To a newly-ordained priest PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 10:54

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

I always get very moved every time I attend a priestly ordination. I can’t help but pray hard for the new priest. With eyes of faith, I see in that event a radical, miraculous transformation of a man, usually young, from an ordinary person—yes, already an “alter Christus” with his baptism—to another kind of being “alter Christus,” different from the previous one not only in degree but rather in essence, for this time, he is conformed to Christ as head of the Church.

And I can’t help but wonder how that tremendous gift, which bestows on the recipient an equally tremendous dignity and responsibility, would sit on him, what with all his frailties. We cannot deny that for all our intelligence, talents, and other natural assets, we all have our weaknesses, not to mention, our sins and other unmentionables.

It’s true that when one gets ordained, he already has undergone many years of formation. He has been tested and is considered by some standards worthy to receive the sacrament, whose effectiveness is not so much due to one’s qualities as to what in theology is referred to as “ex opera operato,” by the mere fact that it was given.

But that’s no guarantee that he will be a priest as he should, a priest through and through, and not some priestly caricature. Many things can spoil that gift. The devil and our weakened flesh get more challenged, in fact, and can go more vicious when one becomes a priest.

But there’s always hope. And there are means in abundance to address whatever difficulties and predicaments a priest can have. The first one is prayer. I strongly advise a young priest to solidify his life of prayer.

This will keep his spiritual life healthy and vibrant, able to cope with all the tasks he has to carry out. And that’s because prayer makes one personally in contact with God. It can make one soar to the heavens while firmly rooted on the ground also.

He also has to realize that his priestly formation never ends. In fact, as a priest, he has to feel all the more urgently the need for more earnest effort to take his formation seriously.

Ending seminary formation is actually the beginning of a more serious stage of formation, since one is not anymore taught how to fly, in a manner of speaking, but he is now obliged to fly himself.

He needs to study the doctrine very well with the aim of acquiring nothing less than the very mind of God, and the very sentiments of Christ. He has to pursue without let up the development of virtues, both human and the theological ones. He should never feel he is virtuous enough.

In this way, he can approach the ideal of being all things to all men. In season and out of season, he has to have the passion for preaching the saving word of God, and not just some smart theories and popular ideas that for all their sound and fury cannot bring us to our eternal destination. He should be clear to distinguish between

God’s word and his. The latter should only serve the former with utmost fidelity.

He has to avail of the sacraments, especially frequent confession, to make his conscience sensitive as well as strong and adaptable to the many kinds of penitents whose confessions he himself should also be most eager to hear.

He has to be most wary of certain temptations and pitfalls that usually arise at the beginning of one’s priestly life. There’s usually the desire to impress others, to make a name, to become somehow like a rock star—all vanity. And this can be aggravated because people can tend also to spoil a young lovable priest, pandering to these human weaknesses that all of us can have.

All these should be banished immediately, nipping them in the bud. Instead, one should reinforce his desire to serve, to be the last, to be stepped on like a rug, to suffer. All this will certainly identify the priest with Christ in his most redeeming moment on the cross. He should learn the art of passing unnoticed while showing the true face of Christ to the people.

He should be wary of the allure of money and of the wisdom of the world and of the flesh. The priest is not exempted from these temptations. On the contrary, he becomes a favorite target. He should be prepared to do battle with them.

He should avail of spiritual direction. He should not auto-guide himself.