Each year on this solemn occasion, the Church calls us to contemplate the extraordinary mystery of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Eternal Priesthood. By the bishop’s imposition of hands, the newly ordained priest becomes an alter Christus. He receives upon his soul that indelible Levitical character which introduces forever him into the Order of Melchisedech. By this ineffable change, the soul of the priest becomes inseparably united to Christ, whose first act was that of a Priest: adoration.
The newly ordained are called to follow in the footsteps of Christ to the foot of the Cross, the foot of the altar, to be a mediator between God and man by offering the Sacrifice that redeemed the world and by forgiving sins which hold man in bondage. Through the mouth of the bishop, Our Lord speaks to His new priests, “I will not now call you servants, but friends... You are my friends, if you do what I command you.”
What is it that Christ commands His friends? “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The priest is therefore a man crucified, a man chosen and called to live only for God, offering himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of souls. He is called to pour forth into souls the grace which flows in abundance from the the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The many gifts and graces called down upon the priest are truly divine, and far beyond the capacity of his own human nature. As St. John Vianney explained, “If I would meet a priest and an angel, I would greet first the priest and then the angel.” Yet it is not the man that is to be admired, but the power of almighty God, who manifests His omnipotence by working through His poor creatures. As we hear from the lips of the Savior, “You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you… that you may bring forth fruit.”
Shortly before the ordinations, Bishop Tissier urged the ordinands never to forget the sublime sacramental grace they receive with their new Orders; for it is this grace which will carry them through their priesthood to final perseverance and eternal beatitude.
Please join us in prayers of joy and thanksgiving for the newly ordained as they are sent forth into Christ’s vineyard. Let us also continually pray for the grace of many holy priests and religious vocations.