Why do we have priests? Can’t lay people do the work of priests?

We have priests because Jesus instituted the priesthood to continue his work of looking after and leading his people to God the Father, through the Holy Spirit. Of course lay people can do many of the works a priest does – the works of mercy and social justice, for instance – but priesthood is much more than any particular service the priest may offer. The priest is a special presence of Christ in the world, ordained to continue Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist and to offer Christ’s forgiveness and healing through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Also, the priest should show the loving mercy of the Father by being Christ-like in his attitude to others – healing the broken-hearted, comforting and consoling the sorrowful, bringing hope to the dying, etc. All Christians are called to this, of course, but by virtue of his ordination, a priest is given a special ‘charism’ (a gift of God for the benefit of the entire community) that ought to bring to life, as it were, the very presence of Jesus himself  ‘head and shepherd’ in the midst of the community.

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