November 24, 2020 | Miles Christi
Being a Catholic priest today demonstrates an extraordinary heroism of the will. No matter what dissenting theologians may say, it is impossible to separate the priesthood from the liturgy. One can always repeat in an exaggerated way that a priest is not a ‘distributor of sacraments,’ but that does not prevent the liturgy from being a means of new vocations and that it is through the liturgy that a priest transmits divine life, precisely through the celebration of the sacraments.
In recent times, statistics published on the number of priests who will persevere over the next 10 years in the dioceses of France is shocking. Amidst the undeniable causes of the lack of vocations is, obviously, that the material opportunities of our western society do not favor the necessary spirit of sacrifice intimately connected to the decision of a young man to become a priest.
Some fifty years ago, becoming a priest was truly a sacrifice (it always has been a sacrifice), but under material conditions of life not much inferior to those of the rest of the population. So, the choice was almost void of material considerations. Now, when the level of life within our society has continued to advance, can we imagine today all that it is necessary to abandon in order to make this choice of life? While the status and recognition of the priest diminish, the comfort of everyday life increases in a dramatic way. To be a priest today demonstrates extraordinary heroism of the will in as much as the temptations that surround him are so numerous.
In such a context, it is no trivial matter whether the liturgy should or should not be considered a treasure that must be preserved, a resource that must be mined. To want to reduce the liturgy to its simplest expression, to be tempted by a certain “liturgical pauperism,” is to take away from the priest that which is his primary good—the power to receive and transmit Christ’s grace in the sacraments. He has given his life in order to be this bridge between God and man, a life surrendered for a sublime excellence, not material but spiritual, a grandeur that is expressed and disclosed in the liturgy. He, the priest, does not place himself in the forefront; he is not the creator nor the proprietor but simply a depository—but of what a deposit! A deposit of unprecedented wealth…
Yes, the life of the priest is a constant renunciation, but when he has our Lord in his hands, with fear and respect—and not in an ordinary way—then his wealth surpasses all that the world can offer. As teachers and parents, we must know how to make sensible to our children, we must know how to make them marvel before a worthy and beautiful liturgy, we must know how to explain to them in what measure the priest who celebrates it, beyond his modest humanity, is a human being become extraordinary through Christ. In this way, they will love him and perhaps God will touch their opened hearts and thus call them to His service and to that of men.