Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter LV

What is the Priesthood?

Sermon of Mgr. Lefebvre
on the Occasion of the Ordination of Fr. Michel Simoulin
20 September 1981

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My dear friends,
Have we not said all there is to say concerning the sacred priesthood since the time that ordinations began to be given here in this chapel? It would be a serious error to believe that one could speak of the priesthood of this extraordinary grace communicated to men in a limited manner.

What, then, is the priesthood? Is it not the participation of the priest, a man chosen by God, in the great mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ? If then the priesthood is truly the union of a human creature with the mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ, how then can one limit the considerations which one could make concerning the priesthood? One could never exhaust all there is to say of this mystery of Our Lord Jesus Christ, this divine mystery which surpasses us all ! Thus it is that the more we deepen our knowledge of the mystery of the priesthood, the more it seems there is to say and the more profound are the realities to seek of this mystery. The priest is so assimilated to Our Lord that he lives all these mysteries.

The first mystery of Our Lord is that of His Mission: a mysterious Mission. Jesus is sent by His Father; He "leaves" in a certain manner the bosom of the Blessed Trinity. He is sent by His Father: Sicut to me misisti in mundum, et ego misi eos in mundum "As Thou,"' says Our Lord to His heavenly Father in the magnificent sacerdotal prayer, "as Thou hast sent Me into the world, thus also I have sent these apostles and these disciples into the world." Sicut misfit me Paten et ego mitto vos " As the Father hath sent Me, I also sent you." There is therefore a special mission which is incumbent upon the priest. This mission is realized in a special way by an election: Non vos me elegistis, sed Ego elegi vos "It is not you who have chosen Me,' says Our Lord, "but I who have chosen you." He has chosen us and yet, my dear friends, have we not sometimes the impression that we have chosen ourselves, that we have decided upon our own vocation, to have said, "Personally, I want to be a priest and I have chosen the priesthood." What an illusion! It is indeed to misunderstand the omnipotence of Divine Providence; it would be to misunderstand the omnipotence of God Himself, Who has led us far more than we have led ourselves.

Everyone here on earth has a certain path, a vocation. Our Lord has led us to the seminary and has chosen us for this priestly vocation. Thus we are truly chosen; we are sent into the world by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, you will hear in a few short moments the words which the bishop is going to pronounce at the time of the sacerdotal ordination of your colleagues. These words speak often of this election: "Thou hast been chosen."

This is a great consolation for us. A consolation because, faced by the enormity of this vocation, which surpasses all that one can imagine for a human creature, we are confident that we have been chosen by Almighty God and consequently that we shall be sustained by Him in our priestly activity and our priestly sanctification. This is a great aid for a priest.

The priest participates not only in the mystery of the Divine Mission of Our Lord but also to a certain measure in the mystery of the Incarnation, and this in a truly special manner. The mystery of the Incarnation was realized by two graces, two extraordinary gifts of Our Lord. The first gift is the union of God Himself with a human body and soul, of the Person of the word of God with the body and soul of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is grace of Union, of the Hypostatic Union. This is unique to Our Lord, for He is the Christ, the anointed One of the Lord. It is this anointing by which the Divinity has come down into this body and soul. It is that Our Lord is endowed with privileges which are entirely unique. By this fact alone He is the Savior, Priest and King. He cannot cease to be King.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is then a priest by the grace of the Hypostatic Union and not by the second gift with which His soul was endowed: sanctifying grace. God alone knows the immensity of this sanctifying grace! We all participate in sanctifying grace by the Sacrament of Baptism. It is St. John who, in the first chapter of his Gospel, tells us that we all participate in this extraordinary grace of Our Lord but the priest, by his priestly character, participates in this grace of union, this unique grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He participates in this grace because he is a priest, and Our Lord was made priest by this union of divinity with humanity. The priest too is associated, in a very intimate manner, as you see, with Our Lord in a manner more intimate than all other creatures even more intimate than other baptized creatures, all the other faithful; he is chosen to participate in a very intimate manner with the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Priesthood.

It is obvious that the priest also participates in the great mystery of the Redemption. To participate in the mystery of the Redemption is the purpose of his priesthood, it is the raison d'etre of his priesthood.

His entire life, his entire apostolic life, his entire priestly life, is nothing other than to spread the graces of the Redemption, to spread the graces of the Cross. The principal act by which he participates in the Redemption and by which he spreads the graces of the Redemption is, as you undoubtedly know, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The priest is made, above and beyond all else, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in order that the graces which descend from the Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ pierced through by a lance spread by His Blood: qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur "which is shed for you and for many." These are the essential words which the priest pronounces at the moment of the consecration of the Mass; this Blood which is shed for you, for us, for many. Alas ! Why is it "for many"? Precisely because many have refused it; many refuse the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the graces of the Redemption. This is not because Our Lord did not will to shed His Blood for all it is said at the Offertory "we offer this chalice pro totius mundi salute for the salvation of the entire world," but, alas, in reality, countless souls refuse the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

Thus we see the role of the priest, the essential role of the priest: to offer the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to spread the graces by all the sacraments, particularly by the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. Moreover, we have seen how a holy priest such as the Cure of Ars spent his life at the altar spreading God's graces by his words, and in the confessional spreading the graces of the Redemption for souls. There you have the priest. What a beautiful and sublime vocation!

Since the priest truly participates in the mysteries of Our Lord in such an intimate and profound manner it is easily understood why he is called an alter Christus "another Christ." It is indeed true. If, therefore, he is to be another Christ, he must have in his soul the particular dispositions necessary to receive these graces. In order to know what these dispositions must be, these dispositions which must be in the hearts of all priests in order that they be well disposed to profit from the grace of the priesthood, let us address ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for she also is intimately associated with Our Lord Jesus Christ. She is associated in a manner even more sublime than that of the priest. Although she did not have the particular graces of the priesthood she nevertheless participated greatly in the Mission of God, for without her, God would not have descended to earth. It was necessary that she pronounce her fiat in order that the Mission of God be accomplished here on earth. She participated in an essential manner in the salvation of the world. Our Lord is, of course, the Savior, but if there is one person who greatly participated in the salvation of the world, it is indeed the Blessed Virgin Mary, and if there is one person who is the Co Redemptrix and who participated in the Redemption, it would also be the Blessed Virgin Mary.

If, therefore, we wish to know what our dispositions must be, let us go to the Blessed Mother. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin what our dispositions must be.

The first disposition of the Blessed Mother is that she remained a virgin. This is perhaps not an essential disposition for the priest, since exceptions have been made through the course of the centuries; it is, however, just. It is a usual condition for entry into the priesthood. The Church has always considered the celibate state necessary for the priest precisely because he approaches Our Lord in such an intimate manner. He must no longer have concerns other than those of and for Our Lord Jesus Christ. All his thoughts, all his heart, all his activities must be oriented towards Our Lord just as the Blessed Virgin Mary's were, just as St. Joseph's were, just as St. John's were. Those who were closest to Our Lord were all virgins.

The second quality which the Blessed Mother teaches us is humility; respexit humilitatem meam, says the Blessed Mother in her Magnificat, "He has looked upon my humility and He has exalted the humble." Twice she insists upon this quality of humility which is especially required and she says that it is because of her humility that she has been chosen. This is precisely because humility is the disposition which best enables us to see God, to comprehend God, to have the wisdom of God, to be with God. Pride blinds, pride closes the heart, closes the intellect, closes the mind; it limits them to creatures. Humility, on the contrary, is as a great opening to the omnipotence of God, to the greatness of God, to all the attributes of God. The humble soul is filled with God and it is for this reason that the Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us humility: Et exaltavit humiles.

The third consideration to be made concerning the Blessed Mother is taken as well from the Magnificat: Esurientes implevit bonis, says she. Esurientes. What does she mean by esurientes? Souls of desire, souls which aspire to God: esurientes those who thirst for God, who desire God, who live for God these souls Almighty God has filled with good things, et divites dimisit inanes "and the rich He has dismissed with nothing."

Those whose hearts are filled with things of this world, those who are attached to things of this world they also have their hearts closed, their hearts hardened by all the goods of this world. It is for this reason that the grace of God does not descend upon them: et dimisit inanes! Almighty God has sent them away with nothing. They are deprived of everything. Deprived of God, they will remain without God. Is this not what we see all too often unfortunately, in the world: souls so attached to the things of this world that they have forgotten God? The priest must therefore imitate the Blessed Virgin. He must have a pure soul entirely attached to God. He must have a soul entirely detached from things of this world in order that his soul may be filled with God. This is what the priest must be, in order that he should be able to give God to others.
If the priest is a man without God, then where will we find God upon earth? What will the faithful do? What will the Church do if priests are without God? The priest is a man of God; the priest must be a man of God. It is the priest who must bear God upon the earth and who gives Him particularly in Holy Communion and prepares souls to receive Holy Communion.

My dear friends, my dear brethren, let us ask today that our dear friend, Father Michel Simoulin, may be filled with these dispositions in order that the grace of the priesthood, which will be given to him in just a few minutes, should fill his soul with the gifts that Almighty God wants to give by this priestly grace, and in order that united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose praises we sing in a particular moment at this Holy Mass, he may be able to spread Jesus Christ to souls.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Chapter 54

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