A Priest’s Life
He was convinced that the fervor of a priest’s life depended entirely on the Mass, and when he celebrated, he offered up his own life in sacrifice.
He put his “unfailing trust” in the Sacrament of Reconcili- ation, and made it the center of his pastoral concerns.
He practiced the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, even though they were not required of him as a diocesan priest.
In his letter, Pope Benedict noted that throughout his life, St. John Vianney remained in awe of the gift and task entrusted to human beings through the priesthood. And what a great gift it is! As I recently told a group of retired priests in my archdiocese, if the Blessed Mother herself were to appear in our midst today, she could not do what the simplest priest does every day and what she did physically in Bethlehem: give us the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. Nor could all the angels and archangels in heaven, acting in full unison, forgive even one venial sin. Only the priest, acting in the person of Christ, can do these things and so much more, not of his own merits or power, but because he is chosen, called, and empowered by God himself to continue the saving work of the risen Jesus.
No human being can ever feel worthy of such a gift—or such a responsibility. Because we are human, there will be times when we fail. But our response to our weaknesses must be to cling ever more closely to Christ. To be good and holy priests, we need a fervent prayer life, the sacraments, and immersion in God’s