Today is not only the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, but also the World Day of Prayer for Priests. The priest is more than just a social worker or a therapist. Above all, the priest is a doctor of souls, whose sole purpose is to work for the salvation of the people of God.
The Roman Catholic Church has the sole privilege of possessing the four marks of the Church of God: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Because of the connection to the apostles, the Roman Catholic Church still has a valid priesthood along with the Eastern Orthodox Church. No protestant church has a valid priesthood.
Jesus came to destroy sin, satan, and death. He gathered twelve disciples to replace the twelve tribes of Israel - forming a new covenant with His people. These twelve disciples were the only ones allowed to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted at the Last Supper. These twelve were the only ones given the power to forgive sins and celebrate the Eucharist, which is passed down only through the ordained priesthood (CCC 1411). The apostles - meaning those sent by Christ - were given the full power of authority by Christ: "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The sacred power of the priesthood is passed down at the ordination ceremony by the laying on of hands.
And at the Last Supper, Our Savior's words, "Take and eat, this is my body... take and drink this is my blood" (Matthew 26:26-28) truly transformed the bread and wine into His Body and Blood. In yet another act of humility, Christ gave Himself to us through this Sacrament - the Holy Eucharist. The apostles alone were given this power passed down through apostolic succession.
Our priests today have this same power to stand at the altar on account of their ordination. Our same priests have the power to forgive sins (John 20:21-23) and baptize (Matthew 28:19). Only the hands of the priest are consecrated to touch the Most Holy Eucharist; lay people should never touch the Eucharist. Only deacons and priests are truly allowed to touch the sacred vessels including the chalice and paten. Even though few parishes teach thus: servers, subdeacons, and even acolytes should only touch the sacred vessels using a chalice veil or a purificator.
Jesus Christ is the invisible head of the Church (CCC 792), but He chose to build His Church on St. Peter (CCC 552). And through the Church's history, priests have received the heavenly gift of ordination, mystically turning them into an "alter Christi". The priest stands in the person of Jesus Christ at the Mass and in ministering the Sacraments. In the "Catechism on the Priesthood" by St. John Vianney, St. John Vianney writes, "If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. Saint Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed." I highly recommend reading the Catechism on the Priesthood.
Of all the accounts of the Last Supper and the Institution of the Priesthood, which took place there, I am most fond of the account in The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. From pages 76-88, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich recounts a vision of the Institution of the Eucharist. In pages 89-93, she recounts the Institution of the Priesthood using holy oils. It is a wonderful section of the book to read - especially today.
The Theme for the World Day Of Prayer for the Santification of Priests (2007) (.pdf) is available on the Internet. To conclude, I ask my readers to pray for priests not only today but at least once a week, preferably on Thursday, the day that the priesthood began. Please also pray for more priests - more holy, traditional priests. Several prayers and a reflection are available at my post on the 44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Friday, June 15, 2007
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