Portrait_of_Dominique_LacordaireThe Question

When I was a kid I thought that being a priest would have to be the easiest job in the world. Working one hour on Saturday nights, one, maybe two, hours on Sunday mornings, and the occasional wedding or funeral…sounded pretty cushy to me. As I have to come to better understand the roles and responsibilities of what it means to be a priest, however, the thoughts of my childhood have drastically changed. But unfortunately there are many people today (not just children) that still have the same view of priests that I had when I was child. So this begs the question, “What does it mean to be a priest?” Certainly it means to witness, celebrate, and administer the sacraments, but is that it? No. Why? For the same reason that the vocation of marriage is not limited to having children. Now don’t get me wrong, I ‘m not trying to devalue or diminish the paramount importance of the sacraments (or having children). I am simply saying that your vocation, like God Himself, is not limited by…well…anything. Yes witnessing, celebrating, and administering the sacraments is the greatest gift that a priest can bring into this world but this does not encapsulate the priesthood absolutely.  So the question still remains, “what does it mean to be a priest?”

The Answer

I recently read a quote that may give this begging question the sustenance it longs for. The quote comes from a 19th century French Dominican priest named Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire (pictured above). He had this to say about what it meant to be a priest:

“To live in the midst of the world without wishing its pleasures; to be a member of each family, yet belonging to none; to share all suffering; to penetrate all secrets; to heal all wounds; to go from men to God and offer Him their prayers; to return from God to men to bring pardon and hope; to have a heart of fire for charity, and a heart of bronze for chastity; to teach and to pardon, console and bless always. My God, what a life! And it is yours, O priest of Jesus Christ!”

Now while I do not subscribe to the notion of putting all of my stock into one or two quotes on any given subject, I think this one is pretty all-encompassing. Lacordaire describes beautifully and completely what it means to live as a priest, all the while understanding that each individual point is limitless unto itself. Every attribute that Lacordaire lists in this quote could have its own blog post all to itself. Actually…that’s not a bad idea.

The Explanation

Over the next ten weeks I will be breaking open this quote from Lacordaire, point by point, in an effort to further advance the understanding of what it means to be a priest. Beginning this Wednesday (and for nine Wednesday’s following) I will post about one of the characteristics that Lacordaire lists as an attribute of a “priest of Jesus Christ.” I am doing this not only for those priests already ordained, nor just for those young men discerning the priesthood. I am doing this for everyone who, by virtue of their baptism, has been anointed a priest. For just “as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may [we] live always as members of His body, sharing everlasting life.” It is my hope that reflecting upon this quote will help you in your discernment; whether it be discerning to which vocation God is calling you or discerning how God is calling you to live out your vocation in a more perfect way.  No matter where you are in the discernment process I invite you to join me on this journey as we discover the truth behind what it really means to be a priest.