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Every priest in the world has been called to be another Christ in the place where he serves. Whoever dissents from Church doctrine, however, and argues publicly about such things, endangers his own soul and endangers others by perhaps leading them astray. Teachers and preachers have a stricter judgement.
Many prominent Catholics encourage dissent and spread confusion by their public expression of their doubts about Church teaching. Priests should be honoured for their sacred office, whatever they say or do; but those who mislead the faithful by their stance, and cast doubt on Church teachings on marriage, giving the impression that contraceptive use is of no great significance, betray their calling and horrify their Saviour.
When a priest has repented of a terrible sin of child abuse and has been forgiven, he might try to lead a good life; but if he is half-hearted in his efforts to make amends, he will find himself, when he dies, deep in Purgatory, far down, as if through a lengthy corridor into the bowels of the earth, undergoing a thorough preparation for Heaven.
Just as a man's pride can prevent him forgiving his wife her sins, if he asks: "Why should I forgive her when she has betrayed me?" - so a person's pride can prevent acceptance of the Pope's teaching on marriage, handed on since Christ and the Apostles, if she asks: "Why should I accept the Pope's teaching, when he has never been married?"
It is Christ Who has given the Church Popes to guide us, and has confirmed through Pope John Paul II that only men are called to be Sacred Ministers in the Church. There are only male priests; and this can never change.
People forget that the vows or promises they have made in church, in either marriage or religious life or Priesthood, are vows made to almighty God. To break those vows selfishly is to act against God. A special vocation cannot be treated as a merry-go-round, on which people enjoy themselves for a while, but leave when they are bored, or dislike the music or the same views at each turn.
We can picture Christ in His earthly life as He prays to His Father: "I want men who will act for me" - as He thinks about His future Church; and the Father tells Him: "Choose men. Anoint them. Set them apart. Let them look to me every day, as you do, as intercessors and mediators for sinners, opening the way to Heaven. They will offer your Sacrifice through all the ages, until you come back to Your People on earth.
Many people have a poor understanding of the purpose of the Priesthood. It's as if they peer at these men through a great cloud of incomprehension, and yet expect Baptism, marriage services and burial. If more of the Clergy did what the Lord has called them to do - asking sinners to repent and to avoid Hell, and to accept the grace that leads to Heaven, people would understand them more clearly, and some would respect them for their courage.
Christ's self-sacrifice, for the fulfilment of the Father's plan, was total. A priest, more than anyone, can only benefit his Sacred Ministry fully and the people he serves if he imitates His Master's self-sacrificing love even to accepting celibacy, willingly, so that he is totally committed to Christ and His Church, without reserve.
Christ has called His priests to be apart, as He was, when He prayed on the mountain to His Heavenly Father. A priest must lead his flock along a narrow road, high into the peaks which lie ahead: peaks of sanctity. He can only lead if he himself is prayerful, and charitable and willing to bear hardship in the Lord's service.
A Bishop is ordained to the fullness of the Priesthood so that he can teach the truths of the Faith with a sincere heart. When a Bishop ceases to believe in the moral teachings of the Church, or her articles of faith, and also criticizes the discipline of the Church which he should uphold, his best course is to resign. Teaching the Faith should be central to his life, not a half-hearted, occasional, sad duty.
Each Catholic priest should be aware of what is necessary for renewal in the vocation which he freely accepted. His feet should be those of a person who brings Good News: of God's love, and forgiveness brought through Christ. His heart should be full of compassion for sinners. His mind should be fixed on Christ, and Heavenly things. His hands should be clean - as when they were anointed, for the offering of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Whether we are single or married, called to the lay state, or single and called to Priesthood or the Religious Life, we are invited by God to have firm faith in His power to help us. It's as if He has arms full of gifts such as courage, hope, greater faith, and love and humility. If we ask for them, He will lavish them upon us, so that we can be good and obedient like Christ.
A priest fulfils the Will of Christ, and becomes joyful, when he has begun to accept the Cross, in being conformed to Christ in a sinful world. By his union with Christ, and His imitation of Christ, he can be freed to do what he is called to do, which is not primarily to help people with their earthly cares, but above all to bring them and himself towards holiness and salvation, and thereby to play his part in God's plan of salvation.
It is true that many priests deserve more rest; however, some priests are as if hiding away, uncommunicative, loathing ordinary life and interaction. Whether this is because of sin or hopelessness, there is no way to find change, and lasting joy, except through a renewal of their dedication to Christ, Who called them to the Priesthood. With sincere trust in Him, they can fulfil their basic duties and persevere in prayer.
Just as a tiny model of a dancer or a Princess turns around on top of a musical jewel box, Our Blessed Lady, Queen of Heaven, looks around her in awe and wonder, as she gazes, first at the men who generously come forward to accept her son's call to the Priesthood, and then, as she gazes at the priests who have persevered for love of Christ and are about to enter Heaven. She admires them all, but rejoices to see the second group receive the reward they deserve.
A call to the Sacred Priesthood is a call to a man, from the Most Blessed Trinity, to accept a way of life in a most exalted state, which no-one can deserve. This call is made in the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Archangels; and loving service as another Christ, in this world, however arduous, will be followed by a glorious welcome in the next.
The Ministerial Priesthood is such an extraordinarily-privileged state that a man is foolish if he accepts that privilege, then neglects his duties. It is a cause for sadness, also, when a man believes that he cannot fulfil that vocation and asks to be laicized. Although he can be saved, if he continues to live as a faithful Catholic, he will not enjoy the sort of glorious entry into Heaven that a faithful priest enjoys, unless he has reached the height of holiness and humility before he dies.
Christ has ordained certain men to be as 'other Christs' amongst us, to guide and govern us. We are not wrong to speak with gentleness and truth about words publicly offered by a priest or Bishop which are heretical or foolish; but Christ is grieved when He sees His priests needlessly criticized for personal appearance or habits, or cruelly slandered.
Christ asks all priests to treat one another as brothers in the Priesthood, united in love for Him and for the Mass, and never making life uncomfortable or more difficult for those of them who prefer one form of Mass to another. Christ shows us, through the Pope, that both the Novus Ordo and the 'Extraordinary Form' of the Mass are to be respected as valid, and offered with reverence and love.
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