On the Catholic Priesthood
The pastoral office is in itself a discipline of perfection. For first of all it is a life of abnegation of self. A pastor has so many obediences to fulfill, as he has souls to serve. The good and the evil, the sick and the whole, the young and the old, the wise and the foolish, the worldly and the unworldly - who are not always wise- the penitent and the impenitent, the converted and the unconverted, the lapsed and the relapsed, the obdurate and the defiant, all must be watched over - none may be neglected, still less cast off - always, at all times and in all ways possible. St. Philip used to say that a priest should have no time of his own, and that many of his most consoling conversations came to him out of hours at unseasonable moments. If he had sent them away because they came out of time, or at supper time and the like, they might have been lost. Then again, the trials of temper, patience, self-control in bearing with the strange and inconsiderate minds that come to him, and the demands made upon this strength and endurance day and night in the calls of the sick and dying, coming often one after another when for a moment he has gone to rest; the weary and continual importunity of people and of letters, till the sound of the bell or the knock at the door is a constant foreboding, too surely fulfilled; all these things make a pastor's life as wearisome, and, strange to say, as isolated as if he were in the desert. No sackcloth so mortifies the body as this life of perpetual self-abnegation mortifies the will. But when the will is mortified, the servant is like his Master, and his Master is the exemplar of all perfection.
The Catholic Bishop as Principal Teacher
The Bishop is the principal teacher in the faith community. As such, he must be devoted to preaching the Gospel constantly. That preaching aims at illuminating to the faithful what they must believe and put into practice, while steering them away from every error that is life-threatening to the spirit.
What may deprive a young priest of the reverence and trust of the faithful?
The faults of boyhood: levity, thoughtlessness, immaturity, precipitance, an inordinate love of sports and games, a lack of repose.
What makes a young priest respected? Seriousness of manney, maturity of thought, earnestness of purpose, steadiness in carrying out all that appertains to duty; also, learning, piety, enlifhtened zeal, self-respect, a sense of authority tempered by modesty: auctoritas modesta as the Pontifical says in the rite of ordination; finally, the religious spirit, that is, the spirit of reverence imparting a tone of thoughtfulness and deliberation to the whole man.
Each of these helps to dispel the unfavorable impression which might attach to the youthful priest, and therefore it becomes his duty to cultivate them sedulously in the early years of his ministry. (...)
An thus the number of his years will be lost to sight, and the faithful will see, listen to, and love in him the man of God.
Teaching by Example
Christ is the model of the priest; the priest has to be the model of the people. His example is as much a part of his ministry as preaching, or administering the sacraments. If we could imagine a priest in charge of souls appearing only at the altar, or in the pulpit, or in the confessional, and then withdrawing himself completely from the view of the faithful, we should have to call him back to live among his people, in order to let them see the full meaning of a practical Christian life. This is so much the mind of the Church, that in conferring each one of the orders, she is careful to impress on those she consecrates the special duty of good example. The "ostiarius" is told to open the hearts of the faithful to God, and close them against the evil one "by word and by example;" the acolyte is reminded that the lighted taper he bears is a symbol of the shining examples he is bound to show forth; and so on up to the priest, to whom, at every step of his solemn consecration, the great fact is recalled, that henceforth he has to be the embodiment of all the Christian virtues, a fragrant odor of the Gospel, a living rule for the faithful.
The Law thus laid down to priests in the preparation, the church has in the course of ages kept steadily before them by the numberless rules, regulations, decrees of her bishops, her popes, and her councils. There is nothing she seems to have had more at heart than to keep her priests at such a height as that all may look to their lives for guidance. What a glorious vocation, and what a powerful incentive to a beautiful life!
O thou, to whom were committed the most precious talents of the priesthood! Fear lest like the useless servant thou be cast out into exterior darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Where is he, my son, where is Judas? Where are the other priests who imitated him and who like him died in their sins?
Where? They are buried in hell, where they lie the deeper down, the higher the place they should have occupied in heaven.
There they are filled with shame, who on earth enjoyed a high degree of honor.
There they are despised, mocked and trampled upon by Satan, who on earth were revered by men and angels.
There they drink of the gall of vipers and of the poison of asps, who received my blood unworthily at the altar.
There they are stung and tormented by the old serpent, who should have triumphed over him by their sacred ministry.
There they are poor and naked, who on earth enjoyed unearned luxuries.
There they are prodded with burning goads, who by their cowardice and sloth allowed my sheep to perish.
There they are covered with fetid pitch and sulfur who, in their highly spiritual and holy state, lived according to the flesh.
There their ears are wearied by horrible noises, who were unwilling to listen to penitents in the tribunal of mercy.
There they are in desolation, who refused to console my sorrowing people.
There they suffer bitter pain, who neither sympathized with nor aided those in trouble.
There their bodies are lacerated, who by their scandals were the murderers of souls.
There their cry is unheeded, who on earth neglected prayer and performed their duties carelessly.
There, in fine, they shall suffer the rigorous scourge of my justice, who have not kept my commandments which they announced to the people, and thereby resisted more than others the Holy Spirit.
So it is, my son, they were my chosen ones, my friends, my ministers, endowed and enriched with my graces; and they rebelled against me and betrayed me, outraged my Holy Spirit and trampled me, their Savior, under foot.
Pray for Better Priests
Our brethren of the laity often complain of the priest they get; I wonder, does it ever occur to them to pray for better? When the Ember seasons come round, how many people remember to pray for the priests who are being ordained? We pile the sanctuary with flowers, we make it a blaze of candles; but there is something else needed far more than lights of flowers for God's honor, that the hearts of his priest should be made a fit habitation for Himself. Of his priests? Not of His priests only, but our own hearts too.
Source: Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons, The Eucharist, Fr. Ronald Knox
The Tool of Jesus Christ
"When you see a priest offering the sacrifice", he ( St. John Chrysostom) says, "do no think as if it were he that is doing this; it is the hand of Christ, invisibly stretched forth." The hand of Christ invisibly stretched forth, that is the image we must conjure up if we are to think of the Mass as what it really is. The philosopher Aristotle, in defining the position of a slave, uses the words, "A slave is a living tool". And that is what a priest is, a living tool of Jesus Christ. He lends his hands to be Christ's thoughts; there is, there should be, nothing of himself in it from first to last, except where the Church graciously permits him to dwell for a moment in silence on his own special intentions, for the good estate of the living and the dead. Those who are not of our religion are puzzled sometimes, or even scandalized, by witnessing the ceremonies of the Mass; it is all, they say, so mechanical. But you see, it ought to be mechanical. They are watching, not a man, but a living tool; it turns this way and that, bends, straightens itself, gesticulates, all in obedience to a preconceived order, Christ's order, not ours. The Mass is best said, we Catholics know it, when it is said so that you do not notice how it is said; we do not expect eccentricities from a tool, the tool of Christ.
Source: Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons, The Eucharist, Fr. Ronald Knox
When the shepherd becomes a Wolf
the first duty of the flock is to defend itself. The true children of Holy Church, at such times, are those who walk by the light of their Baptism, not the cowardly souls who, under the specious pretext fo submission to the powers that be, delay their opposition to the enemy in the hope of receiving instructions which are neither necessary nor desirable.
Source: Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year
When He had rested on the seventh day after the stupendous achievement of the natural creation, God made man to be its priest. When He rose on the third day after resting from the labors of His Passion, Incarnated God set the crown on his work of redemption by instituting the Christian priesthood. It was a fresh act of creation, no less amazing in its results than that other; for the powers which the Christian priesthood enjoys exceed the natural powers of man no less significantly than man's natural powers exceed those of the brute beasts. The world, fallen and redeemed, was to be reconciled to God by the ministry of the priest, a representative man, chosen out among his fellows to be their spokesman and God's ambassador. Sanctified by his office, he was to intercede for his sinful brethren, to come between them and God's anger, offering sacrifice in their name.
True, there was nothing unheard of in that. For centuries before our Lord came, priests had been offering sacrifice to God; among the Jews, in obedience to the light of an imperfect revelation, among the Gentiles, from a sort of blind instinct which warned them that atonement for sin, could it only be achieved, was the first step towards communion with God, But all those old sacrifices were no better than a frantic appeal, a despairing gesture. The blood of bulls and goats could not take ways sin; and the priests who offered them were themselves encompassed with infirmities; sinful men themselves, they could not bear the petitions of the people into God's presence as having the right to enter it. Our Lord came, to be at once a sinless Victim and a sinless Priest. Priest and Victim, he offered his own death to be the sufficient atonement for a world's transgressions. When the first Adam received the breath of life, this material universe was elevated into a fresh state of communion with God. When the second Adam gave back that same breath of life into his Father's hands, our guilty race was restored to the divine favor. Ruined long since by Adam's fault, the word could cry once more, HABEMUS PONTIFICEM.
Source: The Divine Sacrifice, (Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons, Fr. Ronald Knox. 1940)
Father Price's Daily Prayer
O Mother Immaculate, Patron of America, who, through little Bernadette, bade us pray and work for the conversion of the countless souls now perishing. I offer all the prayers, actions, and sufferings of this day and every day of my life for their conversion, and I beg of thee to bless my resolution to do what I can throughout my life to bring about their salvation.
St. Bernadette, Pray for Father Price.
Imprimatur: Most Rev. Vincent S. Waters, D.D. May 2 1949
Thou art of the gods and of the sons of the Most High, Human is the dignity of a king; divine that of a priest. When a king dies, honors and power forsake him; when a priest dies, his priesthood remains forever, A king commands men, a priest God himself; a powerful king conquers his enemies; a true priest overcomes the world. A king can imprison the body or otherwise punish it; a priest can bind the soul itself. A king can free captives from bodily chains; a priest can free souls from the tyranny of the devil and the snares of sin. A king can do nothing save on earth; a priest is powerful in heaven itself. A king may possess the treasures of the world ; a priest holds those of heaven. A king may send gifts to kings; a priest holds aloft sacrifice to the God of heaven; A king offers gold; a priest offers God himself. His voice penetrates the heavens whence he draws graces; there he appeases and moves God; there he exercises judgment over men. In very truth his sentence precedes the sentence of God; whatsoever he loosens or binds is loosened or bound in heaven.
Source: An Epitome of the Priestly Life,
Pray, pray for your priests!
"Pray, pray for your priests; every nation, every diocese gets the clergy it deserves.
We priests are only earthen vessels, you know for yourselves many of the shortcomings,
hasty temper and slovenly habits and so on, by which we often disgrace the livery we wear.
But, when you observe such things, you merely shrug your shoulders, and say,
"Pity Father So-and-so isn't more like poor Canon So-and-so". You should be on your knees,
this next week, praying for the clergy everywhere, from the Holy Father himself down to the
new priests [...]; praying for the seminaries too, the factories where the tools of Christ are made.
God protect His Church in the anxious, bewildered days that are coming; and give us supply of
good priests to work as the martyrs worked, to live as the martyrs lived, and if need be to die as
the martyrs died, to the glory of His Holy Name."
Source: Monsignor Ronald Knox, Priesthood, Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons
An epitome of the priestly life
How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord God of hosts!
My soul longeth and fainteth for thy courts.
How blessed and delightful it is to immolate
the Sacred Host to thee in thy tabernacle,
to sing and to make music to thee!
How good it is to declare thy justices,
or preach penance for the remission of sins!
How good it is to teach and baptize the nations,
to cast out devils, to cure the sick,
to increase the number of thy servants,
to sanctify and to perfect them!
Who shall give to me, 0 my God,
that I should be thus able to subject the whole world to thee,
to make every land adore thee and sing thy praises,
that all flesh might bless thy holy name and every creature serve thee?
Recipe for Holiness
"Priests, do not forget that priestly gravity and propriety must characterize your ministry, whereas everything which tends towards secular habits, shows up the priest as vain and flighty in the eyes of the world which is perfectly able to discern the more respectable priests even from their outward bearing."
"Only two means are left to save Her (the Church) amidst so much confusion: Frequent Communion and Devotion to Mary most holy, making use of every means and doing our best to practice them and having them practiced everywhere and by everybody."
"When speaking of public scandals:
Don’t be surprised at anything. People and waywardness go hand in hand. The Church has nothing to fear because even if all were to conspire to overthrow Her, the Holy Spirit would still uphold Her."