Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Homily on the Holy Priesthood

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

We gather together this morning, my brothers and sisters, as the local Church known as the Italo-Greek Orthodox Catholic Church for the annual consecration of the sacred Chrism and the Blessing of the Holy Oils of the Catechumens and of the Sick. These oils will be used throughout the next year to anoint the newly baptized, to seal neophytes with the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, to consecrate new altars and churches for the solemn celebration of the Divine Liturgy and worship of Almighty God, to consecrate and anoint new bishops and priests, to bring healing to the sick, and to prepare the dying for eternal life. Truly, these holy oils reflect and effect the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit in this local Church, the Spirit who is always moving us to ever greater completion of that mission given to Jesus by His heavenly Father.

Not only do we gather to celebrate the consecration and blessing of these oils, but we are here to celebrate also the institution of the Holy Priesthood. Even though Christ instituted the Priesthood at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening, our primary focus at tonight’s Divine Liturgy will be on the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Both sacraments are not only important, but essential, to the life of the Church. It is for this reason that, in order to give both these important Mysteries the attention they deserve, we deal with one, the Priesthood, at this Chrism Liturgy, especially since the Priesthood and Chrism are so intimately linked together, and the other, the Holy Eucharist, at tonight’s Divine Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper.

I would like to begin by talking a bit about the Holy Oils, especially Sacred Chrism. The most important thing we must first understand is that it is Jesus Christ Himself who sanctifies the Chrism and blesses the Oils through the Bishops of the Church. Liturgy is a work. It is the work of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. We are here to share in that work.  As Christ is the Head of the Church, we are members of His Body, and so, each of us has a particular role to play in the actions that will take place this morning.

Chrism is a great sacramental. It is, as the liturgy says, a sign. But it is also a source of blessing, infused with the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. It is a way for the Holy Spirit to be shared, passed on, to fill. This is certainly true at Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation). It is the sign that Chrism expresses and manifests at the ordination of the two priestly orders, the episcopacy and the presbyterate. It is this function of sign and source that the Chrism has when we use it to anoint and consecrate altars and churches.

What is Chrism and what happens when one is “chrismated?” What happens in the sacrament, especially the Holy Mysteries of Initiation (Baptism and Chrismation), when Chrism is used as this source of infusing the Holy Spirit? The answer to that question is clear from the liturgy, especially the consecratory prayer that I will recite over the Chrism. The result of being chrismated is to be a sharer in Christ’s mission as a priest, prophet and king. You will hear me say that, from Christ – literally, “the Anointed One” – Chrism takes its name. And with Chrism God the Father has anointed for Himself priests and kings, prophets and martyrs. The prayer says that through the anointing that confirms Baptism, God transforms the baptized into the likeness of Christ His Son, and gives them a share in His royal, priestly and prophetic work. And so, in the consecration prayer, we will ask that in the sign of Chrism God grant those who are anointed with it royal, priestly and prophetic honor. In our liturgy this morning, we are affirming the teaching of the First Epistle of St. Peter. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

While Chrism plays an important part in the life of the people of God, it is equally important in the consecration and setting apart of men to the Holy Priesthood; the sacramental priesthood of the temple.

The priest is a Christian man who has been raised above the other members of the Church to participate in Our Blessed Lord’s own threefold function of teaching, ruling and sanctifying, and upon whom the powers to do so have been conferred by the Holy Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Orders, which can only be conferred by a valid Bishop. I say “valid” because only Orthodox and Catholic bishops are true bishops of the Church, inasmuch as they possess unbroken Apostolic Succession. You may hear the term “bishop” used in connection with clergy of the Protestant Anglican/Episcopal communion, or the Lutheran or Methodist Communions. The term is even used in the so-called “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints” (Mormons), but these are not true bishops, as they do not possess Apostolic Succession in the Church.

A Sacrament, or what we term “Holy Mystery,” is a sacred sign instituted by Christ our Lord to give grace. The Holy Mystery of Holy Orders, however, not only bestows on the priest the graces which he will require to perform his priestly functions fittingly, but imprints upon his soul an indelible seal (the character) by which he receives the power to accomplish sublime acts of worship and sanctification with a power almost divine. For the Church as a whole, then, Holy Orders is indeed a most important Sacrament, for by it chosen men receive the power to administer to the faithful all the other life-giving Sacraments.

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted the Holy Priesthood on the night of His Last Supper, in the same moment as He instituted the Holy Eucharist, which would become the center of the life of the Church and of the priestly life. Upon his ordination, the priest receives the power of consecrating, offering and administering the most precious Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful, and likewise the power of forgiving and remitting sins or holding them fast.

The lives of holy and pious priests have always exemplified the life of Christ, with whom, by priestly ordination, they are conformed in mind, heart and spirit. Such priests love, above all things, the celebration of Divine Liturgy and the Holy Mystery of Confession, where they reconcile so many sinners to God.

Many other duties follow upon these principal functions of the priest. In the Liturgy of the Hours (principally Matins and Vespers, which are always to be celebrated daily in parish churches), he prays officially in the name of, and for the needs of the whole Church. He teaches the faithful in his homilies and sermons, in religious instruction and catechism lessons, and by his writings what they must believe, and how they must act in accordance with God’s law, strengthened by the graces they receive in the Holy Mysteries. He counsels the doubtful, encourages the weak, consoles the sick and suffering, comforts those who mourn, admonishes the sinners and corrects those who do wrong. In every way, by the sacred powers and authority with which God has invested him through the hands of the Bishop, the priest strives to prepare the men, women and children entrusted to his care for that life of eternal beatitude to which God has destined them.

Human words can barely describe the nature and beauty of the Order of Priesthood. The human mind can only perceive the shadows of the Priesthood and not its full reality, and this is because of the supernatural or divine aspect of the Order of Priesthood.

Priests are rightly called “another Christ,” not because he shares in Christ’s divine nature and human perfection, but because he has been appointed by God to continue Christ’s mission in the world.  He must, therefore, within the limits of his power and his own human frailty, try to live the life of Christ on earth. Like Jesus on the cross, he stands at the altar as a mediator between God and man, lifting up to heaven his hands filled with Christ’s prayers, and offering the redeeming Blood of the Divine Victim, the price of our salvation. He sends up to God the infinite tribute of adoration, thanks and reparation due to Him, which Christ alone can pay for us. In doing this, he brings down upon men a shower of divine grace and precious blessings. He is the face and the heart of the merciful Jesus who forgives sinners, purifies their souls, and directs them towards heaven, through the Holy Mystery of Confession. He is the Good Shepherd who pursues the lost sheep of his flock, brings them back to the fold and leads them to the still waters and green pastures where Our Lord Himself feeds them with His own Flesh and Blood. He is the compassionate Jesus who consoles the afflicted, helps the poor, visits and aids the sick, and prepares the dying for their journey into eternity. He is the way, the truth, the life; for by his preaching and conduct, he sets before his people the doctrine, the example and the life of Jesus. He is a man who, like Jesus, must pass through this world doing good. In a word, he is, above all else, a savior of souls. He is not a priest for himself, for his own temporal or even spiritual welfare; but he is a priest for others. He “is appointed for men,” as St. Paul says (Hebrews 5:1). He has been chosen by God in order that, through the power of Jesus Christ and through his own prayer, labor, and self-sacrifice, he may enable his fellow man to prepare for and deserve a life of eternal glory and happiness in heaven.

The great mission of the priest is to give Jesus Christ to the world. This he does by his example and manner of living. In the priest, Christ becomes visibly present to the people he serves. The priest is the link between God and His people and makes their relationship with the Lord real and tangible. Through the priest, God communicates and interacts with His people. He is the heart and mind and voice of the One Who is truth and gives light and life to every human being.

In his daily life, the priest must limit himself to truly priestly functions. He acts “in persona Christi,” in the person of Christ, and therefore, like his divine Master, he must be a victim immolated to the glory of God, and delivered up for the salvation of souls. He may be a great communicator, diplomat or administrator. He may be a great scholar, theologian or canonist. He may be a zealous social reformer, advocate or activist. But if he is only one or more of these things, he does not measure up to God’s expectation of him as His priest and minister.

The priest, according to the magnificent definition given by St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews, is a “man taken from among men and ordained for men in the things that pertain to God.” (Hebrews 5:1). The office of priest is not for human things, and things that pass away, but for things divine, enduring and eternal. It matters not that such things may be scorned and repudiated by unbelievers and even the world itself. On the contrary, it is the duty of every priest to point out that such things have always been, do continue, and will always continue to be because they are of God. No matter how violently the things of God are attacked and belittled by the powers of this world, they remain constant and enduring. Such stability and soundness enrages the Evil One and causes him to attack and try to destroy God’s priests. It is for this reason that every priest must hold fast to Christ who is His power and strength, Who is his sure foundation and hope.

No priest is a revolutionary. It is inaccurate to paint such a picture of the priest. Christ Himself was not a revolutionary. Those who believe such a thing are misinformed. Christ was not a revolutionary but rather the King Who came to establish His Kingdom, a kingdom filled with justice and righteousness, with love and mercy and compassion. This is not revolutionary but counter-cultural. Thus, every priest is a sign of contradiction. But just because a priest is counter-cultural doesn’t mean he ought to go about stirring up controversy. The unrest which a priest must incite is the unrest which results from a faithful witness and obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The unrest which the priest must stir up is the fear of God, that intense longing for the Kingdom of God which has brought forth throughout human history unparalleled acts of heroism, love and self-sacrifice.

The revolution which priests must inspire and advocate for is the insurrection of consciences; a revolution which fights against all things which oppose the will of God and the establishment and building up of His Kingdom here on earth. The order which the priest is mandated to disturb is that which covers up the disorders, hatred and injustices of the world. Though he is called to be a good citizen in most sincere obedience to legitimate authority, he is nevertheless bound by the Gospel to work tirelessly for and actively foster a higher goal for mankind. He does this by responsibly carrying out his duties as a consecrated minister and servant of the Most High God.

God communicates great power to priests at their ordination, but they must employ these scared powers as God intends, striving at every moment to conform himself more and more closely to Our Blessed Lord, in whose priesthood he shares. No priest has the power or authority to act independently of Christ or to speak anything other than what Christ speaks. Every priest must always be “of Christ.” The priest is a living icon of Christ and therefore has great power to sway the people. A priest who acts other than as Christ would act is in league with Satan and an active partner with him to destroy not only the Church but the faith of the people.

Every priest is clothed with the power and authority of God; so too, then, should they be clothed with His righteousness, holiness, love and charity. Because they are living icons of the Lord, the life of every priest should be the mirror image of that of the Savior, or rather a continuation of Christ’s life on earth. In this manner, those who look upon the priest will see Christ and be drawn closer to Him.

The holiness of the priest, or in other words, the degree in which he cooperates with God, whose instrument, messenger and minister he is, will, in many ways, be the very measure of the fruits which his ministry will bear.

A good and holy priest is an example of purity in mind and body, an angel of light and knowledge, a slave of love and charity, an apostle of zeal in work and sanctity. He is the living image of Christ in this world, of Christ watching, praying, teaching, working, weeping, going from city to city, from town to town, from village to village, suffering, agonizing, sacrificing Himself and dying for the souls created in His image and likeness. He is the light of those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He is the destroyer of error, schisms and heresies, the converter of sinners, the sanctifier of the just, the strength of the weak, the consolation of the afflicted, the treasure of the poor. He is the confusion of hell, the glory of heaven, the terror of demons, the joy of angels, the ruin of Satan’s kingdom, the establishment of Christ’s empire, the pride and joy of the Most Holy Mother of God, and the ornament of the Church.

Every priest is called to live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasures; to be a member of every family, yet belong to none; to share in all the sufferings of his people; to penetrate all dark and soul-destroying secrets; to heal all wounds; to go daily from man to God to offer Him their homage and petition; to return from God to man to bring them His pardon and His hope; to have a heart of iron for chastity and virtue, and a heart of flesh for Charity; to teach and instruct; to pardon and console; to bless and be blessed forever! O God, what a wonderful and rich life is that of a priest!

So now, my children, you have a general idea of the priesthood and of the life of a priest: his dignity, his duties, of the zeal which he ought to have. Oh yes, we have seen the bad or dark side of some of our priests, but this is the exception, not the rule. The reason priests have gone bad is because they have not tried to emulate Christ, because they have forgotten who and what they are and who, they represent. Without sanctity and purity of heart, a priest can never be the salt of the earth and light to the people of God, for what is corrupt and contaminated is by no means fit to confer health, and where there is no sanctity, corruption will always dwell.

While there have been and are priests who have fallen and have betrayed Christ and the sacred office which they held or hold, they are few in number compared to the many hundreds of thousands of good priests that have served and do serve God’s Holy Church. Let us not look to the bad priests as a reason to disparage and demean the sacred and holy Order of Priesthood, for the office of Priest is still very much a holy and venerable estate, one of the holy things of God. In this regard, my children, I counsel you to be cognizant of the sin of personal sacrilege. Personal sacrilege means to deal so irreverently with a sacred person, whether by the injury inflicted or the defilement caused, that there is a grievous breach of the honor due to such person.

Every priest is a consecrated minister and servant of Jesus Christ. Having received the laying on of hands by the Bishop and having been anointed with Sacred Chrism, the priest becomes a consecrated and sacred person, a holy thing of God. Thus, any action taken, such as laying violent hands on the person of a priest or bishop, or speaking unjustly or in an otherwise profane or disparaging way about a priest or bishop, constitutes the sin of sacrilege and may be punishable by the sin of excommunication. In the case of any deliberate or intentional act of physical violence against a bishop or priest, the penalty of excommunication is automatically incurred and may even be formally and publically proclaimed if the guilty party does not repent of the act and remains obstinate in the sin. This means that the person guilty of the sin of personal sacrilege who does not repent of the sin is separated from the community of the faithful and the Holy Mysteries of the Church and will enter eternal life already damned. Having said this, every priest must strive in his personal as well as his public life to be holy as God the Father is holy. He must always be watchful and careful not to do anything that will bring scandal, disgrace or dishonor to his sacred office and to himself personally. There is one quality which indisputably links man with God and makes him the pleasing and not-unworthy “dispenser” of His mercy, namely sanctity of life and morals. If this, which is but the super eminent knowledge of Jesus Christ, be lacking in a priest, all things are lacking.

Sanctity alone makes every priest what our divine vocation demands, namely that we are men crucified to the world, men walking in the shadow of the Cross, men walking in the newness of life, in the light and glory of the Resurrection, who, as St. Paul tells us, show themselves to be ministers of God.

To teach, to rule, and to sanctify the members of His Church, Our Blessed Lord Jesus never ceases to summon young men to join the ranks of the priesthood. This call of Christ, Who said, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16), has received the name of ‘vocation,’ from the Latin verb ‘vocare’, to call. And indeed, no man should dare to present himself for this sacred office unless God has called him to it, unless he “has a vocation.” Neither does any man take the honor of the priesthood to himself,” says St. Paul, “but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.” (Hebrews 5:4).

A vocation to the priesthood is a very serious and awesome thing. Therefore, it should be discerned prayerfully and thoughtfully, but one who feels he hears the call of God to the priesthood in his heart should be encouraged to pursue that call to a resolution. It is important to remember, however, that a man does not choose God, but that God calls Him to service, but this does not mean that a vocation will blossom and bear the fruit of ordination.

The only genuine vocation to the priesthood, the vocation in the strict sense, is the summons by the Bishop to receive the Holy Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Orders. In other words, it is the acceptance of a candidate for the priesthood by the Bishop, acting in the name of God, that constitutes a true vocation. This important truth has equally important implications.

Every Bishop is obligated to undertake a meticulous effort to choose the most suitable candidates for the Holy Priesthood. In expectation of this summons of the Bishop to Holy Orders, the role of the candidate is to prepare himself conscientiously by pursuing the required program for the intellectual and spiritual formation of future priests which the Church has gradually perfected over the centuries.

This long work of formation to render oneself suitable for the call to the priesthood should be in all its elements the work of divine grace, and have as its soul the persevering intention on the candidate’s part to become a priest, and a good priest.

I speak now to the men in our Church who may be hearing God whispering in their ear. If you do feel that God is calling you, you must act on that call. You should know, however, that a vocation requires no overpowering “feeling” that one is “called.” In other words, a vocation does necessarily develop or come about because of a “personal revelation” or some other extraordinary event.

In actual fact, the intention to become a priest most often takes the form of a decision calmly and prudently made by the candidate himself, usually after prayer, reading, reflection, discussions with his parents, his wife (if he has one), with a priest, and with his Bishop. This is indeed the very way in which a young man customarily formulates his developing desire within himself: “I think I want to become a priest.” And finally, “I do want to become a priest.”

After this decision, the candidate normally enters the seminary to begin his formal training and formation for the priesthood. These years of formation seek to prepare him intellectually and spiritually for the demanding office of priest, and will permit him one day, if he takes advantage of them and acquires the necessary learning and sanctity, humbly to solicit of his Bishop the summons to Holy Orders.

A man might ask, “If the decision to enter the priesthood is not a question of sensible attraction, but a decision that I must prudently make myself, then what basic qualifications should I begin to look for in myself?” The Church principally requires of the future priest intellectual knowledge sufficient to accomplish fittingly his duties and tasks as preacher, teacher, and confessor. He must also possess a moral life as elevated as the sublime dignity which he desires. He must also be a person of prayer and deep spirituality. At the same time, he must be of a good nature, easily able to get along with and work well with others.  Since the seminary exists specifically to develop these essential qualities in a candidate, all men desiring the priesthood are required to attend seminary for a certain amount of time.

In the Italo-Greek Orthodox Church, this period of formation for the priesthood is five years (three years of academic studies and spiritual formation, one year of diaconal service in a parish or other ministry setting, and one year of specialized training for priestly service (parish administration, parish finances, pastoral counseling, canon law, etc). In the sixth month of the fifth year, the candidate may petition the Bishop for sacred ordination to the Priesthood..

In general, candidates for the priesthood must possess the spiritual, emotional, psycholgical and physical stamina and strength to carry out the demanding responsibilities of a priest. Needless to say, no one should make the solemn decision to enter the service of God without the guidance of God Himself. For those of you considering a vocation to the priesthood, be regular in your daily prayers and in your efforts to conquer the sinful tendencies of our fallen nature; and offer special prayers imploring the guidance and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, Queen of the clergy, and of all the bishops and priests who have gone before us and who now surround the heavenly altar of God. Most especially, be faithful and regular in your attendance and participation at the Divine Liturgy, and never forget to spend time alone with the Lord in Church as much as you can. Remember that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist enthroned in the tabernacle on the Altar. Do not neglect Him or keep yourself from Him. Be near and close to Him always so that your love for and desire to serve Him may deepen, grow and mature.

Remember that a priest is essentially a man of sacrifice. I personally believe that there is a transcendental relationship between the priest and sacrifice, and between the sacrifice and a priest. One cannot imagine sacrifice without a priest, and the priesthood without sacrifice. And so there is a relationship there that is more than essential; a relationship that goes beyond even the essence of the priest. I say this because Our Lord has put into our hands, into the hands of His priests, the Sacrifice of Himself. This very sacrifice is truly inexpressible; so divine, so mysterious, so sublime, that it surpasses everything we can possibly imagine.

It is an awesome and frightening thing to contemplate that we who are priests, who stand at the Altar during Divine Liturgy, do so in the person of Jesus Christ; and that it is His words, not ours, that produce His presence. Each time we speak the words of the Holy Anaphora, it is not a mere narrative that we read but an action being done, so that we say, “This is My Body,” “This is My Blood.” We do not say, “This is the Body of Jesus Christ,” or “this is the Blood of Jesus Christ.” No, we do not say such things and the reason we do not say such things is because it is Christ Himself who speaks through us. Thus, we say, “This is My Body,” and “This is the cup of My Blood…” Consequently, we are truly in the person of Christ and Christ is truly in us. It is no longer we who speak; it is Our Lord who makes use of our mouths and lips to pronounce these words anew. This, then, is the life of the priest: to be Christ in and for all things and people.

The priesthood is the highest dignity upon earth. There is no other profession or vocation that surpasses in greatness or reward than that of the Priesthood. It surpasses that of kings and emperors, even the life and service of the angels themselves. As St. John Chrysostom tells us, “For the power of kings and rulers is only over the bodies of men, whereas that of the priest is over their souls.” On the priest are conferred powers not conferred upon other mortals or even upon the angels themselves; for to what angel was it ever given to convert bread into the Body of the Lord and wine into the Blood of the Lord by his word? And not all the angels together could grant pardon for a single sin. By his office, a priest is only concerned with heavenly things; he stands between God and man; he lays our petitions before the Most High and conveys divine graces to us. He is a mediator between God and man; the messenger of God to make known His will to men. He is God’s representative, His ambassador, therefore whatever honor we show the priest, we show to God Himself. Does not Our Lord Himself say, “He that hears you hears Me; and he that despises you, despises Me?” (Luke 10:16).

The sacerdotal office is one of immense responsibility and difficulty; the obligations resting upon the priest are neither few nor light. A priest has to say his prayers every day. He must strive to keep the fasts so that his soul, mind, and body remain pure, clean and strengthened. He must spend time in prayer before the Lord in the Eucharist several times a week. This time of quiet meditation and reflection is essential to good and sound spirituality. He must visit and attend to the sick at any hour of the day or night when he is called upon to do so. He must take the Holy Eucharist to the sick and the dying. He must be available to hear the confessions of the faithful at any time and not rush through a confession; he must take great care and the time to provide sound pastoral and spiritual counseling so that sinners may sincerely turn and repent of their sins. He must be not be preoccupied with worldly attractions and amusements. That is not to say he cannot have fun or enjoy the company of friends, but again, he must never do anything of consequence that will bring shame, scandal or disgrace to his holy office, the Church, or himself. He must be solicitous of and generous to the poor and all those in genuine need. And he must do much more besides.

Unfortunately, we must not overlook the fact that priests in this present day and age are frequently the object of suspicion, ridicule and persecution, and that their apostolic labors are frequently overlooked, many times ignored, and almost always ill rewarded. The ardent followers of the world are generally inclined to treat priests as less than a common criminal or fool. Nevertheless, if a wolf comes to attack the sheep, the shepherd must leap to action and their defense. Thus, a priest must risk his own personal safety to safeguard and protect the sheep of his flock. A priest must never forget that he will have to render an account of the souls committed to his charge on the Day of Judgment. It is not an exaggeration to say that the duties of a priest are heavy and onerous. On the day of his ordination, St. John Chrysostom said, “I now need your prayers a thousand-fold more, lest on the Day of Judgment, I should be cast into the exterior darkness.”

Since the sacerdotal office is in itself an office of such great dignity and responsibility, every Orthodox Catholic Christian owes profound respect to the priest on account of his office, even if his life does not correspond to it. The personal virtue of the priest, even the lack thereof, does not impede the Holy Spirit from dispensing grace through him. Nevertheless, an unholy and sinful priest will surely be held to account when he stands before the Lord in judgment, and his judgment will be very severe because of the office he holds.

Nothing can take away the dignity which is attached to the priestly office, not even an ungodly life; therefore we are all obligated to entertain great reverence for it. Even pagan monarchs have been known to manifest deep veneration for the priests of the true God. Almighty God permits his priests to be encompassed and afflicted with spiritual, physical and emotional infirmity in order that they may have more compassion, love and mercy on those that are ignorant and that err. St. Augustine once asked, “Are we to think slightingly of Christ and the Apostles because there was a Judas among them? Who will show me any body of men on earth who are without faults?”

How blameworthy are those individuals who publish far and wide the misdeeds of a priest! Truly, every priest is to be held to a higher standard and must always be corrected and counseled when he sins, fails or otherwise goes astray. Sometimes, because of the gravity of his offense, it will be necessary to remove a priest from ministry. This is sad and is to be lamented, but we don’t stop loving, supporting and caring for and about him. Most importantly, we do not stop praying for him. We do not exclude him from the Body of Christ, but commend him to a life of prayer and repentance. But to condemn every priest because of the sins of a few is an affront to Almighty God. Who among all God’s people is without sin and therefore able to cast the first stone? Regardless of the sins of any individual priest, they do not expunge the dignity of the office.

In closing I want to reiterate that the Holy Priesthood is a life worth living. It is a life to be highly desired and sought after. Every priest must be in love with God. St. Augustine says that, “To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human achievement.” This is the process of discerning a priestly vocation. It is a life I strongly recommend to all our young men. There is nothing to lose, but everything to gain. The world is waiting and dying for the love of Christ. The world is waiting for you, my sons! You can make a difference and change the world, one parish at a time!

Amen.



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