A priest absolutely must be grounded in prayer if his ministry is to flourish and bear good fruit. The highest act of prayer for any priest is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where the Death and Resurrection of Jesus is re-presented through the power of the Holy Spirit. In offering the Mass, the priest prays “in person Christi.” In daily parish life, the priest is called upon to lead the community in prayer — at meals, meetings, formation events, and even at the supermarket!
A priest also spends each day in personal prayer through the Liturgy of the Hours and time spent before the Blessed Sacrament. This personal prayer helps the priest grow in intimacy with the One who called him to this vocation in the first place. There, Christ refreshes the priest and strengthens him for his ongoing ministry.
As Venerable Fulton Sheen once put it: “The priest is not his own.” He is ordained to share the mission of Christ — which is to say, to give up his life out of love for the Church. Our Lord said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13-17)
Christ came “not to be served, but to serve.” Likewise, the priest follows the Lord in his self-sacrifice and offering of himself on behalf of others. And yet it is not himself that he “gives” to the people, but the Person of Jesus Christ — through offering the sacraments, preaching the Word of God, and faithfully articulating the Church’s sacred Tradition. In humbly serving the Church in this way, the priest reveals the heart of the Lord Jesus who came to seek out to the lost, the lonely, the broken, and the poor out of love for the Father.
Preaching is a central ministry of the priest. The Sunday homily is an opportunity for the Church to “break open” and interpret the Scriptures, which are living and active, so that the people might encounter the Risen Lord and apply His teaching to their daily lives.
A priest should faithfully preach the whole Truth with vibrant joy — witnessing to the fact that our relationship with Christ is the “pearl of great price,” for which we should sell everything! For the priest, it is a privilege to announce the incredible news of the Resurrection, the hope of Life Everlasting, and the freedom and love that God has so freely given us! In his preaching, the priest points away from himself toward the merciful Love which has overcome sin and death.
Priests have the tremendous responsibility and joy of making the Sacraments available to the people of God. It is a profound sign of Christ’s humility and mercy that he invites weak, fallible men to be his instruments for such important work. Without the ministerial priesthood, the Eucharist could not be offered, the sick could not be anointed, and confessions could not be heard. The sacraments serve to extend the Incarnation of Christ through time and space. When the priest baptizes a child, it is Christ baptizing. When the Body and Blood of Jesus are offered, it’s Christ offering himself to the Father. By the sacraments, Jesus himself continues to be present to us.