He wished to heal the wounds of society and restore it to moral soundness. He will send apostles chosen for this special work, priests without name or reputation, but strong in strength of faith and holiness of life; these He will send, bearing a cross of wood into the midst of nations invaded and desolated by the demon of pride and the lust of greed and sensuality: Go, ye swifts angels, to a nation rent and torn in pieces, to a terrible people, to a nation expecting and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled.
Thither will these apostolic men go, urged on by the Spirit of God. Error and vice will flee at the sight of them, and a purified land will bring forth a new generation of men, full of life and adorned with every virtue: Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created: and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Source: Jesus Living in the Priest: Considerations on the Greatness and Holiness of the Priesthood by Rev. Fr. P Millet, S.J. 1901
Who are the priests to whom even the world cannot refuse its esteem and confidence? Are they not precisely those who hold themselves furthest aloof from its vanity and dissipation, and refuse to share in its feasts and diversions?
Such priests fully realize that those who are called to their state should be grave and serious men., They are never seen meddling in other people's business: they live in retirement and silence: they are not anxious to get news, rather they prefer not to know many things which would serve no purpose except to gratify curiosity; they avoid encumbering their memory and burdening their mind with the silly stories and gossip of the world, while their holy faith furnishes them with so many sublime truths on which they can occupy their thoughts with profit and pleasure. In all this they but imitate our Blessed Mother, of whom St. Ambrose beautifully says: She sought no companionship except that of her own thoughts, and she was never less alone than when she seemed alone.
Source: Jesus Living in the Priest: Considerations on the Greatness and Holiness of the Priesthood, Rev. Fr. Millet, SJ 1901
Preachers and Priests
Truly, says St. Teresa, if preachers and priests of God's word make so few conversions, it is because there is still in them too much of the human, too much of worldly wisdom, and too little of the divine fire with which the Apostles were aglow, too little of that heroism which made the saints despise shame and infamy, torture and death, when there was question of giving glory of God and gaining souls for Him.
Oh, what a treasure is a holy priest for a parish, for a city, for a diocese and often for a whole kingdom! What good will he not accomplish? There was a time when twelve men were enough to convert a whole world.
Source: Jesus Living in the Priest: Considerations on the Greatness and Holiness of the Priesthood by Rev. P. Millet S.J. 1901
Death of a young priest
Oh! to think of him as Priest,
One short moment at the feast
Of the King.
One short season ’mid the vine,
Where the workers prune and twine,
Weep and sing.
It is well, as priest and man
‘Twas a guileless course he ran
Who can say
What sorrow, what deep dole,
Lay in wait for the young soul
Fare thee well; God grant thee rest,
And thy birthright’ mid the blest
May He give:
Thou didst speak His word, and break
The Life-Bread immortals take -
Thou shalt live.
Source: Rev. Dr. Howley, Ave Maria (June 1886)
Lyra Hieratica: poems on the priesthood / collected from many by Fr. Thomas Edward Bridgett,, 1829-1899.