The call to ministerial priesthood
We know we are all called to serve the Church and the world. Yet some may find this line from the Catechism rather surprising: “Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ” (CCC, 1591). Priesthood? All of us? Yes, indeed. And it is a call we cannot take lightly. (Learn more at CATmag.us/Baptism about the common priesthood we share in Christ.)
As we conclude Catechist’s year on the sacraments, we focus on the special call to the ministerial priesthood that God extends to certain men. It is a call “directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians” and “a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church” (CCC, 1547). This, at its heart, is the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Our priests and deacons are there at the beginning of our journey at Baptism and when we stand before God in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In persona Christi, our priests are there through the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation as vehicles of sacramental grace. They are there in the Anointing of the Sick at times of grave illness, and as our lives on earth draw to a close.
While our call to holiness is universal, it is the vocation of these ordained men — a ministerial priesthood, well-lived — that should set an example for us and light so many of the steps along our path as we strive to grow closer to the Lord in this life and be with him in the next.
From the Word
“Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).
■ What is Holy Orders? (the sacrament when a man is ordained to serve the Church as a deacon, priest, or bishop)
■ How do ordained priests serve God’s people? (by teaching, divine worship, and pastoral governance; see CCC, 1592)
■ What is apostolic succession? (“As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the authority of the Pope, successor of St. Peter,” CCC, 1594.)
1. A Day in the life. Many see their priests offering Mass and think that is the extent of their “duties.” But anyone who really knows a priest knows better! Ask a priest to share with your class about a “typical day” for him. Students will have a new appreciation for his role in the lives of the faithful.
2. Priest trivia. Collect from your priests some fun facts about themselves and make up a trivia game. Getting to know their priests will help students see them as people they can turn to, count on, and pray for.
“Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time” (CCC, 1536). May our deacons, priests, and bishops be instruments of grace and examples of the holiness God asks of us all. Together we live out the vital, sacred mission of the Church in our world.
LYNN WEHNER is a Catholic writer, editor, speaker, and catechist who lives with her husband and their children in Connecticut.
This article was originally published in Catechist, April-May 2020.