Once, coming home from a trip, my brother came out with a very interesting question. He asked me if I found it difficult to have an invisible boss? Wow, I said it is one heck of a question. At first I was dumbfounded and it took me a little time to actually discern my answer to that. That question never crossed my mind, I just thought that my Lord called me and I was certain that I was meant to be a priest. Finally I answered him that it may be mysterious to you but it is by faith that we are affirmed through responding “yes” to God’s will.

…Faith motivates

We priests are mysterious! We believe in the God that we have never seen. We obey in the teachings that sometimes are so difficult to reconcile with our human reasoning. We believe that we are to preach of his love even though we ourselves struggle to love others as God commanded us to. Yes, because God calls us to do something “Divine” and yet we have to live in the world of humanity. God calls us to introduce heaven to every soul and yet we have not gone to heaven ourselves. Sometimes, I think that maybe it would be wonderful if God, before ordaining us, would offer us a free trip to heaven, purgatory and hell so that it would be a powerful impact in our lives and in our ministry. We could preach to the people that they better believe it, because we were there! In reality, faith moves us to do certain things that would normally mystify us. Faith allows us to discern between good and evil, godly and ungodly things and light from darkness. Faith serves as a moving factor to make us do what we are doing and put into action what we believe through the power of the Holy Spirit.

…The Call to live the faith shared

One thing that makes us credible in showing the people the way to heaven is not so much in our preaching, but in the way we are living our lives. St. Francis of Assisi would always say, “Preach and if you have to, use words.” The amazing thing is even though we have not gone yet to heaven, we are convinced that heaven is a reality. Friends, it is our faith that points us to the reality of heaven. Each one of us, in virtue of our baptism, is gifted with so much faith. This now becomes alive in us. The Word became flesh. The mystery here lies not on proving to us that literally we have gone to heaven, but that we have experienced the reality of heaven in what we believe.

Many people, during the time of Saint Padre Pio, flocked to Pietralcina to attend Mass. The accounts of those who attended Masses by him were remarkably uplifted. They often described, “His Masses are so much filled with the Spirit”. Padre Pio embodied that faith, not only in professing it by lips but he professed it in his daily life. Our very own Saint Francis Caracciolo spent hours and hours before the Blessed Sacrament. Through the eyes of faith, he saw and experienced the special presence of Christ in the Eucharist. One of his favorite expressions from the Sacred Scriptures was, “For the zeal of God’s house consumes him” (Psalm 69:10). The Cure’ of Ars, Saint John Vianney experienced the same thing. People found, through his lifestyle, that he was different from the others. He was special in the way he lived his life. He embodied the faith he believed and professed. People flocked to the City of Ars to see and hear this man of God. These individuals and many other saints manifested in their lives the excellence of the gift of Faith. Priests are called to do the same. It is part of our mysterious presence in the world to be the sign of contradiction as we strive to imitate Christ the priest.

…The Spirituality

We must abandon any form of extremism. In the life of the Church, we have witnessed that before, the priests were never active in the daily lives of the people and they were limited to being in Church to pray and to preach spirituality. Somehow, it led to spiritual extremes and it confused the lives of the people. They became identified only as tied to the sacraments and spiritual life of the people and not part of the world. So Vatican II called the Church to be visible within the lives of the people so as to bring the light of Christ to their daily lives and to share the fruits of their prayer with them.

Some priests have gone to the other extreme. They are drawn so much to the ministry of service that they lack in spirituality. On one hand, many have fallen into the spirituality of “holier than thou”, better known as spiritual pride. On the other hand, today many would say they are “worldlier than thou”. Bishop Fulton Sheen in his book Those Mysterious Priests says “Some vertical relationship to God has, to some extent, been abandoned in favor of a horizontal relationship to man. Service is taking the place of prayer. The Mount of Transfiguration is abandoned for the sake of the sick boy and the distraught father in the valley below.” Fulton Sheen, warns the priests to be very careful not to fall into extremism. Our Lord Jesus Christ wanted us to serve the people, but this service must be the fruit of our prayer life.

Do not identify the sacred with the secular; and never convert the Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of Man. Fulton Sheen continues that we must be very cautious of a spirituality that will baptize secular ideologies like Marxism or capitalism: this suggests that our Christianity exists solely for the community; that Christianity, in its exaggerated form, will be converted to mere sociology; and from prayer to a demonstrator, and from intercessor to a protestor.

Priests are men of God and they are our bridge towards heaven. They nourish our faith even though we see their humanity.

Our priests are filled with the Holy Spirit even though they themselves need the grace that flows to them. The Church calls for a balanced life:

“In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.” (Presbyterium Ordinis)

…The mystery behind the humanity

I still stand to what I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Priests are mysterious, because in the midst of our confused society, they are able to carry out their duties as “dispensers of God’s grace.” They are called to pray for the whole Church, to intercede our offering to the Lord and to bring the life of God into our world. Through them they serve as “the stable” when no one else wants to accept the Holy Family on Christmas night. They are to remain humble and a living temple where people can approach heaven without any reservations. Pray for priests that they may do God’s work in the world.