The priesthood is an incredibly rich and meaningful vocation! Blessed Pope John Paul II expressed it well when he said that it is both a gift and a mystery. It is a gift because it powerfully unites us to the saving work of Jesus and a mystery because through ordination a priest is united to the very Priesthood of Jesus himself!
As Pope Benedict XVI said so beautifully,
"As ministers of Christ, priests bring us into life-giving contact with the mystery of God’s holiness. Thanks to the priest’s preaching of the Gospel and his celebration of the sacraments, we are enabled to approach God and to be transformed gradually into the divine image. In the celebration of the sacraments, and in particular the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Christ’s sanctifying work is constantly made present and effective. In their devout celebration of the sacraments, priests sanctify the faithful and are themselves sanctified and configured ever more closely to Christ” (General Audience, Saint Peter's Square Wednesday, 5 May 2010).
The Church and the world need zealous, caring, and holy priests. This is especially true in this era of the New Evangelization. The saving work of Jesus must continue and the priesthood is at the very heart of that mission. It is not a vocation that someone can choose for themselves – it is the Lord who chooses them and calls, but when a man hears the call, there is no reason to be afraid or to hesitate. Responding to the call means trusting Jesus, trusting that he will take care of all our genuine needs and concerns; no matter how unworthy or unprepared we might feel. As an old saying goes, “God does not call the equipped, but equips the called”! The priesthood is a deeply fulfilling life, a meaningful self-offering, and a challenging adventure – just as it was for the Apostles. After more than 50 years as a priest the Founder of the Companions of the Cross, Fr. Bob Bedard, used to say that “if I had to choose all over again, I would still be a priest”. He spoke often of what a privilege it is to be so close to the saving work of Jesus and to see God work so powerfully and lovingly in the hearts of his people.
Catherine Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House, wrote a poem which powerfully captures the gift and mystery of priesthood:
WHAT IS A PRIEST?
"A PRIEST is a lover of God,
a priest is a lover of men,
a priest is a holy man
because he walks before the face of the All-Holy.
A priest understands all things,
a priest forgives all things,
a priest encompasses all things.
The heart of a priest is pierced, like Christ’s
with the lance of love.
The heart of a priest is open, like Christ’s
for the whole world to walk through.
The heart of a priest is a vessel of compassion,
the heart of a priest is a chalice of love,
the heart of a priest is the trysting place
of human and divine love.
A priest is a man whose goal is to be another Christ;
a priest is a man who lives to serve.
A priest is a man who has crucified himself
so that he too may be lifted up and draw all things to Christ.
A priest is a man in love with God.
A priest is the gift of God to man
and of man to God.
A priest is the symbol of the word made flesh,
a priest is the naked sword of God’s justice,
a priest is the hand of God’s mercy,
a priest is the reflection of God’s love.
Nothing can be greater in this world than a priest,
nothing but God Himself."