It’s Vocations Awareness Week Jan 13-19, and there is a lot of news on the vocations front. But the best news is old news: The seven sacraments are the original, and best, seven reasons to be a priest. But here are seven that incorporate recent news headlines about the priesthood.
First: The World Needs Heroes
That’s the title of NYPriest.com’s new movie ad, and it makes the essential point. God has shown his love and respect for human beings by taking an incredible risk, putting the very future of his project of redemption into our hands. He has arranged things such that the graces he intends for mankind reach us primarily through the seven sacraments. If men will step up and accept the responsibility to be the channel of these graces, then the risk will pay off, with eternal rewards. If they don’t, it simply won’t.
Second: To Make Christ Present to More People.
Before he ascended into heaven, Christ said, “Behold, I am with you until the end of time.” He didn’t mean he would be with us “in spirit” or in our “thoughts and prayers.” He meant he would be with us for real, in his body, blood soul and divinity.
Christ fulfilled his promise in an astonishing way: by being present in the Eucharist. He will always be present in the sacrament somewhere in the world.
The Vatican’s clergy point-man, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, asked in January for “dioceses, parishes, rectories, chapels, monasteries, convents and seminaries” to institute perpetual adoration. The more priests we have, the more people Christ can be present to. Christ’s presence increases exponentially with new priests.
Third: To Forgive Sins.
Confession has been in the news a lot recently, with mainstream news articles explaining it, wondering at its disappearance and pointing out where it is being renewed. It’s no wonder. Christ taught about the true value of human beings when he said, “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” In confession, a priest gives the greatest gift possible, worth more than all the riches in the world: He restores penitents’ souls.
Christ instituted many sacraments throughout his life, but only one after his resurrection. That was the sacrament of confession, when he breathed on the Apostles and told them, “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”
Fourth: To Be a Living Icon of Christ.
The Vatican call for perpetual adoration is a call “to make amends before God for the evil that has been done and hail once more the dignity of the victims” who suffered from the “moral and sexual conduct of a very small part of the clergy.”
Perpetual adoration won’t just atone for the small percentage of guilty clergy — it will help the innocent majority become more holy.
That’s a necessity. Human beings respond to other human beings. Jesus Christ was not just a teacher, and he wasn’t just an instrument of salvation. He was a man with a face. People can experience Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and his forgiveness in confession, but the human heart still needs to see a man behaving in a Christlike way to fully understand Christ’s message. We need more priests to do this for the Church.
Fifth: To Be Like Mary.
There were 48 new Legionary priests ordained in Rome at Christmastime. Pope Benedict XVI said, “I wish to direct a special greeting to the community of the Legionaries of Christ who come from various countries, especially the new priests and the representatives of Regnum Christi. … Like Mary, may you know how to keep, ponder and follow the Word that became flesh in Bethlehem, and enthusiastically spread his message of salvation.”
It may seem odd, calling on an all-male priesthood to be like Mary, but Mary is the perfect model for any Christian — and especially a priest. She brought Christ into the world and, from the wedding feast at Cana to Pentecost, was at the center of efforts to introduce him to the world. Priests uniquely imitate her in the Mass.
Sixth: To Preach and Teach.
Priests have at the same time the easiest and most challenging teaching job in the world. What they have to teach is Christ — God himself who united himself with humanity in order to show us how to live. The Gospel contains unique, powerful answers to all our yearnings, problems and desires.
A preacher who immerses himself in Christ’s life will be a profound and wise teacher just by saying the simple and true things the Church teaches. But it’s a challenging task, also, precisely because of its simplicity.
Seventh: To Expand Your Family.
The Hartford Courant newspaper recently interviewed Father Joseph Looney about the Fraternity of Priests, an organization to address loneliness.
In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus gives the apostles a novel reason to follow him, leaving everything, and everyone: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Christ doesn’t promise riches, and he doesn’t promise a “happily ever after” ending. But what he does promise, he delivers — priests have many homes, and many more family members than a layperson could hope to have. They also have a fraternal relationship with other priests, if they seek it out.