~Dedicated to Fr. Christopher Brandler~
St. John Vianney on the Priesthood
“My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God — a man who is invested with all the powers of God. “Go, ” said Our Lord to the priest; “as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations. . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me. ” When the priest remits sins, he does not say, “God pardons you”; he says, “I absolve you. ” At the Consecration, he does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body. ”
Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest — always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.
Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, “Go in peace; I pardon you. ” Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!
The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home. ” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.
When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, “Where are you going?” you might answer, “I am going to feed my soul. ” If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, “What is that golden door?” “That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept. ” “Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?” “The priest. ” “And what is the Food?” “The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord. ” O God! O God! how Thou hast loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world. . . . Someone said, “Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars?” Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.
If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter
is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, “There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. ” At the sight of a church tower, you may say, “What is there in that place?” “The Body of Our Lord. ” “Why is He there?” “Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass. ”
What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“I see all the saints frightened at the sacred ministry, as at an immense charge.” ~St. Cyril of Alexandria
“The end for which God has instituted the priesthood has been to appoint on earth public persons to watch over the honor of his divine majesty, and to procure the salvation of souls.” ~Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
“If a priest is determined not to lose his soul, so soon as any disorder arises in the parish he must trample under foot all human considerations as well as the fear of the contempt and hatred of his people. He must not allow anything to bar his way in the discharge of duty, even where he is certain of being murdered on coming down from the pulpit. A pastor who wants to do his duty must keep his sword in hand at all times.” ~St. John Vianney
“O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not you own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: “He saved others, himself he cannot save!” ~St. Norbert
“He made them, the vicars of his love.” ~St. Ambrose of Milan
“The power of the priest, is the power of the divine person; for the transubstantiation of the bread requires as much power as the creation of the world.” ~St. Bernardine of Siena
“If priests sin, all the people are led to sin. Hence every one must render an account of his own sins; but the priests are also responsible for the sins of others.” ~St. John Chrysostom
“I also beseech in the Lord, all my brothers who are, or who shall be, or who desire to be priests of the Most High, that whenever they wish to celebrate Mass, they be pure, and offer with purity and reverence the true Sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ with a holy and perfect intention; not from any earthly motive, nor for the fear or love of any creature, as though desiring to please men; but let every will (according to the grace given) be directed solely to the most High God, and do you desire to please Him alone, for He alone works in this holy Sacrifice according to His good pleasure, as the Lord has Himself said: “Do this in remembrance of Me:” and he who does otherwise becomes a traitor like Judas.
Remember, O priests, my brothers, how it is written in the law of Moses, that those who transgressed even in corporal sacrifices were condemned by God to death, without any mercy. What a far more terrible punishment will he deserve, who tramples under foot the Son of God, and treats the Blood of the New Testament by which he is sanctified as a vile thing, and offers insult to the Holy Ghost!
A man stained with sin despises and tramples on the Lamb of God, when, as the Apostle says, not discerning the sacred Bread, which is Christ, from other food, he eats unworthily by being guilty of unworthy actions; for the Lord has said by His Prophet: “Cursed is the man who does the work of God with negligence or fraud.” And on account of those priests who will not lay these things seriously to heart, we are condemned, when Our Lord says: “I will curse your blessings.” ~St. Francis of Assisi
“Priests who fall into sin lose light, and lose also the fear of God. Behold, the Lord himself assures us of this. If I be a master, where is My fear, saith the Lord of Hosts, to you, O Priests, that despise My name? St. Bernard says that priests falling from on high remain so immersed in their malice, that they forget God, and disregard the divine threats to such a degree that the danger of their damnation has no longer any terror for them…
What chastisement does not the priest deserve who, instead of carrying with him to the altar flames of divine charity, brings the fetid fire of unchaste love! Speaking of the punishment inflicted on the sons of Aaron for having offered strange fire, St. Peter Damian says: “Let us take care not to mingle unholy fire, that is, the flames of lust with the salutary sacrifices.”! Whosoever, adds the saint, shall dare to carry the flame of lust to the altar, shall certainly be consumed by the fire of God’s vengeance. . .
Oh! what an impious treason. Behold how Jesus Christ complains, by the mouth of David, of the sacrilegious priest: For if My enemy had reviled Me would verily have borne with it,… but thou, a man of one mind, and My familiar, who didst take sweetmeats together with Me? Behold an exact description of a priest who offers Mass in the state of sin. If my enemy, said the Lord, had insulted me, I would have borne the offence with less pain; but you whom I have made my familiar, my minister, a prince among my people, to whom I have so often given my flesh for food you have sold me to the devil for the indulgence of passion, for a beastly gratification, for a little earth. Of this sacrilegious treason the Lord complained to St. Bridget: “Such priests,” he said, “are not my priests, but real traitors; for, like Judas, they sell and betray me.” St. Bernardine of Sienna teaches that such priests are even worse than Judas; because Judas betrayed the Saviour to the Jews, but they deliver him up to devils by receiving him into their sacrilegious breasts, which are ruled by devils.” ~St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
“Do you wish to know if the people of any place are righteous? Look what sort of a pastor they have. If you find him pious, just, sound, believe the people will be the same, for they are seasoned with the salt of his wisdom.” ~St. John Chrysostom
“There is not in the whole world a monster to be compared with a priest in the state of sin, for the unfortunate man will not bear with correction.” ~St. Jerome
“Yes, the priest stands at the altar, the priest stands there and makes a long supplication, not in order that fire from heaven may consume the things that lie to open view, but that grace, lighting on the Sacrifice, may thereby in flame the souls of all, and show them brighter than silver purified in the fire. Art thou ignorant that the soul of man could never bear this fire of the Sacrifice, but that all would be utterly consumed, were not the aid of the grace of God abundant? For if one would but consider how great a thing it is for a mortal, and one still clothed with flesh and blood, to be enabled to be nigh to that blessed and immortal nature, he would then see how great an honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to priests.” ~St. John Chrysostom
“What tongue, human or angelic, may ever describe a power so immeasurable as that exercised bythe simplest priest in Mass? Who could ever have imagined that the voice of man, which by nature hath not the power even to raise a straw from the ground, should obtain through grace a power so stupendous as to bring from Heaven to earth the Son of God?” ~St. Leonard of Port Maurice
“I know by experience that the greatest punishment that can befall a people is a bad priest. It is best to leave a town without a priest than to send one who is unworthy. If God does not send me men who are truly called, God himself will have to take care of the men and souls by means of his angels. A call is God’s gift. I must not bring the unworthy into the sheepfold to destroy it instead of tending it.” ~St. Anthony Mary Claret
“Venerable brethren, there is only one piece of advice that I offer to you: watch over your seminaries and over candidates for the priesthood.
As you yourselves know, an air of independence which is fatal for souls is widely diffused in the world, and has found its way even within the sanctuary; it shows itself not only in relation to authority but also in regard to doctrine.
Because of it, some of our young clerics, animated by that spirit of unbridled criticism which holds sway at the present day, have come to lose all respect for the learning which comes from our great teachers, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the interpreters of revealed doctrine.
If ever you have in your seminary one of those new-style savants, get rid of him without delay; on no account impose hands upon him. You will always regret having ordained even one such person: never will you regret having excluded him.” ~Pope St. Pius X
“The worthy priest is an angel of purity in mind and body, a cherub of light and knowledge, a seraph of love and Charity, an apostle of zeal in work and sanctity, a little god on earth in power and authority, in patience and benignity. He is the living image of Christ in this world, of Christ watching, praying, preaching, catechizing, working, weeping, going from town to town, from village to village, suffering, agonizing, sacrificing Himself and dying for the souls created to 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 ornament of the Church…” ~St. Jean Eudes
Always remain faithful to the true Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Father. I’m praying for you.
~Damsel of the Faith