Catholic Priest: Lover of Souls
The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood by Mother Louise Margaret Claret de la Touche
Catholic Priest: Created for Souls
Love for souls reigns in the heart of the priest, as in the Heart of Jesus, for these two hearts, united in the same loves, henceforth form but one. Before all, the priest loves souls because his Master has loved them. He is willing to sacrifice himself for them because Jesus offered Himself in sacrifice for their salvation. The need which he has to imitate his adorable Model in everything urges him with irresistible force towards these souls, so ardently loved by Jesus.
Other motives also urge him to cherish them: he has been created by Love, he has been created for souls. God is Love: all that goes out from Him is Love, all the beings which He has created are creations of love. But most particularly the priest is a creation of love. God has so loved souls, that He gives them His only Son; the Word has so loved them, that He became, incarnate and offered Himself up in sacrifice for them! And when Jesus, in obedience to the will of His Father, ascended to His glory, God, in His love, created the priest for souls, in order that there might be always other Jesus Christs with them, to instruct them, console them, absolve them and love them.
The reason why the priest should love souls so much is that he is what he is, the privileged one of God, another Jesus, only for them, and on account of them. The priest has been given to souls and souls are given to the priest. From this double donation there should result in the heart of the priest a devotedness, a zeal, a tenderness which approach the infinite. It is the creature of God that he loves in souls; the object of the passionate love of His Master, the special gift of divine love. Souls are the reason these graces exist, the favors and the privileges which have been granted to him; they are the cause of his greatness!
Souls belong to God, and the priest belongs to souls. To them, then, belong his labors, his sweat, his tears and his blood. To them belong the labors of his intellect, the determination of his will; to them belong his words, his thoughts, the activity of his life ; to them belong the first bursts of the enthusiasm of his youth, the virile works of his manhood, the last works and the last efforts of his old age.
Jesus has loved souls, and He has proved His love by suffering for them and by uniting Himself to them even to making Himself their nourishment. The priest of Jesus follows the example of His divine Master, he enters into His loving dispositions, he shares His sentiments. He suffers for souls, and sometimes very painfully, but in the anguish of spiritual childbirth, he rejoices, for he knows that it is by suffering thus he gives new children to God. He unites himself to them by giving himself entirely, by living only for them, by making everything in him serve for their good, for their salvation.
This eternal salvation of souls is the great, the only thought of the priest; the conquest of a single one to the love of Jesus is his greatest joy. With his eyes fixed on God, he goes ever forward in his sublime conquests. This holy passion for souls dominates him to such a point that he forgets himself completely. His happiness, his sovereign consolation, is to be able to lay at the feet of his adorable Master the fruit of his labors, the love-trophies of his victories. To open the bosom of Mercy to a sinner; to wash away from these images of God the defilement which sullies them, and by incessant toil, by successive touches to remake the divine resemblance; to see masterpieces of sanctity being formed under his hands — these are the sacred joys, this is the divine intoxication which love for souls has in store for the priest of Jesus!
Respect for the Priest
Bossuet says somewhere, when speaking of the Blessed Virgin: “Mary is Christ commenced. ” The priest is Christ continued. His life is, as it were, a prolongation of the earthly life of Jesus across the centuries. His word is not an echo more or less sonorous of the word of the Master; it is the very word of Jesus ringing through the voice of the priest, for has not our divine Savior said to His priests: “He that hears you hears Me” (Luke X, 16)?
If such be the case, if the priest is another Christ, with what respect should he not be surrounded? He still finds this respect, this honor due to his character in those who have kept a right conscience and an appreciation of great things. But he often suffers insults, and it is for him an honor and a joy to be in that conformable to his divine Master.
But does the priest always respect himself sufficiently? Has he an adequate idea of his dignity, and of his greatness? Does he know what adoration and thanksgiving he owes to God, what love and intimacy he owes to Jesus Christ, and what edification and devotedness he owes to his brethren? It is the ardent desire of Jesus Christ to see his priests, penetrated with the sublimity of their character, and, at the same time, with the consciousness of their own weakness, come to His Sacred Heart and receive from that divine furnace both the light which illuminates and the warmth which vivifies.
Go then, priest of Jesus, to the fountains of the Savior. Go and press your lips to this wound of love, this living fountain from which the Blood of your chalices issues forth. Go to this hearth of Infinite Love, fill your hearts, fill your breasts with its fire, fill yourselves with love and diffuse it all over the world. Jesus has brought fire on the earth; His desire is that it be enkindled and that it burn (Luke XII, 49), and it is for you, priests of Jesus Christ, to fan these divine flames and to inflame the world with love.