Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Humanity of the Priesthood

Fr. Cantalamessa has given another superb homily. This time on the priesthood. You can read the full text here.

My pastor always reminds people that he is born, not hatched. Fr. Cantalamessa reminds of that in a similar way.

It is said of a priest first of all that he is "chosen from among men." He is not, therefore, an uprooted being or fallen from heaven, but a human being who has behind him a family and a history like everyone else.

"Chosen from among men" also means that the priest is made of the same fabric as any other human creature: with the emotions, struggles, doubts and weaknesses of everybody else. Scripture sees in this a benefit for other men, not a motive for scandal. In this way, in fact, the priest will be more ready to have compassion, as he is also cloaked in weakness.

Speaking about the human frailities and sinfulness, he says,

We have sketched the positive vision of the priest's figure. We know that it is not always so. Every now and then the news reminds us that another reality also exists, made of weakness and infidelity --- of this reality the Church can do no more than ask forgiveness.

But there is a truth that must be recalled for a certain consolation of the people. As man, the priest can err, but the gestures he carries out as priest, at the altar or in the confessional, are not invalid or ineffective because of it. The people are not deprived of God's grace because of the unworthiness of the priest. It is Christ who baptizes, celebrates, forgives; the priest is only the instrument.

Too often I hear people say that they don't go to Confession because why should they tell their sins to the priest. After all, he's no better than they are. Other times I talk with people who seem to think the priest is some sort of subspecies or third gender. I can guarantee that when your priests were born, it was announced, "It's a boy!" not "It's a priest!". Sometimes we need to remember that. We also need to remember that Jesus didn't choose perfect people to lead His Church. He chose ordinary men and entrusted them with a great responsibility.
that his representatives on earth be perfect, but that they be merciful.

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