If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest - always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. ... The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. ... The priest is not a priest for himself; he is a priest for you. -St. John Marie Vianney, the Cure d'ArsTechnically, today is Sunday and a celebration of the Resurrection, and not any other feast day. BUT, August 4th is the feast day of St. John Marie Vianney, the Cure d'Ars: patron saint of priests.
And if you know me at all, you know that I love the priesthood! Good thing, too, because as you'll also know, I happen to spend a very significant portion of my life around priests.
Considering it's really late and the feast day is almost over, this will be brief - but I couldn't let today go by without reflecting on the incredible blessing I've been given in the way I've experienced the priesthood. I'll just share a little bit of it.
In the last few years of my life, I've gotten to know many priests - it's a side effect of studying theology, working for the Church, etc. But nothing quite compares to living at the seminary for the past year. Studying alongside priests, living near them, and actually becoming friends with some of them has been food for much thought and reflection and prayer in my time here. It's been an unexpected blessing, getting to know the priesthood in this capacity - knowing, all over again, that they are ordinary men whom God has called to something absolutely extraordinary.
In the classroom, we are colleagues - equals, learning the same thing, struggling with the same professors, complaining about the same papers, and about chanting the office; in the residence, we're neighbors - men and women (er..woman. singular. unfortunately.), bumming around, relaxing, hanging out, working out, running errands and coming home; we are also friends - we laugh, joke, eat, drink, and hang out together.
But when we go to Mass, it's another story. It's not that I'm not aware that they are different from me in these other situations, but something about being the only layperson at Mass in our tiny chapel, when I'm the only person kneeling at the consecration because everyone else is a priest, standing, consecrating; and I hear the same people I study with, live with, eat and drink with, saying "This is my body...This is my blood..." and a few moments later I receive Our Lord... Well, then I begin to understand what St. John Vianney was saying in that quote above.
St. John Vianney also said: "The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus." The one thing necessary in my life is Jesus Christ, and what I've realized so intensely this year is that, because of the priesthood, Jesus Christ is the one thing that I will never be without. Thanks to priests, I have access to the Sacraments. I have access to Christ in the Eucharist. I can encounter Him and His mercy in confession. I'll have His grace in my marriage. My children will become heirs of the Kingdom through Baptism. God-willing, at the last moments of my life, God's grace will be mediated to me one final time before I see Him face to face. All this through a priest.
Of course, priests are far from perfect, both collectively and individually; they are human, after all. But Christ said He wouldn't leave us orphans, and He has not. He said He would be with us until the end of the age, and indeed he is. The priesthood is indeed the love of the Heart of Jesus, and the priest is not a priest for himself, but for you and for me and for the entire Body of Christ.
So pray for priests, and pray for seminarians! They need it, and we need them.
St. John Marie Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, pray for us!
Mary, mother of priests, pray for us!