The Secret Sacred Priesthood

Fr Dwight Longenecker’s Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood

When I was first ordained as an Anglican priest I dropped by to see Fr Richard–a retired priest of the old school. He would regularly celebrate the early morning Eucharist. When I asked him how many were at Mass he smiled and said, “Millions! But I could only see four.”

As I celebrated Mass today–only seeing twelve–I thought how secretly God works in the world. In the midst of the hurly burly, hurrying world God’s priests quietly go to church to say Mass. Here an ancient priest who can barely walk hobbles into a drafty church and celebrates the Mass faithfully with love and simplicity. There a young African priest strides to celebrate Mass in a church that is little more than a thatched hut. Here an Archbishop celebrates Mass in his cathedral or there an imprisoned priest huddles secretly over a little table to recite the words over a scrap of bread and a thimbleful of smuggled wine.

And the hurried, harried world goes on, and God works behind the news.This is always his way–to work secretly in the world. A young girl in a backwater village receives the message of an angel and says “yes” and the course of history is changed forever. An uneducated shepherd girl receives the apparition of that same woman who reveals herself to be “the Immaculate Conception” and the course of history is changed. A Mexican peasant receives an apparition of that same woman who, in time, becomes the Empress of America and the patron of a great superpower. So God works secretly–always behind the scenes.

And it is the same with the Mass. In millions of churches all over the world, with a simple unity of expression and an amazing unity of voice the priests of Christ faithfully celebrate these holy mysteries, and as they do they bring the Lord of the Universe into the present moment. They make him real in their own community, their own church, their own hands and in their own tabernacle. In millions of locations around the word Christ is made present by priests who are gifted and priests who are not so gifted, by priests who are saints and priests who are still a work in progress, by priests who stumble and fall and priests who always get up.

If the Mass were to suddenly stop; if all the priests on the world went on strike or if some malignant power were to stop all Masses from being said, I firmly believe that in a very short time the worst kind of violence would break out. War would erupt, killings would burst forth, hatred and violence would flare up in every corner of the world. The demonic rage lurking just beneath the surface would be unrestrained. The enemies of the Light would burst from their secret lairs and wreak havoc on the world. Chaos, anarchy and the dark forces of hell itself would be unleashed.

Why is there a shortage of priests? Because this understanding of the priesthood has been forgotten. The Catholic priest has become just another social worker–a counselor — a feminized neuter in society– an ineffectual twit–a Mr Bean who seems worthless and whose real role and identity cannot be understood by the worldlings.

Even this seeming foolishness of the priesthood in society’s eyes is part of God’s secret plan, for in today’s Mass reading for St John of the Cross we hear St Paul proclaim like some saintly Don Quixote on a hopeless quest, “We preach Christ crucified! Foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews…for the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men!”

If you believe this to be true as I do–if you believe that it is only the Mass and Christ present there which keeps our fragile world from falling into chaos and darkness, then support your priests. Give them a break. Love them and pray for them. Share these truths with your sons and grandsons and pray for them to be priests.

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  • Maggie Goff

    I agree with every word of this. I pray for all priest every single day. Several times. Thank you!!!

  • mary

    Beautifully stated. The Catholic Church is blessed to have you as a priest.

  • JW

    I assume that you wrote this entry before you heard about the tragedy at Newton, Conn. It’s unusual to hear any clergy member acknowledge that “enemies of Light,” “chaos, anarchy, and the dark forces of hell” even exist. Thank you for being so faithful and brave.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Yes. It was written before I heard of the latest shooting tragedy.

  • Ramanie

    Dear Fr Dwight Longenecker ,
    Thank you for this wonderful article. May God bless our priests and give them the grace to function on this important mission. I have adopted 16 priests for whom I pray daily. If I come across more I will pray for them too. So Thank you Fr for this great article. May God bless you every moment of your life.

  • Dr. John

    I would add to your very insightful article on the devastating onslaught of evil if the priesthood was ever to be eliminated. Right now in the current presences of the priesthood we are in the midst of unprecedented EVIL! As I do a differential diagnosis to uncover the etiology and unmask the Satanic Stronghold I see two lacks among Catholics that serves cause for this unleashing of abundant EVIL such as divorce, contraception, homosexuality, same sex marriage and abortion! As St. Paul tells us that there are many sick among us because we do not discern the body, the blood and the soul and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist thus we are eating condemnation into our souls and hearts. It is our LACK of making good confessions (or have we stopped this all together) and not recognizing His real presences in the Eucharist that has allowed this astronomical EVIL to proliferate? Jesus has given to us through His Church two of the most powerful offensive Sacraments Confession and Eucharist to tear down the Gates of Hell. So my offered treatment plan is weekly confession, daily Eucharist, kneeling time in Adoration Chapels, and saying the Rosary! Then the Lord will say “VICTORY IS MINE SAYS THE LORD”!

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  • Lee Mattix

    “…. God works behind the news.” What inspired, profound, and appropiate words for today! It is indeed the sacred secret being revealed to those who believe by those who have answered the sacred call. God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

  • http://Facebook Betty Coe

    I agree completely. At the weekly Mass I attend there is a lady who weekly prays for vocations for priests during the Prayers of the Faithful.

  • bill petro

    i pray my 8 children will become priests or religious sisters. my wife, whose vocation is motherhood – which she does very well, says, “But they will never have children.” I say, “They will have thousands”.

  • Melia

    I was going to ask you what we should share with our daughters and grand-daughters, but I think I already know. Priests need nuns and sisters to pray for them and guide them when they’re lost. Even though only men can become priests, and only women brides of Christ, we still exist for and cannot exist without each other.

  • FW Ken

    Back when I spent time in contemplative monasteries, I came to the conclusion that the monks, in the their life of prayer, hold the world together. Father L reminds me that the Daily Office and the Mass of the secular priest, with his people, are part of that process as well.

  • jeanniiie

    I’m going to assume you mean that God in all His regal splendor waits for the worldliness in all of us to get our spiritual acts together to secure for Him holy ordinationst to His Priesthood. I think not. We have exactly as many Priests as He wants us to have. It’s His Church, His job. I, His invited and most unworthy friend know this to be true because we have six young men who could be in seminary tomorrow. They aren’t because He apparently doesn’t want them. Oh, well, I will continue to pray that He change His mind. Ty, Father…great article! :O)

  • JRB

    If I could respond to jeanniiie~
    Wouldn’t it take our “yes” to God? Just as God desired Adam and Eve to love and trust him, they answered with a no. With Mary’s “yes” we were able to receive our Savior! What amazing things would we see in this current world if we all did as Mary did and as you say, get our spiritual acts together? Say “YES” to His invitation!