What is a Priest?
The Priest is a Man of Prayer
The priest must be first and foremost a man of prayer. Personally he is a man in union with God through the intimacy of a deep personal relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As an ordained minister of the Church, the priest represents Jesus Christ and therefore, the priest’s most important prayer is to re-present the sacrifice of Jesus during the Holy Mass.
As a man of prayer, the priest images Jesus Christ to his parish family and becomes for them a living icon of Christ’s abiding love for His people. The parish expects and relies on the priest to offer a sacrifice “holy and acceptable to God.” The Parish looks to the priest to lead them in prayer, personally and officially, not only at Holy Mass, but also at parish meetings, functions, wake services, etc. He must therefore be a man accustomed to speaking with God in the intimacy of his heart, since the priest cannot give to others what he himself does not have.
The priest develops the habit of prayer through his daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours (Breviary) and the time he spends in private prayer and meditation. This personal prayer is essential to the priesthood because the priest could not adequately bring others into contact with Christ without first knowing Him. An intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer is the very essence of holiness and priestly ministry.
The Priest is also a Prophet
Prophets are envoys of God who are called to speak to others in God’s name. They challenge their hearers to interpret life’s events in light of God’s revealed truth. From the earliest days of Christianity, people have come to Jesus through the faithful preaching of the gospel. Today, preaching is still one of the primary duties of the priest. It is usually from the pulpit that Catholics receive their information about the faith and their challenge to live it in daily life.
Priests who can set the world on fire with love of God are a great treasure for the Church. A prophetic priest will understand the truth as revealed by God and will be able articulate that truth from the pulpit. A courageous prophet will also never be afraid to challenge people to recognize that sin destroys life and love. The priest will also recognize that it is not easy to put one’s faith into words. As Pope John Paul II said: “The church faces a particularly difficult task in her efforts to peach the Word of God in all cultures in which the faithful are constantly challenged by consumerism and pleasure-seeking mentality.”
A priest, through his words and his example, will teach people how Christ’s life and gospel are relevant to our times and also teach his people how to live gospel values.
The Priest is a King
A priest lives his life for others. He shares the mission of Jesus as Priest, Prophet, and King. As a king, the priest must serve others and not rule over them. The priest is one called to serve and not be served after the example of Jesus.
A priest must be first and foremost God’s servant. He must serve the needs of his parish family and the Church with all his strength. He brings the love and strength of Christ into the school, the hospital room, the prison, the ghetto…wherever God’s people are and especially wherever they suffer, the priest is there.