The new catechism of the Catholic Church states clearly that Holy Orders is one of two sacraments that is "directed towards the salvation of others." It is "the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised. . . until the end of time."
The men who answer this calling are challenged in a special way to spread the Gospel of our Lord. They leave their families behind and journey for the sake of others. The priest thus becomes the representative of Jesus in our lives. As Jesus, he teaches us and celebrates with us the greatest gift of all - the Mass. He transforms simple bread into the Body of Christ. He encourages us during moments of trial and comforts us in moments of grief. He receives our children into the Church and he buries our parents, children and friends.
As I ponder on the life of the Church, I realize how much it means to me and my family to participate and be a part of a "parish life." Having traveled and moved to different parts of the country, I have always found that through the Parish we have been able to adapt ourselves easier to our new surroundings. Each human being carries within himself a sense of belonging. The priest is called to build a community and thus satisfies this sense of belonging we all experience.
We certainly owe a great deal to these men who dedicate their lives for others. We also sometimes expect them to be above all human weaknesses. We tend to forget that they, too, have their own frailties. This is a vocation that we so admire but unfortunately we debase it after someone commits a transgression. Ours tend never to be publicized. We forget that it is by rectifying our ways that we achieve salvation. After all, were not compassion and forgiveness the teachings of Jesus Christ?
As I look back upon the Church and recall the dark moments of its history - the Inquisition, the Religious Wars, the Reformation - I see a Church that has withstood. It has withstood and have overcome all misfortunes thanks to the good men, who in spite of their human frailties, dedicated their lives to others and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.