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The sublime dignity of the priest September 19, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, Eucharist, General Catholic, Glory, Liturgy, priests.
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I have the highest respect for priests.  Even though at times I may be critical of actions taken by specific priests, as a vocation I have the utmost respect for priests, and pray my little prattling here does not cloud that great respect and love I have for the men called to this sacred office.   A good, holy priest is an inestimable gift from God.  The power and greatness of that office is beyond our imagining.

But don’t take my word for it.  From that handy little booklet The Wonders of the Mass, Chapter 6, some quotes from Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church regarding the priesthood:

Cassian says that the priest of God is exalted above all earthly sovereignties and above all celestial heights. 

St. Ephrem says that the gift of the sacerdotal dignity surpasses all understanding.

St. Thomas Aquinas claims that the dignity of the priesthood suprasses even that of the the angels (for, angels cannot turn ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Divine Savior, nor can angels, through the power and agency of Christ, forgive sins)

St. Gregory Nazianzen has said that the angels themselves venerate the priesthood.  All the angels in Heaven cannot absolve a single sin. The angel guardians procure for the souls committed to their care grace to have recourse to a priest, that he may absolve them.

St. Francis of Assisi used to say: “If I saw an angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the angel.”

St. Augustine sas that to pardon a sinner is a greater work than to create Heaven and earth. To pardon a single sin requires all the omnipotence of God. This great action of God is only available through priests, in their sacerdotal priesthood.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri: The entire Church cannot give God as much honor, or obtain so many Graces as a single priest by celebrating a single Mass. [particularly when celebrated well, according to the rubrics, and with great reverence and love] Thus by the celebration  of a single Mass, in which he offers Jesus Christ in sacrifice, a priest gives greater honor to the Lord than if all men, by dying for God, offered Him the sacrifice of their lives.

St. Ambrose says that the dignity of the priesthood transcends all the dignities of kings, of emperors, and of angels. The dignity of the priest as far exceeds that of kings as the value of gold surpasses that of lead.

We hear, in our modern times, of the dread dangers of ‘clericalism,’ of elevating priests above others and what a great injustice this is.  There are many more quotes in this book, and in numerous others, that make plain that priests are ‘set apart’ like Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2), that, if they remain faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church, they are given very special graces and faculties that the laity simply do not have.  There has been a movement, if you will, in the Church in the past several decades, to try to ‘raze the bastions’ between the priesthood and the laity, to have lay people perform tasks that were once the domain of priests.  This is seen by many as empowering and good, a fulfillment of the universal call to holiness of Vatican II.  There are even movements that try to transfer virtually all the office of the priest to lay people, and hold that the priest is not a uniquely consecrated and ‘set apart’ individual but just a ‘presider’ or a sort of leader.  Some even demand that priests and bishops be elected.  This sort of congregationalism is counter to Doctrine and Tradition.  Priests, from the earliest Church, have always been seen as having a very special, unique role to play.  That does not mean they should be put on such a pedastal that they are viewed as unapproachable demi-gods whose every act is by definition good and holy – I think I have made that clear on this blog – but it does mean the distinctions do exist between the laity and the priesthood and that the priesthood has many roles for which it alone was created. 

And more than anything else, pray for your priests.  They are often under terrible attack from all corners (ahem……), especially in the spiritual realm.  A good and holy priest is an incredibly precious gift, a man who merits much prayer and even sacrifice for.  Pray for all priests, that they may emulate the true High Priest in all ways and be a worthy successor of those Church Fathers quoted above.

Here is a great reading on the dignity of the priesthood by St. Alphonse Ligouri.

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