Spirituality for Today – October 2010 – Volume 15, Issue 3

Ten Best Ideas On Priesthood

By Fr. George Olivera OFM Cap., Mysore, India

A photo of a Priest's hands

1: Imago Dei

The first image of the priest is culled out from the Book of Genesis. He is the Image of God. He is the Imago Dei. Priest rectifies his fall by God's grace. Called by God, chosen by God, led by God, animated by God, priest is truly the image of God, because of the constant intervention of God. The steadfast love of God (Hesed) and the unwavering faithfulness of God (Emeth) in the life of priest makes him truly the Image of God. St. Thomas Aquinas defines consecrated celibacy as a Vacancy for God. Priest celebrates this Vacancy for God when he says radically Yes to the Call of God. As the secular world celebrates the eclipse of God, Priest announces the Divinity of God in world in his person, in his mission and in his life-witness. Pope St. Pius X says, "Every priestly vocation comes from the heart of God but passes through the heart of a mother". "...Every priest must be well aware that he is bringing to the world Another, God himself. God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest."

Reminded of Pope Benedict XVII St. John Vianney exclaims, "What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God—a man who is invested with all the powers of God. 'Go,' said Our Lord to the priest; 'as My Father sent Me, I send you.'"

2: Alter Christus

Christian Priesthood is based on the Pauline dictum" It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). He is Another Christ (Alter Christus). Rationality of Priesthood is really meaningful and ontologically correct only on this premise. Any other premise misses the heart of the Christian Priesthood. St. Teresa says, "Christ has no body now on earth, but yours, no hand but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out from the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people." Christ the great high Priest is the sole impetus of Christian Priesthood. Total Identification with Christ the High Priest is the ultimate goal of Christian Priesthood. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and Jesus the Good Shepherd reminds the priest that he is to "lay down his life for his sheep." Priest as the Alter Christus celebrates the faithfulness of Jesus in his life and reciprocate his love by constant faithfulness by his very life.

3: Anointed by the Spirit

Priesthood has the charismatic dimension. Priest is truly a Charismatic person because he is anointed by the Holy Spirit at the time of the Baptism, Confirmation and on the Day of the Priestly Ordination. He is truly a Sacramental Person. Whose mind, heart, and hands are anointed by the Holy Spirit. He is no longer lives for himself, he lives for others. He is the thirthankara, the ford-bearer, the pontifex, between the temporal and the eternal, sacral and the secular, this world and the next world. He makes the divinity closer to our humanity by sacramental celebrations and brings humanity closer to Divinity by faithful and constant intercession to God on behalf of the assembly of the faithful. Archbishop Dolan says, "A priest is an icon of the beyond, the eternal, the transcendent, heaven gives us hope and meaning in life."

4: Ecclesial Person

Walking with the Church is the mark of an Ecclesial Person. Any one who would like to meet Christ must pass through the Church reminds St. Augustine. Priest is an Ecclesial Person per excellence. By his creative fidelity he makes the reality of the Church vibrant in the given local context. The people of God find in the Priest the spokesperson for the Church in a particular locality. As the ecclesial person Priest thinks globally but acts locally. St. Teresa of Avila proudly said, "I am the Daughter of the Church". So a Priest can say with pride, "I am the Son the Church." Belonging to the Church, listen to the Church, walk with the church, talk with the Church is the full-time commitment for a priest. Ecclesial Person is his self-identity. As an Ecclesial Person, he gathers the scattered children of God in praise and worship the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. As the ecclesial person he connects the people of God to the communion of Saints. He keeps the Apostolic memory very fresh by leading the Profession of Apostolic Creed in the Gathering of the Faithful on Sundays and on the Days of Solemnities.

5: Eucharistic Person

Take this Eat it, This is My Body. Take and Drink it, This is my Blood of the New Covenant. With this Covenant formula Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the Christian Priesthood. This the Eucharistic grammar of the Eucharistic person. His Priestly attitudes are on these Eucharistic acts such as taking, breaking, thanking and praising, sharing. In the Eucharist the Lord has become our neighbor par excellence. Priest as the Eucharistic person is truly an altruistic person. As a cultic-ritual person what he celebrates on the Lord's fellowship table becomes activated in his pastoral ministry to others during the rest of the day. As an Eucharistic person he leads the assembly of the faithful in adoration to the Eucharistic presence, he brings the blessings of the Blessed Sacrament to his people, he celebrates the sacred memory of the Lord's Supper in the Holy Eucharist, he leads the loving devotion of this faithful to the Real presence in the Eucharist and then makes Jesus real to the people especially the Lord's poor by his works of mercy and charity.

6: Man for Others

Priest is primarily a God-centered Person and then other-centered person. God is Supreme thou, the supreme Other. To Truly Godly is to become the truly the other. To affirm our God is to affirm the other. Priest is ordained as a man for others. As a man of Mercy and compassion, priest is truly a man for others in the broken world of ours. Globalized world of ours is least bothered about the presence of the other. Globalized world is based on market economy. Buying and selling are the two traits of the Market Economy. There is no place for persons. Commerce and more commerce is the talk of the day. Solidarity with others is not the maxim of the Market economy. Competition, more competition is the principle of the contemporary society. Profit, more profit is the slogan of the day. It is here the Priest a man for others, man with a message of God, man with a mission of Jesus Christ becomes important in the world of the Poor. Gospel of Sharing, Gospel of Solidarity, Gospel of Mercy and compassion is still meaningful gospel to millions and millions of our humanity. Priestly service as a man for others is still very valid, it is not outdated, and it will never be outdated even till the end of the world.

7: Marian Person

Priest in the Catholic Church is truly a Marian Person. Church is Marian by devotional flavor. Every priest of the Catholic Church is a Marian Priest. The voices of the saints vouch for these observations. Blessed Cardinal John Newman says, "The reason why Christ is unknown today is because His Mother is unknown."

Saint Gregory Nazienzen said, "If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, such a one is a stranger to the Godhead." Saint Maximillian Kolbe further adds: "If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother." Marian Priest with the constant devotion to Mother Mary while praying his daily rosary thus contemplates the face of Jesus the High Priest.

8: Wounded Healer

Jesus the High Priest in the days of his mortal life offered his sacrifice with tears and cries. (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus is the wounded Healer who resembles the fore-told Messiah in the Talmudic tale sitting at the city gate in appearance wounded himself with bruises but takes time and gives time to bind the wounds of the others. Wounded himself but takes time to nurse the wounds of the others who long to get the touch of the Messiah. Lacordaire describes the priest the wounded healer thus: Priest as a wounded healer, "To live in the midst of the world, without wishing its pleasures; to be a member of every family, yet belonging to none; to share all sufferings, to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds, to go from man to God, and to offer him their prayers, to return from God to man, to bring pardon and Joy, My God, what a life! And it is yours, O priest of Jesus Christ!"

It is struggle to establish a new society based on Justice and Peace. World of Today is a lop-sided world, with 10% of the world population appropriating the ownership of 70 to 80% of the wealth. Ninety percent of the world struggles for a decent human living with the meager availability of 10 to 30% of world's goods. Bread for oneself is a material question but bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question. Archbishop Helder Camera once said: When I say Bread for the hungry they call me a Saint, but when I question why they are hungry, they call me a communist. World needs priest with a compassionate look of the Good Shepherd. Another name for God is Mercy and compassion. Priest as a wonder healer can be the authentic face the wounded humanity of today is eager to gaze at.

9: Pilgrim Companion

As the pilgrim people we are the part and parcel of the pilgrim Church. We are on way in our pilgrimage of faith. We are not strangers to each other but we are companions on our way. Priest is the right companion for the people of God on their pilgrimage to heaven. Priest inherits an other-worldly vision by his divine calling, Priestly Ordination and divine commission. He accompanies the faithful on the journey which is very similar to the Emmaus Journey. Jesus as the bread for the hungry, drink for the thirsty and companion for the journey, so too the priest of God plays these vital role in our faith-journey. He is our companion (with bread: one breaks the bread and shares the bread with others). Priest as a fellow pilgrim - traveler breaks the Lord's Word, breaks the Lord's Bread and breaks fraternal fellowship with fraternal sharing. Priest as the pilgrim companion is the most significant image in the lives of the people of God in their pilgrimage from here to the next.

10: Prophetic Person

Prophet of God is an important image of the old testament. This image is very relevant for our times. We need prophet for our times. Priestly image as a prophet is the need of our times. High tech society of ours which has completely discarded the traditional value systems still needs an alternative life-style to fill the vacuum created by the disappearance of traditional value-system. God-less ideologies have flooded the lives of the millions and millions of people across the globe. People need prophetic models to bring meaning for their lives. Priest the prophet can fill this void. Because he is still called by God, elected by the high Priest Jesus himself, anointed by the Holy Spirit, spokesperson for the Church of our times, imbued with Eucharistic and Marian personality, as a man for others and as a wounded healer he can rightly be Prophet for our times. May Jesus the King, Priest and the Prophet bless our priest and protect his People from all that is not Godly.