On the Catholic Priesthood
Wednesday March 13, Ember days
The observance of Ember days is a very old tradition, going back to
the Apostolic time and
taking after the Roman Pagan customs that held festivals on each seasons
of the year. In 494, Pope
Gelasius I used the Ember Saturdays to confer ordination to the
From their origins, Ember days had a two fold purpose: to pray for the laborers and for the fruits of the harvest. During these three days, Catholics were thanking Our Blessed Lord "for the gifts of nature" asking Him "to teach men to make use of them in moderation, assist the needy" but most of all to pray for more good priests.
Ember Days: Catholic Encyclopedia
In 1969, Pope Paul VI excluded the embers day from being mandatory days of fast and abstinence and left their celebrations to the discretion of the local bishops. Even though the US Bishopsʼ Conference has decided not to celebrate them, we may still choose to do so as a personal devotion since its observance at home or small communities is not discouraged:
"17. Vigils and Ember Days, as most now know, no longer oblige to fast and abstinence. However, the liturgical renewal and the deeper appreciation of the joy of the holy days of the Christian year will, we hope, result in a renewed appreciation as to why our forefathers spoke of "a fast before a feast." We impose no fast before any feast-day, but we suggest that the devout will find greater Christian joy in the feasts of the liturgical calendar if they freely bind themselves, for their own motives and in their own spirit of piety, to prepare for each Church festival by a day of particular self- denial, penitential prayer and fasting."
Vigils and Ember Days (USCCB) 1966
- Seven Penitential Psalms
- Litany of Saints
- Litany to Obtain Holy Priests
- Holy Hour of Adoration and Reparation for Priests
The confessor is forbidden under grave penalties ever to betray by word, sign, or in any other way, what he has heard in Sacramental confession. The obligation of the seal of confession differs from all other secrets, in that it is never lawful under any circumstances to make known the least thing that has been manifested by a penitent in confession. If questioned about confessional matter, even in a court of justice, the priest must always answer that he knows nothing about it, as with perfect truth he may do, for what he knows as a confessor he knows as the Vicegerent of God, not as man.
Not only the priest, but all others, who mediately or immediately come to know anything confessed to a priest with a view to absolution, are bound by the obligation of the seal. The obligation of the seal is imposed in favor of the penitent; it is the penitent's secret, but he himself is not bound by it. It does not follow, however, that penitents may without let or hindrance talk to others about what the confessor has said to them in the confessional. They are at least bound by a natural obligation to reveal nothing which would tend in any way to injure or aggrieve the confessor. The religious obligation of keeping secret anything that is manifested in Sacramental confession is imposed by the natural, the divine, and by positive ecclesiastical law.
Force of Prayer
We do not deny the force of prayer. We feel it. We acknowledge it. We grant it in all its fullness. But we have no time.
What! Christian soul; you have no time to pray!
You are naked, and blind, and deaf and weak, and have no time to pray! Your soul is naked of God's grace;
it is blind to His light; it is deaf to His whispering; it is weak and faint, and yet you have no time to pray.
If your body were naked, would you have no time, think you, to seek wherewith to clothe it?
If your eyes were blind and could be restored to sight for the asking, would you have no time to ask?
If your ears were deaf and could receive their hearing by knocking, would you have no time to knock?
Take care soul, take care. Search your heart more searchingly, and you will find that it is not time that you have not;
it is the inclination, and you have not the inclination because you have not the faith. You have time for your friends,
but because God is not on your list of friends, you have no time for Him. You have had no introduction.
You have time for your farms, for your oxen, for your household, for your secular business, nay, even for every
frivolous amusement; but for God's farm you have "no time;" for God's household you have "no time;"
for the business of God's eternity you have "no time."
Where is your faith, O naked one! O blind one! 0 deaf one! O preoccupied one! This man has had time to make
himself a judge, a lawyer, a merchant, a millionaire, and has not had time to be a Christian. All have time to take
their meals. However busy, however pressed, they find time to get them at stated hours, or failing that, they find
some other time for them. Their meals never fail them. But for their spiritual meals, no time; for their soul's
nourishment, no time. One-third of life is spent in sleep, and yet we have no time for spiritual repose.
In a word, for temporal things we have time and to spare, for spiritual things no time.
Beware; this no time drags thousands down to a miserable eternity. Correct this irregularity; in God's August Name
correct it. If you have every day a certain time set apart for sleep, for meals, for business, for amusements,
have also some time at least for prayer. I am not now speaking of morning and evening prayer. A man need
only be half a Christian to say them. I speak of a time wherein to place yourself daily at God's feet, as did the
Magdalene, there to talk with Him, to open your hearts to Him; to tell Him your wants, your hopes, your aspirations
For some short time at least be Mary, if all the rest of the time you are obliged to be Martha. "I have lifted up
my eyes to the mountain whence help shall come. He will not sleep, nor does He sleep. Who keepeth Israel."
And I do not want you to speak in set phrase from a book. Speak from your heart as to a loving father.
He bids you call Him Father. Open everything, conceal nothing; He knows everything beforehand; He waits
only for the asking; and when you ask, ask in groans and sighs. Take a lesson from the worldling.
For what does the worldling groan? For that he is miserable after so many vain efforts to be happy.
Why does he sigh? Because the pleasures and riches and honors of this life fly before him like a butterfly,
no matter how fast he runs.
During your short time of prayer (the shorter the more fervid,) do you likewise sigh and mourn as the worlding
does, but let it be for spiritual things, not temporal ones. Groan for the miserable failure through human weakness
of your efforts for spiritual advancement. Sigh for the riches and honors of Heaven; groan and sigh thus, and He
Who has said, "Ask and you shall receive," will not desert you. It is want of faith that leaves prayer so distasteful
to us. If we could catch but one glimpse of Heaven—if we could hear but one phrase of Heaven's melody—
if we could feel but one thrill of Heaven's joys, we should need no urging; our prayer would be spontaneous, gushing,
overflowing. Gold represents everything which men call precious, i.e everything “buyable”, and what is there which
cannot be bought?
It is said that even the most high toned and honorable men have their price. It may indeed take more to buy men of
coarser mold, but still they are to be bought. Now if you had promised you a mountain of this gold, which buys
everything, even to high-toned and honorable men; if this mountain was promised for the asking—or even if it were
promised you for the fetching—or even if it might be yours by force of arms, would you have no time to ask? Would
you have no time to beat up recruits, to buy ammunition, and go to the fighting? And yet what comparison between
this mountain of gold and the Heaven of eternity? Your mountain of gold, however high, however wide, however deep,
with the heavens and the earth, will pass away; but the Heaven of eternity never. And yet you would prefer the gold,
O ye of little faith, and have no time to obtain Heaven by the asking. You have not the intelligence of the tramp,
low down in the social scale as he is. Give him three pence and he will be with you on the morrow, or if he be not,
his friend will for him; and when all his friends are exhausted he will have put up a mark on your gate posts to guide
others to your bounty. You have not the instinct of the robin. Give it a crumb or a small worm and it will be with you
on the morrow and on the morrow's morrow to the end of time. Your Heavenly Father offers you treasures untold
for the asking. He asks you to ask, and you have no time, O ye of little faith! The tramp will walk miles to gain
your three pence for the asking; the robin will wait at your window by the hour for your crumb; but you have no time.
You have not the intelligence of the tramp, Christian soul. You have not the instinct of the robin, O ye of little faith.
The wisdom of the nations is crystallized in the proverb, "Where there is the will there is the way." And there is
the will, Christian soul, where there is faith.
Source: Norbertine Fathers, 1896 (page 93, Annals of St. Joseph, Volumes 8-10)
Priest and People
When we behold some masterpiece of painting, like the "Transfiguration" of Raphael, the "Last Judgment" of Michael Angelo, or the "Immaculate Conception" of Murillo; when we behold some masterpiece of sculpture, like the "David," the "Moses," the "Apollo Belvidere," or the "Laocoon Group" in the Vatican; when we stand before some masterpiece of architecture, like the "Cologne Cathedral," or "St. Peter's" in Rome; when we read the literary masterpieces left us by Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton; or when we listen to the enrapturing music of Mozart, Beethoven or Gounod, we instinctively pay homage to the men whose genius conceived and executed them. We look upon those men as almost more than human. They seem to have shared in a marvelous degree the creative power of God. And so they did. And we do right to pay them honor.
And yet, my dear brethren, the work of the humblest priest is higher, and holier, far more God-like than those works of merely human genius which the world is so ready to applaud.
You call the priest your spiritual father. And such he is in tact. For under God he is the author of your spiritual life. Through his ministrations you receive grace, the principle of supernatural life; and through his ministrations that supernatural life is nourished and perfected. Through the sacraments and the sacrifice of the Mass he infuses grace into your souls. Now grace is the gift of God the Holy Ghost; and where the Holy Ghost acts, there he is present. He unites Himself to your souls in such a way that you become like unto God. The union between your souls and God the Holy Ghost is the closest possible short of personal, hypostatic. You do not cease to be creatures, distinct from God, but you become partakers in the very nature and life of God. You are as it were recreated, born again to a new and higher life. Your souls are beautiful with the beauty of God, knowing with His wisdom, strong with His strength.—Cardinal Manning, "Internal Mission of the Holy Ghost."
Humanly speaking, when the priest dies, his name dies with him. His image survives in no visible form. Yes! But if you could only look upon the souls of them to whom he has ministered you would there behold his image reproduced. In the kingdom of souls his name never dies, and his children are ten thousand. He works not on canvas, nor in marble, but on human souls. Having before his eyes Jesus Christ, the model of human perfection, he strives to form your character after that great original. Day by day, year after year, laboriously and patiently, tenderly and lovingly, sometimes in tears, he labors to form in you a copy of the God-man. And while he works, God works with him, inspiring his thoughts, inflaming his heart, guiding his hand.
And what a work he produces! Not a painting that must fade and molder; not a marble form or granite structure that must crumble into dust; but a living image of God, destined to live forever. As long as God lives, that work shall live—a monument to the faith and hope and love of the priest.
The priest is not content to make you worthy members of civil society. He does that. He inculcates the natural virtues of industry, honesty, sobriety, patience, love of country, reverence for infancy and old age, respect for and obedience to lawful authority. His special work, however, is to make you worthy citizens of heaven. He knows that you are children of God, brethren of Christ, and that you are destined to occupy thrones in heaven. And so he labors to prepare you for your glorious destiny.
What a noble work is this! And how insignificant and transitory appear all the works of merely human genius! The work of the priest, like the souls of men on which he works, is immortal—enduring for all time and eternity.
Such is the work accomplished by the humblest priest —work done by your priests, for you and for your children. The priest is indeed your spiritual father. Yes; and you are his spiritual children. His children? Then be his children! Cherish for him all those sentiments which good children cherish for their earthly father.
The priest is of necessity a public man. In every community he is a conspicuous character, whether he will or not. He stands always in the glare of the searchlight of public opinion. All eyes are directed upon him. And those eyes are not all charitable eyes.
The young, who have never yet attempted any difficult work; the negatively good, who have never tried and therefore never failed, may sometimes think him lacking in zeal because he does not accomplish impossible things. The old are not apt to judge a priest harshly. I do not recollect ever hearing an old person criticize a priest severely. The old know from experience the weakness of their own nature, and the weakness of human nature in general, too well, to be uncharitable in judging any priest. On the other hand they are liable to think him too ambitious, too zealous, and instead of encouraging him, they almost discourage him by counseling what they call prudence, but what in reality is only timidity.
The willfully wicked, they who do not even try to lead virtuous lives, watch him with the eyes of a serpent, color his every act and move with the malice of their own hearts, and take a fiendish delight in detecting the least sin or mistake. If his conduct is above reproach, they impugn his motives. He is vain, lacks character, or he is too positive and conceited. If perchance he really does fall into sin, they raise a hue and cry over him as vultures circle screeching over the hero who falls wounded on the battlefield. Let the priest fall once, his whole life they conclude has been a sham, and he only a hypocrite! One priest falls, then all priests are hypocrites, all religion a mockery!
They will not or cannot practice virtue themselves; hence they rejoice in the fall of the innocent. The occasional lapse of the virtuous is to them a justification of their own habitual and wilful wickedness.
My dear brethren, can you imagine an occasion of more rejoicing among the devils in hell than the fall of a priest? No! Then what should you do? What should you be in regard to your priests, your spiritual fathers? Support them, encourage them, sympathize with them, shield them.
Suppose they do err! Is that an excuse for deserting them, for betraying them? No! That is the plea of every traitor who ever betrayed his country or his fellow-man. Benedict Arnold tried to excuse his treason by alleging the faults and mistakes of his superiors, by saying that men of less deserts than he—which is true—had been promoted over his head. Has the world accepted his excuse? No! Neither will it accept yours for betraying your God given leaders, your spiritual fathers.
Suppose the priest does err! Is that an excuse for your publishing his sin? Do not imitate Cham, the wicked son of Noah, who, when he saw his father intoxicated and lying naked in his tent, laughed in derision and published his shame to his brethren. Beware of following his example, lest the curse that fell on him and his posterity may fall on you and yours. Rather imitate the example of Sem and Japhet. When they heard of their father's sin and shame, they took up a cloak, and, walking backwards lest they might see, covered him. Do you in like manner, and I am sure that God who rewarded them and theirs will bless you and yours. 'Gen. 9:21-27.)
What kind of a Catholic do you most admire? What kind of a Catholic do Protestants most admire? Is it the Catholic who is always criticizing church and sisters and priests? No! The Catholic whom you admire, the Catholic whom all men admire, is the man who, when he hears his church, the sisters or the priests reviled, throws off his coat and is ready to fight!
Pray for your priests, all of them. Do not be like the little academy girl I heard about the other day. She had finished her evening prayers and was about to climb into bed when her mother said:
"Mary you forgot to say a prayer for Father L ."
"Father L ?Why, he doesn't need my prayers."
"Why not?" asked the mother.
"Because he is so good."
"How about Father Mc?"
The little girl looked at
her mother with her innocent eyes and in all charity said: "I don't
know, mama. Maybe I'd better say a prayer for him." The mother suggested
that she had better pray for both. And so do I.
Father Mc. and Father L. both need your prayers. Father L has a long road to travel before he reaches the point where I now stand. He will doubtless find ahead of him many a piece of rough road, many a quagmire, many a steep hill. Many a time his feet will bleed as he bears his cross up his hill of Calvary. He will see the bloodstained print of the Savior's feet who walked that path before him. Still he needs our prayers.
In your charity you may sometimes fancy that the priest does not need your prayers. He does need them, and he counts on them. You cannot know how much he leans on you for support. In almost every man's life there come now and then periods of depression. Overwork and worry, especially if there be added some great misfortune or sorrow, drag his soul down to the verge of despair. Strange as it may seem, buoyant, happy, sanguine natures are most prone to these seasons of melancholy. And they are truly awful. The past seems an utter failure. The present is overcast with the blackest clouds of gloom. The future is terrifying in its forebodings of disaster. * If you saw your father walking on the edge of a precipice, where a single false step would hurl him to destruction, how you would tremble for his safety! How you would pray God to keep him from harm!
For aught you know, my dear children, your spiritual father may at times be, figuratively speaking, in just that position, where a sudden gust of temptation would cause him to fall. When a feeling of loneliness and discouragement makes him almost ready to hurl himself from the height.
And it may be, that at such a time, you think of him and without ever dreaming that he needs your prayers, you pray for him, and your prayer is his salvation.
Second the efforts of your pastor. He is working for you. Encourage him. Speak kindly of him. Do not keep all your eulogies for his funeral day. Do not be like the friends of a certain poet. During life he could hardly get enough to eat. When he died they erected a costly monument over his grave. Which caused some wit of the day to say of him:
"He asked for bread; they gave him a stone."
On a certain occasion when the Israelite were engaged in battle with their enemies, Moses knelt on the mountain top and prayed for them. As long as he kept his hands upraised the people were successful. When his hands fell from weariness, the people were pressed back in defeat. Then two of his attendants ran to his side and held up his hands. The people in the plain rallied again and swept the enemy from the field. (Gen. 17:9-13.
So will it be with you. When the hands of the priest at the altar fall from discouragement or lack of support you will be defeated by your spiritual enemies. If you hold up his hands by your sympathy, your encouragement, your co-operation, you will be victorious.
St. Joseph and the Priest
Priests are advised to recite, before the celebration of Mass, some certain prayers in honor of St. Joseph. Pope Pius IX., who declared St. Joseph the Patron of the universal Church, has indulgenced them. Who does not know those beautiful anthems: O felicem virum beatum Joseph and the Virginum custos et pater, Sancte Joseph?
It is prompted by these beautiful anthems that I propose a brief sketch of a fruitful meditation.
First. St. Joseph, by divine election became the foster-father of the Infant Jesus as he was also the spouse of the Blessed Mother of God. All honors due him on account of the exalted position thus held and the privileges he enjoyed, come vividly before our mind, when we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. Pondering over them we feel inclined to asked our Lord in the Sacred Host to bless us for the sake of St. Joseph; and assurance comes to us that our humble petition will be listened to. Let us remind Jesus of what the loving foster father has done for Him in his mortal life, and feel assured that St. Joseph's advocacy will be most powerful.
Second. Who has such weighty reasons to put his trust in the prayers and intercession of St. Joseph as has the Catholic priest? What St. Joseph was to our Lord in the days of His infancy on earth, that the priest is to Jesus when ministering to Him at the altar. Helpless and in the state of utmost destitution, our Sacramental Lord craves for that kind care and solicitude which he once enjoyed at the hands of His beloved foster-father. Often the priest is in no better way of finding shelter for Jesus in the Holy Sacrament than St. Joseph was, when, after a vain search for a suitable dwelling, he, at last, betook himself to a lonely stable as a resting place for the Savior to be born. And is the priest not glad, when, to such a humble abode as he may have found, the faithful come, like the shepherds of Bethlehem and the three wise men, to adore the Lord of hosts seated on a throne void of all ornaments? St. Joseph's joy is his.
Did you ever witness the care and labor of the priest in his endeavors for the construction and embellishment of a church which was to serve as the abode of the Sacramental Lord, without being reminded of St. Joseph, who labored in the sweat of his brow for the beloved Infant? Deep is the grief and unspeakable the agony, which the faithful priest experiences, when profanation threatens the Sacred Host, or when the Holy Sacrament is snatched away by an unworthy communicant and forced into the dark dungeon of a sinner's heart, or even of a God-forsaken sacrilegious priest. Then it is, that you behold St. Joseph portrayed in his anguish of heart in his flight into Egypt, to save his beloved child from the ruthless hand of Herod and his cruel soldiers. St. Joseph was the first guardian of Jesus, but we priests have received from God the guardianship of Jesus living, but persecuted and treated contumeliously in the Blessed Sacrament.
Third. Compare, if you will, the privileges St. Joseph enjoyed, with those of the priest. Is it not as if you saw the Holy Patriarch appearing amongst us, his countenance beaming with delight as he embraced the Infant with tender affection, clasping Him to his bosom, carrying Him on his arms, leading Him by the hand, working ceaselessly for his honored charge, listening to His sweet voice? Is it not so to you, I say, when you behold the priest ministering to the King of hosts in the Holy Sacrament? O priest of God, do not envy St. Joseph, but rather congratulate yourself and break forth into transports of joy, recalling the words of the holy canticle: Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est. For, you also touch the body of the Lord; you carry Him on your heart when on your way to the sick to administer to them Holy Communion and Viaticum; you more than press Him to your bosom at Holy Communion. He obeys you with the same willingness and promptness as He did His foster-father. And were you only to listen to his holy inspirations, when communing with Him, joy and consolation would be yours, as was the sweet portion of St. Joseph in his intercourse with the Divine Infant.
Fourth. Is the office of the priest in its holiest moments not similar to that of St. Joseph? and do not the highest privileges of both blend, indeed, in a most perfect manner? If so, what is the natural inference to be drawn from such a comparison? Oh! the minister of the sanctuary should strive to imitate the most conspicuous virtues of that exalted saint. By so doing, he would ennoble his life and draw from his holy functions perennial streams of genuine happiness, and blessings abundant for himself and for those confided to his care.
But what are the most conspicuous characteristics of St. Joseph, worthy to be acquired by every priest? None other than his astounding humility and his spotless virginity. Though of little account in the estimation of the world, they were the foundation of his exalted dignity. His royal crown could not have been devoid of these two ornaments. The humility of St. Joseph and his marvelous chastity were, so to speak, the frame-work on which was to rest his dignity as the father of Jesus and the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So with the priest. Humility and chastity are the jewels of the Catholic priesthood. No priest will be honored by God, nor will he have honor before men, if he doesn't appear wrapped in the royal mantle of humanity and chastity. O priest of God, take St. Joseph for your model and flee pride and sensuality; if you do not, the royal robe of your priesthood will fall into shreds, the crown of your dignity will lose its luster and the scepter of your authority will be broken in your hands. Contemplate, admirare, imitare, Quando litas precans ad altare, Fungens Sancti Joseph opere, et beare.
Source: Annals of St. Joseph, Norbertine Fathers, 1896 Vol. 8-10
"It is not necessary", said the Curé, "to talk so much in order to pray well. We know that our good God is there in the tabernacle; we open our heart to Him; we are happy at being in His presence: that is the best sort of Prayer."
Source: The Dublin Review: A Quarterly and Critical Journal. p354
I implore you, in God’s name, and all the more because of the events. full of sorrow and of shame to Christian men, which have crowded so thick upon us of late that, with all your heart and will, and all the weight of your soul, you cast yourselves on God. He alone can save. Use all your influence with those around you, in your homes, your households, your friendships; and if you have public influence, public trust, public authority, strive that all who bear responsibility shall cast themselves on God, as the only hope for society and for the people.
Do you want to see what man without God can do?
Read the history of the last eighty years in Paris.
You have there one simple phenomenon—generation rising after generation without God in the world.
And why? Because without Christian education. First, an atheistical revolution; next, an empire penetrated through and through with a mocking philosophy and a reckless indifferentism; afterward came Governments, changed in name and in form, but not in practice nor in spirit. The Church, trammeled by protection, its spiritual action faint and paralyzed, could not penetrate the masses of the people, nor form the rising youth. It labored fervently; its sons fought nobly for Christian freedom; thousands were saved; but for eighty years the mass of men has grown up without God and without Christ in the world. My whole soul pities them. These out bursts of horror, strife, outrage, sacrilege, bloodshed, are the harvest reaped from the rank soil in which such seed was cast. All this is true.
But how did souls created to the image of God grow up in such a state? They were robbed : robbed before they were born, robbed of their inheritance, and reared up in an education without Christianity.
Let this be a warning to ourselves. We are on the turn of the tide. A few active, busy, confident, and eloquent men were a year ago carrying us away with theories of State education without religion. We were told that a child might be taught to read and to write and to spell and to sum without Christianity. Who denies it? But what does this make of them? To what would they grow up? The formation of the will and heart and character, the formation of a man, is education, and not the reading and the writing and the spelling and the summing. For fifteen hundred years, Christians served God and loved man, before as yet they received this cultivation; and we, because we have it profusely; we are forgetting the deeper and diviner lessons. (...)
In God’s name, stand fast, and save it. I can add no more. Do not be afraid, if you find yourselves in the minority. “ Woe to you when men shall bless you " You must be censured if you are the disciples of Jesus Christ. The world that hated Him will not love you. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master. and the servant as his lord ." “ If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household ? " And therefore, if you have the mark of the world's hatred upon you, accept it; press it to your bosom. It is the token that you are the disciples of the true and only Master. If you have the world’s favor and sunshine, look to yourselves. There is a dark future before the world. What it may be, God alone knows.
The Church will have to suffer; but there is a light upon it, and that light can never fade. We are in evil times, marked deeply by the four great evils of which I have spoken. Around us are “evil men and seducers, who grow worse and worse, erring, and driving into error.” “ Many shall come in my name," our Lord has said, “and seduce many "; and because of their iniquity the love and the charity of the many shall wax cold. Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be wars and pestilences in many places. But the end is not yet. This is only the beginning of troubles. Keep close to the footsteps of the Master who spoke those words; and, when these signs are in the sky and upon the earth, remember that He also said, “ When these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption is at hand."
Source: Cardinal Manning ( Our Faith and Belief: A
Carefully Selected Compilation from Great Writers, Essayists and
Lecturers Among the Prelates, Priests and Laymen of the Catholic Church,
on All Important Subjects of Our Holy Faith and Catholic Belief. 1917)
St. Paul, the Priest
In short, the reward of the priest’s labors will be in due proportion to the motives that urged his action. If he seeks “the things which are his own” his reward will be an earthly one. If he seeks “the things that are Christ’s” his reward will be an eternal one. Again, if his motive be a selfish one, the results of his labors in the care of souls will be negligible, because the grace of God can be but scantily with him, but working with the motive of the love of God great results may be expected, because the grace of God will amply accompany his efforts. For, with St. Paul, the priest who loves God sincerely may say: “I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me” (Phil., iv, 13). “For it is God who worketh in you (the faithful) both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will” (Phil., ii, 13).
Source: By Rev. Albert Rung: St. Paul, the Priest (The Homiletic Monthly and Pastoral Review) Vol. XXI Jan. 1921 No.4
(Special thanks to Bob Olson)
"The blessed Apostle Paul, wishing to describe the ideal Bishop and to
form by his teachings a completely new man of the Church, explained what
was, so to speak, his highest perfection. He stated that a Bishop must
profess sure doctrine, in accordance with what has been taught, and thus
be able to exhort others to sound doctrine and to refute those who
Source: Saint Hilairy de Poitiers (De Trinitate)
The Words of the Priest
"At that hour of the Sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens
are opened, and in that mystery of Jesus Christ, the choirs of Angels
are present, and things below are joined to things on high, earthly
things to heavenly, and the service is both a visible and an invisible
Source: St. Gregory the Great
The sins of her pastors
If it is true that by contemplating Christ sinners learn from him the
“sorrow for sins” needed to bring them back to the Father, this is even
more the case for sacred ministers.
How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing causes more suffering for the Church, the Body of Christ, than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who become “thieves and robbers” of the sheep (cf. Jn 10:1 ff.), lead them astray by their own private teachings, or ensnare them in the toils of sin and death? Dear priests, the summons to conversion and to trust in God’s mercy also applies to us; we too must humbly, sincerely and unceasingly implore the heart of Jesus to preserve us from the terrifying risk of endangering the very people we are obliged to save.
Source: Pope Benedict XVI, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 19 June 2009
A Single Mass
"The entire Church cannot give to God as much honor, nor obtain so many
graces, as a single priest by celebrating a single Mass; for the
greatest honor that the whole Church without priests could give to God
would consist in offering to Him in sacrifice the lives of all men."
Source: St. Alphonsus Liguori (The Dignity and Duties of the Priest)
Horrendum illud scelus, Pius V
That horrible crime, on
account of which corrupt and obscene cities were destroyed by fire
through divine condemnation, causes us most bitter sorrow and shocks our
mind, impelling us to repress such a crime with the greatest possible
Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council [1512-1517] issued this decree: "Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature, given that the wrath of God falls over the sons of perfidy, be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery" (chap. 4, X, V, 31).
So that the contagion of such a grave offense may not advance with greater audacity by taking advantage of impunity, which is the greatest incitement to sin, and so as to more severely punish the clerics who are guilty of this nefarious crime and who are not frightened by the death of their souls, we determine that they should be handed over to the severity of the secular authority, which enforces civil law.
Therefore, wishing to pursue with greater rigor than we have exerted since the beginning of our pontificate, we establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, let him be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be put to death, as mandated by law as the fitting punishment for laymen who have sunk into this abyss.
Rome: Typographia Reverendae Camerae Apostolicae, Mainardi, 1738, chap. 3, p. 33)
The Mother of a priest
Letter of a mother to a friend of her childhood the day following the ordination of her son:
“Dear friend, bless, bless the good God with me; I am the mother of a priest!
It was to you that I wrote, twenty-five years ago, when this child was given to me. I can remember, I was beside myself with happiness! I felt he was really alive near me; I stretched forth my hand to him, I fondled him in his cradle to make quite sure that he was mine own. Oh! What a distance lies between those joys and the ones of today, which raise up my heart and fill it with new sentiments!
I am today the mother of a priest!
These hands which, when little, I kissed so tenderly, 25 years ago, these hands are consecrated, these fingers have touched God!
This intelligence, which has received the light and to which I showed the meaning of life, it has grown, it has been imbued with truth, it has surpassed mine by study and by grace, and behold now, it is consecrated!
This body, that I cared for, and protected, that made me pass many nights in tears, when sickness came upon it, this body has become great, robust, and behold it is consecrated!
Servant of the soul of the priest, it will grow tired in raising up the sinner, instructing the ignorant, giving the Lord to every thinking creature that seeks and asks for it.
This heart. Ah! This pure heart that never touched any other heart but that of his mother, that trembled before all earthly contact, behold it is consecrated! The love that it pours out is called charity. Oh! My son! I know him well; I know what treasures are contained in this concentrated nature. This concentration will be to him as a strong rampart against life, against himself; but in the secrecy of his priesthood, when God will put in his way a weak soul, troubled or lost, how he will find words to raise it up and make it trust in the Divine Goodness.
Yes, yes, he will do good, my child; he will be according to the Heart of God, he will be all charity.
Yes, yes, I am the mother of a priest, of a true priest! How shall I describe yesterday’s ceremony? I was there, but saw no one but him; but him kneeling down, standing up, prostrating, rising up, leaving, full of recollection after the hands of the Bishop had been imposed upon his head, now a priest!
And this morning, he said his second Mass in the little chapel of the humble convent, in silence and between two candles – with a child for his server – his mother and a few intimate friends for the audience!
Ah! When we desire to describe the happiness of Heaven, may we not liken it to the happiness of a mother in beholding God descending at the voice of her son, and being absorbed in such deep adoration as to forget the world, life, the past, and resting only on these two words, God and her son!
There he was, his tall figure, his black hair, his grave bearing, all made him appear noble. I was quite close to the altar, without motion and sensibility. The sound of a body kneeling before the Sacred Host fell upon my eats – my lips moved, I was in an ecstasy – I whispered: Thanks, my God, thanks!
This priest was once mine: I formed him, his soul learned the truth from mine! He is no long mine , but Yours alone! Keep him from every taint of evil; he is the salt of the earth, prevent him from being corrupted! My God, I love You, and I love him! I respect and venerate him, he is your priest!
At the Communion, the server, at my approach, said the Confiteor; the celebrant turned round and raised his right hand; the words of absolution were pronounced over his mother.
My son! With a sigh he took the ciborium, came to me, carrying with him my God! What a moment! What union! God, his priest, and me!…. Was I praying? Really, I do not know. A deep peace filled my soul; I burst into tears; with love and gratitude, I said quietly: “My God! My son!” Yes, for us mothers, prayer is our hope. I never complain. There have been many beautiful days in my life: this one is the sweetest of all, because the thoughts of earth had no place in it.
Farewell, then; I can write no more; my tears moisten the sheet on which I write, they are tears of happiness."
Source: Truth Vol. XVL No.8 August 1912
The Lukewarm priest
(That) priest is certainly greatly to blame who is filled with the spirit of the age that he ridicules every pious devotion, even those devotions approved of by the Church; who is, on principle, opposed to pious sodalities and confraternities; who makes light of the rosary, the medal, the scapular and so on; who never encourages the people to practice frequent Communion; who discourages and even opposes those who wish to enter the convent, especially when they are useful to himself; who is, on principle, opposed to missions, to retreats and the like; who looks upon Catholic Schools as a foreign notion, or at least as an unnecessary luxury; who takes more interest in fairs and dances than in teaching his poor children the catechism; who finds more pleasure in fast horses than in the conversion of sinners; who spends more time in carousing, in visiting the theaters and watering places than in instructing the ignorant and praying before his Lord hidden in the tabernacle.
Such a priest is clearly a stumbling block to many on the way of salvation. But let us forget that HE is also an enemy of souls, who is ever guided by rash, imprudent zeal; who sends people to the convent who have no marks of a divine vocation; who encourages young men to study for the priesthood, who are slaves of the most shameful vices; who allow frequent Communion to worldly-minded young women, passionately addicted to so-called fashionable, yet really indecent dances; who show an insane jealousy of their neighboring priests, especially if these priests have the good or ill fortune to be religious!
(…) He is not very strict in observing the rubrics. He rushes through his breviary with little attention and devotion. He confesses but seldom, and even then with little preparation. He hurries through Mass without preparation or thanksgiving, without devotion or recollection. The lukewarm priest may labor much, but his motives are merely natural. His actions are not prompted by the inspirations of grace. Hence he makes so little progress in the path of virtue. He preaches to others, but how does he practice what he preaches. He prays in the name of the Church, but does he pray from his heart? (…) Every day at the altar, he opens heavens to others, while his own heart has no desire for heaven.
Every day our Lord comes down from heaven to cast fire upon his heart, and his heart remains cold; the fire of divine love will not burn. If a man takes every day the most nourishing food and yet does not get strong, he must certainly be sick; there must be something wrong!
Source: The Catholic Priesthood, Michael Muller p68