The Highest Dignity on Earth
"Thou art a Priest forever"
The Priesthood is the Highest Dignity on Earth. The Dignity of a Priest surpasses that of Emperors,
and even of Angels. No Angel can Convert the Bread into the Body of Christ by the
mere Power of his Word; nor can any Angel Forgive Sins. The Priest
stands between God and Man. He is God's
Representative, God's Ambassador. Therefore whatever Honor we pay to the Priest,
we render to God Himself. Saint Francis of Assisi said that if he met an Angel and a Priest
at the same time, he should Salute the Priest First. Priests, especially Parish
Priests who assist the Bishops in the Care of Souls, are the
Captains in the Great Army that is the Church.
Parish Priests receive their Orders and Jurisdiction from the Bishop, and are bound to carry out his
Commands. In the Parish the Parish Priest represents the Bishop, and no one may, without his
consent or the Bishop's, exercise Spiritual Functions there, such as Marrying, Baptizing, Preaching, Burying, giving Extreme
Unction, etc. All Sacramental duties are the Priest's alone, but an
Ordained Deacon authorized by the Bishop may perform Marriages, the Last Rites and Preaching, but not the
Sacrament of Confession or the Holy Eucharist.
A Vicar Forane (called also Urban and Rural Dean) is a Parish Priest having Supervisory Power in the name of the
Bishop over Neighboring Parishes. A Vicar-General is the Chief among the Officers of a Diocese. Parish Priests of large
districts have Priests helping them, called Curates, Assistants, or Associate
The Duties of Parish Priests are many, varied, and of Great Responsibility. Like all Priests, they
are Pledged to lifelong Celibacy. Daily they must Recite the Breviary, the Priestsí Prayer Book, which requires about an
Hour's Time. On account of these heavy responsibilities all Catholics have the Obligation to
Pray for their Priests, and to help them as much as possible.
A Parish Priest and his Curates have to Visit the Sick of the Parish any time of the Day or
Night. He has to give the Last Sacraments to the
Dying, however Contagious or
Repellent the Disease. He hears
Confessions Hour after Hour.
He must Renounce the World with all its Amusements, for the Love of God. As Shepherd of
his Flock, he is Responsible to God for the
Souls of those committed to his care. On the Day of Judgment, he has to Render a Strict Account of his Stewardship.
Priests who belong to a Religious Order have different Regulations than Diocesan Priests. While they
are still Responsible to the Bishop of their See, they are also Responsible to their Superior at the Provincial Level and the
General Level. Priests of Religious Orders such as Redemptorists, Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans,
Jesuits, Oblates, Servites, etc. all take Three
(3) Vows - the Vow of Chastity and
Obedience like the Diocesan Priests, but also the Vow of
Poverty. This way they do not, as is normally the case, earn a Stipend Salary like a Diocesan Priest
but rather are dependent on the Order and Communal Property is shared with the bare minimum encouraged to Practice the
Virtue of Poverty. This is especially true
of the Franciscans who were founded on that Rule. Religious Priests have the same Requirements
Diocesan Priestss do in regards their Daily Prayers, etc. and often Head
Parishes, Staff Schools and other Catholic Institutions.
No matter the Duties of a Priest, it is not something someone attains to overnight. It takes a minimum of
Six to Seven Years Major Seminary Studies in Theology and Moral Theology plus Philosophy
and other Studies in preparation for the Priesthood. Religious Priests undergo a Period of Time called
Novitiate during this preparation, something Diocesan Candidates do not go through. Religious also take the Tonsure and the Steps to the
Priesthood called Minor and Major Orders. Suffice it to say, the Words of David from the
Lord in Psalm 110:4, ring true: "Thou art a Priest forever, according to the
Order of Melchizadek".