The ‘Yes’ that a person makes to the call to Ministry is a ‘Yes’ to Christ. In everything he does, the priest lives out his ‘Yes’ by responding to the opportunities and challenges he encounters every day. The diocesan priest, living in the midst of the world, serves God’s people through the specific tasks entrusted to him which are to teach, to sanctify and to lead through service.
The priest teaches by preaching the Word of God, by preparing people to receive the Sacraments, by explaining the faith in schools and elsewhere, by initiating parish study groups, and by finding new ways of making Christ known to the people with whom he has contact. In his homilies he seeks to apply the message of the Gospel to people’s daily lives.
Through the celebration of the Sacraments, he sanctifies the people entrusted to his care. In Baptism, he brings new members into the family of God. In the Sacrament of Penance, he reconciles men and women to God and the Church, bringing them the forgiving and healing love of Christ.
In the Sacrament of Matrimony, the priest witnesses the commitment of man and woman, sealing and strengthening their love in the love of Christ. When health is impaired by sickness or old age, the priest administers the Anointing of the Sick, which may restore people to health but which certainly unites the sick with Christ, giving them peace and grace.
Above all, in the Holy Mass, the priest offers a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God, nourishing those gathered around the altar with the Bread of Life that they may go out and be witnesses to Christ in a world that needs Him so much.
From birth to the close of life, the priestly ministry is there to help the members of God’s family. And all the while, in his own prayer and the recitation of the Prayer of the Church, the priest offers praise, thanksgiving and intercession in the name of the whole Church. He deepens his bond with Christ, the High Priest and God our Father through the guidance of the Spirit.
The priest also lives a celibate life. This is something that many today find hard to understand. Priestly celibacy witnesses to the demands of God’s love in the world and also offers a unique kind of freedom that enables the priest to be completely at the service of God and his people.
The above seems like a lot. And I suppose it is. However the candidate for priesthood is not expected to be prepared the first day he enters the seminary. Over the time he is in the seminary he receives the training and support he needs to grow and live out his priesthood in a healthy way. Although spending a number of years in the seminary seems a lot, the seminarian is glad of the chance to grow and gain the experience he needs before ordination. He is ordained on the last day in seminary, not the first so he has an opportunity to test his vocation and see over time whether or not priesthood is for him.