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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

St. Alphonsus De Ligouri: The Vocation to the Priesthood

St. Alphonsus De Ligouri: The Vocation to the Priesthood
The Dignities and Duties of the Priest
by St. Alphonsus Liguori C.SS.R.
Doctor of the Church
 The Vocation to the Priesthood
Necessity of a Divine Vocation to take Holy Orders

To enter any state of life, a Divine vocation is necessary; for without such a vocation it is, if not impossible, at least most difficult to fulfill the obligations of our state, and obtain salvation. But if for all states a vocation is necessary, it is necessary in a particular manner for the ecclesiastical state. He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber. [John 10:1] Hence he who takes holy orders without a call from God is convicted of theft, in taking by force a dignity which God does not wish to bestow upon him. And before him St. Paul said the same thing: Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was. So Christ also did not glorify Himself that He might be made a high priest, but He that said unto Him: Thou art My Son; this day I have begotten Thee. [Heb 5:4, 5]


No one, then, however learned, prudent, and holy he may be, can thrust himself into the sanctuary unless he is first called and introduced by God. Jesus Christ Himself, who among all men was certainly the most learned and the most holy, full of grace and truth, [John 1:4] in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, [Col. 2:3]-----Jesus Christ, I say, required a Divine call in order to assume the dignity of the priesthood.

In entering the sanctuary, even after God Himself had called them to it, the Saints trembled. When his bishop ordered St. Augustine to receive ordination, the Saint through humility regarded the command as a chastisement of his sins. To escape the priesthood St. Ephrem of Syria feigned madness; and St. Ambrose pretended to be a man of a cruel disposition.

To avoid the priesthood, St. Ammonius the Monk cut off his ears, and threatened to pluck out his tongue, if the persons who pressed him to take holy orders should continue to molest him. In a word, St. Cyril of Alexandria says, "The Saints have dreaded the dignity of the priesthood as a burden of enormous weight.'" Can anyone, then, says St. Cyprian, be so daring as to attempt of himself, and without a Divine call, to assume the priesthood?'

As a vassal who would of himself take the office of minister should violate the authority of his sovereign, so he who intrudes himself into the sanctuary without a vocation violates the authority of God. How great should be the temerity of the subject who, without the appointment, and even in opposition to the will of the monarch, should attempt to administer the royal patrimony, to decide lawsuits, to command the army, and to assume the vice regal authority! "Among you," asks St. Bernard in speaking to clerics, "is there anyone so insolent as, without orders and contrary to the will of the pettiest monarch, to assume the direction of his affairs" And are not priests, as St. Prosper says, the administrators of the royal house? Are they not, according to St. Ambrose, the "leaders and rectors of the flock of Christ"? according to St. Chrysostom, the "interpreters of the Divine judgments,"? and according to St. Denis, the "vicars of Christ"? Will anyone who knows all this dare to become the minister of God without a Divine call?

To think of exercising royal authority is, according to St. Peter Chrysologus, criminal in a subject. To intrude into the house of a private individual, in order to dispose of his goods and to manage his business, would be considered temerity; for even a private individual has the right of appointing the administrators of his affairs. And will you, says St. Bernard, without being called or introduced by God, intrude into His house to take charge of His interests and to dispose of His goods?

The Council of Trent has declared that the Church regards not as her minister, but as a robber, the man who audaciously assumes the priesthood without a vocation. Such priests may labor and toil, but their labors shall profit them little before God. On the contrary, the works that are meritorious in others shall deserve chastisement for them. Should a servant who is commanded by his master to take care of the house, through his own caprice labor in cultivating the vineyard, he may toil and sweat, but instead of being rewarded he shall be chastised by his master. Thus, in the first place, because they are not conformable to the Divine will, the Lord shall not accept the toils of the man who, without a vocation, intrudes himself into the priesthood. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will not receive a gift of your hand. [Mal. 1:10] In the end God will not reward, but will punish the works of the priest who has entered the sanctuary without a vocation. What stranger soever cometh to it (the tabernacle) shall be slain. [Num. 1:51]

Whosoever, then, aspires to holy Orders must, in the first place, carefully examine whether his vocation is from God. "For," says St. John Chrysostom, "since this dignity is great, it must be approved by a Divine sentence, so that only the one that is worthy may be admitted thereto." Now to know whether his call is from God, he should examine the marks of a Divine vocation. He, says St. Luke, who wishes to build a tower first computes the necessary expenses, in order to know if he has the means of completing the edifice. [Luke 14:28]

2
Marks of a Divine Vocation to the Sacerdotal State

Let us now see what are the marks of a Divine vocation to the sacerdotal state.

Nobility is not a mark of a Divine vocation. To know, says St. Jerome, whether a person should become the guide of the people in what regards their eternal salvation, we must consider not nobility of blood, but sanctity of life. St. Gregory says the same: "By one's conduct, not by one's high birth, is one's vocation to be proved."

Nor is the will of parents a mark of a Divine vocation. In inducing a child to take priesthood they seek not his spiritual welfare, but their own interest, and the advancement of the family. "How many mothers," says St. John Chrysostom, or the author of the Imperfect Work, "have eyes only for the bodies of their children and disdain their souls! To see them happy here below is all that they desire; as for the punishments that perhaps their children are to endure in the next life, they do not even think of them." We must be persuaded, as Jesus Christ has said, that with regard to the choice of a state of life we have no enemies more dangerous than our own relatives. And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household. [Matt. 10:36] Hence the Redeemer adds: He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.
[Matt. 10:37] Oh! how many priests shall we see condemned on the day of judgment for having taken holy Orders to please their relatives.

When a young man, in obedience to the call of God, wishes to become a religious, what efforts do not his parents make, either through passion or for the interest of the family, to dissuade him from following his vocation! It is necessary to know that, according to the common opinion of theologians, this cannot be excused from mortal sin. See what I have written on this subject in my Moral Theology. Parents who act in this manner are guilty of a double sin. They sin first against charity, because they are the cause of a grievous evil to the child whom God has called to religion. A person who dissuades even a stranger from following a religious vocation is guilty of a grievous sin. They sin, secondly, against piety; for by their obligation to educate a child they are bound to promote his greater spiritual welfare. Some ignorant confessors tell their penitents who wish to become religious, that in this they should obey their parents, and abandon their vocation if their parents object to their entering religion. These confessors adopt the opinion of Luther, who taught that a person sins by entering religion without the consent of his parents. But the doctrine of Luther was rejected by the holy Fathers, and by the Tenth Council of Toledo, in which it was decreed that children who had attained their fourteenth year may lawfully enter religion even against the will of their parents. A child is bound to obey his parents in what regards his education and the government of the house; but with regard to the choice of a state of life, he should obey God by embracing the state to which God calls him. When parents seek to be obeyed in this matter we must answer them in the words of the Apostles to the princes of the Jews: If it be just in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, judge ye. [Acts 4:19]

St. Thomas expressly teaches that in the choice of a state of life children are not obliged to obey their parents. And the Saint says that when there is question of a vocation to religion, a person is not bound even to consult his relatives; for on such occasions self-interest changes relatives into enemies.
[Contra retr. a. rel. c. 9]

 Parents are, as St. Bernard says, content to see their children damned with them, rather than see them saved by entering religion and separating from the family." But when a person wishes to enter the sacerdotal state, in which he may be able to serve the family, what efforts do not his parents make to procure his ordination, either by lawful or unlawful means, whether he is called or not called to the priesthood! And with what severity do they not treat him if, through remorse of conscience, he refuse to take holy orders!

 Barbarous fathers! Let us, with St. Bernard, call them not parents, but murderers! Unhappy fathers! miserable children! I say again. How many shall we see condemned in the valley of Josaphat for having interfered with the vocation of others, or for not having attended to their own! For, as we shall hereafter demonstrate, the salvation of each individual depends on following the Divine call.

But let us return to our subject. Neither nobility of birth nor the will of parents are marks of a vocation to the priesthood; nor is talent or fitness for the offices of a priest a sign of vocation, for along with talent a holy life and a Divine call are necessary.

What, then, are the marks of a Divine vocation to the ecclesiastical state? There are three principal marks:

1. PURITY OF INTENTION

The first is a good intention. It is necessary to enter the sanctuary by the door, but there is no other door than Jesus Christ: I am the door of the sheep.  . . . If any man enter in, he shall be saved. [John 10:7] To enter, then, by the door is to become a priest not to please relatives, nor to advance the family, nor for the sake of self-interest or self-esteem, but to serve God, to propagate His glory, and to save souls. "If anyone," says a wise theologian, the learned continuator of Tournely, "presents himself for holy Orders without any vicious affection, and with the sole desire to be employed in the service of God and in the salvation of his neighbor, he, we may believe, is called by God." Another author asserts that he who is impelled by ambition, interest, or a motive of his own glory, is called not by God, but by the devil. "But," adds St. Anselm, "he who enters the priesthood through so unworthy motives shall receive not a blessing but a malediction from God."

2. SCIENCE AND TALENTS

The second mark is the talent and learning necessary for the fulfillment of the duties of a priest. Priests must be masters to teach the people the law of God. For the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth. [Mal. 2:7] Sidonius Apollinarius used to say: " Ignorant physicians are the cause of many deaths."

An ignorant priest, particularly a confessor, who teaches false doctrines and gives bad counsels will be the ruin of many souls; because, in consequence of being a priest, his errors are easily believed. Hence Ivone Carnotensis has written: "No one should be admitted to holy Orders unless he has given sufficient proofs of good conduct and learning."

A priest must not only have a competent knowledge of all the rubrics necessary for the celebration of Mass, but must be also acquainted with the principal things that regard the Sacrament of Penance. It is true, as we have said in the preceding chapter of this work, that every priest is not obliged to hear confessions, unless there is great necessity for his assistance in the district in which he lives; however, every priest is bound to be acquainted with what a priest must ordinarily know in order to be able to hear the confessions of dying persons; that is, he is bound to know when he has faculties to absolve, when and how he ought to give absolution to the sick, whether conditionally or absolutely; what obligatiun he ought to impose on them, if they are under any censure. He should also know at least the general principles of Moral Theology.

3. POSITIVE GOODNESS OF CHARACTER

The third mark of an ecclesiastical vocation is positive virtue.

Hence, in the first place, the person who is to be ordained should be a man of innocent life, and should not be contaminated by sins. The Apostle requires that they who are to be ordained priests should be free from every crime. In ancient times a person who had committed a single mortal sin could never be ordained, as we learn from the First Council of Nice. [Canon 9] And St. Jerome says that it was not enough for a person to be free from sin at the time of his ordination, but that it was, moreover, necessary that he should not have fallen into mortal sin since the time of his Baptism. It is true that this rigorous discipline has ceased in the Church, but it has been always at least required that he who had fallen into grievous sins should purify his conscience for a considerable time before his ordination. This we may infer from a letter to the Archbishop of Rheims, in which Alexander III commanded that a deacon who had wounded another deacon, if he sincerely repented of his sin, might, after being absolved, and after performing the penance enjoined, be permitted again to exercise his Order; and that if he afterwards led a perfect life, he might be promoted to priesthood. He, then, who finds himself bound by a habit of any vice cannot take any holy Order without incurring the guilt of mortal sin. "I am horrified," says St. Bernard, "when I think whence thou comest, whither thou goest, and what a short penance thou hast put between thy sins and thy ordination. However, it is indispensable that thou do not undertake to purify the conscience of others before thou purifiest thy own." Of those daring sinners who, though full of bad habits, take priesthood, an ancient author, Gildas, says, "It is not to the priesthood that they should be admitted, but they should be dragged to the pillory." They, then, says St. Isidore, who are still subject to the habit of any sin should not be promoted to holy Orders.

But he who intends to ascend the altar must not only be free from sin, but must have also begun to walk in the path of perfection, and have acquired a habit of virtue. In our Moral Theology we have shown in a distinct dissertation (and this is the common opinion) that if a person in the habit of any vice wish to be ordained, it is not enough for him to have the dispositions necessary for the Sacrament of Penance, but that he must also have the dispositions required for receiving the Sacrament of Order; otherwise he is unfit for both: and should he receive absolution with the intention of taking Orders without the necessary dispositions, he and the confessor who absolves him shall be guilty of a grievous sin. For it is not enough for those who wish to take holy Orders to have left the state of sin: they must also, according to the words of Alexander III,  cited in the preceding paragraph, have the positive virtue necessary for the ecclesiastical state. From the words of the Pontiff we learn that a person who has done penance may exercise an order already received, but he who has only done penance cannot take a higher order. The angelic Doctor teaches the same doctrine: "Sanctity is required for the reception of holy Orders, and we must place the sublime burden of the priesthood only upon walls already dried by sanctity; that is, freed from the malignant humor of sin." [2, 2, q. 189, a. 1] This is conformable to what St. Denis wrote long before: "Let no one be so bold as to propose himself to others as their guide in the things of God, if he has not first, with all his power, transformed himself into God to the point of perfect resemblance to Him.'" For this St. Thomas adduces two reasons: the first is, that as he who takes orders is raised above seculars in dignity, so he should be superior to them in sanctity. [Suppl. q. 35, a. 1] The second reason is, that by his ordination a priest is appointed to exercise the most sublime ministry on the altar, for which greater sanctity is required than for the religious state.
[2, 2, q. 184, a. 8]

Hence the Apostle forbade Timothy to ordain neophytes; that is, according to St. Thomas, neophytes in perfection as well as neophytes in age. Hence the Council of Trent, in reference to the words of Scripture, And a spotless life in old age, [Wisd. 4:9] prescribes to the bishops to admit to ordination only those who show themselves worthy by a conduct full of wise maturity. [Sess. 23, cap. 12] And of this positive virtue it is necessary, according to St. Thomas, to have not a doubtful but a certain knowledge. [Suppl. q. 36, a. 4] This, according to St. Gregory, is particularly necessary with regard to the virtue of chastity: "No one should be admitted to the ministry of the altar unless an assurance has been given of his perfect chastity." With regard to chastity, the holy Pontiff required a proof of many years.

From this we may infer that God will demand a terrible account of the parish priest who gives to persons aspiring to the priesthood a testimony of their having frequented the Sacraments, and led exemplary lives, though they had neglected the frequentation of the Sacraments, and had given scandal rather than good example. Such parish priests by these false attestations, given not through charity, as they pretend, but against the charity due to God and the Church, render themselves guilty of all the sins that shall be afterwards committed by the bad priests who were ordained in consequence of these testimonials. For in this matter bishops trust to the testimony of parish priests, and are deceived. Nor should a parish priest in giving such attestations trust the testimony of others: he cannot give them unless he is certain that what he attests is true, namely, that the ecclesiastic has really led an exemplary life, and has frequented the Sacraments. And as a bishop cannot ordain any person unless he be a man of approved chastity, so a confessor cannot permit an incontinent penitent to receive ordination without having a moral certainty that he is free from the bad habit which he had contracted, and that he had acquired a habit of the virtue of chastity.

3
To what Dangers one Exposes One's Self by taking
Holy Orders without a Vocation

From what has been said, it follows that he who takes holy Orders without the marks of a vocation cannot be excused from the guilt of grievous sin. This is the doctrine of many theologians,-----of Gabert, of Natalis Alexander, of Juenin, and of the continuator of Tournely. And before them St. Augustine taught the same. Speaking of the chastisement inflicted on Core, Dathan, and Abiron, who, without being called, attempted to exercise the sacerdotal functions, the holy Doctor said: "God struck them that they might serve as an example, and thus to warn off him who would dare to assume a sacred charge. Indeed, this is the chastisement reserved for those who would thrust themselves into the office of bishop, priest, or deacon." [Serm. 30, E. B. app.]  And the reason is, first, because he who thrusts himself into the sanctuary without a Divine call cannot be excused from grievous presumption; secondly, because he shall be deprived of the congruous and abundant helps, without which, as Habert writes, he shall be absolutely unable to comply with the obligations of his state, but shall fulfill them only with great difficulty. He will be like a dislocated member, which can be used only with difficulty, and which causes deformity. [De. Ord. p. 3, c. 1, par. 2]

Hence Bishop Abelly writes: "He who of himself, without inquiring whether he has a vocation or not, thrusts himself into the priesthood will no doubt expose himself to the great danger of losing his soul; for he commits against the Holy Spirit that sin for which, as the Gospel says, there is hardly or very rarely any pardon."

The Lord has declared that his wrath is provoked against those who wish to rule in his Church without being called by Him. On this passage St. Gregory says, " It is by themselves and not by the will of the Supreme Head that they reign." Divine vocation is entirely wanting to them, and they have followed only the ardor of vile cupidity, not certainly to accept, but to usurp this sublime dignity. [Os. 7:4] How many intrigues, adulations, entreaties, and other means do certain persons employ in order to procure ordination, not in obedience to the call of God, but through earthly motives! But woe to such men, says the Lord by the prophet Isaias: Woe to you, apostate children, . . . that you would take counsel, and not of me. [Is. 30:1] On the day of judgment they shall claim a reward, but Jesus Christ shall cast them off. Many shall say to Me in that day, have we not prophesied in Thy name (by preaching and teaching), and cast out devils in Thy name (by absolving penitent sinners), and done many miracles in Thy name (by correcting the wicked, by settling disputes, by converting sinners). And then shall I profess unto them: I never knew you . . . depart from Me, you that work iniquity. [Matt. 7:22] Priests who have not been called are indeed workmen and ministers of God, because they have received the sacerdotal character; but they are ministers of iniquity and rapine, because they have of their own will, and without vocation, intruded themselves into the sheepfold. They have not, as St. Bernard says, received the keys, but have taken them by force. They toil, but God will not accept; He will, on the contrary, punish their works and labors, because they have not entered the sanctuary by the straight path. The labor of fools shall afflict them that know not how to go to the city. [Eccles. 10:15] The Church, says St. Leo, receives only those whom the Lord chooses, and by His election makes fit to be His ministers. But, on the other hand, the Church rejects those whom, as St. Peter Damian has written, God has not called; for instead of promoting her welfare, they commit havoc among her members; and instead of edifying, they contaminate and destroy her children.

Whom He (the Lord) shall choose, they shalt approach to Him. God will gladly admit into His presence all whom He has called to the priesthood, and will cast off the priest whom He has not chosen. St. Ephrem regards as lost the man who is so daring as to take the order of priesthood without . . . a vocation. "I am astonished," he says, "at that which those fools dare to do, who, without the grace of vocation through Christ, full of boldness, seek to insinuate themselves into the office of the priesthood. Miserable beings, that know not that they are preparing for themselves an eternal fire." And Peter de Blois has written: "What ruin does not the bold man prepare for himself who of the sacrifice makes a sacrilege, and of life an instrument of death!"  He who errs in his vocation exposes himself to greater danger than if he transgressed particular precepts; for if he violates a particular command, he may rise from his fall, and begin again to walk in the right path, but he who errs in his vocation mistakes the way itself. Hence the longer he travels in it, the more distant he is from his home. To him we may justly apply the words of St. Augustine: "You run well, but on the wrong road."

It is necessary to be persuaded of the truth of what St. Gregory says, that our eternal salvation depends principally on embracing the state to which God has called us. The reason is evident: for it is God that destines, according to the order of His Providence, His state of life for each individual, and according to the state to which He calls him, prepares for him abundant graces and suitable helps. "In the distribution of graces," says St. Cyprian, "the Holy Spirit takes into consideration His Own plan and not our caprices." And according to the Apostle: And whom He predestinated, them He also called. And whom He called, them He also justified." [Rom. 8:30]

Thus to vocation succeeds justification, and to justification, glory; that is, the attainment of eternal life. He, then, who does not obey the call of God shall neither be justified nor glorified. Father Granada justly said that vocation is the main wheel of our entire life. As in a clock, if the main wheel be spoiled the entire clock is injured, so, says St. Gregory Nazianzen, if a person err in his vocation his whole life will be full of errors; for in the state to which God has not called him he will be deprived of the helps by which he can with facility lead a good life.

Every one, says St. Paul, hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that. [1 Cor. 7:7] The meaning of this passage, according to St. Thomas and other commentators, is, that the Lord gives to each one graces to fulfill with ease the obligations of the state to which he calls him. "God," says the angelic Doctor, "gives to every man not only certain aptitudes, but also all that is necessary to exercise them." [Suppl. q 35, a. 1] And in another place he writes: "God does not destine men to such or such a vocation without favoring them with gifts at the same time, and preparing them in such a way as to render them capable of fulfilling the duties of their vocation; for, says St. Paul: Our sufficiency is from God, Who also hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament. [(2 Cor. 3:5) P. 3, q. 27. a. 4] As each person, then, will be able to discharge with facility the office to which God elects him, so he will be unfit for the fulfillment of the office to which God does not call him. The foot, which is given to enable us to walk, cannot see; the eye, which is given to see, is incapable of hearing; and how shall he who is not chosen by God to the priesthood be able to discharge its obligations?

It belongs to the Lord to choose the workmen who are to cultivate His vineyard: I have chosen you, . . . and have appointed you that you should go, and should bring forth fruit. [John 15:16] Hence the Redeemer did not say, Beg of men to go and gather the harvest; but he tells us to ask the master of the crop to send workmen to collect it. [Luke 10:2] Hence he also said: As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you. [John 20:21] When God calls, He Himself, says St. Leo, gives the necessary helps. This is what Jesus Christ has said: I am the door. By Me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and he shall go in, and go out, and shall find pastures. [John 10:9] He shall go in: what the priest called by God undertakes, he shall easily accomplish without sin, and with merit. And shall go out: he shall be in the midst of perils and occasions of sin, but with the Divine aid he shall readily escape injury. And shall find pastures: finally, in consequence of being in the state in which God has placed him, he will be assisted in all the duties of his ministry by special graces, which will make him advance in perfection. Hence he will be able to say with confidence, The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing. He hath set me in a place of pasture. [Ps. 22:1]

But priests whom God has not sent to work in His Church He shall abandon to eternal ignominy and destruction. I did not send prophets, says the Lord by the prophet Jeremiah, yet they ran. He afterwards adds: Therefore I will take you away, carrying you, and will forsake you . . . and I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame which shall never be forgotten. [Jer. 23:21-39]

In order to be raised to the sublimity of the priesthood, it is necessary, as St. Thomas says, for a man "to be exalted and elevated by Divine power above the natural order of things," [Habert, de Ord. p. 3. c. I, § 2]  because he is appointed the sanctifier of the people, and the vicar of Jesus Christ. But in him who raises himself to so great a dignity shall be verified the words of the Wise Man: There is that hath appeared a fool after he was lifted up on high. [Prov. 30:32] Had he remained in the world, he should perhaps have been a virtuous layman; but having become a priest without a vocation, he will be a bad priest, and instead of promoting the interest of religion, he will do great injury to the Church. Of such priests the Roman Catechism says: "Such ministers are for the Church of God the gravest embarrassment and the most terrible scourge." [P. 2, c. 7, q. 3]  And what good can be expected from the priest who has entered the sanctuary without a vocation?  "It is impossible," says St. Leo, "that a work so badly begun should finish well." St. Laurence Justinian has written: "What fruit, I ask, can come from a corrupted root?" Our Saviour has said, Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. [Matt. 15:13] Hence Peter de Blois writes that when God permits a person to be ordained without a vocation, the permission is not a grace, but a chastisement. For a tree which has not taken deep root, when exposed to the tempest shall soon fall and be cast into the fire. And St. Bernard says that he who has not lawfully entered the sanctuary shall continue to be unfaithful; and instead of procuring the salvation of souls, he shall be the cause of their death and perdition. This is conformable to the doctrine of Jesus Christ: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, . . . the same is a thief and a robber. [John 10: 1-10]

Some may say, if they only were admitted to orders who have the marks of vocation which have been laid down as indispensable, there should be but few priests in the Church, and the people should be left without the necessary helps. But to this the Fourth Council of Lateran has answered: "It is much better to confer the priesthood on a small number of virtuous clerics than to have a large number of bad priests." [Cap. 27] And St. Thomas says that God never abandons His Church so as to leave her in want of fit ministers to provide for the necessity of the people." [Suppl. q. 36, a. 4] St. Leo justly says that to provide for the wants of the people by bad priests would be not to save but to destroy them.

If, then, a priest has been ordained without a vocation, what must he do? Must he look on himself as lost? must he abandon himself to despair? No, St. Gregory has asked the same question. He answers: "He must lament." Behold what such a priest must do if he wish to save his soul: "He must lament." He must weep, and seek to appease the anger of God by tears and by repentance, and to move him to pardon the great sin that he committed in thrusting himself into the sanctuary without a Divine call, He must, as St. Bernard exhorts, endeavor to attain after his ordination the sanctity of life which ought to precede it. He must change his conduct, his conversation and pursuits. "Let all be holy-----your life and your works," continues the Saint. If he is ignorant, he must study; if he has spent his time in worldly conversations and amusements, he must change them into meditations, spiritual reading, and visits to the churches. But to do this he must use violence to himself; for, as has been already said, since he has entered the sanctuary without a vocation, he is but a dislocated member, and therefore he must work  out his salvation with great difficulty and great labor. But if in consequence of having become a priest without a Divine call, he is, as has been shown, bereft of the helps necessary to enable him to discharge with facility the obligations of the priesthood, how shall he without these helps fulfill the sacerdotal duties? Habert, and the continuator of Tournely, say, let him pray, and by his prayers he shall obtain that assistance which he does not deserve. This is conformable to the doctrine of the Council of Trent: "God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou art able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able." [Sess. 6, cap. 11]



Priests for Tomorrow - Part 1