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 MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST - PRIESTS
The Dignity of the Priesthood
The priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church is the highest dignity on earth. The dignity of a priest surpasses that of kings, emperors and any head of state, and, yes, even of angels. No angel can convert bread into the Body of Christ by the mere power of his word; nor can any angel forgive sins. The priest stands between God and man. He is God's representative, God's ambassador. Therefore whatever honor we pay to the priest, we render to God Himself. Therefore it is mandatory that Catholics show reverence and honor to the priest for he is the representative of Christ Himself, and the dispenser of His mysteries.
The humblest priest in the world by his word can call down God upon the altar and convert bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. He can say to the sinner, "I absolve you," and the sinner's soul is saved from hell. Not even the Blessed Virgin Mary possessed the power to forgive sins, to grant absolution that erases the very guilt of sin.
Therefore, we owe the priest reverence due to his dignity as representative of Christ. Even if a priest's life does not correspond with the requirements of his office, we should give respect; this we offer to his office. And in that office the priest is alter Christus - another Christ. Our Lord calls the priest "a city built upon a hill," the "salt of the earth." He is in the world, but not of it. Saint Francis de Sales said of priests: "I will close my eyes to their faults, and only see in them God's representatives." With this in mind, we should always afford a priest the most reverent outward gesture of respect when in their presence and respect them even moreso when not in their presence. That means refraining from gossip even if we do not like the priest or agree with him. To calumniate a priest is a sacrilege. Furthermore, one who lays violent hands on a priest is subject to excommunication. In recognition of this respect, we should endeavor to assist him in every way we can, with our talents, time and treasures as we can feasibly afford it and as God sees fit.
The path to this status of dignity is not easy or overnight. For obvious reasons preparation for the priesthood is a long process in order to weed out anyone not worthy of that dignity. There have been cases where a boy who had a vocation to the priesthood was prevented from realizing his desire because of the opposition of his parents or others, or was seduced by a woman away from his vocation - even priesthood. Those who oppose a vocation are responsible before Almighty God for this interference. Sometimes the boy turned out badly, even living an immoral or criminal life. While the young man is also responsible before God, so also are those who throw unwarranted roadblocks in the potential priest's way. Because men are human, some men do slip through the cracks and become ordained. Later in their priestly life there are those enticed by satan to cross over to the other side, some are deceived by others and some are weak of the flesh. But regardless of their character or human frailties, they are"priests forever according to the order of Melchisedech" until receiving a total dispensation from Holy Mother Church at the highest level.
Finally, if one's will is good and his heart intent on serving God, it is likely that with the blessing of God he will lead a useful life in His service, as His minister. Then at the end of life, may he say this prayer of a dying priest: "Lord, my eyes are dim from searching for Thy lost sheep! My voice has lost its power from preaching Thy word! My hands tremble with weakness, from leading Thy little ones along Thy paths, to guard them from going astray! My heart falters, having spent its force in the mighty struggle for Thy kingdom! And now that I can give Thee nothing more, take my soul, O Lord, and let it rest with Thee!" We leave you with this final thought, where would the Church be, where would we be, without God's priests?
Tomorrow: The Mystical Body of Christ: the Laity