MANY ARE CALLED
Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood
by Scott Hahn
Doubleday Religion, 2010
160 pages, $14.99
To order: randomhouse.com
The Year for Priests may be over, but the momentum from that 12-month celebration continues to be strong.
Adding to that effort is Scott Hahn, who unpacks the meaning of the priesthood in Many Are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood. The scholar and prolific author urges Catholics to take a deeper look at the Catholic priest’s sacred role. He examines the priesthood’s biblical and historical roots in order to explain the centrality of the priest in the life of the Church.
In his powerful foreword, New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan says that Hahn picks up on the fact that “once men really know what the priesthood is, they are instinctively attracted to it.” That attraction stems from Christ’s call to men who serve as fathers, protectors and providers for the people of God. Archbishop Dolan says Hahn helps “us to see the priests’ role in mediating God’s peace to his people.”
Hahn, a prominent lecturer and professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, begins by using Scripture to define what a priest is — and should be. “If we understand fatherhood and priesthood from God’s point of view, we’ll be better equipped to help men discern their vocation and live it out faithfully,” he writes. When it comes right down to it, Hahn concludes, “the primary work of the priest is liturgical and sacramental. A priest may do counseling, management, fundraising and so on, but that work is incidental to his life. He was ordained for the sake of sacramental ministry.”
In his reflection on the priest as mediator between God and man, Hahn notes that Christ came to change the priesthood — for the better. Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, but since he ascended into heaven, who is left to close the gap between God and man? The priest. God “invites his priests … to share in his singularly powerful mediation,” he writes.
Although Hahn concentrates on the ordained priesthood, he also discusses the laity’s share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. “All of us have been called, in Christ, to do the work that Adam was made to do, but failed to do. Each of us is called to work as a priest who sanctifies the temporal order. Our altar is our desktop, our kitchen countertop, our laptop, our place in the assembly line, our diaper-changing table, our operating table. Our altar is the row we hoe.”
Many Are Called draws attention to the diverse aspects of the priest — provider, mediator, warrior, teacher, judge and more. Ultimately, priests are called to be spiritual fathers to God’s people, and Hahn shows that Jesus Christ makes himself known to the world through his priests. Christ calls them to be men like himself — “fathers and brothers to a multitude.” But he also calls them to something permanent, to be priests forever who serve as channels of grace to all.
Finally, Hahn exhorts his readers to understand that no one — including the best of our priests — is perfect. “No man can, this side of heaven, truly live up to the gift of the priesthood. It is too lavish a gift from too generous a God,” he writes. “We need to learn to forgive them, our fathers and priests, and love them for who they are and what they’ve succeeded in doing.”
Patrick Novecosky writes from Naples, Florida.