Spirituality is relationship with God and neighbors.
Pope Benedict XVI declared June 2009-June 2010 “Jubilee Year for Priests”. Year 2009 is St. John Mary Vianney’s 150th death anniversary. Pius XI declared St. John Vianney “Patron of the Universal Clergy”. St. John, Parish Priest of Ars (near Lyons, France) exclaimed” “O how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office until he is in heaven”.
I. BIBLICAL BACKGROUND OF THE CATHOLIC PRIESTHOOD
A. The Old Testament Background
Patriarchs performed priestly function of offering sacrifice (Gen. 22:2, 31:54).
Later on priests were taken from the tribe of Levi. They were educated and trained by the tribe. They must be holy because God is holy (Lev. 19:2) and they handled things that belong to God.
One must be installed in the priestly office. This installation involves the “filling of the hands” (Ex. 32:9). This gesture meant priests will receive revenue from the people.
Deuteronomy 33:8-10 describes three basic functions of the Israelite priesthood: 1) disclosing and proclaiming God’s will to the people (gradually taken over by prophets); 2) teaching the law of God (Scribes took over this teaching function); and 3) offering sacrifice (the only priestly function retained).
B. The New Testament Background
1. The New Testament Antecedents of the Priestly Ministry
a) Charismatic Antecedents (Roles defined by charism/vocation).
(1) The Disciples
“Discipulus” means student. Christian discipleship involves patterning oneself on Christ. Disciples left everything to follow Christ (poverty); renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom (chastity/celibacy) and imitated Christ, obedient unto death (obedience). The NT picture of the disciple has greatly influenced the spirituality of the priesthood. The key note of discipleship is the close
following of Jesus.
2. The Apostles
Apostleship is a post-resurrection concept. The Twelve Disciples became the Twelve Apostles after Jesus sent them: “as the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jh. 20:21). Keynote is service, primarily service to Jesus by representing him. Christ is the origin and goal of apostolic service.
Forms of apostolic service: (1) service of ordinary work; (2) of collecting money;(3) Prayer-Liturgy; (4) suffering; (5) correcting.
b) Institutional Antecedents (Roles are defined by organizational demands)
While the apostle is a missionary figure, founding communities and being itinerant, the presbyter-bishop is a residential figure. He is responsible for the communities founded by the apostles.
Traits necessary for the ministry of administration (institutional) are enumerated in Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9: they must be above reproach, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, gentle and not quarrelsome.
The presbyter-bishop is responsible for maintaining unity and stability.
(2) Eucharistic President
This is the NT role that caused Christian ministry to be understood precisely as priesthood.
In the 2nd century, the role of presbyter-bishop was fused with that of the Eucharistic president.
II. THE ICONIC (IMAGE-LIKE) CHARACTER OF THE MINISTERIAL PRIESTHOOD
The Christian priesthood is of a sacramental nature. The priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease.
St. Thomas: “SACRAMENTAL SIGNS REPRESENT WHAT THEY SIGNIFY BY NATURAL RESEMBLANCE”.
The sacramental character of the priesthood means that there ought to be a RESEMBLANCE between the POOR, CHASTE and OBEDIENT CHRIST and the priest who acts in his person.
Priestly spirituality is, therefore, IMAGING Christ who is poor, chaste and obedient.
1. Fr. Gerald Francisco Timoner III, OP gave this talk on “Priestly Spirituality during the Clergy’s recollection, August 3-4, 2009, Durian Resort, Polomolok, South Cotabato.
2. Fr. Gerald was born on January 26, 1968 in Daet, Camarines Norte. Ordained priest on May 14, 1995. S.T.L. Nijmegan, The Netherlands. At present, Rector, UST Central Seminary, Manila.
3. Some 60 priests: Diocesan, Passionists and Redemptorists attended.
4. Fr. Antonio Chua was elected Vicar Forane, Koronadal Valley Area Vicariate, by priests in the Vicariate and confirmed immediately by the Bishop.
5. Thanks to Fr. Gerald and Fr. Bien Trinilla, OP, Prior of Sto. Domingo, Manila, Coordinator of resource persons for the clergy’s monthly recollection.