Today in all the 194 dioceses of the United States (out of 2248 worldwide), we celebrate Priesthood Sunday. It is not a day to celebrate me or Fr Jose or any other individual priest, it is a day to celebrate the gift of the priesthood to the Church. It is also a day to look at our past and invite our boys and young men to consider if God is calling them to this life for the good and future of our Church.
Catholic priesthood was not an invention of our Church, rather it was a well-established position passed on through the Jewish descendants of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. These priests were devoted to the cultic expressions in the Temple for the forgiveness of sins of the Israelite people offering incense twice a day, maintaining the sacred fire for sacrifices, and making the sacrifices. They were expected to be role models and teachers of the law for the chosen people. We know from the Scriptures their familiarity with the Law is why they were the ones who declared one clean or unclean (especially leprosy) Luke 17:12-19.
Within our early Christian Catholic Tradition, the priesthood continued in the role of teacher and leading the prayers, but for us they led the Eucharistic sacrifice (Mass) in assistance to the bishop. Unlike our former Jewish counterparts, the sacrifice the priest makes is not a repetition of the penitential act, it is one continuous sacrifice that makes present the one sacrifice of Jesus at the Last Supper and calvary. Like, our predecessors, Catholic priests continue the office of teaching of the faith. Perhaps the more unique element of our priesthood is that we (in service to the bishop) are the primary dispensers of the sacraments though the exercise of sacraments are proper to the bishop. (Noting deacons may perform baptisms, weddings, anointings and only bishops may ordain.)
Today in our Tradition we are aware without the priesthood we have almost no Eucharist for the people of God, making them indispensable to the practice of our faith and allowing us to keep the Lord’s day holy. In this core sacrament priests are the “alter Christus”, one who stands in the place of Christ to look after the souls of his brothers and sisters.
Perhaps the best way to celebrate Priesthood Sunday is to help our youth be open to God’s call in their life. While it is true only 0.0005% of our US church are priests, it is important we invite our youth to consider the call to serve our world as priests. To aid in this we would like to form a vocation committee here in Sacred Heart, if you are interested in this ministry or perhaps being a priest or deacon or sister, let me know and we can put your gifts to good use for others.
With a heart for Mission,