The Power of the Sacraments, the Importance of the Priesthood

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

It is possible to receive the sacraments and greatly benefit from their graces without feeling very much. Some babies, for example, sleep entirely throughout their baptisms. The power of the sacraments do not depend upon our emotions. Yet sometimes God gives us the grace of sensible consolations from them. Consider, for instance, the St. Paul’s second grader who, when asked by her mother how she felt after her 1st Confession, joyfully answered, “My soul feels so light!

When I was in high school, as we drove to a restaurant following my Confirmation, I wondered at why I felt so very joyful. Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, the Holy Spirit.” In college, sometimes when I attended weekday Masses I felt very little but sometimes I experienced great consolations. Eventually, I realized that my most consoling Masses typically preceded hard times to come. After that, I would be at Mass and think to myself, “Wow, this feels wonderful. Oh no… Well Lord, thanks for heads up.”

Thirteen years ago this week, I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ at our cathedral in La Crosse. I knew going in that my ordination would come through the bishop’s laying of hands and his consecratory prayer immediately thereafter. I realized I would be a priest by the time my bishop said “amen” at the end of the prayer, but I wondered if there were some precise moment before that when I would be ordained. I had not studied the words of the ceremony beforehand, so after the laying of hands I listened to the words of the bishop’s prayer closely.

For ten sentences, through more than twenty-two dozen words, the prayer recounts what God has done in the past: the Old Covenant priesthood, the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, and the priesthood of his apostles. Then comes these words:

Grant we pray, Almighty Father, to these, your servants, the dignity of the priesthood; renew deep within them the Spirit of holiness; may they henceforth…

At the moment I heard that word, “henceforth,” I felt a pleasant but unsettling wooziness. And the words which followed were these: “may they henceforth possess this office which comes from you, O God…” There was power in those words.

I answered God’s call to become a priest, forgoing the goods of natural marriage and children, because I believe the sacraments and teachings of Jesus Christ’s Catholic Church are that important for souls. The seven sacraments are not empty words and gestures, but important and effective instruments of God’s saving power.

My own ordination came to mind as I contemplated Fr. Matthew Bowe’s priestly ordination last Saturday. I’m reminded of my own ordination day whenever I attend an ordination. I imagine the same thing happens for those of you who are married when you attend a wedding; you’re reminded of your own wedding day and the vows that you made. Now a wonderful thing about entering into priesthood or marriage is that you now know your calling, your vocation, the state of life in which Jesus wants you to follow him. There is then no purpose to looking back, lamenting what was left behind, or looking to alternate life paths on left or right, but to simply plow ahead.

Jesus called Matthew Bowe, Fr. Matthew followed after him, and this brings all of us great joy. People tell me Matthew was so quiet and shy as a child. But if Jesus is calling you, he grows and strengthens you, so there’s no reason to be intimidated. Many feel unworthy to be a priest or a religious brother or sister. Of course! Everyone is unworthy, but Jesus still calls us like he did the apostles; asking us to follow him before long we’re perfect. The priesthood saves souls and God’s vocation for your life (whatever that is) is always the best, so if Jesus is calling you to be his priest, follow him. And if you see someone else who seems to have a calling to priesthood or religious life, do your part to encourage them to follow Jesus Christ.

One Response to “The Power of the Sacraments, the Importance of the Priesthood”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    I thank God that you answered His call!

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