Given the Gospel this Sunday, which foreshadows the holy priesthood, I’d like to share an adapted part of an article written for the Voice of the Southwest, in which the question was asked, “Is it still worth it to be a priest?”
It is no secret that the Church is in agony right now, and so this question is easily asked. This comes at a point in the Church when the number of priests is down and priestly morale can easily be shattered. Little fraternity, less support on many fronts, and increasingly difficult assignments make priestly life all the harder. The laity are (rightfully) expecting certain things, but the Church moves slowly and many within the Church are hindering that progress, healing, and justice, citing “pastoral” motives without ever defining the term or listening to Holy Mother Church, Who teaches us how to be pastoral in the truest sense. Priests, who can be ended by a single angry and deceptive phone call, or who are never quite “priest enough” for some, are often left in the lurch, wondering “what is next?” “How much longer?” “Can I even make it through?” The natural question arises: is it even worth it to be a priest anymore? Why would any sane man want to do this? Is it worth it to go to seminary to pursue this vocation, even despite all the difficulties it involves?
To all of this, I can still give a hearty “yes!” It is indeed worth it all. As Pope Benedict XVI once pointed out to seminarians, “It does make sense to become a priest: the world needs priests, pastors, today, tomorrow and always, until the end of time.” This is because God has chosen to need priests—bound Himself in such a way that He works through priests. There will never be a time when priests are not needed, when God does not call them.
The important thing to remember is that God must be enough for a priest. Jesus Christ, His Cross, His Church must be enough. When this is not the case, priests go looking in all the wrong places for fulfillment. But when God is His all, when Christ and the Church are his love, the priest truly is fulfilled and happy. He is not in need of anything or anyone else. Sure, he may have hobbies, friends, and pastimes. But if even these fall away, God remains, and the priest can still be joyous.
Only God makes it all worth it. The suffering of priesthood, without God, would never attract anyone, not even some warrior soul. This is because without God, without the Cross, suffering is simply pain without purpose. With Christ Crucified and Risen, however, that pain becomes suffering-for someone, for some purpose, for love. Only such love is able to fill a priestly heart. Only such drive, mission, and purpose makes the dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil worth braving that God may be glorified and souls saved.
As is so often the case in the Christian life, it is always about love. This love—of God and of neighbor—is why priests and seminarians continue to say “yes!” even despite the many possible pitfalls and tragedies that surround us all. This love is what makes so many priests persevere, like so many of their predecessors before them, even when they are persecuted, falsely accused, and betrayed. It is what urges us on even when our lives are on the line, whether from some virus or from the forces intent on our demise. There is no need to fear in any of these situations: love has conquered all, and cannot be defeated.
So, yes, it is still worth it to be a priest. It is still good to go to seminary, to pursue the God-given vocation. There is nothing that can change that. God Himself has called priests, desired them, needed them. Nothing the world or the devil can throw at us can change that, or make it less than absolutely worth it all. Every joy, every sorrow, every suffering is made holy and dignified by the Wounds of Christ. Priests bare those wounds now, each in his own way, each filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, each out of a deep and pervading love for God. Those wounds show God’s love for them and their love for God. And what glorious wounds they are in Christ!
Pray, then, for your priests! They pray for you so often, and need your support. These times have tried us all, and priests have not been spared from this. In prayer, in Christ, for God, we can continue together in joy and fulfillment. We can continue together in love. This, and this alone, will make it all worth it, including being a priest.