September 1, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

My son, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate [priesthood]. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher. Share with all humankind the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach. Let the doctrine you teach be true nourishment for the people of God. Let the example of your life attract the followers of Christ, so that by word and action you may build up the house which is God’s Church. In the same way you must carry out your mission of sanctifying in the power of Christ. Your ministry will perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful by uniting it to Christ’s sacrifice, the sacrifice which is offered sacramentally through your hands. Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate. In the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ.

These words were shared with me on my Ordination Day: May 19, 1990. Bishop Wuerl enjoined on my fellow class-mates and I our role as priest. With these admonitions we were now to act In Persona Christi, In the Person of Christ. When acting as a Priest, I am acting in the Person of Christ. This means that through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, I allow Jesus to make use of my very being – my person – to accomplish Sacramental actions.

So, for example, when someone comes to Confession, and I verbally say the Words of Absolution, it is not ME who is saying those words; it is Jesus, Himself. I am only the mouth piece. When I say the words, This is my Body…This is my Blood, it is actually Jesus saying these words, not me. I am only His Instrument.

Because of The Sacrament of Holy Orders, who I am is irrelevant. When I act in the name and Person of Christ, I act in the name of CHRIST, not myself.

This notion is very important to remember. Whatever the state of the Priest’s soul, it does not matter. I can be the big-gest sinner, but if I act in the name of Jesus, I am acting in the Person of Jesus. It doesn’t matter who I am. Jesus is giving the Grace of the Sacrament. St. Augustine distinguished the action of Christ versus the action of the minister when performing a sacrament. He said: Christ acts by His power, while the minister acts by his ministry entrusted to him by Christ. Therefore, “…those whom Judas [who betrayed Jesus] baptized, Christ baptized. So too, then, those whom a drunkard baptized, those whom a murderer baptized, those whom an adulterer baptized, if the Baptism was of Christ, Christ baptized”

Priests are human. Keep us in your prayers. We need them, just like you.

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