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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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The Beauty of Priesthood: Embracing God’s Calling

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I love being a priest. I really do.

Every Sunday morning when I say the Divine Office, there’s a canticle from the Book of Daniel that used to really annoy me. It’s long, and I’m not at my best that time in the morning.

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It has grown on me because I now understand it’s an expression of my priesthood. When I say this canticle, I am standing as a daughter of God in my full baptismal dignity, summoning the whole of creation to worship God with me.

I have the power to do that. God gave human beings power over all creation as its namers, shapers, and stewards. When I summon creation to worship God, it obeys me.

(It’s also good to remember that this canticle was first sung by people who had been flung into a furnace for refusing to yield to a government which tried to impose idolatry on them. Now that’s real priesthood for you.)

I was ordained when I was baptised. That’s when I was first empowered to participate in the paschal mystery through the sacraments (CCC1268). As a priest, I offer sacrifice daily for the salvation of the world.

I can’t do this simply out of my own splendidness. My priestly are only meaningful when they’re united with the one sacrifice of Christ the priest in the Eucharist.

Priesting takes up quite a bit of my time. My day-to-day priestly life helps to consecrate the world when I pray for the people around me (especially the ones who cut me off in traffic).

My priesthood also unites me personally to the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and in the sacraments. If I cooperate with this process, it helps me to be drawn more and more into the Trinity’s perfect relationship.

Bad day? Students asking annoying questions? Upset stomach? Worried about the cat? All opportunities to exercise my priesthood.

I also do a fair bit of priesting at Mass, where I participate in the offering and the sacrifice and the holy exchange of gifts. This is when Jesus receives me in holy communion, and vice versa.

So how can you discover and exercise your own priesthood? While I enjoy commanding the moon and stars to worship God every Sunday, there are also other useful ways to go about it.

For starters, you can live a holy life and provide that often painful witness to the truth that the world so desperately needs. And you can practise self-denial, which is surprisingly unpopular with many Catholics.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

I have the gift of the baptismal priesthood. But I also have friends who have received the ministerial priesthood and now exercise that.

These are two different ways of participating in the one thing (the priesthood of Jesus). But my form of baptismal priesthood is ordered to my friends’ form of ministerial priesthood, and again vice versa.

Our priesthoods depend on each other, but they are deeply and essentially different from each other. The church needs both forms, because that’s how Jesus works through us to build up the church and save the world.

In fact, it’s not unlike being male and female—depending on each other, but essentially different from each other.

With my hands full literally every day with priestly activity, I will never measure my value to the church by what I’m not. I don’t need vestments, a Roman collar, and a pulpit to exercise my priesthood.

I certainly don’t need any more responsibility than I’ve already got. And as for “clerical power,” have an honest talk with your parish priest about that.

I think the only people who demand access to the ministerial priesthood when they’re not eligible for it are people who have never really lived their own baptismal priesthood.

That could well create a gap inside a person which gets hungrier over time, and possibly more envious and demanding.

The Second Vatican Council have the baptismal priesthood a huge boost in the form of Lumen Gentium, its dogmatic constitution on the church. So why do you want what you haven’t got?

Why not enjoy the priesthood we actually have? Why not exercise your baptismal priesthood like a racehorse? It’s incredibly fulfilling, it makes sense of the hard bits of your life, and it brings you closer to God. Give it a go.

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