Presbyterorum Ordinis 13: Holy Priests

Priests who perform their duties sincerely and indefatigably in the Spirit of Christ arrive at holiness by this very fact.

So Presbyterorum Ordinis 13 asserts. First by attending to God’s Word: giving and receiving:

Since they are ministers of God’s word, each day they read and hear the word of God, which it is their task to teach others. If at the same time they are ready to receive the word themselves they will grow daily into more perfect followers of the Lord.

Hopefully mindful that it is God who opens hearts, and that power comes not from themselves but from the might of God…

A reaffirmation that (p)riests act especially in the person of Christ as ministers of holy things, particularly in the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrifice of Christ who gave himself for the sanctification of (all).

The section continues with an exhortation not to indulge temptations, quickly tying this in with the encouragement to celebrate Mass daily:

Hence, they are asked to take example from that with which they deal, and inasmuch as they celebrate the mystery of the Lord’s death they should keep their bodies free of wantonness and lusts.(St. Ignatius Martyr, Smyrn., 8, 1-2 (ed. F.X. Funk, p 282, 6-15); Constitutions of the Apostles, VIII, 12, 3 (ed. F.X. Funk, p 496); VIII,29, 2 (p 532).) In the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfill their greatest task, the work of our redemption is being constantly carried on;(Lumen Gentium 28) and hence the daily celebration of Mass is strongly urged, since even if there cannot be present a number of the faithful, it is still an act of Christ and of the Church.(“The Eucharist indeed is a quasi consummation of the spiritual life, and the goal of all the sacraments” (St. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q.73, a.3 c); cf. Summa Theol. III, q. 65, a. 3) Thus when priests join in the act of Christ the Priest, they offer themselves entirely to God, and when they are nourished with the body of Christ they profoundly share in the love of him who gives himself as food to the faithful. In like fashion they are united with the intention and love of Christ when they administer the sacraments. This is true in a special way when in the performance of their duty in the sacrament of Penance they show themselves altogether and always ready whenever the sacrament is reasonably sought by the faithful. In the recitation of the Divine Office, they offer the voice of the Church which perseveres in prayer in the name of the whole human race, together with Christ who “lives on still to make intercession on our behalf.”

The presumption, not literally spelled out, is that prayer, especially the sacraments, are the key to the grace to supercede “wantonness and lusts.” A good direction for any Christian.

As leaders of the community they cultivate an asceticism becoming to a shepherd of souls, renouncing their personal convenience, seeking not what is useful to themselves but to many, for their salvation …

The common refrain I hear about diocesan priests: vows to obedience and celibacy, but not poverty. Asceticism is close kin, but not the same as poverty. Do priests feel this priority in their lives? And in the overall quest for holiness, are they seen as holy more for their public practices (good homilies, good leadership in prayer, being good at counseling) than for their interior life? A good interior life, however, will shine through to the many aspects of ministry.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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