He dwells among us: Beautiful cathedral, holy priesthood

The work of beautifying our soul must be a holy endeavor that continues throughout our mortal life

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

Since the dedication of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on March 3, so many have commented to me how beautiful our new cathedral is. But as impressive as it is, St. Peter reminds us of another cathedral that is even more important to be built up and made more and more beautiful each day as a holy place of communion with God: our very heart and soul, where Christ’s Sacred Heart should reign supreme.

Pope St. John Paul II, from the beginning of his long pontificate, emphasized the importance of understanding and living out our baptismal share in the threefold office and mission of Christ: priest, prophet, and king. In exercising this divine office and mission of Christ, we grow more and more into His likeness and beauty as a dwelling pleasing to God as we help others to be built up by our example and works of mercy.

Ours then is a great dignity, and, like the work on a cathedral that does not cease when it is dedicated but continues on until its interior is fully adorned, so, too, the work of beautifying our soul must be a holy endeavor that continues throughout our mortal life.

First, in discussing the priesthood of the faithful, it is important to distinguish between the “common priesthood” that all the baptized share in, and the “ministerial priesthood” of the ordained through the sacrament of Holy Orders. While there is only one priesthood of Christ that we all share in, there are different ways of participating in it.

Through our baptismal or common priesthood, we are able to participate in the sacred liturgy of the Church and to offer the gift of ourselves and our sufferings to Christ, who unites them to His eternal offering to God the Father. The sacramental and ministerial priesthood of the ordained, by which a priest is configured to Christ, enables him to embody Christ’s threefold office and mission as a sacramental gift to the community. It is the gift of the ordained priesthood that helps the community of believers to live out their priestly, prophetic, and kingly office and mission.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in reflecting upon the holy sacrifice of the Mass, challenges us to remember that Christ’s priestly sacrifice also calls for ours. He notes that too many go to Communion only to “receive” but not to “give.” He asks, “Do we ever think of Christ wanting to receive Communion from us?” The offertory is that special part of the Mass when we offer the gift of ourselves with the bread and wine that are brought to the altar.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, laments, “We have lost the most profound meaning of the Offertory.” (The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, p. 140) The offertory is not just the preparation of the gifts of bread and wine that are brought to the altar, but, more importantly, our preparation for the offering of our very selves in union with Christ’s offering to the Father. This is the baptismal priestly offering of the laity in the one priestly sacrifice of Christ through the hands of the ordained priest at the altar.

In the bread and wine of the offertory of every Mass, we offer ourselves. We should make an offering of body and soul, like the poor offering of two turtledoves that St. Joseph brought to the temple for the presentation of the infant Jesus. Our poor offering of body and soul, when united by Christ to His offering, takes on value beyond measure.

Two easy ways to help us live out and grow the exercise of our baptismal priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices are to make a morning offering each day and to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. By beginning our day with a morning offering, such as the one St. Thérèse of Lisieux would make, or others like it, we learn to offer up all of our day and even our sufferings. When we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, it is like an extension of holy Mass whereby we offer the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ to the Father in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. Read the following prayers and make them, or something similar, part of your daily offering.

Morning offering of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: O my God! I offer You all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works by uniting them to Its infinite merits, and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love. O my God! I ask of You for myself and for those whom I hold dear the grace to fulfill perfectly Your Holy Will, to accept for love of You the joys and sorrows of this passing life so that we may one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity. Amen.

Divine Mercy Chaplet prayers: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world … For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

The work of beautifying our soul through the exercise of our baptismal priesthood is a holy endeavor that must continue throughout our mortal life so that the words of the psalmist, “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of Hosts” (Ps 84:1), might be said more truly of our soul.

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