On the Catholic Priesthood
To pray often to God that He will give good priests to His Church, and to Prevent, as Far as lies in our power, those who have no vocation for that divine office from being brought into it.
The practice of which we speak is of so much the greater importance, as it has been inspired by Jesus Himself. “Pray,” said the Good Shepherd, “pray the Lord that He send laborers into His vineyard;” as though He would say, “This is of more consequence than you think, and requires much intercession with Heaven in order to obtain the graces necessary for so great an object.” But the soul that has any devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament ought more particularly to pray for this end as it entirely concerns the honor and glory of this Adorable Mystery.
Take note that our Master commands prayers to be offered for good laborers, good Priests, whose office it is to work in His vineyard: first, because it is He only Who is to send them; secondly, because it is He only Who can give them the necessary dispositions for it. It belongs only to God to call men to the divine office of the priesthood. This is a truth strongly established in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the great Apostle speaking by the Spirit of God, clearly shows the necessity of vocation in these words: “Neither doth any man take the honor (of the priesthood) to himself.” Heb. V.4
But not content with laying down these truths on this own Apostolic authority, he brings together the Old and New Testaments to render this truth more convincing, and so to leave in men’s minds no doubt on the subject. He points out the example of the High Priest of the Jewish Church, and then that of our Lord Himself: “So Christ also did not glorify Himself that He might be made a High Priest." Heb. V5
After this, I know not what those persons can reply, who have taken the tonsure so hastily, without considering what God requires of them, without deeply considering their vocation, and without obtaining the advice of pious, enlightened persons, who are filled with the Holy Spirit. In like manner some have taken, without consideration, both Minor and Sacred Orders, and at last, the Priesthood itself. If they say, they knew not the importance of it, I answer that this is their greatest condemnation, seeing they OUGHT to have known. For even Jesus did not appoint Himself to this divine office, but waited till His Father called Him, and yet men have the boldness to do otherwise! Is it not carrying presumption to the extreme? Truly such rashness and temerity deserve severe punishment.
You who are priest, examine yourselves here, as to whether you have waited for a call from God, before taking Holy Orders; if you have not done so, tremble, weep, and do penance; seek out holy men of God, to know what you ought to do in a path so slippery, for you are running a very evident risk of falling into the precipice of eternal damnation. If you have not already been admitted into Holy Orders, wait patiently and consider well what you are going to do; for on it depends either your eternal happiness or misery. Do not listen to your relations, not to your worldly friends; do not listen to nature, think not of your ease or advantage, think only of God and His glory.
Is the reader of these words of the number of those who advise haste in entering the ecclesiastical state? If so, reflect whether you have been the mean of introducing some one into Holy Orders. Have you cooperated in such a thing by your counsel? Have you used your authority, or that of your friends, to get others received into the sublime office, without considering whether God has called them or not? You who advise, who recommend and make your children aspire with such levity to the priesthood, are you wiser than Jesus Christ? For though the person you recommend may have led a good life, be very talented, very pure; do you think that suffices? Are you holier, or more enlightened, more zealous for His Father’s glory? O terrible truth, and which ought to be understood by every man! He calls not Himself, but waits till His Father calls Him.
No, unless the Lord build the house, their labor is in vain who build it. It belongs only to the Lord, says the Holy Spirit, to fix the destiny of man. It is for God to appoint the state that he pleases: it is not for us to choose. It is not for father, nor mother, nor relatives, nor for our masters, nor even for ourselves to make the choice; it is God only Who can and does.
If I am told that unless a certain young man aspires to the ecclesiastical state, he cannot live according to his position, well, let him be poor; I repeat it, let him be poor; and if people answer that it is very easy to say so, but very difficult to put it in practice, I reply, that is is more dreadful to be eternally ruined. I hear people in the world say, that men can be saved, whatever their position may be, and consequently in the ecclesiastical state, and it is true; but God must call them to it. Will God give His grace to men to enable them to do their duty in a state to which they have not been called by Him, or into which they enter against their will? Tell me, you who say such things, would you give wages to people, who, in spite of your wishes, thrust themselves into your houses, to be your servants?
There must, therefore, be a real vocation, a call from God. Secondly, there must be seen in the person called a faithful correspondence, in his habits and manners, to the holy state in which God wishes to place him.
For he who aspires to the priesthood must be conformed to Jesus Christ, not only in his vocation, but also in his disposition; he must lead a pure and innocent life, like unto that of the Son of God. This makes the great Apostle say, when speaking of the qualities necessary to the priesthood, that they ought to be without sin, irreproachable. This is what made the holy Fathers say, that is necessary to have led a life free of mortal sin, to be promoted to Holy Orders. But now that the Church is not so rigorous, it is a at least necessary that a man should have true contrition.
Then again, men must be learned. Do what you will, says St. Jerome, innocence without doctrine is not sufficient for a priest. Where these three things are wanting, vocation, purity of life, and knowledge, disorder and scandal of all sorts are produced in the Church. Ask then of our Lord, O souls who have devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament, that He will not permit any to take upon themselves the sacred and august office, but men chosen by Himself, such as have sufficient knowledge, and whose saintly and exemplary lives fit them for it, so that by the Holy Sacrifice and daily Communion, they may worthily glorify His Sovereign Majesty.
A layman who is leading a bad life would not ordinarily approach the Holy Communion: if he should do so at Easter, to avoid the blame of men, it would be only once a year, so that in fifty years, he would only communicate fifty times. But a Priest, if he be in sin, would make as many bad Communions as there are days in the year: he would profane the Holy Sacrament oftener in two months than a layman would during his life.
Judge then, how many sacrilegious Communions would be made during ten, twenty, or thirty years. Think also of a wicked priest celebrating the Divine Mysteries, and then reflect on the profanation of which you have been the cause, without naming scandals and other evils, if such priest have been induced by your advice, and perhaps by your importunity, to enter on the holy ministry. Whoever you are, think of the account you will have to give to God, for having assisted towards this guilt, in case you had reason to expect such deplorable results.
The celebrated and apostolical preacher, John d’Avila, remarks in an epistle to a young man, in which he dissuades him from his intention of becoming a priest, that the devil gives great inclination to many towards the priesthood. It is the evil spirit, who, owning to his rage against the Most Holy Sacrament, when he sees a young man whom God does not call to the ecclesiastical state, tries to persuade him to choose that sacred office, and even instills into him an affection for it, so that having entered it only through the promptings of nature, he is guilty of the sins of which we have spoken.
I heartily beseech all charitable persons to reflect well on these sentiments of that great servant of God, John d’Avila, and to remember, that if they have the intention of helping, by their means or in any other way, those who wish to enter on the sacred functions of the Priesthood, they ought to have them examined beforehand by men who have the science of the Saints; for it would be much better to have them taught some trade,than make them risk their salvation and expose the Sacred Body of the Son of God to the profanation which is likely to happen to It. In fact, my flesh and blood is pierced with the fear of the Lord when I reflect that I, who write these words, am a Priest.
O greatness of God! What a dignity, what an office! If we are not on our guard, what misery is there not prepared for us!
By Abbé Henry-Marie Boudon, (1624-1702) doctor in Theology and Archdeacon of Evreux, France translated from the French edited by the Rev. J. Redman DD.
Source:The Book of Perpetual Adoration or The Love of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacraments. 1873