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An open letter to a friend who’s recently been ordained as a priest

ORDINATION

Philippe Lissac | Godong

Edifa - published on 08/17/20

"We deal with immense joys as well as terrible sufferings …"

During this summer, Aleteia proposes five letters that will bring you on a journey through the different stages of life. Today, we dive into the fourth of the series, written to a friend on the day he is ordained as a priest. 

Dear Friend:

“You are a priest forever” (Psalm 110). Why you? “My vocation is a gift and a mystery,” wrote St. John Paul II. Jesus called for Himself those he wants so that “they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). “We are here by the will of the people, and we shall retire only by force,” said the French revolutionary Mirabeau. While the will of the people wavers … We are priests by the will of God and the call of the Church and that gives us a force and a freedom that no one will ever be able to crush. A shepherd according to the heart of God is always free and unclassifiable. “I am a mix of anarchist and conservative, but in proportions that have yet to be determined,” said the French actor and war hero Jean Gabin. In this way, be like Gabi.

Sometimes you will hear people say that priests are “just like everybody else.” This is both true and, at the same time, deeply false. It is very true, we are perhaps more “human” than many men because we measure our weaknesses and sins in terms of the strength and sanctity of the Teacher. The standard of priesthood is so high that, at times, it is impossible not to fall short. We are also very human because we live our life on the borderline of joy and sadness, in the scope of Heaven and Earth. We enter houses to bless the sick, we baptize the children in holy water, we are the Alpha and Omega, from the babbles of the newborn to the last breath of the dying. We deal with immense joys as well as terrible sufferings and enormous secrets … We know what people hold within. 

And yet, to say that we are “like everyone else” is absolutely wrong. These are mistaken words because, in fact, each person is unique. We are not like everyone else, because we are men of God and we act in the person of Christ, draped in his authority by the measure of our obedience. The essence of our life is a hidden dimension, that of prayer, of work and of the pain we accept with love. Do not claim this “difference” as your right; rather, take it on as your duty. Go forth with Abraham “as if you could see the invisible”.

All fruitfulness has its root in inner life and, I assure you, in a secret that you already know: it is obtained also in suffering. Our own spiritual struggles, verbal attacks, hit us like incessant waves of the sea. As the Holy Curate of Ars would say, “The priesthood is the love of Jesus’ heart” that is wounded by the anguish of people. Souls are born in pain and in giving up the spirit of possessiveness. We dedicate our life to putting the seed of God into the soul and we must never keep for ourselves the lives of others. ”You have only the one Father in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). We live as Christ lives, in the freedom of total love that never falls into possessiveness. “That is the joy that fills me. He must become more important, I must become less important” (John 3:29). Brother, may your happiness remain forever!

Father Luc de Bellescize

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