Letter to an Aspiring Priest
By Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P.
I’m grateful to you for getting in touch. Many people today would no doubt think you are strange for considering the priesthood, given the cloud that hangs over the Church. Others might congratulate you for heroism. Actually, both reactions are excessive. For a Catholic young man who is fervent in his faith, it’s a normal and reasonable thing to think seriously about being a priest, and rightly so. The truth is, if you have a calling to the priesthood you should gladly embrace it, because it’s an extraordinary vocation. It’s sad that more young men don’t consider it seriously and accept the calling.
Let me begin with definitions, rather than advice. What is the priesthood, essentially? The Letter to the Hebrews and the First Letter to Timothy provide the answer. The office pertains first and foremost to Jesus himself, who is the unique “high priest” of all humanity (Heb. 7:26) and a “mediator” between God and human beings (1 Tim. 2:5). Traditionally, Christ’s priesthood is understood to operate in a twofold direction, as descending and ascending. The gifts of God descend to human beings through the unique priesthood of Christ because he is the unique source of grace and truth for the whole human race. The human community also ascends toward God first and foremost through Christ’s human obedience, reverence, and prayer, for he is the “pioneer of our faith” according to Hebrews 12:2.