Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices.
Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.
The Powers of the Priesthood
The chief supernatural powers of the priest are to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A priest is given the power to celebrate Mass, and administer the sacraments except Holy Orders and Confirmation. A bishop can administer all the sacraments for he has the "plenitude of power," being made successor of the Apostles.
The question comes up about prists who apostatize, or are suspended or excommunicated. The answer is they remain priests unless given a dispensation from their vows by the Holy See. Therefore they retain the power, although not the authority, of priesthood. For example, they have the power of saying a true Mass, althought they would sin grievously if they do so. However, they cannot forgive sins, except in the case of the dying, for absolution is a judicial power and thus needs jurisdiction from the bishop.
Only those Churches in union with the Roman Catholic Church have the power and jurisdiction to confect the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, and to forgive sins. The schismatical Greek Orthodox Church's priests have received their orders from validly ordained bishops. Therefore, even though they are not united to the Roman Catholic Church, they have the power to say Mass. If these schismatical priests were to return to the unity of the Church, they would not be re-ordained. They would be recognized as validly ordained and thus not only retain the power but also the lawful jurisdiction. Except for these schismatic Churches in the East, no non-Catholic denomination has had validly ordained bishops. Therefore none has true priests. A number of these non-Catholic denominations call some of their ministers "bishops," but they are so only in name since they have not been validly ordained. And so with other ministers; they are not priests, since they received no valid orders.
The priestly vow of celibacy is taken, as we covered last installment, when a man is received into the subdeaconate. Catholic priests of the Latin Rite are to remain unmarried and unattached in imitation of Christ Himself. The Apostles, after they were called to the ministry, left all they had. Prophets such as Elias, Eliseus, Jeremias, and Saint John the Baptist all lived in celibacy. The reason for celibacy is that a priest is ordained for the exclusive service of God: his talents, his time, his very life belong to His service. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7: 32-33, "He who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please God. Whereas he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife; and he is divided."
A priest must devote all his time to God for he must be ready to visit the sick and dying at any hour of the day; he must instruct his people and guard them from harm for he is shepherd to his flock. He must hear confessions for as long a time as there is a need and administer the sacraments, say Holy Mass, attend to the poor, etc. If he has the responsibility of pastor he must maintain a church or build one, including a rectory, possibly a school, maybe even a convent. Aside from all this he must find time for individual counseling, meetings with Diocesan officials and other priests and reciting the Divine Office or Breviary each day. Since Vatican II the stipulations for this have been relaxed somewhat but it is still an obligation he must fulfill. This requirement is more stringent in religious orders where they generally devote more time to prayer and the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.
Finally, the priest must follow the rubrics which are rules for the proper execution of the services of the Church for the exact conduct of any liturgical function. This is contained in the Missal or Sacramentary and Lectionary. The rubrics also incorporate the Ceremonial Book for Bishops, the Pontifical Rites and Prayers for Episcopal Functions, the Martyrology, Ritual Administration of the Sacraments and Blessings, and, of course the Breviary which is composed of Psalms and Lessons. As we said before this has been greatly altered to accommodate the hectic schedule of priests today who simply don't have the time they might have had in the past in reciting all 150 Psalms each week and the Canonical Hours of Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. Every prayer and approved book of prayers and hymns of the Church are inspired by the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Mystical Body of Christ as its Soul. These prayers and canticles come from the Old and New Testaments, as well as from the Church itself, and form the official public prayers.
Tomorrow: Dignity of the Priesthood