What it means to be a priest


Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen gave many retreats to priests over the course of the years and even today his voice continues to move men to consider a vocation. In one of his many talks reflecting upon the nature of the priesthood, Archbishop Sheen commented that the priest is one who offers sacrifice. The Vatican II council affirmed this aspect of the priesthood, but also emphasized that the priest, like Christ, is the visible instrument of the person of Christ. The priest assumes in his own way the person of Christ and acts in the person of Christ. The priesthood is tied to the person of Christ where he inherits the triple office of Christ, through the Bishop, where he teaches, governs and sanctifies as Christ. The priest teaches about Christ through his words and actions, because Jesus is the “Truth” that is to be preached. In the governance of the Church, through the direction and appointment of the Bishop, a priest administers the spiritual and physical goods of the Church. When a priest sanctifies, he consecrates himself for the sake of the people, therefore he becomes a victim for the people and he immolates himself for them.

The good Archbishop distills down the essence of the priesthood saying that the priest through the sacrifice of the Mass is also a victim, he continues the person of Christ in his own person. He called priests to be the ambassadors for Christ, making Christ present for the people in their words and deeds, reconciling them for sake of the salvation of their souls. The priest makes a great sacrifice by giving God his own nature so that God may transform, sanctify and mold His image on the priest that he may more perfectly conform his will to God’s will. Thus the priest becomes an instrument in the hand of God which brings about reconciliation of the world, one person at a time.