Pius XI 1922-1939

The Effects of the Order of the Priesthood *


[From the Encyclical, “Ad catholic sacerdotii,” December 20, 1935]


2275 The minister of Christ is the priest; therefore, he is, as it were, the instrument of the divine Redeemer, that He may be able to continue through time His marvelous work which by its divine efficacy restored the entire society of men and brought it to a higher refinement. Rather, as we customarily say rightly and properly: “He is another Christ,” since he enacts His role according to these words: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” [John 20:21]; and in the same way and through the voice of the angels his Master sings: “Glory to God in the highest,” and exhorts peace “to men of good will” [cf. Luke 2:14]. . . . Such powers, conferred upon the special sacrament of the priesthood, since they become imprinted on his soul with the indelible character by which, like Him whose priesthood he shares, he becomes “a priest forever” [Ps. 109:4], are not fleeting and transitory, but stable and permanent. Even if through human frailty he lapse into errors and disgraces, yet he will never be able to delete from his soul this sacerdotal character. And besides, through the sacrament of orders the priest not only acquires the sacerdotal character, not only high powers, but he is also made greater by a new and special grace, and by special helps, through which indeed—if only he will faithfully comply, by his free and personal cooperation, with the divinely efficient power of these heavenly gifts, surely he will be able worthily and with no dejection of spirit to meet the arduous duties of his ministry. . . .


From holy retreats [of spiritual exercises] of this kind such usefulness can also at times flow forth, that one, who has entered “in sortem Domini” not at the call of Christ Himself but induced by his earthly motives, may be able “to stir up the grace of God” [cf. 2 Tim. 1:6]; for since he is now bound to Christ and the Church by an everlasting bond, he can accordingly do nothing but adopt the words of St. Bernard: “For the future make good your ways and your ambitions and make holy your ministry; if sanctity of life did not precede, at least let it follow.” * The grace which is commonly given by God and is given in a special manner to him who accepts the sacrament of orders, will undoubtedly aid him, if he really desires it, no less for emending what in the beginning was planned wrongly by him, than for executing and taking care of the duties of his office.

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