“God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest.”

Pope Benedict XVI

I was eating lunch with a group of friends the other day when one of the guys said excitedly, “Does everyone know what this year is!?”

There was some silence, until one guy suggested, “The Year for Priests?”

I love being Catholic.  The first young man was referring to the World Cup, so we got a good laugh out of the whole situation.

In preparation for the lessons I’ll be teaching this spring, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the Year for Priests, since my sacramental lesson will be focusing on Holy Orders.  I’ve been very, very blessed to know many incredible priests in my short life thus far.  I’ve known some men who have not lived up to the call, but I’ve known many who have — and am further blessed to know many amazing young men studying for the priesthood right now.

The Year for Priests is a wonderful reminder to all of us laity to pray daily for our priests.  We all know the tragedy that comes when the Devil succeeds in turning a man from his holy office.  And we know that, because of that tragedy, the Devil works overtime on these men.  They need our prayers.

I think that’s the focus many have taken after Benedict called this Year for Priests.  Let’s celebrate the priests, pray for them, thank God for them, and bake them cookies.

Yes, we’re thankful.  Extremely thankful.  But I don’t think that’s the main reason Pope Benedict called this Year for Priests.  Maybe I’m wrong — I know a lot of people will probably disagree with me.  But while I know this year is a good reminder to us how lucky we are to have good priests and the necessity to pray daily for them — I think he called the year to remind priests to be good priests.

“Precisely to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, I have decided to establish a special “Year for Priests” that will begin on 19 June and last until 19 June 2010.”  Pope Benedict, Address Announcing Year for Priests

In looking at the special indulgences granted to priests and laity for this special year, it is clear that the focus is on the priest’s prayer life and his duties as priest.

If a priest isn’t praying daily, if he isn’t celebrating the sacraments for his people, if he isn’t offering himself as another Christ for the world, he’s not a good priest.

If a priest isn’t striving for spiritual perfection, if he doesn’t see himself as new man, a man set apart for the office “which the Lord Jesus inaugurated and which the Apostles made their own,” (Pope Benedict) he is not a good priest.

If a priest is too busy to pray his Office, to sit in the confessional, or to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then he needs to take this Year and reexamine his priorities.

The priesthood isn’t a job.  It’s an office, instituted by Christ.  It is lived in order that the people in the pews may receive their Lord and Savior in the Eucharist and so participate in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.

So, sure, make your priest cookies.  But call him to something higher, too.  Is he living the life of another Christ?  Or does it seem that he is beginning to see the priesthood as a job- as a glorified administrator or a nice social director?

A better way to celebrate the Year for Priests would be for your priest to offer daily parish Masses (if your parish doesn’t already have daily Mass), to increase confession times, or for him to pray morning prayer or evening prayer with the parish in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  While he may like the cookies better than these options, which he may just see as “added work” … these are things will make him a better priest.

He’s a priest for Christ, and he’s a priest for you.

Pray for priests!!

Oh Priest, who are you?
Not through yourself, since you are from nothing
Not for yourself, since you are the mediator of men
Not to yourself, since you are the spouse of the Church
Not yours, since you are servant of all
Not yourself, since you are God
Who are you then?
You are nothing, and everything!
O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you:
‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!'”

–  St. Norbert