Tag Archives: priests

Priests – necessary for life

Despite faults, sins, and scandals, problems of perseverance, and crises that have afflicted the priesthood over 2,000 years, the Catholic Church would have no life without Her faithful priests. We cannot lose sight of the beauty and graces that come through our priests, not to mention their irreplaceable support and loyalty when we need them so.

Beginning with His apostles, Christ instituted the priesthood for three reasons: so that His Presence through the Holy Eucharist would be continually accessible to us; and for the sacraments of forgiveness – Confession, and final cleansing and preparation for eternity – Anointing of the Sick. Only Catholic priests can confer those three sacraments in particular, no one else

Many today forget the value of the Anointing of the Sick. But it enables forgiveness of serious sin when a person cannot make a final Confession, and can spare him eternal punishment. It’s critical that a gravely ill Catholic have access to it – his spiritual wellbeing should be prioritized to the end.

Catholic priests are our palpable connection to heaven. Through offering the Mass, bringing
us the essential sacraments, and authoritative counsel and guidance, they are our lifeline to God.

At so many critical junctures in my life – from childhood to middle age – I can point to life- changing priests who kept me on track with God’s presence and will. At my First Holy Communion in 1969, the celestial hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” thundered on the pipe organ as our second-grade class processed forward and knelt along the Communion rail of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Rockville, CT. Boys were in gelled crew cuts, white suits, and dress shoes, and girls in miniature ‘wedding dresses’ and veils, long pipe curls, white patent Mary Janes, and elbow-length white gloves – awaiting our eternal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Our pastor stopped slowly before each child, flanked by two solemn altar boys in a fog of incense, and suspended the Blessed Host before placing it on our tongue. I had never heard the glorious hymn before, and associated it since with that heavenly day. I later learned the organ, and playing that hymn still brings tears.

In high school, I remember asking our priest questions in Confession I wouldn’t broach in religion class. His authority and inspiration on Catholic teaching, along with his approachability, set me on my way with explanations that were clarifying and calming. He helped me navigate a tumultuous time as a teen and young adult. I’ll never forget him.

When caring for my dad in his final years, I called our parish priest in a panic early one morning as my father was being put on a respirator, in a medically induced coma, and the intensive-care team hurried me on making life-or-death decisions for him. Our priest explained what I could and couldn’t agree to, and as soon as dad was awake, gave him the Anointing. A devout Catholic, dad recognized the rite and prayed each prayer in tandem with him, as medical staff surrounded his bed and joined in.

Let us pray for and support always our faithful priests. As Catholics, we owe them our very lives.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Heroism and Genius: How Catholic Priests Helped Build – and Can Help Rebuild – Western Civilization

William J. Slattery
Ignatius Press, 272 pages

The role of Catholic clergy is pivotal in developing Western culture at key moments in history in this scholarly volume. Naturally folks like Sts. Augustine and Benedict get their due, but Slattery also highlights the impact of priests like Alcuin, mentor to Charlemagne; St. Bernard, who wrote the statutes for the Knights Templar and endowed them with Christian chivalry; and 17th century Jesuit Cardinal Juan de Lugo, who backed a free market economy and opposed government regulation of prices and production. The book is heavy, alternately gives too much and then too little detail, but there is a lot to be gleaned here by the patient reader.

Order: Ignatius PressAmazon

Why call priests ‘father’?

Al Kresta defends the Catholic & Orthodox practice of calling priests ‘father . . .

Al Kresta

Al Kresta

Jesus warned against the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees who exalt themselves and covet the seats of honor in public. They use their authority to bask in praise while oppressing the common believer.

“Call no man your father on earth,” Jesus told his followers, “for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ” (Mt 23:8).

In light of this passage, some Christians believe that the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Episcopalian custom of calling their priests “father” ignores Jesus’ words. But this interpretation of the passage ends up proving too much. If it forbids any honorific title, then what are we to make of common Protestant titles such as pastor, reverend, teacher, doctor and bishop?

When taken with wooden literalness, the passage even forbids calling our biological or adoptive male parent “father” — after all, we’re to call no one on earth “father” because our real “Father” is in heaven.

This strictly literal application of the passage mocks the practice of the very apostles we are called to emulate. The New Testament writers affectionately called Jewish or Christian leaders “father.” Paul called Abraham “the father of all who believe” (Rom 4:11). He also referred to himself this way: “Like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you” (1 Thess 2:11).

These aren’t odd or isolated references. At least nine times in his first letter John fondly called his disciples “children” or “little children.” Paul called the Galatians “my children” (Gal 4:19) and Timothy “my true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2).

How can this be, given Jesus’ apparent prohibition? It’s not difficult to fathom. A spiritual parent, like a physical parent, is accountable to God for the care and nurture of his children. That accountability to God was just what the scribes, Pharisees and rabbis neglected in the exercise of their office.

Why then does Jesus use such absolute language? Hebrew scholars remind us that the Jews employed the linguistic convention of using absolute contrasts to make comparative points. It’s a form of hyperbole.

Jesus’ warnings about calling men teachers, fathers, masters, leaders, and so on do not utterly prohibit the language of spiritual parentage, but the debasing of such language. Better not to use it at all than to mock God by corrupting it. Jesus uses extreme language to combat extreme abuse.

Al Kresta is CEO of Ave Maria Communications and host of Kresta in the Afternoon. This column is taken from his book “Why Do Catholics Genuflect?” © 2001. Used with permission of St. Anthony Messenger Press. To order copies, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit servantbooks.org