You want to become a priest?

Posted by watchmen
March 5, 2021
Posted in OPINION

Priests should never be left alone, especially in their spiritual and moral life, which is the very foundation of their priesthood. Those who don’t realize this can practically show they may not meant for the priesthood.

Just visited a seminary recently. It moved me to see a good number of young boys dreaming of becoming priests one day. I consider it a miraculous phenom, since who in the world today, in his right mind, so to speak, would like to become a priest? 

Priesthood is nothing less than hard, thankless labor from Day 1 up to the end. There’s celibacy, there’s endless requests for this and that, duties and responsibilities far outrun rights and comforts.

Priests are supposed to be everything for everyone, for they are meant to embody no less than Christ himself, and not just any Christ, but Christ as head of the Church. The distinction is fine but crucial, involving a whole world of practical consequences.

As such, we, priests, should understand that we are the first to be addressed by Christ when he said: ¨If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.¨ (Lk 9, 23) Any understanding of the priesthood that does not have this indication as an essential element is simply wrong.

So we, priests, should understand that we are always at the crossroads. Depending on what we choose—since things also depend on us—we can either be on the side of the perks and privileges that go with priesthood (and they can be a lot), or on the side of suffering and even of a daily crucifixion as Christ clearly spelled it out.

All of us, Christ’s faithful in the Church, really need to pray a lot and exercise faith and hope all the time, because for priests to be truly priests, and not just looking and acting like priests, but priests who fully correspond to the demands of their vocation and of their sacred order, nothing less than a first-class miracle is needed.

Like any human being, priests also have to contend with the usual enemies of God and of our souls— our own flesh, the world and the devil. In fact, given our delicate position, our struggles can be more daunting and tricky. The demons are real, mind you, and not theoretical or a mere ascetical device.

Besides, concupiscence, laziness, complacency are very much embedded in our system. Then, there’s vanity and all forms of pride and conceit. Then, there´s hypocrisy and pretension. We can always do a Judas anytime. Or a Dorian Gray or a Jekyll-and-Hyde. In fact, recent history is mired by all sorts of clerical scandals that lend credence to this point.

And the world! One would be stupidly blind not to see the many temptations and occasions and structures of sin around, all oozing with almost irresistible allurements.

The formation of priests should be thorough and never-ending. Of course, it has to start in the family, the primal seedbed of vocations, but it really has to go systematic, serious and on-going in the seminaries and other Church structures meant to help priests in this regard.

Indeed, the whole people of God in the Church should somehow feel the responsibility of helping priests, especially in their spiritual and moral needs, much than their material needs. A culture that hesitates to correct priests when we clearly are taking the wrong path is not a good culture.

Priests should never be left alone, especially in their spiritual and moral life, which is the very foundation of their priesthood. Those who don’t realize this can practically show they may not meant for the priesthood.

No one becomes a priest on his own, but rather because he is called. The nature and character of the priesthood is God-given, through Christ in the Holy Spirit, and in the Church. To live it, no one can just invent his own way. He has to realize he always needs God, the Church, and others to help him.

The distinctive, even unique way one lives it should not nullify the fact that it has to be lived as Christ wants it, and as the Church now regulates it. This is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.

We should always pray for our priests, and take care of them.  We should also give due ongoing attention to how seminarians are prepared for the priesthood and how priests are sustained in their priestly life and ministry. There will always be new ideas and timely initiatives in this regard.

It may sound like an exaggeration, but it´s undeniable that we priests ought to be no less than Christ himself, head of the Church. Anyone who sees and listens to a priest should see and hear Christ./WDJ


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