Rorate Caeli

Saint Pius X Centennial: The Church Addresses Clerics through the Solemn Words of the Liturgy

August 5, 2014: Mass following Priestly Ordination of the Institute of Christ the King, Saint Louis, Missouri

When the Church gradually and at long intervals promotes candidates to Orders, like a watchful parent she never fails to exhort them to sanctity.

It is a source of joy to recall her words on these occasions.

When we were first enrolled in the army of the Church, she sought from us the formal declaration: The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me. St. Jerome tells us that with these words "the cleric is reminded that one who is the portion of the Lord, or who has the Lord as his portion, must show himself to be such a one as possesses the Lord and is possessed by him."

How solemnly the Church addresses those who are about to be promoted sub-deacons! "You must consider repeatedly and with all attention the office which of your own volition you seek to-day . . . if you receive this Order, you cannot afterwards revoke your decision, you must remain always in the service of God and, with his help, observe chastity." And finally: "If up to now you have been negligent in relation to the Church, henceforth you must be diligent; if hitherto you have been somnolent, henceforth you must be vigilant . . . if up to now your life has been unseemly, henceforth you must be chaste; . . . Consider the ministry which is entrusted to you!" For those who are about to be raised to the diaconate, the Church prays to God through the mouth of the bishop: "May they have in abundance the pattern of every virtue, authority that is unassuming, constancy in chastity, the purity of innocence, and the observance of spiritual discipline. May thy commands shine forth through their conduct, and may the people find a saintly model in their exemplary chastity."

The admonition addressed to those who are about to be ordained priests is even more moving:

"It is with great fear that one must approach this high dignity, and care must be taken that those chosen for it are recommended by heavenly wisdom, blameless life and sustained observance of justice . . . Let the fragrance of your life be a joy to the Church of Christ, so that by your preaching and example you may build up the house, that is, the family of God." Above all the Church stresses the solemn words: Imitate that which you handle, an injunction which fully agrees with the command of St. Paul: That we may present every man perfect in Jesus Christ.

Since this is the mind of the Church on the life of a priest, one cannot be surprised at the complete unanimity of the Fathers and Doctors on this matter; it might indeed be thought that they are guilty of exaggeration, but a careful examination will lead to the conclusion that they taught nothing that was not entirely true and correct. Their teaching can be summarized thus: there should be as much difference between the priest and any other upright man as there is between heaven and earth; consequently, the priest must see to it that his life is free not merely from grave faults but even from the slightest faults. The Council of Trent made the teaching of these venerable men its own when it warned clerics to avoid" even venial faults which in their case would be very grave."These faults are grave, not in themselves, but in relation to the one who commits them; for to him, even more than to the sacred edifice, are applicable the words: Holiness becometh thy house.
Saint Pius X
Exhortation Haerent Animo
August 4, 1908

[For more images of the Institute of Christ the King's Priestly Ordination ceremony, click here. They were covered by the secular media as well, cf. St Louis Post-Dispatch. Saint Louis Catholic had several items on the Ordinations in the past few days, visit them (in our sidebar).]