WHAT A PRIESTLY VOCATION IS NOT:
- “I feel like I’d like to be a bishop, so I’ll join the seminary to get started on my career.”
This is no straw man. I know many like this. Zero faith. Nothing to do with Jesus. One spoke it out loud throughout the seminary, and soon after ordination to the priesthood he was made a bishop. He had “friends.” Or is it some sort of “mafia”? Another with the same attitude, thinking to be untouchable in his overconfidence in himself, was “laicized” on his way to being a bishop, monster that he was and is.
- “I feel like I’d like to be a priest because, like, you know, you get to have the power of having the laity have fake power, like having the laity preach at Mass, and give out the ‘wine’ at Mass, and like in pastórial ministry, never doing anything by way of clericalizing the laity and having them do fake anointings like pretending to do Last Rites or even hearing Confessions. I’ll get to do nothing and they’ll all think I’m a hero. What a cushy life!”
This is no straw man. I’m thinking of one seminarian in particular. He made his choice to follow his heroes in the priesthood, those priests who were diametrically opposed to good doctrine, good morals, good instruction in the spiritual life, reverent liturgy. He verbosely, loudly, made it clear that he had friends and was protected and had a good career ahead of himself. Nothing and no one was going to stop him from ladder climbing. That consumed him. Too sad. None of these people have a single thought for Jesus, that a vocation is a call coming from Jesus.
- “I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I for sure have a vocation to be politically correct in the seminary where you learn to be politically correct with the bishop. I know how to be a ‘yes man’ first time, every time. I’ve already compromised myself in the parishes I’ve been in as a seminarian and young priest. I’ve already lost my virginity… um… you know what I mean… Hahaha…”
This is no straw man. I know plenty of seminarians and young priests who are expert at not thinking, who have so learned to compromise themselves being ‘men of consensus’ with bishops and presbyterates that they cannot have a discussion about good doctrine, good morality, good instruction on the spiritual life, reverent liturgy, but immediately shut down, eyes glazed over, stone faced, but who are ever so ambiguously clever in stock phraseology, whether it fits the would-be conversation or not, about how it is that the bishops or priests have an “approach” or “posture” and that that is what they are following. Notice that this isn’t about following Jesus.
- “I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I don’t feel like I’d like to be married and have a family.”
This is no straw man. This is a sickness. Everyone is called to be married as this is the image of God, male-female-marriage-family, as we read in Genesis. And this is how Jesus redeemed us, with His own recitation of marriage vows with His Bride the Church at the consecrations at the Last Supper united with Calvary, “My body given for you in Sacrifice” and “My blood poured out for you in Sacrifice.” Priests are married by the Holy Sacrifice they offer, reciting those vows in the first person singular, in Persona Christi. Other single people, religious or secular, fulfill this image of God united with Jesus. But the guy who goes into the priesthood not understanding that this is a vocation to be married to the Church is a walking disaster, a freak show, who is literally a danger to himself and others. Abandoning Jesus and misunderstanding His Sacrifice is what brings about the abuse of the Little Flock. Yep.
- “I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I like doing holy stuff because it makes me look good to myself.”
And Jesus will say: “I never knew you. Get away from me you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23). Doing holy stuff doesn’t justify. God justifies. “But I absolved sin in your name! I consecrated your body and blood in your name!” Nope. That doesn’t count. Only God’s grace counts. Jesus doesn’t call someone to be a priest to do stuff. The priest might do things, but Jesus can raise up stones to be priests. The guy who simply enjoys doing nice stuff is all about being self-referential, a narcissist, perhaps a sociopath. This is the most dangerous guy of all. He can rationalize anything. He is diametrically opposed to Jesus even while doing holy things which, in his own mind, are for Jesus.
- “I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I have a lot of talents to offer and I’m just the one!”
The only talents Jesus is interested in from anyone He calls to the priesthood is His own five wounds. Jesus had all talents much better than all priests put together. He’s interested in priests standing in solidarity with Him in His trials for us, His being in solidarity with us. If it takes getting rid of earthly talents, not using earthly talents, for this end of salvation of souls, that’s what Jesus will do. A priest is to follow the Holy Spirit who goes where He wills in forming priests to be one with the one High Priest, and that always involves the wounds of Jesus. Anyone who foists their talents upon the Church is a fraud.
Those are just some random thoughts in the early hours of a Sunday morning before 6:00 AM Holy Hour with Confessions, you know, the holy things of the priesthood, which, mind you, are holy, but that’s not what a vocation from Jesus to the priesthood is all about. I’m typing a million miles an hour and not reading over what I write. Sorry. There is so much more to say about what a vocation is not. But you get the idea. A fake vocation is a not a vocation. A fake vocation mocks the real vocation. Let’s put out some random thoughts on what a real vocation to the priesthood is all about:
WHAT A PRIESTLY VOCATION IS:
- While the bishop confirms a priestly vocation by calling a man to Holy Orders, that vocation is not in the least from the bishop, but rather from Jesus. Jesus calls. No one else.
- Jesus calls a man to get his own little hell out of the way of the one High Priest, Christ Jesus, so that Jesus can work through, with and in such a man. We recall the prayer of John Henry Newman (1801-1890): “Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine. It will be You shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. Amen.”
- A priest is called to go to Confession. Then he will offer that sacrament to others. He will know exactly why he is a priest, so that we might all be in humble thanksgiving to Jesus in heaven.
- That’s about it. Everything else is contingent on God’s providence. Including offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. A priest is called by Jesus to suffer with Jesus. For instance, say a newly ordained priest, having received his faculties for Confession at the end of the Ordination Mass (a quite common practice) is walking from the church to the reception at whatever social hall minutes after his ordination and he’s accosted between the two buildings by an apparently enthusiastically devout penitent wanting to be the first confession that the new priest will hear. The new priest obliges. But then the “penitent” runs to the bishop and is publicly accused of solicitation of sin during Sacramental Confession. The bishop then suspends the priest from active ministry and starts the preliminaries for laicization. It just means that the priest was called by Jesus to be in solidarity with Jesus in Jesus’ trials more fiercely, more quickly than other priests. And if that priest perseveres, Jesus will say to him: ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 5:34). The priest and Jesus will know each other very well. Brotherhood in blood.
- There are, of course, many more things to say, but allow me just one more, the most important for a priest to be close to Jesus, to answer Jesus’ call. If we are truly close to Jesus in His trials, we will know what hurt Him the most during His passion and death for us and it’s not the betrayal of some Judas-priest. What hurt Jesus the most was that His dear Immaculate Mother had to see Him tortured to death. A priest that Jesus calls is called to be in solidarity with Jesus in this greatest of His trials. It is for this that He sweat blood in His agony in the garden of Gethsemane. It is for this that there was that dichotomy, if you will, between the will of His human nature and that of the Father. He did not want His Immaculate Mother to suffer so terribly. But then: “Not my will, but Thine be done.” That’s the vocation of a priest. And should the priest have a chance to offer Holy Mass, absolve sin, send people to heaven, great! But the priest’s prayer absolutely, in view of the suffering of dearest Mary, must be with one voice with Jesus, una voce, through, with and in Jesus: “Abba! Father!”
2 responses to “PRIESTLY VOCATION: WHAT IT IS & IS NOT”
“Stay with me.” [!]
Oh, this cry of the heart to the Lord is what our “groans” are all about. How child-like it is in its simplicity.
I have vivid memories of wailing whenever I was first separated from my mother’s embrace – separation anxiety it is called in human terms – sometimes it is described as fear of abandonment. But I think proponents of that school of thought are projecting (as did I when I was an adherent) a worldly understanding of that which is “merely human.”
No, the cry of the poor comes comes not from fear or anxiety, but from the loss that occurs when we are separated from Love. How inured to the Lord of Love have we become when we do not immediately weep when we separate ourselves from Him? Why do we not weep as Peter did at the sound of the cock crowing?
Thanks be to God for his mercy and forgiveness.
What a beautiful post Fr. Byers. Sadly I have met some of the priests you have mentioned. I will not go to my church around the corner because the priest states that abortion is not a sin. I travel an hour each week to get the truth told to me about what I have to do to get to heaven. Keep up the great work you are dong Fr. Byers. I keep you in my daily rosary.