IV. The PRIESTS
a. Pastoral Duty as Representative of the Bishop. In essence, priests represent the bishop, and as such, “make [Christ] present to their [parishes],” especially by “tak[ing] upon themselves . . . [the bishop’s] duties and burden of his care” (LG28), which includes “the pastoral work of the whole diocese, and even the entire Church” (LG28).
b. Primary Duty as Shepherds. As an extension of the bishop and his office, “priests. . . . are to live as good shepherds that know their sheep, and they are to seek to lead those who are not of this sheepfold
[i.e. non-Catholics]” (PO3).
[i.e. non-Catholics]” (PO3).
14. Holiness; Priestly Qualities; Evangelical Counsels
- The priest must build and possess a number of virtues pertinent to the priestly life, especially humility through service, and must acquire priestly holiness, allowing him to live the evangelical counsels he promises.
A. Priestly Qualities.
a. Various Virtues. Because of the nature of who they are and the duties required of them, it is essential the priest hones and possesses certain virtues, including “goodness of heart, sincerity, strength and constancy of mind, zealous pursuit of justice, affability, and others” (PO3).
b. Humility through Service. Humility in and through service is most essential, for the priest is called to “wait upon all whom God has sent him to serve in the work assigned to him and in the multiple experiences of his life. . . . With a willing heart let them spend and even exhaust themselves . . . even though it be menial and unrecognized” (PO15).
a. In Imitation of Holy Priests. Above all, the priest must strive for holiness if his ministry is to be fruitful: “Priests should grow daily in their love of God and their neighbor” [through their priesthood] . . . emulat[ing] other examples of holy priests” (PO12), whether Saints of the Church or contemporary priests they know or have met.
b. Means to Holiness.
i. Prayer and Sacrifice. They will grow in holiness through their “office of praying and offering sacrifice for their flock and all men”, and through “perils and hardships” by “keeping in mind what they are doing and imitating what they are handling [Eucharist]”, and also through contemplative prayer (LG 41).
ii. Cooperation with and Obedience to the Bishop. However, “their faithful loyalty toward and their generous cooperation with their bishop is of the greatest value in their growth in holiness” (LG41).
C. Evangelical Counsels. Priests practice simplicity of life and promise celibacy and obedience in imitation of Christ, for they stand in His place here on earth [in persona Christi – “in the person of Christ”].
a. Sacrifice. As a result, they must have a spirit of sacrifice, and therefore “cultivate an asceticism . . . renouncing their personal convenience, seeking not what is useful to themselves but to [others], for their salvation” (PO13), even if it means they must “give their life for their sheep” in the “supreme sacrifice” of martyrdom (PO13).
b. Simplicity of Life. This priestly selflessness requires a renunciation of wealth and possessions and the embracing of a simplicity of life: “By living in the world, let priests know how not to be of the world [so that] free from every inordinate concern [they might find] see all that comes to them in the light of faith [so as to] correctly use goods in response to the will of God and reject those which are harmful to their mission” (PO17).
i. Avoiding Scandal. Furthermore, in order not to scandalize the poor or “appear unapproachable”, priests must also “set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions” and even “arrange their homes” accordingly (PO17).
ii. Give Excess to Charity. Avoiding “greediness” and “appearance of business”, priests must use the goods they receive only “for adequate support and the fulfillment of their office and status”, while the excess should be given “for the good of the Church or for works of charity” (PO17).
iii. Voluntary Poverty or Common Use of Goods. Although ideal if they “embrace voluntary poverty” (PO17), priests should at least seek greater “pastoral charity” through “a certain common use of goods” (PO17).
iv. Stewardship of Ecclesial Monies. Priests must also be good stewards of the church’s goods and monies, using them only for liturgical purposes, appropriate salaries for clergy, and works of the apostolate or charity (PO17).
c. Celibacy. Priests, also in a spirit of self-sacrificial love, must “wholeheartedly adhere to [celibacy]”, acknowledging “the great mysteries signified by it and fulfilled in it” (PO16) – i.e. the marital and heavenly nature of celibacy, and its fruitfulness in the life of the Church. Priests must also “humbly and steadfastly pray with the Church for that grace of fidelity [and] seek . . . ascetical [means]” of practicing chastity. (PO16).
d. Obedience. Finally, the most important virtue for priestly ministry is the “obedience” of faith: therefore “let [priests] receive and execute whatever orders the holy father, their own bishop, or other superiors give or recommend” (PO15).
15. Priest Sanctifying through Prayer and Liturgy
- The Priest must sanctify the people, leading them to holiness through formation and training in liturgical worship, prayer, and by praying for them himself.
A. Leading the People to Holiness. The priest, who is called to holiness, is likewise called to lead his flock to sanctity (holiness) as well, especially through the liturgy.
a. The Church Building. To the priest is given the duty of making sure that “the [church is] spotless and suitable for prayer and sacred functions,” for they must “take care so to foster a knowledge of and facility in the liturgy” (PO5).
b. Training in Liturgical Worship and Prayer. Furthermore, “Priests . . . must instruct their people to participate in the celebrations of the sacred liturgy in such a way that they become proficient in genuine prayer. They must coax their people on to an ever more perfect and constant spirit of prayer” (PO5).
c. Sanctifying the World through Prayer. They themselves help sanctify the world through “praying the Divine Office, offered in the name of the Church for all the people entrusted to their care, and indeed for the whole world” (PO5).
16. Priest as Prophet, Teaching and Preaching, Concern for Evangelism and the Missions
- The priest must evangelise, preaching the Word of God to all and leading them to conversion and holiness, as well as concerning himself in whatever way he can with the Missions.
A. Preaching the Gospel.
a. Preaching unto Conversion and Holiness. “Priests . . . have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all”, and it is “to conversion and holiness that they exhort all men” (PO4).
b. Content of Preaching. They fulfill this call by “entering into profitable dialogue [in order to] bring people to the worship of God . . . by openly . . . proclaim[ing] the mystery of Christ, or whether in the light of Christ they treat contemporary problems” (PO4).
c. Means of Preaching. However, there is a necessary method to this preaching: “The word of God ought not to be explained in a general and abstract way, but rather by applying the lasting truth of the Gospel to the particular circumstances of life” (PO4). In other words, preaching must be practical, not just “theoretical” and “heady”.
d. Education in Evangelization. To assist them in this call, “let priests more readily study and effectively learn the methods of evangelization and the apostolate” (PO19).
B. The Missions.
a. Openness for Missionary Work. Because the priest must be concerned with “the care of all churches”, they should “show themselves willing and ready, with the permission of their own ordinaries [bishops] to volunteer for work in other regions . . . which are poor in numbers of clergy” (PO10), or “for missionary work in distant and forsaken areas”, even “of their own diocese” (AG20).
b. Promoting Missionary Work and Missionary Vocations. Furthermore, “priests should stir up and preserve amid the faithful a zeal for the evangelization of the world” through preaching and instruction about the Church’s missionary mandate, encouraging families to foster missionaries among their children, and fostering missionary vocations among the young they encounter (AG39).
c. Prayer and Alms for the Missions. Priests must also “teach the faithful to pray for the missions, and [even] ask alms . . . for this purpose” (AG39).
d. Promoting Universal Awareness. Finally, priests must “foster . . . care [for] the universal Church” (PO6) and “fill [the laity] with a missionary zeal” (PO6).
C. Relationship to Modern Man.
a. Secular Knowledge for the Sake of Dialogue. “Since human culture and also sacred science has progressed in our times, priests are urged to suitably and without interruption perfect their knowledge of divine things and human affairs and so prepare themselves to enter more opportunely into conversation with their contemporaries” (PO19).
b. Religious Knowledge for the Sake of Dialogue. “In order, moreover, that they may give apt answers to questions posed by men of this age, it is necessary for priests to know well the doctrines of the magisterium and the councils and documents of the Roman pontiffs and to consult the best of prudent writers of theological science” (PO19).
17. Priest as Ruler, in his Role of Pastoring
- The priest must lead his flock by example, and establish a filial relationship with them, working with them, empowering them, and forming them, taking special care of those most in need of him.
A. Means of Pastoring.
a. “Kindness and Firmness”. Priests, in leading, must be both kind and firm: “Priests must treat all with exceptional kindness in imitation of the Lord. They should act toward men, not as seeking to please them, but in accord with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. They should teach them and admonish them as beloved sons” (PO6).
b. Adaptation but Rooted in Tradition. “In their pastoral work”, priests should be first of all “spurred on by charity”, and seek to “develop new approaches and methods for the greater good of the Church, with enthusiasm and courage” (PO15). They must take care, of course, that “all their works and projects . . . compare with the goals of the Gospel mission of the Church” (PO14).
B. Relationship to the Flock – the Laity.
a. Leading by Example, in Humble Service. In their role as pastor, the priest must first of all set the example for others, “tak[ing] the lead in seeking the things of Jesus Christ, not the things that are their own” (PO9), and remember that like Christ, they are “not to be ministered unto, but to minister” just like Christ (PO9).
b. Collaborating with and Empowering the Laity. Thus, in humble service, priests “must work together with the lay faithful” by first of all “sincerely acknowledge[ing] and promot[ing] the dignity of the laity and the part proper to them in the mission of the Church” (PO9). Furthermore, “they should hold in high honor that just freedom which is due to everyone in the earthly city. They must willingly listen to the laity, consider their wants in a fraternal spirit, [and] recognize their experience and competence in . . . different areas. . . . Priests should uncover with a sense of faith, acknowledge with joy and foster with diligence the various humble and exalted charisms of the laity. . . . Likewise, they should confidently entrust to the laity duties in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action; in fact, they should invite them on suitable occasions to undertake works on their own initiative” (PO9).
c. Formation of the Laity.
i. Charity and Vocation. Priests are also responsible for the formation of the laity entrusted to them: “Priests . . . must see to it . . . that the faithful are led . . . to a development of their own vocation, . . . to a sincere and practical charity, and to [holiness]”, “help[ing them] to see what is required and what is God's will in [their lives]”, and to “live not only for themselves”, but through “the new law of charity”, mediate God’s “grace . . . to others” (PO6). Thus they must “gently persuade everyone to the fulfillment of the duties of his state of life” (PO5) – chiefly to fulfill the law of love and to discover and live out their vocation in life.
ii. Temporal Renewal. Priests should provide the “spiritual light and nourishment” that will enable the laity to see to it that “the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city” (GS43), thus fulfilling their role in temporal renewal.
iii. Methods of Formation. “Priests should also focus their attention on the formation of the laity for the apostolate in their catechetics, their ministry of the word, their direction of souls, and in their other pastoral services” (AA30).
C. Ministry to Special Groups. Priests must minister to a variety of special groups, which especially includes families and lay apostolates and organizations.
a. The Family. First, priests are called to “nurture the vocation of spouses by a variety of pastoral means”, including “preaching God's word”, “liturgical worship”, and “other spiritual aids”, as well as “sustain [spouses] sympathetically and patiently in difficulties” and “make them courageous through love” in order to “form” outstanding families. (GS52). They are also to pay special “attention” to “youth” “married people” and “parents”, “join[ing them] together in friendly meetings for mutual aid in [living the difficulties of family life]” (PO6).
b. The Lay Apostolate. Secondly, those who are called to spiritually direct lay apostolates must “promote proper relations between laity and hierarchy”, “nourish [the apostolates’] spiritual life and an apostolic attitude”, “contribute their wise counsel”, “promote their [works]”, and “promote the spirit of unity” within the group and between others (AA25).
c. The Sick and the Poor. Finally, the priest must have a special concern with the “spiritual progress” of “all religious”, “the sick and the dying” – making sure to “visit” and “strengthen” them, as well as their “special obligation to the poor and weak” (PO6).
D. Concern for the Entire Diocese. Since “all diocesan priests should be united among themselves”, they should all “share a genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of the whole diocese” (CD28).
a. Charity. Priests “should be mindful that the benefits they receive by reason of their ecclesiastical office are closely bound up with their sacred work”, for they are to “contribute generously, as the bishop may direct and as their means permit, to the material needs of the diocese” (CD28).
E. Parish Community: Sense of Community. Efforts also must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass (SC42).
18. Priest: Spiritual, Sacramental, Prayer Life
A. Sacramental Devotion. The priest is ordained to offer sacrifice for the people and forgive their sins in the person of Christ [in persona Christi]. However, in order to effectively serve the people sacramentally, they must be drawn by those same sacraments into the virtue of charity through an intimate union with Christ.
a. The Eucharist. And “outstanding among all these spiritual aids [to] (grow in union with Christ) are . . . [use of] Sacred Scripture and [devotion to] the Eucharist”, which the priest must make “frequent use of” for his “sanctification” (PO18).
b. The Mass.
i. Root and Center of Priestly Life. It is “the Eucharistic sacrifice” especially through which “this pastoral charity flows”, which therefore must be “the root and center of the whole life of a priest” (PO14). For “what takes place on the altar of sacrifice [the perfect love of Christ which gave everything for his beloved flock] the priestly heart must make his own” (PO14).
ii. Self-Offering. As a result, “When priests join in the act of Christ the Priest [the Mass], they [must] offer themselves entirely to God” (PO13).
iii. Living its Graces. This requires that “as they celebrate the mystery of the Lord’s death they should keep their bodies free of wantonness and lusts” (PO13).
iv. Daily Mass. Thus, “the daily celebration of Mass is strongly urged” (PO13).
c. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Furthermore, outside of Mass, the priest must seek “fidelity to the daily colloquy with Christ [through] a visit to and veneration of the Most Holy Eucharist”. They also must “fervently pray that God will grant them the true spirit of adoration whereby they . . . unite themselves [and their flock] to Christ” (PO18).
d. Reconciliation. Priests must also seek “conversion of heart” through “sacramental Penance” aided by “the daily examination of conscience” (PO18).
B. Sacred Scripture.
a. Knowledge of Scripture. Through ordination, “priests [are called to] ‘be mature in knowledge’ and [that] their doctrine be ‘spiritual medicine for the People of God’” (PO19).
b. Study of Scripture. “[This] knowledge [must especially be acquired by] reading and meditating on the Sacred Scriptures”, as well as “by the study of the Holy Fathers and other Doctors”, for these latter drew much fruit from the Bible (PO19). It is the Scripture which is the soul of Sacred Theology (DV24).
c. Guidance through Scripture. Thus “nourished by spiritual reading . . . [priests] can more diligently seek signs of God's will and impulses of his grace in the various events of life” (PO18).
d. Teaching Scripture. Finally, through their daily reading and exposure to Scripture, priests must be “ready to receive the word themselves [and] seek how they may better teach others what they have learned”, for “in the very fact of teaching God's word they will be brought closer to Christ” (PO13).
e. The Breviary. An essential source of Scripture is in “the divine office”, which “because it is the public prayer of the Church, [should be] a source of piety, and nourishment for personal prayer” for priests. Thus, they must “attune their minds to their voices when praying it”, which they will better be able to do by “tak[ing] steps to improve their understanding of the liturgy and of the bible, especially of the psalms” (SC90).
C. Marian Devotion. “Let priests love and venerate with filial devotion and veneration [the Blessed Virgin Mary]”, who is the “Protector of their own ministry” (PO18).
D. Spiritual Formation and Direction. “Spiritual retreats” and “spiritual direction” are also very beneficial to the priests’ “fidelity to the daily colloquy with Christ [prayer life]” (PO18).
E. Purpose of Sanctity. To Sanctify the Laity. “The priest must seek to grow spiritually, first through sacramental devotion – especially Eucharistic devotion, as well as the study of Sacred Scripture, in order that they may sanctify their flocks”.
F. Unity of Life. “Priests [must] coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity”. They do this by ensuring that Christ “remains always the source and wellspring of the unity of their lives. Priests, then, can achieve this coordination and unity of life by joining themselves with Christ to acknowledge the will of the Father” (PO14).
a. Pastoral Charity. “For them this means a complete gift of themselves to the flock committed to them”, for it is through “pastoral charity” that “they will discover a bond of priestly perfection which draws their life and activity to unity and coordination” (PO14).
19. Relationship with Brother Priests
- Priests must acknowledge they form an intimate brotherhood, and as such, must work together, care for each other, gather for fellowship and support, and work to increase their ranks, as well as work fraternally and filially with their bishop.
A. Priestly Fraternity. Through ordination into the same priesthood, “all priests are bound together in intimate brotherhood, which naturally and freely manifests itself in mutual aid, spiritual as well as material, pastoral as well as personal, in their meetings and in communion of life, of labor and charity” (LG28), as well as “prayer and total cooperation” (PO8).
a. Cooperation and Collaboration. In fact, the priest, in a “strong bond of union” (PO14) must “join forces with other priests” to “accomplish his mission in a satisfactory way” (PO7).
i. Generation Gap. Specifically, “older priests help younger priests in a special way and [must] be open to their differences and their ideas, while younger priests should respect older priests, seek their advice, and cooperate with them willingly” (PO8).
b. Care for Brother Priests. As brothers, “priests should extend hospitality, cultivate kindliness and share their goods in common [with each other, as well as] gather together for recreation. . . . They should be particularly solicitous for [those who are] sick, overburdened with work, [and the] afflicted, lonely, exiled, [and] persecut[ed]” (PO8). Furthermore, they are “obligated” towards those priests “who have failed in some matters” [i.e. serious sin], by offering assistance, “admonish” them if need be, and “offer prayers” for them, in all of this remembering to “treat [them] with fraternal charity” (PO8).
c. Common Life, Meetings, and Gathering for Recreation and Prayer. In order to foster “mutual assistance”, “cooperat[ion]” and easing “loneliness”, “some kind of common life or some sharing of common life be encouraged among priests” which, if “living together” is not possible, might mean “having a common table” or “frequent and periodic meetings” (PO8). Further, priests “should gladly and joyfully gather together for recreation” (PO8) and “are urged to pray at least some part of the divine office in common” (SC99) when possible.
i. Witness of Life and Priesthood. The priest must also in a special way work for vocations, for “it is the duty of priests, by [their preaching and witness, to] show . . . forth the spirit of service and the paschal joy to demonstrate to the faithful the excellence and necessity of the priesthood” (PO11).
ii. Encouraging and Assisting New Vocations. After successfully inspiring and inviting men to consider the priesthood, they must also encourage men to enter the seminary, “sparing no effort . . . in helping them to prepare” for it, offering them “diligent and prudent spiritual direction” especially (PO11).
iii. Assisting the Seminary. Priests should also “offer willingly their own helpful service” to the seminary (OT5).
iv. Promotion through Various other Means. Furthermore, in speech and in writing, “priests should set forth the needs of the Church, [and outline the] nature and excellence of the priestly ministry, [through which] the greatest love of Christ can be shown” (PO11).
v. Religious Vocations. “Priests [must also] make serious efforts to foster religious vocations, ensuring candidates are suitably and carefully chosen” or asked and encouraged (PC 24).
B. Relationship with Bishop. Finally, the priest has a special relationship with his bishop, and must “sincerely look upon the bishop as their father and reverently obey him” (LG28), “respect[ing] in him the authority of Christ” (PO7). “They must therefore stand by their bishops in sincere charity and obedience . . . imbued with a spirit of cooperation” (PO7), “trust, and generosity” (LG28), “tak[ing] upon themselves . . . his duties and the burden of his care” (LG28).