The priesthood in the Catholic Church is the fountain of all the Sacraments except one. Matrimony is the only sacrament in which the man and woman perform the sacrament on each other and the priest is there merely to bear witness to the event. For all the rest, the priest has an indispensable role to play.
The Role of the Priest in Spreading Hope
The priesthood’s job and duty is to partner with the Church in transforming ordinary human beings into children of Love, instructing and training them in the ways of love, forming and preparing them to do battle against selfishness and evil, and healing them up when they get damaged in the fight.
It is his job to prepare them to take the Good News of Love out into the world and to counsel them when they bring him their failures.
It is his job to provide daily nourishment for their souls by offering up Mass daily. It is his job to instruct them and help them understand the reasons for their hope and the importance of the work they do. It is his job to prepare them to enter into the next world when their time in this one is through and to console those who are left behind.
Fathering Love and Hope
A priest is called to marriage, but his bride is not an individual. It is the larger body of the Church. In partnership with the Church, he works to bring forth the children of Love through his administration of the Sacraments, fathering them through his distribution of the sacraments and ministering to their daily needs at Mass, in confession, and when sick.
The masculine nature of the priesthood is no accident or attempt to downplay the value of women. It is essential to the ability of the priest to perform the duties of the station. After all, only a woman joining herself to a man can produce children in the natural order, and the same is just as true in the spiritual order of things. In fact, the physical world acts as a guide in understanding the larger truths about the spiritual realm. No woman can father children.
Sacrificing for the Sake of His Own
A man who becomes a priest makes many sacrifices. He sacrifices the right to a human bride in order to devote his time, attention, and love to his Divine Bride, the Church. He sacrifices the right to have natural heirs in order to foster heirs to the kingdom. He sacrifices the right to call his time his own in order to give his time to serving Christ no matter when that call may come. Much as any parent, a priest is never truly off duty even when on vacation.
The Least of All Chosen to Serve All
It is not because a man is particularly holy or is perfect that Christ calls him to the priesthood. It is because Christ sees a man who is broken enough to have compassion upon the brokenness of those he will serve, weak enough to be aware that he can’t do it on his own, and humble enough to admit to those things. Those who come to the priesthood believing themselves to have it all together are those least suited to serve. It is in the service of Love that the priest becomes stronger and in helping others to heal their brokenness that Christ begins to heal the brokenness of the priest.
It is the example of one who is broken but honest about it, weak and in need of others to help him, that the children of Love find the courage to admit to their own brokenness, see that there is no reason to hide their weakness, and are given hope to believe that being broken and weak does not make one useless in the sight of Love. Love delights in taking those whom the world counts as zero and transforming them into heroes.
Putting Themselves on the Front Lines
The priest, as any good father does, stands on the front lines to defend his children and his Bride from harm. He is the first line of defense against the darkness that threatens to swallow them. When his children fail to love, he accepts the blame for the reputation of the church. When they bicker and fight with each other, he bears the burden for healing the wounds they cause one another. His call to leadership places him front and center of all those who want to attack the family he has built. Those who want to hurt his children attack him first.
Fidelity without Limits or Expectation of Reward
The priest is called to remain faithful to his parish and his people even when they are not faithful to him. He is called to expect nothing except to love them. Their love in return is a reward for the service he has rendered. His example of that kind of fidelity is a living beacon of Hope that this kind of selfless Love is not only possible but exists.
When Priests Fail
Priests fail. That’s a reality. They don’t live up to everything they are called to be or do. They are human, as are we all, struggling to live up to the call of Love. When our priests fail, it is an opportunity for the children of Love to lift him back up and to remind him of the reasons why his work matters. Priests often fail because their children are not willing to help and they struggle to carry a burden too heavy for their shoulders on their own. If we see a fallen priest, rather than mock him, share Love with him. He needs it. And our world will be better for his having received it.
Tomorrow: Hope and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
Tomorrow will be our next-to-the-last Daily Dose of Hope. We'll be focusing on the things beyond today and preparing for our final days. We'll talk about the role that the sacrament plays in reassuring us of God's presence during our struggles with death and the importance of turning to Him for strength in our final hours. We'll also talk about what the Sacrament does for those around us in helping to prepare them for life without our physical presence.