Today’s the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Ordination doesn’t refer to “orders given” as even some Catholics say today in such de-sacramentalizing, democratic fashion as if a mere commissioning given by a commission was ever sufficient, as if a degree and certificate saying “ordained” was actually something, like a graduation, a rite of passage. No.
The Sacrament of Orders refers to how the person himself, ontologically, is ordered, structured, fit to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that the priest might act in Persona Christi, in the Person of Christ, or perhaps better, so that the Person of Christ might act in the priest, accomplishing His sacraments, His priesthood through His merely human priest, regardless of whether or not that human priest is worthy, or even a believer of any kind. There’s really only One Priest: Christ Jesus. Holy Orders is not about putting the priest on a pedestal, but rather about smashing him down so that he is all about and only about Jesus alone.
Holy Orders is about the One Priest, Christ Jesus. It is Jesus who consecrates at the Last Supper; it is Jesus who forgives sin. Just as mysterious as we becoming members of the Body of Christ as Saint Paul puts it, so does Jesus take up mere men to accomplish His own priesthood. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus marries His Bride, the Church, by way of His wedding vows at Mass, the Last Supper, that Wedding Feast of the Lamb: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, the chalice of my blood poured out for you in sacrifice. The mere human priest recites those words, those vows in the first person singular and is himself thereby married to the Church by the sacrifice that he offers, and should thereby be willing to lay down his life for the flock as much as Jesus. But this is Jesus’ wedding with His Bride the Church by which He redeems the image of God within us.
How dare anyone say that priests are not married! It is that ignorance and malice and hatred for Jesus and His priests which has brought us the crisis we are in. People think they are nice in wishing that priests could get married, but this is really quite demonic. Listen up! If we priests don’t know that we are married to the Church, that we are to be fathers of the family of faith, what do you think is going to happen in living a lie that one is just a secular administrator, a functionary, and is not otherwise married for no discernible reason? The fruit of any marriage, children, will be attacked. It’s clockwork. Either everything that the priest is is given over to the priesthood of Jesus Christ – whose Priesthood is established by the vows of His own being married to His Bride the Church – or that priest will be a detriment to the salvation of himself and others. Period.
The priesthood of Jesus is all about re-establishing the image of God within us, and as Genesis says, this is a one-man, one-woman marriage and family image of God. Jesus has the right to marry His Bride the Church, that is, to redeem us, fill us with the life of God, eternal life, sanctifying grace, because He has, at the Last Supper and Calvary, laid down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty. That re-establishment of the image of God within us by way of that marriage must respect the one-man, one woman for marriage and the family structure of creation in the sacrament of Holy Orders. Women priests would be a sterile, lesbian, monstrous image, a mockery of Jesus’ marriage with His Bride the Church, a mockery of redemption and salvation, a blasphemy. Even if one goes through a ritual and says the words of ordination, a woman cannot ontologically be ordained. That’s the way marriage works. It’s not unfair. It is what it is.
Does that mean that I think I’m worthy to be a priest because I’m a man? Pfft. No! And any priest who does think that is a danger to himself and others. Without Jesus I know that I could commit any sin anywhere at any time for any or no reason, given whatever wildly varying circumstances and history of life. I don’t have all those varying circumstances or histories of life – nor do any of us – and so it would be psychologically quite impossible at the drop of a hat to do this or that monstrous thing even if lacking the grace and friendship of Jesus. Fine. But lack of monstrous actions doesn’t justify. I know that fallen humanity is such that we do need redemption and salvation and that nice circumstances don’t save and that anyone self-congratulating themselves for their own niceness has already granted themselves a licence to sin in whatever way, even in the most monstrous ways. Are there specious motives for a man to become a priest, like running from a past from which he wishes to emancipate himself by pretending to be holy? Sure. But that doesn’t mean all priests have done that or are doing that. We need to know that we are already married, married to the Church by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we offer daily. That changes everything. No false celibacy. No loneliness. A robust spiritual life in which the priest is nothing and Jesus is all.
Priests should know more than anyone what all of sin and all of redemption looks like. Priests should have the perspective of being high on the cross where Jesus is drawing all to Himself, across Calvary, through all of hell, starting with us when we are yet sinners. Priests should see all the breadth and width and depth of hell and our need for redemption because of noting the breadth and width and depth of the mercy founded on justice that Jesus came to bring to us, from the cross, from the fulfillment of the wedding vows of the Last Supper, the Mass, that the priest celebrates daily, like any other day. It’s just that that day, today, this very day, is Dies Domini, the Day of the Lord, which stretches from Creation until the end of the world, until there is a New Heavens and a New Earth. Priests should see, because of seeing all the rest of this, that they are the most unworthy of all.
Rant. Rant. Rant. For some, the question is this:
“Hey, Father George, you seem like a nice guy. So, like, why don’t you leave the priesthood in view of all this abuse stuff we hear about? Don’t you get sick of people cat-calling and being dismissive and calling you a pedophile just because you’ve been ordained a priest?”
Actually, that monstrousness of bad priests attacking the fruit of marriage, children, is symbolic of precisely why we need holy priests for the One Priesthood of Jesus, that is, to go against the sin, to weed out those who would be so monstrous. You don’t help the Church by leaving the Church. You stay. You fight. You suffer. It’s just that serious. Serious enough not to abandon the flock. Jesus was ripped to shreds, tortured to death on the cross. As the Master, so the disciple. Just because some idiot does an unthinkably monstrous deed doesn’t mean everyone is like that. We priests need to man up and fight the good fight, keeping up with Confession ourselves, being fit instruments of Jesus, because we are nothing and He’s everything. It shows our thanksgiving to Jesus to stay. If I can keep up with Confession and help other priests to keep up with Confession, well then, I think I’ve done something as Jesus’ instrument for the Church and the world. I remember a bishop who gave us Missionaries of Mercy a talk and a talking to, as it were, over in Rome, introducing himself as a sinner since the year he was ordained, and for a long time before that. Good for him to recognize it and encourage us all to participate in the Sacrament of Confession frequently, you know, for sins of thought and mind and deed and… oh my… of omission
As the now sainted Mother Teresa often said, we don’t need more priests; we need holy priests. Indeed. We need priests who know they are married to the Church. We need priests who know that they are fathers of the family of faith. We need priests who know that they are totally unworthy and are utterly dependent on Jesus, the One Priest. We need priests who go to Confession. We need priests who won’t run away because the wolf says: “Boo!” We need priests who have a love within them provided by Jesus that is stronger than death, stronger than mockery, stronger than slander. We need priests of the horrifying exhilarating life of the beatitudes: Blessed are you when…
Am I happy to be a priest even today? Oh yes. Especially today. When all of hell has broken out. I want to be where Jesus is: In the midst of this hell so as to grab souls for heaven. Today I offer Mass wherein the One Priest lays down His life for us, as unworthy as we all are. Yes, I’m always happy for one more day as a priest, as Jesus’ priest, a day like any other day in the One Day of the Lord, the One Worthy Priest using the likes of me, such as I am, utterly nothing and worse than that so that He might show us all the more stridently His wisdom in having such priests as me and my fellow priests who I know to be dedicated to Him. He can use even me! Even us! All glory to God for His wondrous mercies. As Jesus said to Saint Paul: “My strength shines out through your weakness. My grace is sufficient for you.” Yes, Lord. Thank you.
As it is, I’m having a great time at this stage in my priesthood taking Jesus through these back mountains to parishioners. Jesus’ creation is gorgeous:
As I think back on the 27 years, some of the best times, were of course, at Holy Souls Hermitage when I was writing about the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of the Redeemer, in Genesis 3:15. Long time readers from way back in those days will remember the different scenes: