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Marc Vaillot

77
questions on
the priest

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Original title in French:
Le prêtre, homme de feu home d’amour
77 questions sur le prêtre

© 2009 by Le Laurier
© 2010 of this edition, by EDICIONES RIALP, S.A.
Alcalá, 290. 28027 Madrid

Ecclesiastical license to publish by Mons. Robert le Gall, Archbishop of Toulouse.


October 2nd, 2009.

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To my parents

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SUMARIO

INTRODUCTION

I. THE VOCATION

First discernment

II. THE PRIEST

The beauty of priesthood


Need
The Sacrament
Priestly Ordination
Priesthood Candidates
The Road towards Priesthood
The purpose of Priesthood
The life of the priest
The Eucharist
Penance
Poverty and visibility
Celibacy
Rest
Maturity and Old Age
The significance of the example

III. THE DEACON

IV. THE BISHOP

V. THE POPE

The Virgin

PRAYERS FOR PRIESTS

Prayer by Pope Benedict XVI


Preces for our priests
Prayer by John Paul II
Prayer by Paul VI for the sanctification of priests
Prayer to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary
A mother’s prayer asking God for a priest son
Other prayers for priests

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PRESENTACIÓN

God said: ¡Let there be light!


And when the light answered: ¡Here I am!...
¡the whole universe was illuminated!

¡At dawn, the day has risen!


And when the sun said: ¡Here I Am!...
¡the earth has illuminated!

Jesus said: ¡May my love embrace all men!


And when someone answers: ¡Here I am!...
¡the Love of God’s Heart can spread and
embrace the heart of every human being!

A long time ago I attended a mass by St. Josemaría Escrivá. I was impressed by his seclusion.
Other times I was able to listen to his words, alive and clear, during meetings with young and old
people. Ideas and attitudes were etched on me. It became evident within my soul… the
greatness of the vocation of the priest.
This saint, in his great love for his priest brothers, had a particular devotion for the Saint Cure
D’Ars. I ask for the intercession of both so that this book may contribute to the productiveness of
this Year of the Priest.

Marc Vaillot

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I. THE VOCATION

The call which comes from the heart of God,


must always find
its way into the heart of men.
.
(Benedict XVI, Speech at Freising Cathedral, September 14th, 2006)

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¿What is the Call of God?
On behalf of God, the answer to this question is simple: God calls always and only Love.
And Love contains all vocations.
On behalf of men, several sentences are needed, from different points of view, in order to try
to express this call to Love which in God is absolutely simple. We must resort to a kaleidoscope
of images and expressions:
The human being exists so as to answer to the invitation to live in communion with God in
whom he finds his greatest happiness, on earth. The most sublime aspect of the dignity of man
and that which gives meaning to his life rest on this fact. The beatitudes enable men to discover
the goal of their existence, the ultimate purpose of each act. God attracts us, calls us to his own
Beatitude. And this vocation has a personal form, because he calls each one to enter into divine
beatitude, into happiness without shadows forever, through his personal way of living the
beatitudes.
God gives us a free help, grace, to respond to our vocation and become his adoptive sons.
Grace is necessary for the individual as to penetrate into the intimacy of the Trinitarian Life.
Likewise, it demands all individuals to manifest the God-Love through all their acts.
The precepts of the Decalogue set forth the ethical principles of the vocation of every human
being, who have been created in the image of God.
The primary vocation of the baptized consists in following Jesus.
Jesus Christ, God made man by the Revelation of the mystery of the Father and his Love,
fully reveals man to man himself, and makes the sublime character of his vocation on earth clear.
The calling to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity is aimed at all who
believe in Christ, of any rank or status. And this Christian vocation is also, by nature, vocation in
the mission of evangelizing the world.
The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman, as they came from
the hand of the Creator. The majority of human beings have received the conjugal vocation, the
call to be fruitful and multiply, and to subdue the earth.


I have chosen to use italics when citing texts by the Church’s Magisterium and Saints,
leaving out references to abridge.

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How to know if God calls me?
We are all called.
God calls each and every one of us.
It is a wise attitude to first ask God in prayer: Lord, what do you want from me?
Then, it is sensible to open the heart, and be willing to give a generous response.
The call of the Lord can come in diverse routes: any event in ordinary life, a fortuitous
encounter, a reading, a conversation, a liturgical celebration, a confession, a procession, a World
Youth Day…
In fact, God uses any opportunity, any event to knock at the door of the soul. It is God who
calls. He chooses the means.
His call is manifest in the Church in one way or another, because Church also calls. The
Church calls constantly; it “convenes”, on the name of the Lord, all men with whom he is well
pleased. Can’t the entire Church be considered as a gigantic service of vocations?

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How to react when someone believes having received a specific call to the
service of God?
Every baptized individual receives the call of God to holiness. This is, every individual is
called to an elevated degree of Love to the Lord throughout its entire life, and to feel that same
Love for everybody else. In other words, every baptized individual can wish for totally fulfilling
lives and discover a great horizon of Love in which to live life to the fullest.
Within this common call, each one must pray and reflect in order to discover if God is asking
to go even “further”, and to specify the practical forms to further devote itself to the service of
his brothers, human beings.
He who believes having received from God such an immense predilection sign must feel very
blessed.
When this happens, it is not about – and far from it – the individual having achieved a certain
level, nor about the individual being mature enough or worthy of being called. It is God who,
only out of Love and in exchange for nothing, appeals to our freedom, calls us to freedom!
We can add that, when someone believes having received a specific call, he/shell must stay
calm.
Indeed, any vocation necessarily involves three dimensions that shall coincide:
• theological dimension: it is God who calls.
• human dimension: the interested party wishes to join a divine and human project.
• ecclesiastical dimension: the Church also addresses the call.
The three wills must coincide.

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First discernment

Let us not forget it: when fulfilling the divine Will,


you can get over obstacles, or under them..., or you can go round them.
But..., they can be overcome!
(Josemaría Escrivá, Furrow, 106)

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How to know what God is calling me for?
There are many possibilities.
Any vocation is wonderful, because it is God who makes it. Wherever he calls… for the
individual being called, that is the best place!
First reflection: when thinking God calls me, one should try to distinguish how this seems
to better adjust to my personality. Married or single? Religious or secular priest? Alone or
living with others?...
In order to not go into depth regarding this matter, I haven’t written down the question:
How to recognize God’s call? Because in this Year of the Priesthood I dedicate these lines to
one of such calls, so necessary for the Church: the vocation stated in the sacrament of Order.
Equivalent texts for every specific vocation (religious orders and congregations, secular
institutes, charismatic movements) should exist, if they don’t already exist, in order to help
who wishes to follow Christ nearer and find its complete development on earth, at the service
of God and of the world, there where God wants to place him.

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II. THE PRIEST

The beauty of priesthood

Priesthood
is the love of the heart of Jesus.
(John Mary Vianney, in Abbé Bernard Nodet, Le Curé d’Ars, Sa pensée, Son cœur, Ed.
Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 98)
in Esprit 117

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John Paul II wrote in his autobiographic book, that the single most
important day of his life was the day of his priestly ordination; even more
important than that of his Episcopal ordination or – even more so - than the
day in which he was elected Pope. How can this statement be explained?
Obviously, the fundamental call of every Christian takes place in the baptism. In
baptism, men and women receive the baptismal priesthood, they are incorporated into Jesus
(we will later explain this). Having said this, the incorporation into the priesthood of Jesus
Christ, by means of the priestly ordination such transformation takes place within the soul of
the priest conferring him, at the same time, the means to perform such singular actions in
persona Christi – in the name of and “in the place of Christ”– that it is not possible or even
imaginable to receive a greater gift on earth, at any level considered.

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What is a priest?
A priest is a human being, normal, like you, who has listened to the loving and
demanding call of Christ inviting him to follow Christ, only and exclusively Him.
He is a man who feels deeply brother to his brothers, who daily lives the fraternal reality,
sharing other people’s happiness, sorrows and hopes. The priest devotes his life, with them
and for them.
As any man, the priest has been called to be a father: called to make the immense love of
God, who is a Father, evident to everyone. The priest is a father because he gives life in

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Christ, watches it devoutly and unconditionally serves it. A father, an image of the Father of
Mercy.
He is a man who has fulfilled the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus, whose
Heart has wounded his to the point of not wanting to be separate never again; of not wanting
any other thing than pronouncing his Name, because for out of the abundance of the heart
the mouth speaks (Matthew, 12,34).
He is a man transformed by the grace – the aid of God– that gives him the necessary
strength to consecrate his entire life to preach Christ, Savior of all men, and to act as an
ambassador for Christ.
A man who preaches the Word of God, respectfully, but following St. Paul’s advice:
opportune et importune (2 Timothy, 4,2), at both opportune and inopportune times.
He makes Christ manifest and present when He is sacramentally present: Baptism,
Eucharist, Reconciliation, Marriage and Anointing of the Sick.
With his presence, the priest “re-presents” Christ as the Head of his Church. Through his
pastoral efforts and his apostolic zeal, the priest is a powerful sign of the presence of Christ
within the community he heads.
It is common to hear the question synthesizing this same issue: What is the identity of the
priest? That of Christ! Because the priest is identified with Christ by the virtue of sacrament.
Spiritual writers, address this by using to very expressive terms: a) the priest accomplishes
such identification with Christ by means of a sealing, comparing its new identity with the
engraving done by the seal (“sigillum”). b) And also, – and by the ordination– the essence of
the priest receives a chrismation that fully anoints him converting him into a sacred person.
The priest becomes, by the specific sacrament of the order, an essentially new creature,
marked forever with this permanent seal.

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Need

Oh, how great the priest is!


(John Mary Vianney, in Abbé Bernard Nodet, Le Curé d’Ars, Sa pensée, Son cœur, Ed.
Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 97)
in Esprit 113

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Why becoming a priest?
Christians know that in life there are not only the material realities, nor only human
triumphs, successes, pleasures, etc. A priest only and mainly looks for the glory of God, its
service and devoting themselves to others.
Most baptized individuals look for the glory of God in marriage, others in religious life,
and others in consecrated or apostolic celibacy. All of these are real, concrete and marvelous
vocations.

But, in order to serve God and the community in a more specific way, with a greater
availability, God calls priests to be instruments of His grace, carriers of His forgiveness,
heralds of the Word that gives eternal life and officiators of God’s mysteries in the most
significant and ordinary moments in peoples lives. The priest is called to follow Jesus with
no conditions, with the same generosity and perseverance that same Christ showed during his
entire life.

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Are priests needed today?
Besides the numerous issues enlisted, the Church and mankind need priests because:
• The world is thirsty for God; and even more so in our present society, that lacks basic
knowledge on the nature and Providence of God.
• On earth many people, mostly young people, try to find the meaning of life, the true and
good meaning that can fulfill their thirst for completeness.
• Only the message from Jesus is capable of instilling harmony and peace among
mankind. Men have an immense need of receiving God’s forgiveness, because the source of
every real evil lies within the heart of men, and every human being is weak: a sinner. We
urgently need individuals who devote their lives to communicating this message and
accomplishing this reconciliation work.
• Justice impregnated with charity, just as Jesus has revealed it, is the only means for
solving and defeating the various material, moral and spiritual poverties, sometimes extreme,
that overwhelm our earth.

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• Our Lord needs some persons who entirely consecrate to those tasks and who make
Him known to the others. He is the only real response to the deepest worries inhabiting the
heart of any men.
However, once this has been said, the Church must not be compared, not with the
Ministry of Education – who makes calculations: for so many students, so many teachers are
needed, so many employees…. – nor with a corporation that may hire and fire its
employees… Whatever our human calculations might be, whichever the needs were, the
Church receives the priests given to it by God!

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Does the priest have a bigger duty to seek holiness than a lay person?
Since the Second Vatican Council, the whole world has heard proclaim the universal call to
holiness. No one is excluded. Without exception, we are all called!
If we were to find an additional cause in the individual who has received a specific call
from God, that would be out of secondary and non essential reasons. We all must try to be
saints, each one according to “its” vocation, because God calls everyone, whichever their status
or choice of life may be: lay celibate, married person, priest or member of a religious order,
consecrated lay person...

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What can lay persons, and specifically family members, do in order to
increase the number of priestly vocations?
Firstly, to love the reality of this vocation and the reality of any vocation. Who responds
favorably shows God’s Kindness in broad daylight; and this generous response means the great
Gift God gives when He calls someone.
Then, to strengthen de desire to receive from God the gift of a vocation within its own
family.
And always, assiduously praying alone, with the family, in groups…, to God asking Him to
bless its region, its city, its country and the whole world with numerous vocations.
Let’s remember what popular knowledge proclaims: priests have the people they deserve,
and the faithful also have, in quantity and quality, the priests they deserve!

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The Sacrament

Be, first, priests.


Then, priests.
And always and in everything, nothing other than priests.
(Josemaría Escrivá, in Mons. Javier Echevarría, Acts of the Congress, "The grandeur of
ordinary life", Vol. X: Priests who are saints, one hundred per cent priests, EDUSC, 2004)

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What is the sacrament of Order?
The sacrament of Order, also called “holy order” is one of the seven sacraments instituted
by Jesus Christ. It consecrates new priests and ordains ministers to serve the people of God.
Jesus instituted it in the Cenacle, during the last Supper, on Moundy Thursday, in
Jerusalem, while celebrating his last Passover with his intimate disciples, the Apostles, whom
he ordained at the same time he instituted the sacrament.

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Are there degrees in the sacrament of Order?
Yes. There are three degrees in the sacrament:
• the order of the bishop
• the order of presbyters
• the order of deacons
The Church teaches us that all baptized individuals have a common priesthood, which
consists of a certain participation in Christ’s only priesthood.
There is another kind of priesthood, ministerial, of an essentially different nature, which is
a configuration to Christ Priest, Teacher and Shepherd of whom the ordained is constituted
minister.
This ministerial priesthood entails two degrees: the episcopacy and the presbyterate. And
this is why only bishops and presbyters are priests. On the other hand, deacons also receive the
sacrament of order, but with the aim of helping and rendering a service, without practicing the
ministerial priesthood. The deacon can’t celebrate mass nor absolve in confession.
An old text of the Church synthesizes these ideas: Let everyone revere the deacons as
Jesus Christ; the bishop as the image of the Father; and presbyters as the senate of God and
the assembly of the apostles: for without them one cannot speak of the Church.

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What is ministerial priesthood?
Ministerial priesthood – or hierarchical, of bishops and priests – and common priesthood –
of all the faithful– participate, one and the other, each in its own proper way, in the one
priesthood of Christ. Notwithstanding, even when they are both ordained, they differ
essentially one from the other. In which way? While the common priesthood of the faithful is
exercised by the unfolding of the baptismal grace – a life of faith, hope and charity, a life
according to the Spirit – the ministerial priesthood exists to serve humbly and with authority
the common priesthood. The priest is at the service of the faithful; and is therefore relative to
the full unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. It is one of the means by which
Christ unceasingly builds and leads his Church. For this reason – precisely – it is transmitted
by its own sacrament, the sacrament of order.

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Is there a principal purpose in priestly ordination?
The principal purpose of priestly ordination is the Holy Mass, in which the entire priestly
ministry is fulfilled.
The task of every priest is specially oriented towards the Eucharist: the “real” presence of God
on earth. The priest is granted the power to “work” the Eucharist. And that means she contains the
entire spiritual good of the Church, this is Jesus Christ in person, who is our Passover, the Living
Bread who gives life to men with overabundance.
The priest is united to the Eucharist in a singular and exceptional way. He is “from”, “for” and
responsible for “Her”.

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Priesthood, is it permanent sacrament?
This sacrament imprints what the tradition of the Church calls “character”, an indelible
sign by which the person who receives it turns into someone consecrated to the Lord,
configured to Christ the Priest, destined for the service of the people of God and all men.
Having been marked in essence, like sealing wax by the seal, is compatible to the fact of
eventually loosing the state of grace by sin, and recovering it by the pain before his faults
united to the sacrament of Forgiveness.

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To whom is the ministry of priests destined?
The priest owes himself to everyone, without distinction of language, race, origin or social
or financial status. For to all, men and women, he should communicate the truth of the Gospel
which he has received from the Lord.
Having said this, the Second Vatican Council has clearly reminded that the priest has the
particular duty to pay special attention to those who are weakest and poorest, with whom the
Lord Himself is particularly united.

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Priestly Ordination

A good shepherd,
a pastor after God’s heart,
is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish,
and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.
(John Mary Vianney, Sermon, Rogations et Processions, II 86)

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How is this sacrament conferred?
This sacrament is conferred through the prayer of ordination said by the bishop, together
with the imposition of hands.

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What does this sacrament confers?
The sacrament of the Holy Order confers a grace, a special power that enables to fulfill
functions and ministries for the worship of God and the service of its people. Who receives
this sacrament is consecrated as a real priest of the New Alliance, to celebrate the Eucharist,
proclaim the Gospel, take care of a community and administer the other sacraments.

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What can be said about the ordination of women?
In Christianity, women and men are essentially equal.
After that univocal statement, certainly a clarification imposes: the distinction first,
between equality of dignity, and then, between equality of roles. We, men and women are
different, not identical and thus complementary. And, in this way, to the absolute equal dignity,
different roles in life correspond.
Having remembered this principle, which is a fundamental issue that must be safeguarded;
the Church asserts that the priest acts in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. The
sacramental signs must resemble what they signify; and thus it is the male sex who signifies
and must represent Christ in his priestly role.
Documents wherein this is stated assess that the Church has no authority whatsoever to
confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the
Church’s faithful.

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The Magisterium provides us with various reasons and explanations, far from any desire
for controversy or human view or strength relationship: it is a mistake to see in the priestly
status and in the ministry a privileged place to exercise the power, rule or impose on others.
This would not be a fair viewpoint of the priestly vocation, just as Christ instituted it. Sacred
ministers do not oppose the other faithful, as the oppressor and the oppressed. He who leads
must be the first servant to all others. “Minister” comes from the verb ministrare, to serve:
whoever whishes to be first among you must be servant of all. (Mark 10,44).
The Church is – above all - the Mystical Body of Christ where each carries out a specific
and personal role. Saint Paul extensively develops this issue showing the importance and
dignity of each one of the members of this organic body, and how everyone’s role is necessary
for the life of the whole.
Our Lady is the sublime example of this. The Immaculate, Mother of Christ, first
Christian, has not been granted the priestly ministry from her Son; being nonetheless the
masterpiece of humankind. She has completely fulfilled herself; all generations call her
blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for her (cf. Luke 1, 49). Ordination does not
constitute at all, an indispensible dignity or a necessary element for accessing to the highest
sanctity.
This faithfulness to Jesus and the arguments by the Church do not have a negative or
discriminative nature. On the contrary, ideological reasoning of feminist nature, just as any
ideology, would distort the search for truth depriving it of its objective nature, and also of the
will of the Church. Let me add this common sense reflection: the fact that only a woman can
bear a child does not disturb any one… and no one sees it as discrimination. It is God who
creates maternity and Christian priesthood.
Faithful to his unanimous Tradition and Teachings, the Church has once and for all settled
the issue regarding the opportunity for a female ministerial priesthood. The basic reason is that
Jesus Christ, who instituted this sacrament, determined Himself that it is men who must
exercise ministerial priesthood, excluding even the most excellent of all creatures: his own
mother.

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Priesthood Candidates

Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest,


and they will end by worshiping the beasts there.
(John Mary Vianney, in Abbé Bernard Nodet, Le Curé d’Ars, Sa pensée, Son cœur, Ed.
Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 100)
in Esprit 114

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Who can be a priest?
A priori, any man who believes has received from God the grace of the priestly vocation.
He will have to follow for some years a formation process, in a seminar, to receive special
education aimed at the reception of the sacrament of order.
In order to enter the seminary, the candidate must talk with a priest designated by the
competent authorities of the Diocesan Church, who will make a first discernment.
Some years of specific formation must go by before, if he considers it appropriate, the
bishop calls this seminarian to Orders.

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Can someone be worthy of priesthood?

When Jesus invites Peter to follow him, the first reaction is that of rejection: Go away from
me, Lord; I am a sinful man (Luke, 5,8). Peter was right, but God does not call perfect
individuals, he call humble, honest, docile individuals, who let themselves be guided and
taught, who accept the divine proposal to follow him. No priest has ever felt worthy of having
received this call, not even after many years of constant faithfulness. Every priest knows he is
a “pot”. And Christ knows it to. But we believe that Jesus Christ fulfills all deficiencies and
grants all that one needs to respond to the call: fear not – Jesus insists -, but seek first the
Kingdom of God and his justice, and all the other things will be given to you in addition (Luke
12,31).

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Is becoming a priest easy?
Nothing worthy will be easy to obtain without an effort. According to his formation, the
seminarian will dedicate six years or more, which represents a very significant part of youth.
As a general rule, every priesthood candidate, after distinguishing his vocation, must follow
these stages in accordance with the formation plan of his Episcopal conference: if it is
necessary, a propaedeutic or introductory year for achieving a more intense spiritual life,
receiving the proper human and intellectual formation and participating in communitarian life.
Next, actual priestly studies: philosophy and theology, at least for five years. Later, a pastoral
stage that simultaneously takes place in the seminary and a parish. So, these are theoretical
studies mixed with practice, thanks to the pastoral activity carried out in the parishes of the
diocese.
This route is long but necessary for he who wishes to become a capable instrument for the
service of God to souls.
One thing is fundamental: if God wants someone to be a priest, He will grant him all
necessary graces to reach – happily – the goal.

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Does anyone have the right to be a priest?
No, and the reason is very obvious.
Priesthood is a gift from God; He is who takes the initiative.
Three elements must be jointly considered: (1) the free will to become a priest, of the
candidate; is an essential requirement, (2) his capability to become a priest and (3) the
certification of the call, by the legitimate authority.
First, God sends the call to the heart of men. This call will later become a reality through
the bishop in order to become a real vocation: a choice in the heart of the Church and by the
Church.
Thus, we must not forget the passive nature of the seminarian’s vocation: he is who
receives the call and, only afterwards, in total freedom, does he actively respond to the gift
granted by God.
You can also see the answer to question 27.

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The road towards priesthood

May the most just and most lovable Will of God be done,
be fulfilled, be praised, be eternally exalted
above all things forever!
Amen. Amen.
(Josemaría Escrivá, Forge, 769)

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At what age can one enter the major seminary?
Church Law establishes that the minimum age for entering the major seminary is eighteen
years.
On the other extreme, there is no age limit.

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In what moment of life can one be ordained a priest?
In the twenty fifth year, at completion of philosophy and theology studies; or, once having
completed the minimum level of studies set by his bishop or by the Episcopal conference of his
country, studies that must be completed after ordination.

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Do all priests have the obligation of being linked to a church authority?
All priests must have a bond with their Ordinary, a bishop or a religious superior. The
priest is attached to the Church, the Pope and Christ by means of this bond, called
incardination.

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Is the right to be a priest acquired once entering the seminary? Who
decides ordination?
God expresses His will to those responsible for the seminarian: the bishop, seminary
instructors, and priests who accompany seminarians throughout their pastoral formation.
The rector of the seminary, with the advice of seminary instructors, expresses his opinion
to the bishop regarding the aptitude of the seminarian for receiving a diaconal or priestly
ordination.
Specifically: the deacon awaits, passively, the “call” towards his ordination. This
“passiveness” is extremely positive, impregnated with docility and obedience regarding those
who communicated the will of God. The call is lead by the bishop to the interested party, after
knowing the opinion of the rector and the instructors of the seminary and of the priest
responsible for the pastoral formation of the candidate who – in his parish – regularly receives
the seminarian in pastoral insertion.
In other words: overcoming all scheduled stages does not imply an automatic process or
sequence. In every stage of the formation, when receiving in the seminary the ministries,
discernment takes place. And that is why the belief of having received the vocation is one
thing, different from entering the seminary; another one is, making it to the end of the
formation required for receiving the Holy Orders and, and; the last one, being called first to
diaconal ordination and, then, priestly ordination.

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If someone in the seminary decides not to continue, until what moment
can he do it?
Up to one second before his diaconal ordination. And the same applies for his priestly
ordination. The response to the Lord must be completely free, without the least form of
coercion. For this reason, the Church is attentive to confirm, at all times, that the seminarian
has the sincere desire of being faithful and that he makes progress out of love in his willingness
of complete and definitive devotion.

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How should parents react when a son announces his desire to become a
priest?
Parents should receive with joy and gratitude the fact that one of their sons receives the call
from the Lord to closely follow him along this path. They should respect their freedom and
favor the positive answer from their sons. Every vocation is a blessing from God for who
receives it, but also for his family, so many times responsible so far or the formation of the
future priest.

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It is important for the one called and for his parents to remember two things: first; that the
baptism already means, following Jesus. Second; that it is God who calls, as the Scripture
says: You did not choose me, but I chose you, God: I chose you… to go and bear fruit (cf. Juan
15, 9-15).
Not rejoicing for the vocation of a son only fits within a human and negative view of that
who thinks is going to lose him, or that the romantic novel which his parents had imagined for
him will not come true. If after having prayed and carefully thought about it, the
disappointment (or letdown) due to the vocation of a son continued, this would show a certain
lack of Christian sense in life, and a lack of trust in God.

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The purpose of priesthood

Your work, priest of Christ,


is not only to save souls,
but to sanctify them.
(Josemaría Escrivá, Handwritten Note, cf. AGP, PO1, 1993, p. 174)

30
What is the main task of the priest?
The ultimate aim, common to all human beings, is the constant search, here on earth and
for all eternity, of the glory of God.
In the practice of his ministry and in all his acts, the priest pursues that same goal. That is
how he achieves his own salvation, inseparably associating in said search the salvation of
everyone around him, giving always all the glory to God.

31
How can the priest contribute to the glory of God?
Through all he does, the Second Vatican Council asserts: with prayer and worship,
preaching, offering the Eucharistic sacrifice, administering sacraments or by carrying out any
other ministry in the service of men. The priest contributes, always and in everything, to
enhance the brilliance of the glory of God, this is, the external manifestation of His infinite
perfections.

23
The life of the priest

It is the priest
Who continues the work of Redemption on earth.
(John Mary Vianney, in Abbé Bernard Nodet, Le Curé d’Ars, Sa pensée, Son cœur, Ed.
Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 98)
In Voix du Bon Pasteur 1861, 48

32
Why has the Curé d’Ars been chosen patron of priests?
For his exemplary and heroic priestly virtues: life of prayer and mortification, his spirit of
sacrifice and reparation, obedience, devotion to others in his priestly ministry to the point of
exhaustion, absolute disposal to administer the sacrament of reconciliation, brave and ever
accurate preaching, pastoral conscientiousness with everyone…
Because he lived in an exquisite way the unity among his consecration to God and his
mission, which peak and archetype are found in Jesus Christ. The saint Curé always acted in
accordance with that which he knew he had become: another Christ. This was made evident in
his way of respecting the axiom known by all priests: sancta sancte tractanda (holy things
must always be treated in a holy way and by saints).
Because during his life as priest he gave to the mass the same central place occupied by the
Cross in the life of Christ: the priest should strive to reproduce in his own soul the things that
are effected upon the Altar. As Jesus Christ immolates Himself, so His minister should be
immolated with Him; as Jesus expiates the sins of men, so he, by following the hard road of
Christian asceticism, should labor at the purification of himself and others.

33
How does the priest live obedience to his bishop?
If all baptized try to identify with Jesus, who lived obedience to Joseph, Mary and – always
– to his heavenly Father, the priest seeks a fortiori the exact same thing, because he has
publicly and solemnly committed with his bishop on the day of his priestly ordination.
This virtue of obedience is certainly one of the essential references that prove the
faithfulness and holiness of the priest. His example regarding this issue must be bright and
edifying, giving testimony and confirming in the faith to his community by means of this
unswerving loyalty to his bishop.

24
By the obedience to his pastor, the priest is the bridge between the bishop and the faithful
of his community, and through this union he assures communion with the Pope, the Church
and with Christ.
In one word, the priest is in his place when he accepts as an evidence of the maxim: nihil
sine episcopo (nothing without the bishop).

34
Is there boredom in the life of a priest?
His life is enthralling! Nonetheless, as in any life, the risk of falling into routine exists; but
that will only happen if the priest forgets to fill his life and, thus, his schedule.
Each activity, each occupation is sacred. The three hundred and sixty five days of the year
are filled with a primary occupation: to worship, pray and beg God for graces. Each journey is
filled with human and divine actions, varied or not, and each twenty four hour period is, for
such reason, different from the previous and from the following. The priest does not stop
helping others in the search for God, receiving always petitions for material and spiritual help.
He knows, for all he does, that in such way he contributes to the fulfillment of the work of God
among men.
And before this so wealthy life, he must be alert and not fall in the opposite excess: that his
life might be limited to a concatenation of activities wherein efficacy is sought at any price,
falling in an activism that leads to abandoning prayer in favor of action. That would mean
giving priority to his personal work above the work and rhythm required by God.

35
Is the priest happy?
The priest is the representative among men of Love made man!
Yes, clearly, the priest is happy because his happiness cannot depend on the circumstances
or accidental or circumstantial situations: his happiness depends on his faithfulness
As for anyone, there are harder working days due to an overload of work or the time of
year, health status, a shared concern or a more pronounced tiredness…, but when asked about
this, the testimony of the priest, the man of God, is always radiant.
This is compatible with the fact that we sometimes find priests that “can’t take it any more”
or who are “overwhelmed by no end of trouble”. But the priest is not a superman. We must not
mistake the supernatural with the superhuman.
It causes puzzlement and we often wonder why do the media usually try to exaggerate and
distort the reality of priests transmitting the impression that they suffer due to a chronic lack of
fullness and optimism, that they are frustrated, “blasé” or that “the sign of times” and the
evolution of the environment and customs will, without question, destroy their priestly
vocation.
Well, on the contrary, it is quite comforting to confirm that the vast majority of priests are
pleased and enjoy a happiness that no other reality can grant to men on earth, devoted as they
are to the service of Jesus Christ and his Church.
The priest who looks after the souls in his charge with zeal never feels alone because he is
fulfilled by the Love of God and surrounded by the affection of a great number of people.

25
On the other hand, for those interested, there are priestly associations and societies that
offer spiritual, fraternal and human assistance, wherein they can find support, affection and
balance for their life.
No one is happier than a faithful priest!

36
Is it good for the priest to continue with his formation?
Any job, any supposedly serious activity requires being up-to-date, by means of a constant
formation and a permanent evaluation.
For the priest this is as important as for anyone else. Even more so. First of all, in order to
nourish his own spiritual life and that of the people he leads. Secondly; in order to complete
his philosophical, biblical and theological science. And last, to give further life to his
preaching and catechism.
It is essential to follow an adequate reading plan, attend conferences, to consult other well
educated colleagues… The good seed can suffocate due to lack of in-depth knowledge.
Even when the true and complete answer can only be found within the Heart of God, some
evident realities (the desertion of young people, the spiritual weakening of some practicing
Catholics, the progressive lose of interest among parishioners, the decrease in Mass
attendance…) could be originated in the negligence of the priest to educate and continuously
renew his sources of knowledge and inspiration.

37
In what does the work of the priest consist?
Let’s first say it in a quite technical way. He is ordained a priest to fulfill tria munera, three
tasks:
• The preaching of the Word (munus docendi).
• The sacramental and sanctifying ministry (munus sanctificandi).
• Governance of the People of God (munus regendi).
The priest instructs the congregation so they convert more every time, so that their lives
will be pleasing to the Lord.
He dedicates a great deal of his time to various teachings: sermons and homilies,
catechism, preparation for baptisms, weddings…
He teaches the congregation the importance of offering the mass to God Father and to join
that celebration offering their own lives.
The generous administration of the sacrament of forgiveness is always essential in the
ministry of the priest.
Likewise, he guides those who are entrusted to him to participate in different liturgical acts.
He teaches him to sing with the hearth spiritual hymns and canticles, to praise de Lord and to
always give thanks to Him.
He leads each and every one towards an attitude of prayer more intense and responsible
every time.

26
He strives to encourage all believers to be more generous with God, to help every Christian
to discover the beauty of the vocation, to cause vocations respecting the freedom of each one to
accept a greater devotion to God in the world, in the seminary, or consecrated to religious life.

27
The Eucharist

Through Him, and with Him, and for Him and for the souls: that is my life.
I live by His Love and for His Love,
despite my personal miseries.
(Josemaría Escrivá, Notes taken during a meeting, April 19th, 1969)

38
Is the priest obliged to celebrate mass every day? What are his
obligations?
By having incomparable greatness and dignity – it really “contains” God!–, the Eucharist is
the greatest action men can perform on earth. And it is always performed by a priest, when
celebrating mass.
A priest must celebrate mass when required by a position, a pastoral reason, a parish,
hospital, chaplaincy, etc. If not for these pastoral reasons, he has no obligation to do so. Now,
the possibility to celebrate every day the great mystery of faith, to revive the sacrifice of Christ,
the hour of the salvation of humankind and the Passover of Jesus, that moment when the entire
Church – from heaven and from earth – is gathered around the altar to worship, praise, beg,
amend and give thanks, supports the privileged moment of the life of a priest and the most real
and sublime moment of union with God and the others.
Having said this, the only daily obligation of every priest is to recite the official and public
prayer of the Church: the breviary. This prayer, – also called Liturgy of the Hours – is the
prayer that the eternal priest, Christ, says to the Father along with all his Body, the Church.
Priests and other sacred ministers must recite it. The lay, according to their possibilities.

39
If a priest says mass in a way that does not satisfy me, what should I do?
Above all, restrain any reaction and silence the critical spirit that could invade me.
Afterwards, ask myself and clearly define what is what I don’t like. Ask God to enlighten
me for self-examination, in case it is a personal dislike of which I should get rid.
Next, distinguish it is about a preference, habit, or a matter of different sensitivity, in which
case maybe I should make an effort to accept the expressions that each priest might
imperceptibly introduce in his way of celebrating the liturgy.
Or consider if it is, in my opinion, a serious reason.
After having reflected and prayed before the presence of God and after asking a prudent
and well informed person for his/her advice, then there is the possibility of kindly speaking
with the priest. And telling him which is the word, attitude, action or omission that, in our
opinion, is opposite to what ecclesiastic laws determine. And tell him what upsets us, because
it is possible that our feeling is justified and our interview can be helpful to him.

28
If this trusty exchange does not change what conscientiously seems important to us, there
are two possibilities: to confidentially speak with another priest or, if it is possible, to change
the place of worship.

Penance

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel.


Will they absolve you? No.
A priest, no matter how simple he may be, can.
He can say to you: Go in peace, I forgive you.
(John Mary Vianney, in Abbé Bernard Nodet, Le Curé d’Ars, Sa pensée, Son cœur, Ed.
Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 100)
in Esprit 113

40
Do priests also confess to other priests?
Jesus constantly calls men to conversion and invites them to penitence. This call is an
essential part of the announcement of the Kingdom that still echoes in the life of Christians.
The main manifestation of the spirit of penitence is the sacrament of forgiveness.
We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be
able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring Him close to others, be
sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently…
It is common to ascertain that the priest who recurs himself to confession and is available
for administering the sacrament of Peace, receives an increasing number of people wishing to
reconcile in confession.
It is true that for some years the sacrament of Misericordy has been somehow marginalized.
But the thirst for truth and beauty in the soul has not quenched, because the congregation
accepts the proposal for confession with gratefulness and joy.
In this way, taking advantage of their encounters with priests, they can progressively shape
their consciences and judge the moral sense of their daily acts.
John Paul II and Benedict XVI have very much insisted in reassessing the sacrament of
Penance. The priest can do a lot in this sense. He can talk, explain and encourage his
community and draw her close to the sacrament of Joy.
And teach with his example, without hiding, that he is the first to turn to the sacrament of
Reconciliation with God.

29
Poverty and visibility

When you see the priest,


think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
(John Mary Vianney, in Abbé Bernard Nodet, Le Curé d’Ars, Sa pensée, Son cœur, Ed.
Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 98)
in Esprit 117

41
What does the priest live on?
His soul lives, above all, on the Word of God and on the grace of the sacraments.
His heart, on the love God grants him and on the honest and sincere affection of the
majority of the community that surrounds him.
Regarding his material needs, each diocese organizes with equity the best way to defray
the needs of each priest. All priests can live honestly, simply and conveniently.

42
How does the priest live poverty?
The only absolutely necessary attachment is to God. A person devoted to the Lord must be
particularly attentive to live this incomparable election with exclusivity. The only true wealth
is God. All other things have by need a nature twice as relative: because it is not-absolute, for
we must know how to make unnecessary things relative; and also relative, with reference to the
one Absolute, who gives the true value to all things!
How sorrowful it would be if the heart of a priest attached to anything different from God!
It would be deplorable if the pocket of a priest would be too attentive to Money, to
“accumulate goods”; if he gave any non-relative importance to anything different from God: a
house, a car, furniture…
The priest is happy remembering that he has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or
mother… (cf. Matthew 19,29) to devote himself and give everything to God, without bargains
or miserable calculations.

30
43
Are the offerings given in churches, for the priests?
Every diocese decides the connection and proportion between offerings, alms, charity
raffles and other incomes and the parish that organizes them.
It is logical that a part be destined to the life and health of priests.
A practical problem usually arises: frequently, diocesan priests’ don´t have any help for
the cleaning, cooking, laundering, ironing, for administrative tasks… And said tasks are the
best occasion for the congregation to show their love for priesthood, serve the parish
community and lighten the priests’ schedules. Sometimes, the time spent in such tasks may
is against their pastoral efforts for the souls.

44
Where do priests live? Are they obliged to live together?
Every priest has great freedom to chose, as far as it is actually possible, the framework of
life that best suits them and that they prefer.
All options are considered and there is no obligation to live together, even when it is
advisable.

45
Why does the priest dresses in a special way?
I learned from one of my teachers this analogy: if a taxi driver does not have a sign on
his car, if his vehicle does not stand out…, he won’t catch any client!
The Church has always advised priests to dress in a way they can be identified, and to
clearly show their special belonging to God. They can fulfill their work, which is public and
is favored by the visible sign of the habit, typical of his identity, duties and availability.
It is a manifestation of the will of being available at any time and place, under any
circumstance, one hundred percent.
The wisdom of the Church also states that this priestly garment – provided for by the
Code of Canon Law and confirmed by the Episcopal conference of each country – is a very
useful means to preserve and help the priest in his external behavior, reminding him and
reminding others of his capacity as a priest of Jesus Christ.
Many priests simply say that the priestly habit helps them to better live their commitment
to God.

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Celibacy

The priest is in love with Love Himself!


We have more company than anyone else.
We are never alone,
because we have the continuous company of the Lord,
with whom we are in constant contact.

(Josemaría Escrivá, ¿¿¿¿ ????? )

St. JOSEMARÍA ESCRIVÁ Notes taken in conversation, 15-III-1969 (AGP, P04 1969, I, p.
318).

46
Is there any difference between celibacy and virginity?
Formulating it in a negative way, celibacy consists in not marrying. Virginity consists in
not having sexual encounters.
In a positive formulation, celibacy and virginity are explained by a moral perfection,
chastity. Chastity is a virtue aimed at the rational and moral control of the sexual instinct. A
virtue representing the joyful integration of sexuality in the individual. It involves the
learning of self control for conquering freedom and being capable of loving. Love, if real,
leads to chastity.
The virtue of chastity involves, therefore, the integrity of the individual and the fullness
of the gift of commitment. Thus, chastity is necessary to every human being, married,
celibate, priest or religious, if they want to have harmony and balance between their body
and their soul. The married individual is called to live conjugal chastity; the other human
beings, chastity in abstinence. Among these, some have received the specific call of the Lord
to commit to Him with an undivided heart, in virginity or in celibacy.

32
47
In what exactly does the celibacy of the priest consist?
Before presenting any answer, we must understand that celibacy is a gift from God, an
integral part of the gift of vocation, which grants he who receives it the needed capabilities to
fulfill the mission to which God calls you.
Celibacy is the choice for a more universal love and for a fuller and more comprehensive
compromise to the service of Jesus and of others. So, it is not, a renunciation of love or
compromise.
Celibacy is a means to achieve a superior thing; it is not a goal itself.
Many single individuals are single against their will, for they would like to get married.
Therefore, being celibate is not a synonym of living celibacy. The person who lives celibacy
for God is celibate and lives the perfect abstinence because he has specifically made a
positive choice. This is the case of the Latin catholic priests who freely renounce getting
married, when receiving the diaconal and priestly ordination.
We must respect, worship and love the priest who chooses to be fully consecrated, not
sharing his heart, to the service of God and others.
We must respect, worship and love the priest, who chooses, as wife and family, the
Church and its numerous sons.
We must respect, worship and love he who decides to have a greater freedom of heart and
movements in order to have a greater availability before the demands and needs of his
pastoral mission, in order to fulfill a permanent service, without giving any preference to any
person.
We must respect, worship and love this free paternity choice, the choice of spiritual
fertility, living at the same time a sincere friendship with so many men and women.
And we must respect, worship and love the decision of the priest who renounces himself,
who undertakes to live a greater demand in order to follow closer the footsteps of Jesus, who
lived celibacy and humbled himself to the total commitment for love and for the salvation of
all men.
Celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven is the greatest proof of love that exists.

48
What can be said about the sexuality of the priest?
A normal human being has sexual desires. Having desires or emotions by no means
implies a need to satisfy them.
Not to do it, does not mean either that one has complexes, is inhibited, or repressed.
A desire is not a need.
The priest, by renouncing these “non-essential” or necessary desires – renounces also out
of Love to God and for a greater spiritual fertility -, is not only not frustrated, diminished or
withdrawn, but he also grows in strength and joy.
With this behavior he is completely free and self-fulfilled by living in accordance with
his choice, maintaining, at the same time, his interior struggle on alert to reject what might
distance him from his positive choice of love.

33
Jesus clearly warned all men of all times saying that not everyone would be able to
understand this.

49
Celibacy, is it a sign?
The priest, called to consecrate with undivided heart to the Lord and His affairs, entirely
commits to God and men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the
Church’s minister is consecrated. The acceptance of this gift of himself with a joyous heart,
together with the joyful stile of his life, constitute the bright announcement of the Kingdom
that Jesus Christ has promised us, to which we are all called and in which, in the heart of the
Church, we already participate on earth.

50
What means must the priest use to fulfill himself in his celibacy? Can we
help him?
The experience within the Church during the last forty years has very much enlightened
us in this matter.
At the risk of resulting somehow synthetic and oversimplified, these are some means that
are advisable for efficiently making grow the devotion of love by the priest and avoiding a
weakening in his commitment:
• Being prudent and realistic in the relationships with people, avoiding to jeopardize the
duty of observing abstinence or causing a scandal among the congregation, and living an
integral and balanced emotion, as well as a human maturity filled with naturalness.
• Avoid frivolous or sensual environments, unworthy of any baptized individual.
• Live sobriety in meals and drinks. The lack of soberness weakens he who wishes to be
virtuous.
• Control that which nourishes imagination and learn to control glances on the street,
television, movies or Internet.
• Frequently resort to the sacrament of forgiveness.
• Keep a total sincerity towards spiritual direction, accepting help with meekness, to
avoid the risk of living a double life.
Experiences by saints and countless generations of priests have confided us other means
to favor faithfulness to commitments acquired. This will always be current: don’t stay up
late, give importance to modesty and decency, don’t go to certain shows, ask for advice when
choosing readings, make the most of time.
Because the goal pursued is that of loving with full love, it is evident that anything that
could tarnish the clarity and exclusivity of this love must be banned without second thoughts.
These ideas go against the tide of current ideas within a relaxed and hedonistic society,
lacking of supernatural references and of the sense of fidelity towards promises or
compromises.

34
Can we help the priest in this respect? Yes, any member of the congregation can help
priests to live this gift, delicately respecting their intimacy, keeping a respectful and
honorable attitude towards them, avoiding improper camaraderie or companionship regarding
their status, or obsolete familiarities that could be upsetting, not tolerating from priests
attitudes which result little priestly…

51
What efficacy must the priest seek?
The question is important and allows us to specify a series of essential realities on the
being and acting of the priest.
Above all, it is essential to differentiate the notions of priestly “efficacy” (capacity to
produce a desired effect) and priestly “fertility” (capacity to produce fruits). The following
will somehow clarify – I hope – this prime distinction.
The efficacy of the ministry of priests depends above all on their degree of spiritual
perfection.
It would not be pertinent to think that what the priest should seek – and what the
congregation expects from him – is efficiency in a human level. The purpose which the
ordained minister must seek is absolutely another one. Personal achievements, successes and
triumphs have a very relative importance to the development of a priestly life. The priest
must frequently ask God to protect him against any stupid idea of greatness, fame, vanity or
useless ambitions which are dangerous for him and for the souls.
Luckily, the vast majority of priests reason with entire clarity: both my dignity and
weakness, and the number of my talents are limited; and hence my actions will be always
limited too. On the other hand, any priest is conscious that he cannot say for himself: “I
forgive your sins”, or “this is my Body”… because such actions are divine, and men cannot
perform them with their own strength. The conclusion prevails with total magnificence: the
priest who sought efficacy in itself or in personal projects and achievements would be
mistaken and diminish his vocation.
I am the vine; you are the branches… Apart from me you can do nothing (John 15,5). If
this is true for any believer, it is even more so for us, ministers of Jesus. In our work to lead
men towards the living Christ, our “efficacy” and “fertility” are infinitely outstripped till the
point of being the fertility and efficacy… of God! That is why – ineffable truth! –, the priest
can perform acts, not only great or superhuman, but divine, achievements which exceed
them. God has called every one of his priests precisely for this.
Because the efficacy of the priest is such, the sensible attitude and that coherent with his
vocations consists in living an existential communion with Christ, in being a docile herald in
the hands of the Lord, in being a living instrument, transformed in the voice, the hands, the
heart of Christ. He must be determined to “disappear”, positively, for allowing only Him to
act. The priest loves “disappearing”, with the mission, ecclesial always, of announcing what
God has revealed to him for the salvation of men, and for celebrating the worship instituted
by Jesus Christ and passed on by tradition.
How unparalleled are the intensity and dignity of the priest, for he can literarily exclaim:
I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2,19-20), who acts through me!

35
The efficacy of the priestly ministry is based in the intimate dependency kept with God
Father. The efficacy of the ministry of priests depends above all on their degree of spiritual
perfection, their sanctity.
We could complete the answer to the above question, by contrasting it with a triple
memorable statement:
A saint and pious priest leads his community towards sanctity. The priest never enters
alone in Paradise! He is accompanied by a considerable crowd of the faithful who follow
him.
A lukewarm priest, attentive to priorities different from the only glory of god, whichever
their personal realizations may be, leads those who have been entrusted to him towards
indifference lukewarmness.
The unfaithful or infamous priest is an obstacle to God’s action and looses every person
he must lead.

52
Has the Church solemnly stated its position on celibacy of priests?
The Church, faithful to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, and faithful to a
constant Tradition, has declared and definitively settled that a catholic priest, under the Latin
ritual, cannot be married.
In certain oriental rituals married men can be ordained, but a priest can’t ever get married
after having been ordained.

36
Rest

Jesus speaks to everyone and never refuses to talk to anyone.


He speaks about work,
he is concerned to see that his disciples rest…
(Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God, 89)

53
How does the priest rest?
There are no ways to rest exclusive of the priest, who chooses with freedom those ways
he deems appropriate. Any physical, intellectual, cultural or spiritual activity can help him
rest in body and soul.
A change in rhythm; a change in geography or activity can be enough, without entailing
particular expenses.
It seems only logical for this rest to take place with a Christian and priestly spirit,
avoiding any luxuries or elements that could strange or odd, or not according to the clerical
status…

37
Maturity and Old Age

Lord, let me never get used


to being a priest!
(Josemaría Escrivá, ¿¿¿¿ ????? )

54
What does a priest do when he retires?
This matter is not simple.
We can imagine something similar to what happens in other jobs. But we should not
trust appearances because the decision of a priest who retires is taken from his conscience.
Frequently, a priest wishes to continue his ministry much longer, or until he is able to do
it.
The age set by the Church Law for a priest to retire is 75 years. Some retire earlier, some
never do.
Factors implied for taking a decision are evident: lack of health or mental lucidity,
excessive tiredness or debilitation…, in the presence of which the Church maternally and
with great prudence watches over her elderly ministers.

38
55
Who takes care of elderly priests in their old age?
The bishop and his counselors devotedly watch over them, as one of their priorities, and
seek the means needed for giving an adequate quality of life to sick and elderly priests in
their diocese.
This is a matter of charity and, above all, justice. Every active priest collaborates joyfully
so that their elderly and sick brothers may benefit from whatever they need.
Diocesan houses for elderly priests, residences with medical attention or religious houses
receive all the priests who have not chosen another solution for this stage in their lives.
Under these particular circumstances, mutual help and a brotherly environment are always
edifying.
It is sad to admit that the members of the congregation frequently forget about these
“retired” priests for giving them love, asking for their advice or confession… and don’t
benefit from an experience that will be generally very valuable.

The Significance of the Example

A lukewarm priest:
that’s the great enemy of the Church!
(Josemaría Escrivá, ¿¿¿¿ ????? )

56
What should we answer to those who claim having lost their faith due to
the bad example they receive from a priest that has acted wrong?
I quote this assertion by a contemporary saint: I don’t believe in the Church because of
priests, bishops or Popes, I believe because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is not more or less God because one person or another is faithful to Him. Medicine
is not more or less real because of the fact some doctors are sick, or even… because some
doctors are very bad doctors. The Church is saint in spite of us, those who constitute it,
being sinners.
And so there is a reasoning defect in the question. There is no cause-effect relationship
between a wrong human conduct and the existence of God. A mistake or fault by a ministry
of the Church does not discredit the bond of love that should exist between God and men!

39
57
Most priests have a generous and exemplary behavior. But sometimes in
the press there is a scandal, throwing a shadow over the truthfulness and
beauty of priesthood. How should we respond to such comments?
Every bad action is an absence, a lack of kindness: a lack of something. One can tell
when a priest does not act right, because the habitual rule in the whole world is – precisely –
the generous and heroic behavior of the immense majority of them.
How true it is that good usually is not an item of news and that the faithfulness of so
many thousands of priests does not call the attention, while – on the contrary – certain people
lie in wait for any notice of scandalous nature…!
The number of canonized priests fills the history and the calendar of the Church and the
ones who have lived saintly with an exemplary commitment is countless, even if they have
not yet reached the altars. Canonized saint priests are just a few.
Having said this, in the few painful cases of scandals, the scholarly and prudent
counselors of the Church advise as follows: have a little compassion and charity. Do not
criticize. Forgive, excuse, pray.
When a priest does not seem to live according to the Gospel, let us not judge him. God,
the fair judge, will judge him.
Evidently the foregoing is no obstacle for authorities of the Church to impose an
exemplary sanction to whoever deserves it. You will find, in the answer to the above
question, similar elements that are also useful for this one.

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III. DEACONS

If you want to be useful, serve.


(Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing, 50)

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What are deacons?
Deacons represent the third rank of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. They also receive the
imposition of hands, but not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service. In the
diaconal ordination, the bishop is the only one to impose his hands, thus manifesting that the
deacon is specially bound to the bishop in the services of his ‘deaconship’.

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What does this ordination confer to the one receiving it?
Receiving the first grade of the sacrament of Order qualifies him for the ministry of the
Word, the service of worship and charity. The exercise of these duties is performed under
the authority of the diocesan bishop.

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In what does the ministry of the deacon consist?
Among other things, deacons can attend such functions as to assist the bishop and the
priests during liturgical actions, above all: distribute the Eucharist, administer baptism, to
assist and to bless marriages, to read the sacred books of Scripture and preach, to officiate at
funeral and burial services and to carry out the duties of charity.

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Are there several kinds of deacons?
Exactly, this grade of the sacrament of Order is received, on one hand, by candidates to
ministerial priesthood: during one year approximately, they perform the duties typical of the
deaconship, and commit to live celibacy as from this moment.

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There is another category of deacons, called permanent. These can be celibate men who
respect celibacy all their lives, or married who receive this new sacrament with his wife’s
consent.
The deaconship of ones and the others will consist in fulfilling their ministry, whether in
the liturgical life or in social and charitable works.

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IV. THE BISHOP

The bishop is not a bishop for himself;


he is a bishop for you.
(Benedict XVI, Homily, September 12th, 2009)

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Who can become a bishop?
Any priest called by the Pope, after a positive response, who has the required knowledge,
virtuous conduct and who is known for his prudence. He receives the prayer of Episcopal
consecration together with the imposition of the hands by a bishop.

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Must a priest desire to become a bishop?
This has to do, first of all, with his conscience and rectitude in the exercise of his
priesthood.
Every person wishes to progress in his professional life; there is nothing illegitimate in
this aspiration. So it is not wrong for a priest to also have this intimate desire, if it is to serve
others more and to serve them better, to commit his life further for the Church; for the greater
glory of God.
The Scripture says so: if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble
task… (I Timothy 3,1), to serve the God’s Church, not to achieve power.
Classic Theology, based on Saint Gregorius Magnus, gives us this comment: during the
times when a bishop was the first exposed to martyrdom, the desire to become one was
praiseworthy and it was necessary to encourage the existence of candidates. In any case, the
desire to be useful to fellow men is, by itself, laudatory and virtuous.
The call to episcopacy is comparable to the call to the other two grades of the sacrament.
In this case it is the Pope who calls, and therefore the episcopacy has the same passive
character.

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What happens when a priest is ordained bishop?
He receives from the Holy Spirit the fullness of the sacrament of Order. By this divine
action the bishop is constituted a legitimate successor of the twelve Apostles, for his
particular and full incorporation to the priesthood of Christ in the Episcopal College. He is
now the head of a “particular” Church; be it a diocese or the specific mission entrusted to
him by the Pope.
Bishops, as successors of the Apostles, are custodians and defenders of the doctrine of the
Christian faith and its costumes, in communion with the Pope, successor of Peter.

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What is a diocese? Are there any other circumscriptions?
The biggest part of the Catholic Church is structured in territories called dioceses. A
diocese is a part of the people of God, in a specific territory, entrusted to a bishop. He takes
care of it with the cooperation of his priests, the service of his deacons, the availability of his
religious men and women and the collaboration of every other member of the people of God
aware of their own preaching duties. Various diocesan services cooperate with the bishop in
necessary and varied tasks.
There are also other types of organization for the pastoral work in the Church: apostolic
administrations, military ordinariates, prelatures…

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What does a bishop do in his diocese?
As “shepherd” of his diocese, he is the teacher of truth, the first preacher and the first
catechist. No other task can exempt him from this holy mission. He preaches and tries to
make the diocesan community grow continuously in the knowledge and implementation of
the Word of God.
He also presides over this community celebrating the sacraments.
And governs it with the authority of Christ.
The members of the congregation must remember this very old maxim: “Where the
bishop is, there is the Church”.

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What is an archbishop?

An archbishop is a bishop who receives this title for being the head of an important
diocese, or a diocese with a prestigious past, called archdiocese.

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What is a cardinal?
He is a person with outstanding qualities, with whom the Pope counts on as a special
advisor and to whom he entrusts the very particular mission of choosing his own successor.
The Holy Father generally grants the title of cardinal to someone who is already a bishop.

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Is there any difference between an auxiliary bishop and coadjutor
bishops?
An auxiliary bishop is appointed by the Pope to be the immediate collaborator to an
archbishop or a bishop whose workload is particularly important. If the auxiliary is
appointed with the right of succession, he is called coadjutor.

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Are there meetings among bishops?
There are pastoral assemblies of bishops, at different levels.
The assemblies of bishops in different countries constitute the Episcopal Conferences of
the place: Spanish, French, Mexican…
They also gather according to the different continental or linguistic assemblies: synod for
Africa, for Oceania; Latin American liturgical assembly, English-speaking, French-
speaking…
Sometimes, the Pope considers that some important matters can gather in Rome a certain
number of bishops from around the world: the synods of bishops. They can address issues
related to a region of the world, or address moral or doctrinal issues. Likewise, the Holy
Father can convene the totality of the episcopate from around the world: these are the
ecumenical councils.

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What is a territorial prelature?
It is a part of the people of God that, due to the insufficient number of priests and the lack
of adequate structures for the personal attention of the congregation in an ordinary way, it
does not have the required conditions to be a diocese. It is chaired by a prelate.

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What is a personal prelature?
It is an ecclesiastical circumscription, delimited by personal criteria, erected to carry out
particular missionary or pastoral works. It is commended to a prelate, who governs it as
proper Ordinary, this is, with own quasi-episcopal jurisdiction that extends to aspects and
people – clergy and lay members – who constitute the scope of the characteristic mission.

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V. THE POPE

Thank you, my God,


for that love for the Pope you have placed in my heart.
(Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 573)

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Who can be Pope?
Any men can be elected Pope. If he wasn’t a bishop, he would be immediately ordained
at the moment of his election.

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How is the Pope elected?
When the Pope dies, the Cardinal Electors privately gather in conclave to elect, by secret
vote, the successor. This is not a candidate, contrary to what happens at “civilian” elections.
If the elected accepts, he automatically becomes the bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter,
head of the Church. The Pope has been granted the charism of infallibility in matters of
Christian faith and moral, when he speaks as pastor of the Catholic Church and aimed at
setting a rule for the Church as a whole.

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What is the mission of the Pope? Can he resign his office?
He is Christ’s Vicar on earth and the pastor of the Catholic Church, and he is at the head
of the College of Bishops worldwide.
He has, in the Universal Church, the threefold mission to sanctify, teach and govern.
Also, he struggles to confirm his brother bishops in their faith.
He most also nourish the unity of the Church.
He ultimately calls all churches and ecclesiastical communities not yet fully in
communion with the successor of St. Peter to reconciliation, to whom Jesus said: And I tell
you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you

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bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven (Matthew 16,18).
The Pope can resign his office. For this act to be valid, resignation must be free and duly
manifested. And, because he is the first in the Church, his resignation does not have to be
addressed to anyone in order for it to be accepted.

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Are we certain regarding the succession of Popes since St. Peter?
Yes. Pope John Paul II, when receiving and blessing the third millennium, stated he was
the 264th successor of the first Vicar of Christ on earth.

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OUR LADY

What must the cheerful way that Jesus looked upon people have been like?
It must have been the same which shone from the eyes of his Mother
who could not contain her joy
—Magnificat anima mea Dominum!—,
and her soul glorified the Lord
while she carried Him within her and by her side.
Oh Mother, may we like you rejoice to be with Him
and to hold Him!
(Josemaría Escrivá, Furrow, 95)

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Does the ordained minister hold a secret?
Yes, his love to the Most Blessed Virgin.
Our Lady is the faithful Mother who gives life in Jesus Christ. She is the Lady who
teaches us to love Jesus and his sons, our brothers and sisters. She is the victorious Queen of
every combat, who always leads to the true goal and accompanies in faithfulness until the
end.
The last Council exhorted priests to love and venerate with filial devotion and veneration
the Mother of the Eternal High Priest, Queen of Apostles and protector of their own ministry.
In fact, being alter Christus, ipse Christus necessarily leads to being sons of Mary and to
establish a particular intimacy with her.
¡She really is the great secret for always going to Jesus and, when necessary, also for
returning to Jesus!

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PRAYERS FOR PRIESTS

PRAYER BY POPE BENEDICT XVI

Lord Jesus, who in Saint John Vianney desired to give to the Church a touching image of your
pastoral charity, grant that, in his company and supported by his example, we may fully live
this Year for Priests.

Grant that, like him, pausing before the Eucharist, we may learn how simple is your word that
trains us daily; how tender is the love with which you welcome penitent sinners; how
consoling is the confident trust in your Immaculate Mother.

O Lord Jesus, grant that through the intercession of the holy Curé of Ars, Christian families
may become “little churches” in which all the vocations and charisms given by your Holy
Spirit may be welcomed and valued. Give to us, Lord Jesus, the ability to repeat with the
same ardour of the Curé of Ars the words he used to address you:

«I love you, my God.


Mi only desire is to love you
until the last breathe of my life.
I love you, o God infinitely lovable,
and I prefer to die loving you than to live a single moment without loving you.
I love you, Lord, and the one grace that I ask of you is to love you eternally.
My God, if my tongue is unable to say in every moment that I love you,
I want my heart to repeat it as often as I breathe.
I love you, o Divine Savior,
because you were crucified for me,
and you hold me down here crucified with you.
My God, give me the grace do die loving you
and knowing that I love you». Amen.

LITANY FOR OUR PRIESTS

For our Holy Father the Pope


Lord, give him your Heart of the Good Shepherd.

For Our Bishop N.,


Lord, give him your blessing in the Church.
For your Bishops chosen by the Holy Spirit
Lord, keep them close to your sheep.
For Priests,
Lord, teach them to love their parishioners as you love us.
For confessors and spiritual directors,

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Lord, make the docile instruments of your Spirit.
For those who work with the youth,
Lord, may they commit the youth to you.
For those who work among the poor,
Lord, make them see and serve you in them.
For those who work for the sick,
May they teach them the value of the suffering, Lord
For sick priests,
Heal them, Lord.
For those who announce your word,
Lord, let them communicate your Spirit and Life.
That all priests
Be one as you, Lord, and the Father are one.
That all priests
May promote the justice with which you, Lord, are just.
That all priests, filled with your presence
Live joyfully in celibacy, Lord.

For elderly priests


Give them joyful hope, Lord.
For the sad and afflicted,
Console them, Lord.
For anxious and troubled priests,
Give them your peace, Lord
For those in crisis,
Show them your way, Lord.
Defend the cause of the ridiculed and persecute, Lord.

For lukewarm priests,


Inflame them, Lord.
For the discouraged,
Give them courage, Lord.
For those who aspire to priesthood,
Give them perseverance, Lord.

May priests:
promote vocations to Deaconship, Lord;
fervently commit in favor of consecrated life, Lord;
make them feel they´re members of all our families, Lord.

For all ministers,


give them faithfulness to you and your Church;
grant them the fullness of your Spirit and transform them
so they may consummate their oblation in you.

Sanctify them in Truth, Amen.

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PRAYER BY JOHN PAUL II

(Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis)

O Mary,
Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of priests,
accept this title which we bestow on you
to celebrate your motherhood
and to contemplate with you the priesthood
of, your Son and of your sons,
O holy Mother of God.

O Mother of Christ,
to the Messiah - priest you gave a body of flesh
through the anointing of the Holy Spirit
for the salvation of the poor and the contrite of heart;
guard priests in your heart and in the Church,
O Mother of the Savior.

O Mother of Faith,
you accompanied to the Temple the Son of Man,
the fulfillment of the promises given to the fathers;
give to the Father for his glory
the priests of your Son,
O Ark of the Covenant.

O Mother of the Church,


in the midst of the disciples in the upper room
you prayed to the Spirit
for the new people and their shepherds;
obtain for the Order of Presbyters
a full measure of gifts,
O Queen of the Apostles.

O Mother of Jesus Christ,


you were with him at the beginning
of his life and mission,
you sought the Master among the crowd,
you stood beside him when he was lifted
up from the earth
consumed as the one eternal sacrifice,
and you had John, your son, near at hand;
accept from the beginning those
who have been called,
protect their growth,
in their life ministry accompany
your sons,
O Mother of Priests.
Amen.

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PRAYER BY PAUL VI FOR THE SANCTIFICATION OF PRIESTS

Come, O Holy Spirit and give priests, dispensers of


the mysteries of God, a new heart to update their whole Education and
their whole preparation, making them conscious of how surprising
the revelation of the granted sacrament is, and for him to always
respond with a new illusion to the incessant duties of his ministry,
In order to your Eucharistic Body and your Mystic Body.

Give them a new heart,


always young and joyful.

Come O Holy Spirit, and give our priests, disciples and


Apostles of Christ Lord, a pure heart, capable of only Loving Him with the fullness,
The joy and profoundness that only He knows how to grant,
When He constitutes the exclusive and entire object of love of men
Who live out of your grace; give them a pure heart that only knows evil
to denounce it, fight it and run away from it, a heart pure as that
of a boy, ready for enthusiasm and emotion.

PRAYER TO THE MOST BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests. Congregation for the Clergy, Maundy
Thursday, 1994.

O Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of priests, accept this title which we bestow on
you to celebrate your motherhood and to contemplate with you the Priesthood of your Son
and of your sons, O Holy Mother of God.

Mother of Christ, to the Messiah-Priest you gave a body of flesh through the anointing of the
Holy Spirit for the salvation of the poor and the contrite of heart, guard priests in your heart
and in the Church, O Mother of the Savior.

O Mother of Faith, you accompanied the Son of Man at the temple, in fulfillment of the
promises made to the Fathers, give to the Father for his glory, the priests of his Son, O Ark of
the Covenant.

O Mother of the Church, among the disciples in the Cenacle you prayed to the Spirit for the
new People and their Shepherds, obtain for the Order of Presbyters the full measure of gifts,
O Queen of the Apostles.

O Mother of Jesus Christ, you were with him from the beginning of his life and in his
mission, you sought the Master among the crowd, you stood beside him when He was lifted
up from the earth, consumed as the one eternal sacrifice, and you had John, your son, close
by, accept from the beginning those who have been called protect their growth, in their life
ministry accompany your sons, O Mother of Priests.

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Amen!

A MOTHER´S PRAYER ASKING GOD FOR A PRIEST SON

Lord, may today a plea, the illusion of my life, rise to You. Grant me the grace of
someday being the mother of a priest.

I know your plans are unfathomable, you have predestined your chosen; to this I
humbly submit. Nonetheless, receive my pledge. Today I dare to ask you for a son of
mine to continue your redeeming work on earth, to forgive the sinners in your name, to
be able to hold You in his hands and surrender souls to you; baptize pagan adults and
children, open the doors of heaven to the dying. Be a heavenly dewdrop over this
tormented world, be another Christ.

Do not reject this dream that will never abandon me. This holy view that fills my
soul with ineffable sweetness. The vision of a man raising his God in the altar, of a man
with my features, of a son You had given me, of a priest I had returned to You.

Everything for You, even if this means squeezing my mother’s heart.

Lord, I ask this to you in Mary´s name, Mary mother of the first priest. Amen.

OTHER PRAYERS FOR PRIESTS

For elderly priests


Give them joyful hope, Lord.

For the sad and afflicted


Console them, Lord

For anxious and troubled priests


Give them your peace, Lord.

For priests in crisis,


Show them your way, Lord

In a special way, I pray for those priests through whom I have received
your graces. I pray for the priest who baptized me and for those who have
absolved me of my sins, reconciling me with you and with your Church. I
pray for those priests in whose Masses I have participated and who have
given me your Body as nourishment. I pray for those priests who have
shared your Word with me, and for those who have helped me and led me
to you. Amen.

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For those who work with the youth


Lord, may they commit the youth to you.
.

For those who work among the poor


Lord, make them see and serve you in them

For those who care for the sick


May they teach them the value of suffering, Lord.

Jesus, Savior of men, save them!

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BACK COVER TEXT
After asking various people of diverse origins interested on or “intrigued” about the priests,
the author has selected 77 answers, all brief and direct, on the vocation and formation of the
priest, celibacy and lifestyle, rest and way of organizing towards his Bishop.

Marc Vaillot (Lérida, 1951) is a priest, master at Literature at the Sorbonne; Doctor at
Philosophy at the Universidad de Navarra. He lives in France since 1970. He was ordained priest
in 1981 of the Prelature of Opus Dei, y currently exercises his pastoral work in Toulouse.

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