The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, California
Office of Vocations - 2110 Broadway - Sacramento, CA 95818 - considerpriesthood@scd.org

Priesthood

What is a priest?

A priest aside, from being the spiritual leader of a Catholic community, has many varied roles. He is understood primarily to be an Alter Christus, another Christ. This term doesn’t mean that he is Christ, but rather is an instrument through which Our Lord can work to bring God to man and man to God. This great task is accomplished in primarily three ways: 1) the Sacraments 2) Prayer 3) Spiritual Fatherhood. When celebrating the Sacraments the priest, as an Alter Christus, opens the channels of grace enabling people to experience the love and compassion of God. As a man of prayer the priest intercedes for the whole world through the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Moreover, in offering Mass he unites himself to Our Lord who is both priest and victim.

The priest makes himself, his entire life and ministry, an offering to God for the salvation of souls. He must also cultivate his own growth in holiness and virtue through private prayer, fidelity to the Sacraments, especially Confession. His spiritual fatherhood is really the first two items put into action; just as a good father is present in the life of his family, he must be present in the life of his parish.  The sum of these three things is what a priest is: a living witness to the goodness, love, and mercy of God. He in turn shares what he has experienced: the joy of a living relationship with the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Are most priests happy in their vocations in their lives and in their work for Christ?

Most priests are very happy as priests. This is especially true for those who give all of themselves without reserve to the work of the Father and maintain a life of prayer and thus stay connected to the source of their vocation, God. Sure, there are some unhappy priests but there are people who are married and equally unhappy.  One priest of our diocese of Sacramento once said, “It’s a great life; a wonderful life”. There are a countless number of aged priests who fight ill health and physical weakness to continue their priestly ministry because of the joy they find in living their priesthood.

Will priests ever be allowed to get married?

Perhaps, and this might even boost the numbers of priests. However, let us consider what the implications this might have on the Church. Our Lord said “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24)

Fatherhood is a vocation just as is the priesthood, the question then comes up: Who comes first, the children I beget as a man or the children I beget as a priest of Jesus Christ, one who participates in the eternal priesthood of Christ? Celibacy is not a dogma of the Church but a discipline and as such can change, but the great witness of celibacy is lost. Celibacy points to the mystical union that awaits us all in heaven. Priestly celibacy is also a sign of the union of Christ and His Church; Our Lord is considered the groom of the Church and the Church is his Bride.  The priesthood is a supernatural gift which points to supernatural realities and hence requires strong witness in every day.

Will I be lonely as a priest?

Loneliness accompanies every person in every state of life at some point. Many priests have support groups and great friends in their fellow priests with whom they travel, recreate, and do many other things. Priestly retreats, convocations, Confirmation celebrations and other spiritual events allow priests to gather and celebrate the great joys and wonder of the ministerial priesthood. Every person will feel lonely when the desires of his heart are not properly ordered and focused toward our Lord, Jesus Christ. When we have learned to always be in union with God then we know we are never alone and rejoice in having His presence among us always.

Do priests get paid?

A priest receives a monthly income which allows him to take care of his needs and to save; this is a modest but adequate sum. A priest also receives room and board so he has a place to live and a means for buying food and necessities.  One will never be a millionaire as a priest but our treasure isn’t measurable in dollars and cents. As the poem “Thou Art a Priest Forever” says a priest is a member of every family and belongs to none. Another poem “The Beautiful Hands of a Priest” also sum up the unique role a priest plays in the life of people. That grace, that gift of belonging to everybody, that joy in sharing life with so many people, this is where our earthly “reward” rests. Finally, when we hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master’s house,” we have our eternal “reward”

Can priests do anything they want for recreation and fun?

The only limitation a priest has is that his hobbies must be in accord with the Gospel and his position as a priest.  Priests enjoy the same hobbies as everybody else: sports, music, theatre, opera, plays, outdoor activities, the list goes on and on. A priest from the Diocese of Oakland once sang the National Anthem at a major league baseball game!

 

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