Why Do We Need Priests?

Source: FSSPX News

Every year in the month of June, priests are ordained for the Church to “sacrifice, bless, preside, preach and baptize” (Roman Pontifical).

These Ordination ceremonies that accompany the life of the Church affect not only a small number of faithful and the close family circle, but all men, for the salvation of the world depends upon the priesthood. Configured to Christ, Mediator and Pontiff, the priest’s mission is to teach the truth, dispense grace, and guide souls to God.

Prophet of Truth

Ambassador of God, minister of Christ and the Church, the priest places the treasure of the Truth at men’s disposal. He makes the Word of God and the teachings of Catholic Tradition known to them.

In his preaching, the priest exposes the lofty and profound truths that reason alone cannot discover. He unveils the hidden mysteries revealed by Christ and relates the events of the history of salvation, particularly the mystery of the Savior’s death and resurrection. Above all, he offers clear answers to men’s many questions on the meaning of life, the reason for evil, and the secret of happiness.

A disinterested servant of the truth, the priest does not seek to flatter. As the Lord his Master, he proposes an ideal that is lofty and thrilling, but always demanding. He comes with a message of sanctity that disturbs men taken with the goods of this world. Without hiding the austerity implied in the Gospel, the priest shows that divine grace is a pearl of great price and that it is worth making some sacrifices in order to receive it.

A vigilant prophet who unmasks lies, the priest refutes false doctrines that lead souls into dead ends and deep pitfalls. In the face of misleading ideologies, the priest alerts, advises, warns. He refuses to support half-truths, injustice, and scandals, and calls upon men to resist evil in all its different forms.

Dispenser of Grace

By virtue of the priestly character imprinted upon his soul on the day of his ordination, the priest can consecrate the Body and Blood of Our Lord at Mass and administer certain sacraments.

The essential act of the priesthood is the celebration of Holy Mass that mysteriously pours down into hearts the overabundant graces of the Sacrifice of the Cross. Acting in the person of Christ at the altar, the priest renews the one Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner. In union with the entire Church, he offers to God a sacrifice of adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation and supplication for the living and the dead. All the blessings given by the priest during his ministry prepare and accompany the work of grace in men’s hearts.

By conferring the sacrament of Baptism, the priest applies the graces of the Redemption to souls individually. When he baptizes in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, the priest brings souls out of the darkness of sin into the light of grace. At the same time, he introduces them into the Church and makes them a part of the Communion of Saints. By distributing the Bread of Life, the priest unites souls to the God of Strength who gives each man the courage and energy he needs to fulfill his duties.

As minister of the sacrament of Penance, the priest tirelessly absolves sinners. He dispenses Christ’s mercy, allowing men to appease their consciences and put Satan to flight. Thanks to the priest, any contrite and penitent sinner can convert until the very end of his life. The priest also provides the remedy of Extreme Unction for the faithful of Christ who are in danger of death.

Pastor of Souls

The priest helps men fulfill the will of the Lord as it is manifested in the law and in the events of their lives. He wisely strives to apply the principles of the Gospel to each different person and situation. This is the role of pastoral care.

As a mediator, the priest brings souls closer to their Savior so that they may one day enter into the joy of their Master. He also encourages Christians to devote themselves to the service of the Church and to work for the common good of their country. In order to do so, the priest invites men to discernment and prudence. He stimulates their energy and awakens sleeping hearts.

As an instrument of mercy, the priest brings the consolation of the Lord to those who are tried in their body and soul. In the face of life’s dramas, he recommends courage and confidence. He exhorts men to persevering prayer and action, inviting them to use the right means to obtain their ends.

As an artisan of peace, the priest seeks to reconcile those who are divided. He helps families to remain united or reunite as often as need be. In life’s situations of conflict, the priest acts as a mediator to find just solutions inspired by charity.

If the Church cannot do without the ministry of priests to fulfill her mission of salvation, the question of recruiting priests is vital. Two recommendations are to be made. First of all, we must ask “the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest” (Lk. 10:2). And secondly, everyone, especially parents, must accompany the action of the Holy Ghost in hearts, showing young people “the high dignity, the beauty, the usefulness and the great merit” of the priesthood
(Pius XII, Exhortation Menti Nostrae, 1950).

-- Fr. Pierre-Marie Berth