The day before he suffered he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.
When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlastingcovenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me. The New Roman Missal
With these words, Jesus established the priesthood. Without priests we wouldn’t have the Eucharist. Acting on behalf of the local ordinary, these men have the power to turn bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Only bishops have the power to ordain priests and our current bishops are direct descendants from the original twelve.
These men give their lives to the Church. Unlike most protestant clergy, they take a vow of celibacy. There are some who suggest that this is a bad thing because they think it discourages many men from the priesthood. That may be somewhat true, but by making a lifelong commitment to celibate life a priest is able to give 110% to his ministry. As a married clergyman myself, I can see how valuable the priest’s dedication to the Church can be. It’s impossible to give your all to two different callings.
This is anything but a scholarly treatise on the theology of the priesthood. There are many good sources for that elsewhere. My point is this. As Catholics we have the gift of a dedicated priesthood, men who are literally married to the Church. They ace in persona Christi, that is in the person of Christ, to consecrate the Eucharist, to forgive us our sins, and to perform the sacraments. Sadly, there aren’t enough priests to go around right now and that’s a problem.
As faithful Catholics we have an obligation to encourage our young men to at least consider priestly life. You would think, in this treacherous economy, that a job with lifetime security, good benefits and room and board, would be very attractive. But here’s the thing. In recent years the Church has been rocked by the child abuse scandal, and make no mistake, it’s a terrible thing. But the news media have blown it totally out of proportion. The percentage of priests who abuse children is no higher than the percent of men in the total population who commit these crimes. Yet, it’s the Church that’s been the target of all the bad press. Child abuse IS NOT a Catholic problem. It’s a societal problem. But young men who are considering the priesthood might be scared off by all the negative news. They may fear guilt by association.
Most of the alleged victims who are coming forward are claiming abuse that happened in the 60s, 70s, and 80s; some even earlier. Today, in 2012, no organization in the world is doing more to prevent the abuse of children than the Catholic Church. Your children are safer in a Catholic church or school than they are in a protestant church, a public school, on a little league team, or in a secular scout troop. You and I must do all we can to spread the word that all priests are not child molesters. The guilty parties are a small percentage of the total priesthood and that percentage is getting smaller, thanks to the policies that have been put in place by the US Bishops.
If we’re going to have enough priests to lead the Church in the 21st century, we all have to do our best to encourage our young men that the priesthood is a viable and prestigious profession. God hasn’t stopped calling future priests. We’ve just stopped listening.
Jesus established the ordained priesthood intending it to last until the end of time. He designed it so that you and I would have access to an educated, compassionate, dedicated priest whenever we need one. When we need the sacraments they’re there for us, day or night.
It’s definitely one of the top 10 reasons why it’s cool to be Catholic.