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.