Prayer is essential in striving for holiness

Father James Wilcox

North Texas Catholic

12/21/2015

We hear and read much about the universal call to holiness. The human excursion toward eternal life, which was offered a deeper understanding by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, is an easy reminder for preachers and writers. All the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state (Lumen Gentium 42).

Of course by “their own proper state,” the Fathers acknowledge a difference in the lives of religious, priests, and laity. While this is the Year of Consecrated Life (see the info about the Feb. 5 event!), I spend this column on the importance of holiness of priests and the need for all of us to pray and promote this holiness for those in discernment. 

Outstanding work is being accomplished in many aspects of society these days.  However, we can see that we are still under attack by sin and evil. No one is immune to the spiritual warfare underway in our society today. In the fight for conversion and holiness in the lives of all,

Satan is often seeking to pull down those men — priests, consecrated to the work of Jesus Christ — who seek to bring all people into a life of unity with the Divine.  

It takes great courage to accept the call to discern the priesthood. It is accepting a call to discern the ability to be formed into the man of Christ and the priest of Christ, so to enter the battlefield as part of God’s army. “We like to imagine you (seminarians), after all the years of preparation in your native lands, as regiments of soldiers who have been chosen and set aside, in obedience to the call of the Lord, for the future conquests by the Kingdom of God” (St. John XXIII).

A priest must be a man of constant prayer to be always prepared for the next brawl against evil. It is in prayer that the priest’s heart is fortified with the love of Jesus Christ so to win holiness for the sheep in his care. Christ is the example of every form of holiness — for the priest, the religious, the layperson. Perhaps the most important reminder for priests can be found in the crucifix.  

The cross is not a place of comfort. The priest cannot be controlled by comfort. Those who crave satisfaction of their thirst through society, material goods, or even human knowledge and experience are not men who can be soldiers for the Kingdom of God. Soldiers, i.e. priests, are men who are comfortable being in the battle against evil, comfortable in the angst to ensure truth, and comfortable with standing their ground for what is right in the eyes of God.  

A man of self-denial is a man seeking the good and holiness of others. The priest accomplishes this self-sacrificial and compassionate concern for the flock through preaching the word of God, hearing confessions, celebrating the Holy Mass, anointing the sick and the dying, instructing the ignorant on matters of faith, comforting those who suffer, and aligning those who are misguided. In these efforts, the priest can be like Christ who “went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). That is, the priest “must be aflame with charity toward everyone. Not even his thoughts, his will, his feelings, belong to him, for they are rather those of Jesus Christ who is his life” (Pope St. John XXIII, Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia 6).

Do we expect this level of holiness and dedication from our priests? Of course. To expect less belittles the priestly life instituted by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The mercy of the heart of Jesus Christ comforts when one falls short. However, the striving for holiness — in the lives of all of us — is what keeps us focused on winning the battle for the Kingdom of God

Together, as a community striving toward holiness, we must keep praying for priests, seminarians, religious men and women, and all in discernment. We must anticipate and expect holiness from them.  And we must follow the example of holiness they proclaim with their lives.

 

We hear and read much about the universal call to holiness. The human excursion toward eternal life, which was offered a deeper understanding by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, is an easy reminder for preachers and writers. All the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state (Lumen Gentium 42).

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