--As Never Before
Archbishop Of Liverpool On Ecclesiastical Education
The Archbishop of Liverpool, Mgr. Richard Downey, in a Lenten Pastoral letter to his Archdiocese, appeals on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Education Fund, " in one sense the most important of all our funds, since without it it would be impossible for us to maintain a supply of priests adequate for the needs of this great archdiocese."
" The world needs priests today possibly as never before," the Pastoral reads, " priests who are prepared to face obloquy, persecution and even death in the fulfilment of their sublime vocation. Wherever in the world the forces of disruption arc rampant the priests of God are at once assailed with insensate fury."
We have read of the martyrdom to which they have been subjected in Bolshevist Russia, of the outrages inflicted on them by the anti-God government of Mexico and of the sacrilegous atrocities perpetrated by the Reds in Spain, Christ Himself had foretold this when He admonished His apostles: You shall be hated by all men for My name's sake.
Between the Church and the World
For between the world and its principles and the Church and its principles there is a natural, necessary and inevitable opposition. Not for nothing is the world symbolised by a globe and the Church by a cross. These very symbols are antagonistic. The globe is self-contained, self-sufficient, self-complete, whilst the cross is the symbol of endless expansion in every direction. The globe is smooth, the cross is rugged; the globe stands for the pleasures of the world. the cross for its sorrows; and it must needs he that the things which they symbolise come into conflict.
Wherever the Church is active and vigorous it is regarded as a challenge by those who are of the earth earthly, who have no vision beyond the immediate future, whose outlook is bounded by matter.
Priests are needed urgently today to recall men to a sense of spiritual values, to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind, " for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved."
Yet at the moment we have before us the sad spectacle of the rulers of nations either deliberately turning the thoughts of the people away from Christ or tacitly ignoring Him in their conduct of affairs. The resulting world-chaos is hardly .sur ,„prising: it has been brought about by rival powers aiming at self-sufficiency, self-aggrandisement and self-glorification in defiance of the teaching of Christ.
On three different occasions even the apostles disputed amongst themselves as to who was the greatest among them. On the first occasion Our Lord told them that unless they became as little children they would have no part in His Kingdom. On the second occasion when the wife of Zebedee asked, motherlike, that her two sons should sit one on the right hand, and one on the left hand of Christ in His Kingdom, He replied that if they were to be with Him at all they must first drink of the cup of His suffering. Finally, on the third occasion, He had to tell them bluntly: " I am in the midst of you as he that serveth," • before they grasped His meaning.
Service, Not Aggrandisement
Service, not aggrandisement, is the badge of all our tribe. As followers of Christ we are all called to service, the service of man for God's sake and the service of God for His own sake.
But the priest is called to service in a very special manner. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God. says St. Paul. It is his office, according to the Council of Trent, to feed the flock by word and by example in every kind of good works, to offer and to administer worthily the sacrifice and the sacraments, and to be devoted to corporal and spiritual works of mercy. He is to illumine their souls and to preserve the fragrance of their sanctity.
But if the light is burning low it gives only faint guidance,. and that which is itself infected contributes tittle to soundness. The priest who is wanting in the perfection of life required by his exalted office is indeed as a light that has failed or as salt that has lost its savour. and in the terrible words of his Divine Master, is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.
The Priestly Office
The whole doctrine of the sacerdotal obligation to spiritual perfection is epitomised by St. John Chrysostom in a single sentence when he says that the hand which consecrates the Body of Our Lord ought to be purer than the solar light. The prime function of the priest is to offer sacrifice, the sacrifice of the altar which is one and the same with that of the cross, the sacrifice of the Mass, the clean oblation of which we read in the liturgy of the Church " as often as the remembrance of this victim is celebrated, so often is the work of our redemption carried on " (Dom notes post Pentecosten).
The priest fulfils his office not in his own name but in the name of Jesus Christ. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that, according to the admonition addressed to the priest in the ordination service, he offers sacrifice and praise to God, blesses and governs the people, preaches or administers the sacraments. " Let a man so account of us," says St. Paul, " as if the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God."
Obviously for a priest to be worthy of his high vocation a long and arduous course of training is necessary. His lips must keep knowledge. He must be equipped adequately to deal with the difficulties which may present themselves to those entrusted to his spiritual charge and with the objections urged against the Faith by its enemies. He must he well versed in the sacred sciences, in ecclesiastical history, in holy scripture, in philosophy and theology. Furthermore he must be disciplined in mind and temper, and above all thoroughly grounded in sanctity.
For these reasons it is the desire of the Church that the aspirant to the priesthood shall enter the seminary at a tender age so that he may be moulded gradually in the course of his boyhood. youth and manhood to the perfect pattern of the shepherd of the flock.