That includes the grace to listen, and to hear, when God calls. The priesthood is, first and foremost, a calling. But it is also, in its way, an act of heroism. It is saying "Yes" to God in a world that increasingly says "No." And in saying that "Yes," the priest spends his life reminding the world of something it so easily forgets: that is, the presence of God - most importantly, the Real Presence, through the Eucharist.

There is a moment in the ordination rite when the men being ordained lie face down, prostrate on the floor of the church. In an interview a few years ago, Fr. Martino remembered it vividly: in front of him was the crucifix above the altar; at his feet behind him were hundreds of people in the pews, including his parents.

And he realized, with a blinding clarity: between the crucifix and the pews there was a bridge.

"The priest lays down his life for the people," he said. "I am the bridge. The people cross over me to get to God."

This morning, we honor the bridges in our own lives: the priests of our parish. We may not always realize it. We may even take it for granted. But we need to acknowledge: they have laid down their lives for us. They have served to bring us to God, and to bring God to us—at baptisms, at weddings, through confession, through anointing. And, of course, through that most precious gift, the Eucharist.

It can't be said enough: without the priest, there is no Eucharist.

It's that simple. And it's that important.

World Priest Day is an outgrowth of World Marriage Day—and there is a powerful link between the two vocations. Both involve a lifetime of commitment, and sacrifice, and an unshakable love. One involves a love for a spouse. The other, a love for God and His Church.

And a love, too, for His people.

Photo: Savannah Morning News

So this morning, we want to thank our priests for that gift of self, that offering of love. Thank you for morning mass and afternoon confessions and unexpected calls that brought you to the bedside of someone at the last moment of earthly life. Thank you for the countless times you have offered us the Body of Christ, blessed and broken—so that we too, though broken, may be blessed.

Thank you for laying down your lives—and for being a bridge.