•[*Updated] The previously scheduled "All School" Meeting (January 28) has been cancelled due to the lack of a speaker.
•The next soccer games are: January 23 (Tuesday), at 3:00 PM, at Lincoln Park [1535 E Broadway St, Anaheim, CA 92805]; January 25 (Thursday), at 3:30 PM, at St. Michael’s.
•The next basketball games are: January 23 (Tuesday), at 4:00 PM, at OCC [The Map Sports Facility, 12552 Western Ave, Garden Grove 92841] ; January 25 (Thursday), at 2:00 PM, at Ladera Sports Center [2 Terrace Rd, Ladera Ranch, CA 92694]
O Priest! Thou art not thyself, because thou art God; thou art not of thyself, because thou art the servant and minister of Christ; thou art not thine own, because thou art the spouse of the Church; thou art not for thyself, because thou art the mediator between God and man; thou art not from thyself, because thou art nothing. What then art thou, O Priest? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the Cross be said to thee: He saved others, himself he cannot save.
These words, so well known to every Norbertine, are for the most part the only written legacy left to us by our Holy Father St. Norbert. There has been much written about St. Norbert, but as far as things written by him, this exhortation is almost all that remains; and it is enough. One can imagine how many times that great reformer of the clergy must have repeated these words to his own sons in religion. Today they echo back to us once again traveling over eight hundred and fifty years: What then art thou, O Priest? Nothing and everything.
There is, perhaps, no other institution on earth today which is suffering such an attack, which is so full of trials and tribulations as the Catholic Priesthood. And we should not be surprised; for the devil knows quite well the proverb, Strike the shepherd and the sheep shall scatter. Take out a priest and he’ll drag hundreds, maybe even thousands of souls down with him. Or as an English poet once wrote, If a priest grow foul, in whom we should trust, no wonder that a common man should rust. Yes, the devil and the world have unleashed an all-out attack against God’s priests, because in so doing they strike at the very heart of the Church. This is to be expected and is really nothing new. And yet our priests ought not to worry. Our father St. Norbert has taught us in these few words all that we need to know.
You are nothing and everything, St. Norbert tells priests. Priests are, in a sense, nothing, sinners, called forth from the multitude of sinners, and yet called to a vocation which infinitely surpasses their own natural abilities. The work of the priesthood is done on earth, writes St. John Chrysostom, but it is ranked among heavenly ordinances. Oftentimes God will call even the most unlikely of candidates to become a priest, knowing ahead of time as He does their own shortcomings, their own nothingness. But the master violinist can take a cheap garage sale instrument and still bring forth from it the sweetest sounds. In a similar way God can take a feeble man and through his sin-stained hands produce divine wonders. But the priest, in order to serve well as God’s instrument, must first admit his own nothingness. He must approach his vocation with the greatest humility, continually begging for the grace to be a worthy instrument, to serve God faithfully, to imitate Christ the great High Priest in all things. It is only when the priest admits that he is just a man that God can use him as another Christ, an alter Christus. Yes, the priest by himself is nothing, and woe to those who think they are something.
The priest is nothing and everything. Though a sinful man of flesh and blood, through the sacrament of Holy Orders God bestows on the priest divine powers: to baptize, to preach in His Name, to anoint the sick, to forgive sins, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. What other creature on earth has ever been given such awesome powers? Powers which even the angels and the Mother of God cannot claim, powers before which the gates of hell tremble. The devil once said of St. John Vianney: Oh, if there were twelve priests in the world like John Vianney, my kingdom would crumble. The devil confesses what heretics deny!
Yes, the tragedy today is that some priests have forgotten these two truths: that by themselves they are nothing, and that with God they are everything. In fact, it seems as if the whole affair has been turned completely inside out: too many priests all too often exalt their own self and neglect the divine power given them. They think by themselves they are everything, and then a false humility moves them to consider God’s gifts as nothing. Their poverty is practiced at the altar, using the cheapest vestments and vessels they can find, while they themselves live in the lap of luxury. Their chastity is lived out only in their coldness towards the faithful who come to them for the sacraments. Their obedience all too often is not to Christ and His decrees, but rather to human respect and the present decadent culture. Having trusted too much in their own human self, they have lost faith in the power of Christ in which they share.
How different was St. John Vianney, who, while himself living in the greatest poverty, splurged to provide his little country church with the most beautiful liturgical trimmings money could buy. Or St. Philip Neri, who was known throughout the entire City of Rome for his charity and friendliness and yet used to go to the greatest lengths to protect his purity—like shaving only half his face to appear less attractive. Or Bl. Aloysius Stepinac, whose unwavering obedience to Christ cost him his life at the hands of the communists. If I had a thousands lives to live, he used to say, I would give every one of them to God’s Holy Church. How many souls have been saved because of priests like these! Oh Priest, you are nothing and everything….
No plan to reform the clergy will ever succeed until priests heed these words of St. Norbert, until they learn to die to self so that Christ may live in and shine through them. When you look at a priest you should not see Fr. So-and-so; you should see Christ.
After a man is ordained a priest, we, attesting to the power which has been given him, kiss his newly consecrated hands—those hands which will bring the Holy Spirit into the souls of infants, put the devil to flight through blessings, reconcile so many sinners to God, prepare the dying for heaven, offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. O awe-inspiring dignity of Priests, said St. Augustine, in whose hands, as in the womb of the Virgin, the Son of God is incarnate! With a kiss we show the world that this man is, in a sense, everything. But then, having shown reverence, we receive his holy card, which serves as a reminder to pray for this priest; for after all, on his own, he is nothing, and he needs our constant prayers. It is in your best interest to pray for him, because the future of the Church depends on the priesthood. Remember: no priest, no sacraments—the channels of God’s grace.
One of our priests here at the abbey once said that never does one feel so much a like priest as when he hears Confessions and offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We might add that never does one so much feel that he is both nothing and everything as when he pronounces the words, I absolve you from your sins, and, This is My Body…This is My Blood. When you speak these words, God listens and performs. O res mirabilis! O great wonder! Now the Master waits upon the servant’s command, now the Word Incarnate obeys the word of man.
You are nothing and everything. May we never forget these words of St. Norbert. And may all priests be not just a good priests, but a saints, priests after the Heart of our Blessed Lord. To Him, our God, be glory for all things. Amen.
•For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.
•For all the students and families of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.
•For all faculty and staff of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.