Pope Benedict XVI opened the special year, The Year for Priests, with a vespers service at the Vatican June 19 – the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day for the sanctification of priests. He will close the celebrations during a world meeting of priests in St. Peter’s Square on June 19, 2010. The editors of FAITH asked me to write about what it means to be a priest. Volumes have been written on that topic, so all I can do here is give you a beautiful meditation composed by Father Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, OP, who was considered to be the greatest pulpit orator of the 19th century. He suffered in the aftermath of the French Revolution, filled as it was with bitter anti-clericalism. When I was ordained a priest back in June 1967, this meditation was printed on holy cards and given out by many of the newly ordained to friends, relatives and those attending their first Masses. Once again the saying is proven: gold is refined by fire.
A Priest: To live in the midst of the world without wishing its pleasures; To be a member of each family, yet belonging to none; To share all suffering; to penetrate all secrets; To heal all wounds; to go from men to God and offer Him their prayers; To return from God to men to bring pardon and hope; To have a heart of fire for Charity, and a heart of bronze for Chastity to teach and to pardon, console and bless always. My God, what a life; and it is yours, O priest of Jesus Christ.