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.
Most popular questions
- I feel I have a specific charism to youth outreach. Can I live this charism out as a priest, or must I follow the charism of the order I join?
- What is a deacon and how is it different than a priest?
- What can I do as a priest that I cannot do as a layperson working for a charity or NGO?
- If I become a priest can I decide where I go and what I do?
- What if as a priest I need to take time out to care for a relative or family member?
- If I request information about joining a religious organisation, will I be pressured into joining?
- What’s the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest in a religious order?
- What does discernment mean when we’re talking about vocation?
- If I take a vow of celibacy, will I get very lonely?
- As a priest if I decide that I no longer want to do something, such as work in a specific parish, do I have any say or is it all out of my hands?