The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the Ordained priesthood within the Church. It differs in the universal priesthood for all people that is achieved through the sacrament of Baptism. It is a particular ministerial priesthood in which a man, through Ordination, is ontologically changed, becoming configured to Christ and married to the Church. As Christ took the Church as his spouse, so a man ordained to the priesthood lives a life of holiness, celebrating the sacraments, carrying for the people of God, and evangelizing those who may not know Christ. It is a vocation that is not for the faint of heart.
As a priest, we share in the one priesthood of Christ, because Christ is living and still present to us. It is only by his grace that any man is capable of living out this vocation. The call to serve and sacrifice is a gift to be given to given. The greatest gift that the priesthood offers to the world is the Eucharist, as Christ gave himself up for us for the sake of Salvation. As Christ handed the keys to the Kingdom to Peter, “Whose sins you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven, and whose sins you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven,” the priesthood thus began it’s public ministry. Through Apostolic Succession, there has been an unbroken chain from the current Pope to St. Peter. Bishops contain the “fullness” of priesthood and are able to establish Churches, which a priest cannot. A bishop governs a diocese. (Note: an Archbishop is particular to the size or historical importance of a diocese/Archdiocese.) Every priest is connected through the Holy Father, the Pope, back to Christ, thus in fraternal spirit, we share in particular witness to the people of God.
So why is a priest called Father? Yes, Christ did say, “Call no one on earth ‘Father’ for you have but one Father, God. Call no one on earth ‘Rabbi’ for you have but one teacher, the Christ.” What Christ was clarifying is that no one on earth is greater than God the Father, the source of all the living. And that no one on earth is greater than the Teacher, the Christ. We must remember that Jesus was speaking to Pharisee’s and Scribes who wished to lord over the people their identity and power. A Catholic priest does not seek to be served, but to serve; which he should do with great humility. It is a life that is given as a sacrifice to care for those Christ is calling. In the “Persona Christi Capitas” Christ becomes present through the priest to the people in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Faith.
Why can’t women become priest? This question is one of the most commonly asked questions; anytime there is a gathering of people and priesthood is discussed, it is sure to be asked. The simple answer is, they can’t! Now look at what we have discussed so far. Christ, a man, took the Church as his Spouse, a feminine identity is given to the Church. We also have to keep in mind the distinction of the ministerial priesthood and the universal priesthood given at baptism. In the ministerial priesthood, a man, is in “Persona Christi Capitas.” In the universal priesthood, we are all called to be “like” Christ, but through the Ontological change at Ordination, a man, becomes configured to Christ in a particular way for a particular purpose. Once a priest, always a priest, “forever in the line of Melchizedek.”
Why can’t priest get married? This arrives at #2 as most popular topics concerning the priesthood. First let us just realize that celibacy is a gift. Ask any priest that loves his vocation, and you will get an answer of, “absolutely not.” As stated above, priest’s take the Church as their spouse, sharing in the one priesthood, sharing in that spousal love of the Church. Once upon a time priest were married, even the first disciples were. Eastern Catholic priests may be married, yet they may not become Bishops. The reason so many in society do not accept nor understand celibacy, is due in part to the culture and the mystery of the vocation. It is easier for society to see and witness to two people being married and understand that love, yet to understand a man’s commitment to the Church is not as clear and distinct. Even for the priest himself, it is an unfolding mystery, a love that through his life of prayer, service, and sacrifice, becomes more and more configured to sharing in the spousal love Christ has with the Church.
If you know of a young man who is considering a vocation to the priesthood and is from the Union area, please call the rectory @ 636-583-5144, and talk to the Pastor. For more interest in learning about the priesthood visit, http://archstl.org/vocations