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Cardinal Sarah reflects on the meaning of the priesthood

Cardinal Robert Sarah celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday, marking his 50th ordination anniversary.

Vatican City, Sep 29, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Cardinal Robert Sarah reflected on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the meaning of the priesthood in a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday marking his 50th ordination anniversary.

“The priest lives joy in its fullness at Holy Mass, which is the raison d’être of his existence, what gives meaning to his life,” Sarah said in his homily at the Altar of the Chair Sept. 29.

“During the daily Mass the priest comes face to face with Jesus Christ and at that precise moment, he is identified, he identified himself with Christ, becoming not only an Alter Christus, another Christ, but he is really Ipse Christus, the same Christ,” he said.

The Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said the inner life of a priest should center around three things: the cross, the Eucharist, and the Virgin Mary.

“According to St. Josemaría Escrivà, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the vital spring of the priest, the pillar on which his priestly existence is built,” he said.

Sarah explained that the cross makes possible “the birth of divine life within us” and that the Virgin Mary watches over one’s spiritual development as a mother, who “educates us to grow in faith.”

“Without the Eucharist we cannot live,” he said. “Jesus reveals to us the secret of this heavenly food, that it is His very flesh that becomes nourishment to enable us to live from His own life, in the unheard-of intimacy of friendship with him.”

Sarah said that the priesthood is going through “a deep crisis” today, and asked for prayers for all priests.

“The priest — here is the most magnificent work, the most generous gift that God has given to humanity, the most precious and unprecedented treasure that exists on earth; the Curé of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney was deeply convinced of this,” he said.

“In this Eucharist we entrust the Church and all priests to the maternal goodness of the Virgin Mary, our Mother and Mother of the Church,” he prayed.

Born in French Guinea in 1945, Sarah was ordained a priest on July 20, 1969 and made a bishop at the age of 34. The Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica was celebrated in honor of two anniversaries for the cardinal this year — 50 years as a priest and 40 years as a bishop.

“The heart of this celebration is Jesus Christ, the High Heavenly Priest: ‘holy, innocent, without blemish, separated from sinners and raised above the heavens,’” Sarah said.

“God amazes with his choices, He is wonderful and surprising in his generosity and in his love for each of us … Listen to how much he repeats to each of us today: ‘Before forming you in the womb, I knew you, before you came out into the light, I consecrated you; I have made you a prophet of the nations,” he said.

“This is what the Lord was for me: I was born in a humble and poor environment like that of Nazareth and in an animist and pagan culture, and He made me a Christian, a priest and a bishop,” the cardinal said. “Through baptism and priestly ordination He transformed me from nothing into his humble servant, into his beloved son.”

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  1. Since Olsen won’t allow comments on his thread, I’ll comment here. He gets the parable of Dives and Lazarus right, but for some reason still feels the need to genuflect to the conventional interpretation of it, which is entirely wrong. Things in parables don’t represent themselves; that is, the rich man doesn’t represent rich people and the poor man doesn’t represent poor people. The rich man represents Vice and the poor man represents Virtue. The story is about the rewards of each. It is not about the relationship of Dives and Lazarus, and therefore not about “social justice” at all. If it were, we could have expected Abraham to mention this at least once in the afterlife scene. He doesn’t, because that’s not what the story is about.

    • First, I welcome comments on my column; the comments were not turned on, inadvertently, but are now on.

      Secondly, your criticism is strange and off the mark, not to mention being needlessly combative. The simple fact is that the Bible is full of calls for the rich to act justly in how they treat the poor, especially in the prophets and in the wisdom literature (with themes often taken up by Jesus himself). Anyone with a basic knowledge of Scripture should know that. Thirdly, I don’t use the term “social justice” in my column; you clearly are reading my essay through a certain lens, which is apparently affecting your ability to read what I actually wrote. Finally, I note that the parable has various levels of meaning, and that the five brothers represent both the Pharisees and, as Jerome states, the five physical senses.

  2. Father I’m Lutheran and I want your prayers, when the bullets were flying it was always a Catholic chaplain there with us (Korean War vet VA Med Center). Father I’m a Jew but give a prayer, I know where the power is (Viet Nam vet VA Med Center). These were moments of realization of the gift. Despite the Homosexual horrors priests abusing children staff for the most part non Catholic nursing, techs, physicians saw something in us expected holiness. As if that was a fact they wanted to see, a belief many of us have lost. The Journey Home borrowing from Marcus Grodi’s enlightening encounter with converts became my personal journey home to what the priesthood really is. Some like myself followed different paths than Cardinal Sarah’s providential calling. A man of faith for our time. My great treasure is Christ who becomes present in my very hands a miracle of love. That he should have suffered so grievously that he might come to us and rest in our hearts. A priest is a sentinel for the faithful and witness to that Presence.

  3. Cardinal Sarah is always insightful and right on point. He like the rest of the orthodox community of Catholics are suffering under this current reign of confusion.

  4. Why are all the conservative Catholic sites discussing only the opinions of Sarah and Burke?? Are there not other Cardinals who represent the middle or are interested in supporting the concept of ordaining deacons which are married?

    Its interesting on how tight we hold on to tradition. Especially when it doesn’t serve the church laity well anymore. Church history sends a message that marriage is a second class sacrament ordination.

    • “Especially when it doesn’t serve the church laity well anymore. Church history sends a message that marriage is a second class sacrament ordination.”

      Sez you. I don’t agree, and neither do a vast number of other people. That “anymore” gives it away: chronological snobbery.

    • Rather than “second class,” perhaps marriage is one complete vocation and the celibate priesthood is another, i.e., the bishop marries the Church/diocese, and priests and deacons are extensions of the bishop (who is an extension of the Apostolic Succession). Baptized husbands and wives confer the sacrament of marriage on each other (!), a sacrament that is witnessed—-not conferred—-by the priest. Nothing second-class about that.

      Apart from vocational categories, each of us is personally called to discern his/her special and particular vocation, and all are equally beckoned by “the universal call to holiness” (Second Vatican Council)—-the sacramental life as service to/in Christ and service to each other. Not service to the laity as a “class” apart from the clergy as another “class” (Marxist rhetoric?).

      The (married) diaconate was restored by the Second Vatican Council as part of the Tradition. The precise point of contention, instead, is an oxymoron female diaconate which would be inconsistent (and invalid) with the prototype Christ and the sacrament of Holy Orders (bishop/priest/deacon) as conferred by Christ.

      Easily lost in this conversation (which, yes, could benefit from more cardinal voices) is the understanding that ever since the Incarnation we have been living at the level of “sacred time”—-a situation not visible through the lens of one-dimensional and radical secularism.

    • Why are all the conservative Catholic sites discussing only the opinions of Sarah and Burke??

      Right, because not a single one is discussing the nonsense being promoted by Reinhard Marx or the disappointing rebuke of the Pied Piper of sodomy James Martin LFBTQSJ issued by Archbishop Chaput.

      Its interesting on how tight we hold on to tradition.

      “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 2:14

      “And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6

      Especially when it doesn’t serve the church laity well anymore.

      The problem doesn’t lie with tradition. The problem lies with those relativists who reject tradition.

      Church history sends a message that marriage is a second class sacrament ordination.(sic)

      Whose version of history are you reading?

  5. Yes the priesthood is a great gift to us. I thank God for my parish priests here at Cure of Art in Merrick. When I email them or at the end of my confession I say: Thank you for being my priest. We should all say this to them as appropriate. Cardinal Sarah is a wonderful priest and I had hoped he would have been our next Pope. I identify with his orthodoxy. I hope our next Pope will be African. They seem to espouse the Roman Catholicism that Sts. Augustine of Hippo & Thomas Aquinas would recognize.

  6. I Love Cardinal Sarah for his faithfulness and eloquence in expressing sound Christian thought. I have returned to receiving on the tongue because of his good counsel and believe that small gesture has me appreciating the presence of Jesus in my life more fully. May God bless, purify, and strenghthen all our deacons, priest, and bishops!

  7. Cardinal Sarah was formed for the Priesthood by the Holy Ghost Fathers. Everyone should know and understand the importance of this.

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