The Priest, His Dignity and Obligations
Quoting from chapter two of Saint John Eudes’ book, The Priest, His Dignity and Obligations:
The greatest effect of God’s mercy, the most precious grace He bestows upon mankind, is to send worthy priests, men after His own heart, seeking only His glory and the salvation of souls. The greatest blessing that God bestows upon a church, the most single manifestation of divine grace, is to have a saintly shepherd, be he bishop or priest. This is indeed the grace of graces and the most priceless of all gifts for it includes within itself every other blessing and grace. What is a priest after God’s heart? He is an inestimable treasure containing an immensity of good things.
The priest is an archangel and a prince of the heavenly militia, waging constant war against the devil who strives to drag countless souls into the depths of hell.
On the other hand, the most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds.
St. Gregory the Great says that priests and pastors who stand condemned before God as the murderers of any souls lost through neglect or silence. Instead of preventing offenses against His Majesty, such priests become themselves the first to persecute Him, they lose their zeal for salvation of souls and think only of following their own inclinations. Their affections go no farther than earthly things, they eagerly bask in the empty praises of men, using their sacred ministry to serve their ambitions, they abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world, and in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits.
What a terrible responsibility to be a priest or bishop. The awesome weight of the salvation of souls can only be born by the grace of God. Let’s pray for our clergy and hope they come to the full realization of their sacred calling and respond accordingly.