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Holy Week: Priests, Power and Penitence

Holy Week: Priests, Power and Penitence March 31, 2015

Fr Longenecker's Ordination
Fr Longenecker’s Ordination

In Holy Week so many aspects and attributes of the Catholic faith come  thundering in together.

This is because the week in our Lord’s life was a summary of all that he was and is and came to accomplish.

Today I am in Charleston to share in the Chrism Mass. At this Mass the priests of the Diocese come together to renew their vows in the bishop’s presence.

The Mass traditionally takes place on Holy Thursday and is a kind of double header with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper that evening.

However, due to travel constraints, in most dioceses it now takes place on one of the other days during Holy Week.

When the Chrism Mass takes place on Thursday the power of the different aspects coming together is even greater for on this holy day we see combined the power of the priesthood which is based in penitence.

We say the priest is “configured to Christ” in a unique way. In other words, the priest has given himself not only to the service of Christ and his church in a utilitarian manner, but there is a mystical dimension in which the priest is supposed to be conformed to Christ in every aspect of his being–body, mind and spirit. The seed of this transformation is planted at ordination, but it is also a process which, by co operation with the action of grace, takes place over a lifetime.

The priest therefore has power. This is not power in the worldly sense. Of course the priest has a certain amount of power in the parish and in his life because he is in a leadership position, but we are wrong to see this only in practical or utilitarian terms. The priest’s real power is the power of Christ himself working in and through the mortal frailty of the priest. He has the power to confect the sacrament. He has the power to absolve from sin. He has the power to anoint and heal. He has the power to defend and teach the truth. He has the power to cast out Satan.

This power is not something he has of his own. Continue Reading


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