Friday 24 December 2021

Why Priests? - Bishop Michael Evans - CTS

Why Priests?
ISBN 9780851837819
CTS Booklet Do587

Over the last few years I have read over 250 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. Often when I finish one I find others I am interested in while researching to write the review. Sometimes they are books in the same series, or in this case by the same author. This is the third by Bishop Michael Evans that I have read, the first was Why Deacons? Teachings of Pope John Paul II, and then Why go to Mass?. This one is older, out of print and was harder to track down but it was well worth it. The description of this volume is:

“The Christian Church needs priests. This pamphlet explains why.

Fr. Michael Evans was Vice-Rector and lecturer in systematic theology at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh. He is now a member of the team at the South London Catholic Students Chaplaincy, and is a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark.”

This volume was first published in 1989. It was a very interesting read. And also very different from either of the others I have read by Father Evans. I am thankful I was able to track it down and give it a read. I highlighted many passages my first time through this book. They were:

“Until recently, few Catholics would have wanted to pose the question, ‘Why priests?’ It was obvious what a priest was for: he was ordained above all to say Mass and hear Confessions, but there was also a long list of other tasks usually reserved for him. As alter Christus, another Christ, he was the visible centre and focus of any Catholic community, clearly set apart from the rest of the faithful and endowed with Christ’s authority as their shepherd and spiritual father.”

“Has the pendulum swung too far the other way?  No – but in renewing our appreciation of the common dignity and responsibility of all the faithful we must not lose sight of the role of the priest in the Church.  The whole community is taking on many of the activities long reserved to the priest, and rightly so, but so much emphasis can be put on the active ‘ministry’ of every Christian that little room is left for the special role of the ordained minister.  There is a danger that the priest will be seen simply as someone who has the special tasks of saying the words of consecration at Mass and absolving sinners, but is otherwise no different from anyone else.”

“When we try to answer the question, ‘why priests?’, we should not begin by asking, ‘What can a priest do that the laity cannot?’ The most important question is rather, ‘What is a priest?’: what does a man become through ordination?  It is because of what a priest is that he does what he does!”

“On the other hand, the Catholic tradition understands ordained ministry as perpetuating the apostles’ essential work through the ages, and we believe that there is a real continuity between the ministry of the apostles and that of bishops and priests today.”

“By AD 100 a pattern of leadership centred on ‘presbyter-bishops’ was widely know, although it is not really known how soon ‘presbyters’ and ‘bishops’ became clearly distinct forms of ministry. Ordained ministry as we know it is a distillation of several distinct roles in the New Testament churches. Gradual development took place, in accordance with God’s will, to meet the needs of the Church as it became more established and more widespread.”

“The ordained minister is a member of Christ’s Body, one of the many parts which make up the united whole. But what is so distinctive about his place in the Body?  Precisely that it is he who represents Christ as the Head of the Body to the Body itself, the Bridegroom to the Bride, the Shepherd to the Flock.  The ordained minister is the living sign and instrument of the risen Jesus to the Church.”

“The whole people are called to minister, to serve, and the unique priesthood of Christ is shared by the whole community of those who believe in him. But to carry out their vocation, the priestly faithful need ordained minsters who are Christ’s own living instruments in building up his Church. The distinction between the priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood (a distinction which involves a difference in ‘essence’ and not merely in degree) is there precisely for the unity and pastoral fruitfulness of the Church, no simply for the sake of creating distinctions.”

“The priest is a leader in prayer, a teacher of prayer.  He must then himself be in a special way a man whose whole life and ministry is rooted in his living personal relationship with Jesus Christ: he must himself be ‘a man of prayer.’”

“This is why the priest’s role at the liturgy is central to his whole ministry.  Everything else he does is directed towards the Church’s worship and flows over from it.”

“Whatever a priest does in Christ’s name, whether it be celebrating the liturgy, visiting homes or talking to children in a playground, it is who he is that matters, not simply what he is doing. The priest is always the special representative of Christ among his people, his living sign, steward and instrument.”

“If you are an unmarried Catholic man or boy, and feel reasonably settled in the idea that God may be calling you to be a priest, then get in touch with your parish priest or the vocations director of the diocese or religious order in which you seek to serve.”

“Every member of the Church has a responsibility for vocations to the priestly ministry: pray for more priests to serve the Church, and encourage and support anyone thinking of the priesthood, especially in your own family.”

This work was much more academic than the other volumes by Father Evans I have read. The quotes above give a feel for the volume. I have enjoyed all the books by Father Evans that I have read, and hope to track down the read. This is a great read. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Bishop Michael Evans:
Why be Confirmed?
Is Jesus Really Present in the Eucharist?
Mary, Mother of the Lord, Sign of Grace, Faith and Holiness
Being a Catholic

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