October 30, 2009

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Appreciate your common priesthood in the Year for Priests

Sean GallagherDid you ever think about how when you are changing your baby’s diaper, raking leaves, working on a factory floor or preparing a legal brief that you could, in these and all the ordinary circumstances of life, be acting like a priest?

If not, then you might not be aware of an ancient teaching of the Church renewed at the Second Vatican Council.

Believe it or not, all Catholics are priests.

We read in the First Letter of St. Peter that all the members of the Church together are “a holy priesthood [who] offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5).

It was commonplace before the Council for parents to tell their children to “offer up” the hardships that they experienced from day to day.

What they were essentially suggesting their children do was to offer their trials up like a priest renews the one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary at every celebration of the Mass.

The bishops at the Second Vatican Council reflected on how ordained priests and the common priesthood of all the faithful are rooted in the one priesthood of Christ. They did this rather eloquently in “Lumen Gentium” (“Light of the Nations”), the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:

“For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ ” (#34, quoting 2 Pt 2:5).

Think of the way your ordinary daily life at home with family or your relationships with co-workers could be transfigured by God’s grace if you consciously live out the profound spirituality expressed in this short quotation.

Not only would this be a blessing to you, but it could be a way for God to shower down blessings on others.

For when you “offer up” whatever task you might be doing, you offer it up for someone else or some worthy intention.

When you change your baby’s diaper, you can offer that up so that God might bless your baby.

With this priestly perspective on your life of faith in your heart and mind, you’ll be more easily and fruitfully able to connect the ordinary duties of your daily life to the worship you give to God at Mass.

The bishops at Vatican II spoke about this also: “Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they [all the tasks mentioned above] are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist” (#34).

This brings the common priesthood of all the faithful close to the ordained priesthood of the priests who are the celebrants at Mass.

Although the ordained priesthood is fundamentally different than the common priesthood, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that it is “at the service of the common priesthood” and “is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians” (#1547).

In this Year for Priests, we lay Catholics might fulfill Pope Benedict XVI’s wish that all the faithful pray for our ordained priests and by living out more consciously our common priesthood, offering up tasks in our everyday life as spiritual sacrifices for them. †

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