The CAPG's Blog
Like the earth around its axis
Around the Catholic priesthood human society moves, like the earth around its axis, upon it society depends for its support, its life, its energy, as the planetary system depends on the sun.
No one understands this truth better than the devil and his associates in this world. When they wish to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priests: for, where there is no priest, there is no sacrifice; and where there is no sacrifice, there is no religion, no absolution from sin, no preaching of the word of God. What should we do in the Church: the people would say; there is no Mass, our Lord is no longer there; there is no one there with power to forgive sins; there is no one there to preach the word of God; we may as well stay at home.
Oh, how sad would be the state of society were the priest to be banished from the earth! The bonds that unite the husband and wife, the child and the parent, the friend and the friend, would be broken. Peace and justice would flee from the earth. Robbery, murder, hatred, lust, and all the other crimes condemned by the Gospel, would prevail. Hope, the sweet consoler of the afflicted, of the widow and of the orphan, would flee, and in her stead would reign black despair, terror, and suicide. Where would we find the sweet virtue of charity, if the priest were to disappear forever?
Source: The Catholic Priesthood, by Fr. Michael Muller 1885
Greater than the prophets
The priest of the Catholic Church is greater than the prophets. The prophets beheld the Redeemer only from afar, in the dim future. The Catholic priest beholds him present before his eyes; he touches the long-wished-for Redeemer with his hands; he offers him up to his heavenly Father;he carries him through the streets; he even feeds on the sacred flesh and blood of the Holy one; he receives Him into his heart, and unites himself most intimately to Him in Holy Communion.
The prophets foretold that, when the fullness of times should come, God would write His laws, not on stone, but on men's hears; he would govern men, not by the law of servile fear, but by the sweet bonds of holy love; that God Himself would dwell in them, and direct them by His grace. Now, this fullness of time for which the prophets sighed, came with Jesus Christ. He gave His grace, His own divine life, to man, and He gave it super-abundantly; and as the ministers of that grace, He chose, not the prophets, not his angels, but the priests of the Catholic Church. O Ineffable dignity!
The Catholic priest has the Patriarchal dignity of Abraham. Abraham is called the Father of the Faithful. The priest is, in reality, the father of the faithful; he makes them the children of God, by preaching the Gospel, and especially by the holy sacrament of baptism. The priest stands at the helm of the Church - the ark of salvation like Noah. He is consecrated forever, according to the order of Melchizedek, he is invested with a dignity far higher that that of Aaron. Aaron offered up only the blood of sheep and oxen, while the priest offers up the Blood of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The priest has the authority of Moses. Moses led the people of God through the desert, to the promised land; the priest leads the children of God through the desert of this life, to the true land of promise - their home in heaven.
Source: The Catholic Priest by Fr. Michael Muller, 1885
By the brushwood we understand short excerpts from the Scriptures, which wicked men violently tear out of context to support their contentions, and with smoke and fire kill great numbers of people, that is, the smoke of error and the fire of passion, so that the flames of lust might consume the mind of those who are deceived by their evil teachings and so that the darkness of their vicious doctrine might confound them.
These indeed, are the remains that were seen in the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah after these cities had bee destroyed: "Next morning," Scripture says, "Abraham rose early and went to the place where he had stood in the presence of the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and all the wide extent of the plain, and there he saw thick smoke rising high from the earth like the smoke of a limekiln." Again when he besieged the town of Thebez with his forces, Abimelech seemed to prefigure the attack on chastity. "There was a tall castle in the middle of the city," as Scripture affirms, "and all the citizens, men, and women, and the princes of the city took refuge there. They shut themselves in and went on to the roof, standing upon the battlements of the castle. The city is the universal Church, the castle of chastity is its high point, in which both men and women, the strong and the weak, take refuge, and also the princes of the city, namely, the order of clerics who wield authority in the Church. And when Abimelech came up to the castle, the battle became more fierce, and, approaching the gate, he tried to destroy it by fire.
In the same way senseless and wanton clerics attempt to set fire to the castle of chastity as they exhort many to follow the example of their voluptuousness and burning madness. Firebrands in hand, they attack the castle of chastity as the impure enkindle the chaste with the flames of their pernicious arguments.
But who will end this battle? On whom does this struggle bestow the trophies of victory?
Scripture says: "And then a woman threw a piece of millstone down on Abimelech and fracture his skull. He called hurriedly to his armor bearer and said: "Draw your sword and dispatch me, or men will say of me: A woman killed him." So the young man carried out the order and killed him.
The Devil knows....
The devil knows that he would meet with a poor reception were he to attack a priest openly; he, therefore, uses every artifice to ensnare him.
Some times he tries to make vice appear less deformed and less shameful than it really is. At other time he points out to the priest the great number of clergy whose lives are no better than his own.
At one time he tempts the priest to presumption, and at another time to despair. Some he emboldens and lulls to sleep by the secret suggestion that they have great virtues which hide their little weaknesses, and that, moreover, they are resolved not to go too far.
There are some who even make virtues of their very vices, who call their sinful attachments by the sacred name of charity. We imagine, says St. Augustine, that whatever we love is good, and that whatever is pleasing is holy.
Again, how many priests have been ensnared by inordinate curiosity! Under the pretext of gaining information, they have been anxious to see everything, to hear everything, to read everything, to know everything, and soon they came to do everything also!
There are certain ties which a wise man does not simply untie or unknit; no, he breaks them off at once. There are moments in our life when we must be able to say with calm, unflinching determination: "Non possumus."
There are victories which can be gained only by flight (St. Aug. Serm 250. De temp.) In order to preserve their chastity unsullied the saints suffered and sacrificed everything. Why did St. Augustine shed so many tears? Why did St. Jerome go through so many night-watches? Why did St. Hilarion keep so many severe fasts? Why did all the saints undergo so many maceration and mortifications? It was that they might preserve unstained the holy virtue of chastity. How many of them have even sacrificed their lives, in order to preserve this virtue, thus uniting the palm of martyrdom with the crown of virginity? The virtue of holy chastity is in itself a miracle of fortitude - a strength which seems to surpass even the fortitude of martyrs. The combat of the martyrs is fierce indeed, but it is not lasting; but the combat of the virgins ends only with their last breath.
Let us glorify and bear God in our body. Let us offer this body to God as a living, holy and pleasing victim. Let us unite the sacrifice of our body with that of the adorable victim which we daily offer on the altar. Where shall we find this mortification of Christ, if not in those who nourish themselves daily with the flesh of Christ? Let us pray that God may forever preserve and increase in us this angelic virtue. Let us pray especially to the Virgin of virgins, that she may obtain for us that glorious crown which is reserved for the virgins in heaven.
A servant of God once saw in purgatory many who were suffering for having committed sins against the virtue of holy purity; but she did not find one priest among them. On asking the reason of this, the angel told her that scarcely one impure priest ever does sincere penance for his sins, and that consequently such unworthy priests are lost.
Source: The Catholic Priesthood by Rev. Fr. Michael Muller, 1885
The Priest has the key to the treasures of Heaven!
All the other gifts of God would avail us nothing without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if there were no one to open the door for you?
Now, the priest has the key of all the treasures of heaven; it is he who opens the door. He is the steward of the Lord's household, the administrator of his goods. Without the priest the passion of our Lord would profit us nothing. Look at the poor heathens. Of what benefit is our Lord's death to them? Alas! They can have no share in the Redemption, so long as they have no priest to apply Christ's blood to their souls.
Ah! To whom shall I compare the priest? There is no created being like him, even in heaven or on earth. In establishing the priesthood God seems to have exhausted all the treasures of His power and mercy. Indeed, in the light of faith, the man disappears altogether in the priest. Faith beholds in him nothing but Jesus Christ, continuing, in him and through him, the work of redemption for the honor of His Father and the salvation of mankind.
Truly, when we see the priest of the Catholic Church, weak and sinful as he is, gifted with powers which angels dare not claim; power to forgive sins, power to announce his word, power to which Satan submits, when we see the priest possessing power over God Himself, possessing power to bear Him, to place Him, to give Him to whom He wills - we cannot help exclaiming in amazement: " O wondrous miracle! O unheard-of power!" A greater power than this God could not give: it is His own almighty power! A greater dignity that this God could not bestow upon a mortal being!
Since God, then, has placed the priests of the Catholic Church upon the thrones of His own power and sanctity, since He has given them the titles of "saviors of the world," since He call them His cooperators in the divine work of redemption, what wonder if He commands all men to hear, to obey, and to honor them, as they are bound to hear, to obey, and to honor God Himself! "He that heareth you," says He, "Heareth me; He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye."
Source: The Catholic Priesthood, Fr. Michael Muller 1885
Our Parish Clergy
You are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I My self am. Isaias XLIII, 10.
The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with Me in peace and in equity, and turned many away from iniquity. Malch. n, 6.
When the faithful throughout the world gather round their altars to hear the Gospel preached to them, or to partake of the Bread of Life, those words of the Savior come home to them, "Where there are two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." (1 St. Matt, xviii, 20) words which assure them that His sacred Presence is with them and will continue with them until the end of time. The kind and loving Lord is with us not merely in the words that teach us how to live but rather in the spiritual Food that makes us live.
It is at the Eucharistic Banquet especially, during which we incessantly nourish our souls and gather in spiritual strength, that He truly lives with us. And yet His adorable Presence is not visible to us, but hidden under an impenetrable sacramental veil. This alone is a marvelous condescension on the part of our loving Master. The fact that He is living with us, that He is watching over us, that He is perpetually interceding for us, that His Holy Spirit is influencing our thoughts, words and actions all this is more than poor sinful men could hope for.
But the kind Master was not satisfied with this. He knew that if we had to look ever and only with the eyes of faith, a feeling of longing and incompleteness would soon take possession of our souls, just as the Jews after a time began to loathe the heavenly manna and longed for other food, and He has given us further evidence of His presence and protection. For this purpose He has made us members of a visible society, His Church here on earth, and appoints visible representatives to take His place and look after our interests. These representatives are His pontiffs, His bishops and His priests, with whom He shares His power, and through whose visible agency He continues the ministry of souls, a work which He Himself discontinued as a visible task when He ascended into Heaven. It was preferably to these representatives that His first Pontiff, St. Peter, addressed the words: "Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God and Jesus Christ."
In the design of our Great Shepherd, who likened His Church to a sheepfold, and for its more effective government, this visible Church is divided into minor folds, called dioceses. These again are divided into many subordinate ones, called parishes, every one having at its head its own visible shepherd, the parish priest.
It is easy to gauge the dignity of the man who is placed over one of these subordinate folds, not simply because he works directly for souls, nor because his hands are consecrated to the service of the altar thousands of others share these privileges with him but because he is officially delegated to watch over a certain portion of the great flock, and shares his pastorship with him who was named by Christ Himself to feed the lambs and the sheep. His right to govern is ratified by the Church; she reserves to the parish priest certain jurisdiction over souls which she does not permit others to exercise unbidden; that is to say, even though others have the spiritual power to help souls by conferring the Sacraments, they have not the authority to use it.
Seeing that the Church singles out and confers special privileges on these delegated shepherds, it follows that she desires the faithful to respect not merely the privileges themselves but also the persons who possess them. Our Church teaches us that our parish priest is an ambassador of God, that he is among us as His visible representative. And since we respect God we should respect His ambassador; since we love God with a grateful and tender love, we should show a similar love for the ambassador who represents Him. We listen to God and obey Him when He manifests His will; should we not also submit our judgment and will to him who shares God s authority and who commands in His name? Three duties, therefore, are imperative on us all in our relations with our parish priest, namely, respect, love, obedience.
It is necessary in the present age to insist on the first of these duties, because sectarian hatred of the priestly character tends to show itself, preferably against those who are pastors of souls. If it can succeed in casting contumely on the shepherds, the faith of the flocks is soon weakened, for even Catholics are influenced by evil reports. And this is precisely the end the enemy aims at. Happily in our days the priestly dignity is worthily borne by those who are invested with it; our pastors and leaders of parishes are men who are admirable in their zeal and abnegation. We see among them young men with a long life of service still before them, who fully realize their position and the obligations attached to it, and who are consequently working with a will for God and souls. We see among them other men whose years of strenuous watchfulness have stretched into decades, venerable priests with hair whitened with age, who stand with their hands raised like those of Moses, mediating with God for the flocks entrusted to their care. This is no fanciful picture; every diocese in our country possesses such men; and to show them respect is paying a tribute to their personal virtue as well as to their sublime office. It is not merely their priestly character, which entitles them to our veneration, but their upright lives; and their many acts nobly done call for the respect of all noble minds.
Respect alone, while praiseworthy, is not all that is due to those who, in the mind of the Church, are the fathers of our souls. It is to the parish priest as to a spiritual father that our love should go out. A dutiful child loves him to whom he owes the preservation of his physical being, and he is looked on as an ingrate among men who would withhold his love from the one who provides him with the temporal necessities of life. The parish priest fills a similar role in the spiritual world, and he should have a share in our love. The word "gratitude" is expressive of the just appreciation of a gift. And yet do we always appreciate at their just value the spiritual gifts that come to us through the shepherds of our souls? Baptism, whereby we are made true children of God; absolution, whereby our sins are wiped out; direction, whereby our foot-steps in the rough road of the spiritual life are smoothed down; Holy Communion, whereby our souls are fed and strengthened are all gifts that come to us through the ministrations of our spiritual guide; they surely entitle him to our gratitude and love. We can never hope to give adequate return for favors such as these the things of heaven are not purchasable with gold or silver but we should try to repay, in our own human way, by a grateful thoughtfulness, that is, by the tribute of our prayers and by a genuine affection, the long hours of fatigue in the sick room and in the tribunal of penance, and the other works of the sacred ministry. In return for his labors in our behalf, gratitude for our parish priest should urge us to contribute joyfully to his support, and to soften the roughness of his life by adding to his frugal comforts. The true shepherd of souls looks for very little in this world; one of his chief rewards here below is the affection of his people.
Obedience is the natural outcome of respect and love. We are ready to obey him whom we respect and love, and this is the best way of showing our third and last duty. Our parish priest has been lawfully named a shepherd over a portion of the flock of Christ. He commands with an authority which comes down to him in an unbroken line, through pontiffs and bishops, from the Saviour Himself, who said, "Go teach all nations. . . He who hears you hears Me." When our parish priest, therefore, counsels, urges, commands, he does so with the sanction of the Universal Church and of its Founder whose ambassador he is.
Nor should we be chary in rendering homage to his authority or obedience to his wishes. The privileges of the pastor of souls is to teach by word and example. When he teaches he presupposes a spirit of submission to his voice not only in things that are obligatory, or otherwise commanded, but even very often in things that may be left to our own initiative. Naturally, the advice of one who is teacher and father at the same time, and whose vast experience gives his words a special cogency, should be listened to with becoming respect and submission. This is the dictate of sound common sense. It does not take a philosopher long to decide whether it is more reasonable that the head should obey the other members
of the body or that the body should follow the direction of the head. In all organized communities there must be a chief who rules and directs. When subordination to leadership is lacking the logical result is anarchy of thought and action. Insubordination and opposition, even in minor matters, are always the sources of great evils; in a parish they only too often lead souls to disaster.
It is also our duty as Catholics and as members of Christ's flock, to cooperate with those who are placed in spiritual authority over us. The interests of the Church necessarily demand a certain amount of lay action from her members; to labor for the salvation of souls should surely not be the exclusive privilege of the clergy. Happily, there are many who fully appreciate this truth; there are, in every parish, laymen who are willing to work with their pastor in things affecting the glory of God, and who thereby give both God and His ambassador ineffable consolations. Those laymen have not the sacerdotal halo on their brow, nor have they ever tasted the austere joys of the sacred ministry; but they are the unselfish helpers of God s priests, all the same, and they may look for their share in the reward reserved for those who have been formally chosen for the work of the sanctuary.
If it should happen, that the obligations of family, or state, or age, or health, prevent our lay-folk from cooperating actively in parish work, their zeal should not for that reason be rendered inactive. In prayer they have a powerful lever which they may use whenever they wish. Let parishioners, therefore, pray for their shepherds, that God may preserve them in health and actuate the zeal which their ministry calls for. Let parishioners pray for the works of their pastors, that these works may be meritorious in the sight of the Most High. Sad, indeed, should be the plight of a shepherd of souls who on the Day of Judgment would be forced to say: "Unhappy man that I am! I too have worked among the flocks; yet I am a castaway." If we respect, love and obey our pastors, we shall have done at least our share to prevent such a catastrophe.
"Incorruption," says Holy Scripture, "bringeth near to God." (Wish. vi, 20.) Virginity has received in woman, through Mary, an almost divine consecration; it receives in the priest a still more striking glorification. It is by virginity that the priest and the divine Lamb meet daily at the hour of sacrifice; that they walk along the same rivers of purifying grace; that they repose under the same roof; that they sit at the same table and are separated neither day nor night. Chastity is likewise the primary condition of our (the priest's) strength; and it is to this virtue that the priesthood owes its greatest conquests.
'Oh, how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal, because it is known both with God and with men. It triumpheth, crowned forever, winning the reward of undefiled conflicts. (Wisdom iv, 1,2.)
Chastity raises the priest's to a level with the angels: "Just as purity makes man equal to the angels, indeed makes him more than an angel," says Eusebius, "so does sensuality brutalize man, aye, degrade him even below the brute."
"If you persevere in unsullied chastity," says Sixtus III, "you shall be as an angel in the sight of God, and like a God in the sight of men."
Chastity raises the priest to the understanding of the highest mysteries: "Chastity," says St. Ambrose, "soars above the clouds, the skies, nay above the very angels, above the stars of heaven. The chaste soul finds the Eternal Word in the bosom of the Father and drinks in his sweetness with her whole heart."
"The faithful soul that preserves her chastity," says St. Basil, "is so far advanced that she forms in herself, as in a most clear mirror, a likeness of the God of all purity."
Chastity fills the (priest's) soul with joy. "How sweet," says St. Augustine, "was it at once to me to be without the sweetness of those trifles! I dreaded to renounce the sweetness of those trifles, and now at once it was a great sweetness for me to give them up. Thou didst cast them forth from me, Thou true and highest Sweetness, and in place of them Thou didst thyself enter into my heart, sweeter than every pleasure." "Nothing so delights the faithful heart," says St. Cyprian, "as a conscience untarnished by any impure stain. To have overcome sensual pleasure is the highest pleasure: not is there any victory greater than that which is won over the passions."
Chastity unites (the priest) to Jesus by a certain mysterious tie. "Although all the just are spouses of Christ," says St. Anthony of Padua, "yet virgins are his spouses in a far more special manner; for as husband and wife are one flesh, so are virgins one flesh with Christ, their Spouse."
"Jesus," says St. Fulgentius, "is the fruit born by holy virginity; He is its glory and its reward. Holy virginity brought Jesus into the world; he is the spouse of virgins. He alone made virginity fruitful; He crowns the virgins with a special glory in heaven."
Source: The Catholic Priesthood, by Rev. Fr. Michael Muller 1885
Nature and Necessity of Tradition.
Tradition embraces all those teachings concerning faith and morals imparted by Christ Himself, or by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, to the apostles, and which they preached orally although they did not commit them to writing.
Christ did not put His teachings into a written form, neither did He order the apostles to do so. He went about preaching and teaching (Matthew iv.23). To His apostles He simply said,"Go ye into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature...But they going forth preached everywhere, the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed" ( Mark xvi. 15, 20). It was preaching, therefore, that is, the verbal expounding of the doctrine of Jesus, which, in conformity to the will of God, was to be foundation for faith, and not simply written forms. if some of the apostles wrote a few pages, it was always done to meet certain exigencies and for some personal and local purpose, and not, by any means, wit a view of giving even a summary of totality of the doctrines to be believed by all men unto salvation. This truth is explicitly laid down by St. John. He had written his Gospel later than the three other Evangelists, and partly with the intention to supply many things overlooked and omitted by them. yet at the end of his work he said, "Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of His disciples, which are not written in this book. There are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written" (John xx. 30; xxi.25).
Thus it is not difficult to discover that the apostles, their disciples, and the faithful generally, never depended on any writing as the only and exclusive rule of faith. On the contrary, hear what St. Paul says of communication by word of mouth, or Tradition. Writing to Timothy, he exhorts: "Thou, therefore, my son, be strong... and the things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same command to faithful men who shall be fit to reach others also" (2 Timothy ii. 1,2).
Moreover the Church of Christ could not have existed, nor would it exist today, if deprived of oral Tradition; for there was no written rule of faith for full ten years after the coming of the Holy Ghost. Then, too, Holy Writ is silent concerning many important doctrines, such as the number of the sacraments, their administration, the baptism of infants, the observance of Sunday instead of Saturday, the lawfulness of oaths, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and others. Again, doctrines mentioned in the Bible are not fully and satisfactorily explained. Necessarily the Holy Scriptures must be not only corroborated by Tradition but also made clear and intelligible.
The assumption that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith from which every man must draw his belief, involves and produces countless absurd consequences. For instance, what is to become of those persons who cannot secure a copy of the Bible? before the invention of printing, a modern event, such persons were counted by millions. Others can not read, and no man is sure that his translation is true and exact.
The recognition of Tradition as a source of belief when combined with the written word, is as ancient as the Catholic Church itself. Fathers of the apostolic times, such as St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, who lived in the first and second centuries, exhorted the Christians of their day to preserve faithfully their religious traditions and preachings. In the second century we find St. Irenaeus complaining of the heretics, that they rejected Holy Scriptures and Tradition, although the latter had come from the apostles and had been sacredly preserved in the Church through all succeeding bishops. (Adv. Haer., 1,3.) Beside these there are countless other testimonies to the same effect.
In the course of times these ancient oral traditions were gradually committed to writing by the Fathers and were carefully handed down in the Church from generation to generation.
Sources of Tradition
The various sources whence ecclesiastical Tradition is drawn and then imparted by the Church-teaching, are, first, the decrees and definitions of Councils; secondly, the writings of the Fathers; thirdly, the recorded acts of martyrs and confessors; fourthly, the ancient books containing the history, teachings, and discipline of the Church; fifthly, the different rites, ceremonies, and prayers of the Church.
Whatever is laid down in these writings as universal doctrines of the Catholic Church, is, after the Sacred Scriptures, our second source of belief. Such it has been, too, from the earliest times. As early as the fifth century St. Vincent of Lerins wrote," We hold fast to that which has been believed by all, everywhere and in every age, for such is truly and undeniable Catholic."
Source: An explanation of the Apostles Creed 1907
Of the Celibacy of the Clergy.
Q. What is the reason why the Catholic clergy are not allowed to marry?
A. Because at their entering into Holy Orders, they make a solemn promise to God and the Church to live continently. Now the breach of such a promise as this would be a great sin; witness St. Paul (I Tim. v. II, 12), where speaking of widows that are for marrying, after having thus engaged themselves to God, he says: "They have damnation, because they have cast off their first faith"; that is their solemn engagement made to God.
Q. But why does the Church receive none to Holy Orders but such as are willing to make this solemn engagement ?
A. Because she does not think it proper that they, who by their office and function ought to be wholly devoted to the service of God, and the care of souls, should be diverted from these duties by the distractions of a married life. (I Cor. VII. 32, 33.) "He that is unmarried, careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord : but he that is married, careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife."
Q. But was it always the law of the Church that the clergy should abstain from marriage?
A. It was always a law in the Church that bishops, priests, and deacons shall not marry after having received Holy Orders; and we have not one example, in all antiquity, either in the Greek or Latin Church of any such marriage; but, it has been at some times, and in some places, as at present among the Greeks, permitted for priests and deacons, to continue with their wives which they had married before their ordination, though even this was disallowed by many ancient canons.
The 27th of the Apostolic canons allows none of the clergy to marry but those that are in the minor Orders, that is, lectors and cantors. The Council of Neo- caesarea, which was more ancient than that of Nice, in its first canon, orders that if a priest marries he would be deposed. The Council of Ancyra, which was held about the same time, orders the same thing with regard to deacons, except they protested at the time of their ordination that they could not live unmarried, and were therefore presumed to be dispensed with by the bishop. (Council Ancyra, Can. 10.)
The great Council of Nice, in the third canon forbids clergymen to have any women in their house, except it be mother, sister, or aunt, etc., a caution which would never have been thought of if they had been allowed to have wives.
In the West the Council of Illiberis, which was held about the close of the third century, canon 33 commands bishops, priests, deacons and sub-deacons to abstain from their wives, under pain of degradation. The second Council of Aries (can. 2) ordains that no married man be made priest, unless he promise conversion, that is to live continently. The second Council of Carthage (can. 2) ordains that bishops, priests and deacons should live continently, and abstain from their wives; and this because the Apostles so taught, and all antiquity observed. Ut quod Apostoli docuerunt, et ipsa servavit antiquitas, nos quoque custodiamus. And the fifth
Council of Carthage, anno 598, can. 2, ordains, in like manner, that all bishops, priests and deacons should abstain from their wives, or be deposed. There are many other ancient canons to the like effect, as well as decrees of the ancient Popes; as of Siricius, in his epistle to Himmerius, bishop of Tarragona, c. 7; of Innocent I in his epistle to Victricius, bishop of Roan c. 9; of St. Leo the Great, epist. 82, to Anastasius, c. 3 and 4.
Hence St. Epiphanius, who flourished in the East in the fourth century, in his great work against all heresies (Haer. 59), writes thus: "The Church does not admit him to be a deacon, priest, bishop, or sub-deacon, though he be a man of one wife, who makes use of conjugal embraces." He adds that this "is observed in those places chiefly in which canons of the Church are exactly kept which being directed by the Holy Ghost, aims always at that which is most perfect; that those who are employed in divine functions may have as little as can be of worldly distractions." And St. Jerome, Epist. 50. "Bishops," says he, "priests and deacons are chosen either virgins or widowers, or from the time of their priesthood perpetually chaste." He affirms the same in his book against Vigilantius, by the name of the Churches of the East, and of Egypt, and of the See Apostolic; and of all bishops, in his book against Jovinianus. See also Origen, Homily 13, upon Numbers; Eusebius, 1. I. Demonst Evang. c 9; and St. John Chrysostom, Homily de Patientia Job.
If you ask the reason why the Church has insisted so much in all ages upon this point of discipline, besides the reason alleged above out of St. Paul (1 Cor. VII 32, 33), "The reason of single life for the clergy," says Mr. Thorndyke, an eminent Protestant divine, in his letters at the end of Just Weights and Measures, p. 239, "is firmly grounded by the fathers and canons of the Church upon the precept of St. Paul, forbidding man and wife to part, unless for a time to attend unto prayer. (1 Cor. VII. 5.) For priests and deacons being continually to attend upon occasions of celebrating the Eucharist, which ought continually to be frequented; if others are to abstain from the use of marriage for a time, then they always." Thus far Mr. Thorndyke.
Q. But were not the Apostles married?
A. Some of them were before they were called to the apostleship; but we do not find that they had any commerce with their wives after they were called by Christ. St. Jerome expressly affirms that they had not. (Epist. 50.) And this seems to be dear from St. Matt, (XIX 27), where St. Peter says to our Lord, "Behold, we have forsaken all things, and followed thee"; for, that amongst the ALL which they had forsaken, wives also were comprehended, is gathered from the enumeration made by our Saviour in the 29th verse, where he expressly nameth wives.
Q. But does not St. Paul say (Cor. IX. 5), "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other Apostles, " etc.?
A. The Protestant translation has willfully corrupted the text in this place; it should have been translated a woman, a sister. The Apostle speaks not of his wife, for it is visible he had none, from 1 Cor. XII. 7, 3. But he speaks of such pious women, as, according to the custom of the Hebrew nation, waited upon the Apostles and other teachers, serving them in necessaries; as they had done also upon our Lord in the time of His mortal life. (See St. Luke VIII. 2, 3.) Though St. Paul, that he might be less burdensome to the faithful, chose rather to serve himself and live by the work of his own hands.
Q. Does not the Apostle (I Tim. III. 2 and 12), require that bishops and deacons should be "the husband of one wife?"
A. The meaning of the Apostle is not that every bishop, priest or deacon should have a wife, for he himself had none; and he declares (I Cor. VIII. 8): "I say to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I." But his meaning is, that none should be admitted to be a bishop, priest or deacon, that had been married more than once, which law has ever since been observed in the Catholic Church: for since it was not possible in those days of the first preaching of the Gospel (when there were few or no converts, either among the Jews or Gentiles, but such as were married), to have found a sufficient number of proper ministers, if they had not admitted married men, they were consequently obliged to admit such to the ministry; but still with this limitation provided they had not been twice married. But now the Church has a sufficient number of such as are trained up to a single life, and are willing to embrace perpetual continency ; and therefore prefers such to the ministry, and is authorized so to do by the Apostle (I Cor. VIII. 32, 33, 38). And if after having consecrated themselves to God in this kind of life, they should be for looking back, and engaged in a married life, they are expressly
condemned by the same Apostle. (I Tim. V. 12.)
Q. Is it not said (Heb. xm. 5), " Marriage is honorable in all?"
A. The Protestant translation has strained the text to make it say more than the original, which may as well be rendered in the imperative mood, thus: "Let marriage be honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; for whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" as the next verse which is rendered in the Protestant translation by the imperative, "Let your conversation be without covetousness," etc. So that the true meaning of this text is, that married persons should not dishonor their holy state by any liberties contrary to the sanctity of it ; but not to allow marriage to those who have chosen the better part, and consecrated themselves by vow to God.
Q. But is not forbidding marriage called a doctrine of devils ? (I Tim. IV. 3.)
A. It certainly was so in those of whom the Apostle there speaks, viz., the Gnostics, the Marcionites, the Encratites, the Manicheans, and many other heretics, who absolutely condemned marriage as the work of the devil. For our part, nobody reverences marriage more than we do; for we hold it to be a Sacrament, and forbid it to none but to those that have voluntarily renounced it to consecrate themselves more wholly to the divine service: and in such as these St. Paul condemns it as much as we. (See I Tim. V. 12.) That these same heretics also condemned absolutely the use of all kinds of meat, not on fasting-days only (as was also practiced by the Church), but at any time whatsoever; because they looked upon all flesh to be from an evil principle. So that it is evident these were the men of whom the Apostle (I Tim. IV.) intended to speak.
Q. But do you think that a vow of continency so strictly obliges any person, that it would be a sin in such a person to marry?
A. Yes, most certainly; because the law of God and nature requires that we should keep our vows to God (Deut. XXIII. 21, 22, 23). "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform." (Psal. LXXVI. II.) "Vow and pay unto the Lord your God." (Eccles. V. 4.) " Pay that which thou hast vowed. Better it is that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay." For if it be a crime to break our faith with man, how much more with God ? If you say that the state of continency is not more acceptable to God than that of marriage, and therefore cannot be the proper matter of a vow, you contradict the doctrine of the Apostle: (Cor. VII. 38), "He that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; but he that giveth her not doth better."
Hence St. Augustine (L. de bono Viduiatis, c. II), affirms that the breach of such a vow of chastity is worse than adultery: and St. John Chrysostom (ad Theodorum Lapsum), "Though you call it marriage a thousand times, yet I maintain it is much worse than adultery." Hence the Council of Illiberis, can. 13; the fourth Council of Carthage, can. 104; and the great Council of Chalcedon, can. 15, excommunicate those who presume to marry after such a vow. What would the Church of those ages have thought of a religion introduced into the world by men that had notoriously broken through those most solemn engagements, and who raised the fabric of their pretended reformation upon thousands of broken vows ?
Q. But all have not the gift of continency ; why then should the first reformers be blamed, if, finding they had not the gift, they ventured upon marrying with nuns?
A. Continency is not required of all, but such as have by vow engaged to keep it: and therefore, before a person engages himself by vow, he ought certainly to examine whether he has a call from God, and whether he can to through with what he thinks of undertaking: but after he has once engaged himself by vow, he is not now at liberty to go back; but may assure himself, that the gift of continence will not be denied him, so that he uses proper means to obtain and preserve it, particularly prayer and mortification, which because Luther laid aside, by quitting his canonical hours of prayer and other religious exercises, to which he had been accustomed in his convent, no wonder if he lost the gift of continency, which he owns he enjoyed whilst he was a popish friar : " Whilst I was a religious (says he), I observed chastity, obedience and poverty: and, in short, being wholly disengaged from the cares of this present life, I wholly gave myself up to fasting, watching and prayer." (In Gal. 2, 15, t. 5, Wittemb. fol. 291. 2.) But as soon as he commenced reformer, to demonstrate that he was changed for the worse, he declares he had so far lost this gift that he could not possibly live without a woman. (Sermon de Matrim., L 5, fol. 119, 1.)
Q. But does not Christ say, concerning continency (St. Matt, XIX II), "All men cannot receive this saying:" and St. Paul (Cor. VII. 9), "If they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn?"
A. No; both these texts are willfully corrupted in the Protestant Testament. Where he speaks not of such as have vowed chastity, but of other Christians, whom he advises rather to marry than to burn with unlawful lust here, and for unlawful lust hereafter. And the same advice is most frequently inculcated by Catholic divines. But as for those that have vowed chastity, they must make use of other means to prevent this burning, particularly prayer and fasting. But what a wretched case must that of the adversaries of the celibacy of the clergy be when to maintain it they have in so many places willfully corrupted the Scripture! and what a melancholy case it must be, that so many thousands of well-meaning souls should be wretchedly deluded with the pretense of God's pure word, when instead of this, they have nothing put in their hands but corrupted translations, which present than with a mortal poison, instead of the food of life!
Source: Our Church Her Children And Institutions, Volume 1. 1908
Towards the Altar
Is it a small thing unto you that the God of Israel hath separated you from all the people, and joined you to himself, that you should serve Him in the service of the tabernacle, and should stand before the congregation of the people, and should minister to Him? Numbers XVI, 9
Blessed is he whom Thou hast chosen and taken to Thee: he shall dwell in Thy courts. We shall be filled with the good things of Thy house; holy is Thy temple. Psalm LXIV, 5.
One of the works that craves the sympathetic cooperation of all Catholics, especially our Catholic parents, is the recruiting of young men for the service of the altar. The very existence of religion and its advancement in the world depend upon the constant supply of those ambassadors to whom God has delegated His mission and His power. The priest is the propagator of Christ's doctrines, the dispenser of His graces, the lieutenant of the Holy Ghost in the work of man's sanctification. The Holy Ghost is continually operating in individual souls, striving to keep them in a state of grace, or striving to restore it to them when it is lost, but in this sublime effort His instrument is the priest. The Holy Ghost floods the intellect with the light of faith, but it is the words of the priest that set the rays in vibration. The charity of the Holy Ghost warms men's cold hearts and moves their wills, but this is done through the Sacraments conferred by the hands of the priest. It is God's
desire to remain with us, to be the nourishment of our souls, but He depends on His priests to utter the words that keep Him in our tabernacles. "Where there is no priest there is no sacrifice says the (..) Cure d'Ars; "where there is no sacrifice there is no religion; where there is no religion there are no reasonable men, only brutes destroying each other."
True, the Christian faith might subsist for a time, even though Christ's ambassadors had disappeared, but once the souls of men were deprived of the benefits of absolution and of that heavenly manna which is Christ's own Body and Blood, they would soon pine away and die a spiritual death. Without the priesthood the light of faith would soon dwindle and disappear altogether. This has been the result in every land where persecution has succeeded in banishing the clergy. We have only to mention the instance of England under the Tudors, or of Japan under Tiacosama. A vital affair, then, in the life of the Church, is the filling up of the priestly ranks to continue the work of those whom death claims, or whom age and fatigue oblige to lay down the burdens of the ministry.
Before the Council of Trent, the old monastic and cathedral schools educated youth in preparation for the service of the altar. The universities crowned these preliminary studies with courses of philosophy and theology, and the young Levites then started out to labor for souls. But the upheaval of the sixteenth century caused such disruption in this order of things, the leaven of heresy tainted the wells of knowledge to such an extent, that the Fathers of the Council of Trent had to initiate other methods and provide other means for the rearing of the future servants of the sanctuary. It was then that they resolved that every country, every diocese even, should provide its own pastors and carefully train them to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful. They decreed that institutions should be established where young men showing signs of a vocation to the priesthood should be trained in science and virtue. These institutions they called seminaries. The name was well chosen. In its etymological sense, "seminary" means a nursery where saplings are planted and carefully tended until they are strong enough to resist the action of the elements, when they may be transferred to other soil. In the minds of the Fathers of Trent, the saplings were to be the young men destined for the priesthood, who, after they had been strengthened morally and intellectually, should go out into the world to spread the Faith by their teaching and uphold it by their example.
This wise legislation of the Council of Trent has been the salvation of the Catholic religion ever since the sixteenth century. For the past four hundred years, our seminaries have supplied the Church with her ministers, and the prospects are that for centuries to come the Church must look to the same sources for them. Such being the case, the question of the recruiting of the priesthood should concern every Catholic, layman and cleric; it should, in fact, appeal to all who have the interests of our holy religion at heart; for we are all responsible to God in some way or other for the soul of our neighbor.
In recent years the number of young men who enter our diocesan seminaries has diminished in a marked degree, and yet the needs of the Church have grown with the spread of the Faith, not merely at home but in foreign lands. Our bishops everywhere are deploring the scarcity of priests to cater to the religious wants of Catholics; the foreign missions are clamoring for workmen; everywhere, at home and abroad, the harvest is ripe, and there are not reapers enough to gather it in.
The glamor of the world naturally at tracts inexperienced young men, and it is sad to think that Catholic parents will not turn a hand to influence their decisions. There was a time when the prospect of seeing a son at the altar was a father's or mother's highest ambition on earth, but that time has evidently gone. Wealth and honors and the pleasures of life have too strong an attraction; abnegation and poverty and suffering in the footsteps of the Crucified seem too great a sacrifice to ask from the sons of worldly minded Catholic parents. And yet the claims of religion are just as cogent as they ever were. The need of holy and learned priests is greater than ever before; for in these strenuous times, souls not merely must be fed with the Bread of Life, but they must also be fortified against the pernicious doctrines and influences that are rife on every side.
A heavy responsibility shall rest on the shoulders of some one, and if it is parents who discourage their sons from entering the ranks of the priesthood, they should be warned while there is yet time. God's designs are never thwarted with impunity. To parents, preferably to all others, He has confided the eternal interests of young souls. Their duty is to try to discern early His providential designs and to second their execution. Parents should be the first to foster in a child the germ of vocation to the priesthood, when it begins to show itself; above all, they should be watchful, lest the frail germ be stifled amid worldliness and the temptations of life. When the moment comes for its final blossoming in the seminary or in the novitiate, they should not hesitate to give their son willingly to God, in order that in the course of time he may not only honor them in the dignity of his priesthood, but also and this should be of much greater moment for them that they may have their in direct share in their son's labors in the Master's vineyard and their own reward for eternity.
So much for the candidate to the priesthood; a word now about his training in the novitiate or the seminary. How may lay-Catholics help in this work? By contributing to the support of those institutions wherein priests are educated. The precept obliging us to support our pastors has a wider range that is generally supposed, nor is it restricted to the needs of the moment. The young seminarian of today will be the pastor of tomorrow, the novice of today will be the missionary of tomorrow; and if we understand our obligations aright, the future as well as the present has its claim upon the generosity of all who are able to help.
From those who are favored by fortune more generous sacrifices may be asked. The Spirit of God breathes where It willeth. We know too well that the whispering Voice calling a child to the sanctuary is often heard in homes where worldly wealth is a stranger, and it often happens that no matter how pressing his desires, how lofty his hopes, how urgent his call, the young man sees the priestly career closed against him unless some generous benefactor steps in and provides the wherewithal to enable him to carry out his wishes. One of the most Godlike of charities, when a family is in a position to do so, is to provide for the education of a young priest either in a diocesan seminary or in a religious community. God promises His blessing to the generous giver, even when an alms is doled out for the mere welfare of the body; how much more readily will He bless those who give of their substance to save immortal souls! Wealthy Catholics should seize this opportunity of showing their generosity. They may not be called by God directly to save souls, but it is their privilege, if they will only use it, to help those who are called by God directly to save souls.
To sum up. There is a great scarcity of priests to carry out the work of the Church. Let young men who feel the call to the priesthood not hesitate to follow it. Let Catholic parents be generous in giving their sons to God when His holy will is made known to them. Let the Catholic laity, the well-to-do especially, be generous in helping on the work of training in our seminaries. All may not be able to give of their worldly substance, but all may help by their prayers. Let us ask God to supply His Church with holy and learned men who will carry on the work which He Himself began during His earthly career.
There is a Hell for the Wicked
How is it possible that a merciful God could punish with eternal misery poor human being for slips and faults of natural weakness? Why does He create them? Does He rejoice in calling persons into existence to damn them? God created us for eternal happiness; heaven is our destiny. Those who succeed in damning themselves, do it against the will of God.
God, though infinite in His mercy is infinite in all His perfections: He is infinitely just. No punishment which He can inflict upon him who dies in mortal sin will be commensurate with His justice unless that punishment be boundless in its intensity and eternal in its duration.
I do not understand how anybody can believe in a God without believing in everlasting punishment. The very existence of God calls for a hell of the wicked where the worm never dies and the fire shall never be quenched. He who dies in mortal sin remains in that sin, as the Scripture assures us: "Wherever the tree falleth there it shall lie." He remains for all eternity as he died: the enemy of God. And God must for all eternity treat him as His enemy. Reason, I repeat, requires the existence of hell; therefore, all ages and all nations have believed in it. The pagans firmly believed in it; they spoke of the wicked dead as suffering endless banishment and as being condemned to endless labor and torment.
It is not credit to our enlightened age if it records the names of individuals who became conspicuous by sneering at the mention of hell, who pretended there was no such place or state or hell-fire or everlasting punishment. Odes such an impudent denial destroy the doctine of hell? Besides, hell is not an opinion, and not even a mere doctrine, but hell is a real fact; reason and revelation convince us of the existence of this fact. Can a man do away with a fact by denying it? Is there no such city as San Francisco, because you deny it on the ground that you never saw it? Does the sun cease to shine as soon as you state: The sun is not shining? Moreover, did ever a learned man prove that there was no hell? Voltaire and Rousseau made a desperate attempt to prove the non-existence of hell, but all that these blasphemers accomplished was to assert boldly that perhaps there was no hell. Against such a silly perhaps we have sound reason supported by the infallible word of God to convince us of hell. Yes, there is a hell, and those who refuse to believe in it will be cast into it forever. The wicked may wish that there be no hell and laugh at the idea of it: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, shall say to them on the last day: "Depart from Me, ye accursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." Such is the just retribution of mortal sin, which is a turning away from God for the sake of a created thing. The damned are deprived of ever seeing God. This is the greatest of all imaginable sufferings, and yet it is a most appropriate punishment: He who has rejected God on earth, shall be rejected by Him for all eternity.
As soon as the wicked soul leaves the body in death, it shall realize the irreparable loss of God, and find itself cast away from the face of God forever. It shall be sunk into the flames of hell, into a sea of fire. The soul, without the body, can be reached by this fire; God shall cause all those sensations in the soul which it had when lodged in the body. The fire of hell, set ablaze to punish the Wicked, is not like earthly fire; it does not consume, but preserves; it does not give light, but causes extreme darkness.
The unspeakable torment of hell is waiting for you if you die in a grievous sin. Make up your mind to avoid such an eternal misfortune at the risk of losing everything temporal.
Why Priests do not Marry
Those who understand the true nature of the Christian priesthood see the practical necessity of clerical continency. The very thought of a married clergy has something repugnant in it to the Catholic instinct, or as Brownson puts it vigorously: "There would be a sort of bigamy in it, for the priest is weeded to the Church, his true spouse and our spiritual Mother.: We do not claim an absolute necessity for clerical celibacy; but as the temporal power is ordinarily necessary to the Pope for the full and free exercise of his spiritual mission, so the celibate priest may be said alone to possess that complete freedom of self-sacrifice and devotion in the exercise of his sublime mission, by which he seeks to subject men to the dominion of Christ, teaching and sanctifying them, and thus leading them to seek the one thing necessary through which they are to attain eternal happiness. To be a priest means to replace Christ, to be guided by His spirit, and to live solely and directly for Him.
Priests do not marry, because it is the will (not the command) of our blessed Lord and the doctrine of His Apostles that they should lead single lives, unreservedly consecrated to the service of God. The Apostles, the first priests of Christ, abandoned home, and those among them who had been married previous to their being called to the apostolate left their wives to follow Him with undivided affection. And the divine Master was pleased with such a renunciation, and showed them as recompense for it their heavenly thrones near His own in His kingdom, making at the same time the like promise to all who would follow their example. (St. Luke XVIII, 29) St. Paul, that faithful exponent of Christ's doctrine, shows the preference of the celibate state to that of marriage: "It is good for them (the unmarried) if they so continue, even as I " (I. Cor. VII. 8) He would that all men to whom it has been given were even as himself, single. Why? In order to be free, to escape the troubles of family life, and to attend, without care for wife, to the service of Christ.
It is an unquestionable fact that clerical celibacy existed both in the East and West, every since days of the Apostles. If there was no written law for the priest, it was because it was deemed unnecessary. The idea of marrying would hardly suggest itself to the minds of those who gave up all and followed the example of Christ. Pope Gregory VIII did not introduce clerical celibacy. Before him more than two hundred councils and synods had upheld its obligation. He simply enforced the old rule with characteristic energy and perseverance.
There is not to be found a single instance in all history when the Church recommended marriage to any of her consecrated ministers. Yet she honors and reverences the Sacrament of Matrimony, and her priest is the guardian of its sanctity. But her mind is that priests should love Christ more than all the world. It is this love of Christ that inspires him to lead a chaste and continent life; and the Master gives the needed grace. Those who say it is impossible for man to lead a pure and single life are a lecherous crew, unworthy of attention; they would deliver man to the curse of a beastly necessity and bring human nature down to the level of the brute. Even pagans honored chastity and believed it possible for man to live continently. In nearly every sphere of life we find men devoting themselves to the carrying out of some great and noble design and foregoing the ties and the attractions of married life. The greatest theologians, philosophers, historians, and painters were men who led single lives. They had, so to speak, no time to marry; they lived in a clearer atmosphere than the ordinary mortals; they had higher ideals than " the female form divine." Thoughtful men, such as Leibnitz and Bohmer, considered single life the proper one for a man who devotes himself to the higher studies of philosophy and history.
No Candidate for Holy Orders is forced to pronounce the vow of chastity, and the Church never obliged any one to lead a single life. But none will deny that the Church has a perfect right to prescribe the conditions on which a man wishing to consecrate his life to God in the priesthood may find the realization of his desires. No one is compelled to become a priest; consequently no one is forced to take up the life of celibacy. The Church even warns the candidates for the priesthood against acting hastily; she tries them severely, puts them through a long and arduous course of studies and discipline, and when the final step is taken throws around her consecrated ministers a wall of protection in her canonical statutes. But in spite of all these precautions and safeguards a priest may and occasionally does take a low view of his sublime calling and defile the garb of sacerdotal holiness. Among the twelve Apostles of the Lord there was a traitor who thought more of money than of his exalted office. We do deny, however, that marriage is the best and only means to offset the concupiscence of the flesh. Does anybody dare maintain that there are less offenses against the marriage vow among the married ministers than there are against the vow of celibacy among Catholic priests? There are other means far more efficacious than marriage to neutralize and curb the evil inclinations of human nature, and these means are prayer, sacraments, mortification, and the avoidance of all dangerous occasions.
The man who consecrates himself to God in the priesthood and who devotes his whole life to works of religion, charity, and education, must be free from the trammels of family life, and from the engrossing cares of domestic obligation. "He that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife; and he is divided." (I. Cor. VII. 33)
A man who enters the Catholic priesthood does not take upon himself its obligations for money or money's worth. Those who flippantly assert that the priest makes money out of his profession, "like any other professional man," are "beating the air." He who would become a priest for money of a good living would be a fool. The priest's life is a trying one, full of care and privation. He is not "paid" for his labors, nor does he receive a salary in proportion to his talents and work. His education, his mental and bodily exertions, would demand a remuneration higher that that of any lawyer, physician, or surgeon in the land; he receives, generally speaking, a scanty support. The majority of the priests in America are poor, even penniless. A young man prepares himself for the priesthood because he feels a calling from God, and he desires to consecrate all his faculties of souls and body to Him. He has no intention "to make money like other men." He wishes to live poor like his Master. And as a priest he becomes the father of the orphans and widows. The bereaved and afflicted look up to him as their dearest and most generous friend. Look around you and count the number of orphan asylums, hospitals, and schools for the poor which Catholic priests have established and maintained within the last fifty years. (written in 1902) No earthly father is required to make such sacrifices as is the priest who devotes himself to the temporal and spiritual welfare of his flock. His purity and detachment are the secret of his priestly strength and influence. And those who refuse to love him are forced to respect and admire him as a man of God and of the people.
Progress in the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church never changes.
As her divine Founder is unchangeable, so His Church remains ever the same.
"Is there then to be no progress in the Catholic Church?a learned monk of the fifth century asks. He gives himself the correct answer: "God forbid! Only it must be progress, not alteration in the faith. The idea of progress is growth in identity; alteration means a change from one thing to another. May the whole Church, and each one of the faithful, grow in wisdom and knowledge; not altering, but advancing in the same doctrine, mind, and faith. The doctrines of the divine philosophy of Christianity may be developed, defines, and perfected, but they cannot be altered, diminished, or mutilated without sin. They may, indeed, gain additional proof, light, and definiteness, but to do so they must retain their fullness, integrity, and essence." ( Vincent of Lerins).
With this answer in mind, we shall be able to distinguish between true and false progress, between reality and sham. Growth in wisdom and knowledge, while preserving the identity of truth; advancement in doctrine, mind, and faith; development of Christian philosophy by looking for additional proofs, light, and definiteness - here is what we understand by progress.
Away with your hazy definitions and foggy notions, ye philosophers of the "unknowable," ye advocates of "modern" progress! Away with your lying ideals of intellectual advancement, your will-o'-the-wisps of moral and temporal progress! You maliciously accuse the Catholic Church of being the enemy of all progress, while you attempt to reduce mankind to the abominable condition of paganism. Where do you find real progress outside the Catholic Church? Accumulation of wealth or centralization of power under a tyrant is not progress.
The Church encourages not only spiritual progress, but temporal prosperity like-wise. The highest spiritual aims do not interfere with industrial and material prosperity. Look at the history of the Church. "There grew up under the shadow of her mighty Cathedrals those centres of commerce, each one a very forest of towers and spires, palaces, with whose magnificence the residences of no modern millionaires can compare." (Hettinger).
All the marvels of medieval art, of which only a few memorials remain, were wrought not by the toil of the overcrowded, destitute poor, as is now so often the case, but the humblest as well as the highest shared in the splendor of commercial prosperity. The grand market-places and spacious halls of commerce in Belgium tell us of the material progress that has lasted for centuries and is evident at the present time among a thoroughly Catholic nation. The gorgeous halls of that solid building now used as the University of Louvain was once the place of assembly for the guild of the wool-merchants when religion flourished most in Belgium. Progress, moral and material, follows the steps of the Church. Wherever and whenever the Catholic Church freely exercises her glorious mission, unfettered by temporal governments and secret societies, there true progress flourishes, and peace and prosperity abound.
Why He Lost His Faith
He was baptized and became a member of the Catholic Church. He was instructed in the faith of Christ. His parents gave him a sound Catholic education; he was frequently nurtured by the holy sacraments. He looked upon Mary as his loving mother and he felt happy in the company of angels and saints. But - oh the dreadful change! - he now spurns the doctrine of the Church, he laughs at believers, he ridicules religious practices, he considers all priests consummate hypocrites, he scorns the ignorance and credulity of simple people.
What has brought about this radical revolution?
He says he has examined things for himself, he has investigated matters thoroughly, he has read, studied, and weighed arguments, and he has come to the conclusion that religion is an imposition.
He has examined nothing for himself; he has neither time nor talents for deep study. He has never been able and will never be able to read the product of our master-minds, the great works of our Christian philosophers and Catholic Theologians. If he had studied and reflected, he would not give knowledge as a cause of unbelief; for knowledge leads to religion. He may deceive children with his clatter of speech and his air of wisdom; he cannot thus cheat a sensible man.
Come, and I will show you why you lost your faith. Your pretended infidelity is nothing but the corruption of your wicked heart. You have fallen intellectually, because you have sinned against the light, and now spiritual darkness lies heavy upon you. You boast of it, - boast of your shame and degradation! I never met a turn-coat of this type who was sober, just, and chaste. I never heard of good men falling away from the Church, but I have often heard of good men coming into the Church.
Bergier, who lived in the midst of the famous French infidels and read all their works, affirms that their infidelity had no other source than licentiousness and the unbridled sway of their passions. The royal protégé of Frederic II, the arch-infidel Voltaire, was no exception. The king wrote of him to Dargot: "Voltaire behaved here like a consummate scoundrel and cheat. He is a wretch...the most wicked fool I have ever known. You cannot imagine what duplicity, cheating, and villainy he practiced here."
Passions cause men to lose the light of faith. "Every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved." (St. John iii, 20). The great St. Augustine traces all intellectual errors to moral errors: "All error is, in a certain sense, founded on sin." And the distinguished theologian Suarez writes: "Sin alone deceives the soul when, after deserting and despising the truth, it seeks to find what is true."
He who had the true faith and lost it, has lost all, and deserves our pity.
The Priest, His Dignity, and Obligations
Be most devoted to hearing confessions, regarding this function as one of the chief duties of the priest and as a most necessary most powerful and most effective means of cooperating with God in the Salvation of Souls.
Take great care not to violate the command of our Divine Master, namely: "Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine" (Matt. 7, 6). Let no unworthy person, no public sinner approach the holy table; withhold absolution from those unworthy of it, particularly those who persist in living in the proximate occasion of sin or constitute themselves such occasions for others; those, too, who live at enmity with their fellow men, refusing all attempts at reconciliation; those who remain constantly in the state of mortal sin without purpose or desire of amendment.
Be solicitous for the sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony, being particularly careful that none shall enter that holy state unless they are free from all canonical impediments and are thoroughly familiar with the obligations of marriage as well as its rights.
Regarding the Sacrament of Baptism, likewise be on guard against permitting unworthy godparents to assume the duties of sponsors, for these spiritual fathers and mothers cannot discharge the duties of their high office unless they are properly instructed and fitted for the task.
Be diligent in your care of the church, the cemetery and all places set aside for the service of God. Let all appointments reflect the sanctity that must characterize a consecrated environment. Everything should be neat and clean and in good order, especially the objects inside the Sanctuary. There the Great King should be served and honored with a dignity and excellence befitting His exalted position; there above all else the sacraments should be administered with the most exacting care; there the Divine Office should be recited with gravity and devotion, and every ceremony carried out with grace and dignity. The House of God should be a place where the worshiper conducts himself with modesty, respect and appreciation of the Real Presence.
Cherish and ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her holy spouse, St. Joseph, and endeavor to implant it also in the lives of those under your charge. Likewise impress upon your congregation the necessity of honoring the patron saints of the diocese and of the parish. Have a special devotion to all holy Pontiffs, Priests, and Levites. Let it be felt that the observance of their feast days is actually the celebration of our own brothers and fathers: Filii Sanctorum sumus. (Tob. 2, 18).
Source:The Priest His Dignity And Obligations by St John Eudes