If you look back and analyze the history of the priesthood, you will find a remarkable record of men who worked for God, their Church, their community. Before I get into this article on the priesthood, let me say that I know their frailties, their faults, their sins, their weaknesses. But to this I add "which of us can throw the first stone"?
Shortly after the institution of the priesthood, Jesus Christ, while knowing the weaknesses of the priests he ordained, sent them to the ends of the earth. Now these were the same men who deserted him in the agony in the Garden and one denied, one betrayed and one doubted him. But with the exception of Judas, they left the upper room in Jerusalem and lived and preached his Gospel. Think of this, from that upper room in Jerusalem every country in the world, some 700 million people, have heard the story of how Jesus Christ took in his hands lifeless bread and changed it into the Bread of Life in the Eucharist. And the priesthood played the greatest role in this achievement.
The priesthood over the centuries has meant many things to many people. Every priest knows his strength and weaknesses. Every priest from the moment of ordination hopes that God will help him use his strengths and talents and give him the strength to lessen his weaknesses. He is as human as the reader of this article. He is aware of what God wants him to do. And most, thank God, try to walk worthily in the vocation to which God has called them.
History has always reminded us of the great priest and Bishop, St. Augustine. How his intellectual works, his Confessions, his City of God and other writings had such a powerful impact on the culture of his society. And priests could tell you of the great works by St. Thomas, an ordinary priest and the theological insights he gave in his sermons.
If you go throughout history you will read about the great Jesuit priests, teachers, astronomers and other professors who preached the Gospel according to their background and insights.
Every priest, even if he is never mentioned by posterity, has by his priesthood made his community and the world a better place in which to live. That priest in your own parish, whose name you have forgotten, who brought Communion on First Friday to a sick mother or father; that priest who tried in CYO to help your child to grow and mature; that priest who visited you in the hospital or fed the needy in your own parish; these are the priests from our past that have enriched our lives. They are the ones who baptized you, gave communion to your children, performed marriages, helped the sick in your family and offered consolation at the death of a member of your family. These are the men who over the centuries had a vocation to fulfill and a job to do. Simply speaking, that job was to bring Christ to others.
And so this edition of Spirituality for Today is to remember those priests who gave so much; to recall these priests who reminded you of Christ; to pray for those priests who made the Church and the community a better place in which to live simply because they did what God wanted them to do. They changed lifeless bread into the Bread of Life. And all of us owe this bread to those priests of the past and present who made us aware of these words of Christ: "Do this in commemoration of me."
Among the papers of Father Henry Fritz, S.M., who died in December, 1968, was found the following: Here are the Rules I live by - and may I add that it is best to start before 50.