By FATHER RICHARD WISE, Commentary | Published November 20, 2022
“If anyone would become my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Lk 9:13
Now there’s a starter. Notice that Jesus is not saying priests should do this but all who would be his disciple. Priesthood of the baptized is what we call discipleship. We are, therefore, a community of priests.
Now let’s take it another step. The largest priests’ cemetery in the world is located in Germany at the Nazi concentration camp called Dachau. More than 2,100 Catholic priests were imprisoned in the camp, and many are buried there. They were tortured, denied their sacred obligation to celebrate the sacraments and executed for their faith.
According to Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI, the church has three obligations: “Evangelize, worship and care for the poor.”
A pastor of a parish has the obligation to make certain that the lay priests are taking up their cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus. We ordained priests are to set the example by laying down our lives for our parishioners and the strangers at the door.
No rivers are too wide that would keep us from the sick and suffering. I remember Father Michael McGivney, who would ride his bicycle on all kinds of roads to care for the orphans and widows.
The sin against Holy Orders is clericalism. “Holy”—that’s the key. In Hebrew “holy” means to be set aside, not better than anyone else. Consecration means to be set aside for complete service for the works of God.
If we are to stem the tide of those leaving the church, the way is not through condemnation but by living what we professed when hands were laid upon us—The Divine Office, daily sacrifice of our lives, Holy Mass, and according to Matthew 25, the care for the poor and imprisoned.
Do we priests sin? Unfortunately, yes. So, what must we do? Go to confession! Priesthood has been given to us for the sake of our salvation and our congregations. It’s not about status or power it’s about the sacrifice of our lives.
Father Richard Wise is a senior priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.