Below is the translation of Pope Francis’ catechesis on the Sacraments during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on March 26. I have also included two very powerful videos on the priesthood
Dear Brothers and Sisters,.
We have already explained that the 3 Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist constitute together the mystery of “Christian initiation,” a unique and great event of grace that restores us in Christ. This is the fundamental calling that unifies all in the Church as disciples of the Lord Jesus. Then there are 2 Sacraments which constitute two specific vocations: Holy Orders and Matrimony. They make up 2 great great with which a Christian can make of his life a gift of love, on the example and in the name of Christ, and thus work together in the building of the Church.
Holy Orders, articulated in the three ranks of episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate, is the Sacrament which enables the exercise of the ministry entrusted by the Lord Jesus to the Apostles, to feed his flock, in the power of his Spirit and according to his heart. To feed Jesus’ flock not with the power of human strength or with one’s own strength, but with that of the Spirit and according to his heart, that heart of Jesus which is a heart of love. The priest, the Bishop, the deacon needs to feed the Lord’s flock with love. If he does not do it with love, it is pointless. And in this sense, the ministers that are chosen and consecrated for this service extend Jesus’ presence in time, if they do so with the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of God and with love.
A first facet. Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. They are “at the head” yes, however for Jesus it implies to put one’s authority at the service of others, as He himself revealed and taught the disciples with these words: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25 -28; Mark 10:42 -45). A Bishop who is not at the service of the community does no good. Likewise, a priest who is not at the service of the community does no good, he errs.
Another feature that stems from this sacramental union with Christ is passionate love for the Church. We think of that passage in the Letter to the Ephesians in which Saint Paul says that Christ “loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:25 -27). In virtue of Holy Orders, the minister commits his entire self to his community and loves it with all his heart: it is his family. The Bishop and the priest love the Church in their community, they love her very much. How? As Christ loves the Church. Saint Paul states the same about matrimony: the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. It is a great mystery of love; the priestly ministry and that of matrimony, two Sacraments that are the way by which persons normally go to the Lord.
A last aspect. The Apostle Paul suggests to his disciple Timothy not to neglect, but rather to revive constantly the gift that is in him. The gift that was given to him for the imposition of hands (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). When the ministry is not nourished– the ministry of the Bishop, the ministry of the priest–, with prayer, with hearing the Word of God, and with the everyday celebration of the Eucharist as well as with the frequenting of the Sacrament of Penance, one ends inevitably by forgetting the authentic significance of one’s service and the happiness that comes from profound communion with Jesus.
The Bishop who does not pray, the Bishop who does not listen to the Word of God, who does not commemorate Mass every day, who does not go routinely to Confession, and the exact same for a priest who does not do these things, in the long run lose their union with Jesus and become a mediocrity which does no good to the Church. For that reason, we need to assist Bishops and priests to pray; to listen to the Word of God, which is the day-to-day meal; to celebrate the Eucharist every day and to go to Confession routinely. This is so vital due to the fact that it concerns in fact the sanctification of the Bishops and priests.
I want to end with something that comes to mind: but what must one do to become a priest? Where is access to the priesthood sold? No. It is not sold. This is an initiative taken by the Lord. The Lord calls. He calls each one that He wishes to become a priest. Perhaps there are here some young men who have actually felt this calling their heart, the desire to become a priest, the wish to serve others in the things that come from God, the desire to spend their whole life in service to catechize, baptize, forgive, celebrate the Eucharist, look after the sick … and spend their whole life in this way. If any of you have felt this calling in his heart it is Jesus who has put it there. Take special care of this calling and pray that it will grow and bear fruit in the entire Church.